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This week, life (sort of) mimicked art as James Cromwell channeled his anti-capitalism successor Character, Ewan Roy, at a protest at a Starbucks in Midtown Manhattan. Cromwell wore a T-shirt that read “Free the Animals” and superglued his hand to the Starbucks counter to protest the coffee chain’s premium for plant-based milk.
“When will you stop reaping huge profits while customers, animals and the environment suffer?” asked Cromwell. (You can watch Cromwell’s 30-minute protest on PETA’s Facebook.) He later used a knife to loosen his hand; he was not arrested.
“We respect our customers’ right to respectfully voice their opinions, so long as it doesn’t disrupt our store operations,” a Starbucks spokesman said in a statement.
“My friends at PETA and I are urging Starbucks to stop penalizing friendly and environmentally conscious customers for choosing plant-based milks,” Cromwell said in a PETA press release. “We all have an interest in the life-and-death matter of climate catastrophe, and Starbucks should do its part by ending its vegan premium.”
Cromwell has been involved with PETA since he played Farmer Hoggett in the 1995 film when he became vegan infant– a role for which he won an Oscar.
This is not Cromwell’s first foray into activism. While his primary focus is on animal rights, he has also protested against fossil fuel companies.
He has been arrested multiple times: in February 2013 at a protest against animal cruelty in Madison, Wisconsin, and in December 2015 at a protest against the construction of a natural gas power plant in upstate New York, and in June 2016 for a protest against underground gas storage facilities near Seneca Lake , in 2017 at a protest against Sea World’s treatment of orca whales and in October 2019 at an animal rights protest in Texas.
He served three days in prison for his protests in Wawayanda, New York. “Going to jail is a statement of how we need to improve our game. It’s no longer good enough to just picket lines and petition because no one is listening. The way people are spreading the message is that you are committing an act of civil disobedience.” Cromwell told democracy now in 2017. “We must change our relationship with both the planet and the people who live on this planet, including the people who oppose us.”
His activism also goes beyond environmental issues. He was involved in the Vietnamese anti-war movement in the 1960s and was involved in anti-Iraq war protests in the early 2000s.
Despite his protestations, Cromwell has still found time to act in numerous film and television projects. He currently portrays Julia Child’s father, John McWilliams in the HBO Max show Juliaand will likely star as Ewan Roy successor season four. Filming for the fourth season is set to begin soon – no premiere date has been announced.
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