WEST DES MOINES, Iowa — You might remember him as Balok the creepy child alien in “Star Trek” or the geeky flight controller in “Apollo 13”, but this week, actor Clint Howard is far from Hollywood, working as a volunteer phone banker for Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz in Iowa.
Howard donated to Cruz’s campaign last year and flew to Des Moines to support him before the caucuses. On Wednesday night, he was among hundreds of others at a Cruz rally here to promote Cruz’s campaign and oppose abortion.
“Over the years I’ve grown more conservative,” Howard told CNN after the event. “I’ve come to realize that if in fact it does hurt me in the entertainment business, at this point in my life, that’s OK. The cloth’s been cut. I am who I am.”
Howard hasn’t kept his conservative politics a secret in recent years. In 2010 he performed in a video for the conservative activist group Heritage Action and he has talked openly about his beliefs. He said he supports Cruz because of his positions on foreign policy and right-to-life issues.
In liberal-leaning California, Howard is part of a secretive tight-knit community of conservatives in the entertainment industry who meet regularly to talk about issues, but normally shun publicity.
“As a conservative, I don’t do a lot of talking with my fellow workers about politics. The business is — I don’t want to say ‘infested’ but I will — with a lot of liberal-minded people,” he said. “So when I go to work, I do my job. Away from work, I have a very wonderful group of like-minded friends and we gather and we share values and we get along great.”
Howard said that he often has “spirited conversations” with his brother, director Ron Howard, but that they don’t let politics interfere with their relationship. “Any time we have some sort of contentious moment talking, we always end the conversation with ‘I love you.'”
As for the other candidates in the race, Howard said he doesn’t think Trump is up to the job of president and that it was “frightening” that Democrat Bernie Sanders had gained so much traction.
“Donald Trump is a remarkable man in terms of being able to sell himself, but let us not forget he was a television star for many years. That resonates with the public. I understand that because I know the business well. He is speaking what a lot of people somewhere in their heart kind of have,” he said. “He says it in a rough, rough way, like the character in ‘Network’ who said ‘I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore!’ Well, the Donald is doing that and it’s pretty effective. But I must really consider, will he be a good president? And that’s, in my mind, where the conversation stops.”