When Beau Bonness was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes as a child, his parents had a plan: keep him active in sports as much as possible. With a doctor mom and an NFL champ dad, there was a keen understanding of the impact of physical activity on a person’s life and well-being, particularly when diabetes is on board.
When his older brother, Eric, was also diagnosed with T1 three years after Beau, the brothers saw how being active in sports helped manage their high blood glucose levels and “taught us discipline in day-to-day life,” Beau says. Both boys grew up as student-athletes, focusing on not letting their diabetes slow them down. Eric is in medical school today, and the two remain close.
A pivot in life
For Beau, his years as an athlete paid off when he received a basketball scholarship to Brandeis University. But he harbored a secret, one that did not come out until an injury sidelined him his sophomore year in college. “Honestly?” he confides, “I always wanted to act.”
After briefly considering law school, he took the plunge and headed to Hollywood, where he is today, pursuing his dream of becoming a comedy star with the same dedication, planning and direction that brought him through the first years of his life as an athlete.
Now at age 28, Bonness has appeared on shows such as Ray Donovan, Casual, Mistresses and in some really funny television commercials. He also runs his own sound studio on the side. But his dream niche is comedy. “Serious dramatic work can be exhausting,” he says. “In comedy, you have the same commitment and work, but you’re having fun; you’re cracking jokes. That’s what I love.”
Bonness never knows when he might get a call for an audition. “The thing about acting is it totally comes in ebbs and flows,” he explains. “Right now it’s pilot season. Everyone is going out for 70 to 90 new shows.” Where an athlete might build a diabetes plan around a practice week or a game day, an actor living with diabetes may have to do a lot of improvisation – in life, as well as onstage.
Bonness calls Hollywood a “very body-conscious industry,” and he often works out between auditions or when he’s not rehearsing. “Every day looks so different,” he adds. “You don’t have any regularity in this business.”
So Bonness arms himself with his diabetes supplies and glucose, and works to try to stay ahead of what is coming. His dad, attorney and former college and NFL star Rik Bonness, who played linebacker in the NFL for four seasons, instilled in his son the value of having a plan.
A family of advocates
Bonness says that his family members have always been diabetes advocates, chairing JDRF’s prestigious Children’s Congress in 2003, where both Bonness brothers testified before Congress and did many media appearances.
Bonness estimates that over the years, he or his family members have spoken 15 to 20 times at major diabetes events or to the media about living with diabetes.
“My family has always been and still is eager to share our story,” he says. “Seeing my parents so willing to do so, and learning how to do that at a young age has a lot to do with my comfort with performance.”
His parents were supportive, he says, “but they also raised me to know I could be independent.” In fact, the value of independence was a lesson his parents drove home at an early age. Bonness remembers doing his first injection as a child, which he says was liberating.
Today when he’s on set and in auditions, Bonness keeps his diabetes pretty much to himself. That’s not from shame or worry, he says, but rather from a respect for the acting process. “You have to be independent,” he says. “I keep that in mind every day of this work.”
Moira McCarthy is an acclaimed writer, author and public speaker who has shared her story – and lessons – on raising a child living with type 1 diabetes. Her six books include The Everything Parent’s Guide to Children with Juvenile Diabetes and Raising Teens with Diabetes: A Survival Guide for Parents. McCarthy is a paid contributor for The DX. All opinions contained in this article reflect those of the contributor, and not of Sanofi US, its employees, agencies, or affiliates.
© 2016 The DX: The Diabetes Experience