"In the work life, public life, it just felt like I was still omitting a piece of information because there was some kind of shame or fear there"
Juan Pablo Di Pace is opening up about why he felt it was his “responsibility” to publicly come out as gay.
In the clip, titled “The Story of Your Life,” Di Pace, who was born in Argentina, revealed he had been called an anti-gay slur as a child and that moment had forever shaped his ability to accept his own identity.
It wasn’t until he was “offered the role of a lifetime: Jesus Christ,” in the NBC series A.D. The Bible Continues that he realized it was okay to be gay.
“Of all the people in the world that could play this part, they gave it to me. So there I am, hanging on the cross, in Morocco, and I look up at the sky, and I think, ‘You could still strike me down with lightening. Are you sure you want me to play your son?'” Di Pace said during the speech.
“Instead, what I felt was an overwhelming feeling of love and acceptance and freedom that I could never even put into words,” he said. “A message from God? Maybe.”
Di Pace tells PEOPLE he decided to share that aspect of his life with the world because of the students he was talking to in the audience.
“I was invited to do it, I think, in December by the students of the United World College in Maastricht in the Netherlands,” Di Pace shares.
He explains the students told him, “We think your story has the potential to inspire us.”
“I really felt that they sort of gave me a favor, in a way,” Di Pace says. “I’ve been out for 20 years. It’s not like this is a secret that all of a sudden I needed to bring out to the surface.”
“I live my life freely,” he continues. “I told the most important people in my life 20 years ago, my parents and my friends and people that are close to me.”
However, his sexuality wasn’t something he was open about when it came to his career.
“In the work life, public life, it just felt like I was still omitting a piece of information because there was some kind of shame or fear there, and so, I saw this as an opportunity to also heal myself,” Di Pace says of the TedX Talk.
Di Pace explains he also shared his experience because there’s so much more work to do when it comes to acceptance.
“It has to do with culture, the country, the families, there’s places in this country that it’s still not cool — places like Middle Eastern countries where you can get killed like it’s not a done deal. It’s not fixed yet.”
Thankfully, Di Pace had a great support system.
“My family is amazing,” Di Pace shares before adding that it did take them sometime to adjust. “My family is very Catholic.”
“They’ve had the most incredible journey and the most incredible growth. In the beginning they weren’t on board with it, because they thought it was not natural — that I had to change that I couldn’t be that.”
Now, Di Pace says it’s “a completely different thing.”
“My father can’t wait for me to get married, have my own kids,” he adds. “We have these conversations now, and it’s quite stunning, and my parents are everything to me and to see the growth in them it’s a beautiful, beautiful development.”
Since coming out publicly, Di Pace says he feels a sense of relief.
“It is something that I was keeping, you know, quiet for a reason thinking that perhaps this in my industry was something to guard, because there’s always the paranoia with artists as well,” he says.
“Paranoia that, I don’t know if this is going to be a good piece of information because you don’t want to typecast, you want to be able to play all the colors of the rainbow, so to speak,” Di Pace continues. “I felt that I now had the responsibility to talk to people to a generation about what I found out about my life, and we all have different perspectives of life.”
For those who are still struggling to accept themselves or are being rejected because of their sexuality, Di Pace says, “It’s your responsibility to grab whatever life gives you and make something out of it, even if it’s painful, because that’s life.”
“It’s not a magic thing. There’s no magic wand. It takes huge amounts of courage and bravery to do this,” he adds.