‘thirtysomething’s’ Clennon Takes His Politics as Seriously as His Profession

David Clennon would rather that instead of reading this interview, you pick up Mother Jones or the Utne Reader and find out what’s going on in the Third World.

“I think there’s something unfortunate about the attention that performers get in our media,” says the veteran actor, who gained recognition on “thirtysomething” this season as the vaguely diabolic boss Miles Drentell, “but the weight of government propaganda is so heavy that anyone with a different point of view who has access to the media has a responsibility to use it.”

His TV alter ego--whose advertising agency faces a hostile takeover in the season finale Tuesday--might personify Reagan-era values gone awry, but Clennon is something of a radical. “I feel like I’m on the fringe of the dominant culture, at odds with the ideology reflected in the culture,” he says.

Clennon is at odds, specifically, with the United States’ involvement in El Salvador--so much so, he has been arrested six times since November for demonstrating in weekly protests against what he calls “the death squad democracy” in that country.


Clennon, an aggressive anti-war organizer during Vietnam, says his outrage over El Salvador began in 1980, when a group of nuns was murdered by Salvadoran troops. “Nine years later, what has changed in El Salvador?” he says, citing the November, 1989 massacre of six Jesuit priests. “My tax dollars buy death squad bullets,” Clennon says. “My tax dollars finance torture.”

Miles Drentell, who will return to “thirtysomething” next season, might be more concerned with how much he’s paying in taxes than with where the money is going. But Clennon has a rare attitude about his own income.

“I’m in that class of wage-earners that has benefited from the economic injustice of the past ten years,” he says. “I’d rather make less money and live in a just world.”

Miles Drentell would be shocked.