A quirky actor/comedian with a quick wit and ebullient personality, Alec Mapa has a true passion for connecting with people. Growing up in San Francisco, he immersed himself in plays and musical theater and starred in several high school productions, including Bye Bye Birdie, Cabaret and Harvey. He was just out of New York University when got he got his big show business break, taking over from B.D. Wong as the opera diva Song Liling in the Broadway hit M. Butterfly. He went on to write and direct two acclaimed one-man shows about his varied experiences, I Remember Mapa and Alec Mapa: Baby Daddy. As an actor, Mapa has appeared in numerous films and television shows, including Marley & Me, Desperate Housewives, Ugly Betty, Roseanne, Seinfeld and You Don’t Mess With The Zohan.
Mapa immediately said "yes" when asked if he was interested in being a performance coach on Showville. As a director, he's found great satisfaction in working with performers to maximize their talents. "I like people a lot, and I like helping people be successful. Also, I like to travel. I’ve only ever lived in Los Angeles, New York City and San Francisco, and I was interested in going beyond the bubble of an urban area to a small town," he remarks. "Granted, big, gay, Asian me in the middle of Hugo, Oklahoma is a weird fish-out-of-water story. So I did have some trepidation. But I found that everybody has a great sense of humor. If I can make somebody laugh, or they can make me laugh, we have an instant connection. The differences start to fall away."
Mapa and his fellow coach Lisette Bustamante spent their first day in each town judging the open auditions, and didn't worry about hiding their reactions. "It wasn't necessary to keep a poker face, because the auditions weren't about finding the next great singer," he explains. "It was about finding four acts to put on the best possible show, and finding great stories. We wanted to know who the contestants were beyond singing or dancing or juggling. 'Oh, you're a dental hygienist?' 'You're a rancher, you're not really a singer?' One of the special things about Showville is that it's also about what these people do when they’re not performing."
He and Bustamante brought similar approaches to their jobs as coaches. "We only had two days to coach them, and we focused on building up the strengths in their acts. Lisette is a great teacher; she's extremely open-minded and can look at anybody and kind of figure out what they need for their act. I work in stand-up, where you have to 'hit it and quit it.' You have to make a really huge first impression, establish who you are and what you're there to do, and then you get off the stage –- before you know it, your time is done," he says. "I think it all comes down to confidence. My biggest piece of advice to people is to have fun. If you can't have fun, there's really no point in doing anything. Your act is a Hula hoop act –- if you can't have fun doing that, why bother?"