His Mom Ran Hadassah. His Brother Made ‘Glee.’ Now Evan Falchuk Is Going Into Politics.
The 44-year-old healthcare entrepreneur wants to be Massachusetts’s next governor and maybe start a third-party revolution
The timeline leading up to the double announcement of the United Independent Party and Falchuk for Governor 2014, though slightly blurry, is nothing if not compressed. Falchuk’s wife, Felicia, remembers the idea percolating over several months during which Evan sat down with her, and his parents, and then some good friends and mentors. I met Felicia in a Starbucks in Newtonville, near their home in Auburndale. Her jet-black hair was styled in a pixie cut that swept across her forehead, softened by warm brown eyes and a silky blue floral blouse. Felicia, who met Evan at law school at the University of Pennsylvania, worked as a lawyer for four years before giving it up to raise their three children. (She recently went back to school part-time to study social work.) “He said he had the interest, and it was like, OK,” she said. “You brainstorm and you think about it and you focus your energies.”
It was, Falchuk told me, the ugliness of the 2012 election cycle that finally drove him to action. “I felt like I was watching and saying, this is wrong, this is wrong, but what do you do about it? It has to be a new movement. A new party,” he said.
He spent the months leading up to his announcement doing “what most entrepreneurs do: you get really good advice from people.” Which people? He was unwilling to say. The only people named in his arsenal of political influences were his parents, as though his political make-up were quite literally in his DNA. “Given what my mother has done and continues to do in her career, she is a person who has a remarkable ability to articulate a vision and just drive to making it into a reality,” Falchuk told me. “The things she’s done with Hadassah are remarkable. I remember as a kid in the 1970s knowing that she was very involved and watching that progression. She has always been that kind of person who says, ‘I see the future. It’s right over there.’ I’ve always been inspired and motivated by her. When I think about what I’m doing right now, I think: We have a political problem. What is the issue? How can we take that on and change that? You can see my mother’s influence. She has always inspired me. Always.”
Nancy Falchuk has the grace and the glamour of a retired movie star, with the aura of power usually reserved for the studio head. With her reddish hair, her excellent make-up, and immaculate presentation—the day we met, she wore a beautiful red bracelet that matched the terra-cotta scarf worn over black with ballet flats and dark gray nails—one could see where her son got his sense of style. She exudes competence, confidence, and the sense that she doesn’t let things get in her way.
About her son running for governor, Nancy said, “It’s a little unusual. A little bold. A little courageous,” with a smile at the crossroads of indulgent and playful. “You have a kid and you want everything to be good, but would you want to keep him in a closet with his wife and three kids? No. I say he should go for it,” she went on, over lunch at a Legal Sea Foods in Chestnut Hill, a suburb wedged between Brookline and Newton. Of course, she’s been able to bring her years of experience as a nonprofit organizer and fundraiser to bear on the effort. “Instead of soliciting somebody for Hadassah,” she told me, “I’m asking for support for my son.”
But Nancy was quick to credit her husband with giving her son his appetite for taking risks. Kenneth Falchuk grew up in Caracas but was sent to New York for schooling. “He was literally dumped on his aunt’s doorstep in Brooklyn at 12 years old, speaking mainly Spanish,” Nancy told me. “You can imagine how lonely it was.” The elder Falchuk went to Stuyvesant High School and returned to Venezuela for medical school before settling permanently in Boston. He met Nancy at Peter Bent Brigham Hospital in Boston, where she was a charge nurse when he was a resident.
Evan, their oldest child, was born in 1969, followed by Brad and then their younger sister Aimee, who worked as a lobbyist for Pfizer and Genzyme, and is now, like Felicia Falchuk, working on a Master’s degree in counseling.
“It was a very curious family,” Brad Falchuk told me. “We traveled a bunch. My parents were always like, ‘What’s out there? We’re gonna check it out, we’re gonna go on an adventure.’ It was a kind of safety without caution. And there were always books around, and a great deal of humor.” Brad said he and his siblings have a very similar sense of humor and recalled Woody Allen and Monty Python marathons at the Boston Square Theater. “Evan was the kind of big brother you want,” Brad said, “Always willing to lead the way, never getting in the way of me being myself. So much of who I am I got from him, the integrity, and a way of approaching the world with curiosity and openness.”
Felicia Falchuk told me, “When I first met Evan’s family, I was like wow, they are all so charismatic and good looking! I was very taken with them. There’s something very special about all of them. They all have that special quality that draws people to them and makes them leaders.”
Like every good son of Massachusetts, Falchuk is a big fan of the Boston Red Sox and speaks of the team winning the World Series in 2004 as a defining moment, the moment in which he was finally able to emerge, at the age of 34, from the shadow cast by the sneers of his New York cousins, Yankees fans whose taunts he still remembers: “The Red Sox suck, and by the way, you suck, because you are a Red Sox fan.” We sat under the specter of the Red Sox, doing their thing in not one but three framed photos on the candidate’s office wall. The only time Falchuk’s face broke from the earnest, intelligent expression it wore when he spoke about politics was when I asked why, if the Red Sox kept losing until that World Series, he didn’t just pick a better team.
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