Hilary Swank is going to the dogs.
The two-time Oscar winner actually went there some time ago as a longtime animal advocate, and she brings that personal passion to television on Thanksgiving night as a co-host (with Jane Lynch) and executive producer of the new FOX special “Fox’s Cause for Paws: An All-Star Dog Spectacular” Thursday (Nov. 27). The two-hour show’s aim is to inspire the adoption of rescue animals, but it also selects the “cutest puppy” and “best howler,” among other categories.
“My love for them is so great,” Swank tells Zap2it of her appreciation of canines including her own rescue dogs, “I’m always trying to think of creative ways to help them, to rescue them and to find them ‘forever’ homes, and [executive producer] Michael Levitt had this idea to do something bigger.
“We started brainstorming, this came about, we took it out and FOX jumped all over it. It’s the first of its kind, so for them to believe in it has just been enormous.”
Betty White, another famous animal supporter, is seen in the special. So are Scarlett Johansson, Kristen Bell, Miranda Lambert, Pink, “Dancing With the Stars” judges Julianne Hough and Carrie Ann Inaba, Amber Riley (“Glee”), Paula Abdul, Randy Jackson, Max Greenfield (“New Girl”), Kathy Griffin, Kelly and Sharon Osbourne, Kristin Chenoweth, “Dog Whisperer” Cesar Millan, and spouses Josh Duhamel (now playing Swank’s husband in the movie “You’re Not You”) and Fergie.
“Everyone who has come on board cares deeply, like me, about the fate of dogs that are waiting for families all over our country,” notes Swank, who is pleased the show offers localized information so viewers can help wherever they are.
“There’s upwards of more than 8 million that are currently in the U.S. shelter system, and up to 4 million of them never find their way out. They’re just patiently waiting to become part of a loving family.”
The owner of Academy Awards for “Boys Don’t Cry” and “Million Dollar Baby,” Swank — who also stars with fellow Oscar winners Tommy Lee Jones (the film’s director as well) and Meryl Streep in the new drama “The Homesman” — isn’t just talking the talk when it comes to animal rights.
“I travel and go everywhere with my four-legged family,” she confirms. “If you see a picture of me, there’s inevitably one of my dogs by my side, if not two of them. Michael and I look at [the FOX special] as a celebration of rescue dogs and the joy that they bring to our lives.”
The philanthropy-minded Swank recently started the Hilaroo Foundation, which assists neglected youth as well as abandoned animals by bringing them together for mutual help and healing.
“I think knowledge is power,” she reasons, “and if we all come together, we can shine a bright light and put an end to this suffering. I look at my rescue dogs every day and wonder, ‘Who rescued who?’ They’ve made my life so much richer for being in it, and they know you’ve taken them out of a dangerous situation and brought them to a better place. They just know.”