Actor couple Anne Heche and James Tupper have never even vacationed in Puerto Rico, but the plight of millions without basic necessities 10 days after Hurricane Maria tore through the island tugged at their heartstrings — and compelled them to act.
Fresh off promoting her NBC drama The Brave, Heche launched a CrowdRise page for her “My Next Check” campaign, which asks everyone from famous actors to everyday people to President Donald Trump to donate whatever they can after pay day to relief efforts in Puerto Rico.
“Anne and I don’t know a single person that lives there, and we’ve never visited. What we think is great about America is our incredible generous spirit when people are down and they’re hit, and we’re really moved by the images we’ve seen of what people have suffered,” Tupper tells PEOPLE. ” I grew up in a place where hurricanes hit all the time. We just feel incredible compassion for them, and we think it’s time to step up and show what’s great about America and participate in helping them heal. I mean, we are a wealthy country, and we’re asking people to give 10 bucks.”
The page has raised over $ 4,000 in just one day, but Heche says that’s only the beginning.
“My Next Check just came out of an understanding that as I was watching CNN and seeing the devastation, I thought, ‘I can look at my next paycheck, and donate something,’” she says.
Heche, 48, is asking her costars, famous friends and fans to contribute, too.
“I’ve never asked anyone for money. This is not what I do. I am not a fundraiser,” she says with a laugh, “but I will be a fundraiser for Puerto Rico.”
The stars are working with organizations like the Red Cross and United for Puerto Rico, and they hope that as the cause gains momentum, they’ll learn more about what victims needs.
“This is a campaign that’s going to have to last months and months,” Heche says. “Right now, the needs are gas, water, food, so that they can start doing something. They can’t move. They’re 3.4 million people who are desperately in need of water and food and healthcare, so that’s where it’s going to go first. … If you put the money into the campaign, I can guarantee it will never go anywhere ever near anything other than Puerto Rico.”
Why is she so passionate about lending a hand?
“I just think we have to look at Puerto Rico as our family. What would we do if our family’s in need?” she says. “There’s a lot of people in need right now. I understand that. But there’s a crisis happening that nobody’s paying attention to on the level that it should be paid attention to. … I’m just trying to give us an opportunity, through my show, through me being in the press right now, and taking advantage of the opportunity to be able to talk to others about where they can put the dollars they want to put. Because everyone wants to help.”
On her CrowdRise page, Heche calls out Trump, writing, “We need our president to give his HIS WHOLE NEXT PAYCHECK! This is life and death.”
The commander-in-chief has come under fire for what critics call an insufficient response to the crisis. Trump did temporarily waive The Jones Act, which restricts shipping between mainland America and Puerto Rico (which is a U.S. territory), and on Friday, he vowed the nation “will not rest” until “the people of Puerto Rico are safe.”
“Our president, I ask him the same thing as of anyone else: Look at your next paycheck. What you can give? can you check in with yourself and give anything from your paycheck?” Heche says.
“The whole time that he ran his campaign, he said, ‘Make America Great Again,’ adds Tupper, 52. “I’m a Canadian, and I’m an immigrant, and I’ve always believed America was great, and I think the great thing about Americans is our generous spirit. When people are down, we rise. We rise, and we help.”
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The Brave airs Mondays at 10 p.m. ET on NBC.