Scandal’s Joe Morton on Flint

  • By Saad Amer
  • Posted 05.31.17
  • NOVA

Actor Joe Morton, narrator of “Poisoned Water,” discusses the impact of the Flint water crisis, the role of science in society and how he thinks characters in Scandal would handle the Flint water crisis.

Running Time: 04:09


Amer: Congrats on getting this NOVA gig. That must've been the biggest thing that you've ever done in your entire career.


Morton: Well I've worked with NOVA before and in this particular case it was something that I really that was important talking about yeah so yes in that sense it is important.

Amer: Why did you think it was so important to narrate the Flint film?

Morton: Because I think what happened in Flint has multiple levels that we need to look at. I mean, one, we have a city government that really tried to suppress the truth in order to save their own tails and that happens not only sometimes in municipalities but all it also happens nationally so it's something that we should look at. The fact that we're even talking about the fact that, that the water was contaminated--water should be like housing, like clothing, like food. It should be something that you never have to worry about. You never have to worry that your food is tainted or that your water is tainted and again because Flint, because the politicians in flint decided that it was OK, having the mayor drink the water on TV I just think it's horrible, it's horrible and going forward I think with this piece will do is, is it shows what you can do on your own. Given what Leanne Walters did in terms of running her own investigation and getting other scientist, she was not a scientist, but getting scientist involved and even then Flint tried to suppress that saying that 'no no no all of the studies were wrong.' And, and so for all of those reasons, I think it's really important for this film to be seen.

Amer: I want to talk about Scandal because that is one of my favorite shows. I follow that religiously. Kerry Washington is beautiful.

Morton: She is.

Amer: You know, your character on Scandal is a makeshift paleontologist at the Smithsonian.

Morton: No, no he's a real paleontologist, he does that for sure.

Eli Pope: I know all his secrets. I know where every body is buried and the greater weapon I can use against him calls me ‘dad.’

Amer: So you play this kind of mega evil villain. You have a lot of power, and so does your daughter, Olivia pope. How do you think she would handle this Flint water crisis?

Morton: Well I mean I think if Leanne Walters had come to her and said ‘here's what's going on in our town,’ she would then begin investigating the same way that, actually, Walters did and Edwards did it. By looking at the facts trying to find documents trying to find out who's hiding what from who and trying to get her team to figure out is this real or is this something that's just made up. I think that's how she would go at it, i think that's how she would go at it.

Amer: And what would Eli Pope do?

Morton: What would Eli Pope do? I mean first of all Eli pope wouldn't do anything he was the one in the Smithsonian Rowan, on the other hand, who used to be in B613, he I think might decide, well there's one of two thoughts I have. One, it's not exactly his thing because his thing is to protect the republic. So what he might do is try to find the papers that would expose the government because what he did was always, you know, behind the scenes always under cover always black ops, so there was no way to expose what he was doing, so the only way to do that would be to get someone to expose paperwork.  I don't think there would be any bloodshed. 


Amer: Well I mean Joe what would you do? I mean, now you know all about this film, How do we as people take this kind of knowledge whether it be Flint or elsewhere and do something ourselves?

Morton: If we are truly sort of interested in making sure that we are not being diluted by our local government or even our national government. That you have to just stay aware, that you have to keep reading the paper and keep making opinions and if you have something to say call your congressman or your representative and say here's what I think is wrong. I mean yes in this particular instance that was sort of done, but I didn't get to commerce until much later in the process. I mean almost a year and a half later. So I think the next thing to do, is sort of what we're doing now, is to promote this film promoting this film.

Amer: Promoting this film.

Morton: So that young people who are watching it will understand that if you don't do anything nothing gets done.

Amer: Be sure to watch our show. ‘Poisoned Water’ on NOVA and PBS.



Host, Writer, Producer, Editor
Saad Amer


Director and Producer
Llewellyn Smith
Kelly Thomson
Director of Photography
Vicente Franco

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