Barbara Walters: Finding New Roots

I fell asleep in the car heading back to Brooklyn. It was a hot day in July in the midst of an extraordinarily humid summer, and I had not slept much the night before. My sleep depravation was due to the late night labor that Barbara Walters’ Book of Life required. Barbara Walters was only my 2nd shoot as a production assistant at Ark. I was eager to prove myself, working with the production staff until 1:00AM.

Barbara Walters: Behind the Scenes Finding Your Roots 1

Henry Louis Gates, Jr. filming with Barbara Walters

Approaching the ABC studios I observed the throngs of people waiting in stagnant lines, eager to see Walters’ hit talk show “The View.” We pulled around to the loading zone and were greeted by a team of studio hands who expedited our load-in. As I lugged some equipment down the corridor, I saw John Goodman in a nearby dressing room. “The View” taping had concluded and as I descended a stairwell I nearly collided with Whoopi Goldberg! Pretty soon afterward, I witnessed a conversation between Goldberg and Professor Gates about her genealogy (Goldberg was a guest on an earlier series hosted by Professor Gates).

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Henry Louis Gates, Jr. filming with Barbara Walters

Since I had contributed to some of the research for Walters’ Book of Life, I stood in the room to watch the interview. Professor Gates and Walters eased into the conversation. Their exchange was focused and intriguing. Walters had conducted some independent genealogy research prior to the interview, and she was pleasantly surprised to find that her conclusions were wrong. Her past was rife with movement, adaptation and survival.

I left the studios exhausted and proud. It was particularly rewarding to witness my research come to life during the interview. After spending many hours scouring microfilms, searching for advertisements of Lou Walters’ “Latin Quarter,” I felt as if I had seen my efforts bear fruit.

Watch the full Finding Your Roots episode: Barbara Walters and Geoffrey Canada.

About the Author:
Stephen Robinson is a Production Assistant for Finding Your Roots.