STAFF & GUEST BLOG
November 21st, 2014, by Guest Blogger

BY ROBERT M. ENTMAN and ANDREW ROJECKI, authors of The Black Image in the White Mind

Dr. Robert M. Entman (pictured far left) is professor of media & public affairs at The George Washington University & author of Scandal and Silence: Media Responses to Presidential Misconduct. Dr. Andrew Rojecki (pictured immediate left) is associate professor and director of graduate studies in the Department of Communication at the University of Illinois, Chicago.

[Any views or opinions expressed in this post are solely those of the respective author and do not represent those of PBS. The Smiley Group, Inc. is responsible for the content of this blog site.]

In The Black Image in the White Mind, we argued that white Americans were conflicted in their attitudes about race. Barack Obama’s remarkable rise to the presidency and the troubled course of his administration illustrated the racial ambivalence of the nation: a rapid and unprecedented rise to popularity followed by opponents’ racially tinged campaign to diminish his legitimacy and power as president.

While some scholars claimed that the new attitudes merely responded to changed norms that made it impolite or impolitic to express bias, others argued that racialized attitudes had simply become insensible to those who considered themselves free of bias. Psychologists at Harvard, the University of Virginia and the University of Washington devised a test that revealed these attitudes in an online test of what they call implicit bias.

We have asked students in our classes to take the test, and a number were surprised about what lurked in their unconscious minds. Having been steeped in American culture’s racial stereotypes made them susceptible to biased judgments that flew under their conscious radar. Research by Tali Mendelberg and others revealed the influence of implicit bias in political campaigns that used what might be called “dog whistles,” images or messages that associated candidates with negative racialized thoughts.

In our research on the 2012 Presidential campaign, we found that partisan media commentators used language such as “takers” to describe Barack Obama’s constituents. Obama himself was characterized as a “Santa Claus” passing out “free stuff” to his dependent supporters. Experimental evidence for the subtly racialized nature of political language and thinking can be found in research that shows a 20 percent drop in support for the language of the Affordable Care Act, identical to that proposed by Bill Clinton in 1993, when Barack Obama’s name is mentioned.

Not just political discourse but public policy sustains implicit racial biases. Among the most important policy changes since the 1980s are the laws arising from the “War on Drugs.” They have contributed to depriving black working-class neighborhoods of the social capital and informal neighborhood monitoring essential to basic levels of material and personal security. A feedback loop of crime news on local media and white impressions of black lawlessness supports the drug war’s “school to prison pipeline,” as well as stereotypes that bolster whites’ support for harsh treatment of black offenders.

A recent experimental study by Stanford psychologists shows that when whites are exposed to the reality of extreme racial differences in law enforcement, they express increased acceptance of punitive policies. Learning of racial disparities leads whites to support the very policies that produced higher crime rates in black neighborhoods and associate blacks with dangerous criminality, thus perpetuating a vicious cycle we recently witnessed in Ferguson, Missouri.

We continue to believe that race plays a powerful if subtle role in whites’ worldviews, and that the election of Barack Obama represented a profound wish among whites to get beyond the issue. As we concluded in the Black Image in the White Mind, the wish remains a laudable ideal rather than a reality.

The Entman-Rojecki Index of Race and the Media

STAFF & GUEST BLOG
November 9th, 2014, by Guest Blogger

BY NATE PARKER, Show Guest on November 10, 2014

An actor, writer and director, Parker is not only passionate about his craft, but equally committed to mentoring young people and making a difference in his community.

[Any views or opinions expressed in this post are solely those of the respective author and do not represent those of PBS. The Smiley Group, Inc. is responsible for the content of this blog site.]

We live in a country where the amount of melanin in one’s skin has a direct effect on the safety, perceived humanity, life expectancy and educational outcomes of its citizens. In a land of unprecedented wealth and supposed opportunity, how is this possible?

The truth is, there are two Americas.

There is one America where law enforcement is conditioned to protect and serve its citizens. Where media imagery reflects, reinforces and normalizes the quiet infrastructure of white supremacy and privilege. Where understanding America’s history of racial violence and inequality is unnecessary amidst the luxury of indifference. Where the unjust destruction of innocent life is met with sweeping response and immediate consequence. Where the judicial system stands by its mantra of innocent until proven guilty, giving life to policies that ensure fairness, freedom and the pursuit of happiness.

And then there is the other America…

This is the America where law enforcement is conditioned to distrust and terrorize its citizens. Where media imagery reflects and reinforces the pervasive presumption of black inferiority, broadcasting notions of black (in) humanity abroad. One where understanding America’s history of racial violence and inequality has become the life-blood of social, economic, cultural, psychological and physical survival. Where the judicial system’s mantra remains guilty until proven innocent. Where American citizens are criminalized at exponentially expanding rates, resulting in the robbing of black communities, cyclical disfranchisement and generational slave labor made manifest today in the prison industrial complex (see the 13th amendment).

Of course there are exceptions:

The black neighbor living in the affluent neighborhood. The black youth who grows up frequenting his white friend’s house for sleepovers. The election of President Barack Obama.

Yet these exceptions are just that, and should direct us to the rule, to the truth:

Because the truth is, that lone black neighbor is more likely to be profiled while standing outside his own home. That young black man is nearly five times more likely to be killed by a gun than the young white man. And, sadly, if our president decided one night to take a lonesome stroll through the dark streets of Washington, D.C. unaccompanied by his security detail, his life would indeed be in danger.

We can no longer ignore the reality that black lives rank lower on the human value scale in America. Statistical analysis is only part of the story; the other part is personal.

It lies in the fact that, as a nation, we barely react to the news that more black youth have been gunned down by the very police charged with protecting them. It lies in our lack of surprise as jury after jury fails to hand down indictments. It lies even in the prevalence of black-on-black crime and the realization that white citizens are safer in black neighborhoods than are black citizens. It lies in the desperate measures many black parents take to transplant their children to white schools to bypass the educational genocide plaguing so many schools in black communities.

Systematic dehumanization in the U.S. is not only a class thing. It’s an American thing.

It is motivated in part by our failure to recognize its roots in the history of racial slavery and the history of American racial violence and inequality that has extended well beyond emancipation. A legacy that includes a daily dose of physical, emotional and psychological trauma that shapes each and every American today.

Far fetched? In 1787, the United States deemed African-Americans 3/5 of a human being. This in a country that simultaneously declared, “All men are created equal.” Many argue we have progressed as a nation. And in some ways this is true.

However, in light of the cavalier manner in which the humanity of black people was legislated away in that compromise, I often wonder: at what point did we collectively re-authorize that humanity? At what point were black Americans re-classified, re-legislated as human beings who possessed equal worth and who deserved all of the things associated with human life in this country?

Was it with the passing of the 13th Amendment in 1865? The Civil Rights Act of 1964? The Voting Rights Act of 1965? The founding of Black History Month in 1976? The election of the nation’s first president of African descent?

The reality is that the full-ness of black humanity has yet to be recognized in the United States.

Rarely in the history of the world has any other group been de-humanized in this way, on a racial basis, solely to further economic profit. We don’t have a plan to address the traumatic legacies of slavery and the post-emancipation era because without confronting that history, there is no process by which a nation could collectively restore human status to a people. As historian Tim Tyson of Duke University has noted, “Any psychiatrist will tell you, genuine healing requires a candid confrontation with our past. If there is to be true healing there must first be reconciliation.”

Racism, white supremacy, black inferiority, police brutality, black-on-black crime and white fear are all symptomatic of our unwillingness to face our collective and communal past with honesty and genuine reflection. Our refusal to ponder the idea that the current racial divide in this country has an inseparable connection to the events of our country’s past, to the roots of our tree.

There is a divide in America. Not one of Democrats and Republicans, but a divide of the ugliest kind. One that survives on ignorance and thrives on indifference. One that threatens this generation and every generation in this country to come.

If we cannot address this divide, from its roots, we may expect more destruction of life, more riots, more anger, more fear. This is the most pressing challenge facing America today. More than the economy, foreign policy, or energy, though the ultimate fate of these policy dilemmas will be informed by this, too.

We tout ourselves a nation set apart by its freedoms. We pride ourselves on our courage to preserve life and liberties abroad. The land of the free. The home of the brave. If ever there was a time for America to be brave, it is now, for in the words of Abraham Lincoln, “If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand.”

STAFF & GUEST BLOG
November 3rd, 2014, by Guest Blogger

BY ROBERT WEISSMAN, Show Guest on October 30, 2014


Weissman is president of Public Citizen and an expert on economic, healthcare, trade and globalization, intellectual property and regulatory policy, and issues related to financial accountability and corporate responsibility. His top priorities include climate change, healthcare reform, financial regulation and campaign finance reform.

[Any views or opinions expressed in this post are solely those of the respective author and do not represent those of PBS. The Smiley Group, Inc. is responsible for the content of this blog site.]

It matters a great deal who wins the 2014 elections. On the other hand, we know that whatever the eventual outcome, the corporate class has already won.

Enabled by the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2010 decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, billionaires and corporations have grabbed control of our elections. More money than ever is being spent—an estimated $4 billion in reported federal expenditures for this election, a record for a mid-term, though the actual amount is surely higher. But more significant than the actual amounts are the rising expenditures by outside organizations—Super PACs, social welfare organizations and trade associations—not connected to the candidates. These organizations concentrate their spending on the close races—often spending far more than the candidates themselves—so their influence is concentrated where it matters most.

These outside groups will report spending approximately $1 billion, though we’ll never know how much they truly throw at the election, because much of it is not required to be reported. A third or more of that spending is coming from Dark Money organizations, which don’t have to reveal their donors. The biggest centers of Dark Money are the organizations affiliated with the anti-government extremist Koch Brothers, Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the leading trade association for big business.

For the Super PACs that do report their donors, we know that a very tiny number of people are overwhelming voters with their dollars. Just 42 people are responsible for a third of the $600 million raised by Super PACs. 42 people!

What do donors get for their extraordinary contributions? At the individual level, they get special access and special favors. But much more important is the systemic effect of their spending: With their heavy advertising, they define election races, often taking control of election narratives from candidates. They have a huge influence over who is elected; and even over who will consider running. Once the election is over, they help shape what Congress does—and does not do.

The vast majority of Americans want to raise the minimum wage. They want policies to advance income and wealth equality. Americans want Wall Street criminals put behind bars. By a more than two-to-one margin, Americans oppose more NAFTA-style trade agreements. Americans want investment in our schools, on sustainable transportation and infrastructure. They want policies to prevent catastrophic climate change. They want to protect—and improve—Social Security and Medicare.

So, why isn’t Congress raising the minimum wage and addressing income inequality? Why aren’t prosecutors going after Wall Street wrongdoers? Why is the president trying to negotiate NAFTA-style deals with Asia and Europe? Why aren’t we investing in our future? Why is Congress threatening the modest climate change policies of the Obama administration? Why do we face the prospect of Social Security and Medicare cuts again appearing on the Congressional agenda?

The giant campaign donations by the billionaires and corporations aren’t the only answer to those questions, but they are a big part of it. If we want America to deliver on its promise—if we want to advance justice and democracy, fairness and ecological sustainability; if we want everyone to get a fair shot—then we have to deal with the campaign finance system. A first step would be to require disclosure of all campaign-related spending by large corporations, so we at least know what companies are spending. The Securities and Exchange Commission should adopt a rule to require such disclosures immediately. In the longer term, we need to replace the current campaign spending system altogether with one that relies on small donors and public financing. But replacing the current system—including the outrage of billionaires and corporations dominating our elections with outside spending—will require overturning Supreme Court decisions like Citizens United. And that will take a constitutional amendment—something hard to do, by design, but something We the People have done time and again to strengthen our democracy.

STAFF & GUEST BLOG
August 19th, 2014, by Amanda Yslas

Update:

Congratulations to all of the 2014 Emmy winners, with special kudos to those who spent time with us over the past year: Allison Janney, Jessica Lange and Jim Parsons.

Every year, like clockwork, Emmy’s red carpet is laid out, the golden statuettes are polished and feelings of excitement and anticipation fill the air. As we celebrated our 10th year in public television in 2013, we shared the same feelings as the guests who helped us get there.

And with this post, we toast our visitors whose work has been recognized as contenders for the 66th Annual Emmy Awards. [Click on the guest name/image to go to his/her show page on this site, which includes video of our conversation.]

Comedy, drama, miniseries, TV movie—each of these genres is proving more and more how much television content is evolving, taking audiences where they’ve never gone before. Our guests have taken us from a woman’s federal prison in New York to a witches’ coven in Louisiana.

This year, comedy definitely has some stiff competition, and it starts with…a big bang. The Big Bang Theory continued to hit funny bones and earned yet another Emmy nomination for outstanding comedy series, as well as lead actor and guest star. Nominated for comedy lead actor, Jim Parsons sat with us and talked about his hit TV show, as well as his supporting role in HBO’s The Normal Heart, which earned him a second Emmy nod—this one for reprising his Tony-winning turn on Broadway.

 

 

Comedic giant Bob Newhart also stopped by, shortly after taking home a 2013 Emmy—his first after more than 50 years in the business—for his work on the show as Arthur Jeffries. This year, he picked up another guest actor nod.

 

 


Also in the comedy race is a real unconventional family, the Emmy-nominated Modern Family. We were privileged to welcome versatile actor Ed O’Neill, who earned recognition as on-screen father to the Bundys in Married…With Children and, now, to the Pritchett family. This past season, Modern Family‘s characters were tested, and, in the moments when not everything was funny, O’Neill shined through and demonstrated that that’s what makes shows memorable.

 


In the past year, comedy took on a new look—the color of orange. Since its debut, Orange Is the New Black has garnered attention for its mix of comedy and drama. The characters on the series, nominated for best comedy, have taken us behind bars—teaching us lessons and survival tips about the ins and outs of the world. One of its co-stars that’s familiar with comedy and stories is Jason Biggs, who visited us and recounted what it’s like working on the hit show.

 

Included on the list for leading actor in a comedy is Don Cheadle, who checked in with us just in time for the season three premiere of House of Lies. He explained his character Marty Kaan, an antihero who brings edge, but is still mysterious to the story. It’s no surprise that his character and work ethic as an actor continue to bring him award nominations, as his film roles have done in the past.

 

 

While the ability to balance comedy and drama is a strength for any actor/actress, to do so simultaneously is a force. This is the case with two guests who dropped in to discuss their work on both a comedy and a drama series in the same season.

One of these talents is Allison Janney, who’s nominated in two categories this year: supporting actress in a comedy for her role in Mom and guest actress in a drama series for her turn in Masters of Sex. She described what it was like playing two very different roles at the same time. [NOTE: During the Creative Arts Emmys ceremony, Janney picked up the statuette in the drama series guest actress category for her performance in Showtime's Masters of Sex.]

 

 

Beau Bridges also received two nominations. This past season, he not only played a funny dad in The Millers, but also a struggling husband (opposite Janney) in Masters of Sex. Coming from a family of actors, Beau has mastered balancing comedic timing and drama. Our chat included his take on family life, work and even mixing the two!

 

From the drama world, we welcomed actor John Slattery and writer-producer Matthew Weiner for a conversation of their hit AMC series, Mad Men—nominated again this year for outstanding drama.

When Slattery visited, he updated us on his character in the period piece, which is in its final season, and outlined his film, God’s Pocket, and what it was like putting together his first feature and directing Philip Seymour Hoffman in one of his last roles.

 

Weiner, the man behind Mad Men, shared the journey of the series—its evolution, characters, content and what makes it a hit.

 

 

And, though Jessica Lange has played different characters in the American Horror Story anthology, her different roles keep her as a fresh choice. This year, her portrayal as the Supreme Witch of the Coven, earned her an Emmy nod for lead actress in a miniseries/movie.

When Lange visited our set, she also opened up about one of her many other talents—writing—and her children’s book, It’s About a Little Bird, which was written for her granddaughters, and talked about religion, family, photography and all that keeps her the woman we know and love.


One actor not only pulled on audiences’ heart strings this past year for his film role in 12 Years a Slave, but also captured their attention as Louis Lester in the British TV miniseries, Dancing on the Edge. While Chiwetel Ejiofor‘s conversation with us focused on his performance in the Oscar-winning film, he took us into period pieces, from the 1800s to the 1930s, bringing to life the reality that they were and yet inspiring us to see growth and beauty, and earned an Emmy nomination as lead actor in a miniseries/movie.

 

Over the years, Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony winner Mel Brooks has experienced all of the nerves of nominations for outstanding work. When he honored us with a sit-down, he made us laugh not just one night, but two in a row. The body of work of the comedian-producer-director-writer dates back to the late 1940s and resulted in a televised AFI tribute, which earned an Emmy nod best variety special. [NOTE: The tribute show was awarded the Emmy during the Creative Arts ceremony.]

 



Joseph Gordon-Levitt
is best known as an actor; but, this year, he made his debut as a feature film director-screenwriter and shared his experience with us. He also created, hosted and directed a critically acclaimed variety series, HitRECord on TV—an extension of his online collaborative production company—on the new Pivot network and picked up an Interactive Media Emmy Award for Social TV Experience during the Creative Arts Awards ceremony.

 

After the awards ceremonies and parties and the reading of new scripts, every actor starts again. Sometimes it’s just as nerve-racking as the shows they are in, but by the end of their new beginnings, they present a wonderful feast. This is what makes awards ceremonies like the Emmys exciting and new—nothing is the same every year, and, by the end of the night, we reflect on past work and look forward to new ones.

For their Emmy nods, we congratulate the guests that sat on our couch this past year, reflecting on their work in TV series, telefilms or miniseries, and we thank them for letting us help get the word out on their various projects!

A LOOK BACK
April 20th, 2014, by Staff

A former boxer who became a symbol of racial injustice, Rubin “Hurricane” Carter recently lost his battle with prostate cancer.

A 20th-century icon, he survived 19 years in prison as a controversial victim of the U.S. justice system. Following his exoneration, he became a passionate activist for the wrongfully convicted, and his life story inspired a major motion picture and a song by Bob Dylan.

Carter had a difficult youth, but rose to become a top contender for the middleweight boxing crown. His career was halted in 1967, when he was convicted of a triple murder and sentenced to three consecutive life terms. In 1988, the indictments against him were dismissed.

The recipient of two honorary doctors of law degrees, Carter lived in Toronto and was an in-demand speaker throughout North America and Europe. He also worked with several organizations and founded Innocence International.

In 2011, he joined us to talk about his work helping prisoners who have been falsely convicted and his then-newly updated biography, The Eye of the Hurricane: My Path from Darkness to Freedom. Take a look below at our compelling conversation.

(View full post to see video)
A LOOK BACK
April 8th, 2014, by Staff

The 2014 “class” of Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees includes two of our past guests: one of the most important voices in the creation of country rock, Linda Ronstadt, and Yusuf (formerly known as Cat Stevens), whose musical gifts are an important chapter in rock history.

Over two nights, Ronstadt—the only artist to win a Grammy Award in the categories of pop, country, Mexican American and Tropical Latin—reflected on her fascinating journey, as chronicled in her memoir, Simple Dreams, as well as her Parkinson’s diagnosis.

And singer-songwriter Yusuf, an introspective cornerstone of the 1970s singer-songwriter movement, who converted to Islam after multi-platinum success, talked with us about his musical odyssey and using culture to support moral values.

Congrats to all of this year’s inductees, especially to our past guests. Check out their Hall of Fame bios AND watch video of their rich conversations.

 

Linda Ronstadt

Hall of Fame bio

Part 1 of our conversation
(View full post to see video)

Part 2 of our conversation
(View full post to see video)

 

Yusuf (Cat Stevens)

Hall of Fame bio

(View full post to see video)

STAFF & GUEST BLOG
January 26th, 2014, by Staff

Applause to our guests who took home 2014 Grammys: Herb Alpert, Ben Harper with Charlie Musselwhite, Alicia Keys, Gregory Porter and Wayne Shorter. The legendary Carole King was also honored during the Grammy weekend festivities. Check out the roundup below of their visits with us.

 

Carole King
2014 MusiCares Person of the Year
The singer-songwriter and four-time Grammy winner was honored as the 2014 MusiCares Person of the Year, recognizing her accomplishments as an artist and humanitarian. Our conversation with her on the release of her memoir, A Natural Woman, is a must-see.
‘GRAMMY Winners Pay Tribute To Carole King’
About MusiCares

(View full post to see video)

 

Herb Alpert
Best Pop Instrumental Album – Recipient for “Steppin’ Out”

(View full post to see video)

 

Ben Harper & Charlie Musselwhite
Best Blues Album – Recipient for “Get Up!”

(View full post to see video)

 

Alicia Keys
Best R&B Album – Recipient for “Girl on Fire”

(View full post to see video)

 

Gregory Porter
Best Jazz Vocal Album – Recipient for “Liquid Spirit”

(View full post to see video)

 

Wayne Shorter
Best Improvised Jazz Solo – Recipient for “Orbits”

(View full post to see video)

 

Kudos, as well, to other 2014 Grammy nominees who joined us last year. (Click on the name to view the guest show page.)

Terence Blanchard – Best Improvised Jazz Solo for “Don’t Run”

Mary J. Blige – Best Rap/Sung Collaboration for “Now or Never” (Kendrick Lamar featuring Mary J. Blige) & Album of the Year for “Good Kid, M.A.A.D City” (Kendrick Lamar collaboration)

Carol Burnett – Best Spoken Word Album (Includes Poetry, Audio Books & Storytelling) for Carrie and Me

Gloria Estefan – Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album for “The Standards” & Best Instrumental Arrangement Accompanying Vocalist(s) for “What A Wonderful World”

Dave Koz – Best Pop Instrumental Album for “Summer Horns”

Snoop Lion – Best Reggae Album for “Reincarnated”

Miguel – Best R&B Performance for “How Many Drinks” (featuring Kendrick Lamar) & Best Rap/Sung Collaboration for “Power Trip” (J. Cole featuring Miguel)

Esa-Pekka Salonen – Best Orchestral Performance for “Lutoslawski: Symphony No. 1;” Best Contemporary Classical Composition for “Salonen, Esa-Pekka: Violin Concerto;” & Best Classical Instrumental Solo for “Salonen: Violin Concerto; Nyx”

 

STAFF & GUEST BLOG
January 12th, 2014, by Staff

Congratulations to all of the nominees of this 2014 awards season, especially those who came by to chat with us. Be sure to check out our rich conversations on a variety of topics, including their award-winning projects.

The season kicked off with the Golden Globes, followed by the Screen Actors Guild Awards—both honoring accomplishments on the big and small screens. The BAFTAs for film were handed out in mid-February, and the season ended with the Independent Spirit Awards and, of course, the Oscars.

Over the past year, we spoke with three actresses that took home awards this season, Oscar winner Lupita Nyong’o, Jacqueline Bisset, and Elisabeth Moss, and spent two nights with this year’s SAG Lifetime Achievement recipient—Rita Moreno. In addition, we sat down Steve McQueen, who racked up numerous honors for directing/co-producing the coveted best picture Oscar, the Producers Guild Award, a BAFTA and two Independent Spirit Awards, and with BAFTA recipients Barkhad Abdi and Chiwetel Ejiofor.

Darlene Love and Merry Clayton, two of the featured vocalists in the critically acclaimed 20 Feet from Stardom, which received both the Oscar and the Independent Spirit Award for best documentary, spent two nights with us, recounting backstories of their vocal work behind some of the greatest musical legends in the business. And, Ryan Coogler, writer-director of Fruitvale Station—his first feature length screenplay—along with his star, Michael B. Jordan, shared their feelings about their film. [Coogler received the 2014 "best first feature" Independent Spirit Award.]

Enjoy our roundup of conversations with these exceptional artists.

 

Rita Moreno
SAG Lifetime Achievement Award recipient

Part 1
(View full post to see video)

Part 2
(View full post to see video)

 

Barkhad Abdi (Captain Phillips)
Golden Globe nominee Best Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture
SAG Award nominee – Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture
BAFTA recipient – Supporting Actor
Oscar nominee – Best Supporting Actor
(View full post to see video)

 

Jacqueline Bisset (Dancing on the Edge)
Golden Globe recipient – Best Supporting Actress in a Series, Mini-Series or TV Movie

(View full post to see video)

 

Steve Coogan (Philomena)
Golden Globe nominee – Best Screenplay – Motion Picture
BAFTA recipient – Adapted Screenplay
Oscar nominee – Adapted Screenplay
(View full post to see video)

 

Ryan Coogler (Fruitvale Station)
Independent Spirit Award recipient – Best First Feature
(View full post to see video)

 

Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years a Slave)
BAFTA recipient – Film lead actor
Independent Spirit Award nominee – Best Male Lead
Oscar nominee – Best Actor
(View full post to see video)

 

Steve McQueen (12 Years a Slave)
Golden Globe nominee Best Director – Motion Picture
PGA recipient – Outstanding Producer of Theatrical Motion Pictures
DGA nominee – Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Motion Pictures
BAFTA recipient – Director
Independent Spirit Award recipient – Best Director
Independent Spirit Award recipient – Best Feature
(co-producer)
Oscar recipient – Best picture (co-producer)

Oscar nominee – Best Director
(View full post to see video)

 

Elisabeth Moss (Top of the Lake)
Golden Globe recipient – Best Actress in a Mini-Series or TV Movie

SAG Award nominee – Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Television Movie or Miniseries
(View full post to see video)

 

Lupita Nyong’o (12 Years a Slave)
Golden Globe nominee – Best Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture
SAG Award recipient – Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture
BAFTA nominee – Rising Star + Supporting Actress
Independent Spirit Award recipient – Best Supporting Female
Oscar recipient – Best Supporting Actress
(View full post to see video)

 

Darlene Love and Merry Clayton (20 Feet from Stardom – Oscar and Independent Spirit Award recipientBest Documentary

Part 1
(View full post to see video)

Part 2
(View full post to see video)

 

And, don’t miss our conversations with other exceptional artists who were nominated this season.

Don Cheadle (House of Lies)
Golden Globe nominee – Best Actor in a TV Series, Musical or Comedy
SAG nominee – Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Comedy Series

Julie Delpy (Before Midnight)
Golden Globe nominee – Best Actress in a Motion Picture, Musical or Comedy
Independent Spirit Award nominee – Best Screenplay & Best Female Lead
Oscar nominee – Best Adapted Screenplay

Bruce Dern (Nebraska)
Golden Globe nominee – Best Actor in a Motion Picture, Musical or Comedy
BAFTA nominee – Film lead actor
Independent Spirit Award nominee – Best Male Lead
Oscar nominee – Best Actor

Will Forte (Nebraska)
Independent Spirit Award nominee – Best Supporting Male

Joseph Gordon-Levitt (Don Jon)
Independent Spirit Award nominee -  Best First Screenplay

Ethan Hawke (Before Midnight)
Independent Spirit Award nominee – Best Screenplay
Oscar nominee – Best Adapted Screenplay

Michael B. Jordan (Fruitvale Station)
Independent Spirit Award nominee – Best Male Lead

Jessica Lange (American Horror Story)
Golden Globe nominee –Best Actress in a Mini-Series or TV Movie
SAG Award nominee – Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Drama Series

Jeremy Scahill (Dirty Wars)
Oscar nominee – Best Documentary Feature

Teller (Tim’s Vermeer)
BAFTA nominee – Documentary

Hans Zimmer (12 Years a Slave)
Golden Globe nominee – Best Original Score Motion Picture
BAFTA nominee – Original film music

 

 

A LOOK BACK
December 5th, 2013, by Staff

When a man is denied the right to live the life he believes in, he has no choice but to become an outlaw.
– Nelson Mandela

The world mourns the loss of a man who dedicated his life to fighting for equality, a man who helped transform the future of a nation. Nelson Mandela was a defiance symbol of how one man can make a difference. He moved the world when he became the first Black president in a part of the world engulfed by apartheid. He knew when to be unyielding and when to be compromising.

Nelson Mandela was born on July 18, 1918, in Transkei, South Africa. He was actively involved in the anti-apartheid movement in his 20s and joined the African National Congress (ANC) in 1942. He was a peacemaker and, for nearly two decades, directed a campaign of peaceful, non-violent defiance against the South African government and its racist policies, including the 1952 Defiance Campaign and the 1955 Congress of the People. He once declared: If you want to make peace with your enemy, you have to work with your enemy. Then he becomes your partner.

Mandela was incarcerated on Robben Island, on the coast of Cape Town, for 18 of his 27 years in prison. While incarcerated, he earned a Bachelor of Law degree through a correspondence program with the University of London.

President Frederik Willem de Klerk announced Mandela’s release on February 11, 1990 and also unbanned the ANC, removed restrictions that were imposed on political groups and suspended executions. Nelson Mandela persisted in urging foreign powers to continue their pressure on the South African apartheid government for constitutional reform. Despite being committed to working toward peace, he declared that the ANC’s armed struggle would continue until the Black majority received the right to vote for their own people.

He continued to negotiate with President de Klerk toward the country’s first multiracial elections. The negotiations were sometimes strained, and news of violent eruptions, including the assassination of ANC leaders, continued throughout the country. Mandela had to maintain a delicate balance of political pressure and intense negotiations amid the political chaos. In 1993, he and President de Klerk were jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for their work toward dismantling the South African apartheid regime. Negotiations between Black and white South Africans prevailed and, on April 27, 1994, South Africa held its first fully democratic elections.

Nelson Mandela became the first Black president of the Republic of South Africa on May 10, 1994. For five years, he worked to bring about the transition from minority rule and apartheid to Black majority rule and, using the nation’s enthusiasm for sports as a medium to promote white and Black reconciliation, encouraged Black South Africans to support the once-hated national rugby team. In 1995, South Africa returned to the world stage by hosting the Rugby World Cup, which brought further recognition and prestige to the Republic.

Mandela worked to protect South Africa’s economy from collapse, and, through his Reconstruction and Development Plan, the South African government funded the creation of jobs, housing and basic healthcare. In 1996, he signed into law a new constitution for the nation that promoted a strong central government based on majority rule and guaranteed the rights of minorities and the freedom of expression.

He retired from active politics before the 1999 general elections and spent his retirement years raising money to build schools and clinics in South Africa’s rural areas through his Mandela Foundation. He also served as a mediator in Burundi’s civil war and wrote several books on his life and struggles, among them, No Easy Walk to Freedom; Nelson Mandela: The Struggle Is My Life; and Nelson Mandela’s Favorite African Folktales.

On July 18, 2007, he convened a group of world leaders, which he called “The Elders,” a group committed to promoting peace and women’s equality, demanding an end to atrocities and supporting initiatives to address humanitarian crises and promote democracy. Thus far, the group has made an impact in the world, including in Asia, the Middle East and Africa.

Nelson Mandela spent his life fighting for the rights of humanity.

 

[With the exception of the top photo, all other images are from then-ANC Deputy President Mandela's visit to Los Angeles in June, 1990.]

A LOOK BACK
September 15th, 2013, by Amanda Yslas

Update:

Kudos to all of those who took home 2013 statuettes, especially to our past guests Jeff Daniels and James Cromwell.

Over the past 10 seasons of our show, we’ve been honored to have a variety of talented actors, actresses and writer-creators share our stage as guests. Several of them are nominees for the 65th Primetime Emmy Awards, including Don Cheadle, Matt Damon, Julian Fellowes, Elisabeth Moss and others.

But, before taking their turn on the red carpet, they sat with us and took us into their lives both creatively and personally. Some of them took us into conversations not covering their bodies of nominated work (as their appearances pre-dated their nomination announcement), but nonetheless, gave us rich discussions.

And now the envelope please…for a rundown of some of our 2013 Emmy-nominated guests.

[Click on the name or image to watch the conversation.]

Elisabeth Moss – Lead Actress, Drama (Peggy Olson in Mad Men) & Lead Actress, Miniseries/Movie (Robin Griffin in Top of the Lake)

When we sat down with the actress most notable for playing Peggy Olson, we had a lot to talk about. After all, actress Elisabeth Moss is nominated for not just one, but two Emmys this year! When she wasn’t filming AMC’s award-winning drama Mad Men, she told us she’d been working with the BBC and the Sundance Channel on a miniseries titled Top of the Lake.

In the many years she’s been on the screen, she’s captivated audiences with her versatility and with the way she makes characters impressionable, as she’s brilliantly done with Mad Men‘s Peggy. Her versatility as an actress has moved her to different films and TV shows (one show in particular being The West Wing, which she did early in her career and earned a Young Artist Award nomination). It’s also taken her to places like New Zealand, with directors Jane Campion and Gerard Lee. In the miniseries, she plays Detective Robin Griffin who works in social services with children and rape cases—very different from secretary and, later, copywriter, but equally as entertaining.

It’s a great conversation about her roles and what she would be doing if she wasn’t acting. Hmm…

Jeff Daniels – Lead Actor, Drama (Will McAvoy in The Newsroom)

Many people remember the 1983 film Terms of Endearment as a moving ensemble dramedy about family and life. And many people remember actor Jeff Daniels in it because of his well-played performance as Debra Winger’s husband.

Thirty years later, Daniels is still going strong in another great ensemble drama, HBO’s The Newsroom, which focuses on the ideals of journalism and the “fight every day.” In 30 years’ time, Daniels has become stronger as an actor, entertaining audiences in such comedies as Dumb and Dumber and The Squid and the Whale (which earned him a Golden Globe nod). He also received a Tony nod (God of Carnage) and now earns his first Emmy nom.

This is his first regular TV series role, and he explains why the show matters and what drove him to wanting to work on television. Clearly, by being in the Emmy race, that drive has paid off.

Jane Fonda – Guest Actress, Drama (Leona Lansing in The Newsroom)

Sometimes, when an actress really makes an impression, she doesn’t necessarily need to be the star of the work she’s in to be noticed. This surely was the case for nominee Jane Fonda, who earned an Emmy nod for playing Leona Lansing, the owner of the network on which main character/news anchor Will McAvoy works in HBO’s The Newsroom. It only took five episodes of her great acting to stand out as a guest actress, and it’s a well-deserved nomination.

When she came to our set though, the conversation wasn’t about her role on the HBO show; it was about her adopted daughter Mary Williams and the book, The Lost Daughter. In our discussion, Fonda continues to show us she’s not just the actress that we know, but a woman with many layers, who helped take in a young girl to give her a life of opportunities.

She’s won two Oscars, six Golden Globes and an Emmy and may have more hardware coming. Though our conversation doesn’t go into her acting accomplishments, it does spotlight how she won over the heart of a young girl and, at the end of the day, how that matters just as much as a gold statuette.

Julian Fellowes – Writing, Drama (Downton Abbey)

In Hollywood, it’s not essential, but it’s a step up when one is able to put on many different hats. If an actor can write, or a writer can direct, and so on, it makes for interesting results. This is the case with Julian Fellowes, most known for being the creator-writer-producer of PBS’ Downton Abbey. But, before the success of this timeless show, he’d been acting since the 1970s.

With this experience, he knew how to get into the minds of characters; he learned how to understand script format and just all around knew the business. So it was no surprise that his ability to write scripts for TV miniseries, films and series was a natural gift. Before his nomination for Downton Abbey, he had years of experience and even won a Best Original Screenplay Oscar for Gosford Park.

In our conversation with Fellowes, we also spoke with one of the show’s cast members, Elizabeth McGovern (who plays Cora Crawley, Countess of Grantham). Together, they discuss the characters and how the show is a standout period drama on television. Fellowes shares how the audience can step out from their seats and examine their own values and look at their situations, every age group included. TV is a writer’s medium, and whether it’s public television or cable, viewers need to be drawn in to the characters, the situations and the places. But, if you’re Julian Fellowes, you’re able to do all that with flying colors both in Britain and the United States.

Laura Dern – Lead Actress, Comedy (Amy Jellicoe in Enlightened)

Every child takes a piece of their parents with them as they get older. For actress-producer-writer Laura Dern, that’s certainly the case. She grew up seeing cameras and sets, as the child of actor parents Bruce Dern and Diane Ladd, with whom she later shared the screen. Since childhood, she’s gone on to make more than 40 movies and appear (both as a guest and a regular) in seven TV series, with the latter being a role that’s earned her an Emmy nomination: the HBO series, Enlightened.

She’s also earned an Oscar nomination and three Golden Globe wins. Many recognize her from her roles in the Jurassic Park franchise, Little Fockers, I Am Sam and Rambling Rose (for which she received an Oscar nomination with her mother).

Though she has famous parents, she’s earned her own stripes in Hollywood by challenging herself in a diversity of roles and genres. In Enlightened (she’s also a producer-writer), she plays a woman who is spiritually enlightened. In the process, she learns new things (such as Twitter) and, in a satirical way, becomes a whistleblower. Though the show is only 30 minutes, it’s filled with enough quantity and quality to invite audiences back every week.

Dern may have acting genes, but it’s the work she’s done with them that’s brought her this far.

Don Cheadle – Lead Actor, Comedy (Marty Kaan in House of Lies)

Being an actor means that one has to go outside his comfort zone, into scripts with words he might not normally use or playing characters he’s not like in real life. That has certainly been the case over the years with actor-producer Don Cheadle, who’s enjoyed playing different people. He’s played Sammy Davis Jr., as well as a hotel manager in Rwanda, and has fought alongside Iron Man, played criminals, DAs, detectives, lieutenants, doctors and colonels. And now, he plays a brash management consultant, which he executes quite well.

In his Emmy-nominated lead performance in Showtime’s House of Lies, Cheadle is cast in a part that wasn’t exactly written for a Black man. He plays an offensive character, but underneath that, a father with good intentions for his son.

In our conversation, he discussed how he entertains audiences every week by turning a role that wasn’t for him into a part that is now both Golden Globe- and Emmy-nominated. Perhaps having a background on the stage and having played strong characters in film and on TV has helped him prepare for such a role.

It’s no lie that, in any case, in any medium, when one gives the best of themselves to the work, the work will give the best of itself back. With this nomination and recognition, it’s safe to say that’s true.

Matt Damon – Lead Actor, Miniseries/Movie (Scott Thorson in Behind the Candelabra)

During the 2012 holidays, we had the honor of sitting with a notable actor-writer who’s made his way in Hollywood and goes by the name of Matt Damon (short for Matthew). Perhaps you’ve heard of him. He began his career as a steamer in Mystic Pizza in 1988 and has since been the lead character in many blockbusters. He’s definitely grown since his small roles and been down the red carpet numerous times; he’s won an Oscar and a Golden Globe and has more than 10 nominations under his belt. He’s added one more nod to the list for his performance in HBO’s Behind the Candelabra, in which he plays Scott Thorson, Liberace’s young lover.

During our conversation, we recapped his then-new feature, Promised Land, which he co-wrote and starred in before this nomination (sharing the screenplay credit with John Krasinski). He discusses the film as a backdrop to the issues of natural gas drilling in America, as well as his humanitarian work.

Equally talented as a writer and an actor, he also recounts how writing a script with his friend Ben Affleck at a young age helped them (and it sure did, look at their Best Screenplay Oscar and Golden Globe wins for Good Will Hunting). Damon says being a screenwriter is about control and being an actor is about generating one’s content, but film is a director’s medium and working with certain directors can bring out even better performances.

He doesn’t need nominations or awards to prove his skill in writing, acting or producing, but it’s always the cherry on top of another great cinematic year.

James Cromwell – Supporting Actor, Miniseries/Movie (Dr. Arthur Arden in American Horror Story: Asylum)

For many years, James Cromwell has been in the business of playing different characters. But, he’s well known for playing Farmer Arthur Hoggett in 1995′s Babe. In the film, he was a “supporting actor,” if you will, to a pig named Babe. This performance blew audiences out of the water and earned him an Oscar nomination. After that, he continued his success with such films as L.A. Confidential, The Green Mile, The Longest Yard and The Artist, to name a few.

When he came to our set, it was for a conversation about his then-new film, Still Mine, in which he earns attention for the lead role. It’s a drama piece about an aging couple fighting to build a home for each other and also a husband dealing with a wife who has dementia. It’s yet another body of work that brings out emotion in its audience, reminding them that people who are aging still have their own lives.

This year, Cromwell earned an Emmy nom for his turn in American Horror Story: Asylum and rightfully so. In the series, he plays Dr. Arthur Arden, who conducts experiments in a lab, mysteriously and with a very dark mind. The show has an array of cast members, but Cromwell’s acting ability in playing a “bad guy” is what made him so good that he’s in the running for a statuette.

For audiences who see Cromwell on screen or on the theater stage, it’s not who he’s supporting that draws attention, but how he’s standing out among the pack.

Congrats to all of this year’s nominees.

 

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