Episode 1158 - Wendell PierceWTF with Marc Maron
- 727 views
- 17 Sep 2020
Wendell Pierce isn't doing a lot of acting during the pandemic, but he's keeping busy. He's spending more time with his 95-year-old father in New Orleans, he's hosting radio shows on a local station he bought, and he's helping to figure out the future of live theater. Wendell and Marc talk about his time on The Wire and the unique way he experienced that show. They also discuss what he learned playing Willy Loman last year and how Led Zeppelin and jazz helped him become a better actor.
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All right, let's do this, how are you? What the fuck is what the fuck buddies? What the fuck are Horlicks? What is happening? I'm Marc Maron. This is my podcast. Welcome to it. How's everybody doing? Are you OK? Today on the show, I talked to Wendell Pierce and he's one of the great character actors.
All right. You know, him is bunk in the wire. He was in Treme. He was in Selma. He was in Ray's great actor, recently played Willy Loman in Death of a Salesman over in London. And he got a big nomination for that.
And we're going to talk about that. But I was it was an honor. I ran into him somewhere and he knew me and I said, I'd love to talk to you.
And it was really a great conversation.
So that's coming up. I did go to the doctor today or yesterday. I'm sorry.
I went yesterday and this morning I'm going to get the lab work, but I got the basic stuff and it's scary, man.
But I got my in 95 mask on. It got my fucking plastic shield. And I walk in and there's a sort of a preventing experience where they have someone who's dressed exactly like me only she's actually a medical person wearing a plastic shield in a high end mask and asking me questions and taking my temperature before I can go to the receptionist window, who's also wearing a a visor plastic guard and a mask.
I felt like, do you want me to work here? I'm I'm suited up. I'm ready.
But they're handling very well and they're and they're obviously pacing it out. There was nobody there. And my doctor, who I hadn't seen in over a year. Yeah. She came in and we got to talking. I told her about Lynn. And, you know, I think the most haunting thing is still that, you know, did I think it would be with anybody? Did I do all I can, you know, that last week and.
Yeah, but we talked about it. And it's so funny because the nurse that came in earlier, they're going over these questions that they ask you to fill out a form, you know, and she's like, do you have feelings of helplessness?
I'm like, yeah, I do.
Is it hard for you to enjoy things in life? Yeah. Isn't it for everybody? And she laughed. It's like you can't this is no time. This is no time to do it. Depression, screening.
I mean, am I like that? Am I depressed clinically? No. Do I feel hopeless? Yes. Is it hard to enjoy things. What things. What are our choices.
But but I made it clear that that it was all relative to to what's happening.
Reasonable response. But everything so far is checked out.
I got she did the finger banging and I guess that's OK up there. And it went on just long enough. And I got all the other stuff. Seems good.
All the stuff that you can check, no lumps or bumps or glands or breathing problems or, you know, reflexes seem good, do a hammer thing on the knees.
And I always feel pressured to like, you know, when they do the little reflex, seeing where you dangle your leg over and they pop your kneecap, don't you feel like you need to kick it a little bit? Like I'm like, do you want me to do anything? Because, like, I know nothing will happen if you don't do anything, but they I don't know. They see what they see.
But I always feel like I, I kick a little bit, maybe a little too much. But it's the natural reaction. It's not it's not an actual reflex, but it's sort of like is this what you want.
I'll give you this. How about a little that good.
I'm just I'm glad I went to the doctor because that shows me that I want to live and I care about my health. I've been working out with this new trainer and it's doing something different. I'm going to be so ripped for nobody. I'm just going to look clean and good and I'm not going to be on TV. I'm just going to enjoy it while I can before it all goes. Getting a little achy, getting a little fucking well, a little crunchy.
Bones and joints are getting a little crunchy. It's happening. I'm entering it.
Here's the other thing now.
I don't want bum anybody out, but, you know, along the lines of my conversation with what his name Arthur Jones and Matt Fury and but more more so Andrew Morant's around, you know, the Internet, Kuhnen, whatever.
And this is not a paid plug, obviously. But I did watch the social dilemma last night. And that's that's all of it right there, man, that it's all right there.
I mean, it's stuff that many of you knew, but I'm finding that many people don't know things. Even smart people don't know things.
There's definitely a drop off. There's definitely a shallowness.
There's definitely a surface by which people engage. Surfaces, but the depth may not be there at. I've got it in certain areas, too, but really sort of exploring in documentary style. It's a weird thing. It's a hybrid of a documentary and some dramatic stuff. There are some fiction acting with some actors you'd recognize to sort of make the point.
But when you really conceive of the amount of time, money, effort and momentum and just sort of high tech brain fucking that goes into you, you know, maintaining engagement with pages, with products is is kind of devastating and in its hopelessness that the fact that all these tools have been creative, these out these create that the fact that all these tools have been created, these algorithms that sort of dictate our desires and our behavior, that they've hijacked our our sort of dopamine response.
That and a lot of you know this about your phones. Why don't you talk and know that, like I'm addicted to this, I'm addicted to that. But how it's reconfiguring your brain.
Because of your patterns and habits of online behavior and what the algorithm does and how it caters to you both in information and in sales is that's all of it.
That is the big it should be fucking illegal because it's just mining our desires and our attention.
For profit and, you know, now that it's entered the political realm in the political mind, fuck is in and you have people using these tools that were put together, you know, for maybe good purposes, but ultimately for profit are now being exploited for political ends.
It's it's your brain is vulnerable. Your brain is really no match. For the technological infrastructure that is in place to fuck your brain from the palm of your hand.
From the machine you hold in your palm, your brain is being completely fucking hijacked and fucked with and the computer and you don't, you know, no matter how fortified you think you are, you're not. Because that's what plants that seed man.
That's that slippery slope. Those are the false equivalencies. That's what puts the valve in there. That's what disrupts any sort of notion of any kind of barometer of actual truth. And these fucking algorithms start hammering it with information and the human brain is no match for it. I'm fortunate in that I don't really by much and most of my online engagement is about me, but I would watch it.
So maybe you can fucking mind your mind before they mine it. They're mining your mind. So maybe you should figure out how to mind your mind or do something. Save your fucking brain man. Really. I mean it's scary, but you should know what you're up against. That's all I'm saying. How's it going.
All right, everybody good.
Also, I've been erratically doing breakfast time on Instagram, so keep an eye out for that. If you're on Twitter, you follow me on Instagram or if I'm on Twitter, I tend to do that sometimes just to connect. And again, to to sort of temper the grief, temper, the haunted temper, the loss. I'm still feeling it, you guys. But I just. I just trying to. Not let it become hopelessness or. Depression.
I think I'm doing all right. All right, so listen, Wendell Pierce has been nominated for a 2020 Olivier Award, which is basically the Tonys in London.
He's nominated for best actor for playing Willy Loman in Death of a Salesman. And if you're in the New Orleans area, you can hear Wendell on WBO a.m. 12 30. We'll talk about that because he was responsible for reviving that historic radio station.
And just a heads up, folks, you'll hear the sound change a little about halfway through. It changes a little bit about halfway through the interview because the battery on his mic ran out. So he had to switch to the computer. It's not a big deal, but that's what happened. If you if it's not your brain, it's the recording. So this is me talking to the lovely Wendell Pierce coming right up.
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How are you doing, my company? It's so funny when, you know, you're just on just kind of at the door getting coffee and like what's going to happen? Because I know when you're an actor that I'm familiar with. Well, it's like I just assumed, like, oh, here we go. There's a scene. Something's happening.
How are you doing, man? Hey, listen, first of all, I haven't seen you since the Spirit Awards. That's when we met, actually. All right. So my deepest, deepest, sincere condolences.
Thanks, man. Yeah. Yeah. It's been a rough couple of months.
Yeah. Yeah. So I just I just wanted to recognize, man. Well, I appreciate that.
Yeah. I mean, you know, life's funny, right? You know, you don't know, you certainly don't know what the hell is going to happen.
Telling you, boy, how are you doing. You good man. I mean I can't complain. I can. Yeah I can't right now. It's it's just so frustrating and it gets crazy and it's uplifting and and frustrating all at the same time. How so. How is it uplifting. My dad's ninety five man. Wow. So you know the universe said I was down. Spend some time with your dad. Right.
Oh OK. Yeah. So you know when I finish this, you know, I went to watch the basketball game with him last night and all of that.
When I finish this I get tested like weekly and I'm in New Orleans so I get tested like weekly. So it's cool.
So you can spend time with you. I can, yeah. Spend time with him. And if anything pops off is within days. I know it, you know. Right.
Do you usually live out here. Yeah.
Yeah. I live in California right now and in New York. But this is also made me go OK. You know, you've been doing that whole you know, I'm New York, L.A. after Katrina, I came home, so I'm in New Orleans, so I'm tri coastal. I'm like, OK, do you at that point in your life, you know, cash out the crib you want to be in? Yeah. Stay in one place. Yeah.
So as this sort of forced that hand towards New Orleans or what let's say New Orleans, I'm set in New Orleans like, you know, this is this is the second home. So I think the hardest part is like I think we get rid of my place in New York. I can't even see it.
I have to whisper this year I lost my place.
You know, I have not been in that second man. I literally have not been in it, you know? Yeah, well, I mean, my neighbors, my neighbors always come back. I see him like twice a year and they go, oh, man, we've watched this.
We've seen you here. Yeah. And and you never know.
Oh, I'm I'm like one of the oldest in the building now. Oh, it's an apartment. Yeah. Yeah.
Co-op on the Upper West Side.
Yeah. I mean it's a weird thing about having that second place. If you don't use it, it just becomes this thing that's kind of hanging over you.
Yeah. And I don't know.
And it's cool and it's not even like it's hanging over you, but it's really weird man. It brings out the best in the worst thing because the best part is I always have my crib in New York right there in a second.
Right. Was that the first place after New Orleans? Yeah, that was I moved from New Orleans when I was seventeen. But this crib, this was my first house. Yeah. You know, this is not my childhood home. But after Katrina, I did announced an initiative to bring back my neighborhood. So if I'm going to ask people to come back, I said I'll buy the first one. So I bought the first house. And which neighborhood?
Two blocks from my dad. He's ninety five. I have around the clock care for him at home.
You know, how which neighborhood is this. Pontchartrain Park. And that was totally underwater.
It was one of those neighborhoods completely is one of the deepest places, one of the deepest places. But you know it was a park. Pontchartrain Park is to New Orleans what Baldwin Hills is to L.A. post-World War Two was the one. It was a place for middle class African-Americans as a result of the advocacy of of civil rights because you could not purchase a home. Is the height of segregation. Yeah. The early 50s, all those FHA loans, as we're dealing with this racial reckoning and people ask what is systematic racism?
You could not the deal was we'll give you these FHA loans and we'll restrict make sure that Negroes can't get them. And so people said, OK, cool, that was that was the restriction that was put on it.
And so how did the how did that neighborhood come to be then the advocacy of a great attorney, AP Aptera, basing it on eliminating the prohibition of access to green space. You could only go to a park in New Orleans once. A week on Wednesday, Negro Day, you were arrested in a park marked a park, if you will call it any other day, and and so this was access to green space. So it ended up it was a compromise, separate but equal, were just adjacent to what was then a white neighborhood.
They put a ditch between us.
I call it the DMZ, and it's still there. It is there now that, you know, they trying to retrofit it in all and say it's about flood protection.
I'm like, it's not about flood protection. It was the dish that didn't go anywhere. It had no outlet. So beautifying it. And so it was separate but equal. So we made something ugly into something beautiful. Pontchartrain Park has a golf golf course right in the middle of it, designed by Joseph Bartholomew, who was African-American. He designed most of the courses in New Orleans, really better country club, but he couldn't play on it. Oh, wow.
Can you play? I don't call it playing. I know by the ninth hole, I stop by the beer. I'll drive and buy the beer. Can I play in L.A., man? Yeah, and I've never set foot in L.A. It's like, you know, all I hear is can I play through. Yeah. Yeah. Right through here.
Get away. Get out of the way. I got away.
I can't even do the little three part Griffith Park man. I'm like, damn man. We all care in three clubs. Yeah.
No, I don't know anything about that sport, but I know that people like it. So.
So how is the the the the renovation going of the neighborhood. I mean is it did it pick up since you bought it.
Oh yeah. We're like at ninety percent. Oh wow. You know, still issues and stuff like that. But you know, I was telling this to someone the other day. I said Katrina was fifteen years ago. Uh huh. It seems like yesterday but it was fifteen years ago. It shows you how a tragedy can be very impactful. You know, everything is pre Katrina and post-Katrina New Orleans a lot of times.
Yeah, I did some sort of benefit show there. You know, it was it seemed like it should have been, I can remember a couple of years after, but it was like happened it look like it happened a week ago. I mean, it took a long time.
Yeah. And, you know, you have to fight all the elements of. You know, folks who do not do not have your best interests at heart, I'm a capitalist. I love to say that I am a capitalist, hardcore capitalist. OK, most people that run the capitalist system now are not they claim to be true because true capitalism is saying, hey, man, I want everyone to have access to school and more people in school.
The more ideas, the more ideas, more competitive the ideas, the better the ideas they rise to the top, the better the ideas, the more growth. And then the pie expands. Right. The pie expands. OK, capitalist, the capitalist. Now the people who claim to be capitalists. Only my kids, I'm going to go to school, there's a finite amount of wealth and you've got to get as much of it as possible so you can insulate yourself.
Yeah. And fuck everybody else. Right. Too bad if you didn't get it, you know. Right. And the fact is, if you get as much as you can, that is proof positive that, you know, you were destined to get it. If something about you would natally that makes you better than everybody else, that there's nothing placed in front of them and no prohibitions placed in front of them, no other systematic shit stopping everybody else you, you know, destined to be the person that you are, because we did everything possible to get as much as this pie.
We got a lot of it.
So we deserve to be treated differently. Royalty, you know, and it's a perpetuation of the monarchy idea being right. Literally. Right. You know, we have blue blood, not red.
So in your in the way that it works in your mind that that, you know, your success is it's also beholden on you to be philanthropic and reinvest, you know, private money into the bigger good.
You can do good and do well.
But but like in on a day to day basis, you know, how do you engage with with your your ideas and helping out a perfect example in Pontchartrain Park.
I came back here and I said, listen. Disaster, there was a program, the Road Home program, where you could sell either sell your property back to government, because I'm out of here right now, I'm leaving New Orleans, or they'll give you or you can apply for a grant to then bring back your property. Yeah. So you have all of these abandoned properties, blighted properties, all of that. I went to the city and said Pontchartrain Park is historic.
By the way. Pontchartrain Park just got designated on the National Register of Historic Places. Yeah. Because of this two weeks ago. And I said Pontchartrain Park is a historic African-American neighborhood that in the height of this recession, right in the history, the 50 year history of this neighborhood, we've only had two foreclosures. It's one of the most stable neighborhoods in America consistently with all of all of the obstacles placed in front of its residents in the height of segregation and Jim Crow South.
Yeah, I said. And still we were able to thrive. We put together resident initiated redevelopment, transferred the properties to us. We will redevelop our neighborhood. Right. Isn't this pulling yourself up by your own bootstraps? We'll exercise our right of self-determination. We'll design homes, all of that, and then we'll pay for the property on the back end. When we sell the house, we'll pay you the market, value the property. We negotiated that as residents, but I didn't realize was everyone who comes along and they said, oh, you got a good project, Mr.
Pierce. That's cool and definitely will help you. Yeah, this is in the foundation world. Right.
Foundation world. So yes. And will help you. It is a foundation money to help with the operations and all we want to do in the house.
That's all. Yes. Well, I thought this was grant money.
Yeah, it is. To make sure that things roll along.
But when you sell the house, we want to cut, you know, and that's the thing that everyone wants to help as long as they put the hand out like that. Right.
Well, so how do you determine who gets to have that? You realize that you're in a circular firing squad, right? Of course. And and you say, OK, cool, let me get as much done as possible. I wanted to do a hundred homes. We did 40.
Well, I mean, some foundations are on the level and you got to be OK. Oh yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. Let's be clear.
I'm not saying it's just like the policemen, you know, hey, I want police reform, but, you know, I love cops, man. I know cops, all of that stuff. We know what the deal is. Right. So, yeah, I'm not going to, you know, disparage everyone for that. But foundation, they had things, especially in New Orleans around that time in a disaster, you know, and that's where you really got to watch out because that's people make a living off of disasters, you know?
Well, that was very clear when almost as it was happening was that, you know, more that there was, you know, private money thinking about like, well, this just did us a favor.
Yeah, yeah, yeah. We can rebuild, definitely. I mean, there was one businessman on the front page, Wall Street Journal, said this is the best thing ever happened to New Orleans. We're going to be get it. We're going to be getting rid of the people we don't want. I mean, he said it. Yeah.
Yeah. Well, you know, lately they're all saying that it's all pretty much out in the open now, man. Yeah. Oh, yeah, definitely. You know, if we ever get through this, we're going to know exactly who all these fuckers are because you're not going to be able to put that back in the bottle, man.
You know, let me ask a question before we get into politics, because I read somewhere and some of the stuff that you actually did, a production of Waiting for Godot that took place on a rooftop or was set on a rooftop in during Katrina. Yes.
Whose idea was that? The director of the classical theater of Harlem sent me a photograph of two guys in the water in New Orleans. And he said, I saw this photograph and I thought, OK, go, go. And wow. Yeah. Do you want to do this production? I said, yes. So the stage was set up where we filled the stage with fifteen thousand gallons of water. We hadn't had a rooftop coming out of the water with a hole in it and we made entrances through the water.
It was like one of those aboveground pools. I kind of put the proscenium stage front in front of it. So we had the water and the rooftop and we did the production. Oh my God. A successful production. And then artist Paul Chan said he went to the Lower Ninth Ward when he saw the destruction, the void, it made him think of the void. That's the description at the beginning of Waiting for Godot. Every production that he had seen of Waiting for Godot, he saw it actualized in the Lower Ninth Ward.
And that's when he said we should do a production here. So we took that production we did in New York. Fifteen thousand gallons of water and we come. On a rooftop, then we did it literally in the epicenter of Katrina, the destruction and on this corner in the middle of the disaster, and we invited people there and I made an entrance from like two blocks away. Wow. You could hear over the speakers.
Yeah, out of the silence and out of the darkness. You hear this breathing and hustling and running and you see me arrive like Omar Sharif and Lawrence of Arabia in the distance coming in. And we did the play in the Lower Ninth Ward and Gentilly to two different weekends, free to the public as an art project. And it was one of the most cathartic moments of my life because you had all of these people from different walks of life. Yeah, rich and poor, white, black, just, you know, from all over lawyer sitting next to longshoreman.
And one of the most cathartic moments as I turned, we were all in the same boat and I turned. And there's a prophetic line in the play at this place in this moment of time, all mankind is us. Let us do something while we have the chance and. It was just it, Florida every night because we realized that you could not get a truer light.
How do you how do you not start crying every time?
I did not stop myself from crying every time. And what happens is that the play speaks to it was written out of you know, Beckett was in the midst of the Nazi occupation. You know, he hid for like two to two years, wrote the play during that, Susan Sontag did a production in the middle of the Balkan war, will just and it just rings out in the midst of the greatest crises in humanity and at that same resonance, that same resonance in New Orleans post-Katrina.
It's about humanity and it's almost what we're in the middle of right now. Yeah, at this place, in this moment of time, all mankind is us. Let us do something while we have the chance.
Yeah, it's so I it felt to me that just when I pictured it without reading any description of it, that as an artist that it would be some sort of kind of transformative experience that you you never it changes you permanently.
Oh, absolutely. Especially in the midst of that. I was standing when I said it in the Lower Ninth Ward, I'll never forget. All the the moorings of the homes that have been wiped away, where people have drowned, it felt like a graveyard. And I'm standing on a stoop of a house that was completely gone in the midst of this field. And to say that line standing on that hallowed ground where so many had died, I would let it just sit for a moment because.
Almost like a moment of silence. Yeah, the humanity that literally had died in the place where we were doing this play. It was. People speak to me about it to this day, you know, I had a chance to see that I'll never forget and it just reminds you of the role of art. Art is to the community what thoughts are to the individual when you roll around at night going through all the things that you're going through in your life, reflecting on who you are.
Where you hope to go, you hope to become your strengths, weaknesses, your triumphs, your failures with those thoughts to the individual, art is the forum for that, for the community as a whole. Will we reflect on who we are, where we hope to go, our strengths, our failures? We decide what our values are and then we act on them, hopefully. And that's the role of art. Entertainment. It's just a byproduct.
And yeah, there's a lot of that biproduct. I would say, you know, byproducts a fairly good explanation because that can also encompass garbage.
Yes. Fibrotic. That's the stuff you throw away. Yeah. Right.
But that's also what, that's what makes the money right. Yeah. Yeah, yeah, definitely.
So when did you you start to put that together in your mind?
I mean, what was your what was your art is you know, you grew up in this neighborhood and you're old man. You're probably what was his background? What did he instill?
You know, my father, 17 years old, living in the Kallio projects with his mother and he goes off to war at World War Two. Mom comes back and marries my mother. And you'll never forget when he came to Pontchartrain Park, he talks about it, that's all he talks about. I remember when I came back here and I bought my house. That was such a seminal moment for. Yeah. And my mother was a school teacher for 40 years.
So priority on education. And understanding that you have a life that you need to focus on fully. There are those who do not have your best interests at heart. That was the thing that prepared us for the virulent violence of segregation and racism. And all of that just steeled us to say, hey, what do you want to do? Focus on that whole heartedly, educate yourself because that no one can take away from you. That is your first your greatest wealth when one of the first wealth you can get is a wealth of knowledge.
And so my parents really focus on that. There's a wealth of knowledge. So richness was always measured by knowledge. Right. You know, do you know about this? You don't. Oh, shit. You need to find out about this. So I grew up. That was the whole thing in my peer pressure was all about me.
You don't Mark. Yeah. You're a comedian. You never heard of Lenny Bruce, you bullshit, right? You know. Yeah. You know, you have have a sense of history, you know. So that's how I was sent out into the world that that was kind of like the norm of the community, you know, lends itself people called me an activist and stuff like I never thought of it that way. My whole thing is kind of like.
You live your life knowing that there are those who do not have your best interests at heart and you steel yourself with the tools given to you with the knowledge that you've acquired.
And also, I think that it had something to do with the fact that you're you're it wasn't necessarily a fight, but your dad coming out of you know, it's still sort of like segregated, racist, you know, organization in the military, you know.
And then my father got shot towards, you know, his his unit was his unit won medals. Right. Commendations in Japan. And he got back his papers were behind him. He got back to Fort Hood in Texas and he told a black officer, a female officer, I think we won some medals as I passed that. Yeah, right. You. Wow.
Yeah. And he was pissed off, cut to a couple of years ago. My mother was still alive. This is like 2010. Oh, you know, we got a letter from the army. Your father's unit got all of these medals and your father was so mad. He's like, I don't want them. So I want to you know, we should follow up and get these medals when you die. And I'm like, all right, let me see the letter.
And my mother brings me a letter from January nineteen forty five.
And I was like, oh my God.
I was like, wait, I thought you received this yesterday. She's like, no. So and I went to the World War Two Museum and Senator Mary Landrieu at the time she helped me get my father his medals. You got him twenty ten and I'll never forget bad. You know, my father was you know, he's like, yeah, he got his medal.
Was you happy? Still, he's like, man and woman. He wasn't matter. The country was matter. That woman that woman wouldn't give me my memories. And I was like, shit, I don't want him, you know? Yeah. And so he got his medals, man. So it was there's an advocacy and that was bred into me and nurtured in me out of necessity, right?
That's right. So that was my point, was that it seemed like the that your family that your father and that generation, if they could pull it off, really kind of establish a black middle class.
Oh, absolutely. Yeah. Out of my neighborhood, the first black mayor, Dutch Morial, his son, Marc Morial, gay marriage, now national president of the Urban League. I grew up with Lisa Davis, who was the director of the EPA under Obama, not first black D.A. in New Orleans. I grew up with them. All right. Terence Blanchard, who great Grammy Award winning musician and composer, and he actually composes for films, does most of Spike Lee's film.
Then Perry Mason, which is on right now. He composed that Academy Award nominated also. Yes.
Well, because because you've got that pressure from both sides. You know, you've got, you know, the sort of institutional racism and white community wanting you to fail.
And then you've got a different class of the black community, you know, putting their own anger on you, you know, the classism, you know, and that's why I think that's why my parents always said, if you notice, they never said anything about race. They were like, listen, they're going to be people who do not have your best interests at heart. Right. So you you accepted people or face value. You know that for whatever rationale, some people are going to try to you know, they're not going to have your best interests at heart.
But what you do is when those people were identified, when you identify those people, give them any more energy, put you beside work through them, go around, you know that that's just one less person you have to worry about. You're right. Which is really interesting in this reckoning. Because I guess I'm the cynic sometimes I'm the cynic, but brings me to the fact that I'm not here to educate me. Yeah, 20 somethings, you know, with middle age and stuff.
And you start going, I got 20 some years left. I got that from Jennifer Lewis. And I heard her say that I would like to have this right.
Yeah, of course, we hope for a lot more. But, you know, I got 20 summers left. Am I going to waste my time on trying to educate this guy to his implicit and explicit biases and stuff? I rather just deal with changing the policy. You know, I'd rather try to change qualified immunity where, you know, the captain should you say, hey, man, I fear for my life. When he was running away, I was in fear of my life.
Right. That gives them qualified immunity, something that was always in fear for my life when. Right. Yeah. And it's and it's literally a legal doctrine, you know, sanctioned by the Supreme Court in the 80s that, you know, everyone knows we get rid of that. People will have to go, oh, man, I can't just say I'm in fear for my life. You have to show just cause for a shoot. I rather change that than say, hey, man, you know, when I'm stopped by a cop and they say license and registration, I have to be careful.
If I go for my wallet like this, I could get shot. Yeah. And if someone says to me, you know, hey, man, really, I don't understand that why you're ugly.
You're either feigning ignorance or you really are fucking stupid, you know. Yeah. Or, you know, I don't have time. I feel like, you know, people say, oh, man, you know, I have white friends call now we've got to have a conversation like, man, we don't have to. If I can have a conversation with this policy over you, you know, we'll talk about it. So we got a lot of time.
We got a lot of time.
Well, I think that that's interesting because that's what's happened to a lot of people, is they know, they always knew. But for some reason, what you just called the reckoning is now they I think finally the empathy has connected and now they understand with their heart, I mean, to intellectually get it right and understand with their heart right now, I think.
But see, and that's why I have to say now now you see, I'm part of the problem right now because of being so cynical. I don't have time for people's, you know, epiphany.
No, but but no, I don't think so. I should say.
And I should and I should apologize for that. I should accept the humanity in people's epiphany and coming to it. But I'm reminded of a night in Chicago. Right, Rush Street. I'm coming out of trying to hail a cab. Get this man. Yeah, damn the cab to pass and a brother by the night. And I'm like, damn. So these couples come out of a bar and I say, Hey, man, as a joke and I'm drinking one.
Are you good white people hail a cab.
Yeah. And it duces.
Oh man, that's fucked up. Yeah man, I do that right. And he has care for me. His girl goes, I don't understand. He goes, don't worry about it.
You know, I'm really I don't understand why does he need us to hell. And he's like, please shut the fuck up. What are you talking about. I'm like, man, that's cool.
He goes, No man, come on. You can tell.
And he got so upset with his girlfriend. Right, because she was she earnestly was saying, I don't understand why. And he was like, so embarrassed by that.
Yeah, she knows that's bullshit. But it's and so I have to say. That, you know, I'm complicit if I don't allow people to have that human moment of empathy and epiphany right when something they knew intellectually and maybe it was even subconscious comes to a conscious state and connects with their heart. And so I say to all my white friends and allies, I will have the conversation with you.
You have to have a police. I'm not telling you. At least let it be over a nice fucking meal. You know, it could be.
It could be. He could be a short conversation. Like it's about time.
Yeah, right. Do you have a lot of siblings? How many people in.
I have three. I had it was three of his two older brothers. My oldest brother is deceased and I have one brother and who went to West Point. Wow. And what's West Point had his military career. Then he went into telecommunications, which was like telecommunications. I mean, you know, it was a military attaché in Belarus. I was like, what is a military attaché? He goes a military attaché. Right. And then he leaves the military and goes into telecommunications for XO Telecom on the West Coast has to do six.
And, you know, they do a lot of work in Asia. So he goes to Asia for a couple of months. Like men, it sounds like some CIA.
So, yeah, I realize what is a military attaché goes, man, come on, man. You know, every embassy that's all we're doing is spying on you. Oh, shit.
Wow. Do you I mean, I've worked with some of the guys I know people.
Yeah. Yeah, I know, but I'm not. So I was like, but he's not that anymore.
He's and he's a he's at PBS now. Oh wow.
OK, so now he, he's now he's paying his karmic debt. Yes.
So like I guess my question is though like when did you decide that because, you know, you're such a well-rounded actor and you can you know, you're a great character actor and, you know, you seem to have a real, you know, passion for the craft. And it's important to you. When did you realize that that was, you know, given your background, that that was going to be the thing?
I got to new when I was young, I wanted to be an actor. I went to a performing arts high school here in New Orleans Center for Creative Arts. At 13 14, I was playing football and all of a sudden I decided they came recruiting for it. And me and my mentor, Elliott Kino's the teacher there. We just clicked in the class. And then I went there and they were serious about training. We didn't do plays. We just worked on scenes.
We worked on Texas. We've done our voice and movement and theater history. And it's a real serious approach to it. And, you know, while I was there, Wynton Marsalis was there and Harry Connick Jr. when I left, Anthony Mackie came along in the theater department. So it was a real serious school. I think one day somebody is going to do a story on the school. It was real incubator for talent. Yeah. Here in New Orleans.
So and that prepared me to go to Juilliard. And what I really loved about that, I loved training because I realized it was a tangible thing. It wasn't happenstance, right? It was it was approaching it from a way of giving you the skill sets that you would be able to work in in many different situations. So I to this day, I pride myself on trying to be as diverse as possible in my career. I do a play, a television and film a year.
I try to do one of each a year.
The trifecta, I thought, well, is that is that something that, you know, Juilliard instilled in you as the the sort of work ethic of it that, you know, as a working actor and a you know, a guy with a, you know, a a reliable and practical skill set that they gave you, that you should spread it out?
Yes and no. Yes, because it gave me the skill set and I came to the conclusion that what would work best for me is to make sure it's varied and different. You know, if I didn't try to have a film career, I just try to have a theater career. I actually moved to L.A. because I couldn't get cast in plays in New York because they were always looking for people with visibility. They're looking for name people to play the lead.
So I said, let me go to television, let me get out to L.A., do more television and film and get a name. And then I can do and come back and be played. But, you know, I was in class with Brad Whitford. You know, Brad was in my class at Juilliard. And so I would say and he's like that. So, you know, and all my classmates and it's varied, you know, it gives you the ability to do all of those things.
I said punch that up more than most actors do. You also had a saying that they were training us for theater that didn't exist because they were training, isn't it, in the sense that the British that we used. Let's to go to the National Theatre, you know, and do a repertory of different plays, and that doesn't exist in America as much as it does in Britain, because I've talked to other people from Juilliard.
I mean, and, you know, it's no, they don't fuck around. I mean, you know, like, they they kick people out.
Oh, yeah. Yeah, definitely. I remember I remember a teacher telling someone with that s you will never work in the American theater. Wow. That s one fucking letter. He can't say man. Oh, they were tough. You know, in some people is it changed because they thought it was a little too militaristic. You know, it kind of sat right in the pocket with me coming from the football world. It was like a coach getting in your face going, what the fuck was that?
Yeah. You know, so I kind of responded to all of that militarism and Julia going to Juilliard. The one thing I knew getting out of Juilliard was the fact that I would never encounter anything in the business that would fuck with me as much as this.
Did that turn out to be true? Yes. Yes. You know, I'm like, I'm prepared for that. Oh, that's some bullshit. Let me direct you, you know. Yeah. Oh, yeah, yeah. It emboldens you. Yeah.
So when you came out here, the plan was to to get some box. To get some caché.
Yes. And then I would be able to do more work in in New York that has worked out, you know, that has worked out. It came out and listen up, you know, it was kind of your your troubadour, you know. Yeah. All these television shows and parts and films and all. And that gave me the cachet and the recognizability where people would then consider me for roles in New York.
So you never went through a period where, you know, you were frustrated by the roles that you were getting in L.A. that you like.
The goal was always to go to New York and do theater.
I knew I do want to become a theater snob. You know, only theater. You know, you're always into films bullshit. I realize that that happens when people. They don't realize it's about good work, it's about good writing, you know, in any medium you could do some bullshit, but it's really about good writing and good material. So I started to focus on that. But I went through a period where I did every bad sitcom pilot.
We're like a string there. Yeah, and and then I got known like, oh, well, windows available. He can do this, you know? And I was like, Daddy, daddy, daddy. Yeah. And and I was doing and it reminded me, you have to always remember employment doesn't define you as an artist. It's easy to understand that when you're unemployed, I'm unemployed just because I don't have a job, it doesn't mean I'm a bad artist.
It just means employment. But when you're when you're employed. And making a lot of money, but doing some bullshit, you have to be able to look in the mirror and go, employment does not define me as an artist. Don't think you're doing good work as an artist just because you're employed and making a shitload of money. Right. And I never get when this final pilot didn't get picked up. I did about five in a row and I told my agent, no more sitcom's.
No more sitcoms right now, nothing against sitcoms, you know, I wish I was on Seinfeld, but this shit is not Seinfeld, right? And they said, OK. And the next job I got was the wire that changed my career.
They also gave you like that. That was a nice couple of years, huh?
Yeah, man. The wire changed my career. It was it changed my life. I got to know great people was always about the work you do and the people you do it with and. We were able to change television, that writing was just great. It it humbled me because we never got awards, right. Right. Really made you appreciate the work itself. I look back on the wire our last season, we were praying we didn't get a nominee nomination.
You know, we were like, let's go out without a nomination. That would be great. And did that happen? And it did.
And that but that, like the fucked up thing about that, should have gotten a Pulitzer.
Yeah, we got a Peabody. I think what we got we got to Peabody. I got to do it for me. That's the real badge of honor. You know, it's the fact that the work itself is so appreciated decades after now. 20 years, man. Yeah, well, I said if you go and that people I meet people every day that that are seeing it for the first time, you know, or they are huge fans that have that we can talk about any episode or any year and I'll give them a piece of trivia or something they didn't know.
And it's like peeling back. It's like an Easter egg that they didn't know about what you know. Yeah. And they go back and watch the whole, you know, the whole thing over again with a different appreciation.
I remember when I did it, I did it like I binged it early because I think I feel like when I watched it. Like I remember watching two to three episodes a night alone, and I was in New York doing a job on radio, but I just I just couldn't stop. I just kept watching it and it and I did it all at once. And I filled my head up, like three week process or something is great.
And, you know, we were so separated in that at least I was like I never had anything to do on the criminal side, you know, being a homicide detective, you come in after everything is over. Right. So I watched the other part of the show like a huge fan, right? Yeah. I never seen I never had a scene with with Avon Barksdale. You know, the great would.
Yeah. Yeah. I was only in a courtroom with Idris.
You know, we didn't have any direct scenes. Yeah. And so I watched all of those like a fan, you know, that's wild about that's wild about acting.
And I've noticed a little bit in my limited experience is that, you know, you do your shit, but you're not how that's going to come together. You don't know what the other people are doing. You don't know anything. You don't even sometimes you don't even know how to.
Alexian, I mean, I can see how I fit in on the paper, but I don't know how it's going to look. Yeah.
And you're like, oh, you're pleasantly surprised sometimes. Oh yeah. Oh, I'm a linchpin to the whole plot. Oh shit. Yes.
Well, we as you know, when I get the message, there's a message for you, Mr. Jones. Oh, my God.
Yeah, it's you.
Music swells Oh.
Oh, it was me. I gave the message, but over the over the time now, like the wire was was great.
But like you've had this opportunity and, you know, in both I think, film and television to work with a lot of great people, directors, other actors.
And I mean, you're one of those guys.
You're like, you know, it's almost like, you know, I was reminded, like, you know, because like for some reason it got in my head this morning. And there are these great character actors, you know, like Ned Beatty. You know, like these guys.
They man definitely, you know, someone I was thinking about the other day, Ed Asner. Man Oh, yeah. The ultimate to me is someone who had one of the briefest careers because you lost his life at an early age. John Cusack. Oh, yeah. John Khazaal did four movies. Godfather Yeah, right.
Godfather to your Hunter and Dog Day. Afternoon, Dog Day Afternoon. You actually did one more, which was great, which is he's in the conversation. Oh yeah. Five. You know, historic movies, you know, and he lost his life at an early age cancer, and it's like, you know, that's it, man, I hope to look back on my, you know, to a body of work.
Well, you got one. I mean, here because you like I was my point was you're that you're that guy, which is a great place to be where when you show up in something, if people don't know your name, they're like, this is that guy.
That's the guy. He's he's in everything, that guy.
And yeah, I appreciate that. And what happens is The Wire helped that immensely. And so, you know, the wire. Ray Donovan. I did Selma. Yeah. You know Malcolm X. Yeah. Comedy's like, you know, horrible bosses. And sure.
You're in that bus movie. The Spike movie, right? Yeah. Get on the bus. Yeah, that's great. And Malcolm X worked with Spike twice. I actually worked with Woody Allen twice on showing up on a Manhattan murder mystery.
Yeah. And I forget the other one. You know, every once in a while, you know, what do you get? You'd be shooting films and then you're just like, oh yeah, we worked together already. So I need somebody here in this cafe, you know? Yeah, I need her, you know. Yeah. You just put me in. Well, when you work with directors, right.
Because I've talked to some people that, you know, I imagine that the process of theater in terms of the relationship with a director is probably a little more rewarding than film.
Is that correct?
Now, when you have a good film director, uh, what makes that what makes someone a good film director? A good film director knows what you need as an actor. You know, like what you know, you need to service service the role and they'll allow you to find that. Because they're dealing with a whole bunch of technical stuff that they're looking up or if they don't have it there, they know what to say to you, to remind you this is where you're coming from.
This is where you're going to because we're out of sequence. And then a good film director, because he's multifaceted, he's multitasking, will make sure you're not shooting the scene like this. I told you, we have to cut you out of frame. Come here, hear the monitor. I understand that impulse to come over to him, to get in his face. But you see where the camera is right in the frame, you know. Sure.
You know, I need you to go right at that moment where you're about to kill him. Go. I'll fucking kill you. Right? Yeah. Like, stay still to come and see it so you can, you know, and that's good because in theater, you know where the edge of the stages, you know, when you're out of your life. Yeah. Yeah. And the director needs to do that because they're the outside eye. There's some directors in film that know nothing about acting and.
They allow you to do your work. And they'll come and tell you, I need I need to understand in this moment. Why he makes the decision that takes him for the rest of the film and like, OK, he gives you the idea he knows what he needs right moment, and he knows that you're skilled enough as an actor to create all the things necessary within your way of working to get there. Right. Right. And he'll have it or she'll admit, I can't give you that, because right now I'm looking at, you know, the you know, the lighting.
I'm looking at the shot, the movement on the camera. And, you know, I hired you to do the acting. Right. And so I can appreciate those director's right. But a director who knows nothing about acting and then can't tell can't give you anything, and they're just technical. Those are those can be very frustrating. And that happens. And it happens on the stage, too, because what happens on the stage is you have directors who then want to make sure that the audience now knows that the director put their hand in this moment, you know.
Right. All of a sudden you're like, I'm playing this. So, yeah, but right. Is that moment going to happen? The set is going to swing from left. Right. And I'm just like, why?
Why let the moment do it, you know? Yeah. Yeah, you're you're my daughter and my sister. What? Yeah. You know, that's enough.
You know, the set doesn't have to fall apart in your idea of I saw a play and I'll never forget and something between scenes, the lights will go half. But there was something bothering me and the lights and I couldn't tell what it was. I couldn't tell what was going on.
And then I realized halfway through between every scene, the director had put a faint image of a clock with the with the second hand.
I'm like, we know time is passing, man. We won't be off and light telling us, you know, as time goes by, I'm like, this is the director going, I've got to put my hand in it. And that's really bad in the theatre. You know, it's just kind of like arbitrary direction just so that people know it's a directed moment.
It's overcompensating. Yes. Yes. But my greatest my greatest triumph in theater happened this year, this past year. And I was doing Willy Loman in Death of a Salesman in London.
Oh, yeah. You get nominated for the Olivier. Oh, yes. Yes, that was. Why why that way, why that guy, what is it about it? It is the greatest you know, the closest thing to acting is psychology. Acting is a study of human behavior. Yeah, it's the study of human behavior and that case study of Willy Loman in Death of a Salesman goes very deep if you give yourself over to it.
It triggers. You do some personal reflections, you tap into some of your personal issues that this man has at the same time. And did it can really affect like what? My best days behind me. All the people I've heard. Right. Will I ever be able to redeem that? You know, I always think of the lyric from my way, regrets, I have a few. Regrets, I have many. Sure. So that's something that a certain age that everybody, you know, everybody you know, if they're willing to look at themselves, can find it.
Yeah. And that's a real and I can't believe he was like twenty five or something when he wrote that Arthur Miller. Yeah, it's just the progression of that and it's is the first memory play that delves into the connection of your memory and who you are, the expectations that you have of yourself that you've made, that you have. And the scary thing is, if you really go, you don't want to make the choice that he made, you know, which is they tell you right up front at the beginning of the play is called Death of a Salesman.
Yeah. Yeah, we're going there. Yeah, right.
And. And if you truly play a role when you're playing a role, you can never you know, the character is always your hero. Right. Yeah, no matter how flawed, flawed or damaged they are, a good actor admires their character. Right here is a person who is flawed. They don't see themselves as flawed. They you have to understand their rationales for all of these awful decisions that they make.
Have they how do they have they justify it?
They justify it. And men. He chooses to end his life. This is the first time that I I always had to make sure that I did something to kind of step away from the role. I never subscribed to that.
You know, I have to say, oh, my God, every night I have to be careful because I'm so connected. I'm like, man, say the last line and let's go to the bar right now. I'm like, this is the first time. I was like, oh, this is what we're talking about. You to look at that in yourself. And you're like, I never thought I could even have any sort of rationale of. You know, but that's writing, right?
That's the writing, that's the mathematics of emotion he got you there.
You got absolutely man. You guys that led to that, which led to that, you know, and that's when you go home. And that's great writing. You know, the callback. It's because of something that. There is a line. Oh, and this is a real acting moment, there was a line that Linda says to to one of my sons at the end, you know, both of you, you're both good boys, right? Don't worry, you're both both of you, both good boys, and that triggered something in me because my my mother on her deathbed said, Wendell, I'm dying.
You and your brother. Stick together. That's your brother, right? You guys stay close to each other, both of you. And when I would hear that on stage, both you're both good boys. It was sense, memory of the moment of my mother telling me she was dying and that fueled everything from that moment on for the rest of the play. It wasn't my line. It wasn't the situation that I had with my son. It was my wife saying, you're both good boys.
That triggered something in me. Not only did it take me to my personal life, which my mother said to me on my deathbed, and at the same time I realized what was at stake, that I was losing my family. My two boys reminded me of my father when he said I would never my father left me and I would never abandon my kids. That triggered in me. Then at the same time, I realized that I had given them nothing.
So I had abandoned them and all of that in that split moment gave me everything that drove me at the end of the play to say I'm a. And to make that decision. To end your life because you think that's giving someone something. Crazy, what an awful, awful. Awful human rationale to take your life because you think that's giving someone else their life. When when it isn't, when it isn't, and it isn't true now, it's making it worse.
Now. So that's acting to me, you know, creating the world so strong that it induces the behavior, I would get to the end of that play and I didn't and I didn't have to think.
I didn't think about anything. It would take me. It would take over.
But you recovered. No, I haven't I'm holding on to it because I want to do it on Broadway. Oh, I absolutely revisit the journey of the play all the time. I'm like, man, I did it over in London. I want to do it in New York. So hopefully you get that chance.
But like in when you reflecting on it before, you know, when we reflect on our own lives and our own experiences, it seemed like, you know, you connected to your own flaws and mistakes and how many people you hurt. I, I have to assume that, you know, this the gift of being able to spend time with your 95 year old father puts all of that stuff in perspective.
That was one of the things that, you know, I think about all the time. I think, as I said in the beginning of this, I was that's been the blessing of this pandemic that I get to spend time with him. I think of my mother who said, you know, take care of your father. She knew she would die, take care of your father. And it connects me with her. You know, every time I let me go see my dad, I go, wait, man, hold on.
You give it you give it a gift, brother. So, you know, it makes me appreciate it makes me appreciate life support. That's great.
And so, like being like now I know you went to school with all of these musicians, but music's a big part of your life as well.
I love music, man. When you grow up in New Orleans is great. You sing. Wow, I was having a little fun. I live way, right? Yeah. A boy back there. That's a funny motherfucker. Yeah. Yeah, right. You've been here, if you like. What did they say.
I can understand some New Orleans sit there. And actually Ellis Marsalis told me said, you know, jazz is based on the emulation of human dialogue. You're treating floors. We're having a conversation. Oh, yeah. And the observation that it comes from and and it's really the American instead on display. Yeah. Within form, you have to honor the form of the music. But as a soloist, you have the right as an individual to go as far as you want to go.
I love it out of the form. So is freedom within form? You know, we're a nation of laws, but as an American, we celebrate individuality. Yeah, right out of the form under the laws. But be yourself free. You know, it's a finite amount of notes. With an infinite amount of combinations, yeah, and then that taught me how to act, right? Right. Because it's the finite amount of words.
But with an infinite amount of ways of saying them and an infinite amount of ways of having those words effectively right now, that's jazz and that's what the American aesthetic is unique to our experience. Right. It's the best display of the American aesthetic, how the two can coexist, technical proficiency and exactness and order and form and laws in the form of codes of music or the written word and script. But the infinite amount of possibilities from that. And both can be honored, and that's the that's the American aesthetic on display and so richly displayed in music.
And when I think of music, I think of jazz. Now that happens in all stuff, too. You know, man, I always go back to that one that Led Zeppelin to which that's when I understood theory accounting. Really. Dun dun dun dun dun dun dun dun dun dun dun dun. But here's the thing about it. It's four and three. Right, right.
Well, two, three. One, two, three. One, two, three. But the beat is on the four. One, two, three, four. One, two, three, three and four. And they meet up on 12. Right. And when I figured that out, I was like, wait a minute. Right. Yeah, yeah, right. And then you go, oh well what would a displays is how it's free.
But got out to you think is a little off like oh man it's a little off right in the middle of that. Ron is a little off but it's not over. And then it comes back on the head on the twelve feet as well. Yeah. I remember when I understood how to do Shakespeare because of that Rayon literally September nineteen eighty one Village Vanguard. I'm checking out all the blood and I was at school at Juilliard man and Shakespeare was just kicking my ass.
I just the verse and all of that and understanding that I a bit contaminated how to use it and, and that same challenge of how do you honor the form of it and how does that free you up. It feels restrictive, right? I went to hear Arthur Blank. I remember the tune did a little bit later in the day and I loved it. And I kept coming to tune and I was looking around when he started his solo. And also Blake was, you know, I've I've got to worry about it.
He went all out right this way.
And I'm looking around the club and I keep singing the melody lifted.
It is all over the place. And I kept and when he came back to the top of the tune. We were right together, but looked at it and then I went, oh, wait a minute, when I thought he was just playing all kinds of craziness, he knew exactly where he was at all times, where he kept the order of the tune. And I was like, oh, you can do whatever the fuck you want. But, oh, you just got to land it out of that fool, right, right here.
Oh, the two can happen. They can coexist. That's my motto. The two can coexist. I'm like, oh, that's it. As you know, so that that and that's part and that's real and that's art, that art is also in science. That's the art of science. Sure. You find the art of something. Is that understanding of the complexity of it, the fact that you can on a form that two things can coexist, you can on a form and at the same time be an individual, be free, be exploring everything.
And so went in whatever field you're in, you can say that's the art of it, right? That's what science is all about. High math. I remember trigonometry class. Mark, you have a proof and I have a proof. There's a truth and a reality at the end. You know, there's the answer, but you can get to it your way. I'm going to get to it my way. It doesn't change the reality. At the end, the two can coexist.
The truth of the matter is the same. That's why I tell people, men all the time to talk about policing the police reform that's happening now. I said the art of policing is the fact that you should be able to police, check people, arrest people, hold people accountable, arrest criminals, prevent crime from happening, you know, hunt down and investigate and capture criminals all at the same time, not giving up your principled values. And you don't have to do it with abuse.
The two can coexist. People like, oh, are you taking that away from me now? What? I can't kneel on somebody's neck. I can't beat a motherfucker now. Right. I can't beat them up now. I can't police. We got to retire. I got to leave. You mean to tell me you can't do the two at the same time? Then that means that you're not American because the American aesthetic is the fact that you have the ability to do to to at the same time.
Right. Right. That you have the ability to be free and inventive and explore a way of doing something. Community policing, do whatever you got to do. Because I would say, man, I understand why you did that. Turn around. I'm just going to arrest you for a second because you should look shocked that dude. What are you talking about? And we'll talk about in the car. I should be able to arrest you with that and still get it done.
Right. But honoring former living within the accountability, accountability of the laws and stuff. So that's the reform we're talking about. And that's why I challenge people saying that's an American aesthetic. Those who cannot do that. You're saying that you can't be American, you can't be a nation of laws that gives you the freedom to be individuals. You can't honor the third, the authority that you have and stay within the confines of some sort of some sort of civility.
And be a police, then that means you're not a good police, that means you're not an American because the truest of Americans can say, I can honor this, I can honor form and be free within it, because that's an American aesthetic. That's what the American aesthetic is all about. That's the greatest thing about the Constitution. We have the form of the Constitution, but it's a morphic and ever changing because they say, man, you know, this shit has to be better.
We know we fuck it up. We all know the same man. We all got slaves. And we're talking about every man is free now, you know. So we're going to come up with this three fifths of a man compromise and shit, because you motherfuckers down south that slaves and you make money and you don't want to give up that money. But, you know, we're going to set up this thing that it can change because we know it needs to change.
But at the same time, we have some values in this shit that's going to actually serve us as we make the changes, right? Yeah. So as so when we honor John Lewis yesterday and put an. Put it to rest, John Lewis literally can be said as as as Obama said, right. He's a founder of America. He's one of the founding fathers because the principle of one vote, one man did not become real for everyone, not just black folks, for every American.
It did not become a reality until nineteen sixty five when he got his ass beat on the Edmund Pettus Bridge and forced Johnson and the Congress to sign the Voting Rights Act. Right, right. It not so the whole principle of American. Did not become actualise when it came to voting until nineteen sixty five, right? Right. Because, you know, 17 ninety anybody coming into the country couldn't vote. Right. Finally, you know, emancipation happens.
Black men get the right to vote in the south, goes into every fucking machination to make sure they don't get it. Yeah, 19 20 women finally get the right to vote. But it wasn't until nineteen sixty five where we said, OK, now we're going to put in protections to make sure all the bullshit that keeps everybody from getting a vote, not all the bullshit is going to be put in check. Now everybody can vote. Yeah. So it's an amalgam that's an American thing to be intelligent enough and have the facility to change, to direct it, change, have order and be free and liberal and inventive in your ability to change that.
It doesn't hamper you press an American aesthetic. You see that in jazz. You see that in the art form that you have making a mother fucking laugh. Yeah. At the time when they go home, they say, man, I had a good time, but I'm not. That motherfucker made me laugh. But am I fucking made me think.
I mean, think about that. Yeah. Oh fuck you guys sneak it in but you're not even sneaking it.
See, that's the American aesthetic about what you do. Because is the fact that the two coexist. Yeah. The fact that you have the liberal nature of making them. If I could just laugh and laugh and laugh. And what they don't even realize is in that you were educated, you were provoking, thought, you are challenging, that you're challenging yourself you like. Right. Yeah, and that's the art, that's art. Yeah, the fulcrum in which we reflect on who we are, decide what our values are, and then hopefully it moves you to act on it.
Well said. I have too much coffee this morning. Oh, it's good. That is a good coffee run. That was good.
Yeah, I thought it was beautiful.
It was a great riff. It was great. And, you know, it was it was exciting to watch for me. It was like I, you know, to study Shakespeare and get to where you got. That was something, man. Oh, thank you.
God is great. That coffee's good.
What is this work you're doing with this radio station down there would be OK. Twelve, thirty a.m. has been around for 70 years and up for sale. Three out of my partners said, man, we can't let this station just go. Only African-American on station in the state of Louisiana. It talk radio, talk radio. And imagine we had New Orleans was 70 years ago, right? Yeah, there's fish fry at the church. And by the way, Martin Luther King is going to be here Sunday.
Yeah, right. Yeah. And with Reverend Alexander, we're going to be marching on city hall. Right. Ron just got back off for his freedom ride. Right. You know. Yeah.
You got his ass beat in Anniston, Alabama, but there's some rider from Paris. James Baldwin invited him up to New York to meet with the attorney general. Yeah, Robert Kennedy. And he told Robert Kennedy, oh, that's right. This is talk radio and it's a legacy station. And when it came up for sale. We just couldn't let it go, you know, and it was important enough and small enough, a thousand were AM stations, four of us buying a decent sized house here.
And so. You know, that's that's what my parents generation gave us. That's the Moses generation that gave us the blueprint to move forward, get handed us a baton. We're the Joshua generation. And so we felt as though it's necessary to buy that state and make sure we continue being the voice of the community so you can change your programming or anything.
You just you just made sure that it survives.
Make sure you survive. We change the program because we're trying to, you know, upgraded and broaden it and stuff. Yeah. And I've you know, I've had folks on I've had David Alan Grier on back. Vanessa Williams and Sherrilyn Ifill came on.
Oh, so you're hosting a show on there now?
Yeah, I hosted a show like once a month on Fridays. The last last Friday of the month I'm actually on right now and. And it's like, oh, that's nice, that's great, you know, but all politics are local and they're like, Oh yeah, I went to prison on oh he had a conversation with Vanessa Williams. That's great. Did you know Councilman Williams actually didn't do his taxes yet? Did you hear the show with Vanessa Williams?
Oh, yes. She's a great singer as a great actress. But if they don't fix that press drive, I know I'm not going to vote for the mayor again. I'm like, I'm talking to Vanessa Williams like, oh, yeah, baby, that's nice. Yeah, but but I went over to get tested over at University of New Orleans.
They didn't have but 20 tests. Yeah. And I'm not going to go back and I'll tell you who to blame the assessor, you know. Yeah. Yeah.
I mean, I done, you know, the local radio thing. That's that's what keeps it alive. It's terrestrial radio. Is that is that local engagement.
Yeah. It's great that you did that, man. The people feel like it's their station, which is what I love about it, you know.
So now we don't know what anyone's going to do. So you're just going to be down there? Yeah, I'm going to be here. But I'm a digital artist. At UMC, the university is at the University of Michigan is the University Musical Society, goes back a hundred years, a presenter like Lincoln Center or the Mark Taper Forum in Midwest. I'm a digital artist with them, which is trying to figure out how to present art in this new virtual reality.
OK. Yeah, and it looks like we're working on this, but we're going to try to do live theater really in this post or pandemic world or in this pandemic world. University of Michigan also has one of the great public health departments. So what we're going to do. Is quarantine. Kind of do the bubble like the NBA with two other actors and the director. Quarantine, rehearse to play. And when we go to perform the play, anyone coming into the bubble, when we get into tech rehearsal props or anything like that, I really actually said we don't even need the props.
They deliver them. And we'll do our own nasty stuff and then we streaming live stream it. But bring in an audience of like 20 or 30 and do the quick test with them. Whether it's, you know, the same 15 minute test result or a one day result, if they decide to quarantine overnight, you know, once you get the result. But we want to do the quick tests and we're revising that study, the case study with the Public Health Department of Michigan, University of Michigan.
So it be a study. Still to be the hybrid, which is what I think theater should is going to be after this pandemic, is no theater that should not consider. Or put into a protocol. Setting up some cameras and filming it for a live stream to go out, I've been surviving on the National Theatre collection of plays that they've been doing the National Theatre live for about a decade now, and they think it just closed off. But I've been watching those plays.
Barbershop chronicled Coriolanus, A Streetcar Named Desire with Ben Foster, Gillian Anderson, Small Island. It was another. Yeah, those were before Ben Foster did Streetcar.
Ben Foster district a couple of years ago in in in London. Wow. Gillian, how was he? He was great. He was great. And I got to see it because of that. I didn't even know that he had done it. And so that that's the future. So so I think that there's going to be a hybrid. But all theatres, no matter how small you are. You know, you're going to do tech rehearsal. In tech rehearsal, you need to do a camera rehearsal and then prepare to do the play and live stream it or actually recorded to be seen later, people questioning will you know, then that takes away from the live experience.
That's not really it actually amplifies the live experience because people will see it and then say, oh, I was I wish I was there or I'll get there. The next time I'm going to get there, I'll be tested so I can get it to actually make the live export experience even more of a premium because it was only 30 people who were tested who were able to come and see it. And it's like the first run of the film. The first one of the film in the theaters is really almost just advertising for the, you know, the tertiary, you know, DVD and on demand market and all the ancillary.
Yeah, Mark, I like that.
The the idea that, you know, there's a necessity to have it at least, you know, the 30 people there because that will engage the actors in the live symbiotic relationship that's supposed to take place within the space. Absolutely.
And so it'll read that way, you know, that the feelings will of connectivity will actually be there when it goes out and streams because it's a guidepost.
You know, that's something thing that I realized. Oh, I'll tell you another one that does the American Playhouse, all of those on on PBS here. I watch the musical just the other day. She loves me. And the the audience is like a godsend. You. Yeah, right. Who's looking at it and see the and then also for the actors. That's the other partner in the scene. Yeah. Anybody ever tell you that you rehearse the play once you bring it to the audience, they, they're the additional additional scene partner, you know, and they kind of let you know where the scene is going and you play off of them in the live performance also.
And I think that's important. And so that's something that's unique. And I don't think it'll be lost in the streaming. It's actually going to be valued even more.
That's great, man. It sounds like a great project and certainly present and looking forward, trying to figure it out, man, you know?
Yeah, it's what we're in. You got to keep innovating. Keep the two tracks, man. That's it, man.
Within formats. Right.
Hey, it's great talking to you, Wendell. Thanks so much for taking the time.
Thank you. I hope I made some sense today. Loved it. It's great. I think you're brilliant, Captain. I love your work and I love to be careful out there. You two take it easy to. What a great guy, right? What a great talk we talk Zeppelin. Come on, we talked Zeppelin, Wendell Pierce. Again, I just want to mention it is nominated for an Olivier Award as best actor for Death of a Salesman.
And it was a it was a real pleasure to talk to you. Now I will play some guitar like I've played before. Boom, our lives. Fonda Monkey. And all the flying cats and. Don't forget people Ben and Jerry's three new nondairy frozen desserts are a new twist on vegan euphoria. The Ben and Jerry's flavor gurus have taken a big leap. This time there are three new nondairy flavors are made with sunflower butter, and they're the perfect treat for vegans, vegetarians and everyone in between.
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