UserpicRJ Cyler (INTERVIEW)
Posted by Kam Williams

RJ Cyler
The “Me and Earl and the Dying Girl” Interview
with Kam Williams 

Me and RJ! 

The youngest of three boys, Ronald Cyler II was born in Jacksonville, Florida on . March 21, 1995. He demonstrated a love of the arts and entertaining early on, teaching himself to play the keyboard and drums, and forming a dance duo with his older brother, Broderick, at the age of 12.

In the summer of 2012, RJ traveled to the West Coast to hone his skills at acting camp. Encouraged by the experience, he asked his parents if they would consider relocating to Los Angeles to support his pursuit of a showbiz career.

With his family solidly behind him, he began meeting with agents, and subsequently signed with Landis-Simon Productions and Talent Management, as well as JLA Talent Agency. Here, he talks about making his acting debut in the title role of Earl in the screen adaptation of Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, which won both the Audience and Grand Jury Awards at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival.


Kam Williams: Hi RJ, thanks for the interview.

RJ Cyler: Ola, Kam! No problem.


KW: I really loved Me and Earl and the Dying Girl. But so have all the critics and audiences. Congratulations!

RJC: Thanks!


KW: What interested you in the film?

RJC: The honesty of the film, and how realistically it treats teenagers. A lot of movies present us as only interested in romance, which is kind of offensive, since we're a lot more complicated than that. We also have friends who are genuinely just friends. This script highlighted that aspect of the teenage mind, and I appreciated the fact that it was authentic and raw.

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UserpicMother of Jordan Davis Reflects upon the Loss of Her Son
Posted by Kam Williams

Lucy McBath
The “3½ Minutes, Ten Bullets” Interview
with Kam Williams

Lucy McBath is the mother of Jordan Davis, the unarmed teenager gunned down at a Florida gas station for refusing to turn down the radio which was playing loud rap music. Although Jordan's murderer, Michael Dunn, has been convicted and sentenced to life in prison for the crime, Lucy has remained a very vocal advocate on behalf of all victims of such violence.

Here, she reminisces about Jordan while discussing 3½ Minutes, Ten Bullets, a documentary chronicling the trial of her son's killer. She also discusses her commitment to the Black Lives Matter movement and to pressuring the criminal justice system to hold all violators of black civil rights accountable.


Kam Williams: Hi Lucy, thanks for the interview.

Lucy McBath: Thank you, Kam. I'm glad we're able to connect.


KW: 3½ Minutes, Ten Bullets was a very powerful film. What did you think of it?

LM: I'm extremely pleased because it's truthful and it does the very thing we wanted, which is impact people. It's been very, very well received, particularly among people who never spent much time thinking about the issues of racism and biases and guns and violence. They see how we're all related dynamically to my story in some way, because it's everybody's story.

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UserpicLin Shaye (INTERVIEW)
Posted by Kam Williams

Lin Shaye
The “Insidious: Chapter 3” Interview
with Kam Williams

Shaye at Play!

Born and raised in Detroit, Michigan, Lin Shaye loved storytelling for as long as she could remember and knew that she was destined to act. She performed in many plays in college at the University of Michigan, and then moved to New York City when she was accepted into Columbia University’s Master of Fine Arts program. Remaining in NYC after graduation, she further honed her skills with celebrated stage directors like Joseph Papp and Des McAnuff, appearing in such productions as Tartuffe, at the New York Shakespeare Festival, as well as in The Tempest and The Taking of Miss Janie.

She made her film debut in 1975 in Hester Street, which was shot on location in Manhattan, and featured Carol Kane in an Oscar-nominated performance. But when Jack Nicholson cast Lin in Goin’ South, she relocated from New York to L.A. Her other early films included The Long Riders, Brewster’s Millions and Extreme Prejudice, all directed by Walter Hill. In 1982, she and a dozen fellow thespians formed a theater company called the Los Angeles Theater Unit, which produced only new plays over the course of its decade-long existence. She earned her a Dramalogue Award for Best Actress for her work in the troupe’s staging of Better Days. The Farrelly Brothers recognized Lin's extraordinary talent and cast her in a series of memorable roles in their films, among them Dumb & Dumber, Kingpin and, perhaps most memorably, as the overly-tanned neighbor in There’s Something About Mary. Her other notable comedic roles include the KISS-hating fanatic mother in Detroit Rock City and the head of the Bikini Tanning Team in Boat Trip. Lin has almost 200 screen credits to her name, including Snakes on a Plane, A Nightmare on Elm Street, Ouija, The Hillside Strangler, My Sister’s Keeper, The Signal and Corrina, Corrina. Here, she talks about reprising the role of Elise Rainier, the heroine of Insidious: Chapter 3, in the latest installment of that vaunted fright franchise.  

Kam Williams: Hi Lin, I'm honored to have this opportunity to speak with you.

Lin Shaye: Well, thanks, Kam, and vice versa.


KW: What was it like being directed by your co-star Leigh Whannell this go-round in what amounted to his directorial debut?

LS: He was a fantastic director. We were both a little nervous when we started filming, because you always are, even if you're a veteran actor or director. But we obviously had already forged a wonderful friendship and relationship making the first two films together. Leigh, being a performer himself, had a different directorial style from James [Wan] who is more of a cinephile. Leigh's was more emotional and more informational, since he'd created the characters as well. So, he probably knows more about Elise than anybody, although he said, “No, I don't,” when I tried to tell him that. [Laughs] But making the film with him was wonderful, because he could step into the shoes of any of the characters, if necessary. He was also open to anything you had to say, and there was never a sour word out of his mouth, even at the end of a 17-hour day. He was just amazing! And you know, when you're the director, everybody on set wants something from you. Leigh handled it like a true prince.

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UserpicDana Perino (INTERVIEW)
Posted by Kam Williams

Dana Perino
The “And the Good News Is…” Interview
with Kam Williams

Primo Perino!

Dana Marie Perino was born in Evanston, Wyoming on May 9, 1972, where she grew up herding cattle at the crack of dawn on a cattle ranch. In college, she moonlighted as a country music DJ while majoring in Mass Communications. And after graduating from Colorado State University-Pueblo, she went on to earn a Master’s in Public Affairs Reporting from the University of Illinois at Springfield.

Dana made history as the first Republican female to serve as White House Press Secretary. After seven years in the George W. Bush administration, she was recruited by the Fox News Network to co-host a new show, The Five, which has become one of the most highly-rated programs on cable TV.

Christians in word and deed, Dana and her husband, Peter, devote considerable time to philanthropy causes, traveling to Africa on numerous occasions to volunteer with charities ranging from Living Hope to Mercy Ships. The former is a faith-based organization working with AIDS victims, while the latter is a state-of-the-art floating hospital which sails down the Congo River to bring free medical care to desperate people living is some of the poorest countries in the world.

Here, she talks about her life and career, including the time spent as President Bush’s official spokesperson.

Kam Williams: Hi Dana, thanks for the interview. How are you?

Dana Perino: I’m pretty good, thank you.

KW:You know, I feel like I already know you, from seeing you on The Five everyday.

DP: That’s one of the favorite things I hear a lot on the book tour. I think that’s a huge compliment to The Five.

KW: Even though I’m very liberal, I still enjoy the show, especially because you and Greg Gutfeld aren’t predictable in terms of your political stances.

DP: I know what you mean. Bill Shine, an executive at Fox, once said, “Who would’ve ever thought that it’d be Dana Perino always defending the unions and the TSA?”

KW: Or coming to the defense of Obama administration White House Press Secretaries. What were your expectations, when you agreed to do The Five?

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UserpicVivica A. Fox, Tyson Beckford and Robert Ri’chard (INTERVIEW)
Posted by Kam Williams

Vivica A. Fox, Tyson Beckford and Robert Ri’chard
The “Chocolate City” Interview
with Kam Williams


Is Vivica Really Dating the Handsome Hunk Who Plays Her Son in the Movie?

Vivica A. Fox, Tyson Beckford and Robert Ri’chard co-star in Chocolate City which is basically a remake of Magic Mike. Director Jean-Claude La Marre explains that he felt an African-American variation on the male stripper theme was in order, given the absence of black faces in the original.

This version of the tale revolves around a cash-strapped college kid (Richard) who hides from his mother (Fox) the fact that he’s moonlighting as an exotic dancer at a neighborhood nightclub on ladies’ night. The three recently spoke to me via a conference call about the film, and also about the rumors circulating in the tabloids of a steamy set romance between Vivica and Robert.


Kam Williams: Hey, thanks for the interview.

Robert Ri’chard: Hey Vivica, how are you?

Vivica Fox: I’m fine darling. How are you?


RR: When are you going to take me out for a glass of champagne, so I can buy you some chocolate?

VAF: [Laughs] You’re starting way too early, Robert. What, are you in need of a mimosa already? You’re too much! Too much!


Tyson Beckford: [Joins call] Hey, what’s happening everybody?

VAF: Hey, Tyson.

RR: I heard you’re in Vegas.

TB: No, I was in Los Angeles a few hours ago. But now I’m in New York. And I’ll be back in Vegas at this time tomorrow.


RR: I wanna dance tomorrow.

TB: You keep sayng that, but you’ve got to rehearse. You can’t just show up and get onstage. We’ll have to work you out. You’re rusty.


RR: I want to come to a rehearsal tomorrow.

TB: We don’t have one scheduled. I’ll have to bring you in and rehearse you real quick, if I have time for it.   


KW: Let me start off the interview with a question from children’s book author Irene Smalls. She asks: What interested each of you in Chocolate City?

TB: I’ll answer first, since I was the first to sign on. What interested me was the script. I loved how the characters showed their emotions. It made me feel for Robert’s character [Michael], because I’ve been through that as a college student trying to make my way through life. And I did the whole topless waiter thing in a male revue before, so I knew I could connect with it. In addition, I found the idea of Jean-Claude [director Jean-Claude La Marre] building an entire cast around me kind of intriguing. I was eager to see what he would come up with. So, that’s why I jumped in.

VAF: I’ll be very honest with you, Kam. I had worked with Jean-Claude before and, when I heard that he was doing this, I went to see Magic Mike. And I went, “Wow! How crazy is it that they don’t have any African-Americans in this?” I felt that whoever makes this film African-American will win. Jean-Claude let me know he wanted me to play the mom and, when he told me about the cast, I said, “I’m so totally in for this.” I’ve seen it, and it’s awesome. It’s a feel-good, girl’s night out film that everybody will enjoy.


KW: And why’d you do the film, Robert?

RR: Because I had a crush on Vivica.


TB: You see, that’s how rumors get started, Robert!

VAF: Exactly!

RR: The first time I ever modeled, I walked the runway with Tyson. And he let me walk in front of him. He was the man! I was like, “This is my dude!” So, when I was approached about working with him for a whole movie, I didn’t hesitate for a second. I just said, “Count me in.”


KW: Is there any truth to the rumor that you two are an item since making this movie?

VAF: Yes, Robert Ri’chard is the love of my life!

RR: The rumor’s not big enough.

VAF: [Laughs] We’re having fun, but let me set the record straight. No, it’s not true. It was my first time working with him. And our scenes were so intense that everybody was like, “Wow! They have a major connection with each other.” But it was literally mutual respect as actors. There’s no romance going on.

RR: Yet. I wonder how the tabloids are predicting the future.

VAF: [Laughs]


KW: Editor/Legist Patricia Turnier for Vivica: I am a big fan and have followed your career since the late Eighties. I probably watched Two Can Play That Game, one of my favorite romantic-comedies, over 40 times. Is there any chance you’ll make another sequel of this movie?

VAF: We actually made one sequel, called Three Can Play That Game. I did co-produce the film, but it didn’t do as well, because they didn’t allow me to have my original cast back. Lord, would I love to get that original cast back together, and do the real sequel that should’ve been done, because it’s a cult classic, and it’s been done by other nationalities. So, I’d love to do a true sequel. Absolutely!


KW: Patricia would also like to know whether you might like to direct in the future.

VAF: Ooh! Directing is a lot of responsibility. In the future, yes, but I probably wouldn’t get into that for another five years or so.


KW: Patricia has a question for Tyson. She says. You have roots in Panama, and I am taking this occasion to say that I went there last year for almost a month. I was very moved by the warmth of the people there. Not one person was impatient towards me when I looked for words in my French-Spanish dictionnary to communicate with them. Given your diverse background, would you be open to play in a foreign film in the future?

TB: Yeah, I would definitely love to do that. Panama is like one of my homes. I have cousins down there that I’d like to bond with. So, I‘d love to make a movie there.


KW: What advice do you have for guys who want to follow into your footstep in modeling and for those who want to be involved in modeling?

TB: That’s tough to answer, because you have to be cut from a certain type of cloth. You have to have be a certain height, build and a have a certain look. You can’t just wake up and decide to model one day. It’s hard to explain, but getting into the business is all about the features.


KW: “Realtor to the Stars” Jimmy Bayan says: Vivica, when you're really feeling naughty, and you just want to let your diet go off the rails, what's your guiltiest pleasure? Is there a place you specifically go in LA to get some really “bad" food? The type that makes you say, “Boy, I'm gonna have to hit the gym tomorrow.”

TB and RR: [LOL]

VAF: Do you hear them giggling in the background? I hear you. They’re so bad! Can you imagine having to deal with this all day? Where do I go? Two places: Casa Vega, because I love some good ole Mexican food, and California Pizza Kitchen, because I also love pizza. Those are my guilty pleasures, and not something else that they’re snickering about.

TB and RR: [Laugh some more]


KW: Jimmy also says: Tyson, you've enjoyed an enduring modeling career. When you started out, did you think this modeling thing would last as long as it has? Did you always have your sights set on the acting thing as a logical extension?

TB: A lot of people don’t know this, but I started out as an actor. Along the way, I was offered a modeling job, and the modeling took off. So, I put the acting off to the side. Still, I always told myself that once I made enough money, I was going to get out of the game. I didn’t intend to stay this long. I figured once my contract with Ralph [Lauren] was over, that I would go right into acting. But it’s taken awhile for Hollywood to recognize me. In fact, I still feel like they don’t recognize me yet, but they’re going to soon.

VAF: I know that’ right!

TB: You know me, Viv. You see how hard-headed I am. I ain’t stopping ‘til I get there.

VAF: I can tell you I’m so proud, because everyone’s really, really loving you at Chippendale’s, and you are just doing your thing. I’m so proud of you!

TB: Oh, thank you, babe.


KW: Reverend Florine Thompson asks: How do you maintain centered spiritually?

VAF: For me, it’s by keeping things simple, as far as the crowd of people that I’m around. I’ve also really learned to focus on family, and on how to be happy with myself from within. 

RR: I come from a very religious family and, for me, the key is my family unit which supports me and keeps me grounded when it comes to just giving it up to God, and putting God first.

TB: I might not go to church as much as I should, but I walk with God every day. I speak to Him, I ask Him for things, and what I can do for Him. And we have a fair trade that has worked out for me.


KW: When you look in the mirror, what do you see?

TB: I see someone with drive who is not a quitter.

VAF: A grown woman who’s happy in her skin.

RR: An ordinary American son with extraordinary experience.


KW: Lastly, what’s in your wallet?

VAF: American Express and $200 in cash. 

RR: I’ve got a Mastercard and about the same amount of money.

TB: American Express. I never leave home without it! [Laughs]


KW: Thanks again for the time, everyone, and best of luck with the film.

VAF: Alright, thank you, Kam

TB: Take care.

RR: Thanks, Kam.

To see a trailer for Chocolate City, visit:


UserpicKrazy about Kravitz
Posted by Kam Williams

Zoë Kravitz
The “Mad Max: Fury Road / Good Kill” Interview
with Kam Williams 

Born December 1, 1988, Zoë Isabella Kravitz is the daughter of 5-time Grammy-winner Lenny Kravitz and Emmy-nominated actress Lisa Bonet (for The Cosby Show). The versatile entertainer has followed in the footsteps of both of her parents, between fronting the bands Elevator Fight and Lolawolf and an acting career that has enjoyed a meteoric rise as of late.

This spring alone, Zoë has a half-dozen films released in theaters, including the blockbusters Insurgent and Mad Max: Fury Road, as well as Good Kill, The Road Within, Dope and Treading Water. Here, she talks about life and about her latest movies.


Kam Williams: Hi Zoë, thanks for the interview. I’m honored to have this opportunity.

Zoe Kravitz: No worries, Kam. How are you?


KW: Great, thanks. I don’t know whether you’re aware that I’ve interviewed both your mom and your dad.

ZK: No, I wasn’t aware. Cool!


KW: Also, the headline, when I interviewed your mom, read “Lisa Bonet Ate No Basil,” which I assume you know is a palindrome.

ZK: No, I never heard that before. That’s cool, too.


KW: How do you explain your career taking off this year? You’re in a half dozen new movies this spring: Insurgent, Treading Water, The Road Within, Good Kill, Mad Max and Dope.

ZK: I don’t know, man. I’ve basically been working really hard for the past couple years. And the nature of the film business is that movies come out when they come out, and these all just happen to be coming out at the same time. [Giggles] 


KW: How did you enjoy making Mad Max: Fury Road?

ZK: It was good. It was really intense. It was a very long process. It was a six- month shoot in Africa. And it was crazy, Kam. I mean, the stunts were kind of crazy, and they were all shot at real speed. The costumes were insane and the conditions were really harsh. So, it was a very intense film to make, but well worth it.


KW: Is it fair to assume that making Mad Max was more like shooting Insurgent than your other new films? 

ZK: In some ways, yes, but I don’t even know if I can compare it to Insurgent. Mad Max is kind of like a beast of its own.


KW: What interested you in Good Kill, which is an excellent film? There, you play drone co-pilot Suarez, who is a pretty complicated character with an intriguing arc.

ZK: Thank you so much. When I read the script, it read like a science fiction film. And Andrew [writer/director Andrew Niccol] is known for sci-fi. But when I spoke to him, he said this picture was 100% factual, which blew my mind. I realized then how little I knew about the drone program. And I felt that, if I knew so little about it, there must be others who should be educated about what’s going on. So, first, I wanted to be a part of the project because I thought it was an important story to tell. On top of that, it’s rare to find roles for strong, young, feisty women, especially in a military film. And I love that Suarez ends up being the moral compass of the story, and that she’s also brave enough to stand up to all these men. 


KW: It’s very well-written. The dialogue uses so much military and contemporary cultural jargon that it’s very convincing. 

ZK: Like “Good kill!” [Chuckles]


KW: I also thought you were great in Treading Water. What made you decide to play the love interest in that offbeat romantic dramedy?

ZK: I just found that story so bizarre. [Laughs] It’s a very sweet love story wrapped around an outlandish premise.


KW: Yes, it’s definitely unique. Editor Lisa Loving says: Zoe is super-duper cool. Just watching the trailer for her new movie with Dev Patel, The Road Within, made me cry.

ZK: That’s so sweet!


KW: She asks: What’s the secret of your mother, father and stepfather getting along so well?

ZK: I don’t know what the secret is. We’re a family… We all love each other… and we’ve all worked through whatever issues there’ve ever been, and in a healthy way. So, we all get along. Love conquers all, I guess. 


KW: Sangeetha Subramanian says: Hi Zoe! They say it takes 90 days to get in the grove of a new job. Do you feel like you’ve been getting enough time to prepare for each new project lately?

ZK: This might surprise you, but I do feel like I have, because the shooting of all these films was spread out, for the most part. They just happen to be coming out at the same time.


KW: Children’s book author Irene Smalls asks: How do you prepare for each new role?

ZK: It kind of varies. I don’t have a method yet. It depends on the script and the character I think I need. I’ve worked with acting coaches, researched roles, and channeled different parts of myself. It’s on a case-by-case for me, right now.


KW: Harriet Pakula-Teweles says: At just 26, you already have a solid background in various fields: acting, singing and songwriting, modeling and designing. Which feels the most comfortable, and what direction do you hope to take in the near future?

ZK: Music and acting are the most prominent. But I don’t like to compare them, since they’re both very, very important to me.


KW: Editor/Legist Patricia Turnier was wondering whether your having mixed ethnic roots might have played a role in your eating disorders. She asks because she knows several people struggling with society’s tendency to narrowly define beauty. Do you think women are unfairly judged by their physical appearance?

ZK: I do think women are unfairly judged by their physical appearance, but I don’t think it had anything to do with being mixed-race. In my opinion, mixed-race people are the most beautiful.


KW: “Realtor to the Stars” Jimmy Bayan asks: What would be your dream spot to live in L.A. and in the world?

ZK: I can’t say about L.A., because I don’t live there. I love the Bahamas. Our family is from there. I also like Berlin and would love to live there for a while. 


KW: Is there any question no one ever asks you, that you wish someone would?

ZK: [LOL] No, I might not even know until someone asks me the question.


KW: When you look in the mirror, what do you see?

ZK: It depends on the day.


KW: The bookworm Troy Johnson question: What was the last book you read?

ZK: I haven’t read a book in a long time. I’ve just been reading scripts lately. It’s terrible. [Laughs] I think the last one I read was the entire Divergent series. [Laughs]


KW: The music maven Heather Covington question: What was the last song you listened to? 

ZK: I recent to Erykah Badu’s “Mama’s Gun.” That whole album. 


KW: What is your favorite dish to cook?

ZK: Squash and quinoa and kale and salmon.


KW: The Uduak Oduok question: Who is your favorite clothes designer?

ZK: I don’t know. I always say Alexander Wang because he’s one of my dearest friends and he’s the one I’m most familiar with. I don’t know a lot about designers’ names.  


KW: If you could have one wish instantly granted, what would that be for?

ZK: It sounds like a silly pageant answer, but world peace.


KW: That’s not silly at all, since this is a time when it’s really needed. Harriet also asks: With so many classic films being redone, is there a remake you'd like to star in?

ZK: Ooh! That’s a hard question, because I believe “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” I’d have to think about it.  


KW: The Ling-Ju Yen question: What is your earliest childhood memory?

ZK: I remember playing at my grandmothers’ houses when I was about 4 or 5.


KW: The Melissa Harris-Perry question:How did your first big heartbreak impact who you are as a person?

ZK: I think it probably just taught me that you will always heal. That this too shall pass. The first time you feel that sort of pain, you think it’s never going to go away. Once you do survive it, you realize you can survive anything.


KW: The Viola Davis question: What’s the biggest difference between who you are at home as opposed to the person we see on the red carpet?

ZK: Well, , at home, I’m in sweatpants, I’m not wearing any makeup, and I’m not standing with my hand on my hip while smiling. [Laughs] I try to be honest in interviews, but obviously you have to be careful about everything you say and do when you’re being recorded. I’m much more comfortable and quieter at home.


KW: The Teri Emerson question: When was the last time you had a good laugh?

ZK: Earlier today. I like to laugh a lot.


KW: What was your first job?

ZK: I never had a real job. I started acting in high school, and then I started working. So, I never got to have that experience.


KW: The Tasha Smith question: Are you ever afraid?

ZK: All the time.


KW: The Anthony Anderson question: If you could have a superpower, which one would you choose?

ZK: Flight! 100%! Flight!


KW: What advice do you have for anyone who wants to follow in your footsteps?

ZK: Be confident, and just do it. It’s all about not questioning what everyone else is thinking, since they’re probably looking to others to know what is or isn’t cool.


KW: Attorney Bernadette Beekman asks: Do you have a favorite charity?

ZK: No, not one favorite, I’ve worked with a few different charities, including one in Africa dealing with the AIDS epidemic. I also like helping people who need food.


KW: The Judyth Piazza question: What key quality do you believe all successful people share? 

ZK: Being genuine.


KW: The Tavis Smiley question: How do you want to be remembered?

ZK: Again, as genuine. I think the best that you can do is stay true to who you are, whatever that is.


KW: Your parents are two of the most grounded and normal celebrities I’ve interviewed. And you strike as just as real and accessible.

ZK: Oh, thank you so much. I appreciate that, since that’s all we really have.


KW: What’s in your wallet?

ZK: A Metro card, a credit card, a few dollar bills, and a chai tea card. After I buy a certain number of cups, I get a free one.  


KW: Thanks again for the time, Zoë, and best of luck with all your films. And I hope to speak to you again soon.

ZK: Alright. Take care, Kam.

To see a trailer for Mad Max, visit:

To see a trailer for Good Kill, visit:

To see a trailer for Treading Water, visit:

To see a trailer for Insurgent, visit:

To see a trailer of The Road Within, visit:

To see a trailer for Dope, visit:


UserpicThe Most Interesting Man in the World
Posted by Kam Williams

Jonathan Goldsmith
The “Dos Equis” Interview
with Kam Williams

Widely known as “The Most Interesting Man in the World” due to the wildly successful Dos Equis advertising campaign, Jonathan Goldsmith has become a pop culture icon on the order of the Marlboro Man. However, behind those classic scenes of him freeing a grizzly bear from a trap, boating with Miss Universe, or arm wrestling Fidel Castro, Jonathan is a prolific actor, an accomplished businessman, and a capable outdoorsman. This charming, bronzed and bearded gentleman has led a private life nearly as daringly as his onscreen alter ego.

What exactly makes him so interesting? For starters, the consummate “man’s man” with the salt-and-pepper mane resides on a 50-foot sailboat docked in Marina Del Rey, California. Twice, he has come to the aid of a person in dire need of assistance. First, while hiking during a snowstorm, he encountered a stranger nearly stricken with hypothermia. On that occasion, he cared for the man overnight until help could be summoned in the morning. The other time, he rescued a girl drowning at the beach.

Born in New York City, Jonathan was raised by a mother who was a model, and a father who taught gym. He attended both Boston University and New York University before pursuing acting classes at The Living Theater. After moving to Los Angeles in his early 20’s, he was forced to pick up odd jobs as an industrial waste truck driver and a painter in order to make ends meet. All Goldsmith’s hard work and dedication paid off when he landed his first guest role on “Perry Mason.”

Since then, Jonathan has starred in over 300 television shows including “Charlie’s Angels,” “Knight Rider,” and “MacGyver.” He starred alongside Burt Lancaster in the 1978 drama “GO TELL THE SPARTANS,” which chronicled a unit of American military advisors in Vietnam. Ironically enough, the polished man who seems to be invincible, in a James Bond sort of way, was often killed on screen. Electrocuted, shot, chopped, hung, machine-gunned and actually ground by someone impersonating a nun, Goldsmith tended to be in roles where he was either killing people or being killed.

In 2006, he auditioned for and won the role of The Most Interesting Man in the World, using his own personal experiences to help create the character: a cross between Ernest Hemingway, Bill Murray, Burt Reynolds, Royal Tenenbaum and Don Draper. The South American accent he dons when he delivers the remarkable pitch line “I don’t always drink beer, but when I do, I prefer Dos Equis” was inspired by Jonathan’s very dear friend, Fernando Lamas. In fact, it was Goldsmith who spread Lamas’ ashes when he passed away in 1982. It is a subtle tribute to a friend, and as the Dos Equis campaign sprints into its 8th year it can be seen and heard everywhere—from international television commercials, to print ads, to billboards.

Aside from his acting and business careers, Jonathan also supports and is involved with various charities, including The Morris Animal Foundation and the Mines Advisory Group. The Morris Animal Foundation is a nonprofit organization that invests in science that advances veterinary medicine for companion animals, horses and wildlife helping more species in more places than any other group in the world. He also works to save endangered Siberian tigers. But who would expect less from a world traveler whose “beard alone has experienced more than a lesser man’s body.”

 The Mines Advisory Group takes a humanitarian approach to landmine action assisting people affected by landmines and unexploded ordnance in communities worldwide. He recently went on a USO Handshake Tour, too, bringing a touch of home to military families and troops deployed overseas in Guantanamo Bay.

Jonathan harbors a passion for the outdoors, whether sailing, hiking, fishing or camping. While he has never “punched a magician” and his blood doesn’t smell like cologne as does his character’s, he undeniably leads a life more interesting than most. Whether lounging on his sailboat in the sunshine or hard at work on his career, The Most Interesting Man in the World rarely experiences an uninteresting moment!


Kam Williams: Hi Jonathan. How are you?

Jonathan Goldsmith: Enjoying the spring. It feels real good here in Southern Vermont, believe me! How are you?


KW: I’m fine, thanks. Your cousin David Roth told me you’re a good dude and that he enjoyed visiting you in Vermont last year. He just asked me to say “hi” for him and to ask you how your shoulder’s doing.

JG: [Laughs] Tell him I’m fine. He’s a good guy. 


KW: I’ll be mixing my questions in with some sent in by fans. “Realtor to the Stars” Jimmy Bayan also knows you. He admires how you show up every year for a very noble cause, the Los Angeles Mission's annual Thanksgiving Dinner where they close off the streets and feed thousands of homeless men and women.

JG: That’s nice of Jimmy to say. I’ve done it a few times, but not every year.


KW: He asks: How did you ever get this gig as The Most Interesting Man in the World?

JG: It was normal audition, a cattle call with about 500 people there. I didn’t think I was right for the role at all, because most of the other fellows were or looked Latino. So, I had no idea whatsoever and knew nothing about it. 


KW: Jimmy’s also wondering whether you had any idea it would be so successful?

JG: None. [Chuckles] I was just hoping the ads would at least last one cycle


KW: Well, The Most Interesting Man in the World commercials have been going through cycle after cycle since they began in 2007. Do people expect you to live up to your billing when they meet you in public?

JG: I don’t know whether they have any expectations, but they always ask me what are the similarities and differences between me and the character. I think they often make assumptions about what my life must be like, and it’s definitely a little bit different from his. 


KW: How many Dos Equis radio and TV commercials are you in?

JG: I have no idea.


KW: Do they make new ones each year?

JG: Oh, yes. We shoot the main ones that are going to run on TV once a year in California. The internet stuff is shot periodically, and mostly in New York.


KW: Is there an image clause in your contract with Dos Equis? I’m sure they don’t want to risk any harm to the character you’re so closely identified with?

JG: Sure, there are certain things I can and can’t do. 


KW: Harriet Pakula-Teweles says: You’ve enjoyed an enduring career on the stage, on film and on TV. But have you found yourself typecast as The Most Interesting Man in the World since becoming the pitchman for Dos Equis beer?

JG: Not completely. But, without getting into specifics, I’d say I am so closely identified with the character that I am sure it’s limited me at times in the way they look at me.


KW: Harriet also asks: Is it a tough transition from “The Most Interesting Man in the World” to just an ordinary guy when you go home at night?

JG: No, not really. It’s a nice transition. I don’t think I could live his life all the time. [Chuckles] I take refuge in the tranquility of my home. I’m very similar to him in many ways; in other ways, not at all. I seek silence and the aesthetic experience. I love the solitude of nature which I much prefer to some of the things you may see in the commercials. Nature re-energizes me. I’m not into a crowded bar scene, although I still thoroughly enjoy doing the commercials, and that atmosphere. They’re fun, but that’s not where I live. I’m looking out at a mountain. I see nothing but nature outside of my house. That’s very much to my taste.


KW: Editor Lisa Loving asks: Have you ever been tempted to do an Old Spice commercial?

JG: Never.


KW: Film director Ray Hirschman was wondering whether any production company has approached you to play The Most Interesting Man in the World on a TV series?

JG: Yes, I’ve been approached lots of times. But I can’t do that, obviously.


KW: Cousin Leon Marquis asks: What type of woman does The Most Interesting Man in the World like?

JG: I’m very diversified in my tastes. I have found women of all different types extremely attractive, even those that are not conventionally beautiful. A certain spark… a certain sense of humor… a certain intelligence… can all be very attractive. I’m attracted to all different types of women.


KW: Trinidadian Aaron Moyne has a slightly different question: Who would you say is The Most Interesting Woman in the World?

JG: Oh, boy… That’s a very interesting question. I’m not sure. It would have to be a composite. The humanism of one… The spiritualism of the other… The absolute beauty and intelligence of somebody else… I’m not much for absolutes.  


KW: Director/Producer Larry Greenberg asks: Jonathan, who do you think is the second most interesting man in the world?

JG: Often when I’m asked for an autograph, I’ll sign it, “You are the second most interesting man in the world.” [Laughs] Let’s see… There’s a barefoot black kid who lives on an island I used to sail my boat to who’s extremely interesting. I spent some wonderful days with him. 


KW: What island is he from?

JG: I’m not sure. I sail from Venezuela all the way through to Miami. But he was a whisperer to nature. He was so spiritual that it was infectious and it was beautiful.


KW: Attorney Bernadette Beekman says: You’re seen doing a lot in those Dos Equis commercials. What is your favorite sport in real life?

JG: It would be fishing.


KW: Documentary filmmaker Kevin Williams says he’s a fan of Dos Equis and asks: Which do you prefer Dos Equis Amber or Lager, and from a bottle or the tap?

JG: Definitely from the bottle. And when it comes to Amber versus Lager, I use a lot of beer in cooking. Amber in the winter, and Lager in the summer. So, it’s seasonal.


KW: Environmental activist Grace Sinden asks: Do you think The Most Interesting Man in the World should engage in some socially-beneficial activities?

JG: Grace, The Most Interesting Man in the World is extremely engaged in philanthropic activities. I do a lot of things that you would be pleased with, I’m sure.


KW: Grace was also wondering whether The Most Interesting Man in the World moniker might cut two ways, since some people, at the psychological level, probably prefer a vulnerable pitchman rather than a super macho figure like yours or the Marlboro Man. 

JG: I have no idea. It’s a matter of taste, isn’t it?


KW: I read that you’re into fashion. Who is your favorite clothes designer?

JG: First of all, I’m not into fashion, although people think that I am, for some reason. My taste is eclectic. I tend to go for Orvis, Land’s End or Timberland. I’m more comfortable in a good pair of jeans and a nice Merino wool shirt than a tuxedo. I appreciate fashion, but it’s just not where my head is. 


KW: Is there any question no one ever asks you, that you wish someone would?

JG: No.


KW: What is your guiltiest pleasure?

JG: Food.


KW: The bookworm Troy Johnson question: What was the last book you read?

JG: I just finished “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” trilogy, which is terrific.

And I’m now reading “Warriors of God” about the rise of Hezbollah.   These are great questions, Kam.


KW: The Mike Pittman question: What was your best career decision?

JG: To hang in.


KW: Was there a meaningful spiritual component to your childhood?

JG: Yeah, I would say a loneliness that caused me to be a searcher, a seeker.


KW: When you look in the mirror, what do you see?

JG: I see a guy that I like. I see a guy that I wish more people were like as far as loyalty and integrity were concerned. And I see a guy with a bigger nose than I wish I had. [Chuckles]


KW: If you could have one wish instantly granted, what would that be for?

JG: For God, if there is one, and I think there is, to change the hearts and minds of men.


KW: Let's say you’re throwing your dream dinner party—who’s invited?

JG: My father would be #1… My Uncle Mike… One of the first guests would be Jackie Robinson. Also Martin Luther King… Mahatma Gandhi… Jesus… and Pope Francis. I think he’s really cool. I’m crazy about Shimon Peres. He’s a very dignified gentleman. Also, a wonderful psychiatrist named Frederic Wertham. You should look him up, Kam. You’d find him interesting. He carried on a war with the comic book industry 60 years ago because he felt that exposure to violence was detrimental to a child’s proper development. And he’s 100% right. He defended kids who got into trouble. We became very good friends.


KW: Do you mind if I ask you a few more questions? I know I’m going way past the time allotted.

JG: Of course! Please do. I’m enjoying this conversation more than I can tell you. Take your time. You sound like the kind of guy I’d like to have beer with.


KW: I’d be honored, thanks. What makes The Most Interesting Man in the World so captivating? Is it that he’s so wise, well-rounded and adventurous, while most people fail to reach their full potential?

JG: It is something to ponder. I wonder what happens to memory. Where does that energy, in my case, 76 years of memory go? How can it be so important and so vivid in one’s life and then, what, evaporate? I don’t know. I recently reread “Man’s Unconquerable Mind” by Gilbert Highet.

It had a profound effect upon me when I was in college. His thesis is that we die having utilized only about a tenth of our brain power because of stigmas. I think most people’s lives are empty. They’re leading those proverbial quiet lives of desperation. In the box… Never stepping out… Being insecure… Playing it safe and never allowing themselves to be vulnerable or to go through that process of exploration and extension of self. Never really experiencing the life experience… So, we have these capabilities that go undeveloped.


KW: How does someone become interesting?  

JG: I think that before you can become interesting, you have to be interested in things.


KW: Unfortunately, Millennials seem so absorbed with their cell phones that they’re not inclined to cultivate that natural childlike curiosity about the real world.

JG: I believe that computers can be a double-edged sword. Children don’t read as much nowadays. They get answers without having to understand the process. That’s not knowledge. Real awareness comes through application and through energy expended. Kids don’t do that anymore. I don’t think we’re deepening our awareness. It’s very sad and upsetting to me to see what’s happening with youngsters. They’ve become so materialistic and consumer-oriented.


KW: The Ling-Ju Yen question: What is your earliest childhood memory?

JG: Being held by my grandmother in our apartment overlooking Van Cortlandt Park on a warm fall day when the leaves were changing. I know I was just about 2 because we moved from there soon thereafter. My grandmother held me against her voluminous breasts in an old colored quilt. I watched the cars drive by as the sun streamed through the window pane. It’s a gorgeous memory, and my earliest.


KW: Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx. What high school did you attend? DeWitt Clinton or James Monroe?  

JG: No, but my father actually taught at both of those schools. My parents divorced when I was young, and I attended 22 different schools.


KW: The Teri Emerson question: When was the last time you had a good laugh?

JG: Yesterday, when I was fishing with my buddy.


KW: What’s the biggest difference between who you are at home and the person we see in the TV commercials?

JG: My clothing. [LOL]


KW: The Anthony Anderson question: If you could have a superpower, which one would you choose?

JG: to be able to change the hearts and minds of men.


KW: The Judyth Piazza question: What key quality do you believe all successful people share? 

JG: Charisma. That’s not necessarily true. How about sincerity? Or intelligence? It’s hard for me to reduce it to one word. It’s probably a composite of qualities. As we speak, I’m looking at a picture of President Obama who I happen to adore. I’ve met him a few times, and was actually a guest at Camp David for his surprise birthday party thrown by his oldest friends. Forget your politics, he is extremely intelligent, and very engaging one-to-one. I had the same experience meeting Judy Garland and I was an unemployed actor at the time. She spoke to me as if no one else was in the room. Joan Fontaine, one of the most beautiful women in the world, was the same way. Such sophistication, intelligence and kindness! We made friends, and maintained that friendship.  


KW: Well, thanks for the time, Jonathan, and stay thirsty, my friend.

JG: It’s been a pleasure. Let’s stay in touch Kam. I really mean that. For a guy who hates talking on the phone, we just spent an hour, and it wasn’t enough.  

To see Jonathan Goldsmith as The Most Interesting Man in the World in Dos Equis commercials, visit:


UserpicViva Vardalos
Posted by Kam Williams

Nia Vardalos
The “Helicopter Mom” Interview
with Kam Williams

Born in Winnipeg, Canada on September 24, 1962, actress/scriptwriter Nia Vardalos is best known as the star of My Big Fat Greek Wedding, her one-woman stage play which she adapted to the big screen in 2002. She also landed an Academy Award nomination for the picture’s screenplay, which grossed a quarter-billion dollars at the box-office, domestically.

Other movies on her resume include Connie and Carla, I Hate Valentine’s Day, My Life in Ruins, Larry Crowne, and McKenna Shoots for the Stars. On television, she starred in My Big Fat Greek Life, a short-lived sitcom based on My Big Fat Greek Wedding. Nia and her husband, actor Ian Gomez, live in L.A. which is where they are raising their daughter, Ilaria.


Kam Williams: Hey, Nia, thanks for the interview.

Nia Vardalos: Hi, Kam. Nice to talk to you, too. I apologize if I sound like a drag queen this morning, but I voiced an entire animated film in one day yesterday, and then went to see Barry Manilow last night.


KW: That’s why you’re whispering and sound so hoarse. Which film were you working on?

NV: Sorry, I can’t tell you yet. The title hasn’t been announced.


KW: I have to tell you how much I loved My Big Fat Greek Wedding. I must have watched it at least a dozen times. It was #2 on my Top 100 List for 2002.

NV: Thank you so much Kam. That means the world to me. It really does.


KW: I loved Connie and Carla, too. What interested you in Helicopter Mom?

NV: I was attracted to the idea of improvising a movie. I thought it would be a really great way of having a loose set. And it turned out to be exactly what I hoped for. The director [Salome Breziner] created a fun atmosphere and [co-star] Jason Dolley] was great to play with in his first film since doing the sitcom Good Luck Charlie. So, I was just very intrigued by the chance to do something so different.


KW: Gee, I was totally unaware that the cast was improvising. It flowed very naturally, so it never occurred to me that you didn’t have a script. The only thing that threw me was the ending which I don’t want to give away. It was a bit of a cliffhanger, and I wasn’t sure whether it was supposed to be setting up a sequel.  

NV: [Chuckles] Yeah, I don’t know at all on that one.


KW: Editor/Legist Patricia Turnier says: As a Canadian, I am honored to have the opportunity to ask you questions. You wrote and starred in your huge hit, My Big Fat Greek Wedding. There is a scarcity of female screenwriters and directors. Do you have another movie you would like to write and/or direct?

NV: Well, I’m actually headed to Toronto to do the sequel to My Big Fat Greek Wedding. But the honest answer to Patricia’s question is that there isn’t a scarcity of female writers and directors. But there IS a dearth, a lack of their being hired. You could throw a rock in L.A. and hit somebody who’s talented who’s trying to break in. It’s up to us women to hire other women. What I do is instead of writing just 1 female character in my films, I’ll write 50, because I know how sad it is that women are having such a hard time finding roles. It’s a joy for me. I love my producers, who are the same ones from My Big Fat Greek Wedding. We have the same set designers, the same everyone. As they say, we’re getting the band back together, as they say. It’s terrific that no one ever asks me, “Can this receptionist or this cop be played by a man?” They wouldn’t think of it since in the script the police officer’s name is Deandra.


KW: Patricia also says: I love raising the issue of female filmmakers. In 2010, Kathryn Bigelow broke the glass ceiling with her movie, The Hurt Locker. She became the first woman director in history to win an Academy Award. In 2007, the Canadian filmmaker Deepa Mehta earned an Oscar nomination in the Best Foreign Language Film category for Water, which focused on women issues. What is your opinion about this issue especially as an Oscar-nominee and what do you think it will take for female filmmakers to get more recognition for film projects concerning women's conditions?

NV: It was so sad this year, when the Academy failed to nominate even one film with a female story. It was so disgusting to me that not one female helmer was nominated for Best Director and that no film with a female protagonist was nominated in the Best Picture category either. I am not anti-man. I am married to a man… I have a father and a brother… I love men. But there is something really lacking when Cake is nominated. How does Julianne Moore win for Best Actress but her film isn’t nominated for Best Screenplay? How does Gone Girl become such a critically-acclaimed and box-office hit but its scriptwriter, Gillian Flynn, isn’t nominated for Best screenplay. It’s disgusting!


KW: What’s the solution?

NV: I think we need parity. The Academy needs more female members so that we can point this out and support ourselves and each other. 


KW: It’s a shame because 2014 was such a great year for movies. 

NV: There were so many amazing films last year. Theory of Everything was absolutely a master class in acting. And did you love The Imitation Game as much as I did?


KW: Yep, that was #5 on my Top 100 List.

NV: It broke my heart. And how about Guardians of the Galaxy? I spoke to the screenwriter, Nicole Perlman. She’s a huge comic book geek who was in the Marvel writing program. I just loved meeting her.


KW: One of the great things about this job is that I get a chance to speak with luminaries like you, and each experience is usually enriching and even moving because the person invariably has a lot to offer and is so much deeper than what I expected based on the image I had gotten from seeing them in movies and on TV.      

NV: Thank you for saying that, Kam. I feel the same way when I meet somebody in Los Angeles, because I’m from Winnipeg. I’m just a very ordinary girl that something extraordinary happened to. So, I’ll go to an event and, say, stand next to Charlize Theron and be like, “Oh my God! This is incredible!” And then you get to talk to her and you find out she’s a real person. She’s a mom and very interesting. I’m constantly thunderstruck by people that I admire.


KW: When you look in the mirror, what do you see?

NV: I see strength, and I see a tired mom.


KW: The Ling-Ju Yen question: What is your earliest childhood memory?

NV: Accidentally spray-painting my face black when I was about 6. I was trying to do a craft project in the garage with a board and a can of spray paint that was missing a nozzle. I stuck a nail in it, and it blew all over my face. [Laughs]


KW: What is your favorite dish to cook?

NV: Oh! Lately, I’ve been salting eggplant to take the bitterness out, and then layering it with tomatoes and a little bit of Parmesan cheese to make a low-rent Eggplant Parmesan without the breading and the tons of fat. 


KW: If you could have one wish instantly granted, what would that be for?

NV: Peace, and geographical birth fairness.


KW: The Viola Davis question: What’s the biggest difference between who you are at home as opposed to the person we see on the red carpet?

NV: Control top panty hose. [Chuckles]


KW: The bookworm Troy Johnson question: What was the last book you read?

NV: “Tiny Beautiful Things” by Cheryl Strayed. I love reading, and I read a lot. I’m constantly going through so many books. I just re-read a novel I loved called “Never Let Me Go” by Kazuo Ishiguro. Oh, it’s so beautiful!


KW: The Judyth Piazza question: What key quality do you believe all successful people share? 

NV: I’m going to say integrity, because I want to believe that’s the case. But sometimes I’m surprised when someone who has achieved success is incredibly Machiavellian in their manipulations. So, while I want to believe it’s integrity, that might just show how naïve I am. I sometimes worry that I might not be shrewd enough to maneuver myself through the Hollywood system. And then I look at Playtone, the company that produced My Big Fat Greek Wedding. I call them my Playtoners. They are the kindest people who treated me like gold before that movie made a dime. We became personal friends. When I think about how lovely and wonderful they are that convinces me that you don’t have to make a deal with the devil to succeed. It’s a choice. As we know, there are companies like Monsanto filling the Earth with their genetically-modified poison, which makes me wonder how many people share our belief that it’s better to be good, Kam. [Earnestly] We have to change the world!  


KW: We’ll see, with Bernie Sanders throwing his hat into the ring, the people will have a real choice. Harriet Pakula-Teweles asks: With so many classic films being redone, is there a remake you'd like to star in?

NV: Yeah. On stage, I’d like to redo the Broadway musical, The Rink. And, onscreen, there are so many great movies to pick from… My brain is just fried right now… Let me think… Oh, I know. I would love to remake The Philadelphia Story with Hugh Grant. The chemistry between Cary Grant and Kate Hepburn is so delightful.


KW: Hugh Grant released a sweet romantic comedy with Marisa Tomei in February called The Rewrite. Did you catch it?

NV: I love her. I’d always admired her work and then I got to meet her recently. She’s great! She’s so delightful in person.


KW: What’s in your wallet?

NV: My wallet has both American and Canadian money, because I’m preparing to go to Canada to shoot. And as you know, I’m Canadian, so I have a bunch of loonies [one-dollar coins] in there.


KW: Thanks again for the time, Nia. Best of luck with the sequel to My Big Fat Greek Wedding. I can’t wait to see it.

NV: Thank you, Kam. It was really nice to talk to you. You ask very interesting questions.

To see a trailer for Helicopter Mom, visit:


UserpicA Nice Slice of Rice
Posted by Kam Williams

Anne Rice
The “Beauty’s Kingdom” Interview
with Kam Williams

Anne Rice’s debut novel, Interview with a Vampire, was adapted into an Oscar-nominated film starring Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt. She is also the author of many other best-sellers, including the hugely successful Vampire Chronicles, The Mummy or Ramses the Damned, Violin, Angel Time, and the Mayfair Witches series.

Born and raised in New Orleans, Anne now lives in Southern California. Here, she talks about her latest book, Beauty’s Kingdom, an eagerly-anticipated extension of her popular, Sleeping Beauty trilogy.

Kam Williams: Hi, Anne. Thanks for the interview. I’m honored to have this opportunity

Anne Rice: Thanks, Kam. 


KW: I’ll be mixing my questions in with some sent in by fans. I really enjoyed Beauty’s Kingdom. What inspired you to extend the Sleeping Beauty trilogy after such a long hiatus? 

AR: I had more to say. Many years have passed since I wrote the original trilogy. I felt a new book could refine and deepen the vision. Also, times have changed and, with them, attitudes towards erotica. It's accepted today in a way it was not before, and I did find that inspiring.  


KW: Bobby Shenker says: I read and loved the Beauty series when I discovered it in the mid-Eighties. Did the appearance of Fifty Shades of Grey have any influence on your decision to continue the series?

AR: Yes, the success of Fifty Shades indicated that people were out of the closet about their appreciation of erotica. Erotica no longer need be an underground thing. I was inspired by this new acknowledgement of the significance of erotica. 


KW: Harriet Pakula-Teweles asks: How do you make the writing psychological shift from Gothic fiction to Erotic fiction—or is there a lot of one in the other?

AR: For me erotic and gothic fiction have much in common. Both are imaginative realms that are talking about the meaning of life in metaphorical terms. I love that. I don't have any problem writing in both genres.


KW: Director Lawrence Greenberg says: Anne, I am a huge fan. I think that I have read every one of your books. Can you speak a little bit about how your writing has been adapted to the screen and what you have learned from that process, for better or worse?

AR: I have good and bad experiences with screen adaptation. What I learned above all is that it is always a risk. However, I love film in all forms, and I think it's worth the risk. So I keep agreeing to and encouraging adaptations. Of course, I feel those adaptations which are entirely faithful to the underlying work are the most successful. When producers and directors and screenwriters try to re-imagine and substantially change the underlying material, more often the end product fails.  


KW: Editor Lisa Loving says: Wow! OK! Dang! Anne Rice rearranged part of my mind during the years I read her novels, including the three-part Sleeping Beauty. Will… never... get... over... that! Whoa! Anne, one of the things I love the most about your writing is the way you consistently encompass wide swaths of human history. What is your favorite history book, or do you have a go-to source for your historical perspectives?

AR: I read very widely in history and consume an amazing number of biographies.  The well written biography is the best way for me to learn about a period, whether we are talking about a biography of Harriet Beecher Stowe or Elizabeth I or Peter the Great or Augustus Caesar. I read history all the time for pure pleasure often immersing myself in a character or a century that might not show up in my novels at all. Reading history for me is like eating ice cream.


KW: Lisa’s also curious about what made you turn to writing about the life of Jesus. What did that historical research involve? And what has been the response of your readers? 

AR: Writing my two novels about Jesus involved years of research into life in the First Century, research in the Bible, research in Bible scholarship, research in ancient mythology and literature, etc.   I visited Israel twice while writing these books.  ---- The reader response to both Christ the Lord books was hugely positive, but I eventually moved away from the project for theological reasons. I loved writing about the private life of Jesus, trying to re-create what daily life was like for Him as a boy in Nazareth, but when it came to tackling His public life and teachings, I found the age old theological battles about Him draining and discouraging. But I loved working in this area. I am a believer in Jesus who has no organized theology to back up that belief. I seek for Jesus outside organized religion and its quarreling churches and cults. And my two books about Jesus are the full expression of my love for Him and faith in Him.


KW: Do you have any favorite "monsters" that you have never written about? Is "monster" the right word to describe vampires, witches and Lasher? Is there a real-life Lestat that you patterned the character on?

AR: My favorite monster is the vampire without doubt. He is a metaphor for the outsider in all of us, the outcast, the lonely one, the lost one. I'll be interrogating that metaphor for the rest of my life.  


KW: Editor/Legist Patricia Turnier says: Without giving too much away about Beauty’s Kingdom, tell us what readers should expect from it? If it becomes a movie one day, who’d you like to direct and star in it?

AR: Beauty's Kingdom picks up the characters twenty years after the trilogy. Beauty and her beloved husband, King Laurent, are called upon to come back to the kingdom where they met as slaves and preserve the way of erotica slavery. Beauty declares that henceforth all slavery must be voluntary and open to applicants of all classes.  The book explores, among other things, the outlook of those who volunteer to be slaves and how they love it and what they expect from their royal masters and mistresses.  ----  Right now, Beauty is being developed for cable television.


KW: Patricia also says: I didn't read Interview with the Vampire but I truly loved the movie. The best movies often come from great books, and it helps when the author writes the screenplay like in this case. How did you insure that the filmmaker would do a great job adapting your novel? Were you involved with the casting? Did you spend a lot of time on the set, too?  

AR: I couldn't really insure anything. I did write the script and Neil Jordan added many things but was essentially faithful to the script and the books.  But it's always a risk. There was no guarantee it would turn out that way.  David Geffen was the producer behind it all, and it was his desire I think for fidelity that underscored the whole effort. 


KW: It is amazing that you became highly successful with your first novel. I assume you encountered many naysayers prior to getting published. What kept you going and what advice do you have for aspiring authors?

AR: Writers have to have faith. They have to be stubborn.  They have to endure lots of insults, contemptuous dismissal and criticism, and they have to keep going. I always believed this. I always believed the author has to fight for her vision, her story, her characters, her "right" to be a writer and to offer something fresh and interesting in a marketplace that will always be tough. I don't know where I got my courage. I am a scrapper. It's in my genes.  


KW: What was your first job?

AR:  My first job was as a cafeteria waitress in a downtown cafeteria in New Orleans.  I worked on weekends and made 75 cents an hour.  It was hard work but I loved it.  


KW: Thanks again for the time, Anne, and best of luck with the book.

AR:  Thank you, Kam.

To order a copy of Beauty’s Kingdom, visit:


UserpicHeavenly Sistahs Expound on Brotherly Love
Posted by Kam Williams

Queen Latifah and Keke Palmer
The “Brotherly Love” Interview
with Kam Williams

Keke Palmer is a multi-talented actress, singer, songwriter and talk show host who made her screen debut at the age of 10 in Barbershop 2 before landing a breakout role a couple of years later as the title character in Akeelah and the Bee. The emerging ingenue has since embarked on an enviable showbiz career in film, on TV and in music while also finding time to give back to the community.

By contrast Oscar-nominee Queen Latifah (for Chicago) started out as a hip-hop artist before adding acting to her repertoire. She’s also proved to be a popular spokesperson for everything from Jenny Craig to Pizza hut to CoverGirl cosmetics.

Here, the two talk about Brotherly Love, a hip-hop driven drama starring Keke which was produced by Latifah.        


Kam Williams: Hi Queen and Keke, I’m so honored to have this opportunity to speak with both of you.

Keke Palmer: So are we.

Queen Latifah: Thanks, Kam.


KW: Queen, Professor/Filmmaker/Author Hisani DuBose has a question for you: With all that you've accomplished, was it still difficult for you to get this project greenlit?

QL: Well, it wasn’t hard to get it greenlit, because we greenlit it. [Laughs] It’s easy when you’re the greenlighter. Really, it was more about lining up the financing. It always comes back to the dollars and cents, and finding the money to be able to fund the project and make it happen. That’s what we went on immediately, and I’m fortunate to work with a tiger who doesn’t rest until it all happens. He and I really jumped in on it until and worked with some other partners to help create the finances, and they came through for us. So, we all put it together, collectively, and made it happen.


KW: Hisani has one for Keke, too: Did you feel a lot of pressure having to grow from a child star into a woman under the bright lights of Hollywood?

KP: I definitely, at times, felt the pressures of life similar to the pressures anyone would feel growing up. The only difference was that maybe more people were aware of mine. But, if anything, I changed the pressure from negative to positive. So, instead of thinking everybody wanted to see me fail, I decided everybody wanted to see me win, since I wanted to see myself win. I’m glad and appreciate having people on my team who are watching and looking out for me. Let me continue to make them proud and continue to give away the gift that was given to me.


KW: Editor/Legist Patricia Turnier asks: Keke, how did you prepare to play Jackie?

KP: I thought it was really awesome that I got a chance to be in a movie being made right in Philadelphia. Being around a lot of kids, walking around the streets of Overbrook and actually getting to know the neighborhood helped give me an idea of what their reality was like. It was nice to discover that it wasn’t that much different from where I grew up. And then I also got to spend time with the rest of the cast, because this was an independent film. That meant we had so much more creative control and creative liberties, as well as a lot of time to spend with one another while we were trying to get everything going. I think the chemistry among the cast is what really makes the film feel so good to me. We got to work with each other long enough to get a feel for each other and that really made the characters come to life.  


KW: Children’s book author Irene Smalls asks: What message do you want people to take away Brotherly Love?

KP: I want them to get whatever they honestly get from it. I don’t want to tell them what they should be receiving from it, ‘cause that would kill the experience. But what I took away from the film was the importance of choices. Sometimes, when you grow up in one of these poverty-stricken neighborhoods where the educational system isn’t the best, you don’t realize that you have any choices. Often, kids don’t appreciate the choices available, as if it’s either the street or nothing. I want them to understand that reality is what’s relative to you, and that you can make choices that allow you to create a new reality for yourself. 


KW: Bobby Shenker says: I was so excited to hear that you’re starring as Bessie Smith. Years ago, when I saw you in Living Out Loud [with Holly Hunter and Danny DeVito], I said, “This woman needs to play Bessie Smith in a biopic.” And I'm sure I've posted numerous suggestions of this over the years. So I'm ecstatic! I think I revisited that thought when you did Chicago. My only wish would have been that it was on the big screen. Love from Philly to the Queen!

QL: Thanks Bobby!


KW: Marcia Evans says: Share that we sistahs are proud of the Queen. And tell her that not only myself but my mother and my aunt adore her work. So she must keep her film projects coming because we will be watching. We can't wait to see her upcoming new biopic about the iconic blues singer Bessie Smith. She asks: Do you have another biopic planned?

QL: Thanks, Marcia. There are actually a couple floating around, but the scripts aren’t quite where they need to be for me to pull the trigger on them yet. And I’m working on three scripts that are really close to me featuring three completely different characters from totally different time periods. So, I’m going to have a lot of fun once I decide which one’s going to go first. And I can’t wait! [Chuckles]


KW: Environmental activist Grace Sinden says: Keke, I am impressed with your career achievements at a young age, and I’m additionally impressed with your philanthropic work, for example, with the Boys & Girls Club, Urban Farming, Saving Our Daughters, including anti-bullying, etcetera. What motivated you to be so involved with charitable activities? 

KP: Something that was instilled in me by my parents at a very young age is that there is no happy life without a life of service. Over the course of my career, I’ve been fortunate to always encounter others who share that philosophy, like Queen Latifah, people who understand that when you’ve been blessed, you have to share your gifts, and you also have to help others give their gifts away. Being of service is something that really makes me happy. Being able to tell young kids about something they might never have known without meeting someone with my experiences is what really what I feel it’s all about. I feel that’s the only way that you get fulfillment out of life.  


KW: Reverend Florine Thompson asks: What advice do you have to offer young girls hoping to emulate your success? 

KP: To be true to your heart, and if you’re passionate about your dream, work towards it but don’t allow your idea of how you think it should manifest prevent what’s actually unfolding from happening. You know what I mean? Be present in the moment and allow yourself to be guided by it by God. Allow Him to guide you and just embrace every situation, good or bad, since you’re experiencing it because you’re meant to go through it.


KW: Thanks again for the time, and best of luck with Brotherly Love.

QL: Thanks, Kam.

KP: Bye.

To see a trailer for Brotherly Love, visit:


UserpicPinto's Intro
Posted by Kam Williams

Freida Pinto

Freida Pinto
The “Desert Dancer” Interview
with Kam Williams

Born in Mumbai on October 18, 1984, Freida Pinto exhibited an interest in acting from an early age. She had participated in community theater as well as school productions by the time she graduated with a degree in English Literature from St. Xavier’s College, rated the top college in India for the Arts.

Freida was signed as a model by the Elite Agency and was hired to anchor a TV travel show prior to making her highly-acclaimed screen debut co-starring opposite Dev Patel in Slumdog Millionaire, which swept the 2009 Academy Awards. She’s since appeared in Woody Allen’s You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger, portrayed the title characters in Trishna and Miral, and played James Franco’s love interest in Rise of the Planet of the Apes.

Here, she talks about her latest outing in Desert Dancer, a biopic about Afshin Ghaffarian, the Iranian dissident who founded an underground, modern dance company in a country where dancing is strictly forbidden.    



Kam Williams: Hi Freida. Thanks for the interview. I’m honored to have this opportunity to speak with you.

Freida Pinto: Of course, Kam. Thank you so much for doing this for my little, tiny film.


KW: A small, but powerful art film. It had everybody at my screening crying.  

FP: Oh my God! Thank you for telling me. We love hearing that there wasn’t a single dry eye in the room. That’s what we aimed for.


KW: Yes, it was very moving, as well as uplifting. In this picture, you reminded me of Halle Berry in Jungle Fever, where she also played a drug addict. Have you seen it?

FP: No, I haven’t. But I love Halle Berry, so thanks for the compliment. I’m going to watch it.


KW: How did you prepare to play a heroin addict?

FP: I didn’t want to watch any film about heroin addicts, because I didn’t want to imitate or exactly copy someone else’s take on what the individual symptoms were, although I did watch Candy, with Abbie Cornish and Heath Ledger, which was amazing. Instead, what I did was spend a lot of time with my director [Richard Raymond] at A.A. meetings in London, and just listened to people speak.


KW: I told my readers I’d be interviewing you. So I’m mixing in some of their questions with mine. Sangeetha Subramanian says: Hi Freida, the movie looks great! What was the process like learning the dances for the film? 

FP: It involved a physically-demanding regimen, because in a movie like this about dance, the actors are expected to look the part. So, first, we had choreographers and trainers come and break us down. If we arrived thinking movement was a certain thing, they were teaching us something brand new. We were being twisted and turned and bent backwards, and under the most challenging of circumstances, as well. We were working really, really long hours, so we had to push ourselves. It was amazing to test your endurance and find yourself motivated to go one step beyond what you thought were your limits. Another aspect was the mental and emotional training, especially with my character, Elaheh. It was very important that I let myself go, and experience things I was afraid of experiencing.


KW: Attorney Bernadette Beekman asks: Did your training in classical Indian dance help prepare you for the 8 hours of daily practice for this role?

FP: [Laughs] I wish I really had any training in classical Indian dance. That’s Wikipedia just lying. That is not true. I came with zero experience from the dance world. The only dancing I’d ever done was in clubs. [Laughs some more] 


KW: Bernadette also admires that you are so involved in causes respecting girls and education. She asks: Is there any particular subject or course of study you would recommend to young girls considering a career in film? 

FP: In film? I have not been formally trained at an acting school or even a film school. But when I majored in English Literature in college, part of the syllabus covered film in literature, adaptations, and reading poetry and prose from the early 19th Century to the present, all of which was beautiful and opened your mind to so much more. But I also studied Psychology which helped me immeasurably, and continues to help me in terms of the science of accessing emotions and how the human brain functions. I find all of that very intriguing. I’m not saying that’s the answer for other actors, just that I’m a very cerebral and scientific kind of person. More than anything else, if you can spend a great deal of dedicated time observing people without judgment, that can be a great way of learning. 


KW: Editor Lisa Loving says: You are such a talented performer, and yet I have been thrilled at the work you have done to support underprivileged women and children around the world. This film, too, shows the power of art in a corrupt society. What do you think are the most pressing political and social issues we should be addressing today? And what do you think we, as citizens of the world, should be doing to make it a better place?  

FP: I’m not going to comment on political issues. America and India both have their issues. One thing I can say is that awareness is very, very important because we’re living in a world which is literally shrinking by the day. We are global citizens. So, for us not to be aware of what’s happening to our neighbor is almost sad. Once you’re aware, then you can decide what cause you want to dedicate your time to. I feel that all of us can contribute something, and it doesn’t have to be money. It can just be service or talent.  


KW: Environmental activist Grace Sinden asks: Have you ever felt culture shock in moving between the Indian and American cultures? If so, what have you found to be the biggest differences between the two cultures?

FP: No, not at all. Perhaps growing up in Bombay made me immune to culture shock, in a way. So, culture shock is not part of my DNA.


KW: Editor/Legist Patricia Turnier asks: Would you be interested in dubbing your dialogue into Hindi?

FP: I’d love to, if that means opening up the film to another audience. In fact, I did that for Slumdog Millionaire and in Trishna, which was part Hindi, part English. The subject-matter of Desert Dancer is not just limited to Iran. Freedom of expression can be a topic of discussion in India as much as it is in America or Iran. 


KW: Patricia also asks: Is there an Indian figure you would like to portray in a biopic, such as Indira Gandhi?

FP:Yes! Quite a few. Indira Gandhi and Jhansi Rani, to name a couple. Jhansi Rani was actually a soldier. You should Google her. She’s phenomenal! There’s also a Pakistani character I’d love to play. But I’d never mention her name right now, because I’d get into so much trouble.   


KW: The Harriet Pakula-Teweles question: With so many classic films being redone, is there a remake you'd like to star in?

FP: Oh, I’ve never been asked that… I’m a great admirer of Audrey Hepburn, so I’d love to be a part of a different take on any of her films, like a re-versioning of Breakfast at Tiffany’s. 


KW: The Uduak Oduok question: Who is your favorite clothes designer?

FP: Gosh, there are so many. My association and affiliation with a lot of fashion brands goes way beyond the fashion itself, almost into a relationship. Right now, I have a very, very strong relationship with the Ferragamo family. So, I’d have to say Salvatore Ferragamo.


KW: The Ling-Ju Yen question: What is your earliest childhood memory?

FP: This was an exercise I had to do in an Actor’s Workshop. It was of me getting lost in a fair in Bombay. I thought I was lost for about 2 hours, but my dad said it was only about 2 minutes.


KW: What is your favorite dish to cook?

FP: Anything that is breakfast-related. I love making eggs and avocado toast, but I have no patience for the rest of the day. The only thing I can pride myself on is making a really good breakfast.


KW: Lastly, what’s in your wallet?

FP: Money, hopefully. [Laughs] I don’t carry a wallet, per se. I just carry a tiny thing that can hold a credit card, an I.D. and a little bit of cash.


KW: Thanks again for the time, Freida, and best of luck with the film.

FP: Thank you, Kam.

To see a trailer for Desert Dancer, visit:


UserpicA Spirited Tete-a-Tete with the Miniseries’ Star and Director
Posted by Kam Williams

Aunjanue Ellis and Clement Virgo
“The Book of Negroes” Interview
with Kam Williams


Aunjanue Ellis starred as Aminata Diallo in The Book of Negroes, the hit, TV-miniseries based on Lawrence Hill’s award-winning best seller of the same name. Here, she and the picture’s director, Clement Virgo, share their thoughts about the adaptation of the historical novel chronicling the life of an 11 year-old girl kidnapped in Africa and enslaved for decades in the U.S. until she manages to escape to Canada.


Kam Williams: Hi Aunjanue and Clement, thanks for the interview.

Aunjanue Ellis: Thank you, Kam.

Clement Virgo: Absolutely!


KW: What interested you in The Book of Negroes, Aunjanue?

AE: To be honest, the first thing that interested me was seeing that the CBC [Canadian Broadcasting Corporation] and BET [Black Entertainment Television] were partnering on the project. In my mind, I couldn’t think of two more divergent networks. Then, I found out it was based on this wonderful historical novel about a woman’s story of survival. I love doing that kind of work. 


KW: Did you read the book before accepting the role?

AE: Yes, I did.


KW: Clement, what inspired you to turn it into a mini-series?

CV: The book was quite a phenomenon in Canada, where it won the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize and sold a million copies. I fell in love with Aminata Diallo and enjoyed reading about the period of history that she takes us through. I thought I knew about the American Revolutionary War and about my own and Canadian history. But I didn’t know about people migrating from New York to Nova Scotia, or appreciate that if you were African-American, you really had to choose sides during the Revolutionary War. And I saw Aminata as being a lot like Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, where she was caught up in this twister of slavery, and all she wanted to do was get back home. Her determination to survive was so powerful, I felt like I had to tell the story.


KW: Given the facts brought out about the Revolutionary War by The Book of Negroes, do you think that the American colonies were on the wrong side of history? The film suggests that the British were lesser of two evils. Have blacks been mis-educated into siding with the Patriots over the British Loyalists in the same way Native Americans talk about being manipulated by movies as children into rooting for the Cowboys over the Indians?

AE: The British kept their slaves while wanting to get rid of America’s, so you can take from that what you will. It’s a lot more complicated than we’re led to believe.


KW: Do you think George Washington’s ex-slave, Henry Washington, should be more of a hero to African-Americans than his master, the first president of the United States? After all, he escaped from slavery and then gained his freedom by fighting with the British during the Revolutionary War. 

AE: America is steeped in mythology. The problem is that it’s been living a myth since its inception, starting with The Declaration of Independence. How can you say that all people are created equal, but mean only if they’re white and male? So, we, as its citizens, have continually had to die in the streets to force the country to live up to that promise and be more than a myth, and be a reality for all. That’s why it’s so genius that Clement has Aminata say to George Washington, “If this is what you’re claiming to be, then why do you have slaves?” This picture does a great job of shattering the myths perpetuated in many schoolbooks.


KW: This film actually moved me to tears on several occasions, like the very touching scene where Aminata tracks down her baby shortly after it was sold, but was immediately ordered off the plantation by its heartless, new slave owner.  

CV: I’m glad to hear that. It was important to all of us to capture the totality of these characters’ humanity and not just reduce them to their circumstances. Aminata fascinates me, because she reminds me of all that black people have had to overcome. I also appreciated the fact that she was a midwife, since one of the last things she had been told by her mother before being kidnapped and sold into slavery was, “As long as babies are being born, life will go on.” So, her subsequently bringing life into the world is very, very significant.


KW: Editor Lisa Loving says: I meet so many people who don't really know, or worse, don’t think about, the racist roots of our country which have grown into this imperfect present day. Do you see the success of The Book of Negroes miniseries as part of a greater awareness in the United States of our racist history and how we should be living now?

CV: I consider it part of my job as a filmmaker to put art out into the world that is positive and affirms life. Yes, it says the roots may be racist and brutal, but it cannot define us and it cannot stop us.


KW: Lisa also asks: Who do you feel is The Book of Negroes’ intended audience?

AE: Everybody.


KW: Harriet Pakula-Teweles asks: How much of YOU is in Aminata Diallo, and how much did you allow yourself to get lost in the character?

AE: Aminata couldn’t be more different from me than any character I’ve ever played in terms of her temperament, her world view and the way she carried herself with so much wisdom and grace, even as a child. My sense of self is a lot more haphazard. I lost myself with her, when I put my costume on. You can’t go through what she went through as an actor without giving yourself over to it completely. And I did. So, it got very hard and depressing. Who she is, is not me, which is why playing her was so rewarding ultimately. And I’m very grateful when anyone compliments me on my performance, since that means that they didn’t catch on that I was acting.


KW: Lastly, what’s in your wallet?

CV: [Laughs] What’s in my wallet? I have a check for $257 that I’ve been walking around with for three weeks that I need to cash.

AE: [Laughs] I have a wallet that I got when we were shooting in South Africa. What’s in it? Some change from Canada and other places, and my expired driver’s license. [Laughs some more]


KW: Thanks again for the time, Aunjanue and Clement, and best of luck with all your endeavors.

AE: Thank you so much, Kam.

CV: Bye!

To see a trailer for The Book of Negroes, visit:


UserpicShailene Woodley (INTERVIEW)
Posted by Kam Williams

Shailene Woodley

The “Insurgent” Interview

with Kam Williams


Shailene! Shailene!

Shailene Woodley skyrocketed to fame on the strength of her powerful performance opposite George Clooney in The Descendants. Among the many accolades she landed for her work in that Academy Award-nominated film were the Independent Spirit and National Board of Review Awards for Best Supporting Actress, in addition to Golden Globe and Critics’ Choice Award nominations in the same category.  

Last fall, Shailene starred in the coming-of-age drama White Bird in a Blizzard, directed by Gregg Araki. And she further solidified her stature as a talented and versatile actress in the critically-acclaimed The Fault in Our Stars, the big screen adaption of John Green’s best-selling novel.

Prior to that, she starred opposite Miles Teller in The Spectacular Now. The co-stars shared the Special Jury Prize for Dramatic Acting at the Sundance Film Festival in January 2013. Shailene’s star status was firmly established by response to the big screen version of Divergent, the sci-fi thriller based on the popular Young Adult novel of the same name by Veronica Roth.

She is currently in production playing the female lead opposite Joseph Gordon-Levitt in Oliver Stone’s Snowden, the real-life story of the Edward Snowden, the 28 year-old hacker-turned-whistleblower who leaked classified information from the NSA about surveillance programs run by the U.S.

Shailene began her career at the age of 5 soon after being spotted by an agent who recognized her potential. She cut her teeth in commercials before landing her first TV role in the 1999 made-for-TV movie, “Replacing Dad.”  

Shailene has some rather ethnically-diverse roots, being of British extraction on her father’s side, and a mix of African-American, Creole, French, Spanish, Swiss and German on her mother’s.  When not on a set, she spends as much time as possible outdoors, thinking of ways she can help keep the environment beautiful and healthy for future generations. Here, she talks about reprising the role of Tris in Insurgent, the eagerly-anticipated sequel to Divergent co-starring Kate Winslet, Octavia Spencer, Naomi Watts and Zoe Kravitz.


Kam Williams: Hi Shailene, thanks for the interview. I’m honored to have this opportunity to speak with you.

Shailene Woodley: Omigosh, Kam, thank you for talking to me.


KW: Well, I’ve been so impressed with your acting abilities over the course of your brief career, from The Descendants to The Spectacular Now to 2014 when you really exhibited your versatility in Divergent, The Fault in Our Stars and White Bird in a Blizzard.

SW: Thank you!


KW: Just so you know, I’m going to mix in questions from fans with some of my own.

SW: Great!


KW: Children’s book author Irene Smalls asks: How do you prepare for such a physically-demanding role?  

SW: There was definitely some training involved, but there wasn’t anything too gnarly, as far as preparation goes. The most physical thing we had to do in this film was a lot of running.


KW: Irene also asks: What do you most want to communicate to the audience about Tris in this installment?

SW: I think in this movie Tris is really able to utilize and showcase the strengths that she gained from being “Dauntless” in the last movie.


KW: Larry Greenberg says: From the trailer, Insurgent looks like the kind of sci-fi action I want to fully immerse myself in. I don't just want to see it in 3D; I want to see it in 3D IMAX while floating in an isolation chamber.

SW: Wow!


KW: Larry does have a question: Were there any special directions Robert Schwentke gave you that enabled you to be so convincing as Tris?

SW: Special directions. The thing with Robert is that he was very keen on getting a sense of what my opinion was of who Tris is, and how she exists in the world. It was really exciting to work with someone who was so willing to collaborate. 


KW: Sangeetha Subramanian says: Shailene, Divergent was one of the best movies I've seen in a long time! Can't wait to see Insurgent. What was it like on set in between serious takes? 

SW: It was great on set. Luckily, nobody took themselves too seriously, so even if there was a serious scene, there were never any stakes that felt very high.


KW: Harriet Pakula-Teweles asks: How is your approach to acting altered by whether you’re performing for TV versus the big screen?

SW: I don’t know that it’s any different except that with TV you have a limited amount of time to get certain shots. So, there seems to be a sense of rushing, while with movies you have more time to get the shots that you need.


KW: Harriet also asks: How much of the real Shailene is in Tris, and to what extent did you allow yourself to just get lost in the role?

SW: There is a lot of me in Tris, definitely. I really admire her bravery and her courage. But as far as getting lost in the role, it was more about calling upon my own bravery and courage, and reacting based on how Tris would react in any given situation


KW: Her last question: With so many classic films being redone, is there a remake you'd like to star in?

SW: I don’t want to star in a remake. I don’t think they should be remaking a lot of classics, because so many of them are great on their own.


KW: Environmental activist Grace Sinden says: You've already had a phenomenal career at a young age. Were you nervous about working with George Clooney in The Descendants?  

SW: No, I wasn’t nervous. I was really excited, because I really admired him and admired his work, and was very, very keen on learning from him.


KW: You’re presently shooting Snowden with Oscar-winner Oliver Stone. How’s that experience thus far?

SW: It’s amazing!


KW: The Ling-Ju Yen question: What is your earliest childhood memory?

SW: Hmm… [Pauses to think] Probably, of my brother being born when I was about 3.


KW: What is your favorite dish to cook?

SW: Ooh, any kind of meat. I’m a big stew person, like a meat stew.


KW: The Uduak Oduok question: Who is your favorite clothes designer?

SW: I don’t have one favorite.


KW: When you look in the mirror, what do you see?

SW: I see a lot of opportunity for growth.


KW: If you could have one wish instantly granted, what would that be for?

SW: The eradication of big corporations.


KW: The bookworm Troy Johnson question: What was the last book you read?

SW: The last book I read was called “Dear Lover” by David Deida.


KW: The Viola Davis question: What’s the biggest difference between who you are at home as opposed to the person we see on the red carpet?

SW: At home, I never have makeup on.


KW: The Teri Emerson question: When was the last time you had a good laugh?

SW: This morning.


KW: The Kerry Washington question: If you were an animal, what animal would you be?

SW: Maybe a bird.


KW: The Anthony Mackie question: Isthere anything that you promised yourself you’d do if you became famous, that you still haven’t done yet?

SW: [Chuckles] Nope, because becoming famous was never on my mind.


KW: The Anthony Anderson question: If you could have a superpower, which one would you choose?

SW: [Growls] Fly!


KW: The Judyth Piazza question: What key quality do you believe all successful people share? 

SW: Yeah, I don’t know that every single successful person has this quality, but I think it’s an ability to fight no matter what, to keep going no matter how difficult an obstacle in front of you might seem.


KW: The Gabby Douglas question: If you had to choose another profession, what would that be?

SW: I’d love to learn more about the human anatomy.


KW: What’s in your wallet?

SW: [Laughs] I don’t have a wallet.


KW: The Nancy Lovell Question: Why do you love doing what you do?

SW: I love doing what I do because it’s an art form and I get to tell stories.


KW: The Rudy Lewis question: Who’s at the top of your hero list?

SW: My mom.


KW: The music maven Heather Covington question: What was the last song you listened to? 

SW: I’ve recently discovered Asaf Avidan, and I’ve become obsessed with his new album.


KW: The Pastor Alex Kendrick question: When do you feel the most content?

SW: When I’m honoring myself.


KW: Is there something you wish people would note about you?

SW: Not necessairly.


KW: The Toure question: Who is the person who most inspired you to become the person you are today?

SW: My momma.


KW: What do you admire about her?

SW: She is somebody who fights really hard for world compassion and empathy for others.


KW: What effect did having to wear a back brace as a child for scoliosis have on you? Was it very traumatic?

SW: Not at all. I just thought of it as something to embrace. It was just something I had. I could either be upset by it and be triggered by it, or embrace it and commit to working on it and move forward.


KW: The Mike Pittman question: What was your best career decision?

SW: I don’t know whether it’s decisions I’ve made, or opportunities I’ve been fortunate to have. I guess doing The Descendants was a big turn for me but, at the same time, it wasn’t really a decision because I would’ve given anything to be a part of that film. 


KW: The Tasha Smith question: Are you ever afraid on the scene?

SW: I don’t necessarily get afraid but, yes, you can definitely get nervous before a scene, occasionally, especially if you’re working with someone new that you really admire that you want to not impress, but honor.


KW: What is your guiltiest pleasure?

SW: Chocolate.


KW: What do you want that you don’t have yet?

SW: I would love to go to massage school, and learn about the way muscles affect bones.


KW: Attorney Bernadette Beekman asks: What is your favorite charity?

SW: I’m very fond of an organization called, Food & Water Watch.


KW: Thanks again for the time, Shailene, and best of luck with the film.

SW: Thanks so much, Kam. Have a wonderful day!

To see a trailer for Insurgent, visit:


Ben Crump
The “Ferguson” Interview
with Kam Williams

Ben Crump is the attorney of record in many high-profile, civil rights cases, most notably representing the families of Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown and Tamir Rice, the 12 year-old boy shot by a Cleveland, Ohio police officer a second after he got out of his patrol car.

Kam Williams: Hi Ben, I appreciate the time. I know how busy you are.

Ben Crump: You’re very, very welcome, Kam.


KW: What is your response to the recent shooting of the two police officers in Ferguson, Missouri?

BC: Together with the Brown family, I condemn the shootings and make an immediate appeal for nonviolence, as we have from the inception of this movement. The heinous act of this individual does not reflect or forward the peaceful and non-violent movement that has emerged in our nation to confront police brutality and to ensure equality for all people. An act of violence against any innocent person eludes moral justification, disgraces the millions of Americans and people throughout the world who have united in peaceful protest against police brutality, and dishonors our proud inheritance of nonviolent resistance. We support the imposition of the full extent of the law on the perpetrator, and our prayers are with the officers and their families.


KW: What do you make of Attorney General Holder’s recently declining to indict Officer Darren Wilson for the shooting of Michael Brown?

BC: I just think that the Department of Justice has to stop sanitizing all these killings of unarmed people of color. When you look at the Justice Department’s report talking about the Ferguson Police Department’s rampant pattern of discrimination and its excessive use of force against African-American citizens, it’s hard to try to rationalize how this cesspool of racism doesn’t spill over onto the individual officers. For instance, Sergeant Mudd, the first officer on the scene after Darren Wilson killed Michael Brown. He was Wilson’s mentor and supervisor. He was one of the primary witnesses and main advocates for Darren Wilson in front of the grand jury. We now know that this was the individual who sent the racist email that was repeatedly forwarded around the Ferguson Police Department saying that Crimestoppers paid a black woman $3,000 to get an abortion. So you have this cesspool of racism, yet they’re trying to suggest that it’s not going to affect individual officers. The Attorney General says that you have this high standard that you have to show that at the time of the shooting the individual was thinking hateful or racist thoughts. That’s an almost impossible standard. It should be enough to show implicit bias, given all the attendant circumstances. If there’s a pattern and practice of discrimination and excessive force, you should be able to hold these officers accountable for killing unarmed citizens. The reason I say that, Kam, is because, if there are no real consequences for their actions, we won’t get any different results. We need real consequences to get real results. There’s no deterrent to these officers’ behavior when they continue to see the local and federal governments under the Obama Administration sanitizing the killings of unarmed black and brown people.


KW: Holder’s also just announced that there will be no arrest of George Zimmerman for violating the civil rights of Trayvon Martin. That shocked me because everyone heard the recording of the 911 operator ordering Zimmerman to stay in his car and to wait for the police to arrive. But he ignored the instructions and killed an innocent teen innocently walking down the street, just yards from home. And even that’s not considered a violation of the child’s rights? How insane is that?

BC: Absolutely! We keep seeing a reoccurrence of their sanitizing these killings. It almost encourages people to conclude that they did nothing wrong, since the government didn’t press any charges. We’ve got to somehow send a message to deter this conduct. Otherwise, we’re going to see it over and over and over again. It’s becoming almost like an epidemic.


KW: No kidding. Just since you and I last spoke, we’ve had police shootings of Jerome Reid getting out of a car with his hands up in New Jersey, a homeless man in Los Angeles, 19 year-old Tony Robinson in Madison, Wisconsin, and Antonio Zambrano-Montes in Spokane, Washington.

BC: We’re representing Antonio Zambrano-Montes’ family.


KW: Great! And there’s also Sureshbhai Patel, an elderly tourist from India who was left paralyzed by a cop in Alabama who thought he was a black man prowling around a white neighborhood. These incidents are happening about once a week now. What about the Tamir Rice case? The chief of police in Cleveland is a black man, so I was stunned when the city said the boy’s death was directly caused by his own acts, not by police officer Timothy Loehmann. How did you react to that conclusion?

BC: It was literally shocking that, based on what we see in that surveillance video, this 12 year-old child could be called responsible for his own death because he wasn’t being careful, versus what we see and know happened there; how these officers violated all their procedures, training and department regulations, and drove up to the scene recklessly in a way which escalated the situation. Tamir Rice was killed in less than one second which was totally disrespectful. And the pattern of disrespect continued when his 14 year-old sister ran up crying, “You killed my baby brother!” Instead of showing her any compassion, they tackled her, handcuffed her, manhandled her, dragged her through the snow and threw her into the back of the police car where she had to sit helplessly 4 to 5 feet away from where her brother lay kicking as he died. As if that wasn’t bad enough, the pattern of disrespect continued with how they treated their mother when she arrived. They told her she could either get in the police car with her daughter to go to the station or get in the ambulance to go to the hospital with her son. And now the pattern of disrespect to the Rice family continues with blaming Tamir for his own death in the answer to the complaint of wrongful death we filed. That was shocking and sends a loud message not only to the people of Cleveland but to people all over America.   


KW: I’d also like to know how you feel about the video that surfaced of that Oklahoma fraternity singing that racist song on the bus.

BC: They may kick the fraternity off campus, but the thing that’s so unfortunate is that, no matter what they do, those students still felt it was okay to say what they said. So, you can’t help but wonder whether that’s how they really feel in their hearts. It reminded me of my personal hero, Thurgood Marshall. I’m reading Gilbert King’s Pulitzer Prize-winning book about the Groveland, Florida rape cases called “Devil in the Grove.” In it, he talks about Marshall, saying he had two fears. First, how big a celebration there was going to be the day racists lynched him and hung him from a tree. But his second and worst fear, after seeing so many young children in pictures of lynchings, was knowing that one day they would grow up to be running society. And that’s what I thought about watching the video on that bus. That in 20 years or so, those fraternity and sorority members will be running corporations, city governments and other institutions. And I wondered, what will their mentality be like? How does this bode for the future?


KW: I agree. It’s very scary. Thanks again, Ben, and keep fighting the good fight.

BC: Thanks so much Kam. Call anytime.


UserpicClarence Page (INTERVIEW)
Posted by Kam Williams

Clarence Page

The “Culture Worrier” Interview
with Kam Williams
Front “Page” News!

Clarence Page is a nationally-syndicated columnist and member of the Chicago Tribune editorial board. Besides those duties, the Pulitzer Prize-winner makes frequent TV appearances, including on The McLaughlin Group as a regular member of the show’s panel of political pundits.

Clarence makes his home in the Washington, DC area with his wife, Lisa, and their son, Grady. Here, he talks about his life, career and his best-selling collection of essay, “Culture Worrier.”

Kam Williams: Hi Clarence, how’re you doing?

Clarence Page: I’m good. How are you today, Kam?


KW: Great! First, I wanted to ask, how much of a connection do you still have to Chicago? You write for the Tribune, but live in DC.

CP: That’s right. I work out of our Washington bureau. My column is syndicated nationally, anyway. I have more of a Washington perspective than the other Tribune columnists, but I still love the place and try to get back as often as I can. And I occasionally do a locally-oriented blog item which is only printed in the Tribune.


KW: I think of you as the black Mike Royko. How would describe your style?

CP: I think every Chicago columnist considers himself to be a Mike Royko. [Chuckles] His office was next-door to mine at the Tribune Tower for a number of years. I always admired his strong voice… a very ordinary Chicagoan sitting at the bar after work going back-and-forth with his buddies about politics and this or that from a working-class point-of-view. I really appreciated his ability to do that so flawlessly, and in such a strong voice. So, I always tried to cultivate a voice assessing what was good for the average members of the public, and sometimes I succeeded. [Chuckles]


KW: You always do a great job. Tell me a little about why you decided to publish a collection of essays?

CP: It occurred to me that after doing this for 30 years, from the Reagan Era to the Age of Obama, that if there was ever an appropriate time for me to publish a collection of columns, this would be it. So, I went back and reread my pieces, and I began to notice the strong trend toward social commentary interwoven with politics played in most of them, and the phrase “Culture Worrier” just jumped out at me.


KW: How do you enjoy appearing on the McLaughlin Group with John, Eleanor Clift, Mort Zuckerman and Pat Buchanan?  

CP: I’ve been doing the show since about 1988. McLaughlin’s been a remarkable talent scout over the years when you think about how people like Chris Matthews, Lawrence O’Donnell and Jay Carney used to be regulars on the show.


KW: Marie Polo asks: What was the most interesting and the most challenging aspects of being an army journalist back in 1969?

CP: Oh, that’s an interesting question! I will say that the difference was that when you’re an Army journalist, as opposed to a civilian correspondent covering the military, you’re very often either a public relations agent or expected to perform that role, with a few exceptions, such as reporters for Stars and Stripes. I would say that one of the most unexpected benefits of that job was being taught to never try to cover anything up, but rather to get any bad information out right away, so that there would be nothing more to come out later. This was a wonderful lesson to be taught because often the effort to cover up a story becomes a bigger story than the original one.  


KW: You suffered from ADD, but it obviously didn't prevent you from having a very successful career as a journalist. How did you overcome this difficulty or turn it into a strength?

CP: I didn’t know I had ADD, because it hadn’t been invented back then. For what it’s worth, like a lot of others with ADD, I’ve been able to succeed simply by trying harder.


KW: When I watched Life Itself, the documentary about Roger Ebert, I learned that winning a Pulitzer Prize was a very big deal to him. What did winning a Pulitzer mean to you? 

CP: One thing about winning a Pulitzer, it means you know what the first three words of your obituary will be: Pulitzer Prize-winner. [Chuckles] After winning the Pulitzer, I couldn’t help but notice how people suddenly looked at me with a newfound respect, and would say, “He’s an expert.” On the negative side, I developed a terrible case of writer’s block for awhile, because I felt like readers would expect every one of my columns to be prize worthy. I spoke to a number of other Pulitzer winners who had the same problem, a creative block that had them hesitating. How do you get past the writer’s block? Nothing concentrates the mind like a firm deadline, and a little voice in the back of my mind reminding me that, “If you don’t write, you don’t eat.” Listen, we all want to be respected and appreciated, but when you get a big honor like that, people start to look for your work in a new way with higher expectations. Today, the best thing about having won is when I get a nasty comment from some internet troll I can remind myself of the Pulitzer and say, “Well, somebody appreciates me.”


KW: Dave Roth says: As far as I can tell, despite many people's well intentioned efforts over the last 50 years, America still appears to be a racially-divided and culturally-segregated country, as evidenced by, among many other examples, Ferguson, Missouri, any examination of failing public schools and/or prison populations, and the current gerrymandering case being heard by the Supreme Court. What, in your view, is substantially culturally different in the U.S. today versus say March 3, 1991, Rodney King Day? And what do you believe is the single greatest piece of evidence that progress is being made toward a society that provides equality of opportunity and treatment under the law, regardless of race, ethnicity or gender?

CP: Good question. First of all, I would say that our cultural divides are less racial and more tribal. We’re trying to reduce racial barriers to opportunity while at the same time not creating artificial quotas in regards to race. Today’s tribal politics is more attitudes and values-based than back in the olden days when it was something we strictly associated with ethnicity.


KW: Environmental activist Grace Sinden says: Thank you for your fine work in illuminating important issues. What do you see as the most critical domestic concern that needs to be addressed by our national government? 

CP: I would say environmental protection is our most important long-range issue. In the shorter term, as well as the longer term, I’ve always said our biggest challenge is in education, which has become even more challenging because of income inequality and wage stagnation. We haven’t confronted the fact that people who get their income from capital investments have benefited while ordinary workers who rely on salary have not. So, the income gap is getting worse. But Washington is in gridlock, politically, and I’m pessimistic about our making any major improvements over the next couple years. 


KW: Sangeetha Subramanian asks: When you think about your legacy how would you like to be remembered? 

CP: What a wonderful question! When I posed that question to retiring Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, he looked up as if he were surprised, but he quickly responded, “That he did the best he could with what he had.” It was remarkably humble, but to the point. That’s how I’d like to be remembered, too.


KW: Is there any question no one ever asks you, that you wish someone would?

CP: [LOL] That’s good one, too! What would I have done, if I had not become a political writer? I wanted to become an entertainment writer. I’ve always been fascinated by showbiz as much as I was by politics.


KW: What is your favorite dish to cook?

CP: Pasta and salmon.


KW: The bookworm Troy Johnson question: What was the last book you read?

CP: Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. She’s dynamite!


KW: When you look in the mirror, what do you see?

CP: I see a guy getting older. [Laughs] But I always try to keep my mind open or I’d never have figured out Twitter and Instagram.


KW: The Ling-Ju Yen question: What is your earliest childhood memory?

CP: I remember being told by my parents when I was 4 that I couldn’t go to an amusement park advertised on TV because colored kids weren’t allowed there. That was a bit of a shock and really stayed with me over the years. That was how I first learned about racial segregation. Fortunately, I took it as a challenge, early on, and it motivated me. You never know how a child might respond to discrimination. It goes both ways. Some kids become embittered.


KW: Thanks again for the time, Clarence, I really enjoyed our chat.

CP: Same here. Thanks, Kam


UserpicJake Tapper (INTERVIEW)
Posted by Kam Williams

Jake Tapper

“The Lead” Interview

with Kam Willi


Jake on Tap!

In his capacity as CNN’s chief Washington correspondent, Jake Tapper hosts “The Lead.” The one-hour weekday program examines and advances stories from around the globe that reflect his curiosities and interests, ranging from politics to money, and from sports to pop culture.

Jake has been a widely-respected reporter in the nation’s capital for more than 14 years, and his most recent book, “The Outpost: An Untold Story of American Valor,” debuted in the Top Ten on The New York Times’ best-seller list. Prior to CNN, he was employed by ABC News, where he had served as senior White House correspondent since the 2008 presidential election.

In that role, Jake contributed regularly to Good Morning America, Nightline and World News Tonight, in addition to serving as substitute host of This Week. He also had a blog, Political Punch, on In terms of accolades, he has earned the coveted Merriman Smith Award for presidential coverage from the White House Correspondents’ Association an unprecedented three consecutive times. And he played a key role in ABC’s Emmy Award-winning coverage of the 2009 inauguration of President Barack Obama, and its Murrow-Award-winning coverage of the death of Osama bin Laden.

Over the course of almost a decade at ABC News, he covered a wide range of stories, visiting remote corners of Afghanistan, covering the war in Iraq from Baghdad, and spending time in New Orleans during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. In 2008, he served as the lead political reporter for the coverage of the presidential election.

Jake began his journalism career at the Washington City Paper before being published in The New Yorker, The New York Times Magazine, The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times and The Weekly Standard, among others. He has drawn caricatures and illustrations for the Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times, and his comic strip, “Capitol Hell,” appeared in Roll Call from 1994 to 2003.

Jake is the author of a trio of books, including “The Outpost,” “Down and Dirty: The Plot to Steal the Presidency,” and “Body Slam: The Jesse Ventura Story.” A

Phi Beta Kappa, Magna Cum Laude graduate of Dartmouth College, Jake currently lives in Washington, DC with his wife Jennifer, their young son and daughter, and a dog and two cats.



Kam Williams: Hi Jake, thanks for the interview.

Jake Tapper: Sure, my pleasure, Kam.


KW: How did you end up in journalism, as the son of a pediatrician and a psychiatric nurse?

JT: Well, I don’t have their gifts for science and math, so going into medicine was never going to be a path for me. But we were a family of news junkies, and I was born in ’69, so awareness of my parents’ progressive politics was always very much in the forefront of our dinner table discussions, whether about Watergate, Vietnam, the Black Panthers, or Philadelphia’s Mayor, Frank Rizzo. So, from a very early age, my brother and I watched the news every night and were very aware of the political issues of the day. And ultimately, after a few false starts that included going to film school after I finished college, and serving as press secretary for a family friend running for Congress, I finally figured out what I wanted to do. Telling stories about what’s going on, and reporting the news became a very natural fit. Actually, it’s kind of surprising that it took so long to figure it out.


KW: Did you write for The Dartmouth Review while you were there? It might be the most famous college student paper in the country. But I would guess that you didn’t, since it only promotes conservative points-of-view.

JT: No, I didn’t write for the Review, but I did do a daily comic strip for the regular school newspaper, The Dartmouth, where I would comment on the events of the day in comic form. My strip would make fun of everyone: The Dartmouth Review, and liberal campus protestors, frat boys and sorority girls, the football team, and administrators and professors. 


KW: You also did a cartoon strip called “Capitol Hell,” after you moved to D.C.

JT: Yeah, that was a weekly comic strip published by Roll Call.


KW: Did you write and draw the strip?

JT: Yes, I was hoping to be a cartoonist, but I succeeded in journalism first, so I just stuck with it.


KW: How do you decide what stories you’re going to cover?

JT: That’s a great question. We devote a great deal of time debating what we think is the most important issue of the day with the goal of providing as much breaking new information as possible while also providing a mix and a balance of stories, so that we’re covering business and international affairs, as well as politics and international news, and some sports and pop culture, if there’s something we think rises to the level.


KW: And how do you decide whether a story’s important enough to cover it on location?

JT: That’s one of those things where, like Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart once said famously about obscenity: “I don’t know how to define it, but I know it when I see it.” One of the great journalistic thrills of this job has been to be able to anchor shows from Boston, Oklahoma, Paris or wherever a story is breaking and seems big enough. Sometimes, it’s really just a need to get there to talk to people who are already there on the scene. 


KW: Have you ever had a fear for your own safety while covering a story in a hot spot like Ferguson or Paris where there was a palpable possibility of danger in the air? 

JT: I wasn’t scared about my safety in Paris, but I will say that while I’ve reported from there, and from Israel, the West Bank, Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere, the place that seemed the most likely that I might be injured or worse in some sort of accident was Ferguson. That was both in the protests in August, and then much more starkly in October when there was the announcement that there would not be an indictment against Officer Wilson, which was followed by much more violent protests. That was the most hairy situation.


KW: What was the energy like in Ferguson?   

JT: I think that a lot of people parachuting in, like me, were coming into a situation that had been tense for decades. It seemed to me that the idea that this was all about one incident was incorrect. People were upset about their own personal experiences, as much, if not more so, as they were about what had happened to Michael Brown. 


KW: Why do you think President Obama decided not to attend the unity rally in Paris following the terrorist attacks there?

JT: I was never able to get a straight answer as to what happened, and why they made the glaring decision not to send even a high-ranking official from the administration. Why the White House didn’t remains a mystery to me. It’s likely that they thought of it was a European affair which didn’t necessitate the participation of the U.S. or, frankly, any leader from the Western Hemisphere. To me, when you’re in the last two years of an administration, and you don’t always have the best people giving the best advice at any given moment. But I honestly don’t know what happened. I’m still kind of confused by it. The White House basically said something to the effect of, “We should’ve sent somebody but we’re never going to tell you why we didn’t.”


KW: Did you really go on a date with Monica Lewinsky in 1998?

JT: Yes, about a month before she became a household name. We met at a party, and went on a very innocent date. I didn’t really think anything of it at the time. Then I went on a vacation with my dad, picked up a newspaper on our way back, and was stunned by what I was reading. And I wrote a story about for the Washington City Paper which is where I landed next. That was my first full-time job in journalism. 


KW: Have you remained in touch with her or tried to interview her?

JT: We exchange email on occasion. I think she knows that I’m here, if she wanted to do an interview, but I haven’t really been pressing for it.


KW: What do you think of her recent resurfacing?

JT: The truth is, I feel sorry for her. We all do stupid things when we’re 20 or 21. It would be horrible to have for a poor decision you made at that age to haunt you for the rest of your life. But it does happen. She’s a smart and good person who made a bad mistake with somebody who should’ve known a lot better. And it makes me sad as a friend of hers that it still haunts her.


KW: Is there any question no one ever asks you, that you wish someone would?

JT: No, not really, because I think of myself as an interviewer, not as the subject, as I’d guess you think of yourself, too.


KW: The bookworm Troy Johnson question: What was the last book you read?

JT: I started Wally Lamb’s third book, “The Hour I First Believed,” but I haven’t finished that yet.

The last book I finished was “American Sniper” by Chris Kyle, which I read before interviewing his widow, Taya, and Bradley Cooper.

I also just finished reading the first Harry Potter book with my 7 year-old.


KW: The Ling-Ju Yen question: What is your earliest childhood memory?

JT: That’s a question I’ve never been asked. I remember my parents dropping me off at my friend Eric Dudley’s house on their way to the hospital for my mom to have my brother. So, I was 4. And I also remember my brother being brought home. He and I are very close to this day.


KW: Was there a meaningful spiritual component to your childhood?

JT: I was brought up in a Conservative Jewish household. I went to a Hebrew school and to a Jewish sleep away camp. But I wouldn’t describe my childhood as particularly spiritual. My parents divorced when I was 7, which was almost trendy at the time. All my friends’ parents were getting divorced. I identified as a Jew, but much more so as a kid growing up in Philadelphia in the Seventies. It was an era of change.  


KW: When you look in the mirror, what do you see?

JT: I see someone a lot older than I expect to see. I feel like I’m about 27, so I’m surprised to see the gray and the bags under my eyes. But, I still have my hair, so I can’t complain. Let’s just say I did okay, follicly-speaking, with the genes I was handed. People don’t necessarily think I’m 46.


KW: The Tavis Smiley question: How do you want to be remembered?

JT: You really have to stand out to be remembered in this field. I don’t think very many journalists do get remembered. In terms of this profession, I would like to be remembered as a journalist who told the truth, who confronted people in power making questionable decisions, and who tried to do some good. But the truth of the matter is I only expect to be remembered by my kids, and I hope they think of me as a good dad.   


KW: Lastly, what’s in your wallet?

JT: My wallet’s a lot more exciting than its contents. I have a great wallet that everybody remarks about because it looks like one of those Aerogram letters. I got it at a toy store, and every year my wife buys me a new one because I’m one of those guys whose wallet looks like a corned beef sandwich after awhile. I’d be carrying around things like club cards for bookstores that don’t exist anymore. But right now, mine is pretty bareboned. It’s got credit cards, driver’s license, health insurance information, car information and a $50 traveler’s check that I never got around to cashing.


KW: thanks again for the time and keep up the great work, Jake. I think you have good energy and you exude a certain calmness and confidence that makes for a pleasant experience watching you.

JT: That’s really nice of you to say, Kam. Thanks.

To see Jake Tapper’s coverage of the unity rally in Paris, visit:    


UserpicBack with the Boys, Back in the Tub, and Backwards in Time Again
Posted by Kam Williams

Craig Robinson
The “Hot Tub Time Machine 2” Interview
with Kam Williams

Craig Robinson is arguably best known for his role as acerbic Dunder-Mifflin employee Darryl Philbin on NBC’s Emmy-winning The Office. Regardless of what role you know him from, he is definitely a world away from his original career intentions.

Before deciding to pursue his comedy career full time, Craig was a K-8 teacher in the Chicago Public School System. He earned his undergraduate degree from Illinois State University and his Masters of Education from St. Xavier University.

It was while he was studying Education that he also discovered his love of acting and comedy when he joined the famed Second City Theatre.

As a stand-up comic, Craig first made a splash at the 1998 “Just for Laughs” Festival in Montreal. That year, he also won the Miller Genuine Draft Comedy Search.

He soon went on to perform on The Jimmy Kimmel Show and on Real Time with Bill Maher. Now, headlining venues and festivals across the country, he does both solo acts as well as sets with his seven-piece band, The Nasty Delicious, thereby tying together his lyrical comedy with his finesse at the piano.

Success on The Office and his stand-up prowess quickly brought Craig to the attention of Judd Apatow who cast him as the sensitive bouncer in Knocked Up. He subsequently kept audiences glued to their seats as one of the henchman hunting Seth Rogen and James Franco’s bumbling stoner characters in Pineapple Express, and made fans squirm when he co-starred with Seth Rogen and Elizabeth Banks in Zack and Miri Make a Porno.

More recently, Craig has starred in Escape from Planet Earth, Peeples and This Is the End. And later this year, look for the premiere of Mr. Robinson, a TV show loosely based on his life as a teacher in Chicago.

Here, he talks about reprising the role of Nick in Hot Tub Time Machine 2, a sci-fi comedy co-starring Rob Corddry, Clark Duke and Adam Scott.


Kam Williams: Hey Craig, thanks for another interview.

Craig Robinson: My pleasure, Kam. How’re you doing?


KW: I’m doing great. How about yourself?

CR: I’m good. Thanks for getting the word out.


KW: Of course. As usual, I’ll be mixing in my questions with some from readers. Let me start with: What was the primary challenge you faced in getting back into the hot tub?

CR: With the addition of Adam Scott to the principal cast, the primary challenge was whether there would be chemistry. But that worry quickly changed to “Oh, it’s on!” So, the initial concern was about what was going to happen. Besides that, the heat was an issue at times, since we shot in New Orleans for a couple months.


KW: What was it like getting back together with director Steve Pink and your co-stars Rob and Clark?

CR: There’s nothing but love and trust there, so it was great. It was like being with friends, with people you already know. So, you have a sense of what makes each other tick and what makes each other laugh. Plus you bring along what you’ve learned since last time. The familiarity was wonderful!


KW: Larry Greenberg says: You mentioned sharing a special moment with Jessica Paré while shooting the original Hot Tub Time Machine, and that you enjoyed watching that scene over and over again. Did you have another memorable moment like that in Hot Tub Time Machine 2?

CR: Yes, except this time it was with Rob Corddry.


KW: Sangeetha Subramanian says: Craig, sequels can be great for reviving themes and running jokes from an original movie. Was that the case with Hot Tub Time Machine 2, or does the sequel focus more on breaking new ground?

CR: That’s a great question, Sangeetha. We definitely tip our hat to the original, but we also break new ground. It’s a marvelous mixture!


KW: Harriet Pakula-Teweles asks: Did you worry about running the risk of being typecast by agreeing to do the sequel? 

CR: Not at all. I’ve been typecast already. [Chuckles] I was first typecast after playing a bouncer in Knocked Up. Right away, I had four or five offers to play another bouncer. People kept saying, “Hey man, I got this role for you as a bouncer.” But in my mind, I was thinking, “Well, I’ve done that.” Then, when I was playing Darryl on The Office, some people started hating on me, saying I was best in small doses after a publication announced that I had landed a lead in a movie. So, I’m not going to worry about being typecast, I’m just going to continue doing what I do. 


KW: Eleanor Welski asks: What is your upcoming film Zeroville about? I see that it has a lot of the same cast as This Is the End.

CR:  Yeah, well Franco [James Franco] is directing that, so he called us in, and we were like, “Yeah, yeah, of course!” Once you’re familiar with someone’s track record, you know immediately whether or not you want to work with them. He has that kind of juice. I’m not aware of everyone else who’s in Zeroville, since I only had a couple of scenes. 


KW: The Teri Emerson question: When was the last time you had a good laugh?

CR:  Just today, flying on a plane to New Orleans with Steve [director Steve Pink], Josh, [scriptwriter Josh Heald] and Clark and Rob, we were all laughing really heard listening to Josh pitch some ideas he has for Hot Tub 3.


KW: Yeah? I’d love to hear them.

CR: Sorry, we don’t want to put the cart before the horse, so I can’t talk about that.


KW: You made a pilot for a TV series called Mr. Robinson. When’s the show coming on?

CR: We don’t have an air date yet, but we’ve already taped the premiere and the second episode in front of a live studio audience. We’re having a blast! It’s about me as a substitute music teacher whose first love is playing with my band. We use my actual band, The Nasty Delicious. And you get introduced to my childhood sweetheart from many, many, many years ago. She’s now a teacher at our old high school. I start subbing there just to be near her, but I fall in love with the school and I’m so good with the kids that I’m offered a permanent position. I take the job, and hijinks ensue.


KW: Sounds good!

CR: Speaking of good, Meagan Good’s my co-star. We’re very excited about that.


KW: Speaking of jobs, what was your first job?

CR: After high school, the summer before I started college, I worked as a gofer at an attorney’s office in downtown Chicago. I would make copies, buy bagels, go pick up checks, and do whatever they needed. My godfather, Eddie Jackson, rest his soul, got me that job. Sometimes, I’d have to deliver a million-dollar check and I’d hold it right up against my chest like it was going to blow away or something. [Laughs]


KW: The Viola Davis question: What’s the biggest difference between who you are at home as opposed to the person we see on the red carpet?

CR: I’m a Scorpio. I’m very quiet. In real life, I’m usually observing the situation. But the red carpet’s a circus where you’re expected to be talkative, work the room and be larger than life. I’d be perfectly comfortable to just sit there and observe, and pick my moments, which is what makes improvising with ensembles so much fun for me. I prefer to be able to soak the scene all in before launching on you.   


KW: Lastly, what’s in your wallet?

CR: [Chuckles] I don’t really carry cash. Let’s see… my license… a valet ticket…a business card… and a credit card for incidentals.


KW: Thanks again for the time, Craig, and best of luck with the film.

CR: Hey, I appreciate it, Kam, and we’ll be in touch, man.  

To see a trailer for Hot Tub Time Machine 2, visit:


UserpicA Tête-à-Tête with Tasha 2.0
Posted by Kam Williams

Tasha Smith
The “Addicted” Interview
with Kam Williams


Tasha Smith is a multifaceted actress whose work brings style and intensity to the subjects she plays on the big and small screens. She currently stars in the television series “Tyler Perry’s For Better Or Worse” on the OWN Network, for which she earned an NAACP Image Award nomination as “Outstanding Actress in a Comedy Series.”


Tasha’s memorable portrayal of Angela in Why Did I Get Married? and Why Did I Get Married, Too? sparked the creation of the spin-off series which is focused around her relationship with her husband, Marcus, played by Michael Jai White. Additionally, she has joined the cast of Fox-TV’s new hip-hop drama series, “Empire.”


Tasha’s other film credits include Daddy’s Little Girls opposite Idris Elba and Gabrielle Union where she delivered a powerful performance which impressed audiences and critics alike. She subsequently went on to co-star in the #1 box office hit Jumping the Broom, starring Paula Patton, Laz Alonso and Angela Bassett.


She also co-starred in the romantic comedy Couples Retreat opposite Vince Vaughn, Jon Favreau, Jason Bateman and Faizon Love, adding to her already impressive box-office resume which includes ATL, The Good Mother, The Whole Ten Yards, and The Longshots. She is well-known for her extensive work on the small screen, too, most notably, her critically-acclaimed portrayal of the drug-addicted Ronnie Boyce on the Emmy Award-winning mini-series "The Corner."


On and off the big and small screen, Tasha has a naturally commanding presence. She takes time to share her inspirational life story through motivational speaking, and to mentor emerging actors through the Tasha Smith Actors Workshop (TSAW). And in her spare time, the Camden, New Jersey native loves to workout at the gym, cook gourmet meals, and entertain friends at her home.


Here, she talks about co-starring as Dr. Marcella Spencer opposite Sharon Leal in Addicted, the screen adaptation of the steamy best-seller by Zane.


Kam Williams: Hi Tasha, thanks for the interview. It’s been too long.

Tasha Smith: Hi Kam. I’m happy to talk with you.


KW: Same here! Maya Angelou once said, “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made me feel.” And whenever I’ve interviewed you, you’ve always made me feel great.

TS: Oh, Kam, thank you! That is awesome.


KW: You’re publicist was a little concerned about what I would talk to you about today. So, I sent her an outline of what areas I hoped to cover. Did you read it?

TS: No, I’ve been working so hard, I didn’t have a chance to look at it. But I trust you, and I adore you. I’m sorry.


KW: No, need to apologize. I know that you’re busy enough as an actress, and then you spend so much time teaching acting workshops, too. []

TS: Yeah, you know I’ve opened up my school in California in a beautiful facility on Ventura Boulevard. I’m always in heaven when I’m doing my classes.


KW: What interested you in Addicted? Had you read the book? How about Fifty Shades of Grey?

TS: I read the book, of course, because I had to in order to see the whole dynamics of Dr. Marcella’s relationship with Zoe [played by Sharon Leal], and I loved Marcella. I loved her voice… I loved her tone… I loved the fact that she was the voice of reason who served as the guide to help Zoe deal with her addiction so that she would not destroy the rest of her life and her family relationships, because that’s exactly what addiction does. Addiction will kill everything in you and around you. I was familiar with Addicted for a long time, even prior to the movie, way before it got the greenlight. And when it finally got the greenlight, I was very happy to be a part of it.   


KW: How did you prepare to play your character, Dr. Marcella Spencer?

TS: I tell you, I met with so many therapists… I sat in on sex addiction classes… I went through hypnotherapy because, at first, she was supposed to be a hypnotherapist. I feel like the people I met and the experiences I had in group sessions gave me a good anchor for Marcella. 


KW: When I went to see the film, the audience was 90% female? Why do you think that was the case?

TS: I think because it opened up fantasy in terms of women’s sexuality. We’re used to seeing fantasy explored from a male perspective, and the way men might see sex, have sex, want sex and even be addicted to sex. But I don’t think women pursuing that sexuality within themselves is something that’s talked about or experienced as often. I think women found it intriguing because they wanted to see what that look like and felt like and sounded like. I think it was a curiosity with women.


KW: The screen version of Fifty Shades of Grey is coming out soon. Do you see any parallels between that and Addicted?

TS: I do, as far as the type of story it is. I know it’s the same genre, but I’ve never read the book. So, I can’t really comment about it. But I am going to see the film, and I think that it’s cool. Zane has been that urban voice for black people as far as our sexuality and our sensuality, not that she only has an urban following. We may be used to seeing the Zoe’s of other races, but I think it was great to be able to tell the story of this beautiful black woman and her family.


KW: I remember meeting Zane at a party and being surprised that she seemed so straitlaced and perfectly normal, and not a nymphomaniac like one of her protagonists.

TS: Yes, she looks like she could work at the Post Office. She’s just as conservative, but with a mind that could blow your mind.


KW: What would you say is the movie’s message?

TS: That if you don’t deal with addiction, it could destroy your life. It also addresses the inspiration of restoration in a relationship. 


KW: I see that you have a picture called Polaris coming out this year. What type of character do you play there?

TS: I play Sophie, who’s that All-American best friend. It was more of a cameo role, but it was still a wonderful opportunity to work with an amazing, first-time director [Soudabeh Moradian], at least as far as features, who comes from the documentary film world. It was also great to have a chance to work with my best friend, Elisabeth Rohm.


KW: What other upcoming projects do you have, Tasha?

TS: I have two new TV shows, Power and Empire. On Empire, which just premiered in January, I play Carol, who’s Cookie Lyons’ [played by Taraji P. Henson] sister. It’s fun. It’s a great show.


KW: Tell me a little about Power.

TS: That doesn’t come on until the summer. It’s with Omari Hardwick, Naturi Naughton and Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson. You’re gonna love it!


KW: The Uduak Oduok question: Who is your favorite clothes designer?

TS: My favorite clothes designer? It’s a shame that I don’t have a favorite right now. I gotta tell you, Kam. I am just discovering my fashion side. I have never felt anchored when it comes to fashion. I’ve always had to depend on a stylist helping me to figure it out. But over, maybe, the last four or five months, I have literally been getting back to myself and to what I really love as far as fashion is concerned. So, I can’t really answer that question, although I do have a couple of favorite shoe designers I have a little bit of an addiction to: Giuseppe [Zanotti] and Christian Louboutin. For some reason, I’m in love with their shoes... [Pauses] Wait, I just thought of a designer that I’m actually feelin’ who’s really fun and exciting for me… Stella McCartney… I’m feelin’ her. I have some pieces of hers that make me go look for more of her pieces.


KW: When you look in the mirror, what do you see?

TS: [Breathes deeply… exhales… clears her throat] That’s a very good question. Kam, I gotta tell you, you always ask me wonderfully probing questions and, for some reason, I always want to be extremely honest with you.


KW: I’ve always appreciated that. 

TS: I’ll say this: the last three years of my life have been very painful and somewhat abusive, mentally.


KW: Gee, I’m so sorry to hear that.

TS: And I always found myself trying to cover the mental anguish and the torment and the abuse that I was dealing with. That made me always question my beauty, my intelligence, and a lot of other things about myself.


KW: That is so sad! I had no idea.

TS: I felt like I was literally losing myself as being the joyful, spiritual, passionate, exciting woman that I naturally had been. I remember working on a show, and feeling so insecure about whether I looked attractive enough to do a love scene. It was weird because I couldn’t understand why I wasn’t feeling beautiful, even though I knew I was. And my friends were like, “You know why!” I remember that I kept asking the person I was working with whether I looked okay. He was kind enough to take a photo of me on the monitor. When he took the photo, he asked the director to wait. Then he came to me and said, “This is how you look.” I don’t think even he knew how that moment impacted me. My reaction was, “Wow! I look like that?” You hear about actresses experiencing their insecurities, and how we always want to feel pretty enough, good enough, or this or that enough. But this was such a revelation for me, because I had been spending time in the mirror questioning my beauty. When he showed me that snapshot, I finally really appreciated myself again. There was this revelation in one second that really blessed me, big time. So, now when I look at myself in the mirror, I see this beautiful woman that’s getting back to her old self.   


KW: That’s terrific! Sherry Gillam would like to know what makes you smile on the inside?

TS: Right now, my excitement about my life and my future makes me happy, because I am a dreamer, and I always dream, no matter how many obstacles are in my way. My dreams, my desires, and my goals make me smile.


KW: Finally, what’s in your wallet?

TS: [How’s with laughter] What’s in my wallet? A note to myself.


KW: Thanks again, Tasha. I really appreciate your being so open and forthcoming with me, as usual.

TS: Thank you, Kam, and have a great day, okay?

To see a trailer for Addicted, visit:

To see a video about the Tasha Smith Actors’ Workshop, visit:


UserpicOscar-Winner Reflects on Life, Career and His Latest Film
Posted by Kam Williams

Kevin Costner
The “Black or White” Interview
with Kam Williams

Kevin Michael Costner was born in Lynwood, California on January 18, 1955. After landing a breakout role in Silverado in 1985, he enjoyed a meteoric rise in such hit pictures as The Untouchables, No Way Out, Bull Durham and Field of Dreams en route to winning a couple of Academy Awards for Dancing with Wolves.


Other films on his impressive resume include JFK, The Bodyguard, Message in a Bottle and Draft Day, to name a few. Here, he discusses his latest film, Black or White, a courtroom drama where he plays a grandfather caught up in a legal fight for custody of his biracial granddaughter with the black side of her family.       



Kam Williams: Hi Kevin, thanks for the interview. I’m honored to have this opportunity.

Kevin Costner: You can call me Kevin, Kam.  


KW: Thanks! I told my readers I’d be interviewing you, so I have a lot of questions for you from fans. Children’s book author Irene Smalls asks: What attracted you to this project, and do you think the plot is relevant, given the evolution of race relations in America?

KC: That’s what attracted me to the project. It reminded me of one of the things I like about movies. I remember how, after I read the script for Dances with Wolves, I just knew that I had to make it, when not everybody else wanted to. But I did end up making it. Similarly, Bull Durham and Fields of Dreams, didn’t strike people as giant movies, but I think the hallmark of all three of those pictures is that they have traveled through time and become classics. And when I read Black or White, I had the exact same feeling. I said, “Oh my God! This is about the moment that we’re living in right now. And this was before Ferguson, and all this stuff. You know, our problems didn’t just start in August. I’ve been living with this my entire life. But I thought there was a level of genius in the writing that I thought would make everybody rush to make this movie also. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen, and so the journey of this project has been very much like the journey of others that I’ve had to push uphill. But I didn’t think Black or White had any less value, so I decided I would pay for it, and make this movie because I just thought it had a chance to be a classic, and because it said some things I think a lot of people need to hear and would even perhaps say themselves, if they could string the words together.  


KW: Sangeetha Subramanian says: Black or White looks like a great movie, Kevin. Did you give your on-screen granddaughter, Jillian Estell, any acting advice on the set?

KC: No I didn’t. I just tried to lead by example by the way I behaved on the set, and she understood. She’s a little girl, and I always had to keep that in mind. But she gave us the performance that we really needed. This movie depended on her being really good, which she was!


KW: Harriet Pakula-Teweles says: Field of Dreams’ message was, “If you build it, he will come.” What’s the takeaway built into Black or White?

KC: I guess the message of Field of Dreams, ultimately, was about things that go unsaid between people who really love each other, and about how it’s important that you try to say those things while you’re still alive, so that they have that level of meaning, that level of value, that you can carry with you for the rest of your life.

Field of Dreams, to me, was always about things that go unsaid that need to be talked about. I don’t know what the takeaway for Black or White is, but I do know that if you’re going to make a movie, and it’s going to deal with race, you have to make it authentic, and not pull any punches. You have to use the language that’s appropriate. And I thought this movie was a miracle because writer/director Mike Binder was able to just be authentic in dealing with race. These were things that wanted to be said, so I knew that I would have a kind of a role of a lifetime in Elliot Anderson.


KW: Director Larry Greenberg says: Black or White touches on how alcoholism and addiction impact parenting. Is this an issue that you feel needs more attention?

KC: Well, obviously, you were able to see the movie, Larry, and for that I’m grateful. The hope is that, if the movie did touch you, you’ll continue to tell other people about it. But alcohol, used in any excess, is always going to put a veil over how we behave… clouding our judgment… and affecting our ability to love and to be responsible. And certainly, in this instance, it’s pretty clear that what was driving the drinking was the loss of the love of his life, his wife, and the loss of his child seven years earlier. The discussion of alcohol, and where he is in terms of it, is pretty unique in this film, because at one point he suggests that maybe he isn’t an alcoholic, but just an angry person. And that clouds his judgment when he’s backed into a corner. Also, the movie deals with addictions on both sides, which makes it very balanced and enjoyable to watch.


KW: Sherry Gillam says: Happy Belated Birthday! [January 18th] I saw your picture on the cover of AARP Magazine a couple of months ago. You’re still just as handsome as ever.

KC: [Laughs heartily] Thank Sherry a lot. I have no choice, but that was really a high compliment. It’s been a pleasure making movies for people of my generation. I try to make films that will stand the test of time, so that the younger generations will be inclined to catch up to them. That’s what I tried to do with Black or White. It’s relevant to us now, but I’m hopeful that someone watching it twenty years from now will understand what’s at stake when you’re dealing with the welfare of a child, and of the problem that might come when you overlay it with race.


KW: Sherry did have a question, too. She asks: What makes you smile on the inside?

KC: [Laughs again] A good idea makes me smile. My children succeeding makes me smile. My wife looking at me and saying she’s proud of me makes me smile. Even just being surprised makes me smile.


KW: Professor/director/author Hisani Dubose says: You have such a broad range of movies, which I think is great. What attracts you to a script? Is there a unifying factor?

KC: Sometimes, it’s the chance to say something I want to say for myself. Other times, it’s having an opportunity to say something that I feel everyone in the world would like to say. And Black or White really matches up with that. There are some things said in this movie that I know people have wanted to say for a long time. I was given the speech of a lifetime in the courtroom, and I’m gratified to hear that audiences have been clapping when I’m done. A lot of people would never think that’s possible, given the movie, but I’ve seen it in theaters night after night. That’s been very pleasing to me.


KW: Documentary filmmaker Kevin Williams says: Thank you for making so many great, enjoyable films. When you look back upon your career, how do you remember your magical rise from Silverado to winning a couple of Oscars for Dances with Wolves?

KC: The truth is that I can remember it, I understand, yet I never thought my career would ever have that kind of success. Listen, I’ve had such good luck. I didn’t know it could ever be as wonderful as it has been, although it has had a measure of stress and pain. Still, it’s been an incredible ride. I appreciate my good luck and my good fortune, and I have loved every minute of it. Silverado, Fandango, No Way Out, The Untouchables, Open Range, Hatfields & McCoys, all these movies that I look back on, and now Black or White. Listen, I’ve had good luck, and I get that. I just hope the second half of my life plays out in a way that I am able to continue to make movies that are relevant not only to me but to people who like to go to the theater.


KW: My favorite of your films, one which I’ve watched over a dozen times, is No Way Out.

KC: [Chuckles] That was a movie that wasn’t going to get made, either. It was sitting at Warner Brothers in a state of limbo known as turnaround. It just wasn’t on the minds of anybody. Orion Pictures wanted to do a picture with me, but they didn’t have anything in mind. They asked me what I was interested in, and I told them that there was this picture over at Warner Brothers I really loved called Finished with Engines. I brought the script to them and they decided they would do it, but they changed the title to No Way Out.  


KW: Environmental activist Grace Sinden asks: What do you enjoy the most about the moviemaking process?

KC: I really love rehearsal. I love being with people and working on something when no one else is looking. Another aspect I enjoy is having a job where you have breakfast, lunch and dinner with the people you work with. You always get to know people a lot better when you’re actually able to have meals with them. So, I was really perfectly suited for the movie business. I don’t know how I got so lucky, but I thank God for it every day.  


KW: Attorney Bernadette Beekman asks: Do you think this film will initiate a debate about interracial adoption?

KC: I think that if you see this movie with someone who doesn’t look like you, you’re going to have an incredible conversation afterwards. I believe Black or White will really foster conversation whether you see it with friends or with your sweetheart, and that you will be a little different when you come out of the theater. 


KW: David Roth says: In Black or White, your character, Elliot, is raising a black granddaughter, sheltering her from her junkie dad and the perceived instability of her black relatives. Does this picture pander to “white knight coming to the rescue of a person of color” stereotype avoided by Selma director Ava DuVernay in her downplaying President LBJ’s role in the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

KC: Audiences coming out of the theater say how refreshing Black or White is because of its evenhandedness in that regard. We know that humans are sometimes willing to fight unfairly, and what makes this picture great is that it feels very, very authentic. We’re not dealing with the same issue that David has with Selma. No one likes to go to a movie and fell like they’ve been manipulated. You smell a rat when you’re being manipulated. The truth is just as entertaining as a lie, so why not shoot the truth?


KW: When you look in the mirror, what do you see?

KC: I see a full life. And I’m raising young children, and my desire to stay healthy and to remain relevant is uppermost in my mind.


KW: The Ling-Ju Yen question: What is your earliest childhood memory?

KC: I remember everything from about 2½ or 3 years-old on. I remember my father coming home and unlacing his work boots... I remember my mom cooking in the kitchen… I remember the curtains… the couches… the smell of the linoleum. I even remember some of my dreams from back then.    


KW: I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that powerful eulogy you delivered for Whitney Houston. There were a lot of great eulogies that day, but yours eclipsed them all.

KC: Thank you. Well, Whitney and I had a unique relationship. I wasn’t even sure that I should be up there talking, but it seemed like the world demanded that because of our make believe relationship in The Bodyguard. The world has linked us together because of that movie. So when I was asked to speak, I could only talk about what it was I knew.


KW: Harriet also asks: With so many classic films being redone, is there a remake you'd like to star in?

KC: I don’t really think about that very much. There are a couple that I might redo, but I still just love breaking new ground on an individual movie. I appreciate great classics, and perhaps I’ll make one someday, but I have six or seven lined up, and not one of them is a remake or a sequel.  


KW: Are any of your kids interested in following in your footsteps?

KC: No, they’ve all charted their own paths. None of them has pivoted off my name. They’re all doing their own thing. That’s what I love about them. My daughter [Lily] sings in Black or White. That’s her singing in the funeral scene. She’s 28, and an amazing singer/songwriter.


KW: Lastly, what’s in your wallet?

KC: [LOL] What’s in my wallet? Well, at the premiere a few days ago, this Chinese fellow came up to me, handed me his card, and said, “I want to make movies with you.” I haven’t called him yet, but we’ll see if he really means it.


KW: Thanks again for the time, Kevin, and best of luck with the film.

KC: I’m glad you liked the movie, Kam, and thanks for writing about it.


To see a trailer for Black or White, visit:


UserpicLee Daniels (INTERVIEW)
Posted by Kam Williams

Lee Daniels

The “Empire” Interview

with Kam Williams


Daniels Builds a TV “Empire”

After directing and/or producing such successful feature films as The Butler, Monster’s Ball [for which Halle Berry won an Academy Award], and Precious [for which Mo’Nique won hers], two-time Oscar-nominee Lee Daniels [for Precious] has set his sights on TV for the first time. Here, he talks about directing the new nighttime soap opera Empire, co-starring Terrence Howard and Taraji P. Henson.



Kam Williams: Hi Lee, thanks for another opportunity to speak with you.

Lee Daniels: Great, Kam. How are you?


KW: All is well, thanks. What was the source of inspiration for Empire?

LD: My partner, Danny Strong, came to me with this idea of telling a story about my life, and merging that with music and the Hip-Hop world. He wrote The Butler and originally wanted to do Empire also as a movie.


KW: I had no idea it was semi-autobiographical. Why TV, as opposed to the big screen?

LD: What happened was we decided that’s enough with movies, let’s do it for television so that we could bring this to life for America on a weekly basis. It picks up, historically, where The Butler left off, and deals with race relations. It’s a little bit like my family, a little like some friends of mine with money, their world, and a little like some of my friends without money, their world. I think it’s the African-American experience.


KW: Which character are you? Lucious Lyon [played by Terrence Howard]?

LD: I’m Lucious… I’m Jamal… I’m all of the characters. My sister and my cousins are Cookie [played by Taraji P. Henson]. Cookie’s  little bit of all of them.


KW: Harriet Pakula-Teweles asks: How do film actors like Terrence and Taraji make the transition from the big screen to the small screen?

LD: That’s a very good question and a very complicated one, because with film we get the luxury of time. It works at a different pace. It’s nice and slow. As a film director and as film actors, you get used to a certain rhythm that’s slow. But with TV, it’s hurry, hurry, hurry, hurry, hurry. It’s a different pace. So, it’s about adjusting to the pace. It’s not meant for everybody.


KW: Has the frenetic pace frustrated you?

LD: No, I think it’s made me a better director, because I have to think fast. I no longer have the luxury of taking my time. Does that make any sense?


KW: Absolutely! Chalyn Toon asks: Did you consider other actors or did you always envision Taraji and Terrence for the lead roles?

LD: I always considered Taraji, but even though Terrence and I are very good friends and had worked together on The Butler and were thinking about doing The Marvin Gaye Story. But I didn’t know if he’d do TV. I was thinking of Wesley Snipes for the role, but word on the street was that Taraji wasn’t feeling it anymore. Then she told me, “I’ll do it, but only if Terrence does it.” I went, “girl, you ain’t even got the job yet.” And I was like, “Terrence ain’t going to do TV.” But then he said he would, and there you go.  


KW: Chalyn also says: Most writers avoid dealing with homosexuality within the black community. What made you choose that path? Unlike your counterpart, Shonda Rhimes, who has depicted white males in a passionate relationship, perhaps to target a whiter audience, you’ve put two males of color in a gay relationship. Why did you choose to do so?

LD: I did it because I think it’s time to destroy a myth in the black community about gay men. When I was doing research for Precious, I went to the Gay Men’s Health Crisis here in New York City, because the movie dealt with AIDS. What I expected to see was gay men, but what I found were African-American women and children who’d been infected with HIV by black men on the down-low. They were on the d-l because their pastor says, because their minister says, because their neighbor says, and their homeboy says, “You can’t be gay.” Black men on the d-l are killing our women. I can’t hate the men on the d-l, I only hate that they’re on the d-l, because our people forced them to be. So, this is really dedicated to educating. This is the civil rights movement of our generation.

So, this is really dedicated to educating   


KW: Editor/Legist Patricia Turnier: You are working on a Richard Pryor biopic. What does he mean to you?

LD: The more research I do, the more I uncover not only his brilliance, but how much of a pioneer he was at a time that was harder on African-Americans than it is right now, if that’s imaginable. His experience as a black American was very similar to mine. We both come from troubled backgrounds. He was very open about his sexuality, and what he did, and he spoke the truth. And he fought for the truth for everybody. And because he was so tormented, he was a drug addict, and so was I. Our similarities are strangely connected. So, he speaks to me. He was ahead of his time, and he didn’t even know that he was changing the world through humor. He was uniting African-American and white Americans through his humor. He didn’t know, and I hope to do him justice.


KW: Marcia Evans says: Lee, I'm major proud of all your work, and I'm digging Empire. Congratulations on your weight loss. You’re looking good. Vegan is working for you.

LD: [Belly laugh] I’m not really vegan. I’m vegan-ish. I have a piece of lamb every now and then.


KW: Thanks again for the time, Lee, and best of luck with Empire.

LD: Thank you, Kam. Talk to you soon.

To see a trailer for Empire, visit:     


UserpicTara Talks about Portraying Civil Rights Martyr Viola Liuzzo
Posted by Kam Williams

Tara Ochs
The “Selma” Interview
with Kam Williams


Tara Ochs is an actress and voice-over artist residing in Atlanta, GA. She has also been a comedy improviser her entire career and credits that skill with opening many doors.

Tara can currently be caught performing with Atlanta-based theatre company Dad’s Garage, where she also teaches improv to people of all ages. Previously, she worked with The Second City troupe, and was a company member of the L.A.-based improv companies ComedySportz and ACME Comedy Theater.

Tara’s television credits include Crossing Jordan, CSI:Miami, One Tree Hill, Army Wives, Close to Home, Samantha Who? and Single Ladies. And her voice-over credits include numerous national and regional radio spots, as well as over 40 audio books with Audible and Hachette Publishing Groups.  She lists M.M. Kaye’s “Shadow of the Moon” and Dale Kushner’s “Conditions of Love,” as among her favorite reads.

A graduate of Florida State University, Tara considers Pensacola, Florida her hometown, although her family moved around quite a bit when she was a child due to her father’s enlistment as a Navy pilot. His service has inspired Tara’s love of country, while her mother’s dedication as a schoolteacher has motivated her to work with young people in the arts.

Here, she talks about portraying civil rights martyr Viola Liuzzo in the Academy Award-nominated film, Selma.


Kam Williams: Hi Tara, thanks for the interview.

Tara Ochs: Thank you Kam! You look really nice today. Is that a new sweater?


KW: Thanks! And, yes, it was a Christmas gift. What interested you in Selma? Were you aware of the march?

TO: I was NOT aware of anything to do with Selma or the marches. Living in Atlanta, you can’t help being surrounded by the vestiges of the civil rights movement, so naturally it interests me. But this particular moment in history, I was unfamiliar with. Once I was introduced to the story via the audition, I was thrilled to come across an example of such a large number of people coming together to support the movement.


KW:  How about the character you played, Viola Liuzzo? Had you heard of her?

TO: I also knew nothing about Viola Liuzzo. It wasn’t until I received the script that I learned of her enormous contribution to the movement. It was a surprise – I had no idea that a white woman had lost her life in the struggle for civil rights.


KW: How did you prepare to play her? Did you speak to her children or anyone who knew her?

TO: At the time of the filming I had not yet gotten in touch with her family--the turnaround for this film was incredibly fast. From script to screen in just about a year! I am currently in touch with them however, and so thrilled to have their support.

To prepare I did my good actor research--I Googled. The resources I came across that had the most value for me as a performer were the book “From Selma to Sorrow” by Mary Stanton, and the documentary Home of the Brave.


KW: Did you feel any responsibility to portray Viola right, given that she was martyred?

TO: Absolutely! The weight of that responsibility was overwhelming. I speak a little about that on my blog [ ] In short, I wanted to approach Viola as a woman, not as a saint--so I looked for those details that made her seem human to me.


KW: Is there a cause bigger than your own self interest, for which you might be willing to pay a big price, perhaps even sacrificing your life?

TO: The first answer that comes to mind is my family. But I suppose that’s not a cause. [Chuckles] In a way, though, it contributes to the things that I feel passionate about. For example, my father is a veteran, so patriotism runs deep in my family.


KW: Did it ever get emotional on the set, given the historical importance of Selma?

TO: [LOL] Constantly! CONSTANTLY! I can’t tell you how difficult it was to keep it together as we marched on that bridge with actual survivors of Bloody Sunday. And the final speech back in Montgomery? There was no need to act that day.


KW: What message do you hope people will take away from the film?

TO: Hope. And perhaps a clearer understanding of why non-violent protest is the most effective way to agitate.


KW: What do you think of the criticisms being leveled at the film, suggesting that LBJ is being portrayed unfairly?

TO: What controversy? The film clearly shows LBJ for who he was--a master politician. And it clearly shows Dr. King for who he was--a master activist. It just doesn’t seem like a controversy to me. I am cheering for both LBJ and MLK by the end of the film.


KW: Is there any question no one ever asks you, that you wish someone would?

TO: I’ll have to think on this one.


KW: The Teri Emerson question: When was the last time you had a good laugh?

TO: This past Saturday – I was practically in tears. My high school outreach improv team had their tournament and they were absolutely brilliant. I could barely catch my breath.


KW: What is your guiltiest pleasure?

TO: My Dungeons and Dragons group. We play weekly, and I play a Battle Cleric who worships a sun goddess. Pathfinder edition, if that means anything to you.


KW: The bookworm Troy Johnson question: What was the last book you read?

TO: I’m working my way through the “Wheel of Time” series because I want to get to the ones written by my favorite author, Brandon Sanderson.

I’m taking turns with that and “Misquoting Jesus” by Bart Ehrman. I’m sort of nerdy about theology.


KW: The music maven Heather Covington question: What was the last song you listened to?

TO: “Glory,” of course. 


KW: What is your favorite dish to cook?

TO: Shrimp Creole, my grandma’s recipe.


KW: Was there a meaningful spiritual component to your childhood?

TO: Absolutely. I grew up in the Episcopal Church, and it was a key part of my social and spiritual life


KW: When you look in the mirror, what do you see?

TO: About 50 different people. When I was little, my mom used to put me in the corner when I misbehaved for time out. But the corner she stuck me in had a mirror. I love making faces.


KW: The Ling-Ju Yen question: What is your earliest childhood memory?

TO: I have a terrible memory, but I used to have a recurring dream which I later realized was a childhood memory. I lived in Japan from age 2 to 4. The memory was of me in a park with the Great Daibutsu [Buddha] at one end. I got to climb inside that statue. I remember perhaps being awed for the first time.


KW: The Judyth Piazza question: What key quality do you believe all successful people share?

TO: Faith.


KW: The Gabby Douglas question: If you had to choose another profession, what would that be?

TO: I would have gone with astronaut, but I heard that’s harder than being an actor. [Chuckles]


KW:  The Harriet Pakula-Teweles question: With so many classic films being redone, is there a remake you'd like to star in?

TO: The Apartment.


KW: What’s in your wallet?

TO: It’s lean. Just the cards I need, always some cash, a MARTA card [Atlanta Transit] and a Fox Bros BBQ [restaurant] sticker. [Laughs]


KW: Thanks again for the time, Tara, and best of luck with Selma and the rest of your ventures.

TO: Thanks Kam! I’m going to go memorize my rap battle lyrics now. Have a good evening!

To see a trailer for Selma, visit:


UserpicStraight from the “Hart”
Posted by Kam Williams

Kevin Hart
“The Wedding Ringer” Interview
with Kam Williams

Kevin Hart might be the hardest working man in Hollywood. Just last year, he starred in a trio of feature films: Ride Along, About Last Night and Think like a Man Too, and enjoyed supporting roles in Top Five and School Dance, too.

Meanwhile, he has his hit TV show, Real Husbands of Hollywood, for which he won the NAACP Image Award in the Best Actor in a Comedy Series Award. In 2014, the NAACP also named Kevin the Entertainer of the Year.

The irrepressible comedian shows no sign of letting up, between presently releasing The Wedding Ringer, and following that up with Get Hard in March. And he’s already wrapped work on Ride Along 2, and has The Secret Life of Pets, Central Intelligence and Captain Underpants in production.

Read the rest of this story »


UserpicJeff Chang (INTERVIEW)
Posted by Kam Williams

Jeff Chang

The “Who We Be” Interview

with Kam Williams


Visionary Author Talks about His NAACP Image Award-Nomination

Jeff Chang is a new sage thinker with his finger on the pulse of American culture. His first book, the critically-acclaimed “Can’t Stop Won’t Stop: A History of the Hip-Hop Generation,” collected a cornucopia of honors, including the American Book Award and the Asian-American Literary Award. 


Next, he edited “Total Chaos: The Art and Aesthetics of Hip-Hop,” an anthology of essays and interviews. Here, he talks about his latest opus, “Who We Be: The Colorization of America,” which has been nominated for an NAACP Image Award in the Outstanding Literary Work – Non-Fiction category.   


Don’t let yourself be dissuaded by the grammatically-incorrect title, or it’s Ebonics chapter headings like “I Am I Be” and “What You Got to Say?” for the actual text isn’t written in inscrutable slang as implied, but rather makes a most articulate analysis of the evolution of American society from the March on Washington to the present.



Kam Williams: Hi Jeff. Thanks for the time and congratulations on the NAACP Image Award nomination for “Who We Be.” You used to just write about hip-hop. What inspired you to expand your focus for this book?

Jeff Chang: When I finished “Can't Stop Won't Stop,” I realized that the big hole was in talking about all those who had influenced me during my intellectual awakening during the mid-1980s and into 1990s. These were people from the generation that fell between the gap of the Civil Rights Generation and the Hip-Hop Generation--teachers and thinkers like Gary Delgado and Ron Takaki and Gloria Anzaldua, writers like Ishmael Reed, Ntozake Shange, and Jessica Hagedorn. They helped to theorize multiculturalism and their ideas carried us through the culture wars. 


KW: Why did you decide to examine the evolution of American culture over the last half-century?

JC: I guess every project has been a little autobiographical--this is the era that I have lived through. And now that I teach and mentor, I am always surprised and a little sad at how little my students know about what people their age did during the 1980s and 1990s. We weren't silent. They hear endlessly about the proud brave youth of the 1960s and even the 1970s, but not much history has been done on those who came afterward. In part, this is a function of demographics--we are the shadow generation between the so-called Boomers and Millennials. In part, ours is not a history of glory and victory. When it comes to racial justice, it's been quite the opposite. It's not a story with a happy ending.


KW: Where do you envision America to be a half-century from now?

JC: I'm less successful at predicting than I am at reading history. I do write from a sense of urgency, though. I worry that if we don't move toward a consensus for racial justice, that we'll instead continue the current trends of re-segregation and end up with a more rigid, insurmountable racial caste system in 2042. That would be a horrible outcome for everyone, including whites.


KW: Do you think you have a unique perspective as a Chinese/Hawaiian- American?

JC: I've been blessed to come from a background in which my family has intermarried with every race and culture imaginable. My family looks a lot like President Obama's, but much bigger. I suppose I look at the society I'm living in the way I look at my family. Because we are family does not mean there aren't problems, but we owe it to each other to keep on talking, to try to work them out. This may make me a bit Pollyanna-ish, but you gotta believe in something, and every belief comes from somewhere, and that's mine. 


KW: “Who We Be” reminds me of Marshall McLuhan’s “The Medium Is the Massage” [not his famous essay “The Medium Is the Message”] which was a dizzying mix of essays, asides, aphorisms, photos and drawings. Are you familiar with that book?

JC: I am! Dizzying was exactly the right word. From the beginning I wanted the book to be visual--in the writing and in its content and presentation. McLuhan pointed out in the mid-60s, that we were now living in a mixed up culture where visuality was much more important. The word "colorization" comes from TV, and this is also happening right at the time McLuhan and Fiore are making their book. So, in a lot of ways, I was trying to recognize that history, while merging that with the history of the representation of people of color in the post-civil rights era. Such a great question! Thank you.


KW: You’re welcome, Jeff. How would you describe your approach to cobbling together the content you included in your book?

JC: The organizing metaphor was seeing--how we see race. I knew I had to move in this direction after “Can't Stop Won't Stop,” and I had some elements--Morrie Turner's cartoons and his amazing life story, on the one hand, and the street art of the Obama presidential campaign, on the other. Greg Tate, Lydia Yee, Roberta Uno, Vijay Prashad and others hit me with other key pieces that helped to shape the narrative. And as I was finishing the book, Vijay Iyer hit me sideways with his insight about listening versus seeing race. He made me understand that jazz and soul and blues are of an earlier period in which listening was central. Hip-hop comes up in an era of seeing--and so it gets complicated. 



KW: What message do you hope people will take away from the book?

JC: That we need to have a real conversation about race that does not try to ignore the legacies of discrimination, debasement and inequity. And we need to transform the culture of violence that continues to lead us in each generation to have to explosively protest the way that bodies of color, often specifically black bodies, are targeted and contained. I think the best way for us to approach this is to recognize and name re-segregation as we see it, and, through cultural interventions, push toward a new consensus for racial justice.


KW: What do you make of the nationwide demonstrations in response to the failure of the grand juries to indict the police officers in the Eric Garner and Michael Brown cases?

JC: They are among the most sustained and widespread protests against state violence against African-Americans in history. And they are being organized and moved in a decentralized way by thousands of ordinary Americans--mostly youths, mostly women. There are no central leaders, despite the media's focus on some older charismatic men, and that makes them impossible to stop. They give me clarity about my work and they give me hope that we might be in a transformative moment. 


KW: Is there any question no one ever asks you, that you wish someone would?

JC: Not really. Every question is a blessing.


KW: What was your first job?

JC: I went to a private school on "scholarship" which meant that, at age 10, I was serving lunch to my peers and wiping up the tables after them.


KW: What is your guiltiest pleasure?

JC: If it's pleasurable, I ain't guilty! [LOL]


KW: The bookworm Troy Johnson question: What was the last book you read?

JC: So many! Two of the most recent have been especially amazing: Claudia Rankine's “Citizen,” and my man Marlon James's “A Brief History of Seven Killings.”


KW: The music maven Heather Covington question: What was the last song you listened to? 

JC: Again, so many. This is what's on right now: Sade's "Love You More" [JRocc Mix]


KW: What is your favorite dish to cook?

JC: Hawaiian-style Pipi, beef stew.


KW: The Sanaa Lathan question: What excites you?

JC: Art: music, visual art, literature, etcetera that connects big ideas and calls us to do something.


KW: Was there a meaningful spiritual component to your childhood?

JC: Yes. My grandparents were Buddhist and my parents converted to Catholicism. I'd say my spiritual beliefs are some odd, contradictory hybrid of both. 


KW: When you look in the mirror, what do you see?

JC: Someone who is trying. 


KW: If you could have one wish instantly granted, what would that be for?

JC: Right now it would be for my brother-in-law Arnel to be alive again. He passed away suddenly in July.


KW: My condolences. The Ling-Ju Yen question: What is your earliest childhood memory?

JC: Oh, man, I can't remember!


KW: The Melissa Harris-Perry question: How did your first big heartbreak impact who you are as a person?

JC: It made me understand how important recognizing your transgressions is toward reaching reconciliation.


KW: Can you give me a generic Jeff Chang question I can ask other people I interview?

JC: What are the three values that guide everything you do?


KW: Thanks! What advice do you have for anyone who wants to follow in your footsteps?

JC: Don't follow me, follow your own trail, and if it crosses mine for a while, welcome.


KW: The Tavis Smiley question: How do you want to be remembered?

JC: By my actions and my children.


KW: And lastly, what’s in your wallet?

JC: The bare minimum I need!


KW: Thanks again for the time, Jeff, and good luck with the book.

JC: Kam,  thanks for this amazing interview and for all your generosity. With lots of respect and gratitude.

To become a member of the NAACP and to vote for the Image Awards, visit:


UserpicRussell Simmons (INTERVIEW)
Posted by Kam Williams

Russell Simmons

The “Who Polices the Police?” Interview

with Kam Williams


"Rush" to Judgment:

Hip-Hop Icon Seeks Solution to Rash of Police Shootings

Russell Simmons has been very active as of late in the Black Lives Matter movement, and not merely as a participant on the picket lines. Whether extracting a promise from N.Y. State Governor Cuomo to appoint special prosecutors in cases of police brutality, or defending Bill de Blasio after NYPD President Pat Lynch suggested the Mayor has “blood on his hands,” Rush has been an outspoken advocate urgently lobbying for an overhaul of how the criminal justice system handles the prosecution of cops accused of police brutality.  



Kam Williams: Hi Russell, thanks for taking a break from your vacation to talk to me. Where are you calling me from?

Russell Simmons: I’m with my kids in St. Bart’s. I’ve come here every year for the past 27 years. Kam, I wouldn’t take the time to talk to anybody else. You’re the only one I trust to get out the word accurately.


KW: I appreciate the opportunity, brother. Let me start by asking how you feel about the cowardly ambush assassination of NYPD officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos in their patrol car?

RS: It breaks my heart that those two innocent police officers were killed. I am really very, very brokenhearted about it. But the best way to protect both the policemen and the community going forward is by creating a system that’s just, where everyone feels safe. Of course everyone feels terrible about what happened to the policemen, but it’s terrible what happened to Eric Garner, too.


KW: Why do you spend so much time on the streets marching nowadays and previously in the park with the Occupy Movement, when you have money?  

RS: Why not? Why can’t I occupy? Why can’t the rich help the poor? Why can’t I pay attention to systematic problems that disenfranchise my people?


KW: You’ve been working with the Justice League NYC, a progressive group that has gained a lot of traction as of late, and which issued a specific list of demands.

RS: I’m a little concerned about the group’s demands, all of which are legitimate, because as thoughtful as the list is, it’s still been easy for the New York Post and others to find ways to cherry pick and disparage it.  


KW: Well, what would you say is your most important goal?

RS: There’s one overriding issue, namely, that we live in a police state so long as the police get to police themselves. And that is why cops go unindicted. 


KW: Does it all boil down to whether or not black lives matter?

RS: I don’t like to racialize it, but it is a question of whether black lives matter. They do matter less. We know that from the news when one little white girl going missing in Brooklyn is considered more newsworthy than the fifty black kids who got shot in Chicago the same weekend. So, yes black lives matter less, but Global Grind [ ] did follow the recent incident involving an African-American policeman who shot a white boy and didn’t get indicted. We’ll never know whether he’s guilty, because there won’t be a trial. So long as the local district attorney [D.A.] is responsible for indicting a cop, we live in a police state. I will not rest until that one flaw in the system is changed.  


KW: What happened in that meeting you and Jay-Z had with Governor Cuomo a couple of weeks ago? Afterwards, you held a press conference saying that the Governor had pledged to employ special prosecutors in the future, but he seemed to simply say that the system needs to be reformed.   

RS: Maybe I misunderstood him about an executive order, but he did promise to change the law. He said something to the effect of, “I promise you, I’m going to get a bill passed establishing a separate office and a separate prosecutor for the state that looks into police abuse.”


KW: You have your differences with NYPD Union President Pat Lynch, too.

RS: The police union can point all the fingers they want at everybody else, but they’re fighting to retain control. They know it’s the #1 issue. But people are avoiding it, and pushing it to the side. I don’t think anybody’s going to rest until we get a separation of the local D.A. in these cases. I’ve been in all of the meetings with [Attorney General] Eric Schneiderman. The Governor would have to issue an executive order that would land on Schneiderman‘s desk, or he’d have to introduce a bill in Albany to make that change. New York may be the first state to enact such an initiative, and then it could rollover all across the country. Regardless, we’re going to fix New York State. No one’s going to rest until New York has an independent prosecutor to look into these cases.


KW: As a lawyer, it’s painfully obvious to me that these cases are being thrown, since any prosecutor could, as they say, indict a ham sandwich if he or she wants to.

RS: All of these prosecutors have thrown the cases. Normally, everybody gets indicted and is put on trial. In the Eric Garner case, the only person the Staten Island grand jury did indict was the guy who filmed the tragic incident. 


KW: I didn’t know that, but I can’t say I’m surprised.

RS: I’ve spent a lot of time with Eric Garner’s son recently, and it breaks my heart to see his family grieving and to know that unless U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder steps in and brings some civil rights charges, they will never get justice. So, when I march, I’m thinking about that one issue everybody has to agree with. The Police Association is the only one that doesn’t. It’s been horrible, between all the attacks on the Mayor and the peaceful protestors.  


KW: What needs to be done to reduce the tension between the rank-and-file police officers and the community?

RS: It’s the job of the head of the police union to create a dialogue and a comfort level with the community. Mayor de Blasio’s doing his best to understand the dynamic and to work out a fair plan, but it’s like Lynch doesn’t want to give an inch. It’s in his power to determine whether a cop is indicted. If a local D.A. indicts a cop, he may as well kiss his ass goodbye. That conflict of interest can’t exist anymore. If Lynch doesn’t change, then blood could be on his hands, because he has the power to support the appointment of special prosecutors, so that any inappropriate behavior and excessive force can be investigated in a reasonable way. 


KW: How well attended were the marches? Did the police play down the head count?

RS: When we marched down Fifth Avenue, there weren’t just 30,000 people out there, but at least 150,000 people out there. It stretched for 35 crowded blocks full of people. I’ll send you the footage shot from a helicopter. It was a peaceful march, and if we don’t adjust system, we will march again. Last time, I had everybody from Khloe Kardashian to Miley Cyrus to Kanye to Puffy to Nas out there. They all Instagrammed and Tweeted and used other social media to let folks know that they were going to be there. Tyrese has 20 million followers on Facebook alone. These people are all waiting for word of when we launch. So, the issue is not going away, until the state is no longer a police state where the policemen police themselves. 


KW: New York sure looked like a police state when a long gauntlet of cops turned their backs on the Mayor as he walked down the hall of the hospital after paying his respects to the two officers who had just been assassinated. I realized, if they don’t feel that they have to show any respect to the Mayor, just think of the contempt they must have for the Average Joe.

RS: I would blame [Police Commissioner] Bratton. I’m not sure he’s the right person to bridge the gap. Bratton says, “It’ll go away.” He’s wrong. If he thinks it’s going away, he’s crazy. We’re not going anywhere. We’re just getting started. If we don’t get a special prosecutor in New York State, we’re going to march.


KW: What about the possibility of it inciting violence?

RS: I’ve never seen so many smart and thoughtful kids as at that 150,000+ march. The only incident involved a white, City College professor. Black people are used to the injustice, but this white professor probably got riled up because he’s white and wasn’t used to it. That was the only incident at a very diverse march. 


KW: Well thanks again for the time, Rush, recharge your batteries, so you can return from vacation ready to resume fighting the good fight. We need you. 

RS: Will do, my brother. God bless you.


UserpicDavid Oyelowo (INTERVIEW)
Posted by Kam Williams

David Oyelowo
The “Selma” Interview
with Kam Williams


Mellow Oyelowo!

David Oyelowo (pronounced – “oh-yellow-oh”) is a classically-trained stage actor who is working successfully and simultaneously in film, television and theater, and has quickly become one of Hollywood’s most sought-after talents. He was recently nominated for a Golden Globe for his stirring performance as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in the highly-anticipated, civil rights drama Selma. Directed by Ava DuVernay and produced by Oprah Winfrey and Brad Pitt’s Plan B, the film follows the black fight for the right to register to vote culminating in the march from Selma to Montgomery and in President Lyndon Johnson’s signing of the historic Voting Rights Act of 1965.

David can currently be seen in Christopher Nolan’s space travel, sci-fi adventure Interstellar and in A Most Violent Year opposite Jessica Chastain and Oscar Isaac. He just wrapped production on Captive, a true-life crime thriller, and will soon co-star in Nina, a biographical drama about Nina Simone (played by Zoe Saldana).

A year ago, he co-starred in Lee Daniels’ The Butler, alongside Forest Whitaker, John Cusack, James Marsden and Oprah Winfrey. And in 2012, he was seen in Steven Spielberg’s Oscar-nominated drama Lincoln, with Daniel Day-Lewis, Sally Field and Tommy Lee Jones.

Additionally, David starred in the critically-acclaimed independent drama, Middle of Nowhere, also directed by Ava DuVernay, and in Lee Daniels’ The Paperboy, opposite Nicole Kidman, Matthew McConaughey and Zac Efron. His other screen credits include the George Lucas-produced Red Tails, Rise of The Planet of The Apes, The Help, 96 Minutes, The Last King of Scotland and Who Do You Love.

David first impressed audiences on the stage when he starred in The Suppliants at the Gate Theatre playing King Palasgus. Next, he played the title role of Henry VI, becoming the first black actor to play an English king for the Royal Shakespeare Company.


Kam Williams: Hi David, thanks for the interview.

David Oyelowo: My pleasure, Kam. How are you?


KW: I’m great! Congratulations on the announcement of Golden Globe nominations for you and Ava DuVernay.

DO: Yes, that was a very, very nice moment for us. I’m particularly proud of her. When you look at that list of directors she’s in the company of, it’s pretty extraordinary to think that she’s only been directing for five years, and that she’s the first black woman to be afforded this honor. So, we’re really, really happy, particularly when it comes to her.


KW: Environmental activist Grace Sinden says: You have had a very successful and varied career but your role portraying Martin Luther King in Selma must have been an extraordinary experience. I have only seen the trailer online and was deeply moved by your performance. How emotional an experience was portraying Dr. King for you?  

DO: It was a deeply-emotional experience for numerous reasons, not the least of it being that the film had been very hard to get off the ground. So, there were several times when I had to pinch myself about the fact that we were actually getting it made. When you reflect upon the significance of Dr. King to this nation, it’s criminal that he hasn’t had a feature film that was centered around him until now. That, in and of itself, was emotional. But when you’re doing scenes on the Edmund Pettus Bridge, with people still living in Selma and now in their 60s and 70s who had actually marched, who were there that original Bloody Sunday, that’s humbling… that’s deeply moving. You’re no longer acting at that stage, you’re just reacting, because it takes the filmmaking process to another dimension. So, yes it was an intensely emotional shoot, but also an intensely joyful shoot, since we really felt we were paying honor and doing service to these great men and women who had participated.


KW: Rel Dowdell, Patricia Turnier and Sangeetha Subramanian all ask: How did you prepare for your definitive performance as the iconic Dr. Martin Luther King?

DO: Even though the journey towards doing it was long and at times frustrating, one of the good by-products of its taking awhile was that I had time to really study King, to study his movements. I also had the God-given opportunity to be in films like Lincoln, The Help, The Butler and Red Tails, films that look at the black experience in this country over the past 150 years. So, I had this historical education going on before stepping into this role. All of those things, combined with talking to Dr. King’s children, and spending a lot of time with Andrew Young who, of course, knew him intimately, were all elements that helped me immeasurably get to where I got.


KW: Harriet Pakula-Teweles asks: How does an actor faithfully embody an historical figure without simply presenting another newsreel portrayal?

DO: Well, I think the way you do that is by focusing on what’s behind the newsreels. If you merely focus on what we already know, then it’s not revelatory. You may as well just go and watch a documentary or a few videos on Youtube, and you’re good. What I had to do was go and find the guy who is the father, the friend, the man who was unsure, the man who needed friends around him in order to be able to keep on going. What does a moment where he’s home alone with his wife feel like? What does a moment where he’s just completely on his own feel like? To show what he’s like when he’s quiet, as opposed to when he’s giving a speech are things that I think are absolutely necessary in order for an audience to feel like they’re seeing a side of this historical figure that they didn’t know before.    


KW: David Roth asks: What was it like collaborating with director Ava DuVernay again? Did it make a difference that you’d worked with her before?

DO: Well, in what I do for a living, trust and confidence are key. Inevitably, you can’t make brave choices and do your best work, if you don’t have those, because it’s such a subjective art form, and you don’t have eyes on yourself.   

Having done Middle of Nowhere with Ava, I had found someone I deeply trust, not just as a human being, but in terms of her creative and artistic vision. And in playing a role as exposing as Dr. King, you want someone leading you that you implicitly trust. That was one of the blessings of working with Ava again on this. And not only do I trust her as a person, but I think her ability as a director is world class. She’s as good as anyone I’ve worked with before, and that’s something that instills confidence.


KW: Chandra McQueen says: Your performance in Selma was remarkable. We saw the human and iconic side of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in your      performance. Was there anything that surprised you, something new that you discovered about Dr. King, while studying for the role? 

DO: I think what a lot of people don’t realize is how much being the leader of this movement weighed upon him. After all, he was only 39 years-old when he was assassinated, and only 36 during the Selma campaign. He always seemed older than he actually was, and I believe part of that had to do with just how much life he had to live in order to lead this movement. He was away from home 28 days of any given month. He was a voice for the voiceless and had so many people relying upon him. As a result, that made for a man who, to be perfectly frank, had lived two lifetimes by the time he was killed. That was something I felt in the playing of it. I don’t think I could have done what he did. That was quite extraordinary.


KW: Well, you made history in your own right with your performance as Henry VI when you were the first black actor to play an English king with the Royal Shakespeare Company. How did that accomplishment feel?

DO: It felt great, because I was glad to be the one to break the deadlock. Yet, it was bittersweet because, like Ava says of her Golden Globe nomination, even though I was the first to be afforded the honor, I’m sure I wasn’t the first black person deserving of that honor. So, it’s something to be proud of, but we’re keen to move on from the first and to be an undeniable part of the conversation going forward.  


KW: Thanks again for the time, David.

DO: Thanks so much, Kam, and have a good day.

To see a trailer for Selma, visit:


UserpicMark Wahlberg (INTERVIEW)
Posted by Kam Williams

Mark Wahlberg
The “The Gambler” Interview
with Kam Williams


Two-Time Oscar-Nominee Talks about His Latest Film

Mark Wahlberg earned Academy Award nominations for his standout work in both the The Fighter and The Departed. Mark’s breakout role in Boogie Nights established him as one of Hollywood’s most sought-after talents, and he has since played diverse characters for such visionary filmmakers as David O. Russell, Tim Burton and Paul Thomas Anderson.

His remarkable acting career began with Renaissance Man, directed by Penny Marshall, and The Basketball Diaries, with Leonardo DiCaprio, followed by a star turn opposite Reese Witherspoon in the thriller Fear. He later headlined Three Kings and The Perfect Storm, with George Clooney, and The Italian Job, with Charlize Theron.

Mark then starred in the football biopic Invincible, with Greg Kinnear, and Shooter, based on the best-selling novel, “Point of Impact.” He reunited with The Yards director James Gray and co-star Joaquin Phoenix for We Own the Night, which he also produced. Most recently, he collaborated with Pain & Gain director Michael Bay for Transformers: Age Of Extinction. His additional credits include 2 Guns, with Denzel Washington, Peter Berg’s Lone Survivor, The Lovely Bones, The Other Guys, Contraband and Ted.

An accomplished film and television producer, Mark produced The Gambler, Lone Survivor, Broken City, Contraband, The Fighter (for which he was nominated for an Oscar for Best Picture) and We Own the Night. For television, he executive produced HBO’s “Entourage” through its impressive eight-season run. In addition, he executive produced HBO’s “Boardwalk Empire,” “How to Make It in America” and “In Treatment,” as well as A&E’s “Wahlburgers.”

A committed philanthropist, he founded The Mark Wahlberg Youth Foundation in 2001 to benefit inner-city children and teens. Here, he talks about his latest film, The Gambler, a remake of the 1974 classic starring James Caan.



Kam Williams: Hi Mark, thanks for the interview. I’m honored to have this opportunity.

Mark Wahlberg: Oh, my pleasure, Kam. Thank you.


KW: I told my readers I’d be interviewing you, so I’ll be mixing my questions in with theirs. “Realtor to the Stars” Jimmy Bayan says: He asks: Was there something about this script which appealed to your East Coast sensibilities that drew you to this project?

MW: Well, when you think about the person responsible for creating the character and the dialogue, Bill Monahan, who’s a Boston guy, obviously, his words roll off my tongue quite nicely. Previously, I’ve worked with him on The Departed, he recently wrote American Desperado for us, and I just acted in a movie he directed called Mojave. So, yes, Jimmy, that goes without saying.  


KW: James Cryan was wondering whether your Boston background was of help in making The Departed?

MW: Absolutely! Absolutely! That thing was so in my wheelhouse. I told Marty [director Martin Scorcese] “Watch out, because I’m going after everybody in this one.” Although that’s who the character was. It allowed me to have a real “take no prisoners” attitude.


KW: Documentary filmmaker Kevin Williams says: Thank you for being such a good example of how to build a career on your own terms and for making such inspirational films like Invincible and Lone Survivor. Now that you are moving towards producing bigger projects for yourself and other filmmakers, how do you define success and how do you decide what to produce?

MW: You’d be surprised. My taste continues to grow and expand. I define success as being in a position where I can do a picture like The Gambler after making Transformers and other movies that have enjoyed tremendous commercial success. That allowed me to go to a studio and say, “Wow, now take a chance on me with this smaller movie that is not the typical type of film that studios want to greenlight.” It’s a small character piece about a man who’s not the most likable guy in the world that I find fascinating. And hopefully, people will find it interesting enough that the movie will be a success and allow me to keep making more films like it. So, success for me is just having a job and having the studio feel confident that I can go out there and make a movie that people will enjoy.


KW: Andrew DeAngelo, who was born and raised in Dorchester, asks: How similar is the show Entourage to your actual rise as a movie star? Were any of your real-life experiences incorporated into the show?

MW: Some of the experiences, definitely, Andrew. The only problem was we couldn’t find four guys from Boston. We originally wanted the characters to all be from Boston, which would have given them a more urban and gritty feel. But the hardest part of the casting was finding a guy who was believable as a movie star who wasn’t already a movie star. So, we then made the compromise of having these guys come from New York. 


KW: When’s the screen version coming out?

MW:  June. I’m very excited about it. The movie’s done. And it’s off the charts!


KW: Kate Newell asks: When are you finally going to hosting Saturday Night Live?

MW: I’ve been asked to host a few times, but I’ve never done it.


KW: Kate also asks: Who do you think does the best impression of you?

MW: Andy Samberg is the only person I’ve ever seen do an impression of me, and I didn’t think it was that accurate. I’d like to see somebody else impersonate me, especially if they can do a good job.


KW: David Roth asks: Who would win in a fight between Jim Bennett and Axel Freed, the gambler played by James Caan in 1974?

MW: [Chuckles] Axel Freed, because Jim Bennett does not fight. He will push every button, and infuriate people to the point where they want to beat the crap out of him, but he won’t be bothered by that. He will not fight. 


KW: I really enjoyed the film. I loved the gritty dialogue-driven script, the earthy soundtrack, and what a supporting cast! You got great performances from Brie Larson, Jessica Lange, John Goodman, and Michael Kenneth Williams.

MW:  Again, I have to credit Bill Monahan for creating these characters and writing the dialogue that attracted that level of talent. Don’t forget the great George Kennedy who had another scene in the movie that, unfortunately, didn’t make the final cut. We found ourselves in that difficult situation where the movie we wanted to make was three hours, but we had to hand in a film that was about two hours-long. Where do you compromise? How do you make a movie that is going to both best service the story and the main character? It was just one of those things.


KW: I thought it was a very powerful way to start the film with that deathbed scene where your character’s grandfather [played by George Kennedy] asks you, “What are you going to do when I leave you with nothing?”  

MW:  It’s funny, because that scene was originally supposed to take place in the middle of the movie. But then, we thought that maybe it would be good to open the movie with that scene, because Jim’s dad wasn’t a part of his life, and his granddad was the only person that he was connected to.  


KW: Yeah, I think it worked really well. Sangeetha Subramanian asks: What's your favorite food to eat on set?

MW: If I’m not training then, gosh, anything: donuts… Kentucky Fried Chicken 20-piece hot wings… corned beef hash and eggs… But because I’m training right now, I’m eating very healthily: almond milk… Ezekiel bread… chicken… fish… I’m on a strict diet right now, so I’m not having any fun eating. Normally, our caterer makes these wonderful chocolate chip cookies for lunch. It was my one treat of the day, after getting beat up on the mountain while shooting Lone Survivor. I’d eat a couple cookies and then take a 15-minute nap on the top of the mountain.


KW: What movie are you in training for?

MW: Will Ferrell and I are teaming up again on a film called Daddy’s Home. In the movie I play a Special-Ops soldier who has just discovered that Will Ferrell’s character is married to my ex-wife and is my children’s stepfather. So, I have to come home and try to win them back and take him out.


KW: I thought you guys were great together in The Other Guys. Wasn’t that film where The Rock and somebody else died in the opening scene?

MW: Samuel L. Jackson.


KW: Yeah, that film was hilarious. Harriet Pakula-Teweles says: If—because for over two decades you have been trying to right the wrongs while being a model for youth—you are able to obtain a pardon from the Massachusetts Parole Board, how might your potential pardon be a possible inspiration to others who have committed wrongs in their youth?

MW: Hopefully, it will show them that it isn’t too late to turn their lives around. People are always speculating about what the reason was for my requesting a pardon. The important thing is that ever since I realized all the wrongs that I had done, I have been trying to correct them for the past 27 years. I just focus on my work with inner-city kids, and in my community, and on my philanthropic work. If I am awarded a pardon for my philanthropic work, great; if not, I will continue to be involved in the community and to work just as hard, if not harder, to prevent kids from going down the same road and making the same mistakes. But hopefully, we’re still living in the land of second chances. Even my going back to school was to inspire young people that it’s never too late to get your education. That’s all I can do, and try to be the best father and husband that I can be.


KW: I’m sure you’ll get the pardon. You’ve earned it. Good luck! The Ling-Ju Yen question: What is your earliest childhood memory?

MW: Gosh! It’s of being alone with my dad. He drove a truck for a living. But he had a few free hours in the middle of the day, between the morning shift and the late afternoon shift. Because I was the youngest of nine, I could have him all to myself when they were at school. We’d watch movies at home, or go to the movies, and he introduced me to the guys who still inspire me today. The first movie I can remember ever seeing was Hard Times with Charles Bronson and James Coburn. My dad also introduced me to the likes of Jimmy Cagney… John Garfield… Robert Ryan… Steve McQueen… James Caan… Those are my fondest memories.


KW: When you look in the mirror, what do you see?

MW: I see a guy getting old. I try to not look in the mirror too much.


KW: If you could have one wish instantly granted, what would that be for?

MW: Peace and harmony in the world.


KW: The Sanaa Lathan question: What excites you?

MW: Working with talented people and challenging myself as an actor.


KW: The Viola Davis question: What’s the biggest difference between who you are at home as opposed to the person we see on the red carpet?

MW: Not much. Dad’s just gotta put on a suit and go out there and take some pictures. I do understand that going out and promoting the movie is a big responsibility, and part of the reason they give me the job in the first place. I also like to get out there to promote a positive message about the importance of family and faith and of doing the right thing.


KW: The Judyth Piazza question: What key quality do you believe all successful people share? 

MW: That “never give up” attitude, not taking “no” for an answer, and working twice as hard as the next guy. Doing it the good, old-fashioned way. Real hard work pays off.


KW: What exercise regimen do you follow to stay in such great shape?

MW: It changes. I’m only doing whatever the next role calls for. To give you an idea, I’m at the halfway point of shooting this movie. I woke up at 3 AM today, and had egg whites and Ezekiel bread with almond butter 5 minutes later. At 3:15, I was reading my prayer book and saying my prayers. At 3:30, I was in the gym for an hour, doing jump rope, and all types of high-impact functional movement exercises: kettle bells, dumbbells, step up planks, battle rope, rip cord trainer, etcetera. I came back up here and had a shake. Then I went to the basketball court and played 2-on-2 for an hour. Came back here and had a roasted chicken, tuna salad and a big sweet potato. That was all before 6 AM. Then, I went to do the Today Show and Michael & Kelly. Then I came back here, had two turkey burgers and an avocado. Then I did 90 minutes of phone interviews before having a filet mignon with sautéed spinach. Then I went to a meeting at 1:30, came back here and had another roasted chicken with steamed carrots. And when we finish, I’m going to read my script and start learning my lines for the scenes we’ll be shooting tomorrow. At 6 PM, I’ll take a shower, and wait to get a call from my wife letting me know that she and the kids landed safely. At 7:15, I’ll go to sleep, and wake up at 3 AM again tomorrow.


KW: That’s amazing! I remember speaking with Anthony Mackie, for Pain & Gain, and he credited you with helping him sculpt his physique for that film.

MW: There’s nothing better than meeting somebody with a great soul, and a great spirit and a good heart. I took him to the gym the first day we met in Miami. Then we had a nice meal and a big shake. And he and I have remained close. He just called me the other day to ask me how I was doing, since we’re shooting in his hometown, New Orleans. So, I hope to see him and get together with him. He’s a good guy who’s going to have a great career. I told him that he’ll be able to do whatever he wants for as long as he wants, as long as he’s patient. And you have to always be ready. It’s a marathon, not a sprint.


KW: The Tavis Smiley question: How do you want to be remembered?

MW: As a great servant of God who tried to give back as much as possible, and as a great father and husband.


KW: Lastly, what’s in your wallet?

MW: Picture books of all my kids when they were young, a lucky pendant, a few receipts, a couple of credit cards, a spiritual relic and a couple other mementos, and a two-dollar bill I got from a dear friend.  


KW: Thanks again for the time, Mark, and best of luck with The Gambler.

MW: Thank you, Kam. Bye.

To see a trailer for The Gambler, visit:


UserpicOpening the Genealogy Flood
Posted by Kam Williams

Dr. Henry Louis Gates, Jr.
The “Finding Your Roots: Season Two” Interview
with Kam Williams

Dr. Henry Louis Gates, Jr., is the Alphonse Fletcher University Professor and Director of the Hutchins Center for African and African-American Research at Harvard University. Emmy Award-winning filmmaker, literary scholar, journalist, cultural critic, and institution builder, Professor Gates has authored 17 books and created 14 documentary films, including Finding Your Roots, season two, now airing on PBS. 

His 6-part PBS documentary series, The African-Americans: Many Rivers to Cross (2013), which he wrote, executive produced, and hosted, earned the Emmy Award for Outstanding Historical Program—Long Form, as well as the Peabody and NAACP Image Awards. Having written for such leading publications as The New Yorker, The New York Times, and Time, Dr. Gates now serves as editor-in-chief of, while overseeing the Oxford African-American Studies Center, the first comprehensive scholarly online resource in the field.

Professor Gates’s latest book is Finding Your Roots: The Official Companion to the PBS Series, released by the University of North Carolina Press in 2014. Here, he talks about Finding Your Roots: Season Two, now available on DVD.


Kam Williams: Hi, Dr. Gates, how are you?

Henry Louis Gates: Everything’s a little crazy around here, because I’m trying to get out of town. But otherwise, I’m doing very well, Kam. How are you?


KW: Great, thanks. So, where are you headed?

HLG: We’re going to South Africa for a couple weeks where I’ll be getting an honorary degree from the University of Cape Town.


KW: Congratulations!

HLG: Thank you!


KW: And congrats on another fascinating season of Finding Your Roots. How did you pick which luminaries to invite to participate in the project? Did you already have an idea that they might have an interesting genealogy?

HLG: No, we picked them cold. I have a wonderful team of producers. To tell you the truth, first, we just fantasize. Then, we sit down in my house with a big peg board with the names of all the people who said “Yes.” So, we never know whom we are going to get in advance.


KW: How do you settle on the theme of each episode? For instance, you did the one on athletes with Derek Jeter, Billie Jean King and Rebecca Lobo, and the one on chefs with Tom Colicchio, Aaron Sanchez and Ming Tsai. 

HLG: Usually, we first do the research and film everybody, and then organize the episodes internally. For instance, Episode One was called, “In Search of Our Fathers.” You might wonder, what does Stephen King have in common with Courtney B. Vance? Well, Stephen King’s father left when he was 2, and Courtney never knew his father. He was put up for adoption. And frankly, that’s my favorite kind of story, when it’s counter-intuitive. That’s why we’ve organized the episodes around those two principles.


KW: Environmental activist Grace Sinden says: The subject of our roots is fascinating, as shown in your television program on PBS. I'm wondering what you found to be the singularly, most-interesting discovery in your research for Finding Your Roots 2?

HLG: That’s tough to say, because each story has something dramatic and interesting. Take when Ming Tsai’s grandfather fled China after the revolution, all he took besides the clothes on his back was one book, the book containing his family’s genealogy. Isn’t that amazing? He was willing to flee to a whole new world, learn a new language, and start over in a new culture only if he had his family tree with him. That’s heavy, man! It’s like he was saying, “I can do anything, as long as I have my ancestors with me.” I really admire that. And consequently, we were able to trace Ming’s ancestry back to his 116th great-grandfather.


KW: Whose roots were you able to trace back the farthest?

HLG: Ming Tsai’s, without a doubt. We’ve traced several people back to Charlemagne, but Ming’s goes back to B.C., because of the Chinese penchant for keeping fantastic genealogical records.


KW: Sangeetha Subramanian says: It seems that your guests have a variety of reactions as each story and new fact is revealed. Whose reaction to an uncovered story surprised you the most? 

HLG: Anderson Cooper, without a doubt. I told him that his 3rd great-grandfather, Burwelll Boykin, was a slave owner. First of all, Anderson was very saddened and disappointed that he descended from a slave owner. But his ancestors were from Alabama, so I told him that was very common. I don’t think you inherit the guilt of your ancestors. We merely reveal whatever we find, without making any sort of judgment. What your ancestors did is what they did. That’s not on you. Anyway, Burwell Boykin had a dozen slaves, according to the 1860 Census. And one of them kept running away. To punish him, he locked him in a hot and humid cotton house. Can you imagine? When Burwell let Sandy “Sham” Boykin out the next morning, the slave grabbed a hoe out of his master’s hands before beating him to death. We found the story in a diary kept by one of Anderson’s ancestors, and then we verified it in the court records which showed that, sure enough, a slave named Sandy Boykin had been hanged in 1860.


KW: Marcia Evans says please let Dr. Gates know that this show is awesome and well appreciated. I don't want this series to ever end. There are soooooooo many stories that I want to learn about. This discovery is not just about DNA and history. It's about family, family secrets, and the mindset of folks and their choices. For all of these reasons, I am a dedicated fan. I appreciate Professor Gates and his passion for teaching undocumented history, especially African and African-American studies. I'm a history buff which is why I've been following his work for years. Ask Professor Gates if he is aware of the research work of Professor/Researcher Roberta Estes and her research into accurate testing for Native American genetics?

HLG: No, I’m not, Marcia. But thank you very much for the kind words and the information. I would love to learn about what she’s doing. We’re always fascinated with Native American ancestry, and we’ve found two surprising things about our guests. First, that very few have any significant amount of Native American ancestry, black or white, although Valerie Jarrett did have 5%, and we found her 6th great-grandmother, by name, and the Native American tribe that she was part of. But rarely do we find an African-American with even 1% Native American ancestry.


KW: Has anybody ever tried to disagree with their DNA analysis? 

HLG: No, but some people were shocked, particularly African-Americans who believed they had Native American ancestry. They’re always disappointed. [Chuckles]


KW: When I was growing up, it seemed like every other kid at school used to say he was part Cherokee.

HLG: The poor Cherokees. Everybody, white Americans and black Americans claimed to be part Cherokee.[LOL]


KW: Did any of your subjects ask you not to reveal something you found out about their family?

HLG: No, although I’m sure a few people would like to do so, if they could. But we’re PBS. We’re independent.


KW: Editor Bobbie Dore Foster asks: Dr Gates, do you ever answer queries from everyday people who need help with genealogical puzzles and other obstacles to fleshing out their family trees?

HLG: Yes I do, Bobbie, in two forms. At, we answer a question a week for African-Americans who have a genealogical quandary. That’s co-written with the New England Genealogical Society. And at, the genealogist there and I write a weekly column that’s on the Huffington Post.


KW: Editor Lisa Loving says: We all just love your show. My family tree efforts have literally thrilled my entire family and made them look at themselves and each other differently – as if to appreciate all that our ancestors survived down through the ages. Did you and your family have the same experience when you started looking at your genealogy?

HLG: Oh my God, yes! In fact, CeCe Moore, our genetic genealogist, noticed that I had a whole lot of matches with people named Mayle. We pursued it and, as it turns out, those people and I, on one side of my family, are descended from a white man named Wilmore Mayle who was born in England. He freed his slave Nancy in 1826, and they had children together. We convened all of his mixed-raced descendants for a family reunion in September, and we filmed that for the last episode of the series. And that was done purely through DNA. We don’t even know how Mayle fits in my family tree, but he’s definitely one of my ancestors. 


KW: Chandra McQueen asks: What would you say carved out this path for you?

HLG: The fact that when I was 9 years-old, on the day that we buried my grandfather, Edward St. Lawrence Gates, my father showed my brother and me a picture of Jane Gates, the oldest Gates we’ve ever traced, then or now. It blew my mind! She was born in 1819 and she died in 1888. I’m looking at her picture right now. She was a slave and a midwife. I was just so amazed. Between looking at my grandfather in the casket, which was very traumatic, and seeing my father cry for the first time, which was also very traumatic, and trying to figure out how in the world someone who looked like me could have descended from someone who could have passed for white, and then finding out that my great-great grandmother was a slave, intrigued me. So, the next day I interviewed my parents about my family tree. And I’ve been hooked ever since. [Laughs] And that’s a true story.


KW: Chan is also curious about what surprised you the most about your own genealogy?

HLG: The fact that I was 50.1% white and 48.6% black.


KW: Chan’s last question is: Do you go about gathering genealogical information about African-Americans very differently from the way you do for other ethnicities? How do you get past the obstacle of slavery?

HLG: Yes, we do, because African-Americans generally weren’t identified by name in the census prior to the abolition of slavery. So, we start with the 1870 census, which is the first in which blacks appear with two names. Then you go back to 1860, and see whether there were any slave owners with the same surname, since, more often than not, most emancipated slaves kept the surname of their former owners. Ironically, the key to finding one’s black ancestry during slavery often involves finding the identity of the white man or woman who owned your ancestors. That’s quite a fascinating paradox.


KW: Beatryce Nivens says: I have been tracing my genealogy for several years, and other members of my family have been doing it for a couple decades. My great-grandmother was a slave on the Thomas H. Watts farm in Chesterfield County, South Carolina. Her slave owner was her father. In 1977, the white side of my great-grandmother's family gave a second-cousin of mine slave papers listing the slaves on their ancestors’ plantation, as well as their dates of birth and deaths. Unfortunately, that cousin is now deceased and his children can't find the papers. What is the best way to recreate that list? We have used the 1870 Census. Are there any other resources you would recommend for South Carolina? Chesterfield is a County whose courthouse and documents were burned to the ground by Sherman during his historic march across the South towards the end of the Civil War.

HLG: Beatrice, go to, and type in the name of your ancestor, and it will automatically connect you to any record regarding that particular family member that’s been digitized.


KW: Why do you think tracing one’s ancestry is so emotional and transformational, even for celebrities?  

HLG: It’s funny, I filmed Donna Brazile yesterday, and Jimmy Kimmel a week ago, and both of them cried during the reveal. It is very, very emotional. I think people are deeply moved because, ultimately, it’s about ourselves. It’s about you. You are literally the sum total of your ancestors. You are a living testament to your family tree. On Thanksgiving, in the lobby of William Junius Wilson’s apartment building, I met a man who thought that people are so fascinated by the series because of the sense of rootlessness that comes with post-modernity. And one way people gain a sense of solidity is by laying a foundation. And that foundation for anyone is your family tree. Who am I? Where do I come from? You know what? I used to think only black people had what I call “genealogical amnesia.” But I found out that nobody knows more than past their great-grandparents.  


KW: Thanks again for the time, brother, and have fun in South Africa.

HLG: Any time, Kam. You know I love talking to you.

To see a trailer for Finding Your Roots: Season Two, visit:


UserpicCheck Out Slaughter, Come Hell or High Water
Posted by Kam Williams

Karin Slaughter
The “Cop Town” Interview
with Kam Williams


Karin Slaughter is the New York Times and #1 internationally best-selling author of 14 thrillers, including “Unseen,” “Criminal,” “Fallen,” “Broken,” “Undone,” “Fractured,” “Beyond Reach,” “Triptych,” “Faithless,” and the e-original short stories “Snatched” and “Busted.” Here, the Georgia native discusses her latest opus, “Cop Town,” a riveting murder mystery set in Atlanta in 1974. 


Kam Williams: Hi Karin, thanks for the interview. As a long-term reader of classic murder mysteries, from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle to Agatha Christie to Dorothy Sayers to Dick Francis to Donald Westlake to Edgar Box (aka Gore Vidal), I must say that I really loved Cop Town and would rate it right up there with the very best of the genre.

Karin Slaughter: That is high praise indeed.  Thanks so much!


KW: What inspired you to write the book?

KS: I wrote a novel called Criminal a few years ago that was partly set in the 1970s, and I had the great pleasure of talking to all these incredible female police officers who came up during that time.  There were so many more stories that I wanted to tell about them.  What they went through was just amazing, and I think it’s important for people to remember exactly how bad it used to be.


KW: How would you describe your creative process? Do you do map out the plotline or focus on character development first?  

KS: It really depends on the story, but all of my books are about characters.  The plot is very important because writers have to play fair with their readers, but no one would care about the plot if the character work wasn’t there.  So, basically every book I work on starts with me thinking not just about the bad thing that’s going to happen (spoiler alert!) but how that bad thing is going to ripple through the community, the family of the victim, and the lives of the investigators.  I am keenly aware when I’m working that the crimes I am writing about have happened to real people. I take that very seriously.


KW: How much research did this project entail? I know that the story is set in your hometown of Atlanta, but the events take place at a time when you were just a toddler. And when I Googled some of the names, I discovered that you interweaved some real-life characters and events with the fictional ones. 

KS: I love weaving in fact with fiction, and I know that many of my readers were alive and paying attention in the 70s, so it’s my job to reward them for paying attention with little touchstones from that decade.  I have Sears catalogues for clothing, Southern Living for architecture and entertaining, and of course all the tremendously helpful people who talked to me about what it was really like to live in Atlanta at that time.  That being said, I write fiction, so there were some instances where I had to bend the story a little bit to suit my needs.


KW: Is there someone you bounce your early drafts of chapters off of in order to know whether it’ll work with your readers? 

KS: I only work with my editors because pointing out a problem, a slow passage or a character who needs more to do, etcetera, is very easy, but knowing how to have a discussion about fixing it is alchemy.  Many times, it’s something earlier in the book, or later, that needs to be tweaked and then it all makes sense.  A good editor is one of the sharpest tools a writer can have in her toolbox.


KW: Do you write with a demographic in mind? 

KS: I write with me in mind, because as much as I love my readers, these are my stories.  I am a voracious reader myself.  I don’t stick to one genre.  My only criteria is that it’s a good story.  I try to bring that to my work because I think people can read your excitement about a story.


KW: How long does it take you to write a book, and how do you know when it’s finished?

KS: It depends on the book.  For a story like Cop Town, it takes years to do the research and come up with the plot and really immerse myself in that time period.  Since Kate and Maggie were new characters, I had to do a lot of sitting around and thinking about them.  What’s important to them?  How has money informed their lives?  I also have to bend my thinking, because I write books about strong women who are in control of their lives, and Maggie and Kate aren’t really in control, but they are getting there.  I didn’t want to have this revisionist moment where they stand up and say, “We’re not going to take it anymore!”  That sort of thinking wasn’t in the average woman’s vocabulary.  Change is always incremental, so they might say, “We’re not going to type your reports for you until the weekend!” As for when it’s finished, I think about this quote I heard a long time ago no idea where it’s from: An artist is a painter who knows when to stop painting.


KW: Was the protagonist of Cop Town, Kate, based on anyone you know?

KS: I think Kate is an amalgamation of some women I’ve known in my life.  That’s really where all characters come from, though. The thing I wanted to show with Kate was how different the world is if you’re raised with money.  That sort of cushion frames your thinking.  Interpose that with Maggie, who has been raised to think that at any moment she might be living with her family on the street, and you begin to understand why they look at crime—and criminals—differently.


KW: I know you’ve already sold the film rights. Who’d you like to play Kate in the movie?

KS: Rosamund Pike is amazing.  I also love an actress named Dominique McElligott.  As for Maggie, how fantastic is Grace Gummer?


KW: Where did you learn how to ratchet up the tension so skillfully?

KS: Can I say Gilligan’s Island and not lose all my readers?  I was a latchkey kid, and instead of doing my homework, I watched reruns on TBS until a car pulled into the driveway.  I think that cliffhanger/dramatic arc got programmed into me, along with a predilection toward infomercials.


KW: Is there a message you want people to take away from the book?

KS: First and foremost, I want them to have a good read, because I want everything I write to entertain people.  There are always different layers to the story, though, so if you want to think about social justice, or sexism or racism or homophobia, or really drill down into why the world is a better place when the police force looks like the people they are policing, then that’s there, too.


KW: Is there any question no one ever asks you, that you wish someone would?

KS: Why are you so young and thin?


KW: Have you ever become embroiled in a real-life murder mystery?

KS: No, thank God.  I am a bit of a Dudley Do-Gooder, though, because if I see a car accident or something bad happen, I am one of those idiots who runs toward the problem instead of away from it.  Not that I would recommend this behavior.  I once stopped my car on the street because I saw a man hitting a woman and I jumped out and started yelling at him.  I was fine, but it later occurred to me that that is a good way to get your butt kicked.


KW: Have you ever accidentally uncovered a deep secret?

KS: No!  And I spied on my sisters All… the… time...  I think it’s just because they’re really, really boring.  I could’ve so been the Erin Brockovich of my family.


KW: The bookworm Troy Johnson question: What was the last book you read?

KS: My friend Alafair Burke wrote a book with Mary Higgins Clark, and I was really blown away by how fantastic it was.  Michael Connelly’s new one is fantastic.  I loved the latest Jack Reacher.  Lisa Gardner, Kate White, Mo Hayder, Jane Smiley, Phillip Roth…we are all spoiled for choice.


KW: When you look in the mirror, what do you see?

KS: Flaws, just like every other woman my age.  You know, it really sucks getting older.  Sometimes I’ll be walking along and I’ll just glance over my shoulder to make sure nothing has fallen off.


KW: If you could have one wish instantly granted, what would that be for?

KS: I know I should say world peace, but right now I’d just really like for my neighbor’s dogs to stop barking.  Oh, and good health, for me and my family, not the dogs.


KW: The Jamie Foxx question: If you only had 24 hours to live, how would you spend the time? 

KS: I’d want to be with my cats and my family at home.  Wow, Jamie Foxx, that’s really depressing.


KW: The Ling-Ju Yen question: What is your earliest childhood memory?

KS: I went to a Christian School, and when I reached a certain age, I wasn’t allowed to wear pants to school anymore.  There was a big conference about it with my parents about how unladylike it was for me to wear pants (this was a school where the principal and once of the coaches stood at the front door with a wooden ruler to make sure girls’ skirts were an inch below their knee).  So, from that day forward, I had to wear skirts, which meant that I couldn’t play on the playground like I used to.  I really feel like I could’ve been the next Serena Williams if not for that.  Or the pre-Serena Williams.  I mean, let’s be honest, she would totally be thanking me every time she won a match if not for that.


KW: The Melissa Harris-Perry question:How did your first big heartbreak impact who you are as a person?

KS: It was a seminal moment in my life, because I was with a real jerk, and once I did the prerequisite eating an entire cake and singing “All By Myself” in the shower, I realized that people treat you badly when you let them, and that I had to respect myself and not let anyone else treat me that way again.  If someone really loves you, they are your biggest champion, not your biggest detractor.


KW: What is your favorite dish to cook?

KS: I saw this thing on TV that makes breakfast sandwiches and I ordered it immediately and now I can pretty much make you any breakfast sandwich you want.


KW: The Sanaa Lathan question: What excites you?

KS: People who are interested in life.  I don’t understand people who say they’re bored.  Look out your window.


KW: The Tasha Smith question: Are you ever afraid?

KS: I’m afraid of the general things that everyone is afraid of: a bump in the night that could be a cat or Death dragging his sickle across the room; losing my health; becoming homeless, never meeting George Clooney.


KW: The Teri Emerson question: When was the last time you had a good laugh?

KS: You know, it’s crazy, but I laugh all of the time. It is painfully easy to amuse me.  An author friend of mine and I trade jokes pretty regularly.  And they’re these really witty, intelligent jokes that you’d expect from the literary descendants of Dorothy Parker and the Round Table, like: Q: what’s invisible and smells like carrots?  A: A rabbit fart.  You’re welcome, Edna Ferber.


KW: What is your guiltiest pleasure?

KS: The thing is that I never feel guilty about my pleasures.  I love watching television.  I love reading all kinds of books.  I love cupcakes.  Okay, maybe I feel a little guilty about the cupcakes.  They’re kind of a problem.


KW: The Mike Pittman question: What was your best career decision?

KS: Choosing to be ethical and fair with people.  My agents are the same way.  We just don’t screw people over because it’s not right.  This is very important to me, because I am a big believer in the Golden Rule.  Though, a lot of times when people are crappy, they get away with it, so I just have to remind myself that life makes you pay for your personality.  They might win on point, but they tend to be miserable human beings.


KW: The Anthony Anderson question: If you could have a superpower, which one would you choose?

KS: Flying.  Unless there’s a gluttony superpower I don’t know about, because in case it’s not clear, I really love cake.


KW: If you could have a chance to speak with a deceased loved one for a minute who would it be and what would you say?

KS: I would tell my grandmother that she has hemochromatosis and that she should go to the doctor because it’s treatable.


KW: The Judyth Piazza question: What key quality do you believe all successful people share? 

KS: Determination.  I think a little bit of arrogance, too, but determination is a big part of it.  Every successful author I know faced crushing rejection early on, and they got back up and kept going.  I love watching those family tree shows because all of these famous people generally come from a long line of over-achievers.  I don’t think this necessarily answers the question about nature vs. nurture, though, because people who have opportunities pass those opportunities along to their children.  This is actually a theme I tried to explore in Cop Town with Kate.


KW: The Gabby Douglas question: If you had to choose another profession, what would that be?

KS: I would love to be a watchmaker.  I love putting together puzzles, and the thought of delving into all those tiny gears really puts me in a happy place.


KW: What advice do you have for anyone who wants to follow in your footsteps?

KS: Don’t try to follow in my footsteps.  Make your own footsteps!  No one else can tell the stories that are inside of you except for you.


KW: The Tavis Smiley question: How do you want to be remembered?

KS: I want to be remembered as kind.


KW: What’s in your wallet?

KS: Two credit cards, my license and my Delta Airlines Diamond membership card, because l earned that with my blood.


KW: Thanks again for the time, Karin, and best of luck with Cop Town.

KS: Thank you for your thoughtful questions!


UserpicTavis on Repositioning Dr. King as a Revolutionary
Posted by Kam Williams

Tavis Smiley
The “Death of a King” Interview
with Kam Williams


Tavis Smiley is the host and managing editor of Tavis Smiley on PBS, and The Tavis Smiley Show from Public Radio International. He is also the author of 16 best-selling books. Here, he talks about his latest opus, “Death of a King.”


Kam Williams: Hi Tavis, thanks for the time, brother.

Tavis Smiley: Always nice to speak with you, Kam.


KW: I have lots of questions for you from readers. Attorney Bernadette Beekman says: I know that your book deals with the last year of King's life when the tide was turning against him, such as the Black Panthers, Ralph Bunche, and others in the movement.  Now Dr. King is viewed as a martyr.  Was it difficult for those still living to now speak negatively about King?

TS: Good question, Bernadette. Now that he is a dead martyr, rarely do people speak negatively of him. My point is that it’s easy to celebrate and applaud dead martyrs. The problem is that when King was here and in our faces, and talking about inconvenient truths, like what he called the triple threat facing our democracy--racism, poverty and militarism—everybody turned on him. Yet, 50 years after his assassination, what do we see when we look at Ferguson, Missouri? Racism, poverty and militarism! We have deified King in death, so it’s easy for people to say nice things about him now. But in life, we demonized him.


KW: Harriet Pakula-Teweles says: An historical biography of the last year of Dr. King’s life, no matter how beautiful a tribute, is it really what we need to read now to get it right?

TS: Absolutely! The answer’s “Yes,” because we come to know who we really are in life during the dark and difficult and desolate days of our journey. If you think you respect and revere Dr. King, wait ‘til you read this book. You’re going to feel that way even more so afterwards, because you’ll get to see how he navigated the most difficult period of his life, the last year of his life when everybody turned against him. That’s what fascinates me about him. After reading this book, you’ll have a different appreciation of Dr. King. It’s important to see him in his full complexity, and be honest about the fact that we help to kill King because we abandoned him. And once we abandoned him, we isolated him, which made it easy for someone to assassinate him. It was a three-step process.


KW: Editor/Legist Patricia Turnier asks: Do you have any interest in entering politics?

TS: Let me put it like this, “N, O, NO!” And put that in caps.


KW: Patricia also says: I think this is one of your best books. I just finished reading it. I found your discussion of Coretta Scott King’s influence on her husband very interesting, as well as her contributions as an activist, and her criticism of the Civil Rights Movement’s lack of focus, and the roles played by women in combat. About your research process: Did you make trips to Atlanta, Montgomery, the Lorraine Motel and other places in Memphis?

TS: Yes, all of the above. The short answer is I traveled extensively, I interviewed extensively, and I researched extensively. Still, I couldn’t have done this book had it none been for the work of Dr. King’s three principal biographers: Taylor Branch, David Garrow and Clayborne Carson. Those guys did the heavy lifting which made it easier for me to do a book just focusing on his final year. As for Coretta, she’s really an unsung heroine. I’m glad that Patricia took away the critical role that Coretta played not only in Dr. King’s life, but in the Movement. I’m glad that we were able to weave that into the narrative effectively.


KW: Patricia says: You quote Dr. King asserting that “Our nation is sick with racism, sick with militarism, sick with a system that perpetuates poverty.” If Dr. King were still alive, what do you think his assessment of present-day America would be?

TS: Excellent question! He’d pick up right where he left off, talking about that triple threat of racism, poverty and militarism. Even in the era of the first black president, racism is still the most intractable issue in this country. Regarding poverty, half of all Americans are either in or near poverty. Poverty is certainly worse for African-Americans now than it was during King’s lifetime. And there’s a highway into poverty, but barely a sidewalk out. This is not a skill problem, it’s a will problem, and King would be challenging us about the lack of our will to eradicate poverty. On militarism, the growth of the Military-Industrial Complex has been exponential since his assassination. If he were here now, he’d have a strong critique of the American empire’s militaristic approach to the world. And frankly, he’d have a strong critique of the Obama administration on its use of drones.


KW: Patricia says: You wrote that this book meant more to you than any of your others. I consider it an homage to a legend. What do you think is the most important part of Dr. King’s legacy?

TS: I think Dr. King is the greatest democratic, public intellectual that America has ever produced. What’s interesting is that in the U.S., we regard him as an icon, while elsewhere around the world he’s regarded as a revolutionary. They saw him as the radical revolutionary that he really was. Loving your enemy is a radical concept. Here at home, we’ve sanitized and sterilized him, and failed to appreciate him as the revolutionary and prophet that he really was.


KW: Chandra McQueen says: This year marks the 50th anniversary of Dr. King’s winning the Nobel Peace Prize. Do you think Obama is as deserving of his?

TS: I want to be as charitable as I can be, here. It’s been very difficult, sometimes heartbreaking to watch this war President with a Nobel Peace Prize, navigate his presidency.


KW: Have you considered having some of Smiley Books translated into other languages?

TS: We’ve translated some, but we could do more.


KW: Sangeetha Subramanian asks: What was the most surprising fact you uncovered when researching this book?

TS: That for all the surveillance and wiretapping Dr. King was kept under, not one time was he ever heard contesting the humanity of another human being.


KW: Vassar professor Mia Mask asks: What's up with your campaign against Obama? Isn't it somewhat self-serving? What, if anything, have you and Cornel West accomplished with your public criticism of the President?

TS: I am not engineering a campaign against Obama. My work and witness is about holding our leaders accountable.


KW: What do you think is the state of black politics in terms of loyalty to the Democratic Party?

TS: It’s the same old story. Democrats, too often, take blacks for granted, and Republicans, too often, simply ignore black voters.


KW: David Roth says: I would love to have a chance to chat with you. I am intrigued by the evolution of the post-civil disobedience African-American identity. Please comment on what Dr. Cornel West refers to as the dousing of the "Black prophetic fire" and the subsequent co-opting of the “we-consciousness” of 19th and 20th Century black leaders by the “me-consciousness” of the capitalistic society all Americans operate within. Now that the majority of Black Americans has been assimilated, there is no longer a singular, collective Black voice articulating the call for true equality of opportunity and equal justice under the law, which has led to the marginalizing of the people who raise their voices today.  

TS: Dr. West is absolutely correct about the black prophetic tradition of speaking truth to power being on life support.


KW: Kyle Moore asks: What has to be done to change to the political stalemate we see in Washington?

TS: We need to elect leaders who understand that leadership is about loving and serving people, not about self-advancement.


KW: L.A. “Realtor to the Stars” Jimmy Bayan says: You've been in Los Angeles for 30 years. What is it that you still find so alluring about our City of Angels?

TS: Great question, Jimmy. The City of Angels is a microcosm of the world, and so living in L.A. makes me feel like a citizen of the world.


KW: Cousin Leon Marquis asks: What was the toughest question you ever had to ask someone?

TS: That’s a question that every one of my guests would have a different answer for, because they all think I ask tough questions. We’ll leave it at that.


KW: AALBC Publisher Troy Johnson asks: What happened with the R. Kelly book project?

TS: We published the book, but for any number of reasons, it didn’t sell enough to make the best-seller list. He was afforded an opportunity to tell his story, and the marketplace decided.


KW: Troy also says: I really enjoyed, and now miss, the Smiley and West radio program. Why was it cancelled? Any plans for a similar program in the future?

TS: It wasn’t canceled. Dr. West and I decided to step away from it, primarily because we both just have so many things going on. We’re both very busy people.


KW: Troy would like to know: What are the future plans of Smiley Books?  

TS: We’re going to continue to publish books we think need to be read.


KW: Film critic Armond White simply asks: Why?

TS: Great question, Armond. I ask that myself everyday.


KW: Thanks for another great interview, Tavis.

TS: Thank you, Kam. I look forward to reading it.



UserpicBrooke Shields (INTERVIEW)
Posted by Kam Williams

Brooke Shields
The “There Was a Little Girl” Interview
with Kam Williams


A Look at Brooke!

Brooke Shields is an award-winning actress and a Princeton graduate with honors in French Literature. She started in iconic films such as “Pretty Baby,” “The Blue Lagoon” and “Endless Love.”

Brooke is also a renowned model, and starred in the long-running TV show “Suddenly Susan” as well as the critically-acclaimed “Lipstick Jungle.” She has appeared on Broadway on numerous occasions, too, and wrote and performed in her own one-woman show, “In My Life.”

A gifted writer, Brooke penned the New York Times best-seller “Down Came the Rain” and a couple of well-received children’s books. She lives in New York City with her husband, Chris Henchy, and their daughters, Rowan and Grier.

Here, she talks about her life, her career, and about her new memoir, “There Was a Little Girl: The Real Story of My Mother and Me.”  


Kam Williams: Hi Brooke, I’m honored to have this opportunity to interview you.

Brooke Shields: Omigosh! Thank you, Kam, for wanting to. I’m losing my voice a little bit, but I’ll try to speak up. I hope it’ll sound clear.


KW: I live in Princeton, and once met you briefly, when you were a student here, in that tiny pastry shop on Palmer Square. We were both being waited on and I remember being quite stunned when I realized it was you in line ahead of me. But you were quite natural when I said “Hi” and struck up a little chit-chat about the offerings in the case. Was that a favorite place of yours to frequent?

BS: Yeah, they had those really big, like three-pound bran muffins. [Chuckles]


KW: Yep! My readers sent in a lot of questions for you. Let me start with Editor Lisa Loving. She says: Brooke, what an interesting person you are! We are around the same age and I have always followed you. What was the turning point in your life? To me, it seems that you have had more than one.

BS: That’s a very astute way of looking at it, Lisa. Most people assume there’s only supposed to be one turning point which dictates the rest of our lives. But I think we have to be open to additional turning points when they arrive. Things happen in our lives. Classmates graduate… careers change… babies are born… friends are lost… loved ones die… There are so many milestones that I believe are important to acknowledge as being significant to you. That’s a very refreshing perspective that Lisa shares, because there really isn’t just one critical turning point in a life, but rather a number that you’ll need to be willing kind of bend with.  


KW: Sangeetha Subramanian says: You are awesome Brooke! What was your favorite spot to hangout in Princeton?

BS: Ooh! Wow! In town, it was all about food. I became a bit addicted to Thomas Sweets [ice cream] which is one of the reasons why I gained about 20 pounds while I was in college. [Chuckles] Winberie’s [restaurant] was always an unbelievable, safe place where we could go as a group and have meals and have fun playing games. I don’t even know if it’s there anymore.


KW: It is.

BS: I’m glad. Well, those were my favorite spots in town. At school, I felt very free anywhere on campus. On warm, sunny days, I especially loved sitting outside the library, hanging out by the fountain or camping out in the fields behind the independent study. They were all amazing!  


KW: Princeton has eating clubs instead of fraternities. Had they begun admitting women when you arrived?

BS: Yes, although when I went there in ’83, Ivy Club was all-male when I arrived and it was still all-male when I graduated. I joined Cap & Gown.


KW: Dave Roth asks: Who is your intended audience for this book? Is there a particular demographic you believe will gain from it?  

BS: I think there’s a difference between who will be interested in reading it and those who might be able to gain perspective. I’ve been around for so long that those people who have actually grown up with me might read it just for the trivia. However, I’m hoping that younger audiences will sort of tap into the part that simply deals with getting to know your parents and asking them to try to understand who you are. That’s a dialogue that needs to happen.


KW: Harriet Pakula-Teweles asks: What becomes a legend most? That’s the old Blackgama slogan. Do you remember those ads?

BS: I do! I do, Harriet!


KW: Harriet goes on to say that “What becomes a legend most?” is an interesting question to pose to you, given how you’ve been a legend since childhood.

BS: Well, there’s a certain sense of longevity that’s associated with legends, as well as a sense of endurance. I think what becomes a legend most is not only that which lasts the test of time but an ability to keep adapting. I’ve been around for decades, and I’ve tried to stay afloat by seizing upon opportunity when presented to me. And the opportunities presented to me now look very different from the ones in the Eighties. But instead of waiting for everything to happen in the way you think it should, it’s a matter of being able to see what the real lay of the land is, and figuring out how you can play a part in it.


KW: That makes me think of Isabella Rossellini, whom I interviewed a couple of weeks ago. She’s also an actress who has made herself over numerous times.

BS: But besides being talented, she’s also smart, artistic and beautiful. There’s a beauty in her that was considered amazing, not the norm. Yet, she managed to maintain a sense of self through all of her films, and she’s endured the test of time. I think that’s what “legend” is, in addition to being willing to fail, get up, and try again.


KW: Documentary filmmaker Kevin Williams asks: Can I ask a Blue Lagoon question? Then he says: I fell in love with you after watching that film when I was 12. But he forgot to ask his question.

BS: well, the fact that he was allowed to watch it when he was 12 was pretty forward-thinking of his mom.


KW: Sarah Jane Cion says: I love Brooke Shields! I just ordered the book. My pen name is Sally Shields, and the Shields part was picked for Brooke. When I was 16, you were on the cover of Seventeen Magazine, and I thought you were the most beautiful girl I had ever set eyes upon. I wish I had a question, but all I can think of is how much I admire and appreciate you. Wait, do you need a jazz pianist to play at any functions?

BS: Wow! I’m honored that I inspired you to pick Shields as part of your pen name. And what’s funny is that my first fake name was Diana Williams, which I made from Princess Diana and baby William. And what does she play, jazz?


KW: Yes.

BS: I’m so much more in awe of people who can play an instrument than of almost any other talent. I wish I could play an instrument.


KW: Peter Brav says: I look forward to reading the memoir. I once sat next to you and your mom at a dinner for the Israeli Film Festival in 1983 and found you both to be very charming. My question is: if you hadn't entered the entertainment industry, what do you think you’d be doing today?

BS: I’ve been in the entertainment industry for so long, before I even knew that I wanted to be in it. So, it would be hard to know what else I might be doing. I probably would have still made my way into it somehow because, to me, making people laugh, and entertaining, and watching people experience storytelling is one of the most rewarding things I can imagine. So, I think I would’ve found a way to entertain people in some capacity.

KW: Both Alice Yi and environmental activist Grace Sinden, a Princeton resident and former Princeton University researcher, ask: How important to you and your career has been the education you received at Princeton University? 

BS: It’s been the thing that’s helped me stay standing.


KW: Producer/director Larry Greenberg says: Brooke, thanks for being so nice to me when I met you briefly when you were a student at Princeton. When I see the tremendous wealth of work you have done in the industry, I can't help but wonder when you will try your hand as a director.

BS: Gosh, Larry, that’s just a beautiful sentiment. I directed Chicago at the Hollywood Bowl the summer before last, and I got a bit of the bug for it. So, I’m sure that within the next few years, there will be some sort of foray into it.


KW: Wesley Derbyshire asks: Did classmates ask you out on dates while you were at Princeton?

BS: After awhile. Not much my freshman year. But by my sophomore year, I had asked enough people out that they started to ask me back.


KW: Children’s book author Irene Smalls asks: If you could talk to your mother today, what would you say to her?

BS: I hope you knew how much I loved you.

KW: Marcia Evans says: I have every intention of reading your book from cover to cover. From the interviews that I've seen this week of you discussing the book had me feeling proud of your courage and honesty, discussing your private emotional and psychological child-rearing matters about growing up with your mother. I believe that your book will help many heal from the pain of being raised in an unhealthy or challenging environment.

BS: I think we can all look at our situations and find reasons to make them healthier and healthier. Nobody really has it all figured out. I believe there’s healthy and unhealthy in each of us. It’s when you operate with a sense of love in your heart that you maintain the integrity that enables you to keep going forward.


KW: Editor/Legist Patricia Turnier was wondering whether you might be interested in acting in a French language film, given that you majored in French Literature.

BS: I would absolutely say “yes” in a second, if given the opportunity. I would take on that challenge enthusiastically and work really hard.


KW: Thanks again for the time, Brooke, and best of luck with the book.

BS: Thank you so, so much, Kam.



UserpicPenn Pal
Posted by Kam Williams

Kal Penn
The “Bhopal: A Prayer for Rain” Interview
with Kam Williams


Kalpen Suresh Modi was born in Montclair, New Jersey on April 23, 1977. He attended the Freehold Regional High School District's Performing Arts High School, as well as the Governor's School for the Arts, and received a degree from the prestigious School of Theater, Film and Television at UCLA.

Kal is probably best known for playing the role of Kumar in Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle, Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay, and a Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas. His other notable feature film credits include Mira Nair's film The Namesake, based on the best-selling novel by Pulitzer Prize-winner Jhumpa Lahiri; Van Wilder and its sequel, The Rise of Taj; A Lot like Love; and Superman Returns.

On TV, he’s widely recognized for his role as Dr. Lawrence Kutner on the critically-acclaimed series "House." And he also appeared regularly on "24," and guest-starred on the hit series "Law & Order: SVU" and "How I Met Your Mother.”

In 2009, Kal took an extended sabbatical from acting to serve as the Associate Director of the White House Office of Public Engagement. During his tenure with the Obama Administration, he’s handled a variety of roles, including that of the President’s Liaison to the Arts Communities, Young Americans, and Asian Americans & Pacific Islanders.

Here, he talks about being back in front of the camera to -make his latest movie, Bhopal: A Prayer for Rain.

Kam Williams: Hi Kal, thanks for the interview.

Kal Penn: Thanks for having me!


KW: What interested you in Bhopal?

KP: The script was the first thing that drew me to the project. I was generally familiar with the real-life incidents upon which the film is based, but reading the first draft of the script, and realizing that the complexities resonated with me was the first draw I’d say. Sitting down with the director, and hearing his passion for the project was the second. And of course, it didn’t hurt that Martin Sheen was already attached. He’s incredible!


KW: You were just a child when the accident occurred. Do you remember hearing about it at the time?

KP: I do, vaguely. I also recall studying it in a few classes in college, but I wasn’t familiar as intimately as when we started researching for this project.


KW: Writer/director Ravi Kumar says the film is a work of fiction, ostensibly inspired by Sanjoy Hazarika’s book “Bhopal: Lessons of a Gas Tragedy.” I know your character, Motwani, was based on a real-life reporter, but what about Mischa Barton’s, Eva?

KP: You know, aside from Motwani, who’s based on real-life journalist Rajkumar Keswani, I’m not certain which other characters were specifically fictionalized and in which ways. Good question. I’ll ask our director this weekend!


KW: What message do you want people to take away from the film?

KP: I think with any film, first and foremost, you want the audience to be drawn to the complexity and depth of the characters and to remain engaged the whole time. Earlier screenings have had people leave crying, engaged in intense conversations, and asking each other some really fascinating questions. So I feel like I hope that continues, that a film like this of course is entertainment, but that it goes beyond that and sparks the kinds of conversations about relevant, tough issues. I love when art has the power to do that, and I think our writers and director have crafted a film that walks that line.


KW: Editor Lisa Loving says: Kal, the last time Kam interviewed you, you said that Harold and Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay, a film in which you essentially joked about the Guantanamo Bay prison camp and where you smoked pot with President George W. Bush, involved no political statement. Is the same true of this film?

KP: Ha, ha! Good question. I think an entirely fictionalized buddy comedy is very different than a fictionalized tragedy adapted from real-world events, so I would say this is pretty different. I don’t know that there is any political statement being made by the film, that would probably be a question our writers and director would be best suited to answer, but from my perspective, I think this film touches on the multitude of factors that went into such a devastating disaster. We don’t look at “Bhopal” through a singular lens; we approach it from different characters and perspectives. So, I hesitate answering this as a “yes” or “no.” I think the story explores everything from corporate greed to government corruption to environmental and medical regulations to jobs, economy, human rights, and family. Inherently, it explores factors that are political, social, and humanitarian, but I don’t know that it’s making any particular political statement per se.

KW: Hirangi Patel says: Huge fan here! How did you prepare for a historical film which reflects such an integral part of India's history?

KP: Thanks, Hirangi. Most of the historical and contextual prep for the overall film was of course done by our writers and their research years before actors are attached. From the actor’s perspective, working on everything from dialects and language to looking at archives and information from the Eighties played a role in developing my character.


KW: Sangeetha Subramanian says: Kal! You were in two of the three films I organized at the Rutgers South Asian Film Festival in 2006 including Cosmopolitan and American Made. What is your advice for South Asian American actors/actresses trying to break in the industry?

KP: Thanks Sangeetha. I think my advice for any actor would be to be as trained as possible, and to not take “no” for an answer. There are so many more opportunities for performers of color now than there were 10 years ago, and there will be more 10 years from now. So many incredibly talented writers, directors, and filmmakers are emerging on their own shows, plays, and productions.


KW: Editor/Legist Patricia Turnier asks: Was your film translated into Hindi and how was it received in India?

KP: The film is going to be translated into multiple languages from what I understand. It releases in India on December 3rd, followed by Singapore and several countries in Europe.


KW: The bookworm Troy Johnson question: What was the last book you read?

KP: “Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea” by Barbara Demick. 

KW: The Viola Davis question: What’s the biggest difference between who you are at home as opposed to the person we see on the red carpet?

KP: I’m not allowed to wear gym shorts with an old tee shirt on the red carpet.


KW: The Anthony Anderson question: If you could have a superpower, which one would you choose?

KP: Flight.


KW: Thanks again for the time, Kal, and best of luck with Bhopal and in the White House.

KP: Thank you, Kam!


To see a trailer for Bhopal: A Prayer for Rain, visit:




UserpicJeffrey Wright (INTERVIEW)
Posted by Kam Williams

Jeffrey Wright

“The Hunger Games – Mockingjay Part 1” Interview

with Kam Williams



Entering Stage Wright!


Critically-acclaimed Jeffrey Wright continually pushes the boundaries of his craft with inspiring and celebrated performances in an illustrious career that has spanned the worlds of theater, film and television. On the big screen, Wright was most recently seen in Jim Jarmusch's Only Lovers Left Alive which was released last April.


On television, he currently appears on HBO's Boardwalk Empire, playing Dr. Valentin Narcisse, Doctor of Divinity, philanthropist, student of culture and the man who runs Harlem. Onstage, this versatile thespian played the lead in John Guare's A Free Man of Color, which was directed by the legendary George C. Wolfe at Lincoln Center. And he garnered a Tony Award in 1994 for his work in Tony Kushner's Pulitzer Prize-winning epic Angels in America, also directed by Wolfe.


On film, Jeffrey has portrayed a stunning array of icons and iconoclasts. His brilliant portrayal of the renowned and controversial graffiti artist Jean Michel Basquiat in the 1996 film Basquiat received widespread praise from critics and earned him an Independent Spirit Award nomination. At the other end of the spectrum, he has taken on roles in the James Bond films, Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace, and starred as Muddy Waters in Cadillac Records and as Colin Powell in Oliver Stone's W.


His other credits include Jonathan Demme's remake of The Manchurian Candidate, Jim Jarmusch's Broken Flowers, Ang Lee's Ride with the Devil, and Shaft. For his portrayal of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in HBO's Boycott, he received a 2001 AFI award.


In addition to acting, Jeffrey is Vice Chairman of Taia Lion Resources and Chairman of Taia Peace Foundation. He also serves on the boards of directors of the Tribeca Film Institute and Resolve. Furthermore, he was named by Sierra Leone as the Peace by Piece Ambassador for the country's 50th Anniversary Independence Celebration, and received the Humanitarian Award at the 2011 Napa Valley Film Festival for his work with the Taia Peace Foundation.


Here, he talks about his latest outing as Beetee in The Hunger Games – Mockingjay Part 1.


Kam Williams: Hi Jeffrey, thanks for another interview.

Jeffrey Wright: Hey, how’re you doin’, Kam?


KW: Great! How was it being back with The Hunger Games and playing Beetee again?

JW: The film has kind of been an expansion of these stories, though not from Beetee’s perspective. It sort of shrinks for him in that he’s wheelchair-bound and kind of confined to a laboratory’s space. But the films around him are expanding and the stakes are being raised, and we’re entering these districts that we really haven’t explored before. So, it’s kind of a thrilling ride. From Beetee’s perspective, he becomes the lens through which we enter these other worlds, since he’s responsible for communications. That’s kind of exciting. I was also drawn to the idea of propaganda and communication as a weapon, since it’s relevant to a lot of what’s happening outside of cinema nowadays.


KW: Children’s book author Irene Smalls asks: Your character, Beetee, in The Hunger Games is revered for his intellect. Is that a departure from the roles typically offered actors of color?

JW: I don’t think there is a typical role offered actors of color. Perhaps that was true many generations ago but, thankfully, there has been tremendous progress forged by a host of actors who preceded me who have expanded the possibilities. Even in the past, many roles that might have been stereotypical were subverted in some way. I’m very excited about seeing this recently-discovered Bert Williams film found at the Museum of Modern Art in which he performs in blackface, like he does in many of his movies. As he describes, he does an impersonation of a black man. [Chuckles] I love that idea because he was one of the most brilliant performers in cinema, ever. And we’ve only seen a few short clips of his work. But W.C. fields described him as the funniest man he’d ever seen, and the saddest man he ever knew. I say that to suggest that there are never limitations, whether you’re an actor or anyone taking on a task because, if you look back a century, there was a performer of color, Bert Williams, who, despite being confined to blackface, was doing some of the most thrilling acting that I’ve ever seen on camera. From what I understand, he was even somewhat of an inspiration for Charlie Chaplin’s Little Tramp, which was the first major, iconic cinematic persona. So, I’ve kind of gotten away from believing in limitations.


KW: Director Rel Dowdell says: You’re one of the best!

JW: Thanks!


KW: He goes on to say: Given your peerless acting talents, do you ever think of yourself as underrated?

JW: No, I don’t, Rel. Some people say that, but, no, I don’t.


KW: Chandra McQuen says: You are such an amazing and versatile talent with an impressive list of credits to your name. You seem to be cast in roles based on your talent and not the color of your skin. Do you ever feel the weight of being a minority actor? What dream role would you like to play, if casting were 100% colorblind?

JW: I’m doing what I want to do. If casting were 100% colorblind, the characters I’d want to play are the same ones I’ve wanted to play prior. The one role I’ve considered developing a film about is Alexander Pushkin, the Russian writer, poet, lover and madman.


KW: Marcia Evans says: Jeffrey Wright is one of my all-time favorite actors ever.  I had the opportunity to meet him briefly a few years back he was so gracious. He is the epitome of what I call a man with integrity. Please don't complete this interview without my question. The other day, I watched his awesome performance playing the Dominican drug dealer in Shaft for the umpteenth time. I love your Latin accent, especially the line about “Egyptian Cotton.” Wow! I would like to know how you captured the accent and flavor of the Dominican culture so well.                  

JW: I have one particular Dominican friend whose use of language I always really dug, as well as the music of his voice. So, I grabbed a lot from him, and then I hung out in Washington Heights after I had been working on the character for awhile. The character actually came to me in a barber shop on 186th Street, completely, when I was getting a haircut and shave. The barber’s name was Derbis. When I was done, I looked in the mirror, and I saw Peeples.


KW: Professor/filmmaker/author Hisani Dubose says: You are one of the most engaging actors I've ever seen. How are you able to project so many emotions through your eyes? In the Manchurian Candidate for example the close-up on your eyes told your story all by itself. Also where did he get the idea for the way he said “Tiger Woo” in Shaft. People are still imitating you for laughs.

JW: Thank you, Hisani. I don’t know how to answer the eyes question. I just use the eyes that I was born with. But I do think they are a film actor’s primary tool, so I try to use them well. As for “Tiger Woo,” I was in Scotland for the British Open a couple weeks before we started shooting Shaft. Every day, I was thinking about the script in my head. The original script had me ask Christian Bale’s character whether he liked tennis. But it occurred to me that golf would be better, especially since I’d been watching so much of it. So, instead I asked, “Do you play golf?” before referring to “Tiger Woo,” since Peebles likes power and aspires to be someone like that. [LOL]


KW: Sangeetha Subramanian asks: What was your favorite location to film?

JW: Hawaii! But Berlin is a close second.


KW: When you look in the mirror, what do you see?

JW: When I look in the mirror, I still see a little kid. [Chuckles].


KW: The Ling-Ju Yen question: What is your earliest childhood memory?

JW: Being with family. I think that’s what everyone’s earliest childhood memories revolve around. I was about 2 years-old or so. It must have been about 1967. I remember where we were living at the time. I just remember being in this space which was our home at the time, with family.


KW: The Viola Davis question: What’s the biggest difference between who you are at home as opposed to the person we see on the red carpet?

JW: Well, we just had the London red carpet premiere for Mockingjay in front of about 5,000 people. I hope I’m not nearly as excitable at home as I am in that situation. If I were as amped up at home, I think I’d be bouncing off the walls. [Laughs]


KW: The Harriet Pakula-Teweles question: With so many classic films being redone, is there a remake you'd like to star in?

JW: That’s a good question, but I can’t answer it, because I’d be divulging more than I should right now. But there might be something coming up in terms of a remake.


KW: Thanks again for the time, Jeffrey. I’m really honored to have had this opportunity to speak with you.

JW: Thank you, Kam! Take care.

To see a trailer for The Hunger Games – Mockingjay Part 1, visit:


To see a montage of Jeffrey playing Peeples in Shaft, visit:



UserpicNate Parker (INTERVIEW)
Posted by Kam Williams

Nate Parker

The “Beyond the Lights” Interview

with Kam Williams


Brother Parker!

Actor and humanitarian Nate Parker first received critical attention for his starring role in The Great Debaters opposite Denzel Washington and Forest Whitaker. Denzel handpicked him to play the troubled yet brilliant Henry Lowe who overcomes his selfish ways to become the team’s leader. Nate received an honorary Doctorate from Wiley College in Marshall, Texas, the school on which The Great Debaters was based.

More recently, he appeared in the action thriller Non-Stop, opposite Liam Neeson and Julianne Moore. Last year, he starred in Ain’t Them Bodies Saints, opposite Rooney Mara, Casey Affleck, and Ben Foster.

In 2012, he was the toast of the Sundance Film Festival when he appeared in Arbitrage opposite Richard Gere, Susan Sarandon and Tim Roth. That year, he also starred as the lead in Red Tails, supported by Terrence Howard and Cuba Gooding, Jr. It told the story of the Tuskegee Airmen, who were the first African-American military aviators in the U.S. Army Air Corps and were some of the finest pilots in World War II. George Lucas funded, produced and co-directed this feature.

Earlier in his career, Nate starred opposite Alicia Keys in The Secret Life of Bees, which featured an all-star cast of Queen Latifah, Jennifer Hudson, Dakota Fanning and Paul Bettany. Additionally, he’s been seen in Pride alongside Terrence Howard, in Dirty opposite Cuba Gooding Jr., in Felon with Stephen Dorff and Sam Shepard, and in Tunnel Rats with Michael Pare. And onstage, Nate appeared opposite Dustin Hoffman, Annette Bening, Rosario Dawson and James Cromwell in “American Voices” at the Broad Street Theater.

A Norfolk, VA native, Nate studied computer programming and trained his way to become an All-American wrestler at the University of Oklahoma. He mentors twenty-four children from schools in central Los Angeles and spearheads projects and events with the Boys and Girls Clubs of America. He sponsors a Peace for Kids scholarship fund and works in their afterschool program. 

Here, Nate talks about his new movie, Beyond the Lights, while waxing romantic about his career and his life philosophy. 



Kam Williams: Hi Nate, thanks so much for another interview.

Nate Parker: My pleasure, brother.


KW: I really enjoyed Beyond the Lights. What interested you in the project?

NP: Before anything else, it was Gina. I think she’s one of the best directors on planet Earth. And her vision, and her work ethic, and attention to details are so inspiring that when a project comes up that she’s a part of, you want to be a part of it. 


KW: She certainly devoted herself to developing and fleshing out her characters in this picture.

NP: Well, she had the time. You know what they say: “Cheap, fast and good. You can only have two.” This is a woman who takes her time. Four years for this project, four years for the last one. She’s been in the driver’s seat for so long, and been so passionate about it, and she’s never taken no for an answer. And it shows in the work. Not only did she write the perfect script, but she was so intentional about her vision coming across, that it made it easy for me to do my job.


KW: But you bring a lot to the table, too. I’ve seen you do reliably great work in picture after picture. 

NP: Thanks, Kam. You and I will probably be on the phone a lot in the coming years, and you’ll always hear me say the same thing: I attribute everything that I’ve attained to my leadership. I am nothing without my director. I really believe that. I can prepare a character, and put myself in a position to deliver truthful nuance and put on the skin, but it’s the director’s job to usher me into a place that achieves the vision in way that’s understated and believable.


KW: What message do you think people will take away from the film?

NP: I think the first is that the language of love transcends all obstacles. I think the second is that in order to love someone else you first have to know yourself, and be comfortable in your own skin. 


KW: The Melissa Harris-Perry question:How did your first big heartbreak impact who you are as a person?

NP: Oh my goodness! That’s a good question. My first great heartbreak was losing my father. I was 11, when I lost my dad. It changed me, because I had to be the father for my family. My outlook on life changed immediately, and it became all about service. And that’s how I approach my craft, as if I’m a servant of the film. Losing my father was the biggest transition that affected so much of my life. 


KW: The Harriet Pakula-Teweles question: With so many classic films being redone, is there a remake you'd like to star in?

NP: Funny you should ask. Yes, A Place in the Sun. It’s one of the best films I’ve ever seen, and we’re developing a picture that’s very similar to it, thematically.


KW: The Viola Davis question: What’s the biggest difference between who you are at home as opposed to the person we see on the red carpet?

NP: I do my very best to be the same person. I always say I’m an “actor-vist.” All I do, I do for my people. I make no apologies for that, and I try to live my life as an example for young black men navigating the life space. I want to leave a legacy behind that, when you reflect about me, you’ll think, “Okay, there was a sacrifice made on behalf of people who looked like him. 


KW: What do you think about the unrest in Ferguson, Missouri?

NP: I went to Ferguson. I think the problem is deeper than police brutality. I believe there’s an overall dehumanization and hyper-criminalization of black youth that affects everyone. It wasn’t a cop who killed Treyvon Martin. So, Ferguson was not an isolated incident, but emblematic of an epidemic that’s been around for over 400 years. The injuries and conditioning caused by slavery continue to live within us today. We’re constantly told that the value of a black life is less. There’s a certain level of white supremacy and black inferiority that’s entrenched in our society. Once you become desensitized to that truth, you fall right into the trap. And until we have an honest confrontation of those evils, we cannot heal as a country, and a Ferguson is going to continue to happen every other week. That’s why it’s so important that you, as a journalist, and that I, as an artist, pursue justice, and make it a strong thread of who we are as individuals.


KW: That makes me think of that famous saying by Faulkner, “The past isn’t dead. It isn’t even past,” and how Sugar Ray Leonard told me the toughest fight he ever had wasn’t Marvin Hagler, tommy Hearns, Roberto Duran on Wilfred Benitez, but his fight against a lesser opponent in Boston because of all the racism he encountered from the moment he stepped of the plane right through the fight. He said the relentless, palpable hatred sapped his spirit. I was stunned by that totally unexpected answer.

NP: That’s interesting. I can help but mention the irony of listening to you relate that story as I sit here looking out a window watching a huge American flag waving in the breeze. We are a great country, but we are sick, and we need to be made well. And America has a long way to go.


KW: When you mention the American flag and irony, that reminds me of an what happened to a good friend of mine, Ted Landsmark, a fellow lawyer, when we were both in Boston back in the Seventies. He had his nose broken by an American flag when a bunch of racists attacked him right in front of City Hall. The photographer who happened to capture it won a Pulitzer Prize for the photograph.



NP: Oh my goodness! I never heard about this incident. I’m googling it right now… I’m looking at it right now. How ironic! That’s incredible! This has been the plight of the black man in the U.S. Crushed by the very instrument that’s supposed to symbolize freedom.


KW: Are you thinking about entering politics in real-life someday, like your character, Kaz?

NP: No, not at all. Anything that’s been done for our people in the past, was done outside the realm of politics. Our greatest inroads were achieved with the help of leaders who were among the people. That’s not an indictment of politicians, it’s just that things don’t change quickly when you work within the political structure.   

True revolution transpires on a grassroots level where change can occur very quickly.  


KW: Let's say you’re throwing your dream dinner party—who’s invited… and what would you serve?

NP: I would invite Paul Robeson, and I would serve a vegetarian meal, something that’s healthy for us both.


KW: Have you ever had a near-death experience?

NP: No one’s ever asked me that before. Yes, in summer camp when I was in the 7th grade and had asthma desperately bad. I was kayaking for the first time when it rolled over and I didn’t know how to roll the boat back upright. I was zipped in and couldn’t get out. Fortunately, a friend, Isaac Paddock, swam over and saved me. I literally had an asthma attack while I was drowning. I don’t know how I survived it, except with Isaac’s help and the grace of God. If Isaac hadn’t pulled me out, I wouldn’t be here right now. 


KW: Have you ever accidentally uncovered a deep secret?

NP: Sure, every family has its dysfunction, but I wouldn’t want to talk about it.


KW: The bookworm Troy Johnson question: What was the last book you read?

NP: “On Film-making,” by Alexander Mackendrick, because I’m about to direct a film in December called The Birth of a Nation. It’s a biopic about Nat Turner. Revolution is in the air.


KW: Where did you interest in Nat Turner come from?

NP: It’s pretty much all I care about nowadays. I grew up in Norfolk and Chesapeake, Virginia. Nat grew up about 40 miles away, in Southampton County. And of course, he led the most successful slave revolt in American history. I’m very much interested in aggressively pursuing justice for all people, especially during times of moral crisis. I’m less worried about my brand than about alleviating the plight of oppressed people. So, I speak my mind, particularly about injustices in my community, even though that can sometimes get you in trouble.


KW: Keep up the good work, Nate, and best of luck with Beyond the Lights.

NP: Thank you, Kam.

To see a trailer for Beyond the Lights, visit:


UserpicCiao, Isabella
Posted by Kam Williams

Isabella Rossellini
The “Green Porno” Interview with Kam Williams

The daughter of actress Ingrid Bergman and director Roberto Rossellini, supermodel/actress/director/singer/author/conservationist/feminist Isabella Rossellini grew up in Paris and Rome. At the age of 19, she moved to New York, where she became a translator and later a reporter for RAI-Italian Television. Her popular segments led to appearances as the New York correspondent for the weekly Italian comedy show THE OTHER SUNDAY, with Roberto Benigni.

At the relatively advanced age of 28, Isabella began a modeling career when she was photographed by Bruce Weber for British Vogue and by Bill King for American Vogue. She has since worked with the industry's most distinguished photographers - from Richard Avedon to Steven Meisel, from Helmut Newton to Peter Lindbergh, from Norman Parkinson to Eve Arnold. And she has appeared on the cover of such magazines as Vogue, Elle, Marie Claire, Bazaar and Vanity Fair. An exhibition of photographs of Isabella, Portrait of a Woman, was held in March 1988 at the Museum of Modern Art of the city of Paris.

Isabella wrote, directed and starred in a series of shorts called GREEN PORNO, about the reproducing habits of various bugs, insects and other animals.  The shorts are comical, but insightful study of the curious ways certain animals “make love,” featuring Isabella in colorful, vibrant costumes. GREEN PORNO premiered at the 2008 Tribeca Film Festival and launched on Sundance Channel later that same year.   

Isabella made her cinematic debut in 1979 in Paolo and Vittorio Taviani's IL PRATO (THE MEADOW). Her American film debut was opposite Mikhail Baryshnikov and Gregory Hines in Taylor Hackford's WHITE NIGHTS. In 1986, she starred opposite Dennis Hopper as Dorothy Vallens, the tortured lounge singer, in David Lynch's haunting and controversial BLUE VELVET.

Her other film credits include, THE ACCIDENTAL HUSBAND, MY DAD IS 100 YEARS OLD,  THE ARCHITECT, THE FEAST OF THE GOAT, HAVE YOU HEARD, THE SADDES MUSIC IN THE WROLD, ROGER DOGER, COUSINS, ZELLY AND ME, WILD AT HEART, DEATH BECOMES HER, FEARLESS, WYATT EARP, BIG NIGHT, THE IMPOSTORS and THE FUNERAL. Her portrait of the Jewish Hassidic mother in LEFT LUGGAGE directed by Jeroen Krabbe, won a special award at the Berlin Film Festival in 1998.

Isabella's modeling and acting career also led her into the world of cosmetics. Beginning in 1982, she was the exclusive spokesperson for the international cosmetics brand Lancome for 14 years. In 1990, Lancome launched the very successful fragrance Tresor, which was her first involvement with product development. In 1995, she began collaboration with Lancaster Group to develop her own brand of cosmetics, Manifesto, which launched internationally in May 1999.

Isabella's fictional memoir "Some of Me" was published in 1997, and her photographic book, "Looking at Me," is currently in stores. She also wrote a book about her father entitled IN THE NAME OF THE FATHER, THE DAUGHTER AND THE HOLY SPIRITS: REMEMBERING ROBERTO ROSSELLINI. 

Isabella is very involved in Wildlife Conservation. The Disney Conservation Fund just awarded her for her commitment to this cause by giving her $100,000 to donate to a conservation organization of her choice. She is also a volunteer for the Guide Dog Foundation and trains puppies for their program.

Isabella has been married to director Martin Scorcese, and romantically-linked to director David Lynch as well as actor Gary Oldman. She now lives in New York City with her two children, Elettra and Roberto, though she is currently touring the U.S. with the production of her one-woman show, GREEN PORNO, adapted from the celebrated Sundance Channel series.

With day-glo costumes, paper puppets, and text by legendary French screenwriter Jean-Claude Carrière, she acts out a panoply of reproductive oddities: the praying mantis that consumes its partner while copulating; the male bee who loses his penis in the act; and the shrimp, whose foreplay involves it shimmying seductively out of its shell. The play, which is part nature documentary and part DIY cartoon, is scheduled to continue its run into the spring of 2015.


Kam Williams: Hi Isabella, I’m honored to have this opportunity to speak with you.

Isabella Rossellini: Thank you for doing the interview, Kam. How are you?


KW: I’m great, thanks. In preparation for this interview, I did a little research, and I read that interview you recently did with a jaw-droppingly rude reporter from Vanity Fair.

IR: Thank God, I never read it. That’s good. [LOL]


KW: Don’t worry. I think you’ll have a lot of fun doing this interview. I always tell my readers who I’m interviewing ahead of time so they can send in questions. So, if it’s okay with you, I’ll be mixing in mine with theirs.

IR: Sure.


KW: Bobby Shenker says: I love you! Will you marry me? 

IR: Of course I will, Bobby! I’m single, so there’s absolutely the possibility.


KW: Here’s another guy who’s gushing. Gil Cretney says: Kam, please tell Isabella from me… she is a goddess!

IR: [Laughs again] That’s very wonderful to hear. Sometimes I get called beautiful or kind. But a goddess has it all, supernatural powers. Thanks, Gil!


KW: Let me share one more message from someone with a personal comment.

IR: Not a nasty one, I hope.


KW: No it’s also very positive. Larry Greenberg simply says: You are so wonderful! I’m too smitten to come up with a worthy question.

IR: That’s very nice, Larry. And it’s very kind of you to read me all these comments, Kam.


KW: I’m just reading what was sent in. Editor Lisa Loving says: We just love Green Porno. She asks: Have you ever watched any of the John Lydon [of the Sex Pistols] Mega Bugs programs?

IR: No I haven’t. I’m not familiar with him. But I’ll write down his name and look it up.


KW: Lisa was also wondering whether, as one of the most beautiful women in the world, and the daughter of one of the most beautiful women in the world, and a lifelong inhabitant of circles of famous people in the news, you see anything new in how the public “consumes” celebrities?

IR: No, I don’t see anything new. Maybe it’s different in Los Angeles where they have more of a problem with paparazzi. That part of being a celebrity is not so pleasant. It all started in Rome long ago, you know, before spreading to L.A. and elsewhere.


KW: That makes sense, since paparazzi is an Italian word.

IR: It began in Italy with amateur photographers stalking celebrities. They would be so persistent trying to provoke something, and if you lost your patience, then they could get the sort of sensational photo they were after. It is more widespread in the U.S. in recent years than it used to be, especially in Los Angeles, not so much in New York yet. 


KW: Harriet Pakula-Teweles asks, purely hypothetically: How do you think your father as a director and your mother as an actress might ‘comment’ on Green Porno?

IR: I think they would like it, quite frankly. They both loved animals. We certainly shared that in the family. And they were also interested in science, especially the new science of animal behavior, which Jane Goodall founded. And as you know, Kam, most of my films and my studies are in animal behavior. So, I think my parents would be happy about Green Porno. It’s comical, why not? [Chuckles] They were entertainers, too.   


KW: Children’s book author Irene Smalls asks: How did you come up with the idea of using paper penises in Green Porno?

IR: The reason why we used paper costumes is because we had a very limited budget, and it seemed to be the cheapest way to go. So, we managed to make something stylish out of our weakness by creating all of the costumes out of paper.  


KW: Irene has a follow-up: What led you to develop this one-woman play?

IR: The success of my short films, and the encouragement of friends. Also, this wonderful, Oscar-winning writer, Jean-Claude Carriere, agreeing to help me write the monologues was very tempting. That’s what did it. 


KW: Irene has one more: Which of your many roles as a supermodel/actress/director/singer/author/conservationist/feminist do you enjoy the most and which do you think expresses the essence of who you are?

IR: I sort of divide them in my head. Some of those roles are professional, like modeling or acting or writing. But being a feminist is not a job. What I think has been wonderful about my life is that it has been diverse, and that I’ve been able to do so many different things. I was able to evolve from modeling into acting. And then when acting opportunities became limited because of my age, I was able to become a writer and director and author. So, I am grateful to myself that I didn’t just sit around and become nostalgic about the past that has been and can’t come back, but that I instead decided to move on.


KW: But if you could only be remembered for one thing, what would that be for?

IR: As the mother of my children. 


KW: Cynthia Groya says: I am a huge admirer of yours! All the unexpected and courageous moves you have made in your life. What was it like working with Dennis Hopper and David Lynch on Blue Velvet? 

IR: Well, it was actually, a very, very nice set. We all became very good friends, and remained close all our lives. The film is very scary, very serious but it was very pleasant on the set because of our friendship. We all met filming, and hit it off very well. And it was also one of the most important films I have done in my career.  


KW: Cynthia also asks: What was the best thing about growing up Ingrid Bergman's daughter?
IR: Well, she was really “mom,” whether or not she was Ingrid Bergman the actress. She was a very warm, charming, funny, tender, entertaining and playful mother. That was the best. The fact that she was famous came along with those qualities was a bonus, although we might have liked for her to be less famous so she’d stay home more. 


KW: Filmmaker Ray Hirschman says: Isabella, you are so multi-talented. But if you had to follow only one artistic road, which would you choose? 

IR: I would probably pursue the one I’m doing now, because that’s the one you can control the most, writing, directing and performing your own pieces. It’s the best, because I can create jobs for myself.


KW: Yale grad Tommy Russell would like to ask: How much time do you spend in the United States?

IR: I’m a U.S. citizen and I’ve lived here since I was 19. I spend a total of about 4 or 5 months a year in Europe, but the majority of the time I’m here.


KW: Tommy also says: I hope she gets a kick out of this question. Can I have your love life? Tell her I'd take the ups and the downs.

IR: [LOL] I wonder why. Tommy must like some of the husbands and boyfriends he knows I’ve had. [Laughs some more]


KW: Kate Newell says: I loved you in your role on 30 Rock! What was the best piece of advice your mother gave you?

IR: My mom was very down to earth, very concrete, and I think her biggest lesson was setting that as an example, rather than giving me a piece of advice.


KW: Editor/Legist Patricia Turnier asks: What advice do you have for aspiring female filmmakers, given that there is still a scarcity of women in that field? 

IR: Keep doing it. Persevere! It’s hard to make a living in any of the arts. When most people think of artists, they think of the stars and the celebrities. But that’s such a tiny minority of the elites who are able to make those millions of dollars. The reality is that it’s very hard for the rest to make a living as an artist. So, you really have to persevere and understand that achieving the sort of success where you’re making the big money is like winning the lottery.  


KW: Patricia also asks: Is there a biography of an icon you dream of adapting into a movie?  
IR: No, I have never thought about that.


KW: Marcia Evans says: As a woman of color, I appreciated your conscious decision to not continue your Lancome campaign contract. Was that due to a personal stance on not supporting a beauty campaign whose message about beauty by societal standards can only be reflected by youthful skin? I wasn't surprised to learn that you did not want to represent that message/mentality that beauty only exists with youth.  Bravo! I would like to see among the faces of a campaign championing the beauty of mature women of all ethnicities. 

IR: You’re right, Marcia. There’s still this problem that hasn’t been resolved. We are working towards that goal of having women of all ages and ethnicities well-represented in the industry.


KW: Thanks again for the time, Isabella, and best of luck with Green Porno.

IR: Thank you, Kam. Bye.


To order tickets for the Philadelphia performance of Green Porno, at 8 pm on November 14th, visit:


UserpicHaley Joel Osment (INTERVIEW)
Posted by Kam Williams

Haley Joel Osment
The “Sex Ed” Interview
with Kam Williams

I See Haley, People!

Haley Joel Osment skyrocketed to fame at the age of 11 with his unforgettable, Academy Award-nominated performance in M. Night Shyamalan’s ghost thriller, The Sixth Sense. His portrayal of Cole, the little boy who uttered the iconic line, "I see dead people," left an indelible impact on audiences, as the picture grossed over $672 million worldwide.

In 2000, Osment went on to co-star alongside Kevin Spacey and Helen Hunt in the Warner Brothers drama Pay It Forward. And a year later, he starred opposite Jude Law in Steven Spielberg’s 2001 sci-fi drama, A.I. which earned over $235 million worldwide.

Here, he talks about his life and career, and about his upcoming movie, a comedy called Sex Ed.

Kam Williams: Hi Haley, thanks for the interview.

Haley Joel Osment: Hey, how’s it going, Kam?


KW: Great! I really enjoyed Sex Ed. Before we start, I just wanted to say that I think you and my son have some mutual friends. He’s your age and went to Princeton. He said you were on a campus a lot when he was there.

HJO: Yeah, one of my closest friends went to Princeton, so I would come out to visit him occasionally, which was kinda nice because it was such a short train ride away from New York City. It was always great to get out to a non-urban environment.


KW: I’ll be mixing my own questions in with some from readers. Harriet Pakula-Teweles asks: How did attending the Tisch School at NYU help you prepare for your adult career in film and theater? Is going to college something you would recommend to other child stars?

HJO: I think college is a good idea for most everybody, but it depends on the person and on what you want to be doing when you turn 18, whether you want to go away to school or if acting’s something you want to jump on immediately.


KW: Harriet also asks: With so many classic films being redone, is there a remake you'd like to star in?

HJO: No, I would like to see more original films than remakes at this time. [Laughs]


KW: Children’s book author Irene Smalls asks: What interested you in Sex Ed?

HJO: It’s a film that [director] Isaac [Feder] and [screenwriter] Bill [Kennedy] have been trying to make since about 2007. I loved the script when I first read it in 2010, a funny fish-out-of-water comedy. Over the next four years we had a couple of near misses trying to get it made. Then, out of the blue, we got some money to shoot the movie in Florida, which turned out to be a blessing in disguise, since the location added a lot of flavor to the film.


KW: Irene also asks: What do you want people to get from your performance? Are you trying with this comedic turn here to get out from under the shadow of your iconic performance in The Sixth Sense?

HJO: I’m always just interested in whatever the best scripts are. This was just a bit of fortunate, coincidental timing. I really enjoy doing comedies, although I didn’t get to do a lot of them as a kid. I was on some network sitcoms. But it’s a really fertile time for comedy right now on a variety of platforms.


KW: Did you base your character, Ed Cole, on anybody?

HJO: Not on anyone in particular. He was originally based on a friend of Isaac and Bill’s who had been teaching English in Korea. But I never met that person, and wanted to create Ed from the ground up as his own man.


KW: What message do you think people will take away from the film?

HJO: Well, we didn’t set out to make a polemic. Where we sort of land is a mixture of respect for those parents who know what they want their children’s sex education to be like, and the reality that the information should be available for other kids whose parents are unable to inform them about the subject. 


KW: Aaron Moyne asks: At what age will you tell your kids about the proverbial birds and the bees?

HJO: Oh gosh, I don’t know. Kids are, at the very least, a long way off for me. I don’t know that there’s a set age. I guess it depends on the maturity level.


KW: Sangeetha Subramanian asks: How do you cope with those hard days on the set?

HJO: It can be grueling, particularly with an independent film like Sex Ed, when you have really long work days because you’re shooting the whole film in a short amount of time. It can get a bit tiring when you’re in virtually every shot of every scene. But having done some theater in New York, where you have to keep yourself fresh for eight performance a week, helps with endurance and keeping your energy up.


KW: Environmental activist Grace Sinden asks: Aside from your own work, what are you enjoying watching nowadays?

HJO: Well it’s a great time for television, along with Amazon Prime, HBO Go, and other ways we catch our shows. ! I’m a big fan of Veep, Game of Thrones, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, and Breaking Bad, which ended last year. As far as movies, I’m excited about Inherent Vice which opens in December, and I’m also looking forward to seeing Birdman which is supposed to be pretty cool.


KW: Grace was also wondering whether there are any particular actors or directors you have not worked with yet but would like to?

HJO: Certainly, Paul Thomas Anderson, in terms of directors. I’m a big fan of all his films. When it comes to actors, it’s hard to pick just one.  


KW: Finally, Grace says: Early acting success often leads to a distorted perception of what a good life is. Do you feel you learned any important life lessons in this regard from your own early success in movies and television? 

HJO: I think one thing that was really important, particularly in this industry which is so unpredictable and changing in profound ways, and I guess is contracting on the film side, was never to expect that it would always be a boom time. I was really lucky to be in such high-profile movies early in my career. But part of the reason for going to college was to make sure that my motivation for being in the industry was to do quality work, and not to be counting on giant blockbusters. In that regard, I am prepared for whatever the future holds. 


KW: What was it like to be nominated for an Oscar at 11 years of age?

HJO: The Academy Awards season was crazy! But what was kinda nice and reassuring was how Steven Spielberg warned me about two months before Oscar night that the best part of the experience would be how all these famous people would be nervously running around trying to meet each other during commercial breaks in the telecast. He was absolutely right about that. It was cool to see that everybody else was also in this excited place.


KW: Have you ever had a near-death experience?

HJO: No, and I hope that good fortune continues. 


KW: Is there any question no one ever asks you, that you wish someone would?

HJO: No, Kam, I’ve been doing press for so long that I’ve heard it all.


KW: Would you mind saying something controversial that would get this interview tweeted?

HJO: [LOL] No, and I’ve been pleasantly surprised that the subject-matter of Sex Ed hasn’t ruffled any feathers so far.


KW: The bookworm Troy Johnson question: What was the last book you read?

HJO: I’m in the middle of “The Shadow of Great Rock” by Harold Bloom.

And I just finished “The Hot Zone: The Terrifying True Story of the Origins of the Ebola Virus” by Richard Preston. Getting more information about Ebola did sort of help quell my panic.


KW: I know Richard. He lives nearby, and I interviewed him about “The Hot Zone” back then.

HJO: Oh, that’s right! He’s a Princeton guy. Well, it’s an interesting book to read now. All the science behind it is fascinating, from the standpoint of doctors who had no idea what it was they were dealing with during the initial outbreak.


KW: What’s was just as interesting as “The Hot Zone” was that at least five years before 9/11 he confided in me that the FBI was very worried about a possible terrorist attack by Islamic fundamentalists with a weapon of mass destruction. The music maven Heather Covington question: What was the last song you listened to? 

HJO: I just got Ty Segall’s new CD, “Manipulator.” I’m a really big fan of that album.


KW: What is your favorite dish to cook?

HJO: That’s a tough one. One of my closest friends has a big backyard in Brooklyn. We like to grill brisket for hours and hours on Sundays for the football games. I’ve also been trying to perfect a really simple marinara sauce with good quality tomatoes you can find in the city.


KW: When you look in the mirror, what do you see?

HJO: I don’t know… I can’t think of a creative response to that one. [Chuckles]


KW: If you could have one wish instantly granted, what would that be for?

HJO: To put an end to the Ebola outbreak.


KW: The Ling-Ju Yen question: What is your earliest childhood memory?

HJO: My mom playing kids’ books on tapes for me as I was falling asleep in the crib.


KW: The Viola Davis question: What’s the biggest difference between who you are at home as opposed to the person we see on the red carpet?

HJO: Part of the reason I enjoy doing press is because I don’t have to modulate my personality too much. I think I just speak louder on carpet, which is important when you’re doing interviews. [Laughs]


KW: The Judyth Piazza question: Is there a key quality you believe all successful people share? 

HJO: I think curiosity and open-mindedness are important in our business. But success is a hard thing to predict or pin down.


KW: What advice do you have for anyone who wants to follow in your footsteps?

HJO: I’d say, just make sure that the work is your primary interest. It’s a really tough industry. I know a lot of really talented, good people who don’t succeed. So, I’d say find a way to do your craft in a way which satisfies you, and let the rest of the stuff, the success and recognition, come as a bonus.


KW: The Tavis Smiley question: How do you want to be remembered?

HJO: For a wide variety of roles over a great many years.


KW: And finally, what’s in YOUR wallet?

HJO: [Laughs] A post-it note with my “To Do” list.  


KW: Thanks again for the time, Haley, and best of luck with Sex Ed.

HJO: Thanks a lot, Kam. It was nice talking to you.  

To see a trailer for Sex Ed, visit:


UserpicArcane, Urbane and Insane Bourdain
Posted by Kam Williams

Anthony Bourdain
The “Parts Unknown” Interview
with Kam Williams


Chef, author and world traveler Anthony Bourdain is an outspoken trailblazer with unique insights about food, culture and current events. Here, he talks about his life, career and his Peabody and Emmy-winning TV-series, Parts Unknown.  


Kam Williams: Hi Anthony, thanks for the interview. I love the show. I’m honored to have this opportunity to speak with you.

Anthony Bourdain: Oh no, my pleasure, Kam.


KW: Congratulations on the his Peabody and Emmys for Parts Unknown.

AB: Thank you. It feels good.


KW: I told my readers I’d be interviewing you. So, I’ll be mixing their questions for you in with my own. The first is from editor/Legist Patricia Turnier who is French Canadian. She says: You have French background and you’re fascinated with French cuisine. Do you speak the language?

AB: Yes, badly. But my French definitely improves the more I drink, as I worry less and less about absolutely perfect grammar. [Chuckles] I do speak and understand the language, just not particularly well.


KW: Patricia also asks: Did you spend any summers in France with your parents growing up?
AB: Just a few. Two or three. Three summers, I think.


KW: Patricia says: you are an excellent writer. What is the best advice you have for young writers about cultivating a unique writing style with a sophisticated voice like yours?

AB: Wow! That’s hard to say… I just don’t know… Be true to yourself. I write quickly with a sense of urgency. I don’t edit myself out of existence, meaning I’ll try to write 50 or 60 pages before I start rereading, revising and editing. That just helps with my confidence. I listen a lot to how people speak. I’ve read a great many good books in my life. I had some excellent English teachers. Surely, those things were helpful.   


KW: Besides your books, the show is extremely well-written. Do you have a hand in that?

AB: I write the voiceover as part of the editing process, some of it beforehand. Working with the producer, we’ll sort of hash out the flow of each show, the sequence of events, and the general framework. And maybe there will be some writing as well that they can edit to. But much of it is done afterwards. It’s a long and interactive process that takes about 9 to12 weeks sometimes, per show. So, a lot of attention is paid. I’m very aware that we’re telling a story here, and that we want to tell it in the most compelling, honest and accurate way we can.


KW: I’m not surprised to hear that you wear several different hats on the show, since you strike me as one of these versatile, multi-talents like David Byrne.

AB: I wouldn’t want to compare myself to David Byrne whom I consider a genius, but what I think what we have in common is that he’s also a guy who is very interested in the world and who has a lot of passions beyond singing and playing guitar. Clearly, if you track his career, you see a great many collaborations with interesting artists, and his work reflects whatever’s turning him on that year. In that sense, what a great way to live, if you could always do things that interest you, and do them with people who interest you.


KW: Editor Lisa Loving says: This is tough because you have already been asked everything from your worst meal ever [unwashed warthog rectum] to the most disgusting food you ever ate [McDonald’s]. Would you mind comparing McDonald’s to some of the wildest dishes you’ve sampled on the show?

AB: I think it’s very hard to make an argument that a Chicken McNugget is either chicken or a nugget? If you’re eating unwholesome, street food in a country where they have to make do with whatever scraps are left to them, at least you know what it is, and generally have some sense of where it came from. Whereas a McNugget, to my way of thinking, is a Frankenfood whose name doesn’t necessarily reflect what it is. I’m still not sure what it is. Listen, Kam, when drunk, I will eat a McNugget. It’s not the worst tasting thing in the world, but it’s one of the things I’m least likely to eat, because I choose not to.    


KW: Isn’t there beef in the Chicken McNugget’s bread crumbs?

AB: They use a beef flavor that they spray or somehow add. I think it’s in the French fries, as well. Manipulating flavor, salinity and sugar levels is an important part of convenience food, snack food and fast food.


KW: Lisa also asks: What does your daughter Ariane like to eat? Have you cooked together yet?

AB: We cook together all the time. And since her mom and grandparents are Italian, a little Italian gets snuck in. She eats like a European kid in the sense that she’s very daring. She eats raw oysters, chicken hearts and yakitori and other Japanese food. She’s very curious about food and isn’t afraid to try new things. She loves to cook with me, and I love cooking with her. When we do cook together, we generally make ratatouille and pastas. Simple things. She’s 7, so I have to monitor her knife work very carefully. But I just gave her her first chef’s knife. 


KW: when you’re in the middle of nowhere, do you ever hesitate before eating something alien, fearing a negative reaction that might call for emergency medical attention that’s too far away?

AB: No, wholesome food is wholesome food anywhere. I may not like something but, generally speaking, if it’s a busy, street food stall serving mystery meat in India, they’re in the business of serving their neighbors. They’re not targeted toward a transient crowd of tourists that won’t be around tomorrow. They’re not in the business of poisoning their neighbors. I have eaten food that was clearly not fresh, that was dirty. I knew I was spinning the wheel of fortune there, but I did it because there was no polite way out. I saw it as the lesser of two evils, and I did pay a price. But it’s one I was willing to pay because turning your nose up at a genuine and sincere gesture of hospitality is no way to travel or to make friends around the world.


KW: Jeff Cohen says: I love that guy and his show. I want to know how I can get that job. Best job in the world!

AB: Hell if I know. I still don’t know how this happened to me. One minute I was dunking French fries, the next minute I had a TV show. I still haven’t figured it out. I guess not giving a crap is a very good business model.


KW: More seriously, Jeff asks: What fuels your passion to find out of the way places and cuisine, and how do you incorporate those experiences into your cooking?

AB: As far as the first part of the question, that’s just how I like to eat. Those are the places that make me happy, and they’re the most representative places, if you kinda want to get the flavor of what a place is really like and of who lives there. As to the second part of the question, it may come as a surprise to some that I do not incorporate those flavors that I discover or encounter around the world into my own cooking. I’m not so arrogant as to think that I can visit India for a week and then come back and cook Indian food. Just because I like sushi, doesn’t mean I can make sushi. I’ve come to well understand how many years just to get sushi rice correct. It’s a discipline that takes years and years and years. So, I leave that to the experts. When I cook, I generally stick with what I know, what I’m comfortable with, and what I feel I’ve paid my dues learning, and am good at.  


KW: Jim Cryan has a question related to one of his favorite episodes of Parts Unknown: What's the best street food to eat while watching cricket in India?

AB: Gee, I forget the name, but it was this very spicy, colorful, flavorful Rice Krispies-type dish.


KW: Cousin Leon Marquis asks: What's the strangest food you ever ate, and where were you when you ate it?

AB: I think I’d refer back to Chicken McNugget or a Cinnabon.


KW: Attorney/Pastry Chef Bernadette Beekman was wondering whether you have a preference for any particular type of cuisine.

AB: If I were trapped in one city and had to eat one nation’s cuisine for the rest of my life, I would not mind eating Japanese. I adore Japanese food. I love it.


KW: Bernadette would also like to know whether you will do other love stories to cities in period style such as you did with Italy? Loved the black and white “La Dolce Vita" feeling!

AB: That was one of my proudest accomplishments, and one of my favorite shows. I don’t know whether we’d do it in black and white again, but yes, I hope to do another richly-textured, carefully-designed, cinematic ode to a city I love and to its food. Sure! That’s always what I like to do, and when I’m at my happiest.


KW: Pittsburgh native Robin Beckham says: Parts Unknown is one of my favorite shows. She asks: Do you ever plan to visit the Steel City?                                                                                

AB: Very likely, yes.


KW: Robin goes on to say: Mr. Bourdain, through your show you call attention to the variety of food choices people are indulging in around the world. And on your journeys visiting various countries, you have a unique way of helping to break down religious, racial and ethnic barriers by presenting people in a light that forces an audience to think about other cultures in a positive manner (in a way they may never have in the past). When you return to the United States and witness the racial divide we have in Ferguson, what are some of your thoughts about what we need to do here in America to bring people together? What are the “Parts Unknown,” from your perspective, that can help to heal our country?

AB: Wow, that’s a big, big, big, big, big question, Robin. I wish I knew. We are, in many ways, a much more divided nation than we like to think or say we are. In some of the countries I’ve visited, like Malaysia and Singapore, people are mixed up, whether they like it or not. Here, it’s like a grid system, even in New York, where we like to think of ourselves as enlightened and multi-racial. It’s a complicated question that I certainly don’t feel qualified to answer. I could suggest that all that’s needed is for us to sit down and share a meal together, but I don’t know if that’s true. Certainly, to the extent that people can walk in each other’s shoes for a few hours, or even just for a few minutes, this can only be a good thing. Looking at Ferguson, Missouri from the outside, I would guess that the Police Department has a particular siege mentality, an “us vs. them” mentality, that’s not all that unusual in this world when you look at angry, disenfranchised, paranoid people. It’s a mentality that emerges in groups of people. It’s ugly and, frankly, I’m the last person in the world in terms of having a constructive clue as to what to do about it.      


KW: But you have a natural ability to relate to people and to reduce the human experience to a collective one. Add in food, and you’re a natural ambassador.

AB: It’s not my intention. I’m out there looking to tell stories about other cultures, places I go, and things I see. That’s all, really. I’m not trying to explain other cultures, or to give a fair and balanced account of a country, or the top ten things you need to know. I’m not trying to spread world peace and understanding. I’m not an advocate or and activist or an educator or a journalist. I’m out there trying to tell stories the best I can. I come back and make television shows that give as honest a sense of what I felt like when I was there. If that enables the audience to empathize with people they felt hostile towards or never thought about before, that is good and I feel happy about that. But that is not my mission in life. My mission in life is tell an entertaining, well-made, well-crafted story that is true to myself. I am proud and pleased when viewers report afterwards feeling some kinship with people they never imagined empathizing with before. I’m not Bono. I’m not on a mission.


KW: You’re doing something that resonates with the audience to come to CNN and become the network’s highest rated show almost immediately.

AB: I see Parts Unknown as an adjunct to the news in the sense that when you see something terrible or something good that transpires in Libya or Palestine or Iran or Congo or Southeast Asia, you know who we’re talking about, if you’ve watched this show. You’ve sat down with a family from the West Bank or Gaza. You’ve seen the daily routine of a Vietnamese rice farmer. You have some sense of whom we’re talking about in Congo, the next time a statistic pops up. We put a human face on places faraway from where we live. I think it’s useful. It may not be news, but it’s useful. 


KW: Do you think you’re helping to obliterate the “Ugly American” stereotype by being so sensitive to and appreciative of other cultures?

AB: I think many, if not most, of the people I’ve met in countries where you’d not expect them to be friendly, make a definite distinction between our government and us. They are extraordinarily friendly and welcoming just about everywhere, and are often cynical about their own leaders and government. So, the idea that they could disagree with many things about our government and yet still find it in their hearts to invite us to their table and to enjoy sharing their culture with us is not an unusual impulse, at all, in my experience. People everywhere have been very, very good to me, whether I’m with or without cameras.   


KW: Robin asks: Do you have any updates on a possible show in North Korea? AB: The state control is so tight there that there’s no way we could have anything resembling an organic or real experience. They really keep you inside a sort of North Korean Disneyland, and there would be no way, at all, of seeing how ordinary North Koreans live, and that, of course, is what we would want to show.


KW: The Ling-Ju Yen question: What is your earliest childhood memory?

AB: Playing with plastic army men on the beach with my brother at around 3.


KW: When you look in the mirror, what do you see?

AB: I see a face full of lines, and every one of them has been earned.


KW: What is your favorite dish to cook?

AB: I love making Neapolitan style ragu of neck bones, oxtail and tough cuts of meat, and slowly cooking down with a tomato sauce into a ragu.


KW: The Sanaa Lathan question: What excites you?

AB: A bowl of spicy noodles, a beautiful beach, anything involving my daughter, a fat unread book, any number of film directors coming out with a new film, and seeing stuff that few others have seen. And Brazilian jiu-jitsu. I’ve been doing  lot of that lately, and it’s deeply satisfying.


KW: Sangeetha Subramanian says: I have really enjoyed and learned so much watching Parts Unknown. What advice do you have for vegetarians who want to travel to countries where it's a bit harder to find meals with no seafood and no meat?

AB: I’m sort of unsympathetic. I just think it’s bad manners.


KW: Robin asks: What do you share with your daughter about your experience connecting with human beings who welcome you into their very different worlds?

AB: She watches my show, and I try to bring the family along to one family-friendly location a year. She’s only 7, but she’s traveled pretty widely. I think it’s important for a kid, especially a privileged kid like my daughter, to see that not everybody in the world lives like her.


KW: How does she react to seeing daddy on TV?

AB: She doesn’t take it seriously. In my house, neither my wife nor my daughter are impressed that I’m on television, and they remind me of that frequently.


KW: If you could have a chance to speak with a deceased loved one for a minute who would it be and what would you say?

AB: Well, my dad. When my father passed, I was still an unsuccessful cook with a drug problem. I was in my mid-thirties, standing behind an oyster bar, cracking clams for a living when he died. So, he never saw me complete a book or achieve anything of note. I would have liked to have shared this with him.


KW: The Anthony Anderson question: If you could have a superpower, which one would you choose?

AB: I’d like to play bass like Bootsy Collins. I’m serious. That would be my dream. Or I’d play with James Brown’s Famous Flames or with Parliament or Funkadelic.


KW: What advice do you have for anyone who wants to follow in your footsteps?

AB: Show up on time and do the best job you can.


KW: The Tavis Smiley question: How do you want to be remembered?

AB: I don’t care.


KW: Thanks again for the time, Anthony, this has been tremendous. All the best with the family, the new season and all your travels.

AB: Thank you, Kam. It’s been fun. I really enjoyed it. So long.

To see a trailer for Parts Unknown, visit:


UserpicThe Sound and the “Fury”
Posted by Kam Williams

Michael Pena & David Ayer
The “Fury” Interview
with Kam Williams

Michael Pena was born in Chicago on January 13, 1976 to immigrant parents from Mexico . After graduating from high school, he answered an open casting call for the sequel to To Sir, with Love. He landed a role, relocated to L.A., and the rest is history.

Michael went on to deliver memorable performances in Crash, Million Dollar Baby, Babel and The Lincoln Lawyer. He also landed lead roles in World Trade Center and End of Watch, and played the title character in the biopic about Cesar Chavez released earlier this year.

Here, he and End of Watch director David Ayer talk about reuniting to collaborate on Fury, a World War II adventure starring Brad Pitt.


Kam Williams: Hi David and Michael, thanks for the interview. I really appreciate it.

David Ayer: Right on!

Michael Pena: Thanks, Kam.


KW: I loved Fury! Great job! Did you read my blurb about the movie?

DA: Not yet.


KW: I described it as a WWII tank flick you don’t so much watch as endure. Picture the sheer intensity of Saving Private Ryan coupled with the visual capture of The Thin Red Line, the harrowing claustrophobia of Das Boot, and the utter insanity of Apocalypse Now.

MP: I’ll take that. 

DA: That’s pretty damn good, bro!


KW: I’ll be mixing in readers’ questions with some of my own. Attorney Bernadette Beekman asks: David, what is the most significant memory from your military service which continues to influence your writing today?

DA: Holy cow! Nothing I would care to say in public. [LOL] Actually, there’s nothing I could say in public, because of my security covenants. My proudest moment was being awarded my submarine warfare qualifications pin in the Philippines after a lot of intense studying.    


KW: David, given that you served in the Navy, where did the idea for Fury come from?

DA: I had one grandfather who was in the Army in World War II, and my other grandfather served in a Navy submarine during the war. And I had an uncle in the Army Air Corps. But I’ve always been fascinated by the war in Europe. And I kinda realized that no one had done a tank movie about it. It was sort of long overdue. So, I hope this becomes the classic American tank movie, the Top Gun for the Armored Corps.  


KW: I think you achieved that given how you make the audience feel like they’re right inside the tank and have us pulling for the crew at every turn. I was sweating bullets.

DA: It’s really intense.


KW: Bernadette asks Michael: Having appeared in multiple Ayer-written works, do you have an affinity for an Ayer script. Do you feel a certain rhythm to the dialogue in each film?

MP: Yeah, of course I loved Training Day and Harsh Times. I remember then reading the script for End of Watch and thinking: this is a great role, dude! I studied my entire life to make almost every performance as if I were doing a documentary. That’s my motivation. And David writes in that style, so I went, “Oh, this is so cool. I can actually delve in.” Not every director likes that. After I read the dinner scene, I couldn’t wait to do it. I remember on the day of the shoot, he asked me whether I wanted to warm up. But I said, “No, I’ve been rehearsing it for five months. Let’s go now!”   


KW: Bernadette asks: Michael, do you have a preference for roles in a certain genre? Is there a type of role you tend to seek to play?

MP: I didn’t go to acting school. Because I didn’t have a lot of cash, the way I taught myself how to act was by watching all of the early Inside the Actor’s Studio episodes. I watched Marlon Brando in A Streetcar Named Desire and Robert De Niro’s Mean Streets a hundred times. I prefer films that are very, very real, like Crash, End of Watch and now Fury. I just enjoy the basic human drama. 


KW: Editor/Legist Patricia Turnier asks: Michael, How did you prepare for the role of Gordo?

MP: It was tough because, although it was all there on the page, I wanted to represent more of a generational figure. So, I took from a bunch of other people. But as for the voice, David would talk to me in Spanish in kind of the same rhythm, because I could easily lose it, especially since we were filming in England where I was surrounded on the set by so many British accents. So, I needed a little more help on this one than usual. To me, the voice was a critical aspect of the character, because Gordo has a different sense of humor. He’s kind of a simple man. I thought about the way my dad is. He grew up in Mexico, and was a farmer. He’s a very simple, quiet, brooding man.  


KW: Patricia also asks: Michael, You recently portrayed Cesar Chavez?

MP: He means an awful lot, to be honest with you. My parents were farmers who came to the U.S. for the American Dream. They still grew cucumbers and peppers and corn in the backyard, because we didn’t have much money. They came to this country because people had taken advantage of them in Mexico. And here comes this small man by the name of Cesar Chavez who actually fought for their rights. It wasn’t the easiest thing for him to do, to speak up on behalf of people who didn’t have a voice. And he actually took it upon himself to do just that, and he made a big difference. So, it was an honor for me to be given an opportunity to portray him.


KW: Margaret Van Dagens says: You are both from the Midwest, and both originally from Illinois, my home state. I'd like to know how being from the Midwest has influenced your work, and whether being from there gave you a feeling of camaraderie as you collaborate on projects. This is not as superficial a question as it may sound. I feel that being from the Midwest has made a great difference in my work. 

MP: Honestly, I didn’t even know David was from the Midwest until this minute.

DA: Yeah, I bounced out of there as a kid, and pretty much grew up in L.A.


KW: Harriet Pakula-Teweles asks: David, how do you walk the fine line between gore and gripping?

DA: You don’t want to take your audience out of the movie, and too much of the wrong thing can do that. Violence and violent images obviously have a strong effect. If it’s gratuitous, it ain’t good. It has to have a reason. For me, especially in this film, violence has consequences. And the violence is part of the environment this band of brothers lives in. These guys are like a family trying to survive in a violent environment. So, every violent act is reflected in these characters. And they have to process them and come to terms with them.


KW: Harriet has one for you Michael. She says: You’ve just done a biopic and an action film based on true stories—how is the preparation different from roles based on fiction?

MP: I don’t really think there is much of a difference. I try to do the same kind of work from picture to picture. The only time it’s different is when I’m doing comedy. Then, the main focus is on making people laugh. And then, secondarily, you try to find the drama in it. I grew up in the ghetto, and I remember not realizing I lived in the ‘hood until I moved out of there. Then, I was like, “Oh man, I used to live like crap. Holy cow!” The crackheads and heroin addicts weren’t cool, but other than that I had so much fun growing up.      


KW: Harriet also asks: With so many classic films being redone, is there a remake you'd like to direct, David?

DA: That’s hard for me to say. Because I’m a writer, it’s easy for me to generate material for myself. My big advantage as a director is that I’m also a writer. The way that markets work now, everything has to be PG-13, and you have to kind of go for a broader audience. So, the problem with remakes is that a lot of what made an original special can get watered down or lost.

KW: Thanks again for the time, guys, and best of luck with the film.

DA: Alright, Kam.

MP: Absolutely!

To see a trailer for Fury, visit: 


UserpicBoris Kodjoe (INTERVIEW)
Posted by Kam Williams

Boris Kodjoe
The “Addicted” Interview
with Kam Williams


Kodjoe Aglow!

From his big screen and television roles to his theater and entrepreneurial skills, Boris Kodjoe has proven to be one of Hollywood’s most sought-after talents. He is probably best known for his role as Damon Carter on the TV series “Soul Food.”

He can currently be seen opposite Kevin Hart, Nick Cannon and JB Smoove on another hit sitcom, “The Real Husbands of Hollywood,” and will soon be starring in the upcoming series “Members Only” which will premiere this fall on ABC. And on the big screen, Boris was recently seen reprising his role as Luther West in the box office hit Resident Evil: Retribution, as well as in Baggage Claim opposite Paula Patton, Derek Luke and Trey Songz.

He was born in Vienna, Austria to Ursula Kodjoe, a psychologist from Germany, and Eric Kodjoe, a physician from Ghana, West Africa. They raised Boris, his brother Patrick and sister Nadja in Germany where he became one of the best tennis players in the country before earning an athletic scholarship to Virginia Commonwealth University.

While studying in Richmond, he was approached by a talent scout for Ford Modeling agency which he joined after earning his marketing degree in May of 1996. Immediately, he booked a dozen campaigns such as Ralph Lauren, Perry Ellis, Yves Saint Laurent, and The GAP. His career skyrocketed as he quickly became one of the most recognizable male supermodels.

Hollywood soon took notice. While studying with acting coach Janet Alhanti, Boris started guest starring on sitcoms such as “For Your Love,” and landed a supporting role in the feature film Love and Basketball. He also starred in Brown Sugar, alongside Taye Diggs and Sanaa Lathan, for which he was nominated for an NAACP Image Award. His other screen credits include Tyler Perry’s Madea’s Family Reunion, The Gospel, Surrogates and Resident Evil: Afterlife.

Onstage, Boris made his Broadway debut in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, opposite James Earl Jones, Phylicia Rashad and Anika Noni Rose. Previously, he toured the country in the play Whatever She Wants with Vivica A. Fox and Richard Roundtree.

Boris and his brother Patrick have launched the clothing company ALFA (Affordable Luxury For All), bringing the luxury of custom-made clothing to every man and woman in America at affordable prices. The line can be accessed at But his primary personal interest is to raise funds for Sophie’s Voice Foundation (, a charity he started with his wife in honor of his daughter Sophie, who was diagnosed with spina bifida at birth.

Here, Boris discusses his new movie, Addicted, the screen adaptation of the steamy best-seller by Zane.


Kam Williams: Hi Boris, thanks for another opportunity to interview you.

Boris Kodjoe: Thank you, Kam.


KW: You know, I recently met Nicole at a charity function here in Princeton after one of her performances of Antony & Cleopatra.

BK:  Wow!


KW: That was a lot of fun after having interviewed her several times over the years. She’s even more beautiful and gracious in person. Now, let me ask you about the movie. What interested you in Addicted? Were you already a Zane fan?

BK:  I wasn’t as aware of her before I read the script. That’s when I began to find out more and more about Zane, her tremendous fan base, and all of her books.


KW: How did you like the idea of playing the aggrieved party instead of the hunk the female lead is after?  

BK: It was interesting to me, because he went from being a victim to being a protagonist, in a way, once he found out that his wife had been leading this parallel life. So, the character had to deal wiith all kinds of obstacles, and ups-and-downs that I found intriguing.


KW: Tell me a little about what it was like making this movie.

BK:  It was great. It was almost like a family affair. I’ve known [director] Bille Woodruff for years, as well as [fellow cast members] Tyson [Beckford], Sharon [Leal] and everybody. So, it was quite easy to trust my director. My job was basically to make Sharon feel comfortable and protected. She was so courageous and vulnerable, and did such an amazing job. And I was sort of the safety net for her to do all that.


KW: Was there any tension on the set between Zane, the author of the novel, and Bille in terms of their vision for the screen adaptation?

BK:  No, they got all of that out of the way before we started shooting. They had numerous meetings, and made sure they were on the same page. To make a movie like that, you really have to trust your director, and they were on the same page.


KW: What message do you think people will take away from?

BK:  It’s about communication, weathering the storms, and making sure you really understand each other. In a situation like that, especially where addiction is involved, that lines of communication are open for the spouse not only to understand but to be ready to jump in and help. In the film, you see how difficult it can be because there’s guilt, there’s blame, there’s doubt, and therapy comes into play, as well. And it encourages the audience to engage in conversation after seeing the movie, which is great, too.  


KW: You’re really busy on TV nowadays, between Real Husbands of Hollywood and Members Only.

BK:  Yeah, Husbands starts up on October 14th, that’s when Season Three premieres. And I just finished the first episode of Members Only, which takes a unique look into contemporary life at a country club, at a lot of scandal and other ridiculousness that transpires there. So, it’s been exciting for me to do both shows, and a diverse selection of work overall.  


KW: Do the series’ shooting schedules overlap?

BK:  No, it worked out perfectly, which things usually do when you relinquish control and give it to God.


KW: Harriet Pakula-Teweles asks: How do you and Nicole balance your busy careers with being the parents of young children?

BK: It’s not about balance. It’s about priorities, and we make family our priority, and everything else sort of falls into place around it. When you do that, you don’t have the stress of trying to make things happen. They happen organically. Our kids are more important to us than any movie or TV show. So, we want to make sure they have what they need, and mostly that’s quality time with us.


KW: The bookworm Troy Johnson question: What was the last book you read?

BK:  An amazing book I read with my kids about the life of a child with a very rare and severe facial disfigurement, and about how his environment responds to him, and how he makes his life, his community, friends and school. It’s phenomenal. We’re reading it right now. The book is called “Wonder” and the main character’s name is August.  


KW: The Sanaa Lathan question: What excites you at this point in your career?

BK:  Anything that’s new and different.  


KW: The Uduak Oduok question: Who is your favorite clothes designer?

BK:  Our new clothing line, World of Alfa [ ]. That’s our company.


KW: Let's say you’re throwing your dream dinner party—who’s invited… and what would you serve?

BK: My wife, my father, my brother, my mother, James Earl Jones, Sidney Poitier, Rupert Murdoch, Desmond Tutu, J.J. Abrams, Roger Federer, Serena Williams, John Stewart, Bill Maher, Chris Rock and Banksy. A big table.  


KW: The Ling-Ju Yen question: What is your earliest childhood memory?

BK:  In Vienna, when I was a year-and-a-half or two years-old. I remember it because I remember the little blue raincoat I used to wear, and how the buttons felt. I liked to walk on the street in front of our house when it was raining, and jump into all the puddles. That’s weird, but that’s my earliest memory. I’m going to have to go to therapy to figure out what that means.


KW: The Anthony Mackie question: Isthere anything that you promised yourself you’d do if you became famous, that you still haven’t done yet?

BK:  No, I never dealt with fame. It was never a goal of mine to become famous. So, I never projected any goals associated with that. But I did have a bunch of goals I wanted to achieve when I was financially able to do so, but they had nothing to do with fame. When I set goals, they’re more tangible than becoming famous. You don’t build a company or a foundation for fame. By the way, October is Spina Bifida Month, so that’s a big deal for us.


KW: The Melissa Harris-Perry question:How did your first big heartbreak impact who you are as a person?

BK:  I had to make a decision about whether it would impact how I felt about trusting people, and I decided I wasn’t going top allow it to impact my outlook on trust, because I believe trust is a choice. And I’ve always given people the benefit of the doubt until they prove me otherwise. So, it just made me stronger in my conviction about that, but it also taught me never to put anything past anyone.


KW: Ausgezeichnet!

BK:  danke sehr.


KW: The Viola Davis question: What’s the biggest difference between who you are at home as opposed to the person we see on the red carpet?

BK:  Just the way I dress. [Laughs] Otherwise, I’m the same person. I don’t put on a face. I’m the same guy every time you see me. I like to laugh, I like to smile, and I don’t take myself too seriously. I can be a goofball. When I come home, the only thing that changes is that I take off the suit and put on tennis shorts and play with the kids.

KW: The Gabby Douglas question: If you had to choose another profession, what would that be?

BK:  I’m always an entrepreneur, but I’d probably be a teacher. I like teaching kids, whether that’s tennis on the courts or history in the classroom.


KW: The Harriet Pakula-Teweles question: With so many classic films being redone, is there a remake you'd like to star in?

BK:  American Gigolo.


KW: The Judyth Piazza question: What key quality do you believe all successful people share? 

BK:  Conviction. Belief in yourself. What it really says is that we are willing to weather the storm of multiple failures to achieve a goal. We’re so convinced in the destination that we are able to let go of the reins and give it to God.


KW: The Pastor Alex Kendrick question: When do you feel the most content?

BK: When I’m with my family.


KW: The Pastor Alex Kendrick question: What defines who you are?

BK: My actions.


KW: What advice do you have for anyone who wants to follow in your footsteps?

BK: Abort the mission, and build your own.


KW: Thanks again for the time, Boris, and best of luck with Addicted.

BK: No problem, thank you, Kam.

To see a trailer for Addicted, visit:


UserpicJeremy Renner (INTERVIEW)
Posted by Kam Williams

Jeremy Renner
The “Kill the Messenger” Interview
with Kam Williams

Chillin’ with the Messenger!

Jeremy Renner starred in The Hurt Locker, which won a half-dozen Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director (Kathryn Bigelow). For his portrayal of Sgt. William James, he received many accolades, including his first Academy Award nomination, in the Best Actor category.

The following year, he was again an Academy Award nominee, this time as Best Supporting Actor for his performance as James Coughlin in The Town, directed by Ben Affleck. Moviegoers worldwide also know him for his starring roles as Hawkeye in The Avengers, as William Brandt in Mission: Impossible: Ghost Protocol, and as Aaron Cross in The Bourne Legacy.

Jeremy’s breakthrough movie role was as Jeffrey Dahmer in Dahmer. And his other films include American Hustle; The Immigrant; Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters; The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford; 28 Weeks Later; Take; North Country; S.W.A.T.; and Neo Ned.

Here, he talks about his new film, Kill the Messenger, directed by Michael Cuesta. The two previously collaborated on 12 and Holding which was nominated for the Independent Spirit Awards’ John Cassavetes Award.


Kam Williams: Hi Jeremy. I’m honored to have this opportunity to speak with you.

Jeremy Renner: Thank you, Kam. My pleasure.


KW: I told my readers I’d be interviewing you, so I’ll be mixing in my questions with theirs.

JR: Okay, great!


KW: Editor Lisa Loving says: Oh my God! Oh my God! You made a movie about Gary Webb. Thank you. Wow! You are ripping my heart out right now. I am not going to cry. I just forgot what the heck I was supposed to be doing today. Jeez! I’m giving myself permission to cry a little. Jeremy, to me, this is one of the most important stories of the Modern Age. And the way Gary’s life was systematically destroyed—not just by the CIA but by the newspapers that mindlessly colluded with them—makes me weep for all time. His book, “Dark Alliance,” is one of my most treasured possessions. She asks: Mr. Renner, did either your role in Kill the Messenger or The Hurt Locker change the way you regard the world or our nation?

JR: Yeah, but not in a political sense. Just five minutes ago, I was talking to someone else about The Hurt Locker’s not being a political movie, whereas it could have quite easily been spun into one very heavy-handedly. Kill the Messenger is a little more obviously a political picture, but I didn’t really want politics to weigh-in on that, even though I might have my opinion and thoughts about it. I think politics and religion are personal belief systems that have nothing to do with anybody else. That’s where I stand. And I don’t like to make movies that try to force people to change their opinions. However, while the backdrop of Kill the Messenger involved politics and journalism, what was important to me was the underdog story. I love to watch an Everyman rise to the occasion under extraordinary circumstances, like in David and Goliath. I think that universal theme resonates with almost anyone, since most people are trying to do the best they can. Like The American way. I pride myself in sort of representing that, as an actor, especially with Gary Webb coming from the same area as I. It was a tragic situation all the way around, and a big story that’s impossible to tell in two hours, which is why we focused more on Gary Webb personally. 


KW: Lisa also asks: What did you learn by immersing yourself in Gary’s life story?  

JR: I’d always been on the other side of journalism, just being asked questions. This afforded me a chance to learn a lot about newspapers, satellite stations, and the work of an investigative reporter, and how they get a story. But what I still really enjoyed the most was learning about Gary Webb’s personal life as a father and husband, as well as a journalist.


KW: Lisa’s last question is: Do you think Gary committed suicide, or do you think he was killed by the CIA?

JR: I have an opinion about it, but I don’t care to address that on the record. I’ll let the movie speak for itself. What matters more to me is what other people think.


KW: David Roth thinks that since you’re one of the producers, you must feel pretty passionate about this project. He asks: Why do you think this story took a back seat to the Monica Lewinsky scandal?

JR: [LOL] The Monica Lewinsky story… [Laughs some more] and I do say this laughing… is just more entertaining to follow. Dark Alliance was talking about the CIA connection to cocaine and crack as opposed to blow jobs, which was a lot easier to swallow, no pun intended. [Chuckles]


KW: David also asks: Why didn’t you include Webb’s decline and death in the film, since it was under such suspicious circumstances?

JR: We did, actually. We have a very beautiful, long tracking shot. We replicated the morgue photo, and we originally had it bookending the beginning and end of the movie. But it felt too heavy-handed, and made what we were saying glaringly obvious, which wasn’t how we wanted the movie to be. So, we took it out, and put in a little text at the end saying what happened, instead of showing all that stuff. We wanted to be very delicate about showing what happened to Gary Webb as opposed to going, “Eff you, CIA! Eff you, government! Eff you L.A. Times and the San Jose Mercury News! It’s not about shooting all these other people down, because I don’t think there’s just one bad person to point at here, at all. The tragedy is really on Gary Webb and his being victimized by uncovering something that was ultimately true. 


KW: Sangeetha Subram says: Your performance in Kill the Messenger was sensational! I also loved you in The Bourne Legacy also. She asks: Is there one actor or actress that you would say has inspired you?

JR: Thank you, Sangeetha. Jeez! Most of the people I’ve worked with have inspired me. I’ve been lucky to work with so many great actors. Speaking of the Bourne Legacy, Rachel Weisz was someone I’d been trying to work with for so long. She’s amazing! I love Emily Blunt, too. She’s another one of my favorites. But there are loads and loads of them. It’s a long list. 


KW: Harriet Pakula-Teweles says: You’ve achieved leading figure status and you also do wonderful ensemble work—how different is your focus for each kind of different ‘space’ on the screen?

JR: The focus, I suppose, is the same. The requirement of time is not nearly as demanding, but the work is the same whether you work one day or a hundred days on a movie. You still have to bring a fully-realized, three-dimensional character to the screen. So, the work is the same, it’s just that the responsibility of carrying the movie is lightened.


KW: Harriet also asks: How do you put your own imprint on a movie that is based on a true story, you’ve done a bunch of them, when you already know your character’s motivation and outcome?

JR: I guess it’s a subjective thing. If I’m playing a real-life person, I’m beholden to the truths of who they are or who they were, if they’re dead. It’s easy, but then there are limitations to that, because they’re a known figure. If it’s something I’m creating, it’s free game. So, I guess truth is really the ultimate decider of what it is. 


KW: The Harriet Pakula-Teweles question: With so many classic films being redone, is there a remake you'd like to star in?

JR:  I feel like we’re constantly remaking movies, but they just have different titles. I believe there are twelve stories that we retell over and over again thematically. I’ve never thought about remaking a film, but I’ve probably already done it. [Chuckles]


KW: Is there any question no one ever asks you, that you wish someone would?

JR:  It’s usually the other way around. They ask a question I wish they wouldn’t ask. [Laughs heartily] But I welcome any opportunity to answer a question I’ve never been asked before. But I don’t know what that is. You’re asking me to divulge something I don’t really want anyone to know about me, but I don’t want anybody to know anything about me. [LOL]


KW: Here’s one you might never have been asked: The Ling-Ju Yen question: What is your earliest childhood memory?

JR: [Chuckles] I can’t tell that story. I was running around naked in my mom’s high-heeled shoes. I was a tyrant. I was always disappearing a lot, like a ninja.  


KW: What is your favorite dish to cook?

JR: Breakfast. Anything for breakfast. It’s my favorite meal.


KW: When you look in the mirror, what do you see?

JR: Flaws.


KW: The Sanaa Lathan question: What excites you at this stage in your career?

JR: The same thing as ever. The same principles that did with my very first job: to be challenged to grow.


KW: The Viola Davis question: What’s the biggest difference between who you are at home as opposed to the person we see on the red carpet?

JR: I suppose I can get a little loose on the red carpet, but I’m not wearing a suit at home where I’m relaxed and a bit more of a goofball. Who I am as a person is a pretty down-to-earth, simple, simple man.  


KW: If you could have one wish instantly granted, what would that be for?

JR: To be with my daughter.


KW: The Judyth Piazza question: What key qualities do you believe all successful people share? 

JR: Tenacity, perseverance and fearlessness.


KW: The Anthony Anderson question: If you could have a superpower, which one would you choose?

JR: Flying is always a good one.


KW: The Gabby Douglas question: If you had to choose another profession, what would that be? You were a makeup artist before you got your big break, right?

JR: Yeah, I was a makeup artist for a little while, instead of waiting tables. I’d probably be a teacher, a musician or a real estate developer, which I’m already doing.


KW: What instrument do you play?

JR: Drums, guitar and piano, and I sing.


KW: Can I find you performing on Youtube?

JR: There’s some stuff from SNL and from when I was pressured to sing on some talk shows.


KW: What advice do you have for anyone who wants to follow in your footsteps?

JR: If there’s anything else that makes you happy, please go do that. But if this is what you love, and what you want, make it your Plan A, and don’t have a Plan B. Don’t plan to fail.


KW: The Tavis Smiley question: How do you want to be remembered?

JR: As complicated.


KW: Thanks again for the time, Jeremy, and best of luck with Kill the Messenger. And I hope to speak to you again about your next project.

JR: Yeah, yeah. I really appreciate it, Kam.

To see a trailer for Kill the Messenger, visit:

To see Jeremy singing “Stuck in the Middle with You” with family and friends, visit:


UserpicLaurence Fishburne (INTERVIEW)
Posted by Kam Williams

Laurence Fishburne
The “Black-ish” Interview
with Kam Williams 

Fishburne Baby Fishburne!

Laurence J. Fishburne, III has achieved an impressive body of work as an actor, producer and director. Starting at the age of 10, Laurence starred on the soap opera "One Life to Live." He made his feature film debut at age 12 in "Cornbread, Earl and Me" and followed that up a few years later with "Apocalypse Now."


His television performances include "The Box" episode of "Tribeca" which earned him an Emmy award and "Thurgood," which earned him an Emmy nomination. He starred for three seasons on the hit series "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation" and he was an Emmy Award nominee and an NAACP Image Award winner for his starring role in the telefilm "Miss Evers' Boys," which he executive-produced. And he can currently be seen alongside Hugh Dancy and Mads Mikkelsen in the NBC thriller series "Hannibal."

Through his production company, Cinema Gypsy, Laurence is scheduled to executive-produce and star in "The Right Mistake," a dramatic television series for HBO. The company also made the movies "Akeelah and the Bee," "Five Fingers" and "Once in the Life."

Among his many film credits are "Boyz n the Hood," "A Rumor of War," "The Color Purple," "The Matrix" trilogy, "Decoration Day" and "The Tuskegee Airmen," for which he received an NAACP Image Award. Laurence also won the Drama Desk, Outer Critics Circle, Theatre World, and Tony Awards for his portrayal of Sterling Johnson in August Wilson's "Two Trains Running." In 2006. he reteamed with his frequent acting partner Angela Bassett at The Pasadena Playhouse in August Wilson's "Fences." directed by Samuel Epps.

Here, he talks about playing Pops on the new TV sitcom, “Black-ish.”


Kam Williams: Hi Laurence, I’m honored to have another opportunity to speak with you.

Laurence Fishburne: Thank you, Kam. It’s good to hear your voice. 


KW: I told my readers I’d be interviewing you, so I’m mixing in their questions with my own. Aaron Moyne asks: What inspired the title Black-ish?

LF: Ah, the title came from Kenya Barris, our writer/creator. It’s like “squeamish” or “Jewish” or other “ish” terms like that.


KW: Editor Lisa Loving says: Why this show? Why now? And Harriet Pakula-Teweles says: What was “intrigue-ish” about doing this show?

LF: What was intriguing to me, first of all, was that it’s comedy, which is something I don’t do a lot of. I’ve wanted to do comedy for a while, and the elements of this show fit. They really made sense in terms of my doing a comedy basically about a well-to-do black family with children of privilege, living in modern America, in our Digital Age. I can relate to what all of that means and how we have to navigate it. So, that’s the why and the where.   


KW: How would you describe your character, Pops, in 25 words or less?

LF: [Chuckles] I wouldn’t. I wouldn’t describe my character Pops in 25 words or less.


KW: Director Rel Dowdell says: You've presented some of the most memorable images of African-American men at either end of the spectrum with "Furious Styles" from "Boyz N the Hood" and Ike Turner from "What's Love Got to Do with It?" Is it difficult to portray characters that are so different in persona and morality, and do you have a preference?

LF: I don’t have a preference. The wonderful thing about what I do is being able to run the gamut. It’s never the same. I don’t get excited about the idea of playing the same person all the time. I do get excited about being able to explore different people and different characters, and using my range, as it were.


KW: Professor/Filmmaker/editor Hisani Dubose says: Please ask the wonderful Mr. Fishburne why he decided to do comedy. He's such a great actor that I'm sure he'll pull it off.

LF: Because I haven’t done much of it and because a lot of people don’t know that I actually can be quite funny. Plus, I feel that the context of the show, the timing of everything, and my wonderful cast mates, Anthony Anderson and Tracee Ellis Ross, all added up to the perfect combination of ingredients. It just makes sense at this time. And actors should be able to do both comedy and drama. At least the good ones.


KW: Attorney Bernadette Beekman asks: Do you get to ad-lib on the show?

LF: Yes, we do.


KW: Shelley Evans asks: Is it any easier for African-American actors to land parts on television and web series these days?

LF: Well, it’s certainly easier than it was 30 years ago! [LOL]


KW: Sangeetha Subram asks: Do you think diversity has improved on television over the years? There is still so much more to do, but is there anything the general public can do to campaign for more authentic diverse images being represented?

LF: I think that if the general public would use that social media tool to express their desire to see a more authentic and genuine representation of what the American family looks like, then that would be helpful.


KW: Editor/Legist Patricia Turnier says: I have a high respect for you as an actor for decades and I was blown away to discover even more your high-caliber when you performed the role of Thurgood Marshall for the play. My question is what does Marshall represent to you and how did you prepare for the role?

LF: Thurgood Marshall represents so much to many different people. For me, he really came to represent not just the courage that African-Americans have had to have in the face of discrimination and racism, but the courage that was borne out of the love that he received from his family, his community, his educators and his classmates. Everything he did was borne out of that love and support that was given to him. He also went into the lion’s den not only with great courage but with great humor. So, he’s really a towering figure in our history.


KW: Is there another historical figure you would like to portray?

LF: I’m sure there are many, but I couldn’t pick just one right now.


KW: D.V. Brooks says: Mr. Fishburne, having become one of our esteemed elders in the performing arts and public figures what advice would you like to pass on to the upcoming generation of writers, actors, producers and directors of color in continuing the legacy of such individuals such as  Ruby Dee, Amiri Baraka, August Wilson and others like yourself?

LF: The real answer to that is that when I see those young people I will give that advice to them. It is for them and for them only.


KW: D.V. also says: You and I share an experience from our youth: the Model Cities summer programs. What did that experience, along with the support of your parents, Laurence, Sr. and Hattie, instill in you as an artist?  

LF: The Model Cities experience didn’t really inform me as an artist as much as it informed me as a human being. It was a very safe place to be, and I came away from that experience with a lot more confidence in myself as a person.  


KW: Marcia Evans says: Kam, you must use my questions and comments.  Please start off by letting Laurence know that I've followed his career since One Life to Live. Let him know that I'm a huge fan of his work, especially the amazing performance he honored us playing Socrates Fortlow in “Always Outnumbered" That blew me away. I went thru a box of tissues that night. Thank him for me because he really brought it.

LF: Thank you, Marcia.


KW: She goes on to say: I know his lovely wife Gina Torres has Cuban roots. I wonder if he's had the pleasure to visit Cuba as yet.

LF: No I haven’t been to Cuba yet.


KW: She also says: I'm aware he is a music lover and I’d like to know whether he digs Cuban vibes.

LF: I love Cuban music.


KW: Next, she asks: What are your favorite countries to visit?

LF: Goodness! I love Morocco. I love Italy. I love Spain. And I love Tahiti.


KW: Finally, Marcia suggests: They should make a film about Hannibal, and cast you, Mr. Laurence Fishburne, in the title role. You’d make a splendid Hannibal!

LF: That’s very kind, Marcia. Thank you very much!


KW: Is there any question no one ever asks you, that you wish someone would?

LF: No. [Chuckles]


KW: The bookworm Troy Johnson question: What was the last book you read?

LF: The last book I read would be right here on my Kindle. It’s called “Perfect Brilliant Stillness.”


KW: What is your favorite dish to cook?

LF: I enjoy making Arroz con Pollo for my wife.


KW: Thanks again for the time, Laurence. I really appreciate it. And best of luck with Black-ish.

LF: You’re welcome and thanks, Kam.


To see a trailer for Black-ish, visit:


UserpicJoy Luck Amy
Posted by Kam Williams

Amy Tan
“The Boomer List” Interview
with Kam Williams

Born in Oakland, California on February 19, 1952 to immigrant parents from China, Amy Tan is an award-winning writer whose novel, The Joy Luck Club, was translated into 35 languages and adapted into a hit feature film. She resisted her mother’s pressure to become a doctor and concert pianist.

Instead, Amy chose to write fiction. Besides The Joy Luck Club, she is the author of The Kitchen God’s Wife, The Hundred Secret Senses, The Bonesetter’s Daughter, Saving Fish from Drowning, and Valley of Amazement,were all New York Times best-sellers.

She also penned her memoir, The Opposite of Fate;two children’s books, The Moon Lady and Sagwa; The Chinese Siamese Cat; and numerous articles for magazines. In addition, Amy served as co-producer and co-screenwriterfor the film adaptation of The Joy Luck Club and was the creative consultant for Sagwa, the Emmy-nominated PBS television series for children.

She wrote the libretto for the opera based on her novel The Bonesetter’s Daughter. With music composed by Stewart Wallace, the opera had its world premiere to sold-out audiences in September and October of 2008 at the San Francisco Opera.

Here, she talks about being profiled in The Boomer List, a PBS American Masters documentary featuring icons of the Baby Boom Generation. The special premieres from 9-10:30 PM ET/PT on Tuesday, September 23rd (check local listings).


Kam Williams: Hi Amy, thanks for the interview. I’m honored to have this opportunity to speak with you. We’re also both Boomers born in 1952.

Amy Tan: Thanks, Kam.


KW: What interested you in participating in The Boomer List?

AT: I thought it would be interesting to examine who we are as a generation. I also thought it would be fun because I’d worked with [director] Timothy [Greenfield-Sanders] before.  


KW: Harriet Pakula-Teweles says: Thank you for The Joy Luck Club, The Kitchen God’s Wife and all your fine writing since then right up to The Valley of Amazement which I just finished. You’ve been on plenty of best-seller lists. How does that compare to representing your generation on the The Boomer List?

AT: I suppose you could call me representative in terms of my going from being a part of an invisible set of writers who were outside of the mainstream to becoming a mainstream writer. That, people thought was very significant, breaking through some sort of barrier that I wasn’t aware of. I wasn’t trying to break through barriers. I was just writing a book. Before, there were plenty of books out there that had been written by African-Americans which were always treated as somehow on the periphery. They’d be in Ethnic Studies classes but they eventually became part of mainstream American literature. In that sense, I do think my novels have contributed to that development of American literature.


KW: That reminds me of when I took a course in college called The Great American Short Stories and all the writers we covered were white males. On the first day of class, I raised my hand and asked the professor why all the great American writers were white males.

AT: I went through exactly the same education that you’re talking about. I was an English major, and the only woman represented on the course curriculum was Virginia Woolf. I ended up taking a special class in Black literature as part of a summer program, and Asian literature classes still didn’t exist yet.


KW: Editor/Legist Patricia Turnier says: You are among the most successful female writers. Only about a dozen women laureates have won the Nobel Prize for Literature since its inception. Amantine-Lucile-Aurore Dupin had to take the pseudonym George Sand to become a French novelist and memoirist. Historically, it has been difficult for women to thrive in the literary world. How can we break the glass ceiling and what advice do you have for aspiring writers?
AT: I really don’t know how one breaks through unless you have more diversity on the judging panel. What I have observed is that the winners are often books about larger political world issues. All I know is that my books would never win a prize like that because, in the judges’ minds, do not concern larger world politics. As a judge, which I’ve done, you look for literary merit overall, but so many prizes, especially the Nobel, have a political tinge to them. Not to say that’s wrong. It also has to do with what people perceive the value of literature to be, and what function it should perform, as opposed to simply being its own art form and entertaining. 


KW: I found it interesting that your mother focused more on teaching you about being a female than about being Chinese-American?

AT: I think that was because she felt the greater impediment, the greater danger, had to do with being a woman. Among the lessons she taught me was that I should never let anyone else look down on me or determine how I saw myself. She felt that you can be constrained by the way that people think in any culture.


KW: Yet, she also told you that you weren’t beautiful.  

AT: I look back at pictures of myself as a teenager and laugh. I certainly was not beautiful. I had acne, hideous glasses, a hideous hairdo, a puffy face, all the usual things for a 13 year-old. My mother was not one to coddle and say, “You’re so beautiful, darling. People just can’t appreciate it.” My mother always saw danger in beauty and said: “If you try to rely on beauty, you’re going to find yourself lost after awhile because beauty doesn’t last, and because people are attracted to beauty for the wrong reasons. So, you should be glad that you’re not beautiful.” That was her perspective. [Laughs] I think I was very fortunate that at that point when I was forming an image of myself I understood that I was going to have to depend on something else to find someone who was interested in me. My mother never stopped talking about how beautiful she was and how much that had gotten her into trouble. The worst of men were attracted to her.


KW: I saw some pictures of you as a teenager, and I think you looked very cute. When you look in the mirror today, what do you see?

AT: I’m very content when I look in the mirror. I’m happy with the way I look. I’m just me. I’ve grown into this face.


KW: As a child you also felt ashamed of being Chinese. Why was that?

AT: By the time I was 6, I had gradually become aware of the fact that I was different. And as my family moved up the economic ladder, we moved a lot, to better and better neighborhoods, and the classrooms in my schools became whiter and whiter, until eventually, I was the only Chinese girl in the class. By the time you reach 11 or 12, no child wants to be too different. You kinda want to look like everybody else. I had that same feeling. I wanted to have blonde hair and a perky nose and have boys look at me and admire my figure. But that didn’t happen. So much of it had to do with the boy-girl thing which became a hallmark of popularity and acceptability in junior high and high school. I just wanted that like everybody else. And I believed that I didn’t get any dates because I was Chinese.


KW: What inspired you to swim with sharks after you turned 60? A desire to do something daring and dangerous? 

AT: No, it was that I literally wanted to discover something new in the way that Darwin did in discovering new species. It’s such an ambitious and almost impossible goal, but it would keep prompting me to look for something no one had ever noticed before. In some way, we are all different from everyone else in the world. That could be manifested by noticing something no one else has noticed. In Indonesia, I found the ugliest ant condo, and I decided, “I’ll take that.”

I also sensed that one way I could discover something new was by exploring the ocean, because there are so many unidentified species there. So, swimming with whale sharks with some conservationist friends became part of that adventure. I had not anticipated that it would be so life-changing. You simply abandon fear for the pure excitement and beauty and joy and surrealism of being around the world’s largest fish, and having them look you right in the eye. I even accidentally touched some of them at times as they started to turn when swimming close by.  


KW: Do you think China is a lot like the United States today?

AT: Superficially, yes. But I think China has gone beyond just being more Western. There’s a lifestyle, an attitude, and a pace unlike that of the U.S. It’s hyper-speed. As Baby Boomers, we were the last American generation that could assume that we would own a house. However, that’s the norm now in China. Acquisition! And over the top acquisition! People will pay $100,000 for a designer purse. You have no idea how hyper-acquisitive people are in China. I don’t think many Americans would find they have much in common with them. I have relatives in China and I have seen them change dramatically as a result of this new acquisitiveness. Here, a lot of younger people don’t identify with Baby Boomers because they see us similarly. We were the big bulge and set a lot of the trends in the consumer model of what was popular. China is doing that now as well. But they aren’t desirous of being like Americans.


KW: Documentary filmmaker Kevin Williams says: While the Boomers did accomplish much good in breaking up some of the social and gender stratification in our country, many Generation Xers resent the Boomers' cultural domination in the 80s and 90s, and even now as child-raising adults. Do you think that Baby Boomers, as a group, are aware of this animosity towards them on account of how they shaped our country at a high cost to future generations and where they’ve taken the U.S. economically, spiritually and socially?

AT: I’m certainly aware of it, but I don’t know that all Baby Boomers are. I think there are different strands of our generation. One that was very interesting was behind our grassroots efforts which got some traction on behalf of the anti-war movement, women’s liberation and equal rights for gays. We’re the last generation with the expectation of upward mobility and the home ownership and the credit card mentality. Those coming behind us feel that debt is what we’ve left them with, and the idea of having it now, but paying for it later. I think they also resent the amount of our pollution. We were the start of McDonald’s and the fast food culture and of massive consumer waste. But we also did a lot of positive things, entering the Peace Corps, campaigning for George McGovern, loving Jimmy Carter for what he was doing for social good, and I think many Boomers still have that consciousness. I would say to those who really despise Boomers: Don’t lump us all together. The credit card Boomers led us down a very nasty path of debt and unemployment. 


KW: The bookworm Troy Johnson question: What was the last book you read?

AT: I’d be embarrassed to admit the name of the last one I really read. It was a funny, fluffy book. But before that, I reread Love in the Time of Cholera.

Next, I’m planning to read Middlemarch which, oddly enough, I’ve never read.


KW: What is your favorite dish to cook?

AT: Cauliflower and Brussels sprouts, sautéed together in oil and garlic, and garnished with capers and lemon. I’m vegetarian. I don’t eat meat. I could talk about how bad it is for the environment, but…


KW: Let's say you’re throwing your dream dinner party—who’s invited?

AT: I’m always terrible at that “If you were stranded on a desert island” type of question. I think, if I could have dinner with almost anyone, I would prefer it to be with people gone from my life, rather than important political figures like President Obama and President Assad to see what they’d have to say to each other. I want to see loved ones again and to hear about things that we didn’t have time to talk about. So, it would be the impossible dinner list of people I know I would never be able to see again.   


KW: The Ling-Ju Yen question: What is your earliest childhood memory?

AT: I remember sitting under a tree in the summer, at 2½, when something fuzzy and round fell on top of my head and made me cry. I picked it up, and it looked like a peach. But my mother says it must have been an apricot since we only had an apricot tree in the backyard. We were living in Fresno at that time.


KW:  What are you working on now? 

AT: I’m working on a book about writing. It’s not a how-to book. It’s really about what Ezra Pound call “The Undertow.” The undertow of your life. All the things that come to the surface and all the things can drag you down and take you away forever. I’m trying to capture that sense of who I am from the very beginning, and of what I’ve noticed about life, and death, and relationships. So, I can’t really say what the book is about yet because I still have to find out more of what this writer is about first. 


KW: Wow! I look forward to reading it. Well, have a good trip. I hear you’re leaving for Europe today.

AT: Yeah, I’m headed to Holland, Germany, Iceland and Italy. My big thing is I need to make sure I get enough sleep everyday. 


KW: Thanks again for the time, Amy, and bon voyage!

AT: My pleasure, Kam.

To see a trailer for The Boomer List, visit:


UserpicEqualizers ‘Я’ Us
Posted by Kam Williams

Denzel Washington & Antoine Fuqua
“The Equalizer” Interview
with Kam Williams

Denzel Washington is a man constantly on the move. Never content to just repeat his successes, the two-time Academy Award-winner (for Glory and Training Day) is always searching for new challenges through his numerous and varied film and stage portrayals. 

From Trip, the embittered runaway slave in Glory to South African freedom fighter Steven Biko in Cry Freedom; from Shakespeare's tragic historical figure Richard III to the rogue detective Alonzo in Training Day; to his recent critically-acclaimed performance as the addicted airline pilot Whip Whitaker in Flight, Denzel has amazed and entertained audiences with a rich array of characters distinctly his own.

The talented thespian has also starred in 2 Guns, Safe House, Unstoppable, The Book Of Eli, The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3, American Gangster, Inside Man, Déjà Vu, Man on Fire, The Manchurian Candidate and Out Of Time, to name a few. And his next film as director was The Great Debaters, where he co-starred opposite Forest Whitaker.

Here, Denzel and director Antoine Fuqua discuss their reuniting to collaborate again on The Equalizer. 


Kam Williams: Hi Denzel and Antoine, thanks for the interview. I’m honored to have this opportunity to speak with the two of you.

Denzel Washington: Our pleasure!

Antoine Fuqua: Yeah, thanks Kam.


KW: I want you to know that I loved this film and also your previous one, Antoine, Olympus Has Fallen. Thanks for using my quote on the DVD. I hope I get blurbed for this one, too. 

AF: Of course! You’re welcome.


KW: I have more questions for you two from readers than you could ever answer, but I hope we can get through a lot of them.

DW: Go!


KW: Film Student Jamaal Green doesn’t have a question, but says: You are both an inspiration to me and many of my peers who are pursuing a career in filmmaking. Thank you for your dedication to your craft.

AF: Thank you Jamal!


KW: Children’s book author Irene Smalls says to Antoine: Thank you for giving us a Black hero. Do you see the Equalizer as blossoming into a franchise?

AF: I hope so, but that’d be up to the audience.


KW: Larry Greenberg says: Antoine, I have only seen the trailer for The Equalizer, but I was blown away by the cinematography. How were you able to achieve that look?

AF: With the help of a great cinematographer, Mauro Fiore [Oscar-winner for Avatar].


KW: Pittsburgh publisher Robin Beckham asks As an Academy Award-winning actor, what is it like to work again with one of the few African-American directors, Pittsburgh born, Training Day director Antoine Fuqua? Is there some special “brother” chemistry in action while working together?

DW: [LOL, speaks while Antoine also laughs heartily] Yes, we have the ”brother” meeting every weekend, at the Brotherhood of Black Directors and Black Actors’ meeting. No, Antoine is obviously very talented, and we’ve had some success in the past, and I also look forward to our next opportunity.


KW: Director Rel Dowdell says: Denzel, you have set the standard of excellence for African-American actors for so long. Is there any type of film that you haven't had the chance to act in yet that you would like to?

DW: No. [Laughs again, then pauses to think] I don’t know... There’s no wish list, but thanks for asking, Rel.


KW: Editor Lisa Loving asks Denzel: Have you ever taken on a role that, when you were in the middle of it, made you think – wait, this is impossible?

DW: What does Lisa mean by impossible? Impossible to do or to be or in some other way?  

KW: I have no idea. I’m just reading what was sent in.

DW: Don’t shoot the messenger, right? [Chuckles]

KW: Yeah.


KW: Lisa also says: Antoine, based on your childhood, would your mom have been surprised to know all that you were going to accomplish in your professional career?

AF: Absolutely! Absolutely! I played sports. She would never think I was going to be a director. That wasn’t part of our daily conversations.


KW: Hirangi Patel asks Denzel: What can you reveal about your character Robert McCall’s mysterious back story?

DW: It wouldn’t be mysterious anymore, if I revealed it. [Antoine chuckles in background] You have to go to the movie and see.


KW: Dr. Joy Ohayia would like to ask Denzel: What is your secret to staying in fantastic shape for your action movies?

DW: There’s no easy way. Going to the gym, and a good diet and exercise. Well, I guess there are some magic pills available these days, but I don’t take any of ‘em. I may start, though. [Laughs]


KW: Harriet Pakula-Teweles: What message about this action hero do you hope viewers take away from the film?

DW: Maybe Antoine will answer that question, butI never do because it all depends upon what each viewer brings to the film. The idea is just to have a good time. It’s not a big deal. Is there a message, Antoine?

AF: No, just doin’ the right thing. He’s a guy who does the right thing, what’s necessary to help others.


KW: David Roth asks Antoine about The Equalizer: Why would a black man attempting to disappear choose to live in a predominantly white community?

AF: [While Denzel bellows in the background] who says it’s a white community?

DW: Actually, it’s a black and Hispanic community.


KW: Aaron Moyne: If you had the power to equalize social injustices in real-life, what would be the first one you'd tackle?

DW: Who’s that one for?

KW: He didn’t say.

DW: You got that one, Antoine?

AF: That’s a tough one. There’s a lot of things that need equalizing.

DW: Yeah. Just getting along, Aaron, and having respect for your fellow man.


KW: Kate Newell asks: Denzel, would you ever consider a career in politics?

DW: [Emphatically] No!


KW: Claudia Thorne asks Denzel: I would love it if you were the commencement speaker at my graduation from Howard University next year.

DW: Thank you, Claudia.


KW: Editor/Legist Patricia Turnier asks: What advice do you have for aspiring minority actors and directors, and did either of you have a protégé?

DW: Don’t look at yourself as a minority.  

AF: Yeah. Yeah, that’s right.


KW: Tony Noel asks Denzel: How have you managed to avoid having your life splashed across the tabloids?
DW: You can’t, unless you stay in the house. [Belly laughter from both]


KW: Tony asks Denzel: Is there an outcome or theme of a movie of yours that you would change if you could?  

DW: I don’t know. We actually changed the ending in Training Day. In the original one, he lived. He walked away into an airport or something.

AF: Yeah.

DW: We changed the ending since, in order to justify Alonzo Harris’ living in the worst way, he had to die in the worst way, which he did.


KW: Steve Kramer says: I played the piano for "The All Nite Strut" and worked with your then girlfriend…

DW: [Denzel cuts me off] Get outta here! Pauletta?

KW: Yes, with Pauletta in Boston and Toronto. I was a skinny white guy with a big Jew-fro back then.

DW: [LOL] A skinny guy white guy with a big Jew-fro?

KW: Yep.

DW: Okay, I’ll ask my wife.  

KW: Steve was wondering whether you remember walking the streets of Boston with him right before the release of your first movie, Carbon Copy, when he told you there was no greater woman than Pauletta?  

DW: Well, I’m glad I listened to him. [Chuckles]


KW: Denzel, city bus driver Kevin Kenna would like to know whether you have any fond memories of Philadelphia?

DW: Yeah, my son went to the University of Pennsylvania, so I have a lot of great memories from visiting him and working there… Cheese steaks and going to the Palestra to watch basketball games.


KW: Richie von der Schmidt asks Denzel about Philadelphia: Do you agree that “A bologna sandwich is a satisfactory meal, whereas caviar and champagne, roast duck and baked Alaska, that might be considered a delightful meal,” which is a line of your characters from the film Philadelphia.

DW: You gotta ask [director] Jonathan Demme.


KW: Documentary filmmaker Kevin Williams is curious about how working on A Soldier's Story and For Queen and Country improved your craft as an actor? You were so great in those early films.

DW: Well, A Soldier’s Story was a Pulitzer Prize-winning play first. I was one of the original cast members with Sam Jackson, among others in the play. We had great success off-Broadway even before we did the movie. It was a tremendous experience.


KW: Attorney Bernadette Beekman asks Denzel: Will you ever retire from acting? 

DW: We’ll all retire from life at some point, but no. The great thing about acting is you don’t necessarily have to retire. 80 seems to be around the age that people seem to ease out of it. Gene Hackman… Sidney Poitier… So, I have a whole ‘nother quarter to go.


KW: Sangeetha Subram asks: Denzel, how did you come to produce this film?

DW: It’s just a title. It really was a collaborative process. We all got involved as soon as we were given the script. I’m not a numbers cruncher. I just helped make sure we put the best film we could onscreen. 


KW: Bernadette, Antoine, What was it like directing Denzel again?

DW: Oh, I’m going to walk away while you answer that one. [Laughs]

AF: Amazing. He’s simply amazing! You can’t ask for better.


KW: Professor/Fillmaker/Author Hisani Dubose asks: How has the Hollywood studios becoming part of conglomerates affected your ability to work? Do you think it’s feasible for independent productions to go after theatrical release these days?

AF: It’s always been big business. It doesn’t affect it any more now than it did 30 or 40 years ago. You just have to do the work.


KW: When you look in the mirror, what do you see?

AF: Myself! [Laughs]

DW: The room behind me. [Laughs very heartily]


KW: Well, thanks again for the interview,

AF:  Thank you, Kam.

DW: Take care.


To see a trailer for The Equalizer, visit:


UserpicBill T. Jones (INTERVIEW)
Posted by Kam Williams

Bill T. Jones

The “Story/Time” Interview

with Kam Williams


Tiny Dancer, Dancing in the Sand

Williams Tass Jones is an accomplished artist, choreographer, dancer, theater director and writer. The world-renowned Renaissance man was born in Bunnell, Florida on February 15, 1952, but raised in upstate New York from an early age.


Bill began his dance training at the State University at Binghamton, where he studied classical ballet and modern dance. In 1982, he formed the Bill T. Jones / Arnie Zane Dance Company with his late partner, Arnie Zane. Today, he continues to serve as the company’s choreographer and artistic director. He is also the executive director of New York Live Arts, a multi-disciplinary performance venue. Bill is the recipient of many accolades, including the National Medal of Arts, the Kennedy Center Honors, the Jacob’s Pillow Dance Award, Tony Awards in the Best Choreography category (for Fela! And Spring Awakening), a MacArthur Genius Grant, the prestigious Order of Arts and Letters from the government of France, and induction into the National Museum of Dance Hall of Fame. Here, he talks about his career and his surrealistic new memoir, “Story/Time.”

Kam Williams: Hi Bill, thanks for the interview. I loved the book.

Bill T. Jones: Fantastic!

KW: What a unique idea, turning a series of surrealistic lectures you delivered at Princeton into a memoir?

BTJ: I don’t know why I still have this illusion that I could do something quietly which would just be for a very small group of people. Now that the book is being promoted, there are wider ramifications, and it’s part of a whole other form of expression beyond my just doing pure inquiry for myself. And you’re one of those personalities that comes along with that tsunami of discourse. So, no complaints, I’m just adjusting to that. So, what would you like to do, Kam?  

KW: I’d like to mix in questions from fans with some of my own. Professor/Filmmaker/Author Hisani Dubose says: How has the trend towards people relying on technology for entertainment affected the appreciation of creativity in terms of live dance performances?

BTJ: [Laughs] Well, that’s quite a question, Hisani. I appreciate the question. We’re all wondering about that. There are a couple things we see. Dancers were the last romantics. The Romantic Movement of the 18th and 19th Century had this idea that everything in the world was an expression of Nature. We in the dance world held onto this idea for a long time that we were Nature itself. There were no tricks involved. When the curtain went up, you saw real people onstage. And we took that as setting us apart from other cultural pursuits. It’s not scored and we don’t need a conductor to bring it to life. No, dance is about a group of people coming together and using their bodies. But now we’re in an electronic, on-demand age where everything can be reproduced, and where life is an ever more turned inwards experience. One thing about dance that I’m proud of is the fact that you have to show up in a place and create an instant community for an event that occurs onstage which, depending on the skill of the creators, has great resonance with that community of people. And this may sound suspiciously Christian, but you also all share a communion. Do we have the same experience with electronics? I think watching live performers onstage is different from standing around the water cooler discussing last night’s episode of Breaking Bad  I notice that there is now this feeling among many young people that the most important things are those that are validated by media. Do they go out of their way to attend an event with a smaller group of people who share a specialized interest? I tend to doubt it. And I suspect that might be a consequence of the rise of electronic media.

KW: Do you think electronic media should somehow be restricted or perhaps even eliminated?

BTJ: No, I’m not a reactionary in that regard. I believe that human life is a spiritual activity, and that anything that human beings give themselves to with great enthusiasm can rise to the level of being transcendent. I’m on the side of humanity and its penchant for finding innovative ways to express our dilemma through whatever medium we’re faced with.

KW: Marcia Evans says: First, let Bill T. Jones know that ironically while on Bard College Alumni site I discovered that he received an honorary degree. Let him know as a past Bard student it made me proud to see him at that podium. It brought back my fond memories and my disappointing ones regarding lack of professors of color teaching at that esteemed college. The years I attended in the early 1980 black professors were not teaching at Bard at that time. This was before Toni Morrison who was the first professor of color to teach there. Leon Botstein kept saying that they couldn't find black professors who wanted to teach there, which was nonsense. Secondly, it's nice to see how much Mr. Botstein has grown since then. An example of his progress is reflected in how many times Mr. Jones’ dance troupe has graced the stage at Bard. It's clear that Botstein now respects Mr. Jones as an artist with much to teach about dance. Third, let him know that I admire his warrior spirit teaching the world about AIDS. Fourth, let Mr. Jones know that the mother's words of wisdom his mother gave him after he lost his partner really spoke to me. Finally, let him know that he is one of my heroes and that this sister is major proud of his gift and grace and of how he conducts his business of dance.

BTJ: Well, Marcia, I am overwhelmed by your response, because I am very much African-American, even though I’m not a Christian like my mother was. Still, I appreciate the African tradition in the Black Church where you stand up and speak out to the community and the community answers back, effectively saying, “I hear you!” And this is what this communication with you has just done for me, Marcia. One of the struggles of a contemporary modern artist is to bridge this question: Is my work coming from a continent of one, an inner voice, a unique personal experience? Or is it that you have the privilege of standing on the shoulders of a community of people who have afforded you that platform, and that your work is always going to be negotiating that inner personal location and the ongoing discussion that your people are happy? I am really proud when I receive national honors, but I’m equally pleased when I hear a sister, a black woman, actually embrace me like a brother. I no longer feel alienated at this moment.     

KW: Have you had a hard time pushing back against society’s tendency to pigeonhole you and the pressure to categorize your work? What is black dance?
BTJ: That used to be the most torturous question for me. For years, I used to say that I wanted to be no part of anything that had to have a color. I wanted the same freedom enjoyed by my white colleagues. But now I say that black dance is anything that a person who defines himself as black chooses to do. That causes a lot of head scratching. Some may ask, “Why do you bother to put “black” in it?” Because there’s another subtext to that. You can look at my face and see what color I am. Still, it’s important to me to carry that little medal on my shoulder. As time goes on, it just might be part of the answer to the existential question “Who am I? Where do I come from? And why am I here?” There’s something specific about it that inflects my life as a black person.

KW: Editor/Legist Patricia Turnier who is from Canada and loves dance was wondering whether you have any plans to perform there in the near future.

BTJ: We’ve played in Toronto quite a few times and hope to go there every time we produce a new work which right now is “Story/Time” which this book is based on. And we have another work-in-progress called “Analogy” dealing with a narrative in which the dancers speak. I would love to show both of those productions in Canada.

KW: What did it mean to you to be part of the series of the Toni Morrison lecture series, given that she was the first black female to win the Nobel Prize for Literature?

BTJ: It was a great honor, as well as an honor to have her in attendance, and I look forward to presenting her a copy of the book. Toni actually also happens to be a friend as well. She lives 15 minutes away from me and my companion and soon-to-be spouse, Bjorn Amelan. We live in a little town in Rockland County called Valley Cottage. Toni’s nearby in a community called Grand View. We see each other socially, and Toni and I shared the stage with Max Roach doing a piece called Degga. Degga, by the way, is a West African word, it’s Yoruba for “understand,” and according to Toni is the root of the phrases “Dig it” and “Can you dig it.”   

KW: Was writing this book a cathartic experience for you?

BTJ: On one level it was. The book initially was three lectures in which I attempted to work out some ideas in public. Since I’m a performer, that’s how I’m most comfortable. But, it’s a whole other thing when you’re confronted with just your words on the page unaccompanied by your personality. So, yes, it was cathartic, but it was also nerve-wracking because I’m a professional performer, not a professional writer. 

KW: Would you be interested in choreographing a screen version of a Broadway musical that is dear to your heart?

BTJ: Film is a little beyond me right now. [Laughs] I’m still wrestling with staging real space/real time events that are going to appeal to a broad audience. The recent Broadway musicals which have made it to the screen haven’t done very well. That could change, but it’s not the same as during the Golden Age of Broadway. Making a movie could be a great thing, but for some reason they haven’t fared so well lately.

KW: Ilene Proctor asks: Do you think dance should be taught as part of a school’s curriculum?

BTJ: Yes, I do. Dance is one of the most challenging cultural endeavors, because we’re literally working with the body, this profound instrument of transformation and communication. Conceptually, you can teach children, even if they have no legs, how to think not only by looking but by feeling and doing. And it’s not about athletics or competition. Inspiring a child to move just for the joy of moving is a great gift to that child.

KW: Attorney Bernadette Beekman says: I love your work so much. I know you have worked with children and with professionals of all ages to teach them your choreography. Do you think there are some people in the general public who have no sense of rhythm who can not dance no matter how hard they try? 

BTJ: [LOL] I appreciate your analysis, Bernadette, but I would ask you to expand your concept of dance beyond rhythm. There are some very moving performances I’ve witnessed where the person is practically still the whole time, making very few gestures. The most advanced people working in dance right now are using the body to explore questions about life, religion, art, medicine and so forth. And that doesn’t necessarily mean you have to be a crackerjack social dancer, but rather calls for a certain level of intelligence to be employed in close collaboration with this sacred instrument called the body.    

KW: Is there anyone you would like to collaborate with that you haven’t yet?

BTJ: The list grows every day. One is the visual and installation artist Theaster Gates. He has distinguished himself by working in clay with his hands while singing the blues and nursery rhymes. He also creates a novel form of art by renovating abandoned buildings in the ‘hood in Chicago them and turning them into listening rooms for the community. I’m looking forward to collaborating with him on something.

KW: Daryl Williams was wondering whether you felt that Fela's death due to AIDS should have been included in the play.

BTJ: Obviously I didn’t, because I didn’t put it in. Black themed shows have a hard time on Broadway. I have my reasons for that. I thought that it would hard be enough to get audiences to come and listen to his type of music as theater music. I didn’t want Fela’s uniqueness and all of his accomplishments to be subservient to another AIDS story.

KW: Colonel Alan Gray asks: How did you become involved with Alvin Ailey? BTJ: When I moved to New York, Alvin came to one of my workshops because he had been hearing about me, since there weren’t many young black choreographers around. He recognized something that we had which was kindred and he asked me to make a piece for his company. He sort of put his arm around me, encouraged me and joined my board. And I’m forever grateful to him for that. 

KW: Alan also asks: Are African-Americans generally appreciative of your style of performance?

BTJ: African-Americans are a very large and diverse group, right? We need to have a much more sophisticated discourse than that. Anything less is insulting to us as a group. Let’s face it, the modern dance world is mostly a white middle-class world. But I’ve seen more blacks attending more dance events over the years. That’s why I talk about it so much. I do want black people to know that there is a man, a brother, inside of all this esoteric stage movement who is really trying to say something from his heart. Some of it has to do with being African-American, some of it has to do with being a “World Citizen.”

KW: Thanks again for the time, Bill. Best of luck with your wedding, the book, your upcoming productions, and your many other endeavors.

BTJ: Thanks, Kam. Please don’t hesitate to call if you need to fact-check anything.


UserpicThere Is Nothing Like a Damon
Posted by Kam Williams

Damon Wayans, Jr.
The “Let’s Be Cops” Interview
with Kam Williams

Damon Wayans, Jr. is a member of the famed Wayans family, creators of the groundbreaking television series In Living Color, the Scary Movie franchise, and much more. Damon made his film debut in Blankman, a superhero comedy that starred his father. He also appeared in his dad’s television series My Wife and Kids before striking out on his own as a stand-up comic on Def Comedy Jam.

Damon subsequently made such movies as Dance Flick, Marmaduke, Someone Marry Barry, and The Other Guys. More recently, he has starred on the TV sitcoms Happy Endings and New Girl. Here, he talks about his new film, Let’s Be Cops, where he co-stars opposite Jake Johnson, a fellow cast member on New Girl.



Kam Williams: Hey Damon, how’re you doing?

Damon Wayans, Jr.: Kam-tastic!


KW: Thanks for the time, bro. What interested you in Let’s Be Cops?

DW: I guess it was the concept which was similar to a buddy cop comedy, except they’re not cops. So, it’s sort of a fresh take on the idea. I was actually a little curious about why it hadn’t been done before, but I was definitely interested, especially once I heard that Jake Johnson was in the mix. We get along really well and make each other laugh a lot. So, I was like, “If you do it, I’ll do it.” And that’s how we got involved in the project.   


KW: Attorney Bernadette Beekman asks: Did you do your own stunts and dancing? Did you shadow a real cop to prepare for the role?

DW: I did not shadow a real cop to prepare for the role because in the movie we‘re pretending to pretend to be cops. Basically, any mistakes that I would make as an ordinary citizen were encouraged. So, I never needed to shadow a cop to try to look like a cop. And yes, I did most of my own stunts, and when it came time for the dance moves I even did my own back flip. But when it came to really dangerous stunts, like breaking the glass table with my back when the lady throws me, that wasn’t me, but a stuntman named Reggie.   


KW: Kate Newell says: It's great seeing you on New Girl. Is there much improv happening on the set?

DW: They allow it, yeah. After they get their takes in, they kinda allow us to do anything we want. It’s fun working in that environment with people I like. I went to high school with Zooey [Deschanel]. We know each other really well. 


KW: Talking about TV shows, I recently read that In Living Color might be coming back to TV.

DW: Really? That’s cool to hear if it’s true. I know that they tried to revive it a year or so ago, but it didn’t really pan out.


KW: Harriet Pakula-Teweles says: You have experience on both the big and small screen. Which might be a better fit for your performance style?

DW: I don’t really know. That depends on how Let’s Be Cops does at the box office. If it tanks, I guess TV is better for me. [LOL] I feel like I can do both. I think of the small screen as my 9-to-5 job and of the big screen as projects that you fit in between.  


KW: How hard is it hailing from such a talented and famous family?

DW: It’s not really hard. They’ve encouraged me the whole way, since we see a win for any one of us as a win for all. So, if I’m doing good work, and they approve of it, I’m happy.  


KW: Your dad has a reputation for being a bit of a disciplinarian. Is that rumor true or false?

DW: It’s true. He was definitely a disciplinarian, when we were growing up. It was almost as if he went off to play Major Payne in the movie, and stayed in character after he got back. He would make us do sit-ups, push-ups and jumping jacks every morning when we woke up. If we got anything below a B grade, he would shave our heads and make us wear a suit to school. He’s a pretty intense guy. [Chuckles] 


KW: You wouldn’t believe how many people I’ve interviewed over the years have told me they broke into show business with the help of one of the Wayans.

DW: That’s awesome. I guess the Wayans gave me my first break, too.


KW: Editor/Legist Patricia Turnier asks: Which scene in Let’s Be Cops was the most fun to shoot?

DW: [Laughs] It’s hard to pick just one. The ones with Jake, Rob Riggle and Nina Dobrev were all fun. And Keegan-Michael Key from Key and Peele was hilarious. I’d say any scene that made me laugh or break character in the middle of it. I just had a blast the whole way through.


KW: Patricia is also wondering what teacher or mentor played an important role in your professional path?

DW: My two greatest influences were my dad, and my martial arts teacher, Mark Mikita.


KW: Finally, Patricia says: You’ve written scripts for TV. Are you interested in writing for the big screen? 
DW: Absolutely! One of my dreams is to be able to what the big boys, the Seth Rogens and the Jonah Hills as able to do, get my own projects greenlit, shot and do well at the box office like. That’s kind of my ultimate goal. 


KW: Is there any question no one ever asks you, that you wish someone would?

DW: [LOL] No, I don’t think so.


KW: The Teri Emerson question: When was the last time you had a good laugh?

DW: About five minutes ago.


KW: What is your guiltiest pleasure?

DW: That reality-TV show Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives. I always want to eat that food whenever I watch it.


KW: The bookworm Troy Johnson question: What was the last book you read?

DW: I read a lot of books. The last one was “Gone Girl,” a novel by Gillian Flynn. That’s a really good book which has just been made into a movie by David Fincher. It’s coming out in October and stars Ben Affleck. And I’m reading the “The Bourne Retribution” right now. 


KW: The music maven Heather Covington question: What was the last song you listened to? 

DW: “Summer,” by Calvin Harris. I hear it everywhere.


KW: What is your favorite dish to cook?

DW: Here’s the thing, dude. I can’t really cook, but I make a mean Top Ramen. [Laughs]


KW: The Sanaa Lathan question: What excites you?

DW: Danger! I like to do daring things. I’ve bungee jumped three times. The only thing I haven’t tried is skydiving.


KW: The Uduak Oduok question: Who is your favorite clothes designer?

DW: I’m not really a clothes guy. I’d rather be naked.


KW: When you look in the mirror, what do you see?

DW: My dad. [Chuckles] and I see a guy who’s pretty happy.


KW: If you could have one wish instantly granted, what would that be for?

DW: The power to fly, for sure.


KW: Let's say you’re throwing your dream dinner party—who’s invited… and what would you serve?

DW: I’d serve corn chowder bisque, and Jake [Johnson] would not be invited because he’s standing here bombing my interview. [To Jake] You’re not invited. I’d invite Dave Chappelle, Louis C.K, and all these people who make me laugh. I would sit at the head of the table and say, “Make me laugh or get out of my house.”


KW: The Ling-Ju Yen question: What is your earliest childhood memory?

DW: My uncles Shawn and Marlon bursting into the bathroom while I was pooping, throwing me off the toilet, and laughing at my turds. That really happened. They used to torture me. [Laughs]


KW: The Melissa Harris-Perry question:How did your first big heartbreak impact who you are as a person?

DW: I don’t think I’ve ever had my heart broken, because I’m a man. I laughed it off, and then went and had sex with about 16 women, all unprotected. [Chuckles]


KW: The Kerry Washington question: If you were an animal, what animal would you be?

DW: A dolphin.


KW: The Viola Davis question: What’s the biggest difference between who you are at home as opposed to the person we see on the red carpet?

DW: I smile and laugh a lot more when I’m at home.


KW: The Anthony Anderson question: If you could have a superpower, which one would you choose?

DW: The ability to make people’s heart stop, if I just point at them.


KW: The Judyth Piazza question: What key quality do you say all successful people share? 

DW: Drive, and belief in themselves.


KW: The Harriet Pakula-Teweles question: With so many classic films being redone, is there a remake you'd like to star in?

DW: Weekend at Bernie’s.


KW: The Flex Alexander question: How do you get through the tough times?

DW: By crying a lot. [LOL]


KW: “Realtor to the Stars” Jimmy Bayan’s question: What is the dream locale where you’d like you live?

DW: Hawaii.


KW: What advice do you have for anyone who wants to follow in your footsteps?

DW: If you have the ability and want it bad enough, do it!


KW: Thanks again for the time, Damon, best of luck with Let’s Be Cops, and IO look forward to speaking with you again soon.

DW: Awesome, Kam, thanks!


To see a trailer for Let’s Be Cops, visit:  


UserpicCongressman James Clyburn (INTERVIEW)
Posted by Kam Williams

Congressman James Clyburn

The “Blessed Experiences” Interview

with Kam Williams


Gentleman Jim Clyburn

James Enos Clyburn made history in 1993 when he became the first African-American to represent South Carolina in the House of Representatives since Reconstruction. Over the course of his tenure, he has served as Majority Whip and as Chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, and is currently the third-ranking Democrat in the House as the Assistant Minority Leader.

Representative Clyburn is an alumnus of the HBCU South Carolina State College, where he majored in history and was active in the civil rights movement. During his junior year, he was arrested and convicted as a member of the Orangeburg Seven, a group of student leaders who had organized a non-violent demonstration against segregated lunch counters.

Congressman Clyburn has been married to his wife, Emily, since 1961, and they have three daughters, two sons-in-law, and three grandchildren. Here, he talks about his life and career, and about his autobiography, “Blessed Experiences: Genuinely Southern, Proudly Black.”


Kam Williams: Congressman Clyburn, thanks for the interview. I’m honored to have this opportunity to speak with you.

James Clyburn: Yes, sir. How are you, Kam?


KW: Great! I loved your autobiography. It really gave me a chance to get to know you in so much more depth than your appearances on C-Span and other cable news networks. I really knew next to nothing about your rich civil rights background and lifelong commitment to the underprivileged.   

JC: Oh, you’re so kind, Kam.


KW: I’ll be mixing in my questions with some from readers.Editor/Legist Patricia Turnier says: I am from Canada and thank you for taking the time to share your experience and knowledge in your autobiography. What is the main message you want people to take away from the book?

JC: The memoir’s main lesson is grounded in that old adage, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” I lost three times before I got elected. There’s no limit. Stay in pursuit of your dreams. That’s what this book is about. I hope young people get a lesson out of every chapter and are motivated by the notion that the next time might be “the” time that they succeed.


KW: Patricia also says: Warren Buffett wrote about your book that you are the most significant African-American member of Congress who broke many barriers.  What does it take for a visible minority to shatter the glass ceiling and enjoy longevity in a career in politics? 

JC: First, get yourself prepared, not just in terms of education, but mentally. A question I often get is, “How do you maintain your sanity with so much happening all around you?” I think I developed a certain mental toughness that is required in this business. You have to have a thick skin and a brass bottom, because you’re going to kicked a lot.


KW: It also seems that the higher you go, the more they come after you.

JC: You’re exactly right. All you have to do is achieve a modicum of success.


KW: Patricia finishes by saying: Older females are among the most vulnerable individuals in the economic crisis. They are twice as likely as elderly males to be living near or below the federal poverty threshold. What needs to be done to secure a reasonable retirement for this segment of the population?

JC: Patricia is correct that it’s a very vulnerable population. But I don’t know that anything additional needs to be done outside of sensitivity to the fact that these issues are unique for this demographic, and that we ought to be aware of that uniqueness. We need to make sure that they are aware of and are able to gain access to what’s available for them. That’s why I was so concerned about the Affordable Care Act. A big part of it is the expansion of Medicaid, which includes not only low-income people, but senior citizens in nursing homes, the disabled and children who are vulnerable.


KW: Environmental activist Grace Sinden says: As a Democratic leader in the U.S House of Representatives, you must often feel frustrated by the destructive resistance of the House Republican majority to move forward on any of President Obama's programs such as job creation, much-needed infrastructure improvements, including unsafe roads and bridges, and the impingement of voting rights in many states. How do you deal with the frustration that results from the blockage of necessary progress, since the opposition has made this their prime strategy in terms of the President's programs? An appeal to reason does not seem to work, because this is a blanket strategy.

JC: Sure, it’s frustrating at times, but you keep going at it. It took me seven years to create the Gullah-Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor, which failed to pass for a long time. All of a sudden the break came, and I was ready to pounce, as soon as I saw that opening. It’s now law. And it turned out to be one of the most popular things I’ve ever done. Often it depends on your not being hung up on getting the credit, since the best way to get legislation that you’ve proposed passed sometimes is to let another Congressman put his or her name on the bill.

So, I think stick-to-itiveness and a little humility can go a long way.   


KW: So, an ability to compromise is important, right?

JC: Absolutely! That means stepping back and getting the ego out of the way in order to accomplish what you want to get done.


KW: Grace also says: While you have a commendable voting record, you support nuclear power concluding that wind and solar power are too expensive. How do you respond to the legitimate fears of nuclear accidents, such as happened in Russia and Japan, and of acts of terrorism, as well as concerns about the safety and adequacy of the storage of highly radioactive spent fuel? 

JC: Well, I’m very concerned about the storage of nuclear waste, but I’m not worried about it. That’s one of the reasons why I’m so supportive of what we’re doing down at the Savannah River Plant. I think the technology’s there. All we need is the funding to turn the waste into additional energy. And I’m a big supporter of research. My wife, Emily, has had five bypass surgeries. She’s alive today because of nuclear medicine. You ought not be afraid of nuclear, but respectful of it. Yes, it has dangers, but it also has benefits. If not for nuclear, much of the medicine that’s saving lives today would not be in existence.   


KW: Publisher John Zippert says: There are many Black farmers who were still left out of the Pigford/USDA lawsuit settlement. Do you see Congress acting again to complete the process and make sure everyone who is eligible receives the settlement?

JC: Well, I’m satisfied that we’ve done all that’s going to be done on that issue. That’s not to say that everyone who should’ve gotten in on the settlement got in on it. Remember, we’ve done not just one Pigford, but Pigford II because a lot of people, through no fault of their own, were left out. That’s why we went back and did Pigford II. I suspect that some people might still have been left out, but I’ve been working very closely with the advocates, John Boyd [Founder of the National Black Farmers Association] and others who seem to be satisfied that we have done as well as we can do on that issue. 


KW: Mr. Zippert also says that less money was appropriated under the Farm Bill for the Section 2501 Outreach Program for minority farmers in Fiscal Year 2014 than previously when "veteran" farmers, a whole new category was added to the program.

JC: I think what he’s asking for is outreach to make sure that farmers who qualified did get contacted. Sure, there probably was less money this year than in the first round. But these are the sort of programs you phase out. You just don’t set aside the same amount of money as you did for 5,000 people, if there are only 2,000 left to be searched for. These moneys do get phased out, and they will eventually be phased out altogether.


KW: What do you think about Attorney General Eric Holder’s recent statement that he believes there is a racial animus behind much of the criticism of him and President Obama?

JC: I was glad to see him finally getting there. I’ve felt that way a long time. I’ve even said it publicly and been chastised for it, but I’ll say it again, a lot of it is racial animus. I ask anyone who disagrees with me to just read some of the hate mail that comes into my office. Or listen to some of the phone calls. I’ve had college student interns working for me who arrived bright-eyed and bushy-tailed hang up the phone crying after taking calls because people are so racist and cruel. So, don’t tell me that it’s got nothing to do with race. With some people, it’s got everything to do with race.


KW: What do you think of the Republicans suing President Obama?

JC: I think they’re playing to their base. These guys know full well that even if the lawsuit had any merit, which I don’t think it does, he’d be out of office before it worked its way through the courts. But this is their way of sending a signal to their base. There are a lot of people who have endorsed the narrative that there are certain things people of color aren’t supposed to be doing, and one of those things is running the United States of America as President. These are people who are going to work hard all day, every day, trying to make factual this narrative that there are certain areas of our society and of our economy that ought to be shut off from people of color.  


KW: Since you’re from South Carolina, I need to ask you about the 2010 Democratic primary for the U’S. Senate when this unknown black man named Alvin Greene, ostensibly a Republican plant, miraculously won the nomination by a landslide over a credible candidate. I suspected computer tampering. What did you think?

JC: I always felt that, too.


KW: Is there any question no one ever asks you, that you wish someone would?

JC: [Laughs] I can’t think of one, but that’s a good question.


KW: What is your favorite dish to cook?

JC: Grits.


KW: The Ling-Ju Yen question: What is your earliest childhood memory?

JC: Kindergarten.


KW: When you look in the mirror, what do you see?

JC: A 74 year-old who is not disappointed with his life.


KW: How frightening was it for you to be arrested and even convicted, when you were a college student activist, just for trying to integrate a lunch counter?

JC: Those were very trying times with a great deal of apprehension, although I don’t think we ever operated out of fear. We knew that segregation was unfair, and that we were going to challenge it, and that’s just what we did. 





KW: Well, I salute you for service in the Civil Rights Movement, because you could’ve very easily been beaten, blacklisted, imprisoned or even slain.

JC: Thank you. And some people were martyred, and some, like Congressman John Lewis, did get hurt. But we never thought about those things.


KW: The Jamie Foxx question: If you only had 24 hours to live, how would you spend the time? 

JC: Reading and in contemplation.


KW: The bookworm Troy Johnson question: What was the last book you read?

JC: “The Warmth of Other Suns” was the last one I read cover-to-cover. That was a great book.


KW: Harriet Pakula-Teweles says: Let's say you’re throwing your dream dinner party—who’s invited… and what would you serve?

JC: I would love to sit at a table with Abraham Lincoln, Harry Truman, Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King, Warren Buffett and Matthew Perry, the great civil rights attorney and judge mentioned in my book quite a bit.


KW: The Anthony Anderson question: If you could have a superpower, which one would you choose?

JC: Omniscience.


KW: The Judyth Piazza question: What key quality do you believe all successful people share? 

JC: Perseverance.


KW: What advice do you have for anyone who wants to follow in your footsteps?

JC: Like I said before, get yourself prepared, educationally and emotionally, and develop mental toughness. Don’t ever give up.


KW: Lastly, what does family mean to you?

JC: Oh, it means a whole lot. Not a day goes by when I don’t communicate with one or all of my daughters. My wife and I already exchanged several emails today. And I spoke to my brother John on the phone this morning, and to my brother Charles last night. We are a pretty closely-knit family.


KW: Thanks again for this opportunity, Congressman Clyburn, I really appreciate your taking time from your extremely busy schedule to speak with me.

JC: Thank you, Kam. I think it’s important for me to communicate with the public at-large, even on those occasions when I know it’s not going to be pleasant.

To order a copy of Blessed Experiences, visit:


UserpicBrendan Gleeson (INTERVIEW)
Posted by Kam Williams

Brendan Gleeson

The “Calvary” Interview

with Kam Williams


It’s Gleeson Season!

Dublin-born Brendan Gleeson is a former teacher who left the profession to pursue a career in acting, his first love. His rise to fame began when he appeared in Jim Sheridan's THE FIELD, followed by a number of small roles in such films as FAR AND AWAY and INTO THE WEST.

He landed his first starring role in I WENT DOWN, which was followed by an acclaimed outing in THE GENERAL. But it was his role as Hamish in BRAVEHEART that brought him to the attention of Hollywood.

In 2009 Brendan was nominated for Golden Globe and BAFTA awards for his work in Martin McDonagh's IN BRUGES opposite Colin Farrell and Ralph Fiennes. That same year, he won an Emmy Award for his portrayal of Winston Churchill in the HBO movie "Into the Storm."


Here, he talks about his latest out as Father James Lavelle in Calvary, a modern morality play written and directed by John Michael McDonagh.


Kam Williams: Hi Brendan, thanks for the interview.

Brendan Gleeson: Not at all, Kam. How are you?

KW: Fine, thanks. I’ll be mixing in questions from fans with my own. Editor/Legist Patricia Turnier says: I have visited the South of Ireland and loved it, including the capital, Dublin. What does it mean to you to advocate for the Irish language, Gaelic?

BG: Yeah, people often ask, why are you interested in the Irish language when it’s dying? If your momma’s dying you wouldn’t want her to die alone. So, I think the Irish language is a great gift, and it’s still hanging in there, if people want it. It’s a connection to a long, rich, deep culture. There’s 2,000 years of it. And when it’s lost, it’ll be gone for good. Those doors are not going to be open anymore. I value it, and it’s up to everybody to wise up about it. It’s not something I necessarily want to revive as the spoken first language of the country. I just think it’s fantastic, and a great cultural gift to have.    

KW: Patricia also asks: What message do you want people to take away from the movie?

BG: I don’t know. I think everybody has their own relationship with this movie, which is the triumph of it, really. Different elements of it access different people in different ways. From my point of view, I would hope there’s a sense that the struggle is being carried on to maintain some life in the world in whatever way that manifests itself, whether religiously, spiritually, or just philanthropically, and that people are worth it in the end. But I don’t know. There’s an awful lot of pain. One of the achievements of this film is to make clear that child abuse is a life sentence. That it’s not something you can just get over and forget after receiving an apology. 

KW: What was the difference in being directed by John Michael McDonagh, whom you also worked with in The Guard, as opposed to being directed by his brother, Martin, who directed you in In Bruges?

BG: Not a whole lot, to be quite honest. They’re both very calm, very assured, very prepared, and very cinematic in their thinking. They’re also very actor-friendly and collaborative. So, I love working with either of them, frankly. That’s not to say that they’re simply two sides of the same coin. While they have similarities in their working style, their worlds are very different.

KW: Larry Greenberg asks: Brendan how hard was it to perfect that County Sligo accent?

BG: [LOL] I didn’t have to, because my character wasn’t from there.

KW: Patricia also asks: How would you describe your character in Calvary, Father James Lavelle?

BG: As somebody who believes the best, in spite of all the evidence. [Laughs heartily] I just came up with that one. He’s someone who’s committed to optimism, despite all evidence to the contrary. He insists on it. And I think people need to know that that kind of struggle, and that kind of beauty, and that kind of optimism is possible in the world, because we’ve got a lot of cynicism confronting us everyday making it easy to feel that there’s nothing worth believing in. 

KW: Environmental activist Grace Sinden says: Brendan, you have courageously tackled a controversial subject in Calvary. Are you concerned about any political blowback you might receive from the Catholic Church as a consequence?  

BG: No, not at all.

KW: Editor Lisa Loving says: This movie looks incredibly heavy. Irish people have suffered a lot throughout world history, have had front row seats to a lot of other peoples’ suffering – like the Irish mariners ensnared in the Trans Atlantic Slave Trade – not to mention the Potato Famine, the Troubles, and the discrimination against Irish immigrants in the United States in the 19th and part of the 20th Century. There were also the horrible atrocities committed by Roman Catholic nuns who ran the “homes” for unwed mothers and the orphanages in Ireland, and the Church’s sex abuse silence. Do you feel that the Irish suffering serves as a symbol of a universal aspect of the human experience in a way which resonates with oppressed people of other cultures?

BG: I would hope so. I would hope that while we made a movie about faith, that it’s not necessarily only about Catholicism. And I’d also hope that the notion of disillusionment wouldn’t be seen as the exclusive province of the Irish. The context is the Irish landscape, and the Irish story of the moment, with all of the treachery in terms of the spiritual, economic and political leadership. There have been horrible shortcomings, with hurt and pain being inflicted upon people. But I don’t think that’s exclusive to the Irish. Many people find it difficult to believe in leadership anymore. What do you replace it with, though? That’s kind of what the movie’s all about. The idea of replacing flawed leadership with cynicism and despair isn’t a barrel of laughs, either. So, I hope the film is thought-provoking in a generalized way as opposed as to being read as simply specific to the Irish point-of-view. 

KW: Professor/Filmmaker/Author Hisani Dubose says: You have played so many rich characters. Which one has been your favorite?

BG: Comparisons are odious. So, I don’t really come out and put one against the other. But this one might have been the most challenging. This experience was certainly one of the top five in terms of recovery. It definitely stayed with me and took a little while to get over this one. So, I put Father Lavelle up there.

KW: What actor did you admire growing up?

BG: I was very fond of Gene Hackman.

KW: Kate Newell says: Brendan, I loved Calvary. I hope you've written your acceptance speech for the Oscars.

BG: [Chuckles] No, I think we can leave that on the back burner. Those expectations are awful because, if it doesn’t happen, then you suddenly feel like a loser. By the same token, when you do happen to win something, I never question it. I just take it at face value. But I hate the notion that there would be losers associated with any production where great performances have been recognized. I’d be honored if it happened, but I ain’t looking that far down the road.

KW: Kate was also wondering whether you’ve been back to Belgium since playing a hit man in In Bruges? 

BG: Back to Belgium, yes, but not to Bruges. I think I might find it difficult to walk through Bruges without having to stop quite often. At some stage, I might like to go back since I had a great time there. But I think I have to let it sit for a little bit.

KW: Harriet Pakula-Teweles says: Brendan, you’ve played extraordinary fantasy roles and amazing biographical roles—thank you for Mad-Eye Moody and Winston Churchill. 

BG: Cheers! Thank you, Harriet!

KW: She asks: What’s the difference in preparing to inhabit a role that doesn’t exist except in the fantasy world versus portraying an icon that is already so clear in everyone’s mind?

BG: Well, there’s a certain freedom in both that doesn’t accrue to the other. The freedom in playing an historical figure is that you don’t have to suspend disbelief. This stuff happened. As they say, “Truth is stranger than fiction.” Otherwise, a lot of the time, you would have to work very hard to convince people. For instance, who would think that after the Battle of Dunkirk there could ever be a resurrection of the fortunes of the British in the Second World War? But the fact that it did happen releases you from having to prove it. It happened. And it can be incredibly interesting exploring how life can be so extraordinarily surprising in that way, turning expectations on their head, and trying to figure some version of how that might have happened, and how people may have responded in the face of overwhelming odds like that. With a fictional character, by contrast, you start with a blank canvas, you have the truth of the imagination to guide you. And you can bring it anywhere you want. They’re just different challenges, but they each have their own freedoms, as well as their own limitations, if you like. I try to find the freedom possible in each type of role, but in different ways.

KW: Harriet also asks: With so many classic films being redone, is there a remake you'd like to star in?

BG: Does she mean a remake of one of my own films, or of other films? I generally don’t like to do remakes. I don’t really want to second guess any film that’s achieved what it set out to do. You need to have a legitimate reason beyond just wanting to make money from a remake, like a desire to bring a story to a broader audience. Regrettably, so many of them are ill-advised. I just did a remake of The Grand Seduction, which was a whimsical story set in Newfoundland. I made an exception for this one even though it was, beat for beat, the same story, because it was set in a different place where I’d never been, and I wanted to find out more about Newfoundland.

KW: Professor Dubose would like to know whether getting an independently-produced Irish film like Calvary wide distribution in the U.S. is dependent on having a prior connection to the Hollywood film industry.

BG: No, I don’t think there was any American money in this film to begin with. What happens is you make your film, and then take it somewhere like Sundance, where the distributors can discover it. Sometimes, it’s nicer to have money from the very beginning, because that makes things easier. But the path most independent films take is that they’re made first, and then they’re sold.

KW: The bookworm Troy Johnson question: What was the last book you read?

BG: An autobiography of boxer named Joe Egan that somebody sent me. I read it very quickly because it was given to me.

Another one was “In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex,” which I read as part of my research for the upcoming Ron Howard film based on it.

KW: When you look in the mirror, what do you see?

BG: It depends on who I’m playing. [Laughs heartily again]

KW: What is your favorite dish to cook?

BG: Oh, I prefer not to cook anything.

KW: What do you like to eat?

BG: Almost anything you can imagine.

KW: The Ling-Ju Yen question: What is your earliest childhood memory?

BG: Reading a little book that went, ”Mommy horse and daddy horse are proud as they can be, because they have a baby horse and baby horse makes three.” I remember saying, “That’s me!” I know I was three at the time.

KW: The Sanaa Lathan question: What excites you?

BG: Good roles, like this one in Calvary, and making important films with people who know more than I do. That’s what interests me now. I’ve done a lot of projects that need development where there’s been inexperience involved, which I loved, but at this point in my career, I want to work with people who allow me to learn.

KW: What advice do you have for anyone who wants to follow in your footsteps?

BG: Do it!

KW: Thanks again for the time, Brendan, and best of luck with the film.

BG: Okay, Kam. Cheers! Thanks a lot.

To see a trailer for Calvary, visit: 


UserpicKeith Robinson (INTERVIEW)
Posted by Kam Williams

Keith Robinson

The “Get on Up” Interview

with Kam Williams


Here’s to You, Mr. Robinson!

In a world where talent takes you far, Keith Robinson is ahead of the game. He’s a true triple threat -- having already mastered acting and songwriting, he’s now positioning himself to take over the music world with a velvety voice.

Before he made his way to Tinseltown, the Kentucky native set his sights on music, and attended the University of Georgia. Upon coming to Los Angeles, Keith had a chance meeting with a talent manager who jumpstarted his acting career. Since then, he’s thrived, landing an incredible 50+ projects in television and film while continuing to pursue his musical career-- often placing songs in the acting projects he stars in.

Keith may be best known for his critically acclaimed performance as “C.C. White” in the Academy Award-winning feature film, Dreamgirls. His big solo in the musical, “Patience,” which he also performed live at the Academy Awards, earned an Oscar nomination in the Best Song category. 

After Dreamgirls, he released his debut album, Utopia. On the acting side, he subsequently starred in This Christmas, Dear John, 35 and Ticking, and Hopelessly in June. .

Here, Keith talks about his new film, the James Brown biopic Get on Up, where he co-stars opposite Chadwick Boseman,Viola Davis, Octavia Spencer, Jill Scott and Dan Aykroyd..


Kam Williams: Hi Keith, thanks for the interview.

Keith RobinsonThanks for having me.

KW: What interested you in Get on Up?

KR: As a musician, I was heavily influenced by James Brown's music. 

KW: What was it like working with Tate Taylor and such a star-studded cast?

KR: Tate is a really cool director because he has a clear vision of what he wants but still gives his actors freedom to collaborate in the process. That's rare. Working with a cast where everyone is really talented puts you at ease, actually. 

KW: How would you describe your character, Baby Roy?

KR: Baby Roy is the young exuberant one who just really loves to perform and be on stage as much as possible. He's what I like to think as the artist who still has those stars in his eyes and believes it's all about the music and hasn't been tainted yet. [LOL] 

KW: What message do you think people will take away from the film?

KR: That James Brown is the epitome of perseverance. You can never underestimate the magnetic power of self belief.  

KW: Are you a James Brown fan? What’s your favorite song of his?

KR:  Absolutely. "I'll Go Crazy," which I recently remade. And "It’s a Man's World," of course.

KW: Your big break was when you landed the role on TV as the Green Ranger on the Power Rangers. Did you have a martial arts background?

KR: Not at all. I was just a good athlete and I had been in a few fights.  

KW: You were signed by Motown while you were still a student at the University of Georgia. What prompted your move from music to acting?

KR: I never really made a "move" from one to the other. Acting came second once I moved to Hollywood on a chance audition for the "Power Rangers." I've been doing both ever since. 

KW: Is there any question no one ever asks you, that you wish someone would?

KR: Hmmm... I think I've heard them all at this point. [Laughs] 

KW: Would you mind saying something controversial that would get this interview tweeted?

KR: [LOL] Reality shows disgust me. Specifically, the ones that make black people look trifling and super melodramatic. You know who you are. 

KW: Have you ever had a near-death experience?

KR: Only in my sleep, thank God.

KW: Have you ever accidentally uncovered a deep secret?

KR:  Yep. 

KW: The Tasha Smith question: Are you ever afraid?

KR: Yeah, I've been afraid--usually right before a movie drops. [Laughs some more]

KW: The Teri Emerson question: When was the last time you had a good laugh?

KR: Yesterday. 

KW: What is your guiltiest pleasure?

KR: Twizzlers and naked body surfing.

KW: The bookworm Troy Johnson question: What was the last book you read?

KR: Fifty Shades of Grey. I had to see what all the fuss was about… and learn a few new tips.

KW: The music maven Heather Covington question: What was the last song you listened to? 

KR: "True Colors" by Cyndi Lauper. It's on in the background right now.

KW: What is your favorite dish to cook?

KR: Salmon.

KW: The Sanaa Lathan question: What excites you?

KR: Progress.

KW: When you look in the mirror, what do you see?

KR: A handsome dude that's come a long way with a long way to go. 

KW: If you could have one wish instantly granted, what would that be for?

KR: Permanent financial security.

KW: Let's say you’re throwing your dream dinner party—who’s invited… and what would you serve?

KR:  Too many to name but it would be the fifty most influential people in the world. It'd be a potluck. I got the salmon and Twizzlers.

KW: The Jamie Foxx question: If you only had 24 hours to live, how would you spend the time? 

KR:  Eating with family, making love to my girl, and praying. 

KW: The Kerry Washington question: If you were an animal, what animal would you be?

KR: A derby horse or a dolphin.  Everybody loves them.

KW: The Ling-Ju Yen question: What is your earliest childhood memory?

KR: Me and my brother locking the babysitter outside.  Still not sure how we did it. 

KW: The Melissa Harris-Perry question:How did your first big heartbreak impact who you are as a person?

KR:  It made me never underestimate the physical power a heartbreak can have on you. 

KW: The Viola Davis question: What’s the biggest difference between who you are at home as opposed to the person we see on the red carpet?

KR:  I have on nicer clothes.  


KW: The Anthony Anderson question: If you could have a superpower, which one would you choose?

KR:  Reading minds. I would always get what I want.

KW: The Harriet Pakula-Teweles question: With so many classic films being redone, is there a remake you'd like to star in?

KR: Uptown Saturday Night.

KW: The Judyth Piazza question: What key quality do you believe all successful people share? 

KR: Consistency, discipline, and self-belief.

KW: What advice do you have for anyone who wants to follow in your footsteps?

KR: Consistency, discipline, and self-belief.


KW: Attorney Bernadette Beekman asks: What is your favorite charity?

KR: Boys and Girls Club. 

KW: The Tavis Smiley question: How do you want to be remembered?

KR:  As an amazing multi-talented artist who told the truth, and as a humble brother who loved his friends and family unconditionally. 

KW: Thanks again for the time, Keith, and best of luck with the film.

KR: Appreciate it, Kam.

To see a trailer for Get on Up, visit:


UserpicZach Braff (INTERVIEW)
Posted by Kam Williams

Zach Braff

The “Wish I Was Here” Interview

with Kam Williams


Zach to the Future!

Zach Braff was born in South Orange, New Jersey on April 6, 1975. He attended Columbia High School in Maplewood where he was friends with hip-hop diva-to-be Lauryn Hill.

Zach studied film at Northwestern University where he earned a B.A. before heading to Hollywood. As an actor, he’s best known as Dr. John “J.D.” Dorian on Scrubs, the Emmy-winning sitcom which enjoyed a nine-year run on network TV from 2001 to 2010. As a director, he made an impressive debut in 2004 with Garden State, a semi-autobiographical offering which he also wrote and starred in.

For Zach, Wish I Was Here is the culmination of personal filmmaking at its best. As the movie’s co-writer, director, star and producer, he was involved in nearly every aspect of the picture’s creative development. A decade ago, in Garden State, he perfectly portrayed the plight of a young man trying to find his place in a crazy world.

This go-round, he and his co-writer brother, Adam, examine what it means to have a family today. Zach plays Aidan Bloom, a struggling actor with a wife (Kate Hudson) stuck in a soul-crushing job. The couple have two kids (Joey King and Pierce Gagnon) who are being forced out of private school due to financial constraints, since Aidan’s dad (Mandy Patinkin)is facing life-threatening health issues. 

Despite such harsh realities, the picture nevertheless poetically weaves a wonderful tapestry of an enchanting world worth living in. This is in no small part thanks to the power of the imagination which has fueled Zach’s own evolution from a wide-eyed kid from New Jersey into a gifted filmmaker capable of connecting with his audience emotionally.


Kam Williams: Hi Zach, thanks for the interview. I’m honored to have this opportunity.

Zach Braff: Oh, thanks Kam. It’s nice to talk to you.


KW: I loved the film. Garden State made my Top Ten List for 2004, and Wish I Was Here is definitely one of my Top Ten favorite films of 2014 so far.

ZB: Thanks, man. You just put a smile on my face.


KW: Everybody in the small group I saw it with cried at the end and all the way through the closing credits.

ZB: That’s a good sign.


KW: I told my readers I’d be interviewing you and they sent in more questions than we could ever get to. Let me start with one who just said: He’s incredibly adorable and incredibly talented. Have fun!

ZB: [LOL] I don’t think that’s a question.


KW: Director Kevin Williams asks: Why a decade between movies?

ZB: It was just so hard. I tried my best, but I didn’t want to put out a picture that I wouldn’t want to put my name on. I didn’t want to let my fans down, and all the scripts that were coming my way were really commercial and felt like something we’d already seen a thousand times. A couple times I had movies put together, only to have the project fall apart because we lost a star or I lost the money. There are so many pieces that have to line up. And I was also still doing Scrubs, so I just couldn’t work it out with a piece of writing that I was willing to put my name on until I was able to collaborate on this original script with my brother.     


KW: Sangeetha Subramanian says: I watched Garden State almost every night for a year when I was in college. Often we see the final product but aren't aware of the creative process that goes into a script or filming. What does your scriptwriting process look like?

ZB: Well, it was different for Garden State, because I wrote that on my own. This one, I wrote with my brother, so we got together for about a month to hammer out the characters and the outline of the story. The main character’s sort of a combination of us. My brother’s about a decade older than I am. We wanted to write about a guy in his mid-thirties, so we were able to attack it from the angle of two men born ten years apart. He’d work on one scene while I’d work on another. Then we’d switch scenes and sort of give each other notes, and debate what was right and where it should go. And little by little, through all these conversations, the whole script took shape.   


KW: To what extent is this film autobiographical, given that it was written by you and your brother, and it’s in part about their relationship?

ZB: A lot of it is… the search for spirituality… the struggle to question how long you’re allowed to pursue a dream, especially when you have mouths to feed and a mortgage to pay. All of those things that my brother and I are asking. It’s also about relationships between fathers and sons and mothers and daughters.  We all have those battles with our parents where we want to be our own person but they’re still saying something else. A lot of it is autobiographical, although our father couldn’t be more supportive of our pursuing the arts, whereas the father in the movie is pretty against it. 


KW: Peter Brav says that while watching the film, he thinks he spotted a flaw, namely, a brochure at a Jewish funeral home offering the option of an open casket.

ZB: If that’s the case, it would be a prop master mistake, and I apologize for that. 

There is no option for an open casket at a Jewish funeral. For Peter to have detected that he must be able to speed read and have zeroed in on the pamphlet. The casket is always closed in Judaism, although the family is allowed to view the deceased before the ceremony, if they so choose.


KW: Harriet Pakula-Teweles was wondering what auteur message this film and Garden State seek to deliver?

ZB: I believe, personally, that this experience we have on Earth is finite, and that there is nothing else. I know not everyone agrees with me, but that is my personal belief. So, I think that the message is both about trying to celebrate the present, trying to get out of our heads, and about being present with the people we love. For me, that’s the great quest of life, the struggle to be in the moment. That’s why the film is called Wish I Was Here, meaning I wish I was here in the moment.


KW: Why the grammatically incorrect title?

ZB: I have a two-fold answer. First, it’s a play off the classic postcard salutation, “Wish You Were Here,” but switched around to reflect the perspective of the individual sending it. Second, the premise of the film revolves around a father who’s homeschooling his kids but doesn’t know how to teach them grammar. We see his daughter [Joey King] correct her mom [Kate Hudson] on the proper use of “who” and “whom,” and that’s something that he would get wrong as well.


KW: Hadas Zeilberger asks: How would you compare the experiences of shooting Wish I Was Here and Garden State? How many members of the cast and crew worked on both films?

ZB: I tried to reunite all the top creative heads from Garden State, and I got some of them. Others weren’t available. Both my cinematographer [Lawrence Sher] and my editor [Myron Kerstein], who do amazing work and are really good friends, are back for the film, and that was really crucial to me. And my producers were the same. As far as the cast, Jim Parsons is back and Michael Weston, who played the cop in Garden State, is back. And I tried to find as many cameos as possible for people I like to work with. In terms of the shooting, this one was unique because of the crowdfunding aspect of it. We had our incredible backers visiting us on set, serving as extras, and generally hanging around. That was fun because it gave us a chance to show them how movies are made. Ordinarily, you and the crew just get so caught up in doing it that you don’t ever pause to explain the process to people it’s foreign to. But here, you’d look over and see an electrician showing a backer why we are hanging a light a certain way. Or you’d look over and see Kate [Hudson] saying to someone else, “Oh, yeah, this is where my little hidden microphone goes.” The process was very educational for a lot of people.


KW: Kate Newell and Larry Greenberg had a similar question. They ask: Would you use Kickstarter again for your next film project?

ZB: No, this was always meant as an experiment, not as the permanent way in which I plan to finance my films. It was sort of like, “Hey, wouldn’t this be a crazy idea if this worked?” The dilemma in holding onto your artistic integrity is removing any corporate or other sort of involvement that might influence the art. The question for us was: What would it be like if we took that out of the equation? That was my vision, and it worked. So, it proved to be a wonderful experience, although it was always conceived as a one-off experiment.


KW: Hadas also asks: Are you friends with Donald Faison in real life?

ZB: Yeah, he’s my best friend. He truly is my best friend, and we do everything together. He’s so supportive of me that he’s been promoting the movie and making the rounds even though he only has a smart part in it.


KW: Lastly, Hadas would like to know how you got your hair like that?

ZB: [Laughs] My hair? People always like to talk about my hair. It’s just bed head. I often take showers at night. So, when I wake up, my hair’s crazy.


KW: Environmental activist Grace Sinden says:You've had an extraordinarily diverse and interesting career.  If you had to choose one or two of your favorite types of work could you do that, or is it the variety of your professional activities that gives you most satisfaction?

ZB: That’s a great question, Grace. I always think it’s good to shake things up. You know, I’m doing a big Broadway musical [Bullets over Broadway] right now at the same time that I’m releasing this indie movie. They couldn’t be more different from each other. But that’s what makes being a creator of entertainment so much fun. Shaking it up! I would be incredibly bored if I just did the same thing over and over. I like trying new things and really being brave. Doing the crowdfunding was a brave experiment, and singing on Broadway is another brave experiment. I like to attempt things that I’m fearful of.


KW: Grace also asks: Where do you see your career being ten years from now?

ZB: Well, I hope it won’t be ten years before I make another movie. My hope is to be making a lot more movies in the next decade. It’s certainly what brings me the most joy.


KW: Editor/Legist Patricia Turnier aks: What was the most challenging scene to shoot in Wish I Was Here?
ZB: Probably those fantasy sequences, because they were very elaborate and we didn’t have much time. We shot the whole movie in 26 days. The fantasy sequences involved a lot of special f/x and a costume built by a great company called Legacy Effects, and all sorts of camera toys. Those were the most challenging, especially since I had to direct from inside the suit, which was really hard. But I did have a body double for when my face wasn’t onscreen,


KW: Is there any question no one ever asks you, that you wish someone would?

ZB: Wow! That’s a great question… [Pauses to reflect] But I’ve been asked so many questions that I can’t think of one.


KW: The bookworm Troy Johnson question: What was the last book you read?

ZB: Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock by Matthew Quick.


KW: What is your favorite dish to cook?

ZB: I can’t cook, so I’ll say ice.


KW: When you look in the mirror, what do you see?

ZB: Someone who’s extraordinarily tired because he’s doing eight shows a week on Broadway while he’s releasing a film.


KW: The Ling-Ju Yen question: What is your earliest childhood memory?

ZB: I don’t even know. But I can remember my earliest movie memory. My father used to somehow get a hold of 35mm prints and project them on our living room wall way before I could understand them. My earliest movie memory is of my parents having a dinner party and showing Annie Hall which, to this day, is one of my favorite films. 


KW: Thanks again for the time, Zach, and best of luck both on Broadway and with Wish I Was Here.

ZB: Thanks for all your support, Kam. That really means a lot to me.

To see a trailer for Wish I Was Here, visit:


UserpicRosie Perez (INTERVIEW)
Posted by Kam Williams

Rosie Perez

The “Handbook for an Unpredictable Life” Interview

with Kam Williams


Everything’s Coming Up Rosie!

Rosie Maria Perez was born on September 6, 1964 in Bushwick, Brooklyn where she was raised in a Catholic orphanage after being abandoned by her mom and taken from her aunt. She made a most memorable screen debut as Spike Lee’s girlfriend, Tina, in Do the Right Thing, and later landed an Oscar-nomination for a nonpareil performance in Fearless. Her many other credits include White Men Can't Jump, Won’t Back Down and The Counselor.


Rosie serves as the Artistic Chair of Urban Arts Partnership and sits on the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS. Here, she talks about her career and her autobiography, “Handbook for an Unpredictable Life.”  



Kam Williams: Hi Rosie. I’m honored to have this chance to speak with you.

Rosie Perez: Absolutely, Kam.


KW: I really enjoyed the book!

RP: Oh, you’re one of the few journalists who actually read it before speaking to me. That’s wonderful!


KW: What inspired you to write your autobiography?

RP: I didn’t really know at first. I kept asking myself, “Why am I doing this?” because I’m such a private person. Then, one day, the head of programming at my charity, the Urban Arts Partnership, said she was excited that I was writing it, and she hoped I’d be giving copies to the students. My first reaction was “No,” since the subject-matter was really heavy, and because of some of the language I was using. But she then reminded me that I’d already shared my stories with them, and I almost burst into tears. I realized, “Oh my God! That’s why I’m writing it.” Those students had been the first people, outside of my inner circle, to hear my story. It happened when I participated in one of our programs called Life Stories, where we encourage the kids to open up and share so they can understand their lives. One day, I was challenged to share my story with them. That‘s where finding the inspiration and strength to write this book began.   


KW: I found it very moving, especially since I had no idea about any of it. I just thought of you as that bubbly, talented, attractive actress I’d seen in movies and on talk shows.

RP: And I am that person, but I’m also this one. And the reason I decided to share with the students was because I saw them come into the Academy so burdened by life every day. When you are a low-income, poverty-stricken, Title 1 kid, you have so much to endure just waking up. So, you may have a bad attitude or a chip on your shoulder before you even get to school. You may arrive so anxious, angry, hungry or apathetic that you may say to yourself, “Why should I pay attention in class?” You might be beaten-up on the way to school, because you live in a bad neighborhood. Still, I had to inform them, especially the seniors, that they didn’t have the luxury of bringing all that baggage into the world which they would be stepping into as adults. I’d say, “You need to come to terms with it, or let it go. One or the other. And if you can do both, then you’re golden.” If you are unable to get past that baggage, the opportunities that should be yours will not be yours.


KW: Well, I applaud you for overcoming so many obstacles. After all, the odds of making it in Hollywood are long enough for someone coming from a privileged background.   

RP: I hear you, since the odds were supposedly great. But you know what? I knew I was going to be successful from day one. From day one. That’s why it throws me whenever someone says it was such a fluke that I was successful.


KW: The Judyth Piazza question: What key quality do you believe all successful people share? 

RP: I would say tenacity and perseverance. You have to be like a dog with a bone. You can’t just let it go. And number one is belief. You have to believe in yourself. You need to have the audacity to be great.


KW: The Harriet Pakula-Teweles question: With so many classic films being redone, is there a remake you'd like to star in?

RP: Wow! No one’s ever asked me that question. I wouldn’t try it, but the only one that popped into my head is A Woman Under the Influence, the John Cassavetes film starring his wife Gena Rowlands. Her depiction of mental illness frightened me. Her performance shocked me, because it was so simple.


KW: Is there any question no one ever asks you, that you wish someone would?

RP: No, I can’t think of anything, although that question is probably out there.


KW: When you look in the mirror, what do you see?

RP: Me! I see me, and the reality of me gets clearer as I get older, and I’m loving it.


KW: The Ling-Ju Yen question: What is your earliest childhood memory?

RP: The crib, the peach bedspread, and the French doors at my aunt’s house when I was 2.


KW: What is your favorite dish to cook?

RP: Pollo guisado, it’s a Puerto Rican-style chicken stew.


KW: The Uduak Oduok question: Who is your favorite clothes designer?

RP: Oh, I don’t have a favorite.


KW: The Mike Pittman question: What was your best career decision?

RP: To go to college.  


KW: The bookworm Troy Johnson question: What was the last book you read?

RP: “White Girls” by Hilton Als. Blown away!  


KW: The music maven Heather Covington question: What was the last song you listened to? 

RP: To be honest, “Drunk in Love” by Beyonce’.


KW: If you could have one wish instantly granted, what would that be for?

RP: That my husband [Erik Haze] and I will be in premium health until we take our last breaths, so that we could enjoy every single second of our lives together.


KW: The Jamie Foxx question: If you only had 24 hours to live, how would you spend the time? 

RP: With my husband and my family. It wouldn’t matter what we were doing. We’d probably be telling each other how much we appreciate each other while watching boxing and eating a good meal. Of course, it would turn into a party. 


KW: The Kerry Washington question: If you were an animal, what animal would you be?

RP: A horse.


KW: The Anthony Anderson question: If you could have a superpower, which one would you choose?

RP: I have no idea.


KW: The Anthony Mackie question: Isthere anything that you promised yourself you’d do if you became famous, that you still haven’t done yet?

RP: Yes, to go back to school and get a degree.


KW: What was it like to skyrocket to fame?

RP: It was both difficult and wonderful. It was quite difficult for me because, being raised in a home, I’d come to hate being pointed at whenever we went out in public in a group. It’s still uncomfortable for me to be stared at, although I’ve learned to deal with it better. It makes me self-conscious. 


KW: The Viola Davis question: What’s the biggest difference between who you are at home as opposed to the person we see on the red carpet?

RP: I’m more guarded and shy on the carpet. At home, I’m the silliest cornball who talks way too much and wants to be quiet and left alone at the same time. And I love to entertain, but in a small, intimate way. But I feel like I can be myself on Craig Ferguson’s show. I have so much fun on his couch, because he’s an idiot. That man cracks me up. I think there’s a kinship in our silliness. I dance like he does in my living room all the time.  


KW: The Melissa Harris-Perry question:How did your first big heartbreak impact who you are as a person?

RP: You might think it was being abandoned by mother. But no, it was being taken away from my aunt at the age of 3, because I was self-aware by then and I knew what was going on. That was my biggest heartbreak, and it informed a lot. I didn’t want it to be my whole story as an adult. So, I’ve learned to heal that heartbreak and move on.


KW: The Columbus Short question: Are you happy?

RP: Yeah.


KW: The Teri Emerson question: When was the last time you had a good laugh?

RP: About an hour ago during a meeting at my charity. I laugh a lot. It’s disgusting how much I laugh during the day.


KW: What advice do you have for anyone who wants to follow in your footsteps?

RP: [LOL] I don’t know that I would encourage anyone to follow in my footsteps.


KW: The Tavis Smiley question: How do you want to be remembered?

RP: As someone that gave back, because the people I remember the most in my life are the ones that gave. 


KW: Thanks again for being so forthcoming and so generous with your time, Rosie, and best of luck with both the book and your career.

RP: Thank you, Kam. I really, really appreciate it.


To order a copy of Handbook for an Unpredictable Life, visit:


UserpicBobb'e J. Thompson (INTERVIEW)
Posted by Kam Williams

Bobb’e J. Thompson

The “School Dance” Interview

with Kam William


The Chat Heard ‘Round the World

Kicking off an impressive career in front of the camera at the tender age of five, Bobb’e J. Thompson rose to fame as a child actor well before his teens, initially with a small but colorful and energetic supporting role as the pint-sized Tupac in My Baby's Daddy (2003). He subsequently appeared in television and film efforts such as The Tracy Morgan Show (2004), Shark Tale (2004), That’s So Raven (2004), and Joey (2005).

Bobb’e contributed to OutKast mainstay Bryan Barber's offbeat, inventive musical drama Idlewild (2006) before teaming up with Vince Vaughn in the holiday comedy Fred Claus (2007). He then starred in the acerbic farce hit comedy Role Models as the hilarious, wisecracking Ronnie Shields, for which he earned an MTV Movie Award nomination for Best Breakthrough Performance in 2009.

2009 proved to be a breakout year for Bobb’e. He appeared in Land of the Lost with Will Ferrell and the family comedy Imagine That opposite Eddie Murphy. He was also a semi-regular on NBC's 30 Rock, stealing scenes and showing perfect comic timing in his role as Tracy Jr., the son of Tracy Morgan's character.

Next, Nike recruited Thompson for multiple commercials as the fast-talking Lil Dez, who gives NBA greats Kobe Bryant and LeBron James a run for their money while babysitting. He became the first Spokes Kid for Sony PSP in their multi-commercial campaign Marcus Rivers Don’t Play That and the youngest star to host WWE Monday *ight Raw, following his onscreen appearance opposite Big Show as fight promoter Mad Milton in Knucklehead.

Tyler Perry jumped at the opportunity to work with Bobb’e, casting him as M.J. Williams in the television series For Better or Worse. But the role of “Cal Devereaux” in Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs showed a sweeter side closer to his real-life personality.

Besides his film work, Bobb’e has cultivated favorable attention for his prominent contributions to the youth-oriented urban dance video JammX Kids: Can't Dance Don't Want To, which afforded him the opportunity to show off his flair for urban music and footwork. And his hosting gig on the Cartoon Network show Bobb’e Says ranked number one on all television among its primary target demo, boys 6-11.

Here, Bobb’e reflects upon his starring role as Jason, the main character in Nick Cannon’s directorial debut, School Dance.


Kam Williams: Hi Bobb’e, thanks so much for the interview.

BJT: Thanks for having me, Kam.


KW: What interested you in School Dance?

BJT: Honestly, I kinda liked the fact that I would have the chance to play a character that’s the opposite of what I’m used to playing. Jason isn’t as outspoken and foul-mouthed. I liked having an opportunity to channel my abilities in a different direction.


KW: Did you feel any pressure to do a good job and carry the movie as the main character, given that it’s Nick Cannon’s directorial debut?

BJT: I don’t know what pressure feels like. I went in with my head clear ready to do my job, because I knew everybody else was coming to do theirs. I was working with a team, so as long as I was ready to do my part, I was confident that the pieces were going to fit together as they should.


KW: What was it like working with a cast with so many great comedians? Kevin Hart… George Lopez… Katt Williams… Mike Epps…  

BJT: And Lil Duval and Luenell. We had some heavy hitters. We had fun on set. Everybody was upbeat and in good spirits. We cracked jokes and laughed but, by the end of the day, everybody got their work done. We were all about business when it was time to get on camera. And when the camera’s rolled, it was crazy! Everybody was cracking jokes and having fun, man.


KW: The movie reminded me of a musical, comical version of Romeo and Juliet. 

BJT: Yeah, that’s kinda what Nick was going for when he pitched it to me. Like a West Side Story with a modern twist to it. I went, “Yeah, that’s dope!” And we made it happen. That’s how we wanted it to be perceived, so I’m glad you saw it that way. 


KW: Editor/Legist Patricia Turnier asks: How did you prepare for the role and how challenging was it playing your first lead in a movie?

BJT: It wasn’t really hard for me. It didn’t take too much preparation. I knew I wasn’t Ronnie from Role Models this time around. And I had great guidance from Nick to tone it down whenever I started to slip back into that character. 


KW: Patricia also says: You started acting at 5.  What does acting mean to you and what advice do you have for young people who want to be part of the film and television world?

BJT: When I first started, acting wasn’t something that I wanted to do but it’s become a passion over the years, and I have a divine love for it now. If you want to act, I advise you to stay in school, because you need your education, too, since this is a business. I’d also say, follow your dreams. Never give up! Stay persistent!


KW: Harriet Pakula-Teweles observes that in the movie, your character says, “I’m working on it, bro.” She asks: Is the real Bobb’e similar to Jason?

BJT: No. I’m kinda the exact opposite. He dresses like a nerd. I dress nice. And If I’m interested in a girl, I’ll approach her. He has no swag at all.


KW: Children’s book author Irene Smalls asks: What are your dreams and aspirations as an artist?

BJT: I think when it’s all said and done, I need 5 Grammys, 6 Oscars, a few Emmys and a couple of NAACP Awards. The whole 9 yards. My dream is to be one of the wininngest entertainers ever. I just want my work to be recognized as well as the effort I put in.  


KW: Larry Greenberg asks: What were Nick Cannon’s instructions about how Jason should relate to Kristina DeBarge’s character, Anastacia.

BJT: There were no directions about how we should relate because we were coming from two different sides of the tracks and we only had to build chemistry later on.


KW: Is there any question no one ever asks you, that you wish someone would?

BJT: Reporters never ask me about my real passion, my music.


KW: Okay, then tell me about your music. 

BJT: I just finished a mixtape that’s available at . And I also have a video out on Youtube entitled “OMG.”


KW: The Teri Emerson question: When was the last time you had a good laugh?

BJT: The last time I sat down to watch School Dance.


KW: What is your guiltiest pleasure?

BJT: Eating sweets, grapes, strawberries, cherries and stuff with a lot of sugar.


KW: What is your favorite dish to cook?

BJT: Burgers and fries. I’m an easy guy.


KW: The bookworm Troy Johnson question: What was the last book you read?

BJT: Michael Oher’s “The Blind Side.” It’s a great book.


KW: The music maven Heather Covington question: What was the last song you listened to? 

BJT: It was one of my songs, but I’m not sure which one. I don’t want to sound conceited, but I listen to myself all day. I critique myself a lot. 


KW: The Uduak Oduok question: Who is your favorite clothes designer?

BJT: Polo, Ralph Lauren.


KW: When you look in the mirror, what do you see?

BJT: I see an ambitious young man who will one day have it all.


KW: If you could have one wish instantly granted, what would that be for?

BJT: To bring my grandmother back so I could share all this with her.


KW: Let's say you’re throwing your dream dinner party—who’s invited… and what would you serve?

BJT: I’d invite Carmelo Anthony, since he’s my favorite basketball player. And Beyonce’ and Jay-Z, Puffy, and my boy Rich Homie Quan. And K. Michelle or Keyshia Cole or to be my date… whichever one of them ain’t busy at the time.


KW: The Kerry Washington question: If you were an animal, what animal would you be?

BJT: A lion.


KW: The Ling-Ju Yen question: What is your earliest childhood memory?

BJT: It’s really funny. I was chasing my big brother around the house when I was really, really little, about 3 years-old. He slammed the door in my face, and I got a black eye. [LOL]


KW: The Viola Davis question: What’s the biggest difference between who you are at home as opposed to the person we see on the red carpet?

BJT: I don’t promote at home. On the red carpet, I’m in full promotion mode. [Chuckles]


KW: The Anthony Anderson question: If you could have a superpower, which one would you choose?

BJT: I’d like to be able to fly. L.A.’s got too much traffic.


KW: The Judyth Piazza question: What key quality do you believe all successful people share? 

BJT: A nice smile. I think everybody who’s successful has nice pearly whites.


KW: The Harriet Pakula-Teweles question: With so many classic films being redone, is there a remake you'd like to star in?

BJT: Yeah, let’s remake the Home Alone series. We could take it to the ‘hood and show you how a little black boy would handle some robbers. [Laughs]


KW: The Melissa Harris-Perry question:How did your first big heartbreak impact who you are as a person?

BJT: When my grandmother died, it made me value my days more, and work harder to achieve everything I told her I was going after.


KW: What advice do you have for anyone who wants to follow in your footsteps?

BJT: Follow your dreams, stay in school, and honor your mother and your father. That’s pretty much it.


KW: The “Realtor to the Stars” Jimmy Bayan question: Do you have a favorite city where you’d like to live?

BJT: I’d like to live in Miami.


KW: Attorney Bernadette Beekman asks: What is your favorite charity?

BJT: Yes, Juneteenth, back home in Kansas City.


KW: Thanks again for the time, Bobb’e, and best of luck with School Dance.

BJT: Appreciate it, Kam.

To see a trailer for School Dance, visit:

To watch Bobb’e’s music video, “OMG,” visit:

To download or listen to Bobb’e’s mixtape, visit:


UserpicDinesh D'Souza (INTERVIEW)
Posted by Kam Williams

Dinesh D'Souza

The “America: Imagine a World without Her” Interview

with Kam Williams


A D’Souza Lollapalooza!


Scholar, author, public intellectual and filmmaker Dinesh Joseph D’Souza was born and raised in Mumbai before coming to the U.S. in 1978 as an exchange student. He subsequently matriculated at Dartmouth where he co-founded, edited and wrote for a conservative periodical called The Dartmouth Review.

A former White House domestic policy analyst in the Reagan White House, he later served as President of The King’s College in New York City, and as a fellow at both the American Enterprise Institute and Hoover Institution. He’s also co-written and co-directed a couple of documentaries: “2016: Obama’s America” and “America: Imagine the World without Her” which is currently in theaters.

A bit of a bomb-throwing provocateur, the right-wing commentator’s controversial remarks on topics ranging from racism to feminism to colonialism have incurred the wrath of many on the left. He specifically targeted President Obama in incendiary tomes titled “The Roots of Obama’s Rage” and “Obama’s America: Unmaking of the American Dream.”

Dinesh has published over a dozen books in all, most recently, “America: Imagine a World without Her,” a companion piece to the aforementioned movie. Here, he shares his concerns for the country while delineating his political philosophy..



Kam Williams: Hi Dinesh, thanks for the interview.

Dinesh D'Souza: No problem, Kam.


KW: What’s the inspiration behind America: Imagine a World without Her?

DD: Well, I’m an immigrant to the U.S., and I’ve constantly been thinking about America both from the inside and from the outside. And I’ve come to believe that we’re living at a critical time when the American Dream is in jeopardy and this American Era which began after World War II might be winding down. So, I wanted to make a strong, moral defense of the country, in both the book and the movie, against the people who have been strong critics of America.


KW: Editor Lisa Loving says: You argue that Obama is “intentionally shrinking’ the United States” presence worldwide because progressive politics argue for it, but isn’t Obama actually expanding federal government spying powers on civilians and even approving targeted assassinations of American citizens in other parts of the world? And now he is asking for $5 billion to invest in training Syrian rebel troops? That doesn’t sound like “shrinking America’s presence in the world.”

DD: Well, that question’s confusing a couple of things and muddling them together. Obama’s policies can be summarized as follows: omnipotence at home, impotence abroad. So, the federal government is expanding its powers at home over the private sector and over the lives of ordinary citizens. The NSA’s spying is part of that. Abroad, Obama’s working to undermine America’s influence and power. Now, that is consistent with his actively trying to strengthen our enemies. He has done that to some degree. If someone is trying to shrink America’s influence, it doesn’t necessarily mean you have to do it by doing nothing. You can also be vigorous like Obama who has been very active on both the domestic and foreign policy fronts to achieve what has really been his consistent objective. 


KW: Why do you think there has been little outrage in response to the expansion of the Executive powers via the NSA and IRS? If this were the Sixties, the youth would’ve taken to the streets.

DD: In the Sixties, there was a big resistance to the Vietnam War. But what accompanied it was a tendency to view all of American history cynically through the same sort of jaundiced eye, and people began reinterpreting all American history as a series of misadventures and crimes and oppressions visited upon the innocent, the poor, the defenseless, the minorities, and so on. This created a new narrative in America. Let’s call it, “America the inexcusable.” And this narrative has been drummed into the minds of our young people, not only in college, but also in elementary and secondary education. And then it spilled out into the media, the churches and mainline media where it has metastasized. What’s happened is that a whole generation of Americans has been taught that theirs is a bad country. And it’s then very difficult for them to figure out how one can one be a good citizen in a bad country. So, part of the explanation for people’s emotional paralysis is not knowing how to deal with a person like Obama. On the one hand, he is the embodiment of American exceptionalism. His story is not possible anywhere but in America. And yet he doesn’t believe in American exceptionalism, and he doesn’t like it. If he thinks America is exceptional at all, he thinks it’s exceptionally bad, not exceptionally good. 


KW: Attorney Bernadette Beekman says: I have observed current college students who have no ability to verbally express an original idea or to continue a discussion based on a topic involving current events. Perhaps this generation is the "ADHD" generation and is incapable of doing more than parroting the latest tweet, I am not sure.  How would you encourage young people to become more involved in lively, in-person discussions and less involved in shouting in the cloud? By that I mean, how do you encourage dialogue, discussion and actively pursuing an endeavor with other human beings present and attempting to attain tangible results instead of simply texting and emailing about current issues?

DD: Well, I do think our culture has shifted a little bit away from the contemplative more toward the visual, more toward the emotional, and more toward the expressive. I don’t think there’s a lot that can be done about that. We just have to understand that it’s the product of technology and of the way people live now. That’s one reason I make movies in addition to writing books. There’s a big audience for books, but it isn’t as large as the audience for films. Books are an intellectual experience, and films are primarily an emotional experience. Primarily. We need both, and I think the way to motivate people is to speak to them in a way that they can understand, in a way that inspires and motivates them. If you watch our America movie, you’ll see that it’s different than the kind of rhetoric you traditionally hear. It’s a film that helps you experience and feel America, and it’s a film that helps you look at American history in a new way which builds rather than undermines patriotism.


KW: Did you have any hesitations about doing another documentary, given how the feds came down on you after you criticized the President in 2016: Obama’s America? Do you think that making that movie was what got you in trouble with the IRS?

DD: In my case, it was a campaign finance law violation. It had nothing to do with the IRS. There’s no question that I’ve been a prominent critic of Obama. I know for a fact that he was upset by that film, 2016. How do I know? I know because he started railing against it on his website, But I’m not intimidated by the fact that people in high places are opposed to me. I work hard to earn their discomfort and perhaps even their rage. So, again, with my new film, America, the Left is already out there screaming and trying their best in their clumsy, heavy-handed way to discourage people from seeing the film. It’s not really going to work, but it’s a strategy that I fully expect and am ready for.    


KW: Do you think that between the NSA and the IRS might have had an effect on the outcome of the 2012 Presidential Election the way that so many conservatives who applied to create 501(c)(3) non-profits were put through the wringer?

DD: I don’t know. I do believe that the Obama administration has reached a new low by using the instruments of the state against its political adversaries. Obama does not see people who disagree with him as well-meaning opponents but rather as enemies. That’s not something that Jimmy Carter or Bill Clinton did as President, and it’s certainly not something that Reagan or either Bush did. Probably Obama’s direct descendant in this line is Richard Nixon. And Obama seems to have carried Nixonian tactics to a new low. So, we’ve turned a corner in American politics that doesn’t bode well for our future.


KW: Larry Greenberg says: According to the American Enterprise Institute, the Hobby Lobby ruling won't change much and isn't very important. Do you agree?

DD: It’s hard to say. I know a little bit about the ruling, of course. The issue of religious liberty is absolutely critical. America was founded on three different types of liberty: political liberty, economic liberty, and religious and civil liberty. It’s remarkable that, one-by-one, these strands of liberty are coming under fierce attack from the Left. And that’s particularly ironic because “liberal” derives from a word which means “liberty,” the free man as opposed to the slave. This liberalism which we’re saddled with today isn’t a real liberalism at all, but a gangster style of politics masquerading as liberalism. . 


KW: Cousin Leon Marquis asks: How can the Average Joe, making under $100,000 per year, survive and thrive in the new America that you envision?

DD: Well, it depends on what you mean when you say “you envision.” There’s one America that Obama wants, and there’s a very different America that I want. I want an America that is entrepreneurial, that has a strong private sector in which religious faith is respected and even nourished, in which there’s vigorous debate across the spectrum, and in which our universities teach real history instead of propaganda. That’s a very different kind of America, and they’re moving very resolutely towards their goal. Certainly the decline of America is a choice, though the outcome is not foreordained. But liberty is also a choice, and I’m doing my best to persuade the people of America to make the latter choice.


KW: Professor/Filmmaker/author Hisani Dubose says: You’re quoted at as saying, "The cultural left in this country is responsible for causing 9/11 ... the cultural left and its allies in Congress, the media, Hollywood, the non-profit sector and the universities are the primary cause of the volcano of anger toward America that is erupting from the Islamic world." You also said the problem with colonialism in Africa and India is that it did not last long enough.  Do you not think that America's policies in Africa and Islamic countries are what have caused the "volcano of anger" toward the United States? Most of the dictators there were backed by the U.S.

DD: That question, unfortunately, is a little bit incoherent because it combined things I did say with things I didn’t say. For example, on colonialism, I don’t say it lasted too long in India. It lasted long enough there, like a couple hundred years. My point was that it lasted in Africa only for a few decades. The complaint was that the colonialists were there for too short a time to actually introduce Western values of democracy, separation of powers, and checks and balances, the kind of stuff that the Indians learned from the British which enabled India to establish a democratic society and to open universities based on the Western model which could teach people English and ultimately create the foundation for the technical explosion that is happening now. None of that development would’ve transpired in India if it hadn’t been for the colonial influence that first laid the groundwork for it. That didn’t happen in Africa where Western roots were too thinly planted. And as far as 9/11, obviously Islamic radicals were responsible for the terrorist attack. It would take a moron to blame someone else. They did it! But my point is that liberal propaganda around the world has helped to shape and encourage the idea that America is a shameless, amoral country. Islamic radicals have benefitted from that, and it has served to strengthen their recruiting efforts on the Arab street. 


KW: The bookworm Troy Johnson question: What was the last book you read?

DD: I’m in the process right now of reading Dostoyevsky’s “Crime and Punishment.”


KW: When you look in the mirror, what do you see?

DD: When you look in the mirror, what do I see? I see a reflection of myself.


KW: The Ling-Ju Yen question: What is your earliest childhood memory?

DD: Standing on the balcony of my house after my grandfather died when I was very young.


KW: What is your favorite dish to cook?

DD: I don’t cook, but my favorite dish to eat is Chicken Tikka Marsala.


KW: Thanks again for the time, Dinesh, and good luck with the book and the film.

DD: Thanks Kam. Bye-bye.

To see a trailer for America: Imagine the World without Her, visit:

To order a copy of the book, “America: Imagine a World without Her, visit:


UserpicMichael Ealy (INTERVIEW)
Posted by Kam Williams

Michael Ealy

The “Think Like a Man Too” Interview

with Kam Williams


Mike on the Mic

For the last few years, Michael Ealy has been red-hot, jumping from TV to film and back to TV, seamlessly. He recently starred in the sci-fi television series, Almost Human, for which he earned an NAACP Image Award nomination for Outstanding Leading Actor in a Drama Series.

Earlier this year, he starred in the remake of About Last Night, and prior to that on the TV series Common Law. He also completed impactful, multi-episode arcs on CBS’ hit series “The Good Wife,” and on the Showtime series, “Californication,” while concurrently shooting the feature adaptation of the renowned theatre production, For Colored Girl’s Only, Who Consider Committing Suicide When The Rainbow Is Not Enough for Tyler Perry Studios and Lions Gate Films. 

Prior to that, he was handpicked by Will Smith to co-star in Seven Pounds, and by Spike Lee to join the ensemble of The Miracle at St. Anna. Michael’s riveting performance was lauded in this true story of four Buffalo Soldiers who risked their lives to save a young Italian boy while behind enemy lines.

A student of history and supporter of education, Michael participated in the History Channel’s documentary series The People Speak, based on Howard Zinn’s acclaimed book where one of the historical figures he portrays is “Malcolm X.” He earned a Golden Globe nomination for his lead performance on the Showtime mini-series “Sleeper Cell” where he portrayed Darwyn, a Muslim FBI agent sent undercover to infiltrate a terrorist cell in Los Angeles.

He was tapped by Oprah to star opposite Halle Berry in the Harpo Films telepic “Their Eyes Were Watching God.” The TV special received rave reviews and was viewed by over 26 million people. Michael earned an NAACP Image Award nomination for Outstanding Actor in a Television Movie, Mini-Series or Dramatic Special for his portrayal of Teacake”.

The Silver Spring, Maryland native appeared in several stage productions after graduating from college, including the Off-Broadway hits Joe Fearless and Whoa Jack. It would not be long thereafter before Michael nabbed guest-starring television roles on “Law & Order” and “Soul Food.”And he was subsequently  cast in the films Kissing Jessica Stein and Bad Company

While visiting his friends in Los Angeles, Michael heard about auditions for Barbershop.  After placing a call to his manager and a few rounds of auditions, he landed the role of Ricky Nash,” a two-strike offender. In terms of the tabloids, the blue-eyed hunks was named one of People magazines’ “On the Verge” actors in the magazine’s “Sexiest Man Alive” 2002 and 2013 issues. Furthermore, he was named one of E! Entertainment Television’s “Sizzlin’ 16” of 2004 and appeared on the cover of Essence magazine's "Hollywood Screen Gems" for their April 2004 issue. 

Michael resides in Los Angeles with his wife Khatira Rafiqzada and their baby, Elijah.



Kam Williams: Hi Michael, thanks for the time, bro.

Michael Ealy: What’s up, Kam?


KW: Tim [Director Tim Story] managed to reassemble the whole cast for the sequel. How’d he make that happen?

ME: It’s a miracle that everybody’s schedule opened up. I think part of the genius of it was that they made the decision early, and said, “Next summer, we’re going to try to knock this out.” So, everyone kinda made sure that they were available. We also had such a good time making the first one that everybody jumped at the chance to come back and do a sequel with the same cast and same director. That’s an opportunity you just don’t get very often.


KW: And did you enjoy yourself as much the second go-round?

ME: I definitely did, although being in Vegas for two or three months obviously presented a whole new set of challenges, since it’s a place that most people visit for only two or three days. You had the heat and the extreme air conditioning. And also constant, constant stimulation, whether it’s people getting drunk out of their minds, couples getting married, people going to strip clubs, prostitutes or whatever. It’s Sin City! It’s hard sometimes to stay focused on your job when there’s so much going on around you, as well as people following you around. There were plenty of distractions. So, I wouldn’t say it was as easy as shooting in L.A. Location is a factor. If you have to go somewhere to work, it helps to be focused.


KW: As usual, I have a lot of questions for you from fans. Harriet Pakula-Teweles says: This isn’t your first sequel. You also did Barbershop 1 and 2. What is it about them that calls you back, and will you be doing Barbershop 3.

ME: [Chuckles] I think what happened on Barbershop also kinda happened on Think Like a Man, and the irony is that both pictures were made with the same director, Tim Story. It just doesn’t happen often that the movie you shot for $12 million ends up making $90 million. That’s very rare. So, when you catch lightning in a bottle like that, you jump at an opportunity to come back and do a sequel. You’re lucky if one out ten movies you make gets a sequel.   


KW: So, will you be doing Barbershop 3?

ME: I don’t even know whether that’s in the works.


KW: I spoke to Ice Cube a few weeks ago, and it looks like a go. It already has a page up at, although no director has been named.

ME: Really? Well, they haven’t come to me yet. So, I don’t know anything about it.  


KW: What about Think Like a Man 3?

ME: I don’t see why not, if we can bring back the exact same producer, cast and director.


KW: Marcia Evans says: I'm a fan of yours, big time. I think the chemistry you have with Taraji [co-star Taraji P. Henson] in Think Like A Man is awesome. I appreciate the message your characters’ relationship sends to the audience that falling in love can be sexy and respectful.

ME: Thank you.


KW: She goes on to say:I'm a history buff and I love the TV series “Finding Your Roots” with Dr. Henry Louis Gates where he explores the lineage and genetics of some prominent people.  When I see you onscreen with those blue eyes, I wonder if you have personally researched your genealogy?

ME: I’ve definitely watched those PBS specials with Dr. Gates. I won’t lie, I’ve been curious, but I haven’t yet initiated a search of my family tree.


KW: Marcia would also like to know whether you have any plans to make any biopics about historical figures from the Maryland or Washington, D.C. area, like Benjamin Banneker, since you’re from Baltimore?

ME: That’s an interesting question because it was a dream of mine for the longest time to bring a film that I was starring in back to the DMV [D.C./Maryland/Virginia] for a screening or a premiere. And I’ve been blessed to be able to do that twice, for Think Like a Man and, recently, for Think Like a Man Too. And now, the next dream of mine, career-wise, is to shoot a movie that takes place there, to showcase the area for what it is. So, Marcia’s question is actually inspiring me to dig a little deeper and to consider playing someone from the area. So, yeah, I will give that some serious thought. If there’s someone I could portray, I would do it in a heartbeat.


KW: Marcia’s final comment is that she enjoyed both Unconditional and Miracle at St. Anna’s, and that she was having dinner recently with friends when they talked about how Spike [director Spike Lee] and the cast didn’t receive enough love for the film. 

ME: Yeah, we went to Italy and worked like crazy for three months to make that movie amazing. But sometimes, a picture gets lost in the system. I don’t know what happened, but the marketing campaign wasn’t there. You really can’t afford to worry about it, because it’ll depress you and take you to a darker place. However, we made a good movie, and you can still get it on demand. So, I really appreciate that comment. I don’t know what happened, but it didn’t work to our advantage.  

KW: That September release date didn’t help. Everybody’s focused on getting back to work and school after summer vacation.

ME: A lot of factors contribute to how a film fares, and sometimes that includes the release date.


KW: Editor/Legist Patricia Turnier says: I loved your performance as Dominic in the original Think Like a Man because it was realistic and reminded me of my ex who pretended to be a yuppie in the same way that Dominic lied to his girlfriend about what he did for a living to impress her. Is Dominic more authentic and confident about presenting his real self to the world and to his girlfriend in the sequel?
ME: Good question, Patricia. Yes, Dominic is absolutely much more confident. He now has two more food trucks, and his career as a chef is on the rise. I think anybody who’s doing well in the pursuit of their dreams is going to be a little more confident than what they were when they first started. What I like is that Dominic doesn’t cave to peer pressure from some of his closest friends who question his drive because he’s so in love with Lauren. He handles himself very well, and he’s very open with everybody, including Lauren, about his feelings. I respect that about the character.


KW: Patricia, whose native language is French, was also wondering whether you speak French.

ME: I do not speak French. I know enough Italian to function in a Spanish-speaking country. French is a language that I probably should know, and I’d like to learn, but I have to work on that. Sorry.


KW: What kind of kid were you? Did you dream of becoming an actor during your childhood?

ME: No, I had normal aspirations. When I was little, I very badly wanted to be Art Monk, the great receiver for the Washington Redskins. Then, in middle school, I decided I wanted to be an architect. I was looking at the work of Frank Lloyd Wright when I was in the 7th and 8th grade, and trying to decide whether architecture was for me. It wasn’t until I was about 19 that I settled on acting. I was already in college.


KW: Have you ever had a near-death experience?

ME: [Laughs] No, I have never had the type of near-death experience most people talk about but, where I’m from, you have one anytime you’re pulled over by the police. When I was growing up, racial profiling was rampant, and you didn’t always make it outta there. I’ve seen friends get beaten up and slammed against patrol cars.


KW: Yeah, when I was in college, I was profile-stopped over two-dozen times,

And the cops always used the excuse that I resembled a supposed perp to pat me down and search me.    

ME: Back in college, some friends of mine and I were stopped on our way to a party, allegedly because there was a shooting in the neighborhood, based on a description of the suspects being young black males. One of my buddies was in law school, one was in med school, and the others were upperclassmen. All upstanding citizens. We couldn’t have been further from the guys they were searching for. 


KW: Would you mind saying something controversial that would get this interview tweeted?

ME: I don’t think I can help you there. My goal is not to be tweeted about.


KW: How do you get through the tough times?  

ME: To put it simply, faith and family. That’s gotten me through a lot of the rough years early on, and they continue to serve as a rock in my life now


KW: Thanks again, Michael, I appreciate having another opportunity to interview you. Best of luck with the film.

ME: Okay Kam, I appreciate it, too. Always good to talk to you.


To see a trailer for Think Like a Man Too, visit:


UserpicAmma Asante (INTERVIEW)
Posted by Kam Williams

Amma Asante
The “Belle” Interview
with Kam Williams

Amma's Good Karma!

Writer/director Amma Asante made an unusual entry into filmmaking. As a child, she attended the Barbara Speake stage school in London, where she trained as a student in dance and drama. 

She began a television career as a child actress, appearing as a regular in the popular British school drama “Grange Hill.” She fronted the ‘Just Say No” campaign of the 1980s and was one of nine “Grange Hill” children to take it to the Reagan White House. Amma went on to gain credits in other British television series including “Desmond's” and “Birds of a Feather,” and was a Children's Channel presenter for a year.

In her late teens, Amma left the world of acting and made the move to screenwriting with a development deal from Chrysalis. Two series of the urban drama “Brothers and Sisters” followed which she wrote and produced for the BBC.

Amma’s made her feature film directorial debut in 2004 with A Way of Life which won her 17 international awards including The BFI London Film Festival's inaugural Alfred Dunhill UK Film Talent Award, created to recognize the achievements of a new or emerging British writer/director who has shown great skill and imagination in bringing originality and verve to filmmaking. Additionally Asante collected The Times ‘Breakthrough Artist of the Year’ at the prestigious South Bank Show Awards for writing and directing the film.

At the BAFTA Film Awards in February 2005, Asante received the BAFTA Carl Foreman Award for Special Achievement by a Writer/Director in a Debut Film. On the same night, she scored a double triumph at the 2005 Miami International Film Festival, winning the award for ‘Best Dramatic Feature in World Cinema’ and the FIPRESCI (International Federation of Film Critics) prize for ‘Best Feature Film.’

Amma was born in London in 1969 and is married to Soren Kragh Pedersen, the Europol Chief of Media and Public Relations. Here, she talks about her new film, Belle, a fact-based, historical drama starring Gugu Mbatha-Raw about the daughter of an African slave and a British ship captain who was raised in England as an aristocrat.



Kam Williams: Hi Amma. I’m honored to have this opportunity.

Amma Asante: Thank you very much, Kam. It’s my pleasure.  


KW: I told my readers I’d be speaking with you, so I’ll be mixing in their questions with some of my own.

AA: Okay, cool.


KW: Children’s book author Irene Smalls asks: Where did you find this story and what motivated you to turn it into a movie? 

AA: Well, the story comes from the painting that emerges at the end of the film.

Dido Elizabeth BelleMy producer [Damian Jones] sent me a postcard of the picture. I knew immediately that this was an unusual painting and that there was something very special about it, because I had recently been to an art exhibition in Amsterdam that was looking at the history of people of color in art from the 14th Century. What I learned from the show, without knowing that this postcard was ever going to fall into my lap, was that people of color were generally used as accessories in paintings. We were there to express the status of the main subject of the canvas. We’d always be positioned lower than and looking up in awe at the protagonist and never looking out at the painter. But in this postcard, everything was the opposite. There was Dido Belle staring out at the painter, positioned slightly higher than Elizabeth [her white cousin] whose arm was reaching out to Dido, and thereby drawing your eyes towards Dido. So, I saw an opportunity to create a story that would be a combination of race, politics, art and history. And it went from there, with lots and lots of research.


KW: I don’t agree with the assumption of Irene’s next question. Why did you focus on the love story instead of the historical significance?

AA: I disagree with her as well. I think the historical significance was to bring the two people in the love story together. What I tried to do was to use the legal case of the Zong Massacre and the painting itself as tools to explore Dido Elizabeth Belle’s journey. They feed into her being able to find her voice and into her coming to a place where she experiences self-love. So, I would say that that’s at the center of the film, the love story between Dido and herself. Everything else kind of sits around that idea of a young woman coming into her own.


KW: Irene was also wondering whether there might be a sequel in the works.

AA: [Chuckles] No, there isn’t. I feel like this painting fell into my lap because this story needed to be told by me. I believe I was blessed to have the opportunity to be able put this story together and bring it to the screen. But I feel that my role is completed now, and I’d have to leave a sequel to someone else.


KW: Editor/Legist Patricia Turnier says: I was very impressed that this elaborate costume drama/historical biopic was just your second feature film. 

AA: Thank you, Patricia. I knew that I wanted my second film to be big and lush and important, and that I wanted it to make a statement. That’s why it took those eight years to get from my first to my second feature. I always knew I had it in me. I just had to persuade the financiers as well. I think feature films are about the confidence you have in bringing your vision to fruition. 


KW: When I interviewed Gugu, she gave me the idea that you definitely had a vision of what you were trying to achieve, and also that she felt very comfortable in your hands.

AA: Oh, that’s nice of her to say. It was important to me for the cast to feel safe in my hands. I was very open to collaborating with them, but they also knew that I had a very, very strong vision for this story that I wanted to tell.


KW: She goes on to say:Given that I speak French, I am curious to know where the French last name of Dido Elizabeth Belle comes from?

AA: Dido was born to a West African woman who was sold into slavery. I named the film Belle to honor both Dido and her mother, Maria. But we don’t know how she came to have the surname Belle.


KW: Patricia says: I saw the movie in Quebec in English but I hope the movie will be translated soon into French and other languages to allow the Francophony and other cultures to discover it.

AA: Absolutely! The film has been translated ad is being released in France in a few months’ time.  

KW: Patricia also asks: Why do you think that the story of Belle remained unknown, despite the painting of her?

AA: That’s a very interesting question. I’m 44 years-old now, and I grew up not knowing anything about it. But young girls and boys in England today are being taught about Dido Belle. You can read about elements of her life in various books that have been published. What there wasn’t until our film was the quintessential story that pieced together Dido’s life. Since the film does contain some elements of fiction, Damian and I decided to commission Paula Byrne to write an absolutely historically-accurate version of Dido’s life in book form, also called “Belle.”


KW: Harriet Pakula-Teweles asks: How do you feel about the compliment that “The movie Belle has a woman’s touch and is a woman’s movie.”

AA: I like that compliment! And I thank whoever gave it. What I wanted to do was put a woman of color, front and center, in this movie combining a lot of themes that were relevant to both men and women. I actively wanted her to carry the weight of this movie because I’m a woman. And I actively wanted to explore many of the issues that affected her as a woman of color. That was very important to me. And although these issues affect some women of color, I don’t think they’re only of interest to women of color. They’re of universal interest. In addition, I’m a girl, and I celebrate being a girl, and it was really important to me to celebrate the beauty that I could create in a movie like this, aesthetically, in terms of the costumes and the production design. I wanted something big and lush and beautiful and unashamedly feminine. So, I take that as a big compliment, Harriet.


KW: The Uduak Oduok question: Who is your favorite clothes designer?

AA: Oh my God! You’d be forcing me to really nail my flag to the mast. But I have a few. Chanel! I love and adore Chanel. I’m a huge Christian Dior fan. And I’m also a huge Yves St. Laurent fan.  


KW: Three classics!

AA: I’m just a classic gal!


KW: Editor Lisa Loving asks: What is your take on the blossoming genre of films about the African Diaspora during the Trans Atlantic Slave Trade? Do you expect to see more films about this aspect of history made?

AA: I think we will because, every so many years, a filmmaker returns to the subject. Interestingly, I also sense that a wider feed is coming through in these stories. I cried watching The Butler, because I understood that with all these wonderful films like Mandela, 12 Years a Slave and Half of a Yellow Sun that a beautiful tapestry of our history was in the process of being woven all over the world. I found that very inspiring and started to weep because I realized that Belle would be a part of that tapestry. What I hope is that this wider pattern that’s emerging isn’t just a fad but evidence that we’ve turned a corner as filmmakers of color and that we’re moving forward in our confidence and in the film industry not being afraid of our telling these stories and in giving us the opportunity to bring our vision to the screen.


KW: Lisa also asks: Did you find Tarantino’s Django Unchained gratuitously violent?

AA: I don’t think it’s for me to comment on how other directors choose to bring their visions to fruition. You can watch Belle to see what I think my film needed to communicate its message about slavery. For me, I found it unnecessary to show any great violence. However, Quentin Tarantino did find it necessary for his film, and I have to respect his decision as one filmmaker respecting another. I’ll leave it at that.


KW: The Harriet Pakula-Teweles question: With so many classic films being redone, is there a remake you'd like to direct?

AA: Well, there is. And I just bought the rights to the project two days ago. It’s a remake of a fabulous French film. I can’t give it away, but stay tuned.


KW: The Ling-Ju Yen question: What is your earliest childhood memory?

AA: My earliest childhood memory I actually injected into Belle. It’s of me sitting on my dad’s lap. I remember him saying to me, “You don’t understand what I’m saying to you right now, but know that you are loved.” That’s where that line comes from in the movie where Dido’s biological father leans down to say the same thing to her. Belle is also dedicated to my father who died unexpectedly during the making of the film. It’s a movie that means a lot to me because I made it not only for little girls around the world who grew up to see themselves reflected in a film like this, but also for my father because it was the kind of picture he would love, even if his daughter had nothing to do with it. So, my earliest memory of him is in the movie.


KW: My condolences, Amma. Is it true that your father was an accountant, your mother was a housekeeper, and that they also opened a deli?

AA: Yes, that’s correct. After my parents arrived in England, it took them a decade to get a foothold. It meant that they had to work non-stop. My mother would do two cleaning jobs in the morning before opening her deli, and then do two more cleaning jobs in the evening. Her whole day, from 4:30 AM until 9 PM was spent working, as was my father’s, between the office and the shop.


KW: You became a TV star as a teenager. How did you avoid the problems that destroy the lives of so many child actors?

AA: Again, I would honestly have to credit my parents, Kwame and Comfort, who ensured that my feet as well as my siblings stayed firmly on the ground. So, I was very well-rooted. I also learned the value of money from a very young age. I thank God for that.


KW: What is your favorite dish to cook?

AA: Jollof rice, a very popular Ghanain dish I learned from my mother. It’s a mixture of rice and vegetables that you can make with either chicken or beef. It’s great because it was designed to give a child or an adult all the nutrients they need in one dish. And it is my absolute favorite!


KW: When you look in the mirror, what do you see?

AA: I see the woman I knew I wanted to be as a child. When I was a young girl, I had a vision of the woman I wanted to be. And I often reached out to women of color in America for inspiration. My mother would regularly buy Essence and Ebony. I would look at those magazines filled with images of professional, intelligent women of color who knew who they were, who enjoyed who they were, and who were surrounded by other people who enjoyed who they were. When I look in the mirror, I’m really glad that that’s what I see today, but it took awhile to get here.


KW: Is there any question no one ever asks you, that you wish someone would?

AA: I would have to say “No.” But before Belle, I would have answered “Yes.” The great thing about this movie is that I’ve put so much of myself on the table, and put so much of my guts into the movie that I’ve really worn my heart on my sleeve, and everybody has really gotten access to my heart and my head. Many of the questions from your readers have been great. But I would like to turn the question around and ask you: Is there any question you have for me that you might be too shy to ask?


KW: Funny you should ask. I do have a few I’d decided against. Here’s one: Would you mind saying something controversial that would get this interview tweeted?

AA: [LOL] Yes, I would mind.


KW: Another one I was planning to pass on was the Sanaa Lathan question: What excites you?

AA: I really can answer that one. Sitting in the back row of a full audience watching one of my movies, and hearing them cry and hearing them laugh in the right moments, particularly when they laugh at a line I’ve stolen from one of my family members and put in the film. That excites me a great deal. And that’s an honest answer.


KW: I also hesitated to ask you the Melissa Harris-Perry question:How did your first big heartbreak impact who you are as a person?

AA: My first big heartbreak has made me an irrepressible romantic. I was lucky enough to date my first love for five years. We had a very romantic, very dramatic teenage love affair. And it has impacted me because I have married a man who is simply the grownup version of my first love. So, I believe my first love was just preparing me for the man I’m married to today. And it has also impacted the way I write, because there will always be a love story in every movie I write. Always! I think having a positive first love experience before the heartbreak made me a more confident in who I am, a more confident female today. That might be controversial. 


KW: If you could have one wish instantly granted, what would that be for?

AA: A child. I’ve been trying for a child with my husband for a long time, for over eight years. And if I could have one wish instantly granted, it would be to be pregnant with a healthy baby.


KW: I know his name is Soren. What type of name is that? Swedish?

AA: Close. He’s Danish.


KW: The Kerry Washington question: If you were an animal, what animal would you be?

AA: A panther! Dangerous and beautiful.


KW: The Judyth Piazza question: What key quality do you believe all successful people share? 

AA: The ability to inspire, to transfer our passion to other people and to bring them along with us in pursuit of our vision. I have to be able to inspire investors, actors and crews on a daily basis. What I recognize in other successful people is a similar ability to make their passion infectious.


KW: Thanks again for the time, Amma, and best of luck with Belle.

AA: Thank you, Kam. It’s been great to talk to you.

To see a trailer for Belle, visit


UserpicPatricia Heaton (INTERVIEW)
Posted by Kam Williams

Patricia Heaton

The “Moms’ Night Out” Interview

with Kam Williams


A Greetin’ from Heaton!

Two-time Emmy Award winner Patricia Heaton is best known for her roles as Debra Barone in the hit series Everybody Loves Raymond and as Frankie Heck in the current ABC comedy The Middle. Patricia, who also starred with Kelsey Grammar in Back to You, was named one of the Funniest Women on TV by TV Guide.


Her movie credits include Memoirs of an Invisible Man, Beethovenand Space Jam while, on stage, she starred off-Broadway in the Theresa Rebeck play The Scene. Inspired by their four sons, Patricia and her husband, David Hunt, co-founded FourBoys Films where she has served as a producer of Amazing Grace, as well as an executive producer of her new film, Moms’ Night Out.


Kam Williams: Hi Patricia. Thanks for the interview. I’m honored to have this opportunity.

Patricia Heaton: My pleasure, Kam.


KW: What interested you in Moms’ Night Out?

PH: I thought it was a fun, family movie that really tried to portray people of faith as real people, not cartoon caricatures. Yet it was funny in the way that good comedy tends to exaggerate real situations. I just appreciated how it offered a nice, refreshingly-different take on people of faith. So many of the faith-based films have been more like sermons than movies. We wanted to bridge that gap a little, and bring it a little more mainstream. 


KW: I understand, because a lot of people have low expectations of a film once it’s been pigeonholed as faith-based. 

PH: I definitely think that, because of the movies that have come before, there’s a prejudice against Moms’ Night Out. This is a tough business to begin with, and that’s just one more of those things that you have to deal with. I believe we did a really great job. It’s not meant to be a how-to guide on how you’re supposed to live your life or raise your family. It’s really just a fun comedy that’s intended to be a great night out for the family and an inspiration to moms everywhere, and to honor moms and the hard work they do, whatever kind of mom they are. 


KW: Why did you decide to executive produce the film?

PH: It’s a little hard to do a PG film these days where both the kids and the grandparents will feel comfortable and have a good time. This was an opportunity to do just that.


KW: How did you prepare to play Sondra, a mother, friend and counselor married to a mega-church pastor?

PH: I did some research, and I found it interesting to learn that the #1 word that pastors’ wives use to describe themselves by is “lonely.” At first, I was a little taken aback by that, but of course it made sense. Everyone comes to pastors’ wives for advice. But you really can’t confide in another member of the congregation in that way when your husband is the pastor of the church because you’re expected to maintain a certain decorum. So, I thought that was a fascinating dilemma my character faced, being a confidant to all, but not having somebody she could turn to herself. Every actor wants to have something that their character’s struggling with, even in a comedy, so that made me want to play Sondra.


KW: Did you worry about audiences recognizing you, and then perhaps expecting Sondra to behave more like Debra Barone or Frankie Heck, two iconic characters you’ve played on TV?

PH: No, I think this was far enough away. First of all, being on the big screen gives you a different field to play in that people aren’t expecting. And I worked hard to make her as different as possible. I gave her a slight Southern accent which helped define the character as different from Debra and Frankie.


KW: I know that you like to tweet. How would you describe Moms’ Night Out in 140 characters or less?

PH: I would just say that everyone should visit #MNO because it’s a very entertaining movie full of laughs that’s fun for the whole family. That might be longer than 140 characters.


KW: What message do you want people to take away from the film?

PH: I think that being a mom is the hardest job in the world and often, if you’re not running a business or working outside the home, you feel, as a mother, like you’re forgotten or not appreciated. So, we wanted to make sure we made a Mother’s Day movie that would let women know that the work they’re doing in raising their kids is really important.


KW: The Harriet Pakula-Teweles question: With so many classic films being redone, is there a remake you'd like to star in?

PH: Omigosh! The best classics I would never want to touch. On the Waterfront is one of my favorite old movies. When a film is made as well as that, you just don’t want to touch it. So, I’d have to think about that question. I’m not sure.


KW: The Ling-Ju Yen question: What is your earliest childhood memory?

PH: I’m the fourth of five kids. My mom used to put my playpen out in the front yard with me in it, so she could get work done in the house. [Laughs] I remember being a little bored, very early on, being cooped up in that playpen. 


KW: Documentary filmmaker Kevin Williams says: Thank you for all of your great work over the years and for being an artistic inspiration. As a well-known conservative, do you think that there is an industry "black list" for conservatives and Republicans who “come out of the closet,” so to speak? Would you recommend that a filmmaker or actor who is conservative keep their political views hidden so as to not hurt their chances for success? I didn't do that and am always wondering whether it was a mistake.

PH: I think that what is respected the most in this industry is good work, talent and professionalism. That’s how I’ve always tried to conduct myself. And I’ve worked very hard at my craft. That’s the most important thing. Those standards were established long before I ever uttered a political opinion. Doing so can be polarizing, but it doesn’t seem to have affected me, because I always have a good job. You have to gauge what purpose there would be in expressing any belief. Will it accomplish anything good? What I find right now is that the country in general and Hollywood in particular have become very polarized the last few years. It’s not that you have to hide your true feelings, but it’s best to behave very professionally when you come to the workplace. I think that what people respect more than anything else is when you’re a professional and the best at what you do.     


KW: Environmental activist Grace Sinden says: You have managed to balance your career, marriage and having four sons.  What is the secret of that successful balance? What has given you the most satisfaction in life?

PH: I’ve been very fortunate that the jobs that I’ve had have basically allowed me to be a full-time mother to my kids. The working hours on Everybody Loves Raymond were such that I could either bring my kids with me to work or be home with them. That’s kind of happened to me all the way along. So, I feel very blessed that I was able to enjoy being a mom while fulfilling my acting goals. In terms of satisfaction, the most important thing to me is my family, for sure. As an actor, you’re very aware that all these jobs come and go and that even a very successful, hit show is going to end after seven or eight seasons. There’s no security. The only security is in your family. That’s why it’s very important to keep your family close and make them the priority.


KW: Harriet also asks: How has your deep Christian faith informed your choices of roles and your approach to the characters you portray?

PH: Well, I’m very fortunate in that I’ve never had to turn something down on television because of content. Most everything I’ve been offered has been very high quality and not anything I would feel uncomfortable being a part of. I’m sensitive about what projects I pick because I feel responsible to my kids and to impressionable young minds for whatever I’m putting out into the world. So, I take a look at things from that perspective. I feel that if you’ve been given the gift of being an actor, that gift is from God and needs to be put to a good use. 


KW: Editor/Legist Patricia Turnier asks: What interested you and your husband in producing Amazing Grace, the movie about British abolitionist William Wilberforce? I loved that film, by the way.

PH: My husband is British, and he’s always thought that William Wilberforce would be a great person to do a movie about. Very few Americans know who he is. He’s really wanted to bring that story to the screen for years.


KW: Is there any question no one ever asks you, that you wish someone would?

PH: No, there are more questions that I wish they wouldn’t ask me. [LOL]


KW: The Pastor Alex Kendrick question: When do you feel the most content?

KB: Oh, my goodness! I feel very much content at home when I have all my family around me, and also when I’m onstage.


KW: Thanks again for the time, Patricia, and best of luck with the film.

PH: I really appreciate your getting the word out about it and taking the time to talk to me, Kam, because it’s a movie that people really enjoy when they go see it.

To see a trailer for Moms’ Night Out, visit: 


UserpicTerry Crews (INTERVIEW)
Posted by Kam Williams

Terry Crews

The “Blended” Interview

with Kam Williams


Crews Control!

Since retiring from the NFL, Terry Crews has traded in his helmet and cleats to pursue an acting career while also becoming the ultimate family man and fitness enthusiast. Over the past several years, omnipresent Terry has been seen almost everywhere, whether as the pecs-popping pitchman for Old Spice,  portraying the overworked dad on “Everybody Hates Chris,” a tough guy in “The Expendables” film series, the loveable goofball in “White Chicks,” Will McAvoy’s bodyguard on HBO’s “The Newsroom,” or randy congressman Herbert Love in “Arrested Development.”

2014 has been a busy year for Terry, who has already appeared in Tyler Perry’s “The Single Mom’s Club,” and in “Draft Day” opposite Kevin Costner. And later this year, he will be starring with Sly Stallone in “Reach Me,” and reprising the role of Hale Caesar in the “The Expendables 3.”

Terry is currently a series regular on the Golden Globe Award-winning TV sitcom “Brooklyn Nine-Nine,” playing Sgt. Terry Jeffords, whose ripped exterior belies a sensitive and beleaguered interior. Crews also just added author to his resume with the release of his first book, “Manhood.” And it was recently announced that starting this fall he will be serving as host of the game show “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?”

Here, he talks about playing “Nickens” in his new movie, “Blended,” co-starring Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore.



Kam Williams: Hi Terry, thanks for the interview.

Terry Crews: Oh, you got it, Kam.


KW: Congrats on the Golden Globe for your TV show, Brooklyn Ninety-Nine.

TC:  Thank you! It blew me away when we got that Golden Globe. What an honor! I had no idea.  It’s an awesome show and one of the best things I’ve ever done.


KW: And you get to play a complex character in Sergeant Terry Jeffords. 

TC:  That’s the best thing, that [scriptwriters] Mike Schur and Dan Goorhore created real people everybody can recognize. That’s real cool! 


KW: I loved Blended, and I’m not a fan of Adam Sandler’s lowbrow brand of humor. But this one is different and kept me laughing non-stop.

TC: That’s great! And it touches your feelings along the way, too. That’s the thing. What’s so good about the Adam-Drew [Barrymore] collaborations is how she tempers him. It’s the real deal. Their 50 First Dates was the first comedy that I ever caught feelings on. I was like, “Whoa! I’m feeling the romance here. I want them to get together. Why do I care so much?” And I got emotional about it. That is what they bring, a magical combination that works every time.


KW: I liked the two of them in The Wedding Singer, too.

TC: They’re a great combination. My wife does that for me. By myself, I’m a hard pill. But, wow! My wife makes me look real good, because she smoothes my rough edges. That’s why I say, “Take your wife everywhere. It’s a good thing.” [Laughs]


KW: You provide the comic relief throughout this movie. Just when we’re about to forget about Nickens, he pops up again with that Greek chorus.

TC:  You know what’s wild? Adam called me up and before I’d seen a script, he said, “Man, I wanna do this movie with you that we’re shooting in Africa. Are you down, brother?” I had no idea what was going on, but I was like, “Let’s go! This is awesome!” I’m a card-carrying member of the Happy Madison Productions family. Adam put me in The Longest Yard, Click and The Benchwarmers. Every time he calls, it leads to nothing but great things. That’s why I just said, “Let’s do it!” We didn’t really have this character all straightened out. We sort of figured it out as we went along. He came up with a great idea. He said, basically, “Let’s make him the South African Tom Jones.” Once we had that, we were off and running.


KW: Had you been to Africa before?

TC:  No, that was my first time, and I loved every minute of it. I traveled all over South Africa. I was in Cape Town, Soweto, Sun City and Johannesburg. I would’ve visited Durban, too, but we just didn’t have the time. We met the most beautiful people and ate the best food! And we went on safari in Madikwe which is near Botswana. It was amazing. Some people say Sante Fe is spiritual, but you haven’t experienced anything until you’ve been to Africa. You know the world is bigger than you are after you see Africa. 


KW: I was surprised that they shot the film in Africa at all, since it’s a romantic comedy that could’ve been made in Hollywood, not a drama that called for an exotic location.  

TC:  I think the moviegoers are tired of always seeing L.A. and New York. Come on! I think you can only do but so much here. It’s about time that the rest of the world is represented in entertainment. Africa is a huge continent. The world is gigantic. We get a little insulated. New Yorkers never go anywhere because they think everything’s already in New York. You can to Disney World or watch Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom, but you have to travel to Africa to have the real experience. And if you ever do go, it will change your life. I was changed. It was one of the best things I’ve ever done.


KW: What do you think about the 300 schoolgirls kidnapped in Nigeria? 

TC:  Oh man, what can I say brother? I have four daughters. I consider myself a feminist. My whole life has been about standing up for women, for anybody really, who’s been abused. So, I’m outraged about the way they kidnapped and are mistreating those young ladies. That’s sick! All I can think about is what if someone took my daughters from me. It hurts. My heart is still breaking. You can post or tweet about it, but it’s not going to rest, until we find them and get them back home safe and sound. But nothing will change, until really righteous men stand up and say, “This is wrong! Females cannot be treated this way. Women are not property. Women are not second-class citizens.” Women all over the world deserve pay equal to men, a voice equal to men, education equal to men, and to be respected. We’ve got to realize that we’re all the same.


KW: Since you’re a former pro athlete and you live in L.A., I also have to ask you what you think about the L.A. Clippers. Should the owner be forced to sell the franchise for what he said?

TC:  Wow! This is what I think about Donald Sterling. We need to forgive him.


KW: Forgive him?

TC:  Let me tell you why. We’re all guilty of what he did. I’ve said things about my wife which would make people think I was a horrible person, if somebody had recorded me. You say things in anger that you’d never normally say. If someone secretly records you in your own home, you’re going to offend somebody. Taking Donald Sterling’s team away from him, because people don’t like what he said doesn’t make any sense to me. I don’t know Donald Sterling. I don’t like him. We’ll never hang out. But let people vote with their dollars. You have to recognize that this is a dangerous precedent. If you don’t forgive, you’re setting yourself up to be judged forever. And as soon as you say something somebody doesn’t like, they can take what you own away from you. I know a lot of people disagree with me, but I just don’t believe in a system that doesn’t allow you to apologize, change and move on.   


KW: That’s an interesting take. You surprised me. Food for thought.  

TC:  It’s the new McCarthyism. It’s just not right. What I’m saying is that everybody has done it. You might not have said something about black people, but you might have said something worse than what Donald Sterling said, something horrible about your wife, your kids, your best friend, or someone else. If you can’t turn around, say “My bad. I’m sorry,” and be forgiven, then what do you do now? Are we going to hold everybody to that standard? People like to throw stones, but I say “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.” We have to give mercy to get it.


KW: Attorney Bernadette asks: What advice would you give your teenage self just coming of age, if you could travel back in time?

TC: I would say, “Terry, behave like a king.” Because, when I was young, I spent a lot of time behaving like a fool. And fools get mad when people try to give them good advice. They actually get angry at ‘em. [Laughs] Because by being a fool, you start messing up everything, and all of a sudden you want to blame everybody else. You’re a victim! It was my mother… It was my father… It was my wife… It was society… It was my being a black man… It’s endless. But when you behave like a king, you make no excuses, because it’s your court, your world, and you’re responsible for everything in your circle. That’s what I would tell my younger self. “Dude, behave like a king, and know it’s up to you.” That’s the deal. And I say it to young men now.


KW: The Harriet Pakula-Teweles question: With so many classic films being redone, is there a remake you'd like to star in?

TC: Wooooo! Kam, that’s a big question. There are so many. I wanna be Radio Raheem, if they ever remade Do the Right Thing. [Chuckles] Yeah, I would love to play Radio Raheem. [Laughs some more]


KW: The Anthony Anderson question: If you could have a superpower, which one would you choose?

TC: Wow! What superpower? Flight! It’s gotta be flight, because I love to travel. 


KW: Is there any question I haven’t asked you that you wish I had?

TC: No, I’m good.


KW: Then thanks again for the time, Terry. Good luck with Blended and your many projects. And I look forward to speaking to you again soon.

TC: Oh, thank you, Kam. You got it, my man. Take care.

To see a trailer for Blended, visit:   

To order a copy of Terry Crews’ book, “Manhood: How to Be a Better Man,” visit:

To see several Old Spice ads featuring Terry, visit:


UserpicA Rose Is a Rose Is a Rose
Posted by Kam Williams

Anika Noni Rose
The “Half of a Yellow Sun” Interview
with Kam Williams

Tony Award winner Anika Noni Rose currently stars alongside Denzel Washington in the Broadway revival of A Raisin in the Sun. Her outstanding performance has not only earned her critical acclaim but also a Tony award nomination.

She recently starred as Whoopi Goldberg’s daughter in the made-for-TV movie, A Day Late and a Dollar Short. On the big screen, Anika starred as ‘Lorell Robinson’ in Dreamgirls which went on to receive an AFI ensemble award, as well as SAG award nomination for outstanding cast.

In addition, she voiced ‘Princess Tiana’ in the animated feature The Princess and The Frog, as Disney’s first African-American ‘Princess.’ The film received three Oscar nominations and Anika became the youngest inductee ever to be honored as a Disney Legend. Anika’s many film credits include: Imperial Dreams, For Colored Girls, Just Add Water, As Cool as I Am and Khumba.

No stranger to television, Anika most recently starred in the Hallmark special The Watsons Go to Birmingham and appeared on some of the highest-rated network shows such as CBS’s The Good Wife and ABC’s Private Practice. Furthermore, she guest starred on CBS’s Elementary and FOX’s The Simpsons (voice of Abie’s long lost wife). Other TV credits include: the A&E mini-series Stephen King’s Bag of Bones opposite Pierce Brosnan, HBO’s The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency for which she was nominated for an NAACP Image Award for "Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series." And she received NAACP Image nominations for her work on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, and on Hallmark Hall of Fame’s Mitch Albom’s Have A Little Faith, too.

Anika won the Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Musical for her role in Caroline, or Change. She starred in Deborah Allen's Broadway revival of Cat on A Hot Tin Roof, opposite James Earl Jones and Phylicia Rashad.

Born in Bloomfield, Connecticut on September 6, 1972, Anika received her MFA from American Conservatory Theater and holds an honorary Doctorate from Florida A&M University. Here, she discusses her new film, Half of a Yellow Sun, co-starring Thandie Newton and Chiwetel Ejiofor.      


Kam Williams: Hi Anika, thanks for the interview. I’m honored to have this opportunity.

Anika Noni Rose: Thanks so much, Kam.


KW: What interested you in making this movie?

ANR: I read the book when it came out, and I loved it! That book really excited me and moved me. And I read a lot! I remember thinking back then that it would make an amazing film. So, I was beyond thrilled when the call came asking whether I might be interested. 


KW: I have a lot of questions for you from my readers. Editor/Legist Patricia Turnier asks: Is your character Kainene very close to the character in the novel or were a lot of liberties were taken in the script?

ANR: She’s very close to the character in the novel. I tried to keep her as tight to what Chimamanda [author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie] described as possible. The only differences, I think, are the physical differences between our bodies, and there’s nothing I could do about that. [Laughs]


KW: Patricia also asks: Did you need a coach to capture the Nigerian accent? How challenging was it to sound authentic?

ANR: The answer is “Yes,” but the coach was British, because they mention in the book that she has an English accent.


KW: Was that the first time you visited Africa?

ANR: No, I’ve been to Africa many times. I spent six months in Botswana shooting The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency. I’ve also been to Morocco and a bunch of other places. But it was my first time in Nigeria. It was intense and I loved it, but it was a lot of hard work, because we were bringing a style of shooting that country wasn’t familiar with. So it was really a learning set, and a learning environment, because the City of Calabar certainly wasn’t ready for what we were bringing. But everybody was welcoming and stepped up to the plate, and it was a great time.


KW: How was your shoot different from the ordinary Nollywood [Nigerian film industry] set?

ANR: I’m not very familiar with Nollywood. What I do know is that they’ll finish a film in two weeks. So, it’s a very different way of shooting a feature film. It’s a bit more labor intensive, and it’s a different film language.


KW: Harriet Pakula-Teweles says: The novel Half of a Yellow Sun tells a gripping, but often very gritty, story. How does the film maintain the integrity of the story without potentially turning off the audience with visual details of the atrocities and suffering--especially given the stream of rather remarkable films like 12 Years a Slave, Hotel Rwanda and Django Unchained?

ANR: I think you’ll just have to see it, Harriet, to know how it affects and moves you. Anytime you depict war, it’s difficult to watch humanity debase itself in atrocious ways. But I think a good job was done.    


KW: Attorney Bernadette Beekman asks: Did you read the N.Y. Times article about the super-rich 1% in Lagos? How do you feel about the kidnappings of hundreds of young girls in Nigeria? Do you feel that the issues addressed in the film from 50 years ago still have had a ongoing effect on Nigeria?

ANR: That’s a lot to answer. I don’t think the issues in the film were dealing with Boko Haram. That’s a completely different situation. In terms of the 1%, and the have’s and have not’s, the film does show some of that.


KW: Professor/author/filmmaker Hisani Dubose says: I'd like to know how long your journey has been to get where you are and how hard was the transition for you from Broadway to film?

ANR: I have been acting professionally since 1997. I didn’t feel that the transition was extraordinarily difficult, style-wise. The first film I did was not a great film, but I had a great time, and I learned a lot about things that were important to me, primarily, “Where is the camera right now?” and “What is the angle?” the big film I did was Dreamgirls, where I was lucky to be able to bring Broadway to the screen. But I did not feel like there was a huge difference between how I do what I do onstage and onscreen


KW: Editor Helen Silvis asks: How did you survive in New York without a job? What tip can you share for ambitious, aspiring actors?

ANR: I was sort of lucky because I was only unemployed for three months when I first moved to New York. What actors do, when they’re not working, is file for unemployment, because you’re sort of still working when you’re auditioning all the time. Once a play ends, you file for unemployment which will assist you while you’re pounding the pavement looking for your next gig. Hopefully, that next job will come through, before your unemployment runs out. And that’s the trick used by most actors. [Chuckles]


KW: Troy Johnson says: I had the opportunity to see you recently, during a presentation you and several other actors from the new Broadway production of A Raisin in the Sun which was hosted by WYNC in New York City.  What was the most interesting experience you’ve had so far doing this show?

ANR: Audiences seem to think of it as a black play, which it is. But it is also universal. What’s been phenomenal is having the lights come up at the end and seeing that the people moved by the play are from all different backgrounds. That proves the relevance of this piece today for everyone.    


KW: Environmental activist Grace Sinden asks: You've had an extraordinary career in acting and singing. What has been your favorite performance to date?

ANR: Oh, I don’t know. That’s hard to say. It would be easier for me to say which I didn’t like, because there are so fewer to pick from. I loved Caroline, or Change, and Cat on a Hot tin Roof and doing Dreamgirls, but I haven’t gotten to a place where I can say “This is my all-time favorite!” because I’m not done yet. [LOL]


KW: Librarian Larry Williams asks: How did you feel when you won the Tony Award for Caroline, or Change?

ANR: Mind-blown and totally euphoric.


KW: Larry would also like to know how you prepared for A Raisin in the Sun. Did you go to Chicago to get a sense of the neighborhood where it is set?

ANR: No, although I’ve been to the Southside of Chicago before. But this is a completely different time, so I don’t know whether a visit would’ve been more helpful than just looking at pictures from the actual period. I just read the script over and over, and watched a lot of interviews with Lorraine [author Lorraine Hansberry]. I listened carefully to what she had to say about her characters, and utilized that as much as possible. And I read her autobiography, too.


KW: In a recent interview, you said that you meditate before going onstage. Doing eight shows a week on Broadway, how do you keep up your energy? Is there a special diet or fitness regimen you follow?

ANR: Ugh! I try to work out regularly, but it’s difficult right now because it’s award season, and we have so many extracurricular things scheduled outside of the theater. When I’m on stage, I tend to drop weight, because your metabolism is so high. I eat regularly. I take care of myself. I can’t do a show without eating. I don’t want to end up skin and bones, so I’m sort of careful about that. I make sure I sleep as much as possible. Anybody who follows me on Twitter knows that’s a big challenge. [Laughs] Mondays are sacred to me. That’s the only day I have off. I used to go to the gym on Monday, but I don’t even do that anymore. I just want Monday to be a day when I can roll out of the bed when I feel like moving my foot and just let the day be what it is.


KW: What’s it like working opposite two great actors recently, Denzel in Raisin, and Chiwetel in Half of a Yellow Sun.

ANR: I’ve been lucky, because I’m working with a slew of great actors, LaTanya Richardson and Sophie Okonedo are also on the stage and Thandie Newton’s in the film. So, it’s been really wonderful and a great journey, because these are terrific people I enjoy working with. 


KW: Does it ever make you nervous to hear that a certain celebrity is in the audience? Were you excited when the Obamas came to see Raisin?

ANR: I don’t like people to tell me who’s in the audience. It doesn’t make me nervous, but it will always affect a show and how you take in whatever’s going on around you. So, I never want to know. However, when the Obamas were there, the energy in that theater was fabulous. The audience was cheering before we even started. It was really invigorating! It had me jumping up and down backstage. We did a phenomenal show, and the Obamas came backstage during intermission, and they were just lovely..


KW: When you look in the mirror, what do you see?

ANR: Me! [LOL] A girl from Connecticut who’s living life, and trying to do the best she can, and who’s feeling blessed and full and striving!


KW: Well, I really enjoyed the film and hope to see you in Raisin soon, too.

ANR: Thanks, Kam. Take care.

To see a trailer for Half of a Yellow Sun, visit


UserpicProfessor Robert Legvold (INTERVIEW)
Posted by Kam Williams

Robert Legvold

Interview with Nicholas Antoine


The New Russia-West Cold War

Dr. Robert H. Legvold is the Marshall D. Shulman Professor Emeritus at Columbia University's Department of Political Science, and is a specialist in the international relations of post-Soviet states. He is currently a contributor at Foreign Affairs Magazine.


Q. How would you summarize the current relationship between Russia and Ukraine?

A. Well, the relationship between Russia and Ukraine is particularly tense, strained and dangerous. The history is longstanding. Ukraine had been incorporated into what became Imperial Russia in the 17th Century. It was a critical part of Imperial Russian history and then later the second most important portion of the Soviet Union. Moreover, their relationship is also based on a deep sense of cultural linguistic identity. And so, given that close identity, since the breakup of the Soviet Union the orientation of Ukraine has been important to every Russian leader.

In recent years, Russia has felt that a large part of western Ukraine has been leaning towards the European Union and away from efforts to pull parts of the former Soviet Union together into a new kind of Russian-oriented integrated structure. Naturally, Russia has seen this as a great loss to both their cultural identity and their contemporary goals. All of this is now compounded by the current political and economic failure in Ukraine.


Q.So is Russia's concern over Ukraine more cultural than ideological?

A. My point is that there is a long history and cultural identity between Russia and Ukraine. They are, if you will, Slavic brothers. That’s the context, and so Russia’s immediate concern is Ukraine’s orientation. Is Ukraine going to remain roughly within Russian orbit? Will it be a country where Russia’s business community has important influence? Will Russia be able to count on their support in foreign policy and regional projects? Or is Ukraine going to defect to the West and become part of the E.U. and maybe even NATO, which Russia continues to define as an adversary? Now that everything has collapsed, I believe we are in what I call a new Russia-West Cold War.


Q. How would you characterize this new Cold War?

A. Obviously it’s very different from the first one. The original Cold War was universal in the sense that it dominated the entire international system. This time, China won’t be a part of it. Nor will India. And it won’t have the same kind of ideological basis of capitalism versus communism. Certainly, one hopes that it won’t also be under the continuous dark shadow of the threat of nuclear war.

However there are still similar characteristics, which is why I think people are wrong to dismiss the current tensions among Russia, NATO, and the United States. The old Cold War was very serious and this one will be too. The reason I call it a Cold War is not just because the consequences are serious, but because the tendency of each party is to see problems as a result of the nature of the other side. And while there may continue to be brief moments of cooperation, the relationship between Russia and the West is no longer ambiguous. Each side sees the other as an adversary.


Q. Is Vladimir Putin a 21st Century dictator?

A. Well I would say that Putin has gone in an increasingly authoritarian direction. The Russian political system itself is certainly more autocratic than it is democratic, but it’s not a dictatorship in the same way the Soviet Union was. Putin is not Stalin or Hitler, but he is scarcely a Jeffersonian democrat. He claims the system remains democratic, but I think very few people, especially those who would like to organize effective political parties or enjoy completely free press, would agree. However it is a projection of our imagination for us to assume that he is determined to hang onto power in the most dictatorial fashion and aggressively reconstitute what used to be the Soviet Union. That’s not who Putin is.


Q. What's the possibility of a full Russian invasion into Ukraine?

A. Well, it’s not that Putin has a plan that ends with a Russian invasion and seizure of Ukraine. But what he does, in my view, will be determined by unpredictable events. That's why this thing is so dangerous. We don't know what's going to happen next in Eastern Ukraine. Right now pro-Russian forces have seized many Ukrainian towns and are trying to control them. It's uncertain whether military clashes will escalate. The next uncertainty is what happens in Donetsk, where they evidently intend to hold a referendum on May 11th.

It's not clear what the outcome of the vote will be. Will there be demand for substantial autonomy within a federalized Ukraine, or will there be an effort to annex the Donetsk region to Russia? If it is the the latter (and it could certainly be a controlled election) then what will the Russians do? And if there is escalating violence, and we've seen it now spread to Odessa, the Russians have said they would have to protect Russians in Eastern Ukraine. If they start doing that, even with partial military efforts, what happens if the Ukrainian military responds? Or if this situation spirals upwards into a full-blown civil war and the Russians become fully involved, what will NATO and the U.S. do? This situation is so dangerous because, as you can see, it's so unpredictable.


About the Author

A business enthusiast and biography buff, Nick Antoine holds an A.B. in History from Princeton University and is currently a research associate for a financial firm in the Chicago area. He is the founder of graham + west, a blog that presents insights into American culture through highlights from interviews with leading authorities in business, art, science, sports, and politics. You can visit his site at


UserpicGaga over Gugu
Posted by Kam Williams

Gugu Mbatha-Raw
The “Belle” Interview
with Kam Williams

Born in Oxford, England on June 30, 1983, Gugu Mbatha-Raw trained at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London. Her first professional role was as Celia in an open air production of Shakespeare’s As You Like It. Gugu subsequently landed roles at Manchester’s Royal Exchange Theatre where she performed the title roles of Cleopatra in Antony and Cleopatra and Juliet in Romeo and Juliet, the latter opposite Andrew “Spider-Man” Garfield.

Her other stage credits include the critically-acclaimed Big White Fog at the Almeida Theatre and David Hare’s Gethsemane, a production at the National Theatre that later toured the UK. Gugu made her West End debut as Ophelia in Hamlet opposite Jude Law, which was brought across the pond to Broadway in 2009 where it became a  big hit at the Broadhurst Theatre.

Her television credits include “MI-5,” “Dr. Who,” “Spooks,” “Marple: Ordeal by Innocence,” “Bonekickers” and “Fallout.”  In 2008, she was selected as a ‘Star of Tomorrow’ by the showbiz industry magazine Screen International. A couple of years later, Gugu starred as Samantha Bloom in the NBC-TV series, “Undercovers,” for which she was nominated for an NAACP award for in the Best Actress in a Television Series category.

On the big screen, she found her first major feature film work in Larry Crowne, directed by Tom Hanks and co-starring Julia Roberts, followed by Odd Thomas alongside Willem Dafoe. She also recently finished filming Jupiter Ascending with Channing Tatum and Mila Kunis.

Here, Gugu, who divides her time between L.A. and London, talks about playing the title character in Belle, a biopic about Dido Elizabeth Belle (1761-1804), the orphaned offspring of an African slave and a British ship captain who was raised in England by her father’s rich relations.



Kam Williams: Hi Gugu, thanks for the interview. I’m honored to have this opportunity.

Gugu Mbatha-Raw: Thank you, Kam.


KW: I loved the film. Have you read my review yet?  

GMR: No, I haven’t seen it. I always get a little bit scared reading reviews, but I’m sure I’ll read it at some point. [Laughs]


KW: I have a lot of questions for you for you from fans. Children’s book author Irene Smalls asks: What interested you in the film and how did you feel about the idea of playing Dido Belle?

GMR: There were so many wonderful things that drew me to this project. First and foremost, the historical elements, the fact that this character really existed and that the script was inspired by a real painting. That was fascinating to me because, as a biracial girl growing up in England, I’d never really seen any historical characters who looked like me depicted on film before that weren’t being brutalized or playing slaves. It was refreshing to know that there had been a biracial girl in the aristocracy. I felt that that was a perspective on history that had been so much overlooked, and a story that needed to be told. I was also drawn in by the romance, the beautiful love story at the core of the drama, having grown up with Jane Austen’s classics like “Pride and Prejudice” and “Sense and Sensibility.” I just thought that would be a fascinating period to explore. And besides being a period drama, we have so many contemporary themes in this film, such as race and class and gender and identity which, as is shown in the news nowadays, are still issues we’re struggling with daily. So, I felt that Belle had a wonderful number of layers that made it a fascinating project.


KW: Environmental activist Grace Sinden asks: Is the prejudice we see in Belle at all relatable in today’s more enlightened times?

GMR: Yeah, I think Belle is incredibly relatable, not only insofar as the issue of race, which is probably, on the surface, the most obvious one, but also in terms of the ambiguity and nuances of racism. After all, Belle’s position was ambiguous. She was the daughter of a slave, but her father was in the aristocracy. I think that affords us the opportunity to explore those gray areas, the little slip-ups and subtle comments that are made in society. To me, that’s very contemporary, as is the issue of identity. I think, irrespective of your race, everybody has moments in life where they don’t fit in, or where they try to puzzle through who they really are or to find the courage of their convictions. I think this story really is about finding the courage to be your true self. And I think that is an eternal, universal theme, and a very inspiring one. So, yes, Grace, there’s a lot of contemporary stuff in the film, despite its being set in the 18th Century.   


KW: Grace has a follow-up: What research did you do in preparation for this role? Did you study 18th Century history to become more familiar with the culture of the period in which Belle is set, or did the screenplay supply sufficient background information? 

GMR: For me, the script was definitely the starting point, because, although it was inspired by a true story and historical fact, the way I often connect with a character is on a human emotional level, and this script had those subtleties and nuances to it. Because I had grown up with Jane Austen novels and period dramas, I was very familiar with that period and that world already. On a personal level, I took some piano lessons and I listened to music of the period, like Handel, which helped me appreciate the elegance and sumptuousness of that style. And the cast also took some etiquette classes with Amma [director Amma Asante] to help us understand the bows, the curtseys and the manners of the time, which was really fascinating. I also spoke with Amma about Dido’s trajectory, her growing from this naïve, quiet and quite accepting girl into a strong woman with political and romantic awakenings. For me, working with Amma was very rewarding, because she had done a tremendous amount of research. There were a lot of documents which she had sourced which provided context for the story. So, like I said, the script was the starting point, and we leapt off from there into the characters’ relationships.   


KW: What message do you think people will take away from Belle?

GMR: I really hope people will be inspired by the history of it, and the fact that it’s a true story. The message, for me, at its core, really, is “Be who you are!” Don’t worry about society’s conditioning and the labels that are put on you by external forces. Hold onto your true self. The journey that Dido goes on is about learning to be comfortable in her own skin. I think that’s an inspiring message that we always need to be reminded of in today’s image-obsessed world.  


KW: Harriet Pakula-Teweles asks: Given your being biracial, was this an especially emotionally-demanding role?

GMR: Well, it’s an emotional story and I try to put myself into whatever character I play. Obviously, this film is about race and identity, and I am biracial everyday. [Laughs] Yes, Harriet, it was fun to explore those themes, especially the identity theme which is very contemporary. And yeah, it was an emotional experience, because it’s essentially an emotional journey that Dido goes on, from her moments of self-harming, despair and frustration. And that starting point really gave us somewhere to go in terms of her becoming comfortable in her own skin and developing the confidence to stand up for herself. So, yes, it was a very, very emotional experience. But that’s what I respond to in any role, the human condition and the human connection.


KW: Editor/Legist Patricia Turnier asks: Did you feel any pressure to do justice to Belle?

GMR: Absolutely! Because I had never played a real person before and since this was an incredibly refreshing tale to me. Even though there wasn’t much evidence about Dido, factually, I felt this was a terrific opportunity to shed light on a period of history that has somewhat been overlooked and certainly has never been seen from this perspective before. A woman of color… in the lead… of a period drama… [Laughs] And she’s not a slave… she’s not being brutalized… She’s being brought up as an heiress in a genteel society, at least one that’s seemingly genteel on the surface. To me, that that was just such an inspiring new perspective. And because it was based on historical fact, I did feel a responsibility to make Dido as much of a living, breathing human being as possible, first and foremost.


KW: Lisa Loving asks: Do you see Belle as part of an emerging trend of historical films revisiting the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade from a fresh perspective?

GMR: I hope so. I think that what makes Belle unique and different from recent films about the slave experience in the United States is that this one is about the British perspective. And not just the British perspective, but also a female perspective. I think there are so many more stories to be told surrounding this period of history and the legacy of the slave trade. It feels wonderful to be a part of a canon of films exploring this issue. I only hope that it opens the doorway for more stories to be told like this, so that we can celebrate our heritage and history.


KW: Attorney Bernadette Beekman asks: Do you recall your initial reaction years ago when you first saw the postcard of the painting which inspired the script?

GMR: Yes! When I saw the postcard, I was intrigued by Dido, because she had such a light in her eyes, and such a mischievous, almost vivacious gaze. My reaction was, “Wow! This girl really looks like she’s got a personality,” unlike other persons of color in period portraits who were usually depicted in those days as an ornament or to signify the status of their white counterpart. They’d be positioned almost like a pet in the painting. By contrast, Dido seemed to have so much life about her. That was what attracted me to her as a person to play. But it was only after shooting the film that myself and Sarah Gadon, who plays [Dido’s cousin] Elizabeth [the other subject of the portrait] got to see the real painting in the flesh which was a magical experience after having spent all that time staring at the postcard and inhabiting the character. So, to see the actual painting was very special.


KW: Bernadette also asks: How do you define yourself as a performer, given that you’ve done stage, TV, film, and even radio?


GMR: Well, I try not to limit myself. The actors that inspire me are the comedians and the people able to shape-shift into different roles and into different media. That ensures your longevity as an artist and prevents you from getting bored with yourself and, hopefully, prevents people from getting bored with you. [LOL] So, for me, it’s about variety and working with inspiring, creative people. I try not to define myself. Other people are going to do that for you anyway. [Laughs some more] I like being free to take on any project that inspires me and to trust that the work will speak for itself.  


KW: Lastly, Bernadette would like to know whether you ever worked with a female director before Amma Asante.

GMR: Amma Asante is a unique person in several regards, independent of being male or female. I think I might have worked with a couple of female directors in television, but never before with one on film. Amma is incredibly talented, incredibly articulate, and had such a crystal clear vision from the outset of this world we were creating. She was very inspiring! She has a lot of heart, and was very detailed in her directions and notes. I loved working with her and, being a woman, she obviously put a lot of herself into this interpretation. And Belle not only had a female director, but a female scriptwriter and even a female composer. I believe having a female point-of-view was wonderful for such a female-centric story being told in a voice that hadn’t been heard before. So, I am hopeful that this will open the door for more female-driven films. 


KW: Larry Greenberg asks: What kind of direction did Amma Asante give you about Dido Belle's relationship with Lady Elizabeth Murray?

GMR: This is something that Amma was very passionate about. Even though they were only cousins biologically, they were nevertheless very much a sisterhood. I know that Amma herself has a sister she’s very close to, and the intensity of sisterhood was something she very much wanted to explore in the film, not only because the starting point was the painting where they are depicted in such an intimate way with a feeling of affection, but also because of a desire to create a Jane Austen “Sense and Sensibility” dynamic in exploring the depth of that bond. Consider the scene where they have a fierce argument and are saying the most horrible things to each other. I think you can only really explore in that fashion with intimate family. So, yes, Amma was constantly nurturing us to create a sisterhood bond, and Sarah Gadon is such a fun and lovely actress to work with that it was pretty easy to achieve. And we’re the best of friends now.    


KW: Sweet! I’m glad I mentioned Jane Austen in my review. I must have picked up on what Amma was going for.

GMR: Absolutely! That world of Jane Austen was definitely an inspiration to Amma and to myself as well.


KW: Thanks again for the time, Gugu, and best of luck with Belle.

GMR: Thank you very much, Kam. Bye!

To see a trailer for Belle, visit 


UserpicEmma Stone (INTERVIEW)
Posted by Kam Williams

Emma Stone

The “Spider-Man 2” Interview

with Kam Williams


Spidey’s Flawless Stone

Emily Jean Stone was born on November 6, 1988 in Scottsdale, Arizona where she started acting at an early age. With her striking beauty and sincere talent, the Golden Globe-nominated actress (for Easy A) has claimed her place as one of Hollywood’s most sought after actresses.

She recently wrapped filming a still untitled Cameron Crowe project opposite Bradley Cooper and Alec Baldwin which will be released on Christmas Day 2014. She also finished shooting the Woody Allen film Magic in the Moonlight in which she stars opposite Collin Firth, set for release later this year, too.

Besides The Amazing Spider-Man 2, Emma will soon be seen in the dark comedy Birdman, starring opposite Zack Galifinakis, Michael Keaton and Edward Norton. Previously, she lent her voice to the hit animated film, The Croods. And she will soon reprise her role as the voice of Eep for the sequel, which will hit theaters in July of 2017.

Emma’s additional film credits include the period drama Gangster Squad; Easy A, the award-winning drama The Help;the romantic comedy Crazy, Stupid, Love; Friends with Benefits; Paperman; the animated comedy, Marmaduke; Zombieland; the romantic comedy Ghosts of Girlfriends Past; The House Bunny; The Rocker; and the ensemble comedy Superbad.


When not filming, Emma is an advocate for Stand Up To Cancer (SU2C), a groundbreaking initiative created to accelerate innovative cancer research that will get new therapies to patients quickly and save lives now. Laura Ziskin, the late producer of The Amazing Spider-Man, started the organization and got Emma involved.

In addition to SU2C, Stone is also an ambassador for Gilda’s Club New York City. Named for Gilda Radner, the late comedian and original cast member of SNL, Gilda’s Club offers a place where people dealing with cancer can join together to build social and emotional support. Stone has become an active member in the Gilda’s Club community and continues to do so by engaging with their younger departments for children and teens.

Here, she talks about her latest movie, Spider-Man 2, where she reprises her role as Spider-Man’s love interest Gwen Stacy.


Kam Williams: Hi Emma, thanks for the interview. I’m honored to have this opportunity to speak with you.

Emma Stone: Oh, thank you, Kam!


KW: I’ve admired your versatility and so much of your work, from Superbad to Zombieland to Easy A to Crazy, Stupid, Love to The Help to Gangster Squad to Spider-Man.

ES: Thanks.


KW: Now, I have a lot of questions for you from fans which I’m going to mix in with my own. Editor/Legist Patricia Turnier would like to know how it was reuniting with the cast and crew to do Spider-Man 2.

ES: It was so great! I had never worked with the same cast and crew twice in a row before. So, I had a really good time. We had a nice rapport and trust among all of us, and with the new cast members as well, like Dane [DeHaan] and Jamie [Foxx]. It was a blast!


KW: Patricia also asks: Are you at all like Gwen? 

ES: In some ways, yes, since I find things about myself that can relate to every character that I’ve played. So, yeah. But in other ways, maybe not as much. [Laughs]


KW: Harriet Pakula-Teweles asks: What’s the difference between a screen romance with a super-hero and one with an ordinary leading man?

ES: Well, I think Peter Parker in some ways is both because he’s a regular high school student, now college student, who happens to have this other life as Spider-Man. It’s sort of one and the same and this point. They’re pretty symbiotic. They’re inseparable!


KW: Harriet also asks: With so many classic films being redone, is there a remake you'd like to star in?

ES: No, not one I could think of off the top of my head. If there’s a classic I’m tempted to redo, it’s because I loved the original so much. But I wouldn’t really want to mess with it.


KW: Lisa Loving asks: Did you ever wish you had a superpower in the film, considering the fact that several other characters did? Or were you happy not to, since superheroes and villains tend to be jerkier than normal people?

ES: I feel like Gwen’s mind, her intelligence is her superpower, and her heart, too. I think if there’s any superpower I’d want her to have it would be invisibility, so she could advise Spider-Man while remaining unseen, and not get so swept up into his antics.


KW: Environmental activist Grace Sinden asks: How different was acting in Spider-Man 2 for you from the original, and is Spider-Man 3 in the works?  

ES: I know Spider-Man 3 is in the works. They’re already working on it now. Spider-Man 2 was different in the sense that the original was kind of just setting the table of the story while the second movie was sort of getting into the feast. So, it felt like we were all finding our footing on the first movie and getting to know each other and what kind of story we wanted to tell in our version of Spider-Man. Now, in the second one, we knew what the tone was, so we were able to dive deeper into the real heart and meat of the story.


KW: Grace also says: Watching a panel discussion you were on about the Spider-Man costumes, I heard that you are opposed to gender stereotypes. Is that the case?

ES: [Chuckles] It’s interesting how that whole conversation, which was just a simple conversation, has become a big deal. No, I don’t really believe in gender stereotyping, but I was genuinely just asking for a clarification of the definition of it in that circumstance.   


KW: A lotta guys didn’t exactly send in questions, but asked for dates or just went on about you, like Gil Cretney who said: “Love that girl!” and Richie the Intern who gushed: “She’s really attractive!”

ES: [Giggles] That’s nice!


KW: Obama biographer Dinesh Sharma asks: Why did you recently refer to yourself as a “bland, basic bitch” in Vogue?

ES: [LOL] Because that was a comment I read about me once, and I thought it was kind of funny.


KW: Attorney Bernadette Beekman asks: Who was your favorite superhero growing up?
ES: I loved the Tim Burton Batman movies, so I’d have to say Michael Keaton. I also enjoyed Beetlejuice, so I guess Michael Keaton characters were my superheroes.


KW: Bernadette also asks: Is there someone who does superhuman things in real life that you admire?

ES: Lot’s of people! Anyone who’s making a huge impact or speaking out about what they believe in or who’s brave enough to be themselves is a superhero to me.


KW: Pat says: I love the character Pippi Longstocking.  Would you consider playing her onscreen? I think you would be perfect for the part.

ES: Well that’s very nice of you to say, Pat. Of course I would!


KW: The Ling-Ju Yen question: What is your earliest childhood memory?

ES: Hmm… That’s a good question. [Pauses to reflect] I don’t really have one that I revisit. It’s kind of a haze of memories of the first house my family lived in, like being in the living room and the bedroom at about 2 or 3 maybe. But I don’t really remember anything too vividly.


KW: What is your favorite dish to cook?

ES: I like to bake, but I haven’t gotten all that great at cooking. So, pasta is usually my “go to” dish. I’m really good at making Kraft macaroni and cheese. [Chuckles]


KW: Do you spice it up, or just follow the instructions on the box?

ES: I don’t use any milk, but I add too much butter for human consumption. It’s pretty damn good! It’s my dad’s college recipe. He ate it every day for a year.


KW: The Uduak Oduok question: Who is your favorite clothes designer?

ES: I don’t really have one favorite. I have a few.


KW: The bookworm Troy Johnson question: What was the last book you read?

ES: I just finished re-reading The Four Agreements.   

I’m reading Lolita now for the first time. 

And I’m trying to get back into The Goldfinch. I started reading it, but put it down after about 150 pages. I’m going to try to finish it, because people seem to really love that book.


KW: The music maven Heather Covington question: What was the last song you listened to? 

ES: “Cigarettes and Coffee” by Otis Redding.


KW: If you could have one wish instantly granted, what would that be for?

ES: I’d wish for an infinite amount of wishes. 


KW: Is there any question no one ever asks you, that you wish someone would?

ES: I don’t know. That’s a good question. I’d have to think about it. [Chuckles]


KW: When you look in the mirror, what do you see?

ES: My face.


KW: The Anthony Mackie question: Isthere anything that you promised yourself you’d do when you became famous, that you still haven’t done yet?

ES: No, because I never thought it was going to become a reality. It’s all been pretty nuts!


KW: Thanks again for the time, Emma, and best of luck with the film.

ES: Thank you very, very much, Kam. It wasnice to talk with you.

To see a trailer for Spider-Man 2, visit:


UserpicTaraji P. Henson (INTERVIEW)
Posted by Kam Williams

Taraji P. Henson

The “From the Rough” Interview

with Kam Williams


You Gotta See Taraji!

Taraji P. Henson earned an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress opposite Brad Pitt in David Fincher’s THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON. She is a 2011 Emmy-nominee for Best Actress in a Movie or Miniseries for Lifetime’s TAKEN FROM ME. Taraji also starred as Detective Joss Carter in the highly-rated CBS crime drama PERSON OF INTEREST. She was a series regular on BOSTON LEGAL and enjoyed a recurring role on ELI STONE

On the big screen, she starred in the #1 box office hit THINK LIKE A MAN, as well as in its upcoming sequel, THINK LIKE A MAN, TOO. And in September, she’ll be starring opposite Idris Elba in NO GOOD DEED.

Taraji’s additional credits include LARRY CROWNE, THE KARATE KID, DATE NIGHT, I CAN DO BAD ALL BY MYSELF, PEEP WORLD, THE GOOD DOCTOR, SOMETHING NEW, NOT EASILY BROKEN, HURRICANE SEASON, THE FAMILY THAT PREYS SMOKIN’ ACES and ONCE FALLEN. In addition, she received rave reviews for her work in TALK TO ME and HUSTLE & FLOW, making her singing debut performing the Academy Award-winning song “It’s Hard out Here for a Pimp” on the Oscar telecast.

Taraji is well remembered for her role as Yvette opposite Tyrese in BABY BOY, and collaborated with director John Singleton a third time on FOUR BROTHERS. Plus, she was featured in Jamie Foxx’s music video “Just Like Me” and also appeared in Estelle’s “Pretty Please.”

Born and raised in Washington, DC, the Howard University graduate resides in Los Angeles with her son, Marcel. She dedicates much of her spare time to helping disabled and less fortunate children.

Here, she talks about her new film, FROM THE ROUGH, an inspirational biopic where she portrays Catana Starks, the African-American trailblazer who became the first female to coach an NCAA Division-1 men’s team when she accepted the reins of the golf squad at Tennessee State.  


Kam Williams: Hi Taraji, thanks for the interview.

Taraji P. Henson: Oh, no worries, Kam.


KW: What interested you in this film?

TPH: Well, first of all, I’d never seen a movie about a female coach before, outside of that Goldie Hawn comedy from years ago, Wildcats. And I had certainly never seen an African-American woman portrayed this way in a drama. That was the first thing that interested me. Then, when I read the script, I went, “Wow! What an amazing story!” She had all the odds stacked against her, yet she and her team won. And it was all because of the tenacity and belief and passion that she instilled in her players.      


KW: I had never heard of Catana Starks before seeing this film. Why do you think she’s so unheralded?

TPH: Honestly, I don’t know. Maybe, because she didn’t coach at an Ivy League or big name school, but at an historically-black university. That’s another reason why I did the film. I felt the world needed to know about this woman, which is what we’re trying to do now.  


KW: Editor/Legist Patricia Turnier asks: Are you an athletic person?  In other words, what are the similarities and differences between you and Catana Starks?

TPH: [Chuckles] I’m not really an athlete, though I’m quite capable of playing one on TV or film. [LOL] I’ve been to the driving range, and I do have good hand-eye coordination, but that’s about it. I’m not going to try to play basketball.


KW: Patricia also asks:What does Catana Starks mean to you and how did you prepare for the role?
TPH: She means the world to me, because she proved that you can accomplish anything in life as long as you believe, have faith and work hard. How did I prepare for the role? I spent a lot of time at the driving range and talking to Dr. Starks before filming. Because she wasn’t a recognizable figure, I wasn’t worried about walking or sounding like her, I just wanted to bring her essence to life. And that’s all she was concerned about too.    


KW: Has she seen the film? What did she think of it?

TPH: Yes she has, and I think she’s quite happy about it.


KW: Patricia closes by saying: I really enjoyed your performance and your character, Lauren, in Think like a Man. I can't wait to see Think like a Man Too this summer. Is there anything you can share about the sequel without spoiling it?
TPH: We go to Vegas, and one of the couples is getting married, but I can’t say who it is. It is hilarious! Some people say it’s funnier than the first one. But you be the judge, Patricia.


KW: Environmental activist Grace Sinden says: You've had a successful career in movies and television. What aspect of your work has given you the greatest satisfaction?

TPH: What gives me the greatest satisfaction is the number of people I can affect with my gift, with what I do. That’s the most important thing to me, more important than any trophy or award. 


KW: Grace has a follow-up. Do you want your son to have a life in show business?

TPH: I want him to find his own passion, whatever that is. I just want him to be happy and successful in whatever he decides to do.


KW: Robin Beckham of PittsburghUrbanMedia says: It was recently reported that Jaden Smith and Jackie Chan are making a sequel to Karate Kid. Will you be rejoining the cast as Jaden’s mother?

TPH: I hope so, if that rumor’s true.


KW: Harriet Pakula-Teweles says:I'm really sorry you got killed off on the TV show Person of Interest. You work with ease in movies, music and TV. Which of these media is your favorite and how does it best show your talents?

TPH: I would have to say movies are my favorite. I love doing TV, too, but it’s always rush, rush, rush. With a feature film, those moments and scenes get a chance to breathe, because you don’t have to accomplish as much in one day.


KW: Documentary filmmaker/professor and author Hisani Dubose says: Not many African-American actors have the juice to greenlight a project. She’s wondering whether you are in a position to get a project that you like greenlighted? 

TPH: I’m getting there. Hopefully, the success of From the Rough will help, because you first have to prove that you’re bankable at the box office, before you can greenlight anything. So, I hope to have that kind of leverage after this film.


KW: Could you say something controversial that would get this interview tweeted?

TPH: I don’t know. I could say a lot of things.



KW: When I asked Marlon Wayans that, he said, “Yeah, I could, but it might end my career.”

TPH: Yeah, totally. [Chuckles]


KW: The Sanaa Lathan question: What excites you?

TPH: Life! Just waking up everyday, and having another chance to get it right.


KW: The bookworm Troy Johnson question: What was the last book you read?

TPH: “I Declare” by Joel Osteen.


KW: The Kerry Washington question: If you were an animal, what animal would you be?

TPH: Probably a bird. I like anything with feathers that can fly.


KW: The Anthony Anderson question: If you could have a superpower, which one would you choose?

TPH: I think I’d like to be able to control the weather, like Storm [the character from the X-Men]. 


KW: The Anthony Mackie question: Isthere anything that you promised yourself you’d do if you became famous, that you still haven’t done yet?

TPH: Yes, visit Africa. I haven’t done that yet. 


KW: Attorney Bernadette Beekman asks: What is your favorite charity?

TPH: A charity that my best friend since 7th grade started called Art Creates Life. [ ] She raises money to take inner-city children to Africa. Isn’t that crazy? I donate and I support that organization, but I’ve never been to Africa myself. I’ve sent a lot of kids there, though.


KW: That’s funny! The Melissa Harris-Perry question:How did your first big heartbreak impact who you are as a person?

TPH: It proved to me that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.


KW: The Viola Davis question: What’s the biggest difference between who you are at home as opposed to the person we see on the red carpet?

TPH: I’m pretty much the same. I’m consistent. There aren’t two me’s. There is only one me. I can only be myself, and that’s who I always am whether I’m at home or on the carpet.


KW: Thanks again for the time, Taraji. I really appreciate it. Good luck with the film.

TPH: Thank you so much, Kam.

To see a trailer for From the Rough, visit:     


UserpicKen Burns (INTERVIEW)
Posted by Kam Williams

Ken Burns
“The Address” Interview
with Kam Williams

Gettysburg Revisited!


Ken Burns has been making documentary films for more than 30 years. Since the Academy Award-nominated BROOKLYN BRIDGE in 1981, he has gone on to direct and produce some of the most acclaimed historical documentaries ever made.


Burns was the director, producer, co-writer, chief cinematographer, music director and executive producer of the landmark television series THE CIVIL WAR. This film was the highest-rated series in the history of American public television, prior to BASEBALL, and attracted an audience of 40 million during its premiere in September 1990.


The New York Times called it a masterpiece and said that Burns “takes his place as the most accomplished documentary filmmaker of his generation.” Tom Shales of The Washington Post wrote, “This is not just good television, nor even just great television. This is heroic television.”


The columnist George Will said, “If better use has ever been made of television, I have not seen it and do not expect to see better until Ken Burns turns his prodigious talents to his next project.” The series has been honored with more than 40 major film and television awards, including two Emmy Awards, two Grammy Awards, a Producer of the Year Award from the Producers Guild, a People’s Choice Award, a Peabody Award, a duPont-Columbia Award, a D.W. Griffiths Award and the $50,000 Lincoln Prize, among dozens of others.


Some of Burns’s other films include THE CENTRAL PARK FIVE (2013), THE DUST BOWL (2012), PROHIBITION (2011), THE NATIONAL PARKS: AMERICA’S BEST IDEA (2009), THE WAR (2007), co-directed with Lynn Novick, JAZZ (2001), LEWIS AND CLARK: THE JOURNEY OF THE CORPS OF DISCOVERY (1997), and BASEBALL (1994).


Burns was born in Brooklyn, New York on July, 29 1953, and graduated from Hampshire College in Amherst, Massachusetts in 1975. Here, he talks about his latest film, THE ADDRESS, a current-day documentary chronicling the herculean effort by students at a school for boys with severe learning disabilities to memorize the Gettysburg Address in order to recite it at an assembly of parents, friends and teachers.     



Kam Williams: Hi Ken, thanks for another interview. Like last time, I’ll be mixing in question from readers with my own.

Ken Burns: Fine, fire away, Kam.


KW: What was the source of inspiration for The Address?

KB: I live in Walpole, New Hampshire and, for the past 35 years, made all the films there. And across the Connecticut River, which divides New Hampshire from Vermont, is the tiny town of Putney. Over a decade ago, the Greenwood School, which is located there, invited me to be a judge in their annual contest judging the recitation of the Gettysburg Address. I just wept at the fortitude and inspiration that these boys and their struggles represent.


KW: The movie made me cry.

KB: It made me cry, too, just the other day when we had the premiere in Brattleboro which is the quote-unquote “Big City” nearby, with a population of maybe 8,000 people. I kept saying, “Somebody else should be making this movie. This is cinema verite, not the kind of thing that I do.” But I came back each year as my schedule permitted, and the more I came back, the more I felt that I just had to put my money where my mouth is and just do it. So, we embedded for abut three months, and it was a life-changing experience to watch these kids undergo their own life-changing experience. And then we had the idea to share it and say, “Hey, everybody can memorize the Gettysburg Address.” If you go to, you’ll find all the living presidents reciting it, as well as a lot of other figures in government, in the media and in Hollywood. And thousands of citizens and school kids from all over have memorized it... Alabama… Utah… Hawaii… from all around. It’s really wonderful!


That’s what the tears are for, from seeing the faculty lovingly teach and take care of these kids while the boys also assist each other. Each child has his own limitation, but that doesn’t stop them from trying to help each other. Seeing them overcome them makes our day-to-day problems seem kind of puny. Then, of course, this is all set against the context and backdrop of arguably the greatest speech every given in the English language, one that was doubling-down on the Declaration of Independence, the 2.0 version of it. And we haven’t had a new version since. It’s the one we still operate on today. Lincoln needed to write the 2.0 version, because Jefferson’s 1.0 had that inherent contradiction of tolerating slavery while proclaiming that all men are created equal. Jefferson himself was a slave owner. I think what the Gettysburg Address does is yank us into the future, however painful the moment might be, while commemorating the dead in the greatest battle on American soil.


KW: Your film has certainly inspired me to memorize it.

KB: I want you to. I’d love you to add your recitation to the website. You’ll feel so great. It’ll be very moving. A lot of people have broken down during their first attempt to record it because of the sheer emotion and power of the words. Just today, I was asked to recite it on camera by a reporter, and I was moved to tears not by my accomplishment but by my trying to invest those words with some meaning.    


KW: Environmental activist Grace Sinden asks: What is it about the Gettysburg Address that makes it stand out to you as one of nation's most powerful and memorable speeches?

KB: There are no proper nouns… It’s really short… It’s presidential poetry… Lincoln uses the word “here” many, many times. He moves it around in an attempt to rivet you to the place to make you appreciate what it is. And yet, with “Four score and seven years ago” he’s acknowledging the past, meaning the Declaration of Independence. He’s telling you where we are, “We’re engaged in a great Civil War,” but he’s also pushing us forward, saying we could have a new birth of freedom, and we did, just as we did at the first anniversary of 9/11 when among the very few speeches delivered was the Gettysburg Address, as if the words were medicine, which is precisely what they were.       


KW: Grace also asks: Do you think that the children who had to memorize the Gettysburg Address really understood the underlying issue of slavery and the necessity of the Civil War to keep our nation together? 

KB: Yes, Grace. I think you’ll see this quite clearly in the dynamics in the classroom in the film as it unfolds. Two of the youngest students, Kevin and Geo, have one of the most sophisticated conversations I’ve ever heard by kids that young about secession and slavery. It’s very clear that they’ve used the Address as a tool not only to overcome the difficulties of whatever diagnosis they have… dyslexia… executive function… dysgraphia… ADHD… the whole alphabet soup of stuff, but it’s a way to bind together their entire educational experience… History… English… Remedial Class… I have no doubt in my mind that, all across the board, the Gettysburg Address takes up a lot of space and gives a lot of meaning for a tiny speech. Then I learned that the school had never been to Gettysburg in its 35-year history. So, I built into my budget the renting of a bus and hotel rooms for the entire school, and I gave them a tour of the battlefield for an entire day.  


KW: I don’t remember the film mentioning that the school had never visited Gettysburg before?

KB: No, I left that out. I didn’t want to toot my own horn. We took them there as a kind of epilogue.


KW: Editor/Legist Patricia Turnier asks: Can you share the students’ sentiments when they accomplished the goal of mastering the speech?

KB: There was a wide range of reactions. For some, it was relief. Many of the boys knew the speech cold, but only felt comfortable reciting it in front of a couple people. The notion of saying it in front of an audience of 250 was terrifying In fact, some of them had issues connected to anxiety and what’s called executive function. So, there was often a release, followed by a sense of accomplishment. There was great pride and joy. Sometimes, there was the utmost confidence. One boy read it with such passion that I think all of us in attendance cried because he had imbued it with so much meaning, as I think you and your readers will feel as you take on this task. If you tape it up next to your mirror, where you can see it every morning, you might curse me for a few days until you get it. But then, it’ll be on your hard drive permanently and a source of great benefaction and meaning for the rest of your life. You’ll have both your own unique response to the Address and at the same time it will bind you to everybody else.        


KW: Patricia also asks: What is the most important thing you learned from the kids?

KB: As the Greenwood School’s psychologist, Tom Ehrenberg says in the film, “We’re a country that thinks we celebrate individuality, but it really celebrates conformity.” And when we see different, other, we don’t deal with it. We just avert our eyes. And these kids have been bullied and marginalized and worse. They’ve been driven to schools like Greenwood as their last refuge of hope. What I found each boy taught me was the preciousness of each individual life. Each boy taught me how smart they actually were. Each boy taught me that perhaps it is unfair to apply the same general metrics to everybody. When you look at the boys that way, my heart was enlarged. I tell you, Kam, I already had four daughters, but I now feel like I have 50 adopted sons.      


KW: Patricia would like to know what Abraham Lincoln means to you.

KB: He’s the greatest president in our history. He was the guardian of our republic at its greatest crisis, our Civil War. Lincoln was there to guide the struggle, to take on the weight of it, to keep the country together, and to do it with such extraordinary charity that his goodness and thoughtfulness about who we were and what our potential was goes hand in hand with that melancholy and sense of moral outrage about slavery’s still existing in a country which had declared that all men are created equal. He had a sort of Old Testament fervor, as though he was throwing lightning bolts. I refer you to his second inaugural where he’ll turn around and then give you a kind of New Testament “sea of enveloping love” which reminds you of the much more important things in life than nations.         



KW: Harriet Pakula-Teweles asks: What are the essential ingredients for the recipe for a great documentary?

KB: I think it’s always a good story, a good story, a good story, first, second and third. The word “history,” which is what I do, is mostly made up of the word “story.” That’s what we’re responding to. We tell stories to each other all day long. That’s what we’re looking for when we say, “Honey, how was your day?” We edit and superimpose. What you’re looking for is the best of a good story that appeals on so many levels, as I think the story of the Greenwood School and these boys does. Yes, it’s about the Gettysburg Address, but it’s also about something that mirrors it in a very profound and human way. And I’m just grateful to be caught up in the whirlwind of the Greenwood School.


KW: Harriet also asks: Is there another series of yours that you'd like to revisit the way you did with Baseball when you did The 10th Inning?

KB: No, I’m very happy to be working on a big series about Theodore, Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt, another big series about the History of the War in Vietnam, and one on Country music, as well as biographies of Ernest Hemingway and Jackie Robinson. Baseball is the only one I want to keep coming back to. I hope there’s an 11th Inning and a 12th Inning down the line, God willing and funding willing.   


KW: Jim Cryan says: I really enjoyed Prohibition. Did making that documentary have any effect on your alcohol consumption?

KB: [LOL] I am periodically a teetotaler, Jim, but I definitely drank during the production just to offset the absurdity of the only Amendment to the Constitution that limits human freedom rather than enlarging it.


KW: Documentary filmmaker Kevin Williams asks: Why do the government archives in Europe charge money and a lot of it for archival footage and photographs, whereas our National Archives and Library of Congress do not? It is really disheartening for independent documentarians without big budgets. 

KB: I couldn’t agree with you more, Kevin, and all I can say is “God bless the United States of America!” These are the people’s archives, and so the people get free access to them.


KW: Lisa Loving asks: Have you ever dreamed of becoming a futurist?

KB: You know what, Lisa? The best indicator of the future is the past. If you don’t know where you’ve been, you can’t know where you are or where you’re going. You’ll find that people who understand history are the best futurists you can imagine. 


KW: Thanks again for the time, Ken, and best of luck with The Address and all your other projects.

KB: Thank you, Kam. Take care.

The Address premieres on PBS on Tuesday, April 15th @ 9 pm ET/PT (check local listings)

To see a trailer for The Address, visit:  

To learn more about the Gettysburg Address and to video record yourself reading or reciting it, visit:


UserpicWayans Weighs-In on HH2
Posted by Kam Williams

Marlon Wayans
“A Haunted House 2” Interview
with Kam Williams


Born in New York City on July 23, 1972, Marlon Wayans graduated from the High School of Performing Arts before matriculating at Howard University’s Film School. He started out in Hollywood on TV as a cast member of the Emmy Award-winning variety series, In Living Color. Next, Marlon created and starred in the hit sitcom The Wayans Bros.

Some of his other noteworthy screen credits include: The Ladykillers, Scary Movie, Scary Movie 2, Little Man, White Chicks, Norbit, Behind the Smile and Dance Flick. The versatile thespian also exhibited an impressive acting range while delivering a powerful performance as a drug addict in Requiem for a Dream.

More recently, Marlon starred opposite Channing Tatum in G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra. And last summer he appeared in The Heat, a blockbuster featuring Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy.

Here, he talks about his latest film, A Haunted House 2, a sequel spoofing the Paranormal Activity franchise.  


Kam Williams: Hi Marlon, thanks for another interview.

Marlon Wayans: You got it, bro.


KW: Why did you decide to make A Haunted House sequel?

MW: Because the audience really, really enjoyed the first one. And I also felt like I could find a nice, natural progression for my character, Malcolm. Plus, comedically, I knew I could match or exceed what we did in the original, and make a bigger, broader movie that could appeal to a wider audience just by making some adjustments and by adding a few pieces to the puzzle. One of those pieces was Gabriel Iglesias, and another one was Jaime Pressly.   


KW: Harriet Pakula-Teweles asks: How do you rev up a sequel so the faithful return for more while simultaneously enticing some newbies?

MW: I think you have to make sure you have a little bit of the old, while adding something knew. We kept Cedric the Entertainer, Affion Crockett and Essence Atkins and, like I said, we added Gabe and Jaime, and also Ashley Rickards. I think you have to stick with the integrity of the comedy or lack thereof, and keep in stride with the humor of the movie. I don’t believe you try to sell it out. Instead, you just keep your tone and your sense of humor, because that’s what they bought into the first time. It’s all about being authentic to whatever that movie is, and not reaching too hard. 


KW: Harriet also asks: Is there a remake of a classic film you'd like to star in?

MW: I’d love to redo Dirty Rotten Scoundrels.


KW: Paranormal facilitator Kate Newell asks: Have you had any paranormal experience in real life?

MW: No, I haven’t, but I wish I had.


KW: Children’s book author Irene Smalls asks: Is it important to you not to get killed off in the first five minutes, as so often happens to black actors in horror films?

MW: Yeah, it’s very important to me, being I’m a black actor, and I don’t want my black ass to die in the first five minutes.


KW: Irene has a follow-up. Is storytelling in the horror genre different from storytelling in a typical comedy?

MW: Yeah, it is. But this is more of a typical comedy, because it’s a horror comedy with parody moments. It’s not a parody-parody, but what is kind of parody-esque is the pacing of how we tell the jokes. I’m throwing out five jokes a page. But what I’m not doing is going, “Here is the location, and here’s what’s funny about it.” It’s kind of grounded in reality, and once it’s grounded, we take the ceiling off and go crazy places with the comedy.    


KW: Environmental activist Grace Sinden asks: What's the most difficult thing about your work? And what's the most fun, aside from making a successful movie?  

MW: It’s always fun. I love my job, man. There’s no greater job for me in the world. I was born to do this. I think the most difficult aspect of the job is not having much time off, or time to sleep, or time to just chill. Sometimes, fame can be a little hard.


KW: Larry Greenberg says: I have been working so much on my own films and other people’s projects that I haven't had time to make a reel. How important is it for a director to have a reel that highlights their work?

MW: I think it is pretty important because producers and studio heads need to see that before they’re going to take a chance on you. You always need a piece of wok that represents you, because no matter what you say your execution will be, people need to see you execute. So, a reel is very important.


KW: Could you say something controversial that would get this interview tweeted?

MW: Wow! Probably, but it might also ruin my career. [Chuckles]


KW: Have you ever had a near-death experience?

MW: Falling off a roof. I only fell one story, but I still saw my life flashing before my eyes.


KW: What is your guiltiest pleasure?

MW: My guiltiest pleasure would probably be coconut sorbet and wine.


KW: The Michael Ealy question: If you could meet any historical figure, who would it be?
MW: Jesus Christ.


KW: The Gabby Douglas question: If you had to choose another profession, what would that be?

MW: Probably a lawyer.


KW: The Viola Davis question: What’s the biggest difference between who you are at home as opposed to the person we see on the red carpet?

MW: None! What you see is exactly what you get. [Laughs]


KW: The Anthony Anderson question: If you could have a superpower, which one would you choose?

MW: The ability to bring people back to life.


KW: Attorney Bernadette Beekman asks: What is your favorite charity?

MW: The Wayans family. [LOL]


KW: The Judyth Piazza question: What key qualities do you believe all successful people share? 

MW: Hard work, a belief in themselves, and they never stop trying. A good work ethic is the greatest talent.


KW: Thanks again for the time, Marlon, and good luck with the film.

MW: Anytime, Kam. Thanks.

To see a trailer for A Haunted House 2, visit: 



UserpicBridget Moynahan (INTERVIEW)
Posted by Kam Williams

Bridget Moynahan
The “small time” Interview
with Kam Williams


Bridget’s Blue Blood!

Kathryn Bridget Moynahan was born in Binghamton, New York on April 28, 1971, though raised in Longmeadow, Massachusetts. The statuesque beauty was signed by the Ford Modeling Agency which led to a successful career as a cover girl on Glamour, Vogue and other leading magazines.

After adding acting to her repertoire, Bridget made a memorable feature film debut as Rachel in "Coyote Ugly." Much more than just a pretty face, the versatile thespian followed that breakout role with a string of powerful performances which established her as one of Hollywood's favorite leading ladies.

She has appeared in blockbusters opposite many of Hollywood's finest leading men, including Nicolas Cage in "Lord of War," Will Smith in "I, Robot," Colin Farrell in "The Recruit," John Cusack in "Serendipity," Greg Kinnear in "Unknown," Tim Robbins in "Noise" and Ben Affleck in "The Sum Of All Fears."

Among her many television roles, Bridget portrayed Carrie's rival and Mr. Big's wife on "Sex and The City." Today, she is best known for playing prosecutor Erin Reagan-Boyle on the nighttime drama Blue Bloods opposite Tom Selleck and Donnie Wahlberg.

Here, she talks about new film, “small time,” a coming-of-age drama co-starring Christopher Meloni, Devon Bostick and Dean Norris.


Kam Williams: Hi Bridget, thanks for the interview.

Bridget Moynahan: Great, Kam. How are you?


KW: Fine, thanks. I’m a big fan of “Blue Bloods.” Congratulations on the success of the series.

BM: Thanks. We’re all excited that it’s going into its fifth season. I, for one, have never worked on a show this long, so it’s kind of exciting.


KW: Despite the presence of so many stars in the cast, I’ve really come to almost believe you’re really one big family. Such great chemistry!

BM: Yeah, and I think that happened for all of us on day one. We were kind of introduced to each other right before a family dinner, and we had to jump right into it, and it all seemed to fall into place. It’s also unique to shoot the show right in the city [New York], since we all live here. It’s so different from being away on location when you’re away from your family and away from home. In that situation, the cast tends to spend more time with each other. Here, we all go home to our families after work every day, but when we come back, it’s almost like it’s an extension of our family life. 


KW: Environmental activist Grace Sinden asks: Did you got to court or have a lawyer as an acting coach in preparation to play a prosecutor?

BM: We do have a couple people we rely on to ensure that it’s as credible as possible. We’ve had two on set over the years that I’m able to consult speak to about how a situation might be handled, because we do want to make the show as honest and as accurate as possible. We do our best and I work with them often. For me, a lot of it is learning the language of lawyers, because they have many words I would not use in my everyday life.   


KW: Well, I’m an attorney, and I’ve always found this show not only more credible but more enjoyable than any of the other nighttime legal dramas.

BM: That’s a good sign. Thank you!


KW: Lisa Loving says: In so many of our local communities, the police are mistrusted and even despised. Yet we LOVE watching TV detectives! Do you ever think about that disconnect?

BM: I do, because I think that many forget that police officers are people with real lives. They struggle with the same things that you and I do. They might be behind on their mortgage. They might have a family member who’s sick. So, they’re dealing with all that stuff, while also putting their lives on the line everyday. For us! Many of us don’t pay attention to them until we get a ticket for speeding, running a light, or letting a parking meter run over. It makes you angry, but they’re just doing their job. I think people love watching our show because you get to see the human side of their lives, their personal struggles, and also how the job and certain cases might affect them. It encourages you to think about what they see on a daily basis and how that might affect them. I’m sure that something most people don’t ordinarily think about when interacting with a police officer.  


KW: I had fun watching “small time.” Editor/Legist Patricia Turnier would like to know what interested you in the film?

BM: I really like to try to do something on my hiatus, and it was really nice to find a script that was so well-written. The characters just popped of the pages, and Joel [director Joel Surnow] did a really fine job of casting those roles. I had been late in getting on the Breaking Bad bandwagon, so I was unaware of Dean Norris’ role in that until literally six months ago. I’m kinda bummed that I didn’t know more about him at the time of the filming, because I’m now such a huge fan of the show. As far as ‘small time,” I was thrilled to be able to do that project. I recently saw it and was pleasantly surprised at how well it came together. So, I’m really excited for Joel, because this is his feature film directorial debut, and he did a great job.


KW: How did you prepare to play Barbara?

BM: I just thought it was really important to work on the relationship between her and Christopher Meloni’s character [Al], because there was so much history in there, and so much conflict. I think they loved each other, but there were circumstances that she didn’t know whether it was worth sticking around for the “maybe” or the “what if,” since they might always be living that way. So, I think they really cared for each other, and they shared a son, and did the best they could. It’s just a kind of a nice reflection of life, not so different from many lives today. I think it’s a story that many people could recognize and relate to.  


KW: The film was written by Joel, but inspired by a true story. Did you meet any of the people it was based on?

BM: No, I don’t think I met anyone connected to the story.


KW: The Harriet Pakula-Teweles question: With so many classic films being redone, is there a remake you'd like to star in?

BM: I think a true classic should never be touched, but I think it would be fun to be in a remake of Casablanca, or even of West Side Story.


KW: The Uduak Oduok question: Who is your favorite clothes designer?

BM: I have such a wide range. I’ve been wearing a lot of Martin Margiela lately. I’m sitting in my dressing room right now, so I’m looking at all my costumes. It’s funny, because we mix a lot so I might end up wearing some designers out of my character’s price range. But we do try to keep her clothes in a bracket of what would be affordable for someone in her type of job. It’s a wide range, but I do try to keep it realistic. Nowadays, you can great knockoffs of the higher-priced designers anyway.  


KW: also, a lot of TV characters in New York live in upscale apartments with expensive furniture they shouldn’t be able to afford, judging by their jobs.  

BM: I know. I have a new apartment in my storyline, and looking at it, I asked, “Where did we get this furniture?” But it was actually affordable, even though it looks nicer than my own apartment. [LOL] They were very conscious about that.


KW: You said you’re in the dressing room. When you look in the mirror, what do you see?

BM: Right now, I can’t see anything, because it’s covered with my lunch bag, which are meatballs. I have two places I get them from in this neighborhood. These are from The Meatball Shop. 


KW: What is your favorite dish to cook?

BM: Swedish meatballs. My son loves them, and that’s what he gets.


KW: The Ling-Ju Yen question: What is your earliest childhood memory?

BM: I can’t really say. I’m not one of those people who can’t remember stuff from back when I was 3 years-old. I have friends who can, but I can’t. Sorry.


KW: Thanks again for the time, Bridget, and best of luck with the film and the TV show.

BM: Thank you so much, Kam.


To see a trailer for “small time,” visit


UserpicTishuan Scott (INTERVIEW)
Posted by Kam Williams

Tishuan Scott
“The Retrieval” Interview
with Kam Williams

Great Scott!

Tishuan Scott was born on October 27, 1979 in Shreveport, Louisiana. He attended Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia as an Oprah Scholar, where he matriculated towards earning his Bachelor of Arts in Drama and Psychology in 2002. He then attended the University of California at Los Angeles’ School of Theater, Film & Television as a Lloyd Bridges MGM/Outer Limits Fellow, where he received his Master of Fine Arts in Acting in 2006.

Tishuan was recently seen as “Kenieloe,” a Ghanian guru, in Andrew Bujalski's 2013 Alfred P. Sloan Sundance Award-winning film ”Computer Chess” and as “Moses Washington” in the Lifetime Network TV movie “Deliverance Creek.” Here, he talks playing “Nate,” a freedman gravedigger for the Federal Union Army, in “The Retrieval.” He landed the South by Southwest Festival (SXSW) 2013 Special Jury Prize for Acting ­ Breakthrough Performance in that Civil War Era adventure.

Kam Williams: Hi Tishuan, thanks for the interview.

Tishuan Scott: It’s my pleasure. Thank You, Kam, for the interview.

KW: Congratulations on winning the Breakthrough Performance at the South by Southwest Festival.

TS: Thank You! I love SXSW! I love Austin!

KW: What interested you in The Retrieval?

TS: The story, writing, characters, and relationships. It’s history.

KW: It explores the themes of trust and betrayal during slavery, just as 12 Years a Slave. How would you compare the two pictures?

TS: The films’ singular comparison is that Solomon Northup is a free man who is enslaved for profit through the brutal trade and oppression of the system of slavery, and my character, Nate, a freedman, is sought after to make a profit, a bounty, by the patty-rollers who seek to re-enslave him. Both films share an insight to the great capitalization of the African-American male life, to be debased as worthless, yet so extraordinarily invaluable. There are also grander contrasts between the two films, however: 12 Years: 1841; The Retrieval: 1864. 12 Years: Pre-Emancipation Proclamation; The Retrieval: Post-Emancipation Proclamation. 12 Years: Brutality; The Retrieval: Humanity.

KW: 2013 was a banner year film for black film: 12 Years a Slave, 42, Fruitvale Station, The Butler, etcetera. What effect do you think that will have on Hollywood in terms of opportunities for African­Americans in front of and behind the camera?

TS: I believe it transcends Hollywood. It’s bigger than that! Our film has played in Toronto-Ontario, Calgary, Montreal-Quebec, Brazil, Australia, France-Deauville, Serbia, Greece, Germany, London, Istanbul-Turkey, Belgium-Ghent, Egypt-Luxor, and all over the U.S. in a myriad of film festivals, clearly displaying that there is an international and national interest and demand to see dark chocolate-skinned folks on the silver screen to observe and immerse an audience in the forgotten histories of who we are as a people and what we were as a nation. This canon of films will inspire many indie filmmakers and, hopefully, Hollywood to realize that our wealth is in our history, that we have so very many stories yet to be told. All five films have African-American male leads. You left out Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom – that makes six! That is exemplary and thrilling, but there are also stories with African-American women that must be told. We need African-American female lead actresses in films, in tandem with African-American male leading actors.

KW: How do you pick a role?

TS: I don’t believe I pick them. I think the universe sends me what’s for me. What attracts me specifically to roles is the heart of the character. How does the story move me? What is the character’s journey or driving force? Where is the character headed? Why is the character headed there? There absolutely and unequivocally has to be depth.

KW: You got both a bachelor’s and master’s degree in theater before starting your career. Do you recommend that route to aspiring actors?

TS: Yes. I met Samuel Jackson at our 2001 Morehouse College Gala: Candle in the Dark. I tell people what he told me. “Take your time. Get your education.”

KW: Are you also interested in writing and directing?

TS: Yes.

KW: The Harriet Pakula­Teweles question: With so many classic films being redone, is there a remake you'd like to star in?

TS: I don’t care for remakes. There’s soooo much undiscovered material out there; old and new. I want to be original. August Wilson’s “Fences,” Gloria Naylor’s “The Men of Brewster Place,” Richard Wright’s “The Outsider,” “Black Theater USA – Plays from 1847-1938” has a myriad of material yearning to be on the stage and screen! Those are classics to me.

KW: Is there any question no one ever asks you, that you wish someone would?

TS: Would you like a free home renovation and free lawn landscaping?

KW: Would you mind saying something controversial that would get this interview tweeted?

TS: Legalize marijuana President Obama! Think of how many African-American males who would have to be freed from prison and how many it will save from ever being incarcerated!

KW: Have you ever had a near­death experience?

TS: Yes. I’m thankful for 9 Lives!

KW: Have you ever accidentally uncovered a deep secret?

TS: Yes. The United States of America: 1863­1963.

KW: The Teri Emerson question: When was the last time you had a good laugh?

TS: Today. It’s the kind of laugh where you throw your head back and laugh to the sky.

KW: What is your guiltiest pleasure?

TS: Jolly Ranchers, watermelon and apple-flavored.

KW: The bookworm Troy Johnson question: What was the last book you read?

TS: Essays actually. W.E.B. DuBois’ “Criteria for Negro Art,” “The Guiding Hundredth,” “On the Wings of Atlanta,” and “On Our Spiritual Strivings.” Nietzsche’s “On the Pale Criminal” and “On the Three Metamorphoses.” Solomon Northup’s 12 YEARS A SLAVE was the last novel that I read. But it was in August before I reread the aforementioned essays.

KW: What is your favorite dish to cook?

TS: Italian.

KW: The Sanaa Lathan question: What excites you?

TS: A hummingbird. Monarch butterflies. Seeing my garden growing. Good food and family dinners.

KW: When you look in the mirror, what do you see?

TS: My reflection. And I love it!

KW: If you could have one wish instantly granted, what would that be for?

TS: I wish for recycling to become a major industrial agriculture.

KW: The Jamie Foxx question: If you only had 24 hours to live, how would you spend the time?

TS: Surrounded by my family and the best of my friends on a tropical island with exotic palms, our skins glistening in the sun, feet promenading through the hot sand, eating mangos and strawberries and dark chocolate and sushi, drinking mango and rum, listening to music inspired by drums, and dancing and laughing.

KW: The Kerry Washington question: If you were an animal, what animal would you be?

TS: A peacock!

KW: The Ling­Ju Yen question: What is your earliest childhood memory?

TS: Playing with my Superman and performing sermons for my mother, granny and auntie with my Little Golden Book, a small glass of orange juice and a napkin to wipe the sweat from my unwrinkled brow. My most memorable lines they say were, “Just like Jeremiah said, ‘It was like fire, shot up in his bones’!” and “Lawd, thank you for the washing powder!”

KW: The Melissa Harris­Perry question: How did your first big heartbreak impact who you are as a person?

TS: I discovered that the heart is a breakable thing, but also discovered my capacity to love another person.

KW: The Anthony Anderson question: If you could have a superpower, which one would you choose?

TS: Flying.

KW: The Judyth Piazza question: What key quality do you believe all successful people share?

TS: A passion for what they do, an undying zeal and fervor to never give up and accept and embrace failures as the building blocks to the pyramids of success.

KW: What advice do you have for anyone who wants to follow in your footsteps? TS: Join SAG-AFTRA! And keep your head to the sky, for it is the stars, the ancient and everlasting stars that will guide you.

KW: The Tavis Smiley question: How do you want to be remembered?

TS: Zarathustra, Ubermensch and Herald of the Lightning!

KW: Thanks again for the time, Tishuan, and best of luck with The Retrieval.

TS: I think I heard someone before say, “Luck is for the godless.” Wish me Godspeed! Amen Ra.

KW: Godspeed it is then, bro!

TS: Thanks, Kam.

To see a trailer for The Retrieval, visit


UserpicRap Mogul Reaps Benefits from Meditation Regimen
Posted by Kam Williams

Russell Simmons
The “Success through Stillness” Interview
with Kam Williams

Master entrepreneur and visionary Russell Simmons has influenced virtually all aspects of business and media: in music with the cofounding of the immensely successful Def Jam Recordings; in the fashion industry with the trailblazing Phat Pharm, Baby Phat, Run Athletics, and Def Jam University clothing lines; in television with HBO’s Def Comedy Jam and Russell Simmons Presents Def Poetry; on Broadway with the Tony Award-winning stage production Russell Simmons Def Poetry Jam; in digital with All Def Digital, All Def Music, and Narrative; as well as numerous other ventures in the financial services industry, mobile communications, and philanthropy.

A native New Yorker currently residing in Los Angeles, Mr. Simmons is the proud father of two daughters. Here, he talks about his new book: Success through Stillness: Meditation Made Simple.


Kam Williams: Hi Rush, thanks for the time.

Russell Simmons: My man, how you feel?


KW: Great! How about you brother?  

RS: I’m doing fine. I’m still moving around, Kam. I’m in Texas at the South by Southwest Music Festival announcing All Def Digital’s partnership with Samsung. We’re building a platform to put a song out every week for 52 weeks called ADD52.


KW: Why’d you start All Def Digital?

RS: To give all this black talent a chance by exposing them to Hollywood, which is very segregated. Hollywood is full of very liberal people, but it still has an infrastructure that needs to be broken. So, my idea is to integrate black stars into mainstream stars. It hasn’t been explored properly. That’s what Im doing in Hollywood. And that’s what All Def Digital is doing. I’m probably going to shoot TV 10 pilots this year.


KW: Any ideas you care to share at this point?

RS: One’s a detective show for J.B. Smoove. Another’s a remake of a classic black movie that would star Chris Tucker. And I have a pilot called The Re-Education of Oliver Cooper starring the white kid from Project X where follows a black girl to a black university, like in Legally Blonde. I have so many fun projects. Another one, written by the guy from Friday [DJ Pooh], has kids from Compton growing weed in a house in Bel Air.


KW: Recently, Ride Along, did very well, despite its having a black principal cast. It was #1 at the box-office a few weeks in a row.

RS: Yeah, but 86% of its audience was made up of people of color. That tells you that the full potential of many black stars won’t be realized until their audiences are fully integrated. No one wants to sell to just 12% of the population for the entire length of their careers. It creates a difficult and less-profitable environment. But Hollywood has lived with that limiting mantra, and only a few black stars have managed to break through. It’s a whole world which needs to be changed. Fortunately, Hollywood is open to change. It’s just a question of how to go about doing it. 


KW: Good luck with that. Let’s talk about your new book. AALBC’s Troy Johnson asks: How long have you been practicing meditation and how has it helped you?

RS: 20 years. Sitting in stillness has got to be the greatest asset I have in terms of attaining happiness. Nothing increases happiness like quiet time. The truth is, the only moments that make you laugh or happy are seconds of stillness. At the shock of a joke, everything disappears but the present moment. When you read a book, and it’s really, really beautiful, you’re so engaged you forget to breathe. If you’re in a car accident, and everything moves slowly, you can be shocked into the present. The past and the future disappear. Here’s another great example. If you play basketball, you get into the zone. You can’t miss. That’s the expansive mindset we’re all seeking. But that only comes when the mind is quiet and separate from the noise. And the greatest tool to eliminate the noise is meditation.  


KW: Environmental activist Grace Sinden says: With people connected increasingly to their "apps" and the 24-hour cycle of often-disturbing news, it is more necessary than ever to have quiet and Stillness in our lives.  She asks: Did you write this book somewhat as a reaction to the noisy, always-connected culture we live in?

RS: The always-connected culture isn’t as much a contributor as Grace might think. The nervous mind, the monkey mind, will create its own noise. It doesn’t need a new toy. Sometimes, a new toy, a new technology, will focus you. The world is always trying to draw you out, so you always have to remember to go in. I didn’t write this book in reaction to the 24-hour news cycle, because “be still and know” has been taught for thousands of years before the development of this technology. The research shows that if you meditate, the mind becomes still, and they can see the functionality and gray matter in the brain increase, the nervous system calm, the immune system improve and a reduction in stress. So, quiet time is the key. We have hundreds of thousands of kids around the country meditating through the David Lynch Foundation. What I want to do with this book, and I’m giving all the profits to charity, is to teach people to meditate. All it takes is a little bit of patience. It’s a simple guide. And the more people meditate, the more it increases the positive vibrations turning the planet into a positive, happy place. The more you do that, the greater service you are to God. I introduced Oprah and Ellen to their TM [Transcendental Meditation] teachers. They both thanked me, and spoke publicly about it, which is great because they can spread the word. Ellen has been a great supporter. Russell Brand has done the same. I’ve shared meditation with a lot of hip-hop artists, inmates, and returning war veterans with PTSD, as well. I feel like this dharma, this service is part of my job.      


KW: Attorney Bernadette Beekman gives a shout out from a fellow Hollis native!

She asks: What were you most astonished to discover as a result of meditating? 

RS: Coming out of my first yoga class, I was astonished that there were nothing but hot girls there. Just 55 girls, Bobby Shriver, who’s a buddy of mine, and myself. I came out of class, I was so high. I been sober 26 years, but I’m an ex-druggie. I want to talk a little bit abut two things: clarity and cloudiness. Both of them quiet the mind. One quiets it, the other numbs it. either way, there’s less thought, and the less thought, the more happiness. And when the mind is totally still, there’s only bliss. I got a piece of that reality from my first yoga class, from smiling and breathing in every difficult pose. I went, “Oh my God! I’m clear! I love this!” If I keep doing this, I’m going to give away my money. But a more happy mind leads to quietness and clarity. And that clarity helps you have a greater capacity to do more and to become more successful and more giving. So, running all my different companies has turned out to be a lot easier because I mediate twice a day and go to yoga every day.


KW: Bernadette also says: I sat a 10-day Vipassana course many years ago and afterwards, I was encouraged by a film called Doing Time, Doing Vipassana which was about meditation courses offered in prisons. The results were very encouraging. She asks: What do you think of meditation methods taught to prisoners?  

RS: I think it’s very important. I’ve gone into prisons to meditate with inmates. It’s something I plan to do with Tim Robbins soon. I owe him a call about that.  


KW: Bernadette asks: If you could focus all of your resources to solve one problem in our society, what one would it be?

RS: At the core of everything that is hurtful to humanity is a lack of consciousness. Unconscious behavior is at the core. Think of the 40 billion animals we abuse and eat who are born into suffering. It’s a karmic disaster. An animal products diet is like smoking 20 cigarettes a day. What I would do to change this planet is have everyone meditate and look inside. Then we’d have a happier, more service-oriented, less-needy world.


KW: Editor Lisa Loving says this book looks great. I know a crabby person whose life changed when he started meditating. She asks: Are there ever limits to an individual's ability to follow your advice? Are there certain kinds of stress, difficulty or even grief that is so staggering that it becomes impossible to cope with through meditation?

RS: Meditation helps everything, Lisa. But I couldn’t guarantee that someone could get off their medication. But I suspect that meditation instead of Ritalin would change the life of any kid with ADD.


KW: Editor/legist Patricia Turnier says: Some people are reluctant to try psychotherapy.  They will instead deal with their stress and pain by taking drugs and/or alcohol. Do you think that meditation can be beneficial to them?  
RS: Absolutely, because when you sit quietly and look inside, things that seem so difficult on the outside become a lot easier to digest. Concerns that might’ve caused a lot of anxiety just come and go. That happens to me everyday. I watch my thoughts, not only on the mat, but all through the day.


KW: Troy Johnson asks: Are you happy about how hip-hop has evolved over the past 40 years?

RS: It hasn’t changed that much at all, actually. It’s been great. It keeps getting better in some ways.


KW: Troy says: Many music fans think that the best hip-hop music is being produced by underground artists. Are there any you’re excited about?

RS: At All Def Digital we’re developing tons of them.


KW: Larry Greenberg asks: Have you and the artists you work with benefited from the turmoil in the music industry?

RS: I don’t see it.


KW: Professor Hisani Dubose has a couple of questions for her music technology majors at Bloomfield College. How has the internet changed the music industry? What do artists have to do these days to get a record deal?

RS: You don’t need a record deal. You’ll have the industry begging for you, when you build your buzz. I signed Jay-Z because he was on fire. I wasn’t a genius. The record was great. I put it on The Nutty Professor soundtrack and we signed him. People build themselves up before you even have to deal with them. It’s always marketeers building their own careers. Nowadays, if you’re a great artist, you don’t have to leave the house, which is a really big difference. You’re closer to the artist. And the artist can be closer to their artistry without having to always worry about branding themselves or building something image-wise.


KW: The music maven Heather Covington question: What was the last song you listened to? 

RS: “My Nigga” by YG.

I probably shouldn’t even say that, because everybody gets mad. But it is my favorite record. I was just listening to it in the car. I live in hip-hop. I don’t find it to be offensive. I know there’s a debate about it. I probably shouldn’t say this to national black distribution, but they have to live with it, too. They ain’t gonna change young people. All they’re going to do is make ‘em say it more. That particular YG record is the biggest record, and I like it. That’s not helpful, is it? It’s the truth. I’m a full disclosure kind of person. Another song I just listened to was “Mere Gurudev,” a devotional record by Krishna Das.


KW: The bookworm Troy Johnson question: What was the last book you read?

RS: I read “The Yoga Sutras” every day. 

And also the “The Bhagavad Gita.” 

Those two books sit by my bed. And I’m currently reading “The China Study.”


KW: When you look in the mirror, what do you see?

RS: different reflections at different times. I really, really try to be a good servant. It makes me happy when I’m a good giver without expectations.


KW: What are you up to next?

RS: The main thing is I’ll be going to Chicago to work with [Mayor] Rahm Emmanuel to put meditation in the schools.


KW: Thanks again for the interview, Rush, and best of luck with the book, the TV shows, and the meditation initiative.

RS: It’s a great pleasure as always talking with you, Kam.

To order a copy of Success through Stillness, visit


UserpicNia Long (INTERVIEW)
Posted by Kam Williams

Nia Long

“The Single Moms Club” Interview

with Kam Williams


Nia Expounds on Everything from Movies to Motherhood


Stunningly-attractive leading lady Nia Long returned to the big screen last fall in the highly-anticipated sequel The Best Man Holiday where she reunited with original cast mates Taye Diggs, Terrence Howard, Morris Chestnut and Harold Perrineau. Early last year, she joined the all-star cast of Showtime’s “House of Lies” alongside Don Cheadle and Kristen Bell.


Nia made her film debut in Boyz n The Hood, a poignant picture portraying social problems in inner-city Los Angeles. She subsequently starred in Friday opposite Ice Cube and Chris Tucker, as well as Love Jones, which won the prestigious Audience Award at Sundance. Nia’s notable film roles also include Soul Food, Alfie, The Best Man, Are We There Yet?, Big Momma’s House 1 and 2, Stigmata, The Broken Hearts Club and Made In America.


Nia’s portrayal of Officer Sasha Monroe on the hit crime drama “Third Watch” netted her a couple of NAACP Image Awards for Outstanding Actress in a Drama series. Her other TV accomplishments include “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,” “Boston Legal,” “Judging Amy,” and “Big Shots.”


In addition to her film and television work, Nia’s passion lies in serving her community. With her family roots firmly planted in Trinidad, Long’s long term goals are to connect women in the US to those of the island and to mentor young girls to regain their self-esteem.


Additionally, she lends her support to Black Girls Rock, an organization that promotes the arts for young women of color and encourages dialogue on the ways women of color are portrayed in the media. And in 2012, she was named an official surrogate to the Barack Obama reelection campaign.


Nia loves to cook fresh, farmer’s market meals with a twist of her Trinidadian heritage. When she’s not juggling between her career and motherhood, she enjoys staying active by doing Pilates, boxing, hiking, and horseback riding.


She also takes pleasure in traveling and experiencing different cultures throughout the world. One of her favorite locations to visit is Jamaica, a place she calls her second home where she can reflect and refuel.


Here, Nia talks about co-starring as May in The Single Moms Club opposite her son Massai, as well as Amy Smart, Zulay Henao, Tyler Perry, Terry Crews, Wendi McLendon-Covey and Cocoa Brown.



Kam Williams: Hi Nia, thanks so much for the time.

Nia Long: Of course, Kam. How are you?


KW: Great! And you?

NL: I’m good!


KW: What interested you in The Single Moms Club?

NL: The title alone. I think it’s a world we haven’t explored on film. And I feel that single mommies don’t get enough praise and accolades. I’ve had first-hand experience. My mother was a single mom. As far as I’m concerned, mommies, in general, rule the world. And single mothers just take it to a whole other level. 


KW: Congratulations on the latest Essence Magazine cover!

NL: Oh, thank you!


KW: I don’t how many that makes. I’ve lost count. Besides this one, which of your Essence covers is your favorite? The August 2012 issue with your sons?

NL: Honestly, it’s so hard, because each Essence cover represents a different special moment in my life. So, I can’t really judge them. It’s hard to judge yourself, too. But I do love the one with my boys. That was probably the closest one to me myself. This one is about keeping it sexy in my 40s, so I’m not mad about that either.


KW: Editor/Legist Patricia Turnier asks: How was it having your son, Massai, play your son, and what acting advice did you give him?

NL: I actually sent him to my acting coach, Betty Bridges.


KW: Todd’s mom. [Todd Bridges of the TV show Different Strokes]

NL: Yes. She worked with him for several days. And then, my own mom recorded him on her iPhone. It was one of those situations where I didn’t want to be a part of process, because I felt it was important for him to go through the process and earn it. So, we sent the video over to Tyler. When we didn’t hear back after a couple of days, I was like, “Omigosh! What if he doesn’t get this job? How am I going to break the news to him?“ Fortunately, Tyler thought he was great and he did get the job. At the end of the day, I was really happy with the outcome of the scenes. Working opposite him was such a gift, and something I’ll have on film forever. I don’t know whether a star was born, but I’m sure it was an experience that can only help benefit his development as a young man.      


KW: Director Rel Dowdell says: In the movie there's a poignant scene where your character, May, has the chance to say disparaging things about her son's father to her son, but doesn't. Did that scene have any special resonance with you, since your real-life son was playing your son?

NL: Well, my son’s dad is committed, and involved, and amazing. We’re actually really good friends. But I think it’s dangerous to speak negatively to the child about your ex or the absent parent, because, believe it or not, they learn very quickly who the other parent is. And it’s important that they develop their own attitudes and opinions about that other parent based on their experiences, not based on what someone has said about them. Fortunately, there’s mostly more positive than negative. When there isn’t, that’s just the way life happens. You just don’t want your child to ever feel like they have less of an opportunity to succeed based on the circumstances in which they were born. I try to be optimistic about everything. There are no victims in my home.   


KW: Harriet Pakula-Teweles asks: What would you say is the overall message of The Single Moms Club?

NL: Try to find fellowship… And try to find sisterhood… And try to find that village that can help you support your journey and your kids and your experiences. Never lose a sense of yourself throughout the process, and still pursue your dreams as a mom. Listen, when all is said and done, don’t be afraid to get out there and date, and have a little bit of fun. We’re still women… we’re still feminine… and we still have needs.


KW: Patricia says: You have been in the entertainment industry for decades. I’ve followed your career since Boyz n the Hood. What is the secret to your longevity?

NL: Probably my last name. [Chuckles] No, I feel it’s that I don’t ever give up on myself, and I’d rather run a marathon than a sprint. Personally, I think I’m a slow learner who’s getting better every year, every moment, every project. I’ve met so many amazing people along the way. And there’s no gimmick with me. What you see is what you get. The journey might be longer, but it’s definitely been sweeter. I can look at myself in the mirror every night knowing I’ve never ever pretended to be someone I know I’m not for the sake of this industry. I believe that it’s important to live by your truth in order to be able to sleep peacefully when you rest your head at night. I’ve gone off and taken breaks, not necessarily by choice, but life has a way of giving you breaks, even when you don’t want them, especially in this industry. So, I’ve had a chance to raise my children and to be a mom, and to come back to do more in film and television. I really cannot complain.  


KW: Editor Lisa Loving asks: What is the most surprising thing you’d like people to know about you?

NL: That I’m really, really silly and slightly clumsy. I had to re-teach myself how to walk in high heels after the birth of Kez. [Chuckles]


KW: Environmental activist Grace Sinden asks: Do you have a dream role you would like to play?

NL: I would love a good drama, maybe a period piece.


KW: The Harriet Pakula-Teweles question: With so many classic films being redone, is there a remake you'd like to star in?

NL: I’ve never really thought about that. I think classic films are classic for a reason. It’s always sketchy to redo one, especially if you’re trying to make it contemporary. That’s really just not the way to go. [LOL]


KW: Eddie Cibrian, who played your love interest in The Best Man Holiday, is also in The Single Moms Club. Did it feel weird that your characters weren’t romantically-linked this time around?

NL: No, I never actually saw him on set, because we didn’t have any scenes together. But it was sort of funny seeing him in the film. I was like, “Omigosh! I totally forgot!”


KW: The Sanaa Lathan question: What excites you?

NL: I know this sounds shallow, but a good pair of new shoes really gets me going.


KW: What do you want that you don’t have yet?

NL: That question’s so loaded! [Laughs] I’d say more choices, more options, more opportunities that force me to grow as an artist and challenge me to grow in a way that I haven’t as of yet. 


KW: Congratulations on the success of The Best Man Holiday and on the announcement that another sequel is in the works.

NL: Thank you.


KW: But will we ever get to see a Love Jones sequel?

NL: I have no idea. There have been a lot of rumors, and some bad versions of scripts. I don’t know what’s going to happen. All I do know is that unless it’s right, we won’t do it.


KW: What does Love Jones’ write/director Theodore Witcher have to say?

NL: I haven’t seen or spoken to Ted in a long time? He’s a smart man, though.


KW: The Kerry Washington question: If you were an animal, what animal would you be?

NL: Definitely a cat.


KW: The Melissa Harris-Perry question:How did your first big heartbreak impact who you are as a person?

NL: [Breathes deeply, sighs and reflects] That was a big heartbreak, and I wasn’t that young either. I would say that I learned that the heartbreak wasn’t as much about me as the fact that he wasn’t right with himself. I see where his life has taken him, and realize that the handwriting was on the wall. There were things that I had blamed myself for, but it was really more about his choices, his needs and his journey as a person. His desire for too much of everything made it a challenging relationship.


KW: The Anthony Anderson question: If you could have a superpower, which one would you choose?

NL: I would love to have the ability to see inside everyone’s heart before I heard them speak or even saw their faces. 


KW: You’ll be playing a lawyer on The Divide, a dramatic TV series debuting this summer. Have you started shooting the first season yet?

NL: We have been shooting in cold Toronto. We only have one more episode to go. I’ve been working with Tony Goldwyn, Richard LaGravenese and an amazing group of actors. I play a strong, successful mom.


KW: What’s the show about?

NL: All of us have moments in our lives when we have to choose between what we know is right and what we feel obligated to do. I think that’s the theme of the show. What is your divide? What are the things you struggle with?     


KW: The Viola Davis question: What’s the biggest difference between who you are at home as opposed to the person we see on the red carpet?

NL: At home, it’s all about my babies and no makeup. On the red carpet, it’s: Am I standing up straight? 


KW: We’re out of time, Nia, and I still have a million more questions for you from fans. 

NL: I’m so sorry. We can do another one soon, Kam.


KW: Thanks Nia.

NL: Take care.  


To see a trailer for The Single Moms Club, visit:


UserpicRebecca Da Costa (INTERVIEW)
Posted by Kam Williams

Rebecca Da Costa

“The Bag Man” Interview

with Kam Williams


From the Runway to the Red Carpet!

Born in Recife, Brazil, supermodel-turned-actress Rebecca Da Costa studied at the Rui Barbosa School where she pursued her love of theater by writing, directing and starring in a number of plays. At the age of 14, Rebecca was discovered during a model search, and she debuted at Milan Fashion Week a couple of years later en route to gracing runways all over the world for Giorgio Armani, Yves Saint Laurent, Escada and Hugo Boss, to name a few.

The statuesque beauty also became the face of campaigns for Chopard, Swarovski, Nokia and L'Oreal. However, a visit to Los Angeles prompted a permanent move to the States, where Rebecca decided to focus on her true passion, acting.

Her first lead role was in an indie film titled L.A. I Hate You, and her credits came to include a stint on HBO's "Entourage" as well as starring roles in Free Runner, Mine Games and 7 Below alongside Val Kilmer and Ving Rhames. More recently, she wrapped shooting the horror flick Breaking at the Edge with Milo Ventimiglia and Andie MacDowell in which she stars as a bi-polar, pregnant woman in fear for her unborn child's life.

Rebecca currently resides in Los Angeles where, in addition to her modeling and acting career, she devotes her time to such philanthropic efforts as Kids with Autism and Common Ground HIV. To relax, she enjoys dancing, cooking healthy, Brazilian dishes and regularly practicing Transcendental Meditation in order to maintain a healthy mind and body.

As a planetary citizen who has lived on several different continents, Rebecca is fluent in many languages, with Portuguese, Spanish, Italian and English among them. Here, the versatile thespian talks about staring as the femme fatale in the neo-noir thriller The Bag Man opposite Robert De Niro and John Cusack.


Kam Williams: Hi Rebecca, thanks for the interview.

Rebecca Da Costa: No problem, Kam.


KW: What interested you in The Bag Man?

RDC: When I went to audition for the film, they didn’t give me the whole script, but I liked my character Rivka’s dry sense of humor. She seemed so witty in the scenes I read. It seemed like a big challenge, and that was one of the first things that caught my attention.


KW: Were all the big names already attached to the picture at that point?

RDC: When I first got the phone call that I’d booked the job, I didn’t know that John [Cusack] and [Robert] De Niro were attached. But when they gave me the news, I was like “Oh my God!” It was too much for me. And Sticky Fingers, Crispin Glover and Dominic Purcell later joined the cast.    


KW: How was it working opposite Cusack and a legend like De Niro?

RDC: It was a mind-blowing experience because I grew up watching those guys. To act opposite them was surreal. But at the same time, you naturally forget who they are after a few days since you’re so focused on getting each scene right. You couldn’t concentrate if you let yourself think, “That’s Robert De Niro.” Still, he was amazing to watch. It was the best acting class I ever had.  


KW: I know you like writing and directing. What sort of project might interest you in that regard?  

RDC: I’d like to direct children’s movies in ten years or so, because I love everything connected to their universe. But that’s a long-range plan because, right now, I’m just focusing on my acting career.


KW: The Harriet Pakula-Teweles question: With so many classic films being redone, is there a remake you'd like to star in?

RDC: I’d love to do a musical, because I love singing and dancing.  


KW: You’ve taken a very circuitous route from Brazil to Hollywood. You were discovered in you mid-teens, and moved to Milan as a model, right? 

RDC: Yes, I lived in Europe for seven years, in Italy… France… Germany… Austria… Everywhere! Then I moved to New York to work as a model, but I also started taking acting classes. Right after that I moved to L.A. and my career really started to take off. 


KW: Are you tempted to move back to Brazil? It’s hot right now, between the World Cup and the next Summer Olympics.  

RDC: I love my country, and I go back to visit my family four or five times a year, even though it’s a very long trip. I’ll definitely be going back for the World Cup, because I’m a very big soccer fan. And I hope to attend the Olympics, too. In my dream world, I’d like to live in both New York and Brazil.


KW: Is there any question no one ever asks you, that you wish someone would?

RDC: That’s such a good question. Let me think… I can’t think of one right now.


KW: What is your favorite dish to cook?

RDC: I do this fish dish in the oven with vegetables and brown rice that’s very easy and very healthy and very nice. It only takes about a half-hour to make. I also like to cook and to eat black beans, rice and meat, a traditional Brazilian dish. It’s very similar to a Cuban and Mexican food. That’s what Brazilians have for lunch every single day. It may sound boring, but it’s really, really delicious. [Chuckles] 


KW: The Uduak Oduok question: Who is your favorite clothes designer?

RDC: I will go with Dolce & Gabbana because it just dresses my body-type  beautifully.


KW: If you could have one wish instantly granted, what would that be for?

RDC: That my career was going so well that I could live on a desert island. That way, I could shoot a movie, and then hide on my private island. [Giggles] I love my privacy so much that I closed my Facebook account for years. I just reopened it a few months ago at the suggestion of my publicist. But I prefer to be private and even unavailable at times. I’d rather not even turn on my computer sometimes. The world we live in right now, everybody can know where you are in a second.     


KW: Why an island?

RDC: I love the beach and the ocean! I’m very spiritual, and that’s where I feel very connected to a higher power. 


KW: When you look in the mirror, what do you see?

RDC: Oh, wow! It depends. Today, when I look in the mirror, I see somebody who’s very tired because, for the past few days I’ve just been so busy. From the minute I wake up until the minute I go to sleep, I have so many things to do. But it varies. Sometimes, I look in the mirror and I feel sad. Other times, I feel proud, because I was a very active child with so many dreams that I’m living now. But when I’m down or having doubts, I look in the mirror and ask myself, “What would 10 year-old Rebecca do, if she were facing this trouble?” That really helps me.


KW: The Ling-Ju Yen question: What is your earliest childhood memory?

RDC: Oh God, that’s so deep. I can remember playing with classmates at a school playground at around 4 years of age.   


KW: The Mike Pittman question: What was your best career decision?

RDC: My best career decision was to move to L.A. I went there to visit a friend, and decided to move there. I remember praying about it to get some guidance. I’m not religious but, as I mentioned before, I am very spiritual. I like to pray to God for guidance. I think it helps me. I remember very clearly being back in Manhattan three days later when I got the phone call that somebody was interested in renting my apartment. I felt so happy as I strolled through Central Park listening to music because I knew I was now free to move. And, from there, everything started happening in my life.    


KW: The Melissa Harris-Perry question:How did your first big heartbreak impact who you are as a person?

RDC: It impacted me very much. I think it might have been what made me turn to acting. My first big heartbreak was with my father. As the oldest daughter, I was very attached to him. Unfortunately, my mother divorced him, and he wasn’t a part of my life anymore, by his choice, of course. That influenced who I am today, including the roles I choose.   


KW: What is your guiltiest pleasure?

RDC: I love watching Brazilian soap operas. [LOL]


KW: The Jamie Foxx question: If you only had 24 hours to live, how would you spend the time? 

RDC: Funny you should ask, because just the other day I dreamed that the world was collapsing, and the first thing that came to my mind was: Where’s my mother? I would take a plane to be close to my family.  


KW: The Viola Davis question: What’s the biggest difference between who you are at home as opposed to the person we see on the runway or on the red carpet?

RDC: On the red carpet, you’re pretty much posing playing a role and answering very generic questions. But in real life, I’m very open and anybody who takes the time to get to know me is going to see that I’m very easygoing, and that I’m a homebody who loves cooking, and relaxing with family and friends. Perhaps people might not sense that from seeing me on the red carpet.  


KW: The Anthony Anderson question: If you could have a superpower, which one would you choose?

RDC: To be invisible. [Laughs]


KW: What advice do you have for anyone who wants to follow in your footsteps?

RDC: I think you really need to ask yourself if it’s really what you want for your life. And if you decide it’s what you want to do, then focus on it and go for it with 100% of your power. Believe me, I’ve been very lucky, but I still face obstacles every day. I’m acting in English which is not my first language. So, it’s hard. But you have to have that conviction in your heart that this was what you were born to do, and just keep going. Don’t stop!


KW: Attorney Bernadette Beekman asks: What is your favorite charity? I know you’re already doing great work with Kids with Autism and Common Ground HIV.

RDC: The HIV cause is very close to my heart, first of all because I had a cousin with AIDS who passed away a few years ago. Also, I think it’s so unfair that people who are HIV+ are still stigmatized. Come on! We need to support them. And I want to get more involved with children’s charities that touch me.


KW: The Tavis Smiley question: How do you want to be remembered?

RDC: I like that question. More than anything, I want to be remembered as a good person who had a great deal of dignity, and also as an actress who was really hard working and who believed in her dreams.


KW: Thanks again for the time, Rebecca, and best of luck with the film.

RDC: Thanks Kam, this has been an entertaining interview, because it allowed me to show a side of myself that I don’t think people have seen before. 


To see a trailer for The Bag Man, visit:


UserpicAbout Regina and Kevin Hart
Posted by Kam Williams

Regina Hall & Kevin Hart
The “About Last Night” Interview
with Kam Williams

Regina Hall began her acting career in the late 1990's while simultaneously earning a master's degree from New York University. With numerous film and television credits to her name, Regina has since emerged as one of Hollywood’s most sought after comedic actresses.

Last fall, she was seen reprising her role in the sequel The Best Man Holiday, alongside Terrence Howard, Taye Diggs, and Sanaa Lathan, which opened #1 at the box office. In June, she will again star opposite Terrence J, Gabrielle Union, Taraji P. Henson and Michael Ealy in the sequel Think Like a Man Too.

The versatile thespian additional credits include Scary Movie (and three of its sequels), Paid in Full, Malibu’s Most Wanted, First Sunday, Law Abiding Citizen, Death at a Funeral, Love & Basketball and Disappearing Acts. Her television credits include the role of Deputy D.A. Evelyn Prince on “Law & Order: LA” and Coretta Lipp on “Ally McBeal.”

Something Kevin Hart is an expert at is selling shoes. And if there’s one thing Kevin can do even better than selling shoes, it’s comedy. He began his first career sizing men and women for footwear, when a chance, electrifying performance on amateur night at a Philadelphia comedy club changed his life forever. He soon quit that job as a shoe salesman and began performing full-time at such venues as The Boston Comedy Club, Caroline’s on Broadway, Stand Up NY, the Laugh Factory and The Comedy Store in Los Angeles.

However, it was a memorable appearance at the Montreal Just for Laughs Comedy Festival that led to roles in Paper Soldiers, Scary Movie 3 and Along Came Polly, which starred Ben Stiller and Jennifer Aniston. Kevin has worked nonstop ever since, and 2013 was no exception, including Grudge Match, opposite Sylvester Stallone and Robert De Niro, and Let Me Explain, a stand-up comedy film chronicling the best of his world concert tour of the same name.

This year, he’s already had a #1 hit movie in Ride Along, which has grossed over $100 million and counting. And among his earlier film credits are Little Fockers, Death at a Funeral, Fool’s Gold and The 40 Year-Old Virgin.

Here, Kevin and Regina discuss their new film, About Last Night, a remake of the classic romantic comedy released back in 1986.


Kam Williams: Hi, Kevin and Regina, thanks for the interview. I’m grateful for the opportunity to speak with you.

Regina Hall: Hi, there, Kam. We appreciate it, too.

Kevin Hart: How you doing, man?


Kam: Great! Kevin, how does it feel to be back in Philly?

Kevin: Oh, it’s always good, Kam. It’s my hometown. Home is always good.


Kam: What interested you two in About Last Night?

Kevin: What interested you, baby?

Regina: Well, I loved the script. I’m always thrilled whenever I see a good script. And of course, when I then heard that Kevin was going to be my co-star… that sealed the deal. Need I say anything more? How about you, Kev?

Kevin: Like you, the script, first of all. I also liked that this was a different type of role for me, and that the original movie was so amazing!

Regina: A classic!


Kam: What factors played a role in doing a remake?

Kevin: The fact that we’d be following in its footsteps was huge. But we also wanted to follow more closely the lines of the original play it was based on, “Sexual Perversity in Chicago.” We modernized it and made this version a little edgier to fit audiences of this generation. So, all the pieces of the puzzle were there, it was just a question of putting them together.

Regina: Yeah, it was already there on the page. We just adapted it in a way to make it fresh, contemporary, sexy and fun. We also kinda followed the journey of two couples as opposed to one, so you get to see us explore the dynamics in the friendships between the men and the women, as well as in the couples’ relationships. It ended up feeling great!


Kam: Was it hard juggling egos on the set?

Kevin: Not at all. It was basically just four good people.

Regina: Four friends, really.

Kevin: There weren’t any jerks. Everybody came with the same agenda which was to make a great film. And when you all have your eyes on the prize, in this case to turn in a quality product and to turn in a complete product, at the end of the day, you can’t ask for a better support group than what we had.  


Kam: Who’s in your target audience?

Regina: Everybody!

Kevin: This is a universal film, with the exception of certain younger age groups, since this is an adult film.

Regina: Yeah, it’s R-rated. But it’s for singles… couples…

Kevin: It’s a movie that so many people are going to be able to relate to.


Kam: Kevin, you’re already on a roll with Ride Along breaking records for a January opening.

Kevin: Thank you!

Regina: #1 for three weeks in a row!

Kam: With About Last Night opening you’re competing against yourself.  

Kevin: Hey, that’s a good thing, especially since this is a different look for me. People walking out of this movie are going to know that I have levels, that I’m serious about my acting career, and that I’m willing to challenge myself. This product is a great representation of that.   


Kam: Does this picture have a message?

Kevin: Yeah, it actually does. The movie shows that couples weather their crises differently, and that each is going to solve their problems in the unique way they see fit to. But when you’re in love, love makes you do crazy things, and can take you down a whirlwind of a road. These are two couples that experience that, and we show how men talk to men and how women talk to women about their problems, and how it all comes full circle.   

Regina: Mmm-hmm!


Kam: Regina, what’s up next for you?

Regina: I’ll be joining this gentleman again in June for the release of Think Like a Man Too.  

Kevin: After that I’ll be in a movie called Wedding Ringers.

Regina: Which is hilarious, by the way. I’ve seen a few excerpts. It’s another hit.


Kam: Is it a little like Wedding Crashers?

Kevin: No, it’s more like a modern version of Hitch.


Kam: Is there any question no one ever asks you, that you wish someone would?

Kevin: Yeah, how tall are you?


Kam: Okay, how tall are you?

Kevin: I’m a good 6’6” on a Friday.

Regina: No, he’s 6’5”. [Chuckles]


Kam: How about you, Regina? Is there any question no one ever asks you?

Regina: People are obsessed with my bra size. Would you say I’m a 34D or a 34F?

Kevin: I’d say F. [Laughs]


Kam: The Sanaa Lathan question: What excites you?

Kevin: You know what? The most exciting thing in the world to me is that I’m doing what I love to do, and that I’m successful doing it. Pursuing my dream and executing it is exciting to me.

Regina: I’m just excited about life. Life is really good right now with my family and friends, and being able to work with people I respect.


Kam: I’ve asked Kevin this before. Regina, what is your favorite dish to cook?

Regina: That’s a hard question, because I’m a really good cook.

Kevin: You make a mean hot dog.

Regina: I do dice a nice hot dog. I also make great lamb chops. And I make really good yams. There isn’t much I can’t get into that kitchen and do.

Kevin: She also makes a mean peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

Regina: Thanks. You’ve got to have just the right balance of peanut butter and jelly.

Kevin: And that jelly’s coming from scratch!

Regina: That’s true.  

Kevin: Kam, have you ever had jelly from scratch?

Kam: No, I havent.

Kevin: Then you got to get to Regina’s house.


Kam: Invite me, and I’m there! The Ling-Ju Yen question: What is your earliest childhood memory?

Regina: Swimming into my mama.

Kevin: Mine was touching a dead mouse by accident.


Kam: Well, thank you both for the spirited tete-a-tete!

Regina: Thank you, Kam.

Kevin: Thanks, man.


To see a trailer for About Last Night, visit:      


UserpicDinesh Sharma (FILM REVIEW)
Posted by Kam Williams

Dinesh Sharma

“The Global Obama” Interview

with Kam Williams


Sharma on Obama!

Dr. Dinesh Sharma is a cultural psychologist, marketing consultant and an acclaimed author with a doctorate from Harvard University. He is an Associate Research Professor (Honorary) at the Institute for Global Cultural Studies, SUNY-Binghamton; a senior fellow at Institute for International and Cross-Cultural Research, NYC; and a columnist for Asia Times Online, Al Jazeera English and The Global Intelligence, among other syndicated publications.

His recent articles and opinions have appeared in the Wall Street Journal Online,, Free Lance-Star, Far Eastern Economic Review, Middle East Times, Middle East Online, Epoch Times, Biotech Law Review, Health Affairs, Media Monitors, DC Chronicles,,, International Psychology Bulletin, and other journals. Dr. Sharma has been profiled domestically and internationally including in L'Echo, DeStandaard, Luxembourg Wort, 352 Lux Magazine, The Eastern Eye, Asian Affairs, Cincinnati Herald and The Skanner, to name a few.

On TV, Dinesh’s work has been favorably reviewed on Politics Tonight (WGN News), Urban Update (WHDH Boston), City Line WABC Boston, KITV Hawaii, Bay Sunday San Francisco, and many other shows. On Radio, he has been featured on Conversations on the Coast in San Francisco, Reality Check FM-4 Vienna, South African Broadcast Corporation (SABC) and numerous other talk shows. 

Furthermore, he has been a consultant in the healthcare industry for major pharmaceutical, biotech and medical device clients for about a decade. He is the author of “Barack Obama in Hawaii and Indonesia: The Making of a Global President,” which was rated as among the Top 10 Books of Black History for 2012 by the American Library Association, Book List Online. Here, he talks about the follow-up book, "The Global Obama."

Kam Williams: Hi Dinesh, thanks for the interview.

Dinesh Sharma: Any time. It’s very nice of you to conduct this interview. You reviewed my earlier book and the new book, “The Global Obama.” So, I really appreciate it. 

KW: What interested you in writing another book about Obama?

DS: Well, first, Barack H. Obama is a landmark presidential figure as the first black, multiracial, multicultural president from Hawaii and the Pacific. In the first book, Barack Obama in Hawaii and Indonesia, as you know, I documented, with ethnographic interviews, the childhood and adolescence of this history-making president. The idea was to show that the childhood of a historical leader speaks to the historical times and, in turn, shapes the future in some important ways. When I lectured around the world for the first book, I realized that he was more popular abroad than at home. I had known that from some of the early surveys by the Pew Research Center and The Economist. But when I toured throughout Europe, Asia and Africa, this was really brought home to me. So I wanted to do a book on that trend and try to explore some of the reasons for this finding. Given that no author has an expertise in all areas of the world, I decided to make this an edited book, with help from friends who span the globe. In the new book, we have covered five continents and more than twenty countries.   

KW: Was it a harder sell, since the President’s bloom has fallen off the rose, at least domestically?

DS: It wasn’t a hard sell with the publishers or the reviewers. Most reviewers got the purpose of the project right away and supported it. In fact, the book is part of a series that is headed by James MacGregor Burns, who wrote the classic book on leadership and coined the term “transformational leadership,” Georgia Sorensen, who worked in the Carter administration, and Ron Riggio, a professor of leadership at Claremont McKenna College. Given that Obama is a relevant historical figure despite the negative polling trends domestically, he has many more admirers than detractors at home and abroad. In fact, the publisher wanted us to focus on his leadership style within a cross-cultural context, which is the theme of the new book.

KW: How do you explain his enduring popularity overseas?

DS: I think it has partly to do with his international biography and global moorings in almost all continents--Africa, Asia, Europe and the US, of course.  Professor Ali A. Mazrui calls him “the child of three continents.” But if you include his Irish or European ancestry from his mother’s side of the family, he may be called “the man of four continents” or the global president, a symbol of the changing times.

KW: What were you most surprised to learn about him in the course of your preparing this book? 

DS: When I prepared the manuscript, the sheer enormity of the challenges the U.S. faces abroad were mind-boggling. It became clear to me that the job of managing all of these conflicts simultaneously is, indeed, very difficult, especially, if the U.S. wants to remain the global leader in the 21st Century. That’s why China does not necessarily want to be in the position of a global superpower. The other BRIC countries, Russia, India and Brazil, are not anywhere near being global superpowers. Countries around the world expect the U.S. to deliver, be engaged, and respond to their needs.  Presidential leadership is a really tough job, does come not easily. “To those much is given, much is expected,” to paraphrase President Kennedy.  

KW: What has been your most special moment in your visits to the White House?

DS: Hard to say, but I think watching the President in the East Room when he hosts some of the sports teams, stars from the NBA, WNBA, and NFL, after they have won a championship. Obama is a sports aficionado! You can really observe that when he’s around athletes. He gets a kick out of it.  His inner-jock self comes out and his language becomes very jocular.        

KW: What’s it like to be a member of the press corps accompanying President Obama on a trip? 

DS: Very interesting. As an immigrant from India who lived in Chicago for many years, or even as a graduate student at Harvard in psychology and human development, I didn’t think or imagine that one day I would be covering the first black president at the White House.

KW: You traveled to various places where Obama grew up while researching your first book about Obama. Where did you think the seed of his presidential destiny was planted?

DS: Hawaii. His parents met there and he attended one of the elite preparatory schools on the island, Punahou Academy. Hawaii was the last state to join the Union in 1959 after the attack on Pearl Harbor and World War II. Obama’s father arrived there as an exchange student in 1959 and Barack was born two years after Hawaii became part of the U.S. It shaped not only his inner-most self, his destiny, but also his vision of America as reflected in his saying, “There is no Red America or Blue America, only the United States of America.” As the first majority-minority state, you could say that Hawaii shaped Obama’s identity indelibly. They both grew up together, in parallel, and are now leading America towards being a blended nation, demographically. 

KW: What will be the focus of your next book about Obama?

DS: Not clear yet, but something to do with American identity, politics and culture in the era of globalization, similar to what I have been writing about lately.

KW: Is there any question no one ever asks you, that you wish someone would?

DS: No one has asked ever said to me, “You’re not African-American, so why are you so obsessed with Obama? Why is Obama your muse?” Or, “Aren’t you tired of Obama yet? You know his polling numbers are falling.”

KW: Would you mind saying something controversial that would get this interview tweeted?

DS: President Obama will be an even bigger statesman in his post-presidency, while working for Africa’s development.

KW: What is your secret wish?

DS: To smoke a cigar with the President on the roof of the White House But, alas, he does not smoke anymore.

KW: The bookworm Troy Johnson question: What was the last book you read?

DS: “The Future” by Al Gore, “A Singular Woman” by Jenny Scott, “Legal Orientalism” by Teemu Ruskola, and I just started reading “The Great Soul” by Joseph Lelyveld.  

KW: What is your favorite dish to cook?

DS: Fish Curry.

KW: The Mike Pittman question: What was your best career decision?

DS: To attend Harvard, and recently the decision to write two books on President Obama, in that order. Hopefully, more to come!

KW: When you look in the mirror, what do you see?

DS: There is no limit to what one can do!

KW: If you could have one wish instantly granted, what would that be for?

DS: That both my children will be well-educated, well-read and well-travelled.

KW: The Judyth Piazza question: What key quality do you believe all successful people share? 

DS: Dogged determination – consistency and persistence in performance.  It’s not just enough to have good ideas, one has to deliver.

KW: The Michael Ealy question: If you could meet any historical figure, who would it be?

DS: There are so many – I would like to have met Freud, Jung, Gandhi, Nehru, Lincoln, Churchill, Martin Luther King, Mandela, Claude Levi-Strauss, Dali, Margret Mead, Camus, Foucault, Sri Aurobindo, Krishnamurti, other Indian Philosophers. And the list goes on. As you can see, I think intellectuals are historical figures, too, because they can change the world with the power of their ideas.   

KW: What advice do you have for anyone who wants to write about a president?

DS: Always follow your path, or the road less travelled.

KW: Thanks again for the time, Dinesh, and best of luck with the book.

DS:  Thanks very much, Kam.


To order a copy of The Global Obama, visit:


To order a copy of Barack Obama in Hawai'i and Indonesia, visit:


UserpicAlice Walker (INTERVIEW)
Posted by Kam Williams

Alice Walker

The “Alice Walker: Beauty in Truth” Interview

with Kam Williams


Alice in Walkerland!

Alice Walker has been defined as one of the key international writers of the 20th Century. She made history as the first African-American woman to win a Pulitzer Prize for Fiction as well as the National Book Award in 1983 for her novel The Color Purple — one of the few literary books to capture the popular imagination and leave a permanent imprint. The award-winning novel served as the inspiration for Steven Spielberg’s 1985 film and was adapted for the stage, opening at New York City’s Broadway Theatre in 2005, and capturing a Tony Award for best leading actress in a musical in 2006.

An internationally celebrated author, poet and activist, Alice’s books include seven novels, four collections of short stories, four children’s books, and volumes of essays and poetry. She has written many other best sellers, too, among them, Possessing the Secret of Joy (1992), which detailed the devastating effects of female genital mutilation and led to the 1993 documentary Warrior Marks, a collaboration with the British-Indian filmmaker Pratibha Parmar, with Walker as executive producer.

In 2001, Alice was inducted into the Georgia Writers Hall of Fame and, in 2006, she was honored as one of the inaugural inductees into the California Hall of Fame. In 2007, her archives were opened to the public at Emory University.

In 2010, she presented the keynote address at The 11th Annual Steve Biko Lecture at the University of Cape Town in South Africa, and was awarded the Lennon/Ono Grant for Peace, in Reykjavik, Iceland. Alice donated the financial award to an orphanage for the children of AIDS victims in Kenya.

She has served as a jurist for two sessions of the Russell Tribunal on Palestine, and writes a regular blog on her website: Here, she talks about her career and about the documentary “Alice Walker: Beauty in Truth” which premieres on PBS on Friday, February 7th at 9 p.m. ET/PT (check local listings)  


Kam Williams: Hi Alice. I’m so honored to have this opportunity to interview you.

Alice Walker: Oh, I’m so glad to be talking with you, too, Kam.


KW: The only time I came close to meeting you before now was back in the Eighties one summer, when I was invited to a party out in the Hamptons that you were rumored to be attending. 

AW: Oh, I did have a few friends near there, one in Montauk, another on Fire Island. But oh, that was a long time ago. 


KW: I’ll be mixing in my questions with some from readers. Harriet Pakula-Teweles asks: how do you feel about having the biopic coming out about you?

AW: Well, it’s very interesting because I almost never do anything for Black History Month, because I feel it’s just another way to separate us. It’s amusing to me that it would be coming out as a Black History presentation on PBS. But on the level of the film, I like it. And I love the producer [Shaheen Haq] and the filmmaker [Pratibha Parmar]. I think they were incredibly devoted. They did it on a hope and a prayer, and at one point had to rely on crowd-sourcing because of the huge expenses.


KW: I learned so much about you from the film. For instance, I was surprised to hear that Howard Zinn had been a professor of yours in college.

AW: He was already teaching at Spelman when I arrived as a freshperson. Then, I took his class the following year, because I had gone to the Soviet Union and wanted to learn more about Russia, and I think he was the only person in all of Atlanta who knew anything about Russian literature, which I loved. He was teaching Russian literature, the language, and some of the politics. We became really good friend when I took his class, but then he was fired.  


KW: For doing more than just teaching.

AW: He helped us desegregate Atlanta. That was moving because he took a lot of abuse for that. He and Staughton Lynd, a fellow professor who was also from the North, stood with us. They were certainly behind us. In fact, they often stood in front of us. This had a huge impact on me. But one of the reasons I was very careful about speaking about the relationship I had with him and Staughton was because, in a racist society, if you acknowledge a deep love for and a deep debt owed to white teachers, they tend to discredit your own parents and your own community. And I was very unhappy about that because I come from somewhere and from specific black people in the South, including my parents, who built our first school, and rebuilt it after it was burned to the ground. And they used to bake pies and cakes to raise money to keep it going. So, I learned to struggle from a very early way in a way that was truly indigenous to the South. You have to keep at it! [Chuckles] 


KW: The film also left me with an appreciation of your deep connection to nature. I have that, too. I go for a walk in the woods every day. It’s very spiritual to me.

AW: The forest is the first cathedral. I felt that from the time I was a child. I credit my mother with that. I used to think it came from her Native-American side. Whichever it was, she instinctively connected with nature, and taught me that. Church just could not hold my spirit. It was a beautiful, little church, too. As sweet as could be. It was at a bend in the road, with a big, oak tree sheltering it. Still, I wandered right out the window, mentally and emotionally, got into the trees, and never left.      


KW: Kate Newell says: I'm more than awestruck about this opportunity to ask you a question. How did you feel about the screen adaptation of The Color Purple? 

AW: I was worried about the film at first, because I’d never had a movie made of any of my work on a big scale like that. There had only been a couple of small, student efforts before that. The Color Purple was so overwhelming that I actually brought a magic wand to New York City for the premiere, and pointed it at the screen in the hope that movie didn’t embarrass all of us. Lo and behold, it turned out to be a beautiful picture. The audience was so into it, gracious and emotional, laughing when they should be laughing, crying when they should be crying. I got to feel it as a living work of art, as something useful. My interest in creating anything is that it be useful. People can love the beauty of it, but they should also use it to grow, to deepen.    


KW: What was it like dealing with the blowback for the next several years coming from critics who said The Color Purple was anti-black men?

AW: It actually lasted for a decade. How could you imagine that people could be mad at you for so long? I felt a great deal of weariness. But because it wasn’t the first time that I had been heavily criticized, I learned that you just keep going and turn to other things. Which I did. I went on to write “The Temple of My Familiar” which may be my favorite of my novels, because it was a miraculous gift that I had no idea how I got it. I had a dream one night that I went down into a non-existent sub-basement of my little house in Brooklyn. There was a trap door and I went down further and found these indigenous South American people speaking Spanish and making all these incredible things. I didn’t speak a word of Spanish but I sensed that I was being guided to a new focus. And to make a long story short, I ended up going to Mexico, I learned one word, “leche,” which means milk, and I started writing this novel. So, the blowback, in a way, faced me in a new direction which was very interesting.     


KW: Attorney Bernadette Beekman asks: What did you think of the stage version of The Color Purple? 

AW: I so loved working with the musicians. It was just wonderful! It was great and I felt like it was such a tonic for people to see it.


KW: Dinesh Sharma says: In my new book, "The Global Obama," Professor Ali Mazrui refers to the President as a "great man of history."  Professor Henry Louis Gates of Harvard agrees. You have written several essays about Barack Obama. How do you feel about his presidency thus far? 

AW: I’m very disappointed in Obama. I was very much in support of him in the beginning, but I cannot support war. I cannot support droning. I cannot support capitulating to the banks. I cannot support his caving in to Netanyahu [Israeli Prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu]. There’s a long list of this administration’s initiatives that I find unsupportable. I think many black people support him because they’re so happy to have handsome black man in the White House. But it doesn’t make me happy if that handsome black man in the White House is betraying all of our traditional values of peace, peoplehood, caring about strangers, feeding the hungry, and not bombing children. I’m very disappointed. More than disappointed, I think I’ve actually returned to a kind of realism about how the world works. That’s helpful. Because in a way, no matter who’s in charge of the corporation that the United States is, the direction in which it is taken seems to be inexorable. So, you just get the job of being the front man for four or eight years. Now, most people realize that’s what you are.      


KW: Talking about being a good or bad president is like talking about being a good or bad rapist. 

AW: [LOL] That’s a very good thought.


KW: I think the black community sort of got checkmated in terms of its own agenda. And very vocal folks who try to hold Obama accountable are having their blackness questioned or their blackness revoked, like Tavis Smiley.  

AW: That’s okay. It’s better to have your blackness taken away than to stand there and lie about who you actually are. That’s the trap. In fact, Cynthia McKinney just sent me a piece by somebody about how, for the first time in history, black people are supporting the wars, the military strikes on Syria, and other awful things, as if they woke up and became entirely different people. It’s totally distressing! Look at the NDAA [The National Defense Authorization Act], look at the Patriot Act, look at the NSA, and the ruthless droning of civilians. I pretty much lost it when they droned the grandmother who was teaching her grandchildren how to pick okra. It seems to me the ones who are the real threat are the ones who are in power.


KW: Film director Rel Dowdell asks: Did Danny Glover fully personify the character Mister in The Color Purple?

AW: No. I love Danny, and he did a good job, but no. Mister is a small man. Danny is huge! And that matters, because what I was showing was how even a small man can be a terrorist in the home because of all the patriarchal weight that he brings to any situation. That would’ve been very powerful. In a way, making Mister so big undercut that message because we’re kind of afraid of big people anyway, because they take up so much room. I felt that at times there wasn’t enough subtlety in his abuse of Celie and her sister, Nettie, because what I’ve discovered and observed is that often it’s the subtle oppression that deeply wounds the soul. The parting for instance, which is so horrendous, where Nettie leaves, and is forced out by Mister. In the novel, that’s handled with a lot of restraint. Filmed with that restraint it would’ve been just as powerful, even with a little Mister, just by virtue of his being a man and having patriarchy as his backup.  


KW: Are you interested in writing your own screenplay?

AW: At this point, no, because I have gone back to writing poetry, which I absolutely love. And I write on my blog, which I enjoy. And life being what it is, every once in a while I’ll have a book which will have developed without my actually having paid that much attention to that part of it. I’m really only interested in each day’s gift.  


KW: I was struck by something you said in Beauty in Truth: “The pain we inflict on children is the pain we later endure as a society.”

AW: Boy, is that scary, when you consider what we’re doing to children all over the planet. They’re the ones who are truly being terrorized by all the madness adults are perpetrating. 


KW: Generational warfare. In the U.S., we even have it here between the prison industrial complex and the indentured servitude of the young via college loans they can never repay.

AW: They’re supposed to be slaves. And those that aren’t just slaves, can become drug addicts. And the drug addicts that are caught get put into the prison system to make a profit for the people who own the prisons. It’s all worked out. 


KW: Novelist and short story writer Suzan Greenberg was wondering whether you had any idea that your short story "Everyday Use" would be so widely anthologized?   

AW: I did not, and I’m puzzled that it is, because it’s not the story that I would’ve picked to be anthologized so widely. I think it’s chosen partly because it reinforces some people’s notions of the Deep South, Southerners and black people. That story has its own power, but it also permits a kind of distance, as if it happened in the far past. I think that’s why people use it opposed to more gritty stories like “Advancing Luna“ or “Laurel,” which come out of the struggle in the South in the Sixties but are very modern in terms of their sense of white and black people grappling with issues of interracial rape and interracial love. I think it’s hard for people to read those stories as dispassionately.


KW: Editor/Legist Patricia Turnier says: You have been a successful authoress for decades. Only about a dozen female laureates have won the literature Nobel Prize since its inception. Amantine Lucile Aurore Dupin had to adopt the pseudonym George Sand to become a French novelist and memoirist. Historically, it has been difficult for women to thrive in the literary world and the word “writeress” has been excluded or erased from some dictionaries. How can we break the glass ceiling as authoresses and have our voices heard more?

AW: You can start by not tacking that “ess” onto the end of everything, because you’re either a poet or you’re not, and either a writer or not. You don’t have to accept someone else’s idea that you need to have a tail that shows that you’re wearing a dress. [LOL] You are what you are. If you’re an actor, you’re an actor. You don’t have to be an actress. As far as a glass ceiling, I feel that all you can do is give it your absolute best with whatever gifts the universe has given you. And if you make it in some way that other people can recognize, that’s fine. But even if you don’t quote-unquote make it, you’re fine, if you’ve given it your whole heart and soul. You’re totally in sync with your purpose and with the universe. And that’s fine.  


KW: Patricia also says, you learned to read at a very young age. You were in the first grade when you were four years-old. Illiteracy is still an ongoing issue around the world. Do you think that exposing a child as early as possible to education can be a determinant in decreasing the level of illiteracy on a global scale?

AW: I know from having had a child, and from having been a child myself, that children will copy you. So, the best way to get them to read, is to read. The best way to get them to do anything is to do it yourself, and they will absolutely copy you. That way, you don’t have to worry about what’s supposedly age appropriate, a child will pick something up when the child is ready.    


KW: It was heartbreaking in Beauty in Truth to hear you talk about being estranged from your daughter. It was very touching.

AW: Hmmm… I like hearing that it was moving, and provocative in a way, because these things do happen to us. The very thing you think will never happen to you, happens! And then you get to see, oh, that’s because life is alive! [LOL]


KW: Toni Banks says: Thanks for “Meridian.” It’s my favorite work of yours. She asks, was the novel biographical fiction?

AW: Not really. There was a young woman in SNCC [the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee] whose name was Ruby Doris [Smith-Robinson].  She was someone I didn’t really know, but I heard about how she was having such a really hard time with the men in the organization. That was one of my early introductions to patriarchal behavior which undermines progress. If the men are going to try to keep the women down, everybody’s going to be stuck back there somewhere. So, she was a person I was thinking about, and I also wanted to write about the sort of spiritual and inspirational work that a lot of people in the movement were doing.   


KW: Reverend Florine Thompson says: Thank you for making the color purple the sacred. If there was no color purple, what other color might you drape yourself in?

AW: Well, I don’t really drape myself in purple, although people have sent me some of everything in purple. So, I get purple shawls and coats and hats and bathrobes and boots… You could pick any color, although purple is kind of rare. The point about the color purple is just that to really see a color is so remarkable! Anything that you can see that is beautiful is a gift. Blue… green… black… yellow… All these colors are amazing.


KW: Reverend Thompson also asks: What's the most important thing you've found in your mother's garden?

AW: Patience, because what gardening teaches us is that if you plant things, they’ll come up. But you have to be willing to wait for them to bear fruit because things are seasonal.  


KW: Finally, Rev Thompson asks: What advice might you offer young adolescent females searching for positive self-identity?

AW: Love yourself. Just love yourself. In fact, the love of the self cures every kind of problem you have with yourself. For instance, if someone calls you nappy-headed, it rolls right off your body, if you love nappy hair.

Or if someone calls you buck-toothed or too black, that won’t be a problem if you love being buck-toothed or black. If you love it, then so what. The development of self-love cures many of the ills that people suffer from.


KW: Thanks again Alice, it’s been a privilege.

AW: Thank you, Kam

To see at trailer for Alice Walker: Beauty in Truth, visit


UserpicTaboo (INTERVIEW)
Posted by Kam Williams


The “Jamesy Boy” Interview

with Kam Williams

The Taboo to Pursue!

Born in L.A. on July 14, 1975, Jimmy “Taboo” Gomez began dreaming about show business at an early age. The versatile fourple threat is a multilingual rapper, singer, dancer and emcee who got his big break in 1995 when approached by to form the Black Eyed Peas.

Among the popular hip-hop group’s hits are the Grammy-winning “I Gotta Feeling,” “Let’s Get It Started,” “Boom Boom Pow” and “My Humps,” to name a few. Besides music, Taboo is also the designer of his own line of footwear, Taboo Deltah, and has added acting to his bag of tricks.

Here, he talks about his latest outing as Guillermo in Jamesy Boy, a fact-based tale of redemption co-starring Ving Rhames, James Woods and Spencer Lofranco. Although he wants to make more movies in the future, he is currently focused on his own solo album releasing later in the year, as well as on an upcoming tour with the Black Eyed Peas.

Kam Williams: Hi Taboo, thanks for another interview.

Taboo: Thank you.

KW: Like last time, I’ll be mixing in my questions, with some from my readers. How did you get interested you in acting?

T: Well, I had actually been taking acting classes prior to joining the Black Eyed Peas in ‘96. In fact, I originally thought it was going to be my introduction to the entertainment world, because Black Eyed Peas was more of a local, L.A. underground band. I kept up with the acting classes as a safety net, until we took off a couple of years later, after the release of our first album. Once we started touring, I had to put acting on hold, although I still wanted to act. Fast-forward to 2005, when I made my feature film debut playing a character named Ramirez in Dirty, with Cuba Gooding, Jr., Clifton Collins, Wyclef [Jean] and a couple other people. Then I did a movie called Cosmic Radio and, after that, one called Streetfighter. And now, Jamesy Boy.

Read the rest of this story »


UserpicWronged Role Model Discusses Restoring Her Reputation
Posted by Kam Williams

Shirley Sherrod

The “Martin Luther King Awards Dinner” Interview
with Kam Williams

Shirley Sherrod is best known as the African-American government official fired in 2010 by the Obama administration for allegedly making racist remarks about a white farmer. However, a right-wing blogger had edited a video of her remarks to create that false impression.


Shortly after being dismissed as the Georgia USDA State Director of Rural Development she was cleared by the administration, and President Obama apologized to her. Nevertheless, she decided to not return, opting instead to write a book her autobiography, “The Courage to Hope: How I Stood Up to the Politics of Fear.”

When Shirley was 17, her father was killed by a white man in Georgia but no charges were ever lodged. A cross was burned in their yard shortly thereafter. The death of her father fostered her lifelong commitment to fight for the civil rights of poor and minority farmers.

She is currently a leader of the Southwest Georgia Project, an organization she helped start years ago. The organization works primarily with female farmers, trying to get more women involved in agriculture, and also marketing vegetables to local school systems.

In 2011, under the leadership of Shirley and her husband, Charles, New Communities, an agricultural cooperative modeled after the Israeli Kibbutz concept, bought a large farm in Georgia. They are establishing an agricultural training center there, as well as a program bringing local blacks and whites together in partnership to promote racial healing.


In a famous quote from Shakespeare’s Othello, Iago notes that, "Who steals my purse, steals trash… But he that filches from me my good name… makes me poor indeed.” Here, Shirley talks about the tarnishing and restoration of her reputation, and also about delivering the keynote speech at the 26th Annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Awards Dinner in Glen Burnie, MD on Friday, January 17. [Tickets may be purchased by phone at 410-760-4115 or at]



Kam Williams: Hi Ms. Sherrod. I’m honored to have this opportunity to speak with you.

Shirley Sherrod: Thank you, Kam.


KW: You’re delivering the keynote speech at the annual dinner in honor of the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King. What did Dr. King mean to you?

SS: Well, Dr. King has long been my hero. I didn’t get to work with him much, but my husband did in the early years. Dr. King gave his life, really, to the struggle for everyone. And he believed in non-violence. That’s what I’ve tried to do in terms of my life and my work, following the teachings of God.


KW: In your biography, you talk about how your father was murdered by a white man when you were 17. How did that tragedy shape you?

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UserpicThe Cumberbatch Kid Comes of Age and is All the Rage
Posted by Kam Williams

Benedict Cumberbatch
“The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug” Interview
with Kam Williams

Benedict Timothy Carlton Cumberbatch was born in London on July 19, 1976 to a couple of accomplished actors in their own right, Wanda Ventham and Timothy Carlton. A chip off the old block, Benedict followed in his parents’ footsteps after studying theater at the University of Manchester and the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art.

The versatile thespian’s impressive list of credits includes outings as Stephen Hawking in Hawking, as William Pitt in Amazing Grace, and as Vincent Van Gogh in Van Gogh: Painted with Words. He also appeared in Atonement, The Other Boleyn Girl, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, the Hobbit and War Horse.

This year alone, he’s starred in The Fifth Estate, 12 Years a Slave, August: Osage County, Star Trek into Darkness and The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. And on television, he reprised his title role in the PBS Masterpiece series Sherlock Holmes.

Thus, it should come as no surprise that busy Benedict was just named Artist of the Year by the British Academy of Film and Television Arts. In addition, he was on the cover of Time Magazine in October and was ranked #1 by Empire Magazine on its 2013 list of the 100 Sexiest Movie Stars.

Here, he talks about life, career and his latest film, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, where he does double-duty as the voice of both Smaug and the Necromancer.


Kam Williams: Hi Benedict, I’m honored to have this opportunity to speak with you.

Benedict Cumberbatch: That’s alright, Kam. I appreciate your taking the time.


KW: I loved both of your performances in this film.

BC: Thank you.


KW: I told my readers I’d be interviewing you, so I’ll be mixing their questions in with my own.  

BC: Sure.


KW: Documentary filmmaker Kevin Williams says: Congratulations on being the "It" actor of 2013. How does it feel to be one of the hottest actors out there? 

BC: It’s fantastic! I’m very wary though, wanting to build a career based on longevity. My eyes on the prize is doing this for the next forty-odd years, I guess, judging by McKellen’s [Hobbit co-star Sir Ian McKellen] standards. He’s a man in his early seventies still giving extraordinary, sensational, entertaining, inventive and energized performances. So, I’m thrilled that it’s been such a great couple of years for me, but I’ve been working professionally for over a decade now. Yes, I’m trying to enjoy this moment, but at the same time, I’m sort of focused on my long-term goal of carving out a career that’s for life, rather than being a flash in the pan. And I think the projects I’ve been picking have given me a good grounding for that.


KW: No doubt!

BC: I know Kevin’s question is very benign. Honestly, it’s very satisfying, and I’m very, very happy about how successful the last few years have been. It‘s a lovely reward for the hard work and faith put into me very early in my career. It’s great for the people who supported me early on to see the success I’m enjoying now. It feels like there’s a lot of goodwill behind the support from them. This is an odd profession, and sometimes people get jealous, but I haven’t really experienced any of that. Everyone’s been really happy for me, which is really, really great.    


KW: Kate Newell says: I feel a lot of pressure to be freakishly astute, since you’re so brilliant, especially as Sherlock Holmes. Your characters are always the smartest person in the room. Would you ever take a part that's all about brawn?

BC: Hell yeah! I absolutely would, Kate. Over the summer, I did a short film called Little Favour which I think you can still find on iTunes. In it, I play a character called Wallace who’s smart but he’s not the smartest. He gets taken over by circumstances and there’s quite a bit of brawn going on in that. And there was both brawn and brain in Khan. [The character he played in Star Trek into Darkness] But, yeah, I love the idea of playing something stupid or romantic. I’m not the smartest man in the room. I listen, and I learn, and I observe, but I’m always playing characters with intellects profoundly superior to mine. That’s great fun, even though it’s as much a fantasy for me as for the people watching me. [Chuckles] Sherlock’s extraordinarily intelligent; I’m lazy and ignorant by comparison. I like mixing it up, and I’d love to do some more brawn, so I’m all up for that, Kate.


KW: Children’s book author Irene Smalls was wondering whether you like the “motion capture” style of acting you employed in The Hobbit? Does playing Smaug and the Necromancer give you more freedom and artistic license, or less?

BC: It’s really thrilling! We started both characterizations with motion capture physical work in the theater space they call the volume, where all your motions are picked up on these sensors from the reflectors on this weird, rather embarrassing gray jumpsuit you wear. I loved it! The first time I stepped off the volume I felt like a complete knob. Everyone fussed over me, offering me coffee or juice. They treated me like a colleague who’d just arrived at the office, ignoring the fact that I was wearing a gray onesy with dots on it, had my face painted like an aborigine, and had a headset on with a camera in front of my eyes. Once I got over feeling so self-conscious, thanks to their treating me normally, I had so much fun. I felt like a kid. It’s really freeing. You have no marks to worry about, and very few technical restrictions, especially for something that’s so bound in technology. You don’t have to worry about your hair, makeup, continuity, or even other actors. There’s no one you’re affecting other than your own performance. If you get a line wrong, you go straight back and start again. So, you really can use your imagination and do whatever you want. It’s really kind of like playing, and being a kid again. It’s wonderful! And they gave me this great tool in the final session, a device which lowers your voice by a couple of octaves, which means you can color it, tone it, and pitch it with more detail. That was great fun to play with.


KW: How familiar were you with The Hobbit before signing on to do the trilogy?

BC: My dad read it to me originally when I was young. So, it was the first imaginary landscape I ever had in my head from the written word. It gave me a passion for reading, thanks to my dad’s performance of the book. My memory of his performance was a jumping off point for my portrayals. Even the cerebral characters I play seem to have physical quirks. They’re all “physically inhabited,” for lack off a better expression. For instance, Sherlock Holmes has very particular physical gestures which are drawn out in such detail. Conan Doyle [Sherlock Holmes author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle] is amazing in the way he has Watson describe Sherlock’s posture, mood swings, his hand gestures, and so forth in the novels.  


KW: Who would have ever guessed that someone was going to come along and eclipse Basil Rathbone in the role?

BC: Oh, thanks, but I wouldn’t go that far. I don’t think anyone’s going to eclipse Basil or Jeremy Brett, for that matter. I get away with it because it’s a modern era version. I think the criticism might be harder, if we were set in the Victorian era. What I think is beautiful about ours is that it’s done with such love and reverence for the original stories. So, it’s new, but like an old friend at the same time.  


KW: True. I was very impressed with how richly you developed your role as Stephen Hawking, despite his being confined to a wheelchair and having very limited mobility.

BC: Thanks. That was a very physical performance, about a man besieged by neuromuscular disease in his early twenties. Even in cerebral roles that are seemingly intelligent and nothing else, I think it’s so important to wrap your characterization in a physical form as well.


KW: Kevin also says: You were outstanding playing Julian Assange in The Fifth Estate and really brought him to life for the audience. 

BC: I really appreciate the compliment, Kevin.


KW: How did you prepare to play a person who is very much alive and in the public eye?

BC: It was tricky. There’s a huge amount of footage of Julian online, but he’s usually in presentation or defending mode, talking about his cause, or the revelations which Wikileaks have brought about. There’s none of Assange relaxing or in private mode. There’s none of the personality I tried to give him behind closed doors. That made it very hard. And obviously he didn’t want me to have access to him in preparing for the role, because he felt the film was going to be damaging to his cause. I think it’s been anything but, but there you go. So, I had to imagine myself into certain aspects of his character for our version of events. That involved extrapolating based on clues in his biography, his public persona, photographs, and other accounts of him by people who encountered him during that extraordinary period from 2007 to 2010 that we charted in the film. So, it involved a lot of research but, sadly, no contact with the man himself.      


KW: Editor/Legist Patricia Turnier says: I thought you were great in The Fifth Estate. What is your assessment of Julian Assange?

BC: That would be difficult for me, because I genuinely don’t know him well. To authenticate an opinion, I really would have to meet him. I know that might sound perverse because I played him but, honestly, I don’t think it would be fair for me to judge the man. I realize that makes me a bit of a hypocrite because I was portraying him a certain way, but we were always open to the fact that this was an interpretation, not any kind of exact evidence of who the man was. So, my assessment of him is a professional one, really, of what he’s managed to achieve, and the idea that he came up with, which set the world alight and continues to inspire others like Snowden [NSA leaker Edward Snowden], about the secret goings-on that are done in our name with our tax dollars on behalf of big business or politics. He launched the revolutionary idea that citizens can start to claim back a paradigm for questioning power structures and those in authority through an anonymous, whistle-blowing website. That’s a very powerful social tool. He came up with the idea. He came up with the algorithms to protect sources. It’s begun a fascinating revolution in how we deal with data and revelations and structures. From that point of view, he has my utmost admiration, even though I’m yet to meet the guy. I understand from those who adore him, he has a great sense of humor which rarely gets an airing because he’s dealing with such serious issues. I know he’s a man of fierce determination, and now living under the strain of house arrest in the Ecuadorean embassy as a “political exile,” as he calls himself. I’d love to meet Julian, and time permitting, and his will permitting, I’m sure it will happen at some point. Even though he’s been very critical of the film, he’s been very polite about me and my work, and I feel the same way about him. I am also full of admiration for Chelsea Manning [formerly PFC Bradley Manning]. Regardless of which side of the argument you’re on, he stood up for something he felt wasn’t right. That was an extraordinarily brave thing to do, and I think he was unfairly punished for it. It’s a really big deal what he did, and he did it for the betterment of all us, including the soldiers on the ground, as well as the civilians caught up in those conflicts.


KW: Patricia also says: I enjoyed your work in 12 Years a Slave. What does Solomon Northup’s story mean to you?

BC: It means a great deal to me, because even though it’s from an earlier time, let’s face it; it’s not about a very distant past. There are still huge inequalities. There’s still nearly the same amount of slavery, if not more, in the world today, as there was at the height of the slave trade. As for Solomon, a free man with a family who was dragged away from his domestic environment and had his freedom taken away from him, that terrifying story of his barbaric treatment is a universal one which is a warning to all of us. The story serves as a metaphor for the fear of having your family taken away, and for being abused in such a horrific way. I lost it a lot of times watching that film, particularly when seeing the grace of the man when he finally makes it back home aged, changed, forever brutalized, and yet he apologizes to his family for his long absence. That was such a profoundly moving moment capturing the triumph of dignity over the disgraceful behavior of those involved in the slave trade.    


KW: Patricia would like to know what movie projects your company, SunnyMarch, has in the works.

BC: Well, Patricia, we’re very busy at the moment, but we’re working on it. We’re sort of amalgamating material and options right now. I’m very excited about all the offers and interest and support pouring in through crowd-funding, and about having a lovely gap coming up when I’ll finally be able to sit down with books and scripts and talk to my partners about how we take the company forward. That’s a long winded way of saying, we don’t know yet, but we’re working on it. You’ll know about it, when it happens. We’d like to go in a lot of different directions.  


KW: The Harriet Pakula-Teweles question: With so many classic films being redone, is there a remake you'd like to star in?

BC: That’s a good question, Harriet. Boy, something with Bogie in it! I’d love to do a noir. The Big Sleep. Or Casblanca! Why not? You can’t remake Casablanca. Maybe The Great Escape. I think Steve McQueen is so cool. But a classic film is a classic film, and perhaps the fantasy of being those characters should be left alone. You’re treading on very thin ice.


KW: The bookworm Troy Johnson question: What was the last book you read?

BC: The middle of the series of five Patrick Melrose novels by Edward St. Aubyn.


KW: What is your favorite dish to cook?

BC: A really lovely, super fruit and chicken salad.


KW: When you look in the mirror, what do you see?

BC: The same person I saw the last time I looked, only a lit bit older, and a little bit wiser, too, hopefully.


KW: The Uduak Oduok question: Who is your favorite clothes designer?

BC: I have to say Spencer Hart, because they’ve been so supportive of me. They’ve got a Rat Pack, Old World, sort of Hollywood glamour about them but with an English twist. You just can’t get smarter than a Spencer Hart suit in London. Having said that, I’ve very much enjoyed the Alexander MacQueen which I’ve worn in the past, and Dolce & Gabbana which I wore last night. They’re better known. I think if I’m going to give a shout out to anyone, I think it should be to Spencer Hart.


KW: The Ling-Ju Yen question: What is your earliest childhood memory?

BC: Falling off a swing and cracking my head at about 4 or 5 in my grands’ [grandparents’] garden in Brighton. I can recall seeing the horizon tip, and then feeling this thudding pain in the back of my head. Wait, I have even earlier memories of clouds whisking by while sitting in the pushchair on the roof of my parents’ flat. I loved it! I just loved staring at the clouds and dreaming away. 


KW: Thanks again for the time, Benedict, and best of luck with all your endeavors.

BC: Bless you, Kam. Bye now.

To see a trailer for The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, visit


UserpicKasi on Call
Posted by Kam Williams

Kasi Lemmons
The “Black Nativity” Interview
with Kam Williams

A proven talent as an actress, writer and director, Kasi Lemmons continues to tantalize creatively with her thought provoking body of work. Her work as an actress includes roles in Silence of the Lambs opposite Jodie Foster, and Spike Lee’s School Daze, as well as Hard Target, Fear of a Black Hat, Candyman and Vampire’s Kiss.

Kasi’s magical directorial debut, Eve’s Bayou, was the highest-grossing independent film of 1997. The film won the Independent Spirit Award for ‘Best First Feature’ and received seven NAACP Image Award nominations, including Best Picture.

Her sophomore offering, The Caveman’s Valentine, opened the 2002 Sundance Film Festival to audience and critical acclaim. And, in 2008, she received an NAACP Image Award for directing Talk to Me.

Her guest teaching and speaking credits include Yale University, MIT, UCLA, USC, the Los Angeles Film School and the University of Pristina Film School in Kosovo. Currently, Kasi is an associate arts professor at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts.

Here, she talks about her adaptation of the Langston Hughes musical Black Nativity, which stars Jennifer Hudson, Forest Whitaker, Angela Bassett, Mary J. Blige, Nas, Tyrese, and her husband, Vondie Curtis-Hall.


Kam Williams: Hi Kasi, thanks for the interview.

Kasi Lemmons: No problem.


KW: What a powerful film! I don’t remember ever seeing a musical that had the audience weeping after the first song.

KL: Yeah, well, that’s Jennifer Hudson. She’s incredible.


KW: Harriet Pakula-Teweles asks: How daunting a task is it to adapt a Langston Hughes stage classic to the screen?

KL: It was very daunting. One of my foolish qualities is to jump boldly, and then think about it later. It was daunting, but I also felt honored, and took the opportunity very seriously. I wanted to pay homage to someone who was such an important literary figure in my life. I think Langston Hughes would be proud of the picture, yet it’s a contemporary story about a family living in Harlem. I named the lead character Langston, put a little bit of poetry in there, and some Langston Hughes quotes, and, of course, his stage play, Black Nativity.


KW: Editor/Legist Patricia Turnier says: Some directors make faithful adaptations; others feel free to take license with the source material. Which approach did you employ here?

KL: Black Nativity certainly lends itself to reinterpretation. It was kind of designed to be infused with the creativity of whoever is putting it on, and every performance is a little bit different. So, this is definitely my version of Black Nativity. It has its own story, which is a family story. Hughes’ Black Nativity informs it, and is contained within it.


KW: Children’s book author Irene Smalls asks: What did it take to contemporize Langston Hughes Black Nativity?

KL: Just imagination. In my case, I decided to make it a contemporary story very relevant to today’s audience. 


KW: Rel Dowdell says: The film is very poignant.  Were there any emotional
moments on set where tears just flowed after you yelled, "Cut!"

KL: Yeah, quite a few actually, especially when it had to do with the music and people were singing, and also the big scene at the end. We were all crying. Absolutely!


KW: Two of your cast members, your husband, Vondie, and Forest Whitaker arealso directors. Did that ever pose a problem on the set?

KL: No, they both came as actors, and were very able to the actor-director process. They came to play, and that’s what we did. However, I did occasionally ask each of them for their advice as fellow filmmakers, because their opinions mattered to me. 


KW: I was very impressed with how moving the songs were and how their lyrics enhanced the storyline.  

KL: Yeah, the songs are very much a part of the story, and not separate


KW: In a movie with so many stars, I was surprised that you took a big chance by casting an unknown, Jacob Latimore, in such a pivotal role. How did you come to cast him as Langston?

KL: I knew that there was a good chance that I would end up with a newcomer in that role. I love working with young artists. Jacob was the first kid that I auditioned. After he walked out, I turned to my husband and said, “I think that’s the kid. I don’t know if I have to look any further. He’s the one!” He’s a real star.


KW: You live in Harlem and, so I’m sure you’re aware that it has been undergoing a lot of change lately. Why did you set the film there? 

KL: It is gentrifying very fast, and I feel proud to have photographed it where it is right now. I’m interested in the history of Harlem and in modern Harlem. It’s a very interesting place.


KW: Did you encounter any racism growing up in Newton, a suburb of Boston? I always ask that of any black person who’s lived in Boston, because it was the most racist city I’ve ever lived in, shockingly so.

KL: Oh, sure, I encountered it when I was growing up, and it has kind of made me who I am, although I came to love Boston. It’s a complicated city. Some of the smartest people in the world are in Boston. How many institutions of higher learning are in that one area? It’s a pool of intelligence. It’s a great town. You can encounter racism anywhere. I have a lot of nostalgic feelings about Boston. It was a cool place to grow up. 


KW: What message do you think people will take away from?

KL: I think the movie has a very clear message. It’s about a family in crisis facing some of the very familiar struggles we face in our communities. It’s really about love, redemption, forgiveness, faith and family, the things that have gotten us through so many hard times, and that continue to get us through them. When times are hard, we need each other. That’s what the movie’s about. And I you’ll leave the theater inspired and ready to enjoy your family.     


KW: When you look in the mirror, what do you see?

KL: I see Kasi. [Chuckles] I don’t over-think my existence. I see me. I’m a very imperfect person, like most of us are. I’m also a very busy person. I have a family. I have a career. I’m a professor at NYU. I have a full life for which I feel grateful every day. 


KW: The Ling-Ju Yen question: What is your earliest childhood memory?

KL: Standing on the back porch of my home in St. Louis watching the petals fall from a rosebush at about the age of 2.


KW: What is your favorite dish to cook?

KL: Gumbo. I make a really mean gumbo around the holiday season. I have it down pretty good now.


KW: What is your guiltiest pleasure?

KL: Reading a novel with a glass of wine. I love to read voraciously. I always have. And I love to lose myself in a good book.


KW: The bookworm Troy Johnson question: What was the last book you read?

KL: I’m reading a lot of books at once. Some of the books lying around my bed right now are a biography of Bob Marley, “The Keep” by Jennifer Egan, “The History of Love,” “The Black Count,” and “Miss Ann in Harlem.” It’s a wonderful book about the white women of the Harlem Renaissance.


KW: Are you going to bless us with your next film sooner?

KL: I would like to. Honestly, I do spend most of my time between films trying to get the next one made.


KW: Do you think the fact that this has been a banner year for black films will make it easier for African-American directors to find funding?

KL: Yes, because the films are performing, and Hollywood is all about the money.


KW: If you could have one wish instantly granted, what would that be for?

KL: That my family would be happy, and safe and well.


KW: The Anthony Mackie question: Isthere anything that you promised yourself you’d do if you became famous, that you still haven’t done yet?

KL: I haven’t written a novel. [Chuckles] I am overdue for that. I’ve been wanting to write one for a very long time.


KW: The Gabby Douglas question: If you had to choose another profession, what would that be?

KL: I’d probably be a musician.


KW: The music maven Heather Covington question: What was the last song you listened to? 

KL: I like Kanye, Jay-Z, R&B, classical, jazz and all kinds of music, but I’d say soulful World Music is my favorite.


KW: Harriet also asks: With so many classic films being redone, is there a remake you'd like to do?

KL: If I like a film, I usually appreciate the way it was made the first time. But my cousin would very much like me to redo The Wiz one day.


KW: What advice do you have for anyone who wants to follow in your footsteps?

KL: Perseverance is what I tell my students. It’s important that you keep your dream alive, because you’re going to encounter a lot of obstacles, and no one is going to dream big for you. You have to have the fortitude and the resilience to stick with your own dreams. That can be hard.


KW: The Tavis Smiley question: How do you want to be remembered?

KL: As someone who tried to be great. I don’t know if one ever gets to greatness, but I’ve put in a good effort, and will continue to do so. 


KW: Well, you’ve achieved greatness in my book, Kasi, and best of luck with the film.

KL: Thanks, Kam.

To see a trailer for Black Nativity, visit:


UserpicA Long Walk with Naomie
Posted by Kam Williams

Naomie Harris
The “Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom” Interview
with Kam Williams

As a critically acclaimed actress in film, television, and theatre, Naomie Harris is making more of a name for herself with each of her successive, luminous performances. Last year, she starred as Bond girl ‘Eve’ opposite Daniel Craig in the 007 feature Skyfall.

She also appeared in Danny Boyle's production of Frankenstein at The National Theater in London alongside Jonny Lee Miller and Benedict Cumberbatch. In the The First Grader, she played 'Jane,' a first-grade teacher in Kenya who fought for the right of an 84 year-old man to be educated, even if it meant learning in a classroom with six-year-olds.

The London-born actress enjoyed her first major breakthrough performance in 2002 in Danny Boyle's 28 Days Later, and she went on to receive further critical acclaim for her role as 'Tia Dalma' in Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest, and Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End. Her other major film credits include Miami Vice, Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story; Street Kings; and Sex & Drugs & Rock and Roll.

After earning a degree in social and political science with honors from Cambridge University, Naomie trained at the prestigious Bristol Old Vic Theatre School. Here, she talks about her latest outing as ‘Winnie Mandela’ opposite Idris Elba in Mandela: A Long Walk to Freedom.

Kam Williams: Hi Naomie, I’m honored to have another opportunity to speak with you.

Naomie Harris: Oh, no, my pleasure, Kam. 


KW: What interested you in Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom?

NH: I’d made a film produced by Anant Singh and David Thompson and directed by Justin Chadwick called The First Grader. And while promoting that movie in Toronto, they asked me whether I wanted to do Mandela. I said, “Yeah!” because I really wanted to work with the same team again and also because I wanted to be part of a film honoring Nelson Mandela’s life.    


KW: What did you know about Winnie Mandela when you accepted the role?

NH: I actually had no idea who Winnie Mandela was. Obviously, I knew she was Nelson Mandela’s wife, but I thought the role was basically going to revolve around her supporting him. I had no idea that she was a political activist in her own right, and that she was integral to the anti-Apartheid movement.


KW: Editor/Legist Patricia Turnier asks: What did it mean to you to portray Winnie Mandela and what is your vision of her?

NH: Since, as I said, I was unfamiliar with Winnie Mandela, for me, this project was really more about a celebration of Nelson Mandela. And he, for me, represents this incredible iconic figure. But in terms of who I discovered Winnie to be once I did all my research, which was pretty intense and fairly in depth, I found her to be the most complex character I’ve ever played. She’s almost seven different characters in one. She’s done some controversial things that are very difficult to justify. She’s also a woman of immense compassion. And she’s a person of the people. In South Africa, she’s known as Mother Africa, and is loved and admired by many for having helped hundreds of thousands of people. So, she’s complex, and very hard to define in a brief space of time.    


KW: Children’s book author Irene Smalls asks: What kind of research did you do in creating the role?

NH: I read Nelson Mandela’s autobiography, “Long Walk to Freedom,” I watched documentaries about the Apartheid era, I interviewed people who knew Winnie, I read biographies about her, and even got to sit down with her and ask her questions about her life.


KW: Larry Greenberg asks: Did you spend any time with Winnie’s daughters Zenani and Zindzi Mandela in preparation for the film?

NH: Yes, I had an opportunity to go out to dinner with both Zenani and Zindzi.


KW: Obama biographer Dinesh Sharma asks: Did you actually shoot on location in the prisons in Joburg, Robben Island and Pretoria?

NH: No, we had an extraordinary set designer. When you watch the movie, it looks like we shot on Robben Island and those other places. But it was all replicated in studio. However, we did shoot in South Africa, in Cape Town and Johannesburg, and in the actual courthouse where the trial took place. So, there are some historical moments which were filmed on location in the same places where they originally happened.    


KW: Kate Newell asks: What was the most surprising thing you learned about Winnie that you didn't know going into the film?

NH: Learning how integral she was to the anti-Apartheid movement, and that Nelson Mandela might not have become the Nelson Mandela we know today without her. Also, learning about the contributions of so many women who sacrificed their lives was very educational for me.


KW: Patricia also asks: What do you want audiences to remember most about the movie?

NH: I hope that they remember this extraordinary period in history that should never, ever be repeated. And I hope that they take away from the film that freedom was hard won. I want people to remember to cherish their freedom. In terms of Winnie, it’s not my place to judge her and some of the actions that she’s taken. What I wanted to do was show with as much compassion as possible a comprehensive and detailed portrayal of how she started out in life, why she made the choices she made, and who she ultimately became. I hope to bring some understanding to the woman.  


KW: Kevin Williams asks: Did you have any reservations about playing Winnie? Many actresses might have declined the role given her tarnished image. 

NH: No, it’s not like I always want to play saints. The sinners are actually much more interesting to play, because they’re more complex. And as an actor, that’s what you’re always looking for, complexity and layers.  


KW: The Harriet Pakula-Teweles question: With so many classic films being redone, is there a remake you'd like to star in?

NH: Wow! If I could sing, I would do the remake of West Side Story or The Sound of Music, because I’m obsessed with musicals. But unfortunately, I can’t sing or dance, so I don’t see that happening anytime soon. [Chuckles] 


KW: Harriet also asks: Was it a blessing or a bane to be cast as a Bond girl?

NH: Definitely a blessing. Definitely! I’m very proud of my role as Eve, and really enjoyed the experience. And it’s been a great boost for my career. So, 100% a blessing.


KW: Rel Dowdell asks: Do you find that opportunities are opening up in Hollywood for actors and actresses of color from outside of America?

NH: Yeah, I find that America has always embraced international talent. That’s why so many people from all around the world have come to Hollywood to make films. It’s a big melting pot, and I’m very grateful for that. If I’d stayed in England, I doubt if I’d enjoyed the kind of career that I’ve had. 


KW: The bookworm Troy Johnson question: What was the last book you read?

Last time we spoke, you were reading, “How to Leave Twitter.”

NH: I recently began reading the Steve Jobs biography, but I haven’t finished it. It’s still sitting by my bedside.


KW: The music maven Heather Covington question: What was the last song you listened to? 

NH: Now that’s interesting! I just got off a plane, and on the flight I watched 20 Feet from Stardom which featured a fantastic collection of songs from the Sixties and Seventies. 


KW: The Sanaa Lathan question: What excites you?

NH: That’s really interesting as well. A challenge. Playing a completely different role, something that makes me almost feel scared. That’s exciting for me. 


KW: The Mike Pittman question: What was your best career decision?

NH: Saying “Yes” to doing 28 Days Later, although there’s no way I would have ever turned it down. That role, for me, was really the catalyst for everything.


KW: The Jamie Foxx question: If you only had 24 hours to live, how would you spend the time? 

NH: Nothing dramatic, eating with my family and my closest friends because that is my favorite thing to do.


KW: The Anthony Mackie question: Isthere anything that you promised yourself you’d do if you became famous, that you still haven’t done yet?

NH: I never ever thought about becoming famous. I just wanted to become an actress and make great movies and to play roles that challenged me. So, I never made that sort of commitment to myself.


KW: The Melissa Harris-Perry question:How did your first big heartbreak impact who you are as a person?

NH: My first big heartbreak? Gosh, I only dated him for about three weeks and ended up being heartbroken for a year. It was awful! That taught me that the heart is quite fragile, and to look after and cherish it, and to not give it to just anybody.


KW: The Viola Davis question: What’s the biggest difference between who you are at home as opposed to the person we see on the red carpet?

NH: At home, I like comfy clothes, so I ‘m pretty casual in the way that I dress. But on the red carpet, I like to glam it up and really push the boundaries in terms of fashion.


KW: The Anthony Anderson question: If you could have a superpower, which one would you choose?

NH: [Whispers] Wow! That’s really interesting. Any superpower? That would be amazing. [In normal voice] I would like to have the power to heal the sick.


KW: The Gabby Douglas question: If you had to choose another profession, what would that be?

NH: I’d definitely be a novelist. I like the idea of creating an imaginary world with imaginary characters, which is somewhat similar to what I do as an actress. 


KW: The Pastor Alex Kendrick question: What do you wish other people would note about you?

NH: Nothing. I like the idea of being mysterious and people not knowing too much about me. I think it’s nicer if they focus on the characters I play as opposed to on me as a person.


KW: Pastor Alex also asks: What motivates you at this stage of your career?

NH: Playing inspirational characters who really have a voice and something meaningful to say.


KW: The Tasha Smith question: Are you ever afraid?

NH: I’m always afraid! There’s a great book called, “Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway,” which is how I feel is the best way to live. We all feel afraid of so many things, but when you do them, you realize they’re a lot less scary than you thought. 


KW: The Columbus Short question: Are you happy?

NH: Happiness isn’t a constant state. One has moments of happiness throughout the day, but we’re meant to experience anger, joy, sadness, pain, excitement, a full range of emotions. 


KW: The Teri Emerson question: When was the last time you had a good laugh?

NH: I have a good laugh everyday. And just before this interview, I was laughing while dancing to imaginary music.


KW: What is your guiltiest pleasure?

NH: Dark chocolate. I know sugar isn’t good for you, but every now and then I succumb and have a bit.


KW: The Tavis Smiley question: How do you want to be remembered?

NH: As somebody who lived life to the fullest.


KW: Thanks again for the time, Naomie, and congratulations on your tremendous performance, one not to be forgotten during the upcoming awards season.

NH: I really appreciate that, Kam. Nice to speak to you again. Take care.  


To see a trailer for Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, visit


UserpicAnn Coulter (INTERVIEW)
Posted by Kam Williams

Ann Coulter
The “Never Trust a Liberal over 3” Interview


If You Like Ann Coulter, You Can Keep Ann Coulter, Period!

Ann Coulter is the author of nine New York Times bestsellers — Demonic: How the Liberal Mob is Endangering America (June 2011); Guilty: Liberal “Victims” and Their Assault on America (January 2009); If Democrats Had Any Brains, They’d Be Republicans (October, 2007); Godless: The Church of Liberalism (June 2006); How to Talk to a Liberal (If You Must) (October, 2004); Treason: Liberal Treachery From the Cold War to the War on Terrorism (June 2003); Slander: Liberal Lies About the American Right (June 2002); and High Crimes and Misdemeanors: The Case Against Bill Clinton (August 1998).

She is also the legal affairs correspondent for Human Events and writes a popular syndicated column for Universal Press Syndicate. She has both been a frequent guest on such TV programs as The Today Show, Good Morning America, The Early Show, The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, Hannity, The O’Reilly Factor, The Glenn Beck Show and HBO's Real Time with Bill Maher, and been profiled in publications like TV Guide, the Guardian (UK), the New York Observer, National Journal, Harper’s Bazaar, and Elle magazine.

She was the April 25, 2005 cover story of Time magazine and in 2001 was named one of the Top 100 Public Intellectuals by federal judge Richard Posner. A Connecticut native, Coulter graduated with honors from Cornell University School of Arts & Sciences and received her J.D. from University of Michigan Law School, where she was an editor of the Michigan Law Review.

Ms. Coulter clerked for the Honorable Pasco Bowman II of the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit and was an attorney in the Department of Justice Honors Program for outstanding law school graduates. After practicing law in private practice in New York City, she worked for the Senate Judiciary Committee, where she handled crime and immigration issues for Senator Spencer Abraham of Michigan. From there, she became a litigator with the Center for Individual Rights in Washington, D.C., a public interest law firm dedicated to the defense of individual rights with particular emphasis on freedom of speech, civil rights, and the free exercise of religion.

Here, she talks about her new book, Never Trust a Liberal over 3.


Kam Williams: Hi Ann, thanks for another opportunity to interview with you. Guess I made that short list of reporters you’re willing to give a second shot.

Ann Coulter: Thanks for having me, Kam!


KW: What inspired you to write Never Trust a Liberal over 3?

AC: Two things: First, I wanted to write a fun book, not exclusively about politics, to lure conservatives back into the arena. Second, you win an argument with liberals, they wait a week and then go right back to saying the same thing. Instead of writing the same columns over and over again, I thought I’d just include a bunch of my favorites over the last decade, proving, for example:

The August 6 PDB [Presidential Daily Briefing], titled “Bin Laden Determined to Attack!” was as informative as a memo titled “Waitress Determined to Succeed in Hollywood!” If Bush had followed every lead in that memo, there would have been bomb-sniffing dogs outside the federal courthouse on 9/11.

Valerie Plame was not an undercover agent and her husband, Joe Wilson, was a boob.

Waterboarding as practiced in Guantanamo was never considered a “war crime.” MSNBC commentators who said so were apparently reading “Little Women” rather than military histories as children.

 Amanda Knox was guilty.

 Troy Davis was guilty.

 Liberals tell amazing lies about guns and everything else.


KW: Besides liberals, whom you refer to as “porn surfers,” “liars” and “welfare suppliers,” you make incendiary remarks about everything from Muslims to illegal aliens to gays to African-Americans. You really know how to burn a bridge.


AC: That was just to rhyme!  (But thank you!) I don’t think I have an unkind word for any of them. Oh wait, except Muslims. I’ve been cross with them since 9/11 2001. I can't remember why but it was something bad.


KW: What do you think about the Obamacare roll-out?

AC:  The roll-out has gone much better than I ever dreamed it would. Six people in America signed up on day one? Beat that, free market capitalism!


KW: What do you think of program itself? Have you read the whole law?

AC: I’ve read more of it than Nancy Pelosi has. It’s a disaster. Harvard graduates just cannot shake the idea that they know better than everyone else what’s best for us and that they’re capable of running a mammoth, unwieldy government program providing each one of us with the precise health insurance we need, at a good price, with no waste or fraud. Trust them, they worked it all out on paper their junior year.


KW: Do you think it’s important that the President promised, “If you like your health insurance, you can keep your insurance,” or is it no different from President Bush saying, “Read my lips: no new taxes,” and then reneging on that guarantee after getting elected. 


AC:  Big difference! Bush was making a promise about future behavior, Obama knew what he was saying was a lie when he said it, but he had to say it or the law wouldn’t have passed, even on a strict party-line vote, without both houses of Congress ever voting on the same bill. The Obamacare bill was written. The mandates for all insurance to cover whatever HHS Secretary/gender-feminist Kathleen Sebelius considered important was in that bill. Other insurance plans were made illegal in the bill Obama was touting at the very moment he was claiming it would allow you to keep insurance you liked. But he had to lie in order to get the bill passed. By contrast, Bush made a promise about his future behavior and then broke it. For that to be the same as what Obama did, Bush would have had to campaigned for a specific bill that raised taxes by assuring Americans the bill would not raise taxes.


KW: I told my readers I’d be interviewing again, and a lot of them sent in questions.

AC:  Excellent!


KW: Documentary filmmaker Kevin Williams asks: Why do you think so many liberals, even outside of New York City and Los Angeles are so unaware of their own bias, if not prejudice, against conservatives and in particular female and black conservatives?

AC:  They’re in the liberal cocoon. Liberals could live their whole lives never having to hear an actual conservative opinion other than the idiotic arguments written for conservative characters on Aaron Sorkin’s little teleplays. As I wrote in my book, Slander, conservatives couldn’t block out liberal opinion if they wanted to, short of going into a coma, in which case they’re not going to be much help fighting Democrats. We’re bombarded with liberal propaganda 24/7, from the early morning shows, Hollywood movies, documentaries and sitcoms, all major newspapers, fashion magazines, the sports pages, public schools, college professors and administrators, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.  Unless liberals specifically seek out Ann Coulter books and columns, which I highly recommend, or tune into Fox News or conservative talk radio, they have no idea what conservatives are thinking. As the saying goes, a fish doesn’t know what water is. Speaking of the sports pages, I have a solution to the furor over the “Washington Redskins” name!  They should rename themselves the “Maryland Redskins.” I’m a problem-solver, and you’re welcome.


KW: Yale grad Tommy Russell asks: Do you think liberals and conservatives fit so neatly into the prescribed categories you and other conservative pundits assign to them?

AC: What do you mean by “liberals” and “conservatives”?  I believe you are assigning them to precise categories! I’ll explain why you do that.  It’s impossible to talk without labels. “Dog” is a label, but that doesn’t mean it’s meaningless, nor does it mean there’s no difference in a Shih Tzu and a Doberman.


KW: Tommy also asks: Do you think the Republican Party is in the midst of a meltdown and permanent recession of significance in national politics now that Tea Party candidates are as energized as ever to push their radical agenda forward after the failed budget standoff and to push out the remaining moderately conservative members of Congress; and core libertarian values of freedom of choice, that could apply to such issues as the legalization of pot, clash with party identity politics and therefore are not supported at large and are visible contradictions for voters who might support a more harmonious party platform?

AC:  I discuss this in my new book – it’s not exactly the “Tea Party” per se, but again that is a useful label and I get your point. I speak at a lot of Tea Parties, know a lot of them, and I think I am one. The vast majority of Tea Partiers want to win. We didn’t ask our candidates to mull about rape and abortion on the campaign trail. We want them talking about repealing Obamacare, protecting our second amendment rights and locking up the rapists, not giving them the vote, as Democrats would like to do. But there is an element on the right often mistaken for Tea Partiers, whom I would describe more as dilettantes for whom politics is a matter of acquiring a sense of belonging -- usually a liberal trait. They choose candidates not based on who is the best candidate for the race, but to, say, announce to the world something about themselves: “I am pure! I will not compromise my principles and vote for a pale pastel Republican!” That’s great, a Democrat won because you wouldn’t vote unless Christine O’Donnell was on the ballot. Of course, they’re not the only ones causing problems for the GOP. As I also describe in the book, we have the greedy consultants and ego-driven candidates who run for office just to get a TV show or increase their speaking fees. And we have the “establishment Republicans”-- again, an imperfect label -- pushing widely unpopular ideas on our candidates, such as amnesty.


KW: Harriet Pakula-Teweles asks: How does naming, blaming and shaming clear the air for a dialogue that leads to reconciliation, so government can work again as the people who elected their representatives can rightly expect?

AC:  I love that Harriet Pakula-Teweles has asked me a question about naming. Naturally, I do none of these things. I cut through the nonsense with the blinding light of truth. But you do make an important point that I think a lot of people don’t understand. What I and other commentators do is attempt to move the public opinion. We try to change minds. That is absolutely NOT what a candidate is supposed to do.  Leave the jaw-dropping statements to us. Take gun laws. I suspect it would have been madness for a Republican candidate to have supported concealed carry permits in, say, 1990. The public hadn’t been persuaded yet. After John Lott’s important book, More Guns, Less Crime, came out, public opinion changed dramatically. Now a majority of people support concealed carry laws. Public intellectuals move opinion, public officials try to reflect it.


KW: Larry Greenberg asks: Should women have suffrage in Presidential elections?

AC: Would that they did not!  Sadly, Larry, that ship has sailed. The most we can hope for is strong marriages. Married women vote Republican; single women vote Democratic. That’s why liberals promote policies to break up families. Every social malady is a victory for the left. A couple gets divorced and liberals say, “Yay! Another Democratic voter!” A child is born out of wedlock and liberals say, “Yay! Another Democratic voter!” A person gets addicted to drugs and liberals say, “Yay! Another Democratic voter!”


KW: Kate Newell says: I wonder what created your initial distrust of liberals? I think we are mostly quite nice, intelligent people!

AC:  I’m sure you are Kate, but in kindergarten a liberal told me I was “greedy” for wanting to keep my own lunch, stole it from me and then promised I could keep my lunch box if I liked it -- period! -- but stole that too, and then she enlisted half the class to steal money from the other half, by assuring them lifetime jobs and cushy pensions. By the way, most people in the Tea Party are nice, but that hasn’t stopped liberals from hating them.


KW: Jeff Cohen asks: Is it really necessary to capitalize on the over the top villainizing of liberals? Doesn't that kind of behavior harm constructive dialogue

AC: Au contraire! It is the very essence of constructive dialogue!


KW: Keith Kremer says: With the government fractured among Democrats, moderate Republicans and the Tea Party, it appears that compromise is a foreign concept and there is little hope that anything will get done. With that said, aren’t you part of the problem with your hard line stances and abhorrence of the other side?

AC: No.  I am the solution.


KW: Keith’s also wondering: Who’s the last Democrat for which you’ve cast your vote?

AC: In a high school mock election, I voted for Joe Lieberman for Senate from Connecticut.


KW: Gil Cretney asks: Do you really believe the hate message you make your living delivering?

AC: Be honest, do you really believe that question?


KW: Attorney Bernadette Beekman says: I see you've maintained your license to practice law in New York and that your registration is due to be renewed this year. Do you ever find yourself scrambling to maintain the number of required CLE credits due to your heavy book tour, speaking engagements and the like?  

AC: No.


KW: Bernadette has a follow-up: Would you recommend that young women go to law school today, given the economy and the practice of law in general and the current lack of advancement opportunities for women?

AC: Noooooooooooooo! We have way too many lawyers, the price for them has plummeted and you will have a miserable and unsatisfying life. Unless you get into Harvard Law. You could be in a yurt on the Mongolian Plateau and they’ll say, “Oh you must be smart. You went to Harvard Law.”


KW: The Columbus Short question: Are you happy?

AC: Not at the moment -- this interview is taking way too long. [Chuckles]


KW: The Teri Emerson question: When was the last time you had a good laugh?

AC: After hearing Gil’s question about “Do you really believe it?”


KW: What is your guiltiest pleasure?

AC: Watching Rachel Maddow smirkingly launch one of her soon-to-be-disproved-conspiracy theories, for example, the census worker in Kentucky who was killed by an anti-government nut -- it was suicide; the Minnesota bridge collapsed because of Republican budget cuts -- it was structural problems having nothing to do with maintenance; gun rights supporters were holding a rally to celebrate Timothy McVeigh -- which also happened to be the anniversary of the Battle of Concord and Lexington; and so forth.


KW: The bookworm Troy Johnson question: What was the last book you read?

AC: Last week: Robert Louis Stevenson’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, Charles Dickens’s The Boardinghouse, a real snooze. This week, in anticipation of the de Blasio mayoralty, I just started re-reading Tom Wolfe’s Bonfire of the Vanities.  Before the book tour began, I was half-way through Fuller Torrey’s new book, American Psychosis: How the Federal Government Destroyed the Mental Illness Treatment System, which is fantastic. For decades now, Torrey has been warning America what would happen if the dangerously mentally ill were deinstitutionalized, and it’s all come true.  Today, the only place we can put mental patients is on MSNBC.


KW: The music maven Heather Covington question: What was the last song you listened to? 

AC: I can't remember the name of the song but it was from Michelle Obama's rap CD about getting in shape and eating right. [Chuckles] 


KW: What is your favorite dish to cook?

AC: Mango colada. No, vodka tonic. Wait, make that a Martini.


KW: The Sanaa Lathan question: What excites you?

AC:  The prospect of finishing this interview. [Laughs]


KW: The Uduak Oduok question: Who is your favorite clothes designer?

AC: Herve Leger.


KW: The Mike Pittman question: What was your best career decision?

AC: Agreeing to this interview. It’s been a life-changing experience. [Chuckles]


KW: The Jamie Foxx question: If you only had 24 hours to live, how would you spend the time? 

AC: Waiting in line for my Obamacare doctor. [Laughs]


KW: The Kerry Washington question: If you were an animal, what animal would you be?

AC:  A beagle because then I could live in a classic six on Park Ave just for being cute.


KW: The Ling-Ju Yen question: What is your earliest childhood memory?

AC:  Nixon’s wage and price controls. I exclaimed to my entire kindergarten class: HE DID WHAT? 


KW: The Anthony Mackie question: Isthere anything that you promised yourself you’d do if you became famous, that you still haven’t done yet?

AC: I never wanted to be famous and the only part I like is that it means people are reading my books and listening to me on TV and radio.  Also, I’ve met some nice people I otherwise might not have.  Other than that, I’d rather not be.


KW: The Melissa Harris-Perry question:How did your first big heartbreak impact who you are as a person?

AC: I’ll let you know.


KW: The Anthony Anderson question: If you could have a superpower, which one would you choose?

AC:  The USA.


KW: The Judyth Piazza question: What key quality do you believe all successful people share? 

AC: A servant problem.  [LOL]  My real answer is hard work.


KW: The Gabby Douglas question: If you had to choose another profession, what would that be?

AC:  Professional baseball player.  


KW: What advice do you have for anyone who wants to follow in your footsteps?

AC:  Don’t try to imitate anyone. The next William F. Buckley wasn’t a bow-tied Yalie from Greenwich, Connecticut, it was Rush Limbaugh. The next Rush Limbaugh wasn’t a pioneering talk radio host from the heartland, it was Matt Drudge. The next Matt Drudge won’t be a brilliant Internet scourge, it will be… who knows?  


KW: The Tavis Smiley question: How do you want to be remembered?

AC: For my books.


KW: Thanks again for the time, Ann, and best of luck with the book.

AC: Thank you, Kam.


To purchase a copy of Never Trust a Liberal Over 3, visit


UserpicJeremy Lin (INTERVIEW)
Posted by Kam Williams

Jeremy Lin
The “Linsanity” Interview
with Kam Williams

Oh, the Linsanity!

Jeremy Lin was born in Los Angeles, California on August 23, 1988 to Taiwanese immigrant parents. Encouraged by his father, he developed a love of basketball at an early age.

Raised in a Christian family, Jeremy’s faith guided and supported him as he chased his hoop dream of playing basketball in the NBA. Known for his relentless work off court and on, the young phenom led his Palo Alto high school team to a state title against nationally-ranked Mater Dei, an overwhelming favorite.

Despite his All-State level play, however, no Division 1 college recruited Jeremy. So, he enrolled at Harvard University, which does not offer athletic scholarships.

Undrafted by the NBA out of college, he nevertheless impressed scouts in the summer league going up against the No. 1 draft pick. He was eventually signed—but later cut—by the Golden State Warriors.

A brief stint in Houston ended unceremoniously on Christmas Day, 2011. Jeremy was subsequently picked up by the New York Knicks. In early 2012, on the verge of being cut again, he rose to prominence as a starter, unlikely team leader and improbable NBA sensation.

“Linsanity” was born! He’s been the Houston Rockets’ starting point guard since landing a three-year, $25 million deal. Whether facing racial taunts as a child, or being underestimated on the court, Jeremy Lin consistently points to his faith as his means of dealing with both disappointment and success.

Here, he talks about Linsanity, the new documentary chronicling both his commitment to Christ and his meteoric rise to superstardom.

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