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tv   Charlie Rose  PBS  August 23, 2016 12:00am-1:01am PDT

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>> rose: welcome to the program. we begin this evening with bryan stevenson and a new memorial to victims of lynching. >> until you understand the intensity of resistance to integration, you cannot understand why we are still dealing with racial bias in this country. if you understand this history, you would be foolish to think that the civil rights act or the voting rights act was sufficient to end this history of racial inequality. you would recognize that people are still going to be trying to undermine black people. >> >> rose: and we conclude with michael k williams. >> i believe these characters that i get a chance to play are portals for me to look at things within myself, to better strengthen, take a look at weak-- weak-- weak spots in my character, thibs that are to come, things i need to work on, things i need to let go.
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come to terms with. >> rose: bryan stevenson and michael krk williams next. funding for charlie rose is provided by the >> rose: funding for "charlie rose" has been provided by the following: >> and by bloomberg, a provider of multimedia news and >> and by bloomberg, a provider of multimedia news and information services worldwide. captioning sponsored by rose communications from our studios in new york city, this is charlie rose. >> bryan stevenson is here, he is a public interest lawyer who has dedicated his life to fighting racial discrimination in the criminal justice system. his efforts have also focused on putting a spotlight on the legacy of slavery in america. his nonprofit equal justice initiative has saved 125 death
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row prisoners from execution. he's also won a landmark supreme court ruling that held mandatory life without parole sentences for minors is unconstitutional. the organization plans to open the first and largest memorial honoring the thousands of victims of lynching in the united states that will happen next year. the project includes a museum that will explore the road from slavery to the current era of mass incarceration. both will be located in montgomery alabama am i am pleased to have bryan stevenson back at this table, well koment. when you went to montgomery as a young lawyer, i mean did you see unfurling this career that you have had. did you burn with the fire to do what you have done? >> i didn't see everything that would come. you know, i grew up in a poor rural community where i saw the anguish of racial exclusion.
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we lived in a black settlement and we couldn't go to the public schools am and i know the way people internalized that hurt. i saw people humiliated by segregation and jim crow. and so when i got to montgomery, that desire to see things change was very real. but i had no idea that you kow things would develop as they did. i went there at a time when you know, could you still have a conversation with rosa parks. who had moved to detroit but would come back. and there were these icons to the civil rights movement in my ear. but i've been hopeful that we could get to the point where we could talk about these issues on a broader context. we have had some success in the criminal justice area. still have a lot of work to do, an enormous amount of work to do and we've had some setbacks. but i now realize that we have got to talk about these issues more broadly if we really want to see the change. >> rose: did you want to have a big life sth. >> no. i just wanted to make a difference. i would be very happy-- . >> rose: that's one definition of a big life.
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>> well, it is. but you know, i have been happiest when i go to the prison and spend time with clients. you know, standing up for people in the court room, making the kind of arguments that i think need to be made to kind of point to humanity of every human being. but i didn't expect to be in a situation where we had to talk more nationally and internationally about these issues. >> rose: are we approaching the time in which there is developing a consensus on criminal justice. >> i think we have approached a time where there is a consensus that we have too many people in jails and prisons. people on the right, people on the left, all recognized it's going too far. >> rose: it's coming from both siesd of any political divide. >> that's exactly right. i think anybody realizes that putting people in prison for luv for simple possession of marijuana or writing a bad check is an inefficient use of government resources, it's excessive, it's peun tiff, it's harsh, it's unnecessary. we're not actually advancing public safety when we have hundreds of thousands of people in jails or prisons who are not
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a threat to public safety. and we went from $6 billion in jails and prisons in 1980 to $80 billion last year. not only are we not helping in the public safety space, we're undermining funding for education. and for health and human services and for a lot of those things that the rest of society needs. >> rose: in so many areas of endeavor, we are a shining light. >> uh-huh. >> rose: but not in criminal justice. >> not in criminal jus tises and i think that's in part because we have allowed ourselves to be a little distracted by the politics of fear and anger. we have allowed ourselves to beu into narratives rooted in fear and rooted in anger. and when are you afraid and when you're angry, you will toolly tolerate abuse and unfairness and inequality. and in the 1970st political candidates started saying let's be tough on crime. and nobody said no, we shouldn't be tough on crime. they all competed with one another over who could be the
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toughest on crime and it created the political culture where both democrats and republicans who were looking for ways to show their toughness. >> it was also law and order and tough on crime. and that we exhausted our ability to kind of just focus on people committing violent crimes that threaten public safety. we went into other spaces, we said drug addiction and drug dependency, that's not a health problem, it's a crime problem. we didn't do that for alcoholism, we said alcoholism is a disease. it wouldn't cross our mind if he with saw someone we knew who was an alcoholic going into the bar, to call the police. that would make no sense. but in the drug context, we said no, those people are criminals. we have now sent hundreds o thousands of people to jails and prisons. but that phenomenon, i think, is related to this history of racial inequality. >> rose: right. >> i think if we had done better in recognizing the problems of the genocide when native people were slaughtered by the millions, if we had actually developed a consciousness that says wait a minute, we made a
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mistake, through disease and famine and war have created this horrific consequence for native people in this country, we would have thought differently. but we didn't. we just went past that genocide. and then we enslaved people for centuries. and while we ultimately recognized that slavery was wrong, we didn't really account for all the damage that was done. we never talked about the ideology of white sprem see that emerged during that time period. we didn't actually try to repair all the damage that was done by enslaving human beings. we fought the civil war. >> and making them property. >> and making them property. >> and not human. we fought the civil war and shortly after that we abandoned any effort at recovery. through the could lance of reconstruction. and that lead then to this era of terrorism and lynching and the trauma that created-- was created. so we have not been very good at owning up to these mistakes. as a result of that, they keep manifesting themselves. >> are you suggesting that show what happened in south africa,
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with the truth in secretary little yaition never happened in slavery and therefore we never have come to grips with it? >> i don't think there is any question about that. i done think anybody can argue that we committed ourselves to truth-tell being the legacy of slavery. it just didn't happen. we did the opposite. we didn't hold the people who were accountable for slavery responsible. we didn't actually insist on recovery and repair for emancipated people. we abandoned those who were enslaved. we allowed them to sink back into this condition of second slavery. we tolerated conduct. >> let me ask in a locker room way so what about thomas jefferson. is thomas jefferson who owns slaves therefore should be taken out of american history? or he should be what? >> no, i don't think we should ignore our history. >> rose: did he tell you this was a-- what? >> i think we. >> i think there are obviously things that people during that
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era did that were wonderful an respect recall that could be honored as great and remarkable but we should also say it is a cloud over the founding of this country that we couldn't see, the inhumanity, the inequality inherent in slavery. doesn't mean we are condemned. doesn't mean we don't have something to be proud of. it does moan we have to ultimately own up to that. at some point we have to say slavery was horrific. and we need to see how we free ourselves. you have to ignore it, pretend it doesn't exist, you actually add to the victimization. >> rose: i want to understand you clearly. what is the definition of pretending it doesn't exist. >> pretending it didn't exist is evident when michelle obama gets up at the democratic convention and talking about slave, enslaved people building the white house and everybody says that's wrong, that's outrage us, that's crazy. it is pretending it didn't exist is when we said oh, slives had it good. they were well fed. pretending it doesn't exist is what you see when you come to
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the american south. >> i don't know that as many people appreciate the hardships of slavery as there should be. i don't think we've done a very good job of actually detailing the hardships and struggles. >> rose: so what is necessary to do that. >> we have to begin telling the story. it's only a couple of years ago that a film called 12 years a slave was produced. which is probably the first time we saw on the big screen an honest accounting of slavery. we had hundreds of other films that told a different story about slavery. and again, i can't ignore the fact that the south is littered with the iconography of the confederacy. we actually have romant sized this period of slavery. we said it was a great time. we have honored the architects and defenders of slavery. and that suggests that we don't really appreciate what we were doing. it would be unconscionable for someone to say let's make adolf hitler's birthday a national holiday it would be unconscionable to say let's make osama bin laden's birthday a national holiday. but yet in many states we are celebrating these architects and
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defenders of slavery as if there is nothing comparable. >> rose: okay, but tell me about the museum. >> sure. >> rose: and what you believe it can begin to do. >> yeah. the museum will be an $11,000 square foot area. it's situated a hundred meters from one of the most prominent slave auction sites in american south. it's situated a hundred meters from the alabama river where a doc and rail station transported thousands, tens of thousands of enslaved people. it will introduce people to the hardships of slavery. there will be slave warehouses, you will hear the voices of enslaved people through holographic images. we're going to get slave narratives and use that language. we'll talk about african people being kidnapped and the horrors of bondage. we'll have artifacts that present some of that we'll have virtual reality films where you will experience what it is like. >> put you right there on the train when enslaved people were being forced from the upper south to the lower south with
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all of that anxiety about whether they would be able to keep their children or their children would be taken away from them. and we'll move from that slavery experience into the era of terrorism. and we'll try to get people to understand. >> rose: and terrorism is the lynching. >> is the lynching. and what we want people to understand is that lynching wasn't mob justice. it wasn't mob violence. it, these lynchings took place in communities where there was a functioning criminal justice system, but black people weren't teamed-- deemed good enough to be a defendant. and people weren't lynched for accusations of crimes. elizabeth warren was lynched because she was an older black woman who was targeted by children who were throwing stones at her and she chieded those children. and because she chieded those children, their parent nses the comooment got angry and came to her home and they lynched her. a family was lynched because the pastor said that the ligerring that took place the day before was wrong. people in mississippi were lynched because they bumped into white people running to the train station and these social transgretions is what created this lynching.
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and that mernlt that for black families, when your son came home and said i might have laughed inappropriately at someone's joke, i might have bumped into someone, you had to have a crisis conference where you decided whether to sends your loved one to the north or not. it was traumatizing, and we sent people out of the american south with the trauma, with fear. and now they sit in urban communities where trauma has been unaddressed. so for me you have to understand it. we will have in the museum a consult that has the most comprehensive data on lynching in the country. where people can see about their communities and their histories. and then we're going to talk about the era of segregation in a slightly different way. we're not interested, as interested in the celebratory stories about what heroic people of color did, dr. king and rosa parks. what we are interested in is the intensity of resistance to integration. we want people to see the fines that were put throughout the south that restricted where
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black people could go. we want them to see the statutes that legislative bodies created. because we tend to demonize the arc teblghts of racism. we all want all racist to be he m ebbs of the clan, it would be convenient if that is where they all lived but that is not, we had members of the legislature creating documents and doctrines to burden people of color. until you understand the intensity of resistance to integration, you cannot understand why we are still dealing with racial bias of in country. if you understand this history, you would be foolish to think that the civil rights ak or the voting rights act was sufficient to end this history of racial inequality. you would recognize that people are still going to be trying to undermine. >> you said i'm persuaded that we really won't eliminate the problems and discrimination in the criminal justice system, in the education system and in the employment system until we change the narrative of racial difference that we have all accepted. >> yeah. i think that's right. i think that we are all actually infected by this narrative. i think it's wrong what we are
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doing to our children. >> rose: what is the most important thing that we have done in a positive way to change the narrative in your judgement so that we can look at that as a gold star. >> i think we have actually made progress on issues like domestic violence. 50 years ago, you know, domestic violence was seen as i a joke. the honey mondayers was a comedy show where people would joke about, men would joke about hitting their wives. there was something that we tolerated about the violence and abuse that women suffered in the home. and then that narrative began to shift. and we still have a long way to go. but now you see sports leagues that are actually taking action against athletes because it's becoming unacceptable to tolerate, to look the other way w that kind of violence. that's a shift in the narrative. i think in the environmental context we've seen that. there was a time when we thought spraying cans and consuming fossil fuels was the only way that we could use energy. and now we've realized that's destroying the planet and we're
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shifting. we have recyclable bins, we talk about green energy. we talk about doing things that are going to protect us. that is a shift rooted in an understanding that the narratives that we grew up with, about what is healthy and acceptable have to change. we haven't done that in the racial justice space. we haven't. we've looked for short cuts, if we let jackie robinson play baseball, we'll be okay. if we let black people play basketball that will be okay. >> if a black man is elected president. >> we'll be okay. and those short cuts don't work. you can't have a magic pill. >> rose: has the president done all that he can in your judgement. >> i don't think the president started his term wanting to be a black president, trying to address these issues. i think he actually wanted to be the opposite am i think as he has persisted in this presidency he's actually recognized that he is being perceived as a black president and we have to talk about these issues more broadly. so he has done some things tiek particularly in the last couple of years that i think are really
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positive. but i teurlly think all presidents should be doing more on this issue. i also think we can't look to our president to solve this problem. >> rose: exactly right. >> we have to have our governors an mayors in our communities and school boards and educators. >> rose: and our grass roots. >> and our grass roots being active. this is not something that one person can solve. that is why we are starting with the museum and a memorial in a community with the hope that we can bring people-- . >> rose: i want to look at this. >> that is the memorial. it's this massive structure which sits on a rise in montgomery, alabama. >> rose: why montgomery. >> because are you from montgomery. >> montgomery was the cad elf the confederacy. it was where in many ways resis tangs to ending slavery t was a place where terror was wide spread. it was the birth place of the civil rights movement. i think montgomery is a perfect place for this, because if anything, we've got to tell these stories in the spaces where they've happened. and we've got to do it in places where there is going to be some resistance. >> rose: was there any resistance to this idea in montgomery, alabama.
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>> we're just kind of getting public about it we're in the early days. i'm sure there will absolutely be some resistance am but those columes were all representative of thousands of people who were lynched. >> rose: how many columes. >> there is going to be 800 columes for every county in america where a lynching took place and the names of lynching victims will be engraved in each colume and you will go into this place and the floor will sink. and the come ups will ris and will you stand underneath these suspended items. >> rose: what is that? >> those are jars of soil collected from lynching sites. we started a community remembrance project where we have gone into communities and invited people to go to lynching sites where they collect soil and they put it in a jar and the jar has the name of the victim and the date of the lynching. and then they reflect on that. and we've been collecting these for quite some time. and it's been really empowering to see community members respond to this opportunity and to get closer to this legacy of
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lynching. >> rose: that is a different thing. >> what is important. what we are going to do is duplicate each of the columes inside the memorial for those 800 columes with counties ang names of lynchings, they are going to be duplicated an they're going to beois of the memorial. and we're going to ask people from the county the common claim of their memorial. we're going to build them, construct them. but they are actually to be placed in counties all over this country. because we think that while this national memorial will fit in montgomery, it ought to exist all over the country. and i think it will be important for people in these communities to own up to this history. and i hope that teachers and churches and leaders will say you know, we need to go claim the monument for the lynching victims from our county and put it in our county. and that kind of activism, that kind of responsiveness gives everybody an opportunity to participate in this. and the other thing we're doing. we're putting up markers at lynching sites. one of the things i'm hoping will happen is when we put up these markers that police chiefs and sheriffs will come to the
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marker dedications. and i want those sheriffs and police chiefs in their uniform to say i'm sorry that the people wearing this uniform did not protect you a hundred years ago, 08 years ago. i'm sorry they didn't do that. and then i want them to know they have an opportunity to say i'm sorry to what they didn't do. but i'm here to till, i will protect you. i'm wearing this uniform now and we're here to protect all the people of this community. it won't koses money, it won't take time. but it could have an enormous impact in creating more trust between communities and law enforcement. >> rose: are you one of those people that think we need to have a real conversation about slavery and a real conversation about where we are in race relations. >> i do. i just don't think we should facilitate it at some madeup conference. i don't think it can be mandated. i think it needs to happen. >> rose: but how to do it is questionable. >> well, again, two years ago, three years ago when i was in montgomery, we had 59 markers to the confederacy in downtown and hardly a word about slavery. we put up these markers about the slave trade and with
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tremendous resistance tho that. >> rose: you mean city council or what. >> by the alabama historic commission. >> rose: oddly. >> but we got them up. and now i see young families, white family, rural families coming too town. and we sit next to the hank williams museum, slightly different demographic. but when they come out i'll see young kids stop at that sign and frequently see the parents trying to move them along but they won't. and they will spend 10 or 15 minutes at that sign and st probably the first time that family has talked about slavery ever. and i think it is an important conversation to begin. if we can change this resistance, this denial culture, then i think there are a host of things that we can gain and learn. and i don't think it's about just doing something hard. it's about liberation. it's getting to the point where we're not so compromised. we're not so constrained. we bump into each other a lot in this i c. doesn't take much to create this trust around race. and thases' going to continue until we say the things and do the things we need to do. it's not touchy feely, it's just
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honest recovery. it's how you heal. it's how you recover from historic trauma and mass atrocity and violencement you see it in rwanda. that society is recovering. and it wouldn't happen if people said we're not going to talk about the genocide. you see it in south africa, you see it in places around the world. >> rose: i'm asking this question because i want to know the answer, did we simply say we're not going to talk about slavery or we just didn't talk about it? >> we said we're not going to talk about. in the american south, people said we're going to feel bad about ourselves if we think about ourselves as being the losers of the world. we're going to really be in trouble if we let these emancipated people show us that they are our equal. so they constructed a legal, cultural, political and social world that reinforced the narrative of white sprem see which was the narrative that created slavery. and people in the north kol rate-- tolerated that and we allowed that to persist. so it was in my view a conscience decision to not talk about these things.
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president woodrow wilson, you knowk heralded birth of a nation, we're not going to talk about these things, during that period when lynching was going on, congress said we're not going to talk about that. during the early years of segregation and the fight for immigration, people said we're not going to deal with that, and that has been our history. >> i didn't know that aspect of wood ro wilson's life until last year. >> that is the pa of the story. we haven't actually asked questions about people, cul paibility, they're complicit with regard to this narrative. >> rose: incarceration. joe sullivan one of your clients said you are like a father to him. >> you know, i feel one of the best parts of my work is the relationships i can create with people who have been too often abused and neglected who have lived in the margin of society. you know, i represent a lot of people who have made some terrible mistakes. but they're incredible human being. they have so much potential. they have so catches paity. they have so much to give and yet we've condemned them in ways that i think is tragic. and particularly young kids.
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i met joe, joe was one of our young kids, he was 13 when he was wrongly convicted and given a life without parole sentence. and then terribly abused in prison. so a lot of those young people are just desperate for something human to hang on to. and-- . >> rose: is that who are you. >> i try to be. i want my clients to know i care about them deeply, that they have value, that their lives mean something. i do believe that we are more than the worst thing we have ever done. i believe that for everybody, not just my clients. so that means saying to them, just because youhave lied, doesn't mean are you only a liar. just because you have taken something, dun mean are you only a thief. just because you have killed, are you not only a killer. >> rose: i asked you at the beginning when you went to montgomery did you have any sense of what your life, how your life would unfold. and what you might be doing. here's a quoalt from just mercy, your book. after working for more than 25 years, i understood that i don't do what i do because it's required or necessary or important. i don't do it because i have
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no-- i don't do it because i have no choice. i do what i do because i am broken too. i am broken too. >> yeah, yeah. i think when you get close to suffering, when you spend a lot of time with inequality and abuse and trauma and neglect and incarceration and execution, it will break you. but i also think that it's in brokenness that we understand the power. >> rose: has it broken you. >> it has, it has. >> rose: how? >> i had been broken long before that. it's funny, my great grandmother was the daughter-- my grandmother was the daughter of people who were enslaved. my great grandparents were enslaved. my grandmother was in my ear all the time talking about slavery. i used to think why are we talking about slavery. i started my education in a colored school.ñi didn't go to public scoovment i went to high school, to college. when i went to harvard law school i didn't want people to know my great grand parns were enslaved. it wasn't that i was ashamed of it. but i was afraid it might diminish me. i thought it would make me seem
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broken, deficit. and then i started doing this work an i saw the constraint and the resistance to equality and fairness. and then i realized that part of this solution is to own up to that history. and now i want everybody to know. i'm the great grandson of enslaved people. i want everybody to know i started my education in a colored school. because if they see something of value and hear something of value and they know it is rooted in this broken history, then maybe we can begin to think differently about what it means to stand up for the broken. i actually think the broken in our society have a lot to teach us about the way the mercy works. the way grace works, the way justice works. and so acknowledging that in myself is partly honoring all of that struggle. i now realize that there is power in this legacy that has nurtured me despite slavery, despite lynching, despite segregation. and i think if people can overcome slavery, and overcome slinch lynching and overcome seg regraition, then we can overcome police violence.
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but not by pretendk. >> rose: when will we know when we get there? >> we will know it when we don't think this that there is a presump shun of disang rouseness and guilt that get as plied to black and brown people. we'll know it when we're not as preoccupied with the race of offenders when we hear about a sad crime. we'll know it when we have actually changed the landscape and we have made it safe and acceptable to talk honestly about these histories. we will know it when we honor things that are honorable and we talk forth rightly about the things that are dishonorable, like some of our mistakes. >> rose: for all that you have done for so many people, i have this feeling that they have done an equal amount for you. >> oh, absolutely. absolutely. >> rose: they have give be your life. >> absolutely. no, i feel really privileged to do what i do. i feel deeply moved and honored by being able to stand up for people and speak for people. i was told one day that, you know, if you really want to make
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a difference, sometimes you have to stand when other people say sit down. you have to speak when other people say be quiet am i heard that and thought that sounds luke a really challenging thing yo have to do but when you know who you are standing for. when you know who you are speaking for, it doesn't feel like a burden. it actually feels like an honor. and i feel very honored to represent people who i think, whose humanities i think has been denied or diminished. >> rose: thank you for coming. >> you're welcome. >> rose: bryan stevenson. i suggest several things for you, if you will listen to my small advice, one is i did a piece for "60 minutes" with him, and will you see part of that. but also he has given one of the great ted conference talks which has been seen by millions and millions and millions of people. his book is called just mercy. and jeffrey toobin, a friend at this table last week, writes a profile of bryan that was in an issue of "the new yorker" magazine that is on your news stand now.
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he raises important questions for all of us. that need to be acted on and need to be addressed and need to be heard lou clear. and i'm honored to call him a friend. back in a moment. stay with us. >> rose: michael kenneth williams is here. he is best known for his portrayal of beloved stick up men omar little in the wire. and bootlegger chalky wide in boardwalk empire. his latest role finds him behind barps as liker's kingpin friendie in hbo, the night of. most recently he has taken an turn as an investigative journalist in viceland's new docuseries black market. here is a look the black market with michael krk williams. >>. >> the strong survive off the weak. it has been like that for years. dog eat dog world.
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>> get out, hop in. >> we used to fight against a racist regime. we set mandela free but we are still waiting for our better life. >> never get high on your own supply. >> some of these weapons that are being sold are taking another brother's life. >> i sit and think to myself how can i find a better way out of this. >> a lot of people say you just need to be hung, at the end of the day we are just trying to get back on a system that has failed us completely.
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>> i am not going to die. -- . >> i know how to to come in. i know how to land. they know that i'm real. i have been in some dark places myself. you either be alive is a blessing. our goal is to show the world a window to understanding why people do the things they do. where that des operation comes from. where the system is failing you. you create your own-- . >> pleased to have michael k williams at this table for the first time, welcome. >> thank you. thanks. >> how did you get started. >> as a dancer? >> yes, sir, background dancer, yes. a club kid basically from new york city, you know.
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it was a time, that time of the day when the early '90s, the right music video, or you know, the right gig behind the right artist can make you basically a star. >> and what did tu pac have to do with your success? >> the late great tu pac shakur saw a picture, a polaroid picture of me in a production office that was being used to house his new film that he was shooting with micky rourke called "bullet." and he randomly saw a polaroid of me. and was like who is this guy. you know. this guy looks thuked out enough to play my little brother. go find him. and they told that to julian timp el who was directing. and they-- they found me. and i auditioned and i got the part. that was my introduction into the world of acting. >> rose: yeah. and did you take to it immediately? >> absolutely. you know, i took to the art
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thing immediately, charlie. you know, i had a troubled youth growing up, you know. i wasn't a bad-- i wasn't a gangster, you know, i just did just stupid stuff, just always the wrong decision. you know, just wanting, i guess wanting to be accepted, basically, trying to fit in like every other kid. and it got me in a lot of trouble, that wanting to fit in, doing a lot of things that i'm not proud of, just to fit in. so when the arts crossed my-- when i got that light bull be went off in my head that can i do something artistic and get paid at it, and get paid at it which was for me the expression, through self-expression through dancing, i gravitated to that, i latched on to it. and it wasn't about the money. at that point it was, i found something that one, held my attention. and two, you know, i enjoyed the process. it didn't feel like work. the long hours in the studio
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didn't feel like work. i just enjoyed that stuff. and it got me to the point where that was what fueled everything in my success. >> rose: can we use your example to influence other kids? you know, introduce them, get them connected to the arts? where they feel a sense of power from creativity. >> for me, that is my, that is my ultimate goal which is the main reason why i started my production company. freedom productions. you know, wanting to give myself more leverage in the business that i find myself in, and two to give me more power to create opportunities for people, you know, that wouldn't necessarily get that opportunity but are talented. you know, i like being able to find talent in places that you know you normally wouldn't find it. and help to cultivate it. and you know, primarily in the hood. >> speaking of the hood, someone cut you, left a scar. >> yes. >> rose: identifiable scar.
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someone else offered to kill the person. >> yeah. >> rose: you said no. why? >> i said no because that is not the way i was raised. basically. i don't know-- i wasn't prepared to with the decision of having someone's blood on my hands, you know. i don't-- i didn't know that i was prepared to deal with that. you know, it felt easier for me, i felt what i did have a chan of dealing with is letting that go and dealing with this, you know, on my own. you know, where do i go? i had a better shot at, you know, at that than trying to go that route. because that is not me. >> rose: acting has become you, or became you. >> yeah, for the wrong reasons, at first, you know, pretending. >> rose: pretending to be.
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>> to be something i wasn't, you know, which is how i got this scar on my face. i got drunk and i was pretending to do something i wasn't. and i got my butt kicked. i got my butt handed to me. and it was a turning point in my life. i'm grateful that i didn't-- i didn't retaliate. >> rose: how did you make it the turning point? >> by staying true to myself and not retaliating or, you know, giving some order to have someone dealt with like that, in that manner. that is not who i am. you know, and anybody who knows me, knows that. >> rose: one thing becomes another becomes another. >> you already know, you already know. you already know. most definitely saved my life at a whole another level. >> rose: how important was playing omar? the wire. >> i mean, a much beloved television series. >> yeah. omar-- omar was special and it
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was mar a mount for me for a lot-- paramount for me for a lot of reasons. one, i was-- i just, i needed that. i needed that character to-- to-- that was-- i used the audition for omar as my last shot. had i not gotten omar i was prepared to walk away from the business. it was already fleeting at that point. i was in a transition. i had completely left the dance world. and you know, as we all know, there are peaks and valleys. and i had hit a valley early on in my career after the law & orders and the, you know, the bit roles you build your resume, i hit this wall. and the phone just went quiet for about a year. couldn't pay my bills. i was forced to go to work for my mother in the daycare that she had built in the projects, which we still lived in. i was grateful to have that, you know. i was like, you know, i got this urge and i said you know, i
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might give it one more shot. if it doesn't work, you know, we'll leave it alone. i said that in october of 2001. and by march of 2002, i was on the wire. and never looked back. >> rose: and it changed your life. >> yeah. >> rose: there say bit of you in all the characters you play. >> i think so. i think so. i think more importantly than a bit of me being in these characters, i think that i have been blessed with the opportunity to find healing points in myself through these characters. you know-- . >> rose: healing points in myself from the characters. >> i have been given, i believe these characters that i get a chance to play are portals for me to look at things within myself to better strengthen, take a look at, weak spots in my character. things that are to come. things that i need to work on,
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things i need to let go, come to terms with. and it's gotten stronger as these characters have gone down the line, as i find myself here today. these characters, they keep touching parts of my personal life, various parts of my personal life that i can't deny any more that is not a coins dense. >> rose: but to hear you say something really interesting, i'm listening to somebody who views himself as an unfinished product. who is constantly growing, reaching, listening, absorbing, figuring out. >> yeah. >> yeah. >> rose: what's it all about and what's next. >> and how do i learn from every experience. and in your case, every character. >> a little late to the table with this conversation. you know, for a grown man to be just trying to figure this out. >> rose: why is that late? a much better place than most people, doesn't it. >> better late than never, right, that is what i say. >> rose: i'm not much older than you are and i'm still try
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og figure it all out. you are. you ought to be trying to figure it out. because as soon as you stop figuring it out, it seems to me that you are missing out. you might as well say well, i've done everything. i might as well die, you know. >> i ain't ready to die yet. >> rose: i'm not either, man. so tell me about broadway empire. >> broad way empire, i call that the dream job. i almost feel-- i almost kind of asked myself, did that really happen. was boardwalk empire real, it is almost like, that was a fantasy, man. everything about that job for me was a dream come true. you know, i remember driving in my chevrolet blazer from, coming from flatbush driving to the city from various auditions as an actor. and i remember saying when i was hearing rumors about, you know, de niro was going to buy the navy yard and turn it into a studio, i was like yes, if i
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ever meet de niro i'm going to give him the name. i am going to hell tell him, they should call it hollihood, i swear to you. everything i loved. i would have these conversations with myself, hollihood, i was like you know, michael it will be perfect. you wob have to relocate to kl kal. could you stay right here. could you stay living in the projects. you got your routee because from flat bush instead of going down flat bush avenue, i would go over to like washington, and cut around, around the projects over in the back and catch brooklyn bridge from the back instead of going where all the traffic was at. and i would go by the brooklyn navy yard. and i was-- i got the route from the projects. charlie, i saw myself working as an actor on a television show at the brooklyn navy yard. i saw this. the only thing i couldn't see was that i would be living somewhere else. i saw myself in this dream, i was stiff living in the projects because i had my route. so i get there, and then i get
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to play chalky white. >> rose: yeah. >> this, you know, mike, where do you get chalky white from. where omar was a variation of parts of you mixed with people that you saw growing up, you know, that you saw in your peers, this is something different. this is something other. you don't know what it is like to live in 1920st. how do you, where do you get this from. and i took five men in my family that were all deceased now, from my father, my uncles, my godfather, and and i took various pieces of their personality and their traits, i remember as a kid watching them grow up because all these men lived in the 1920st. they were men from that cloth. and i got, and chalky tbaif me this opportunity to hang out with all my-- dpsh my dead uncles and my dad, you know. i had-- it was every scenario, every-- there were five faces of
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chalky and i would rotate between my uncles and my dad and my godfather. >> so that is how chalky was born. >> that how chalky was bornment i got around, you know, steve bu scemi and all these amazing act offers again. i call that a boy's club. >> rose: that has been your acting clation, hasn't it, working with people like that. >> i am the quintessential quintessentialist-- actor i love a crew of people just getting together and hashing it out and doing some good work. i vus love ensembles and boardwalk was like the classic ensemble crew. those sets, we on 35 mill meter. they don't do that no more. >> rose: i know. it's all videotape now. >> yeah. >> rose: so what about black market. how much of a departure is that? >> you know, the black market was a step into kind of what i was eluding to when i tell you these jobs are like starting to
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parallel my life. and i see portals for me to be a better person, better myself. it's all coming to a head now. you see these, you know, i'm being given these opportunities like like black market and the night of. i'm here to tell someone's story. >> rose: these are docustory. >> yeah, man, through art. whether i have to give someone a platform, i feel i'm being positioned to tell someone's story who it is, i don't know. i just want to be in in place where i need to be, where the universe needs me to go. i'm being sent in this direction. so you have black market, you know, on-- it's just like there are so many people living below the poverty line in this country and around the world. and it's not a white thing, it's not a black thing, it's not a male female thing, it's not a broken family thing, it's not a drug thing, it's not a mental illness thing. it's all of those things combined. you have so many people not
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surviving on this and trying to do whatever they can to get by. no one is proud of what they are dock. no one is like yeah, i'm going to rob people and do things that will break the law and risk my freedom because i don't care, you know. no one says that. an everybody is hurting. and i absorbs all of that i came off the road from black market and i was just like, hi seen so much pain. people ask me, michael, how do you get these people to talk. i said you know, for a number of reasons, you know, vice is known for doing quality. they are not known for exploiting anyone. they are known for doing quality. that is number one. number two, you know, like i said, people see me, they know, they feel me, i come in with an open hert and there is nothing drk dsh at least i try not to have nothing pretentious about my reasons for being there. as much as i try to be-- you know what i mean, as much as possible. i'm human. and thirdly, which is most
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important, i think these people are looking, looking for a lifeline, looking for a rope of hope like you know, like why else would you stop your drug habit to come on television and talk to me about your day's events. and i could be getting rich. and you're going to become a tv star. what else could it be. you want help, you are looking at this, a cry out for help, man. and that, that just is a lot. >> how bts role of freddie. >> freddie. >> rose: yeah. >> freddie, freddie is a charismatic dude. you know. you know i got that role, i couldn't wait to play him, just in the audition piece. i remember i had goten home, i said help me with this piece. what the hell is-- i had never heard that word before. i remember all my way through audition. a friend of mine in l.a., my
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brother, from another mother. >> right. >> and i'm like joseph, what is-- yard, is he driving me to the audition on fifth, in manhattan. in l.a., put myself on tape. and is he breaking it down to me so i can understand it. he said this is perfect, like a sweet 16 only 15, that is exactly. oh, okay, you know. and the writing, the first thing that got me about that was the writing, richard price and steven, they are beasts at what they do. >> rose: they are beasts. >> man. >> rose: yes they have been there, done that. >> oh yeah, oh yeah. >> rose: and they know the urban scene. >> yes, they do. and steven's attention to detail, it was almost like, it was almost borderlining ocd am but when you look, but he's a
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genius. and he knows his eye is his eye. you know. and i don't even think at some points he realized, you know, just how much of a world he created. you know, these sets, the colors of the wardrobe, he was involved in every aspect it was almost like nothing, no decisions, to department made a decision without him coming and he was really hands on with everything. and it kind of made the process a little more, a lot. but. >> he saw the wol piece. >> he saw the wol piece. and he made sure that everything was seemless. and you look back at it now, i'm like okay wow. >> someone said about this, the night of, they said it has more to do with class than it does with race. >> that is what i, i believe i said that. >> yeah, you know. >> let's take credit for what we said. >> but let me go on record being clear. i'm not saying that racism does not exist, by far. i'm not saying that. but what i am saying is coming
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up in brooklyn, in east flatbush, i was around a lot of ethnicities. i grew up around the hasidic jews, all black with the curls, i saw italian communities, in i knew what, i saw that irish community in garison park. i saw the west indian community, and i grew up in the regular jewish community before it-- my makeup growing up in east flatbush had a lot of energies. i wear a lot of different things in my makeup and dna that i saw growing up. one of the main things i saw growing up was respect for one's culture. people, even in my community with all the westerns and caribbean, that is what most of them, everybody said their culture, that i their island was better than the other it was ignorant but it was cultural pride that was at the core of a lot of the violence that happened in my community.
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and i look at this situation, what is happening right now, and what the night of is dealing with, when i say it is a class thing, the reason why you know, i'm not comparing nothing to nothing. all i'm saying is, i see the way the hasidic community, they stick together, the way they make sure their kids know their culture, what happens. the way that, you know, they fight, they pull their money together, and their communities. i have seen that in different cultures, for whatever reasons, that process was stripped out of my community, you know. and so i say listen, i believe that if my community were to pull together and do two things, one redirect our money, and two, get to know our local
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politicians more, myself included, i'm not excluding myself. i say we. if we did a little bit more of that, we might get a different response in the way that we may get more of what we need and want in our community. because there is no reason why we should feel we have to leave our community. why is that, you know, somebody put it nie twitter, maybe these people should just go and get a job in regards to the black market. i said you know, not everybody has the ability, you know, or the mental to get up and go out of the community to find jobs. everybody isn't built like that. and quite frankly, why should everybody be. why does everybody have to feel that they need to leave their community to go and get a good living to pay your family. why is that shall-- why dnt you-- you want to live in your exeument for 30 years and raise your family, that should be your right. so let's put it back in our community. but the way to do that is take some of the responsibility back.
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where we direct our dollars and making our local politicians responsible. that is why i say, the class thing is real. it's real. you know, and we-- my big brother lou goes et, jr., god bless him, is he a mentor of mine, he told me something that made me stop and think. he says michael, stop fighting for stuff that you already have. stop asking for rights that you already have. redirect the power. redirect it. the way you-- you are not going to change people. what you can change is how the garbage that is speud at you affects you. you can shift so that, you know, it goes that way and then you can restructure your power over here. you know, but stop going out and crying and marching and asking for things that we already have. we have the rights. we just need to redirect in a way that people respond to us and how we spon, and how we do that is by changing the way we respond to things. you know, redirecting our energy in a different, in a different situation and trying something
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new. trying something new. getting to know our local politicians. making them more responsible. and i think that's what, you know, and with the night of, i'm going on a tan gent right now but with the night of, yes, race definitely played a part in what is happening right now up until what you see going on. also the fact that he doesn't know his rights. he doesn't know what can and cannot be done to him. he didn't know, he had no clue as to shall-- he had no one to call, no local politician to call and say help me. they knew something, his patients knew nothing of who to call. they didn't even know how to find him in the beginning. we have to get more involved in what is going on in our community and who are the people we can call in times of trouble. there's got to be somebody out there. >> rose: well, you no he what is going to happen, they will come to you and say are you to run for somethingk you have to tition. >> no, no, no, no, no. not me, my job is to turn the cameras on.
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i'm just an entertainer. but like i said, i find myself in black market, i find myself in the not of, and these stories affect me personally. >> rose: it's been a busy yoor. i was looking at this from triple 9 to ghostbusters to assassins to creed and hbo and vice-line. it's huge. where you are? >> i have been blessed. have i been blessed, you know. i'm no angel. i should have been dead by my n hand, i could have been dead so many different times. just not here. when i say dead, i mean spirit allly or mentally. even physically, who the hell knows, man, with the risks. >> rose: but you're not. >> so while i'm here, i might as well do the right thing, whatever that is for me. >> rose: and rally your neighbors and build your community and inspire some kids. >> that feels good to me. that feels like the right thing to do, for me, you know what i mean. >> rose: thank you for coming. >> thank you, charlie. >> rose: pleasure to you have. thank you for joining us.
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see you next time. for more about this program and earlier episodes visit us online at and charlie captioning sponsored by rose communications captioned by media access group at wgbh
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>> rose: funding for "charlie rose" has been provided by: >> and by bloomberg, a provider of multimedia news and information services worldwide.
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