tv Charlie Rose PBS January 6, 2017 12:00am-1:01am PST
>> rose: welcome to the program. we begin this evening with a new series on evaluating the presidency and the legacy of barack obama. we talk to dorris kearns good win. >> i think he can say to himself and i don't know who could take this away from him, that in the eight years he was there, that he conducted himself with dignity, there were no scandals of any import. that he gave an impression of a man who really had a sense of trying to do for the country what he thought was best for the country. and i think, but on a larger scale, i think he thought he had laid down certain markers for social and economic justice. and in the long-term, that's what history looks at. >> rose: we conclude clued with actress nay onliee harris. >> i wanted to show here is a
woman traumatized and then she's handed this child and she's trying to do the very best she can for as long as she possibly can but her demons eventually catch up with her. and it all becomes too much for her. so her self-hatred actually is played out in the way that she treats her son. >> rose: dor circumstances, kearns goodwin and naomie har ises when we continue. >> funding for charlie rose is provided by the following. >> 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. >> rose: we begin this evening with a series of conversations
examining the legacy of president obama. in two weeks he will leave the white house following eight historic years in office. among his signature accomplishments were comprehensive health-care reform, overhauling financial regulation in response to the worst economic crisis since the great depression. donald trump's election has raised questions about whether these and many other achievements of the obama presidency will endure. joining me from boston is doris kearns goodwin. as all of you know she is one of the nation's fore most presidential historians. i am pleased to have her at any time back on this program. >> thank you. >> rose: welcome. >> i'm glad to be with you as always. >> rose: let me begin with this question. when did you first get to know barack obama? >> well, i first heard from him on my cell phone in the spring of 2007 and all of a sudden i hear hello, this is barack obama. i've just finished team of rivals and we have to talk. and he wasn't talking then about
putting a rival into his cabinet. he was much more interested because he was so far behind hillary in how did lincoln deal with adversity. how did he forget the people who were his enemies. what kind of emotional intelligence did he have. so he invited me to his senate office building and we talked about abraham lincoln. so lincoln was the beginning of a friendship that started that many years ago. >> rose: he began his quest from the presidency i think from springfield, did he not? >> he did, he began it from sphringfield and the interesting thing is when he actually finally won the nomination, a reporter said to him, so would you really be willing to put into your innercircle a chief rival even if his or her spouse were an occasional pain in the butt, obviously referring to hillary and bill clinton. and he quoted lincoln saying, lincoln said the country is in peril. these are the strongest and most able men in the country, i'm putting my rivals in my cabinet and he made hillary his secretary of state. so later when i saw her at the inauguration. she teased me.
she said you are responsible for my being secretary of state. of course not me, but abraham lincoln. >> rose: so he had not reached out to you until the campaign. >> that is correct. i didn't know him before that. i wasn't part of the campaign. my husband and i did meet his two young speech writers ben rhodes and john favreau in chicago because they wanted to talk to my husband as a great speech writer. nate office building and then got to know him in the course of his presidency by going to see him in the white house on a number of occasions. >> rose: so how did that happen, dorris? >> well, i think he was interested in history, in the first place. and had a sense not only of lincoln but he wanted to bring together a series of historians who could talk to him about his current problems in light of history. so with me and a couple other people we put together a series of dinners which were really fun. we all came as our presidents. we didn't dress up lake them. we didn't have their costumes on
but brought their ideas, mine set and characters to bear on whatever issues he was facing at the time. so it would be, you know, tru man scholars and jackson scholars, the regular suspects, a lot of whom appear on your shows. and then he would have dinnerware thats with about different presidents and we had a really private conversation for two or three hours. everybody really loved it, i'm sure. >> rose: and give me your impressions of him. >> well, you know, what you could see in those settings was a person who was totally at ease in talking about issues and talking about policy and talking about history. and you know, there was a warmth that i saw that i know perhaps other people haven't always seen in the dealings with congress, for example. i mean he said to me in the interview that we did for "vanity fair" that he wasn't an extrovert the same way as perhaps bill clinton or fdr was. he likes his quiet timement and i think those kind of dinners for him would measure into quiet
time. they didn't take anything from him. he felt like he was gaining something from them. so he is an interesting character as a politician because he does enjoy being with himself. he doesn't seem to need people in a certain way and that can be both a strength and a weakness, i think. i mean lincoln john-- lyndon john-- johnson's need for people meant he had them over every night, for lunch, dinner, he got things done as a result. and the question will always be historically for mr. obama could he have done more by having them over to the white house more than he did he wanted his family. he wanted that dinner. the family bairm a rock for him and maybe that was more important to his temperment and stability than having a bunch of congressman over every night. but that will be the question, did they make it impossible from the beginning or was there more he could have done. i think he asks himself that question. >> rose: i think he does too. the interesting thing is exactly that. because he seems to have in public statements and in conversations with me, to have said i don't think it would have made a difference. i mean if you use the word
schmooz, he doesn't think it would have made a difference. on the other hand, i've had one important official after another say to me charlie, relationships are crucial to the conduct of something as powerful and challenging as the presidency. >> you know, and i think that's right. maybe because we now know that the republicans said right from the start we are not going to cooperate with him. we're going to as mitch mcconel said make sure he's not here for eight years or whatever it was. but the perception of not appealing to them more became part of the way we looked at the president. and i think no matter what, every congressman has to at some point when you invite them to the white house, they have to come. it has to ease something. you've got to believe in human relations or else politics doesn't mean anything at all. even if it didn't change a vote, maybe it would have changed a stance on something or the way they talked about something. so you do wish that show that
outreach continues. and i think maybe you know even going up to the hill yesterday with his own democrats, he was realizing he wants to spend even more time with them now to preserve this legacy that's so important to the country and to him. >> rose: we will talk more about the legacy. what do you think will become of his life. what will he want to do? >> well, he's so young. i mean that's the thing that is going to be so complicated. because he's so young. he has achieved his 39 see-- presidency and still has perhaps half of a life left. and i think it will be complicated because he will be in washington for these next couple of years. i understand why you did it, when your child is in high school you want that child to finish there. but it will be harder to get away the way george bush could get away by going to texas. when teddy roosevelt was feeling he wanted to be back in the fight and back in the arena and came back into the schedule because you didn't have the two-term president then, he heard his hurt his own progressive cause. he will be in washington. it will be hard for him to stay away fighting for the things he
cares about, but the part that i saw before this stunning election was perfectly happy about the fact i will be able to write, do other things. i won't have to think about this. i'm not sure he will be able to make that break now. >> rose: and especially staying in that town. it is also said, and he has in fact said there will come some issues that i will have to be engaged in. but he has some admiration for the way george bush 43, george w. bush has stayed out of political opinions for the most part. >> and i think that for a lot of people in the country, there has been a certain dignity in the way that george bush 43 has conducted himself since the presidency. and so i think it's a difficult thing, i think, because if, indeed, it turns out that the republicans and mr. trump are really trying to undo the things that he thinks were the most important things he gave and was krubting to the country, and especially the affordable care act, and if he feels he has some power to shoar up the democrats or even reach out to the country
and make the people better understand what the health-care bill is all about, then it's going to be hard for him to just go off into hawaii or some place like that. so the change of elections i think when i think of the mood when i talk to him, when it was pretty certain that hillary was going to be the presidential candidate without would win the election, and he said to me, i would like to believe that the next president will think i've made a good start and there will be improvements on what i have made. that is not a failure for me. things get better when you learn more. but that was the assumption that the aca would still be there and would just make improvements as opposed to repeal and replace. >> rose: can you see him becoming an intellectual and becoming essentially a writer? that that is his profession? >> i can see that, actually. i think that whatever he will do in writing his memoir will be a very important part of his own sense of self. i mean he is actually a writer, what you mean by being a writer, what that means is he looks at himself from the outside in. what was so interesting to me
when i did the interview with "vanity fair" was he was able to look at himself from the outside in to the sense of saying what if i had had the legislative acumen of a lyndon johnson. what if i had had the charm of an fdr. what if i had the energy of a teddy roosevelt all wrapped into one. maybe i could have done more than i did. or even looking about syria, it's not, he said, that i thought there was two decisions presented to me and i made the wrong decision. but maybe there was another level of insight that i didn't have, that a churchill might have had or an eisenhower-- ice might have had and maybe then something could be better. that is the no the way a regular politician normally thinks. i think he will be well suited to write that way. if he can write a memoir that not just says here's what i did but what might i have done if something had been different, it could be very interesting. >> rose: i mean it's interesting. you can take two people, i think, richard nixon essentially made his life writing a series of backs about foreign affairs after he left the presidency. >> that's right. and they were good books. and i think he felt like he had
come back into the arena as nixon liked to use that word that teddy roosevelt used as well through his intellect and nobody ever said that richard nixon wasn't smart. so he had that intellectual capacity but you rarely have somebody who has that love of the intellectual world and the ability to write as obama does. so i think i would think that it's not just going to be what he has to do. they all feel they have to write these memoirs after a while it becomes part of the rigueur. i think for him it will be a central part of hisafter life, after life. >> rose: the afterlife on earth. >> right. >> the president is an optimistic man. >> without a question. and i think he says that about himself and i think it's true. and i think that's an important thing for a president. one has to be realistic about the problems that you are facing. but i think about fdr coming into the great depression and even despite everything that was falling apart in the country, banks were unloading. people were losing their
savings. he was optimistic that show this country would get through. and i think that optimism will help obama now. this has got to be a really hard time for him, this period of time when he thought things were pretty well on the road toward that relay race and he had pushed his markers down. and now they may well be upended. and that optimism is going to have to give them the confidence that underneath if he is going to believe that he what did was right, that history will indeed talk about it the way that he would like them to. otherwise it is a will be a difficult period he is going through even in he is not showing it. >> rose: what do you think we have done differently. you mentioned he wished he had different talents that roosevelt had, in terms of optimistic, that lbj had in terms of legislative mastery, the energy of teddy roosevelt. i often ask people who are president, you know, what skills do you wish you had had that you didn't have, you know, or what experiences, mainly.
>> it's very interesting, charlie. because i think that the one skill that we thought he had as the greatest skill, his communication skills, because of what a good speaker he had been during the campaign and how some of the long speeches he's made have been really unparalleled by a lot of recent presidents, and yet when i look back to the summer of 2010 which i think was the turning point in his presidency in a way, the health-care bill was being debated in the tea parties in that summer. and the democrats lost control of the message, of the bill. that is when death panels came into being. and from that point on i think the whole idea of what aca meant and what it means to people even if their own lives now, they may not-- it was never clear enough as to what it was going to mean to them. what it means to them now. so maybe if would you ask them what kind of communication skill, he will honestly say i'm not a slogan guy. i'm not a sound bite guy. and yet in today's world, maybe that's the one communication
skill that was needed especially on health care, to hammer into people in very clear terms what this means to them or else they would be fighting for it now. they would have fought for it even more. and they're going to have to fight for it. it will have to be local people who care about this bill, fighting at their local level, doing exactly what the tea party people did to the democrats and to their own republicans if they are going to keep that bill alive. >> rose: but you know at the same time in 2012 at the convention, he called on bill clinton to explain his own presidency. >> that's right, explainer in chief. one of the things that i think the presidents that i've studied all talk about is simplicity, simplicity. roosevelt said instead of saying we want a more inclusive society, say we want a society in which no one is left out that is fdr. he said when you can use short words, use them instead of long words. and i think obama speaks in paragraphs. he thinks in paragraphs. he is a writer. same problem i have. i can't say things very shortly. too many times i write these 800
page books. and yet as president show the slogan presidents like teddy roosevelt, speak softly, carry a big stick, square deal, new deal, there never was really, there was the new foundation that obama talked about for awhile but there was never a label that was able to clearly explain a lot of the very positive things that he was doing and put them together. and that takes a different kind of thinking, i suppose. >> rose: remember lyndon johnson who you remember better than most. the idea was always let lyndon be lyndon. >> and we would have seen the most interesting president that any of us ever knew. no, i mean he felt that he needed to have a straight jacket on him because he was afraid that the colorful language, the metaphors, sometimes the crudeness that he expressed would come out and he wouldn't be dignified as a president. so the lyndon that we all knew, let lyndon be lyndon never was before us. now the tapes have allowed us to hear that man and to know that my god, he was not only interesting, but he understood
politics. he knew how to portray it. he knew how to get to the emotional side of an issue. is he still the most remarkable character i have ever known in political life. >> rose: he also knew this, and i think this ties back to i think what you mentioned earlier, obama being-- preferring to be alone, johnson preferring the association of people. johnson never wanting to be alone. johnson wanting people, aides to be around him as he fell asleep so that he can carry a conversation until he fell asleep, even when he was going to the bathroom. there is this notion, it seems to me, that that probably contributed to lyndon johnson's capacity to read people. and therefore he understood their strengths. and he could inspire them. and he also understood their weaknesses and he could bring fear to them. >> i think there's no question about that. the more time that a politician spends with people and especially lyndon johnson, he had a psychic understanding of what it was that a particular
senator or congressman cared most about in order to get him to go with him on the bill, whether it is medicare, aid to education, appalachia, poverty, whatever it is. he knew that that person cared maybe about taking a trip to europe, or that person cared about going to a social event or being invited to the white house or coming to breakfast. and then he was able to give them what they needed that is what the art of compromise is all about. now again when we look at president obama, i tink and his legacy, i know as a historian you have to question how much is the man and how much is the time. what did the context of this time afford him, what opportunities. and i think the thing he would say is that you know, even though it was the worst recession since the depression, it show didn't bring forth the common effort that the depression did. roosevelt got both sides working with him in that hundred days. and show that didn't happen here. and is that because the polarization had just reached a point by the time obama was president that no matter what he did it wasn't going to happen as
we said earlier. or was there something more he could have done, even from the beginning with the stimulus bill to get some more republicans on board or with the aca to get more republicans on board. that is what historians will have to sort out 20, 30, 50 years from now. >> rose: president obama described abraham lincoln as this. somebody who was able to see humanity clearly, see the fundamental contradictions of the american experience clearly and yet still remain hopeful and still remain full of humor and still have a basic sympathy for the human condition, even in the midst of a terrible war and having to make terrible decisions, and having a forgiving spirit. >> right. i mean abraham lincoln still misfies me in terms of the combination of characteristics that he brought. i mean when he was leaving springfield to come to the capitol for his inauguration and he gave the fair well address at the-- farewell address at the train station and talked about the burden of the task facing
him being greater than even that of washington, and he knew the union was tearing itself apart. seven states had is he seeded even before he became president. and yet show he maintained humility about can i do this task. but self-confidence to think i have to be able to because the country needs me too do it. george washington when he was on his way to washington itself, not to washington but to the nation's capitol which was going to be at that point in new york, on the way to his inauguration talked about did he have the ability and the skill and the confidence to do what was needed to be done. so what you have got to hope for now in mr. trump is that combination of confidence in one self but yet with a deep humility about the task being really big. and both lincoln and george washington talked about the need for di vine assistance in order to deal with this task. so there was a humbleness in the face of the excitement of becoming president that i think is really important for us to see in the new president. >> what does president obama think his legacy is?
>> well, you know, i think on the one hand in a very simple way, i think he can say to himself, and i don't know who could take this away from him, that in the eight years he was there that he conducted himself with dignity, there were no scandals of any import. that he gave an impression of a man who really had a sense of trying to do for the country what he thought was best for the country. and i think, but on a larger scale i think he thought he had laid down certain markers for social and economic justice. and in the long-term that's what history looks at. and he would see that in the health care act. he would see that having made the economy come back from its deep recession to a better place so more people had more wages and more opportunity, see that in some of the things he did on education. he thought he was making progress on climate change with that climate change agreement. again, that is something that could be up for grabs now which is something he thought was
probably laid down in stone. i think he would see that to some extent some of the things that happened that were good like gay marriage and gays in the military happened on his watch. and that maybe his openness toward that and his appreciate of that helps. all of those are substantive things am but i think in the together as hoping that heput moved the ball along toward more social justice and economic opportunity during his eight years there. and the substance maybe helps to see what that becomes. and that's now the question. if some of that gets turned backyard, then that will be very hard for him and for his belief in the country. >> rose: you have said that adversity in almost all of the presidents i've studied changes them. what adversity changed barack obama? >> well, i think he would talk about the fact that as a young man when his father was an absent father, and that desire
to show prove yourself to that absent father or being of a mixed race and being-- get some teasing from that, the desire to prove that i can be a black man with a white mother, that is where ambition comes from. i mean he talked to me about that. he said that show when are you young you had this ambition to prove yourself to other people and add versity show hardens that. but then after a while the ambition becomes something more particular. and in his case i think it became politics became part of that ambition. public service and the desire to show make the country, and i think this must mean a certain sadness for him because he thought he was going to be bringing a country together because of what happened at grant park, because of that notion that when he won the election in 08y that we had moved forward on civil rights and on black economic opportunity and just the sense of racial justice and then it became so complicated when he got there. and the polarization became even
deeper. so these president sees are never simple. and i think that's why it will take a lot of generations to figure out this presidency as it does any other one like lyndon johnson or ronald reagan or harry tru man or bill clintons. and that is what keeps historians in the business, i suppose. >> rose: what did power, i mean you know, people it is often said and presidents especially say this because they have a unique perspective, in the end there is no preemtion for-- preemtion for-- preparation for being president. you can't prepare yourself perfectly for this job because it is so awesome, because of the heavy hand of spobilityd to protect the nation to keep it safe, to move forward, ideas of justice, inequality all of that weighs heavily on you because you have more than anyone else in the country the opportunity to do that. how did he change about-- i mean
how did he change his perspective on the presidency? >> well, i would guess, and i don't know this but i got this feeling when i was talking to him for that article that he felt that as he got into more years than the presidency that you do become more acclimatized to the job and that by the second term you know a lot more than you knew in the first term. i think there is certain preparations for the presidency. i know we say there is nothing you can really do. i think about teddy roosevelt and the fact that he had such winding experiences before he became president, he had been at every level of government. he had been in the state legislature. he had been in combat when he was in the spanish american war. he had been a police commissioner. he had been a civil service commissioner. he had been governor. assistant secretary of the navy. and to a certain extent that winding set of experiences i think prepared him mostly better than almost any other president i think for the presidency.
because he had had all that experience that had a different levels. but then you contrast that with lincoln who had just terms in the state legislature and one single term in congress and yet turns out to be our best president. so it's not just i the place where you were, and james buchanan had all sorts of things. he was one of the worst presidents we've ever had. and he had been at every level of government. so it's not just the title position. it's what you learned from that position. and how do you learn from your mistakes. do you grow. and that's where adversity matters. the president as you say they all suffered really bad adversity, polio for fdr, he thought his life was at an end, not just his career. but after that became more empathetic. more understanding to those whom fate had dealt an unkind hand. he became doc roosevelt, making people feel happy about their lives again. that is what he was able to do during the depression, teddy roosevelt when he lost his wife
and mother on the same day and went to the badlands became a different person after being in the badlands and become outside with ranchers and with cowboys and becoming a more ordinary person. and lincoln, of course, his whole life was adversity. interestingly, lyndon johnson when he suffered a nearly fatal heart attack than became much more interested in the purpose to which his power was going to be put. so go back to that earlier question of yours, i think what you really hope is even if people climb for power in their earlier part of their careers, by the time they reach the presidency, now they have to decide so what purpose is my power going to be put that is what lbj said. some people like to strut around i want to do something. he knew what he wanted to do. and that was social and economic justice for more people. >> i think specifically also about war. you get a sense that he's been hammered by his judgement. that the united states couldn't do much. that times had changed in terms of the middle east and that to
put men and women on the ground there would not make a difference and would simply make things worse. and that assumption, you know, drove his concept of u.s. power. >> i think you're right. i mean i think that's really important understanding that. because so much of his political career was built on understanding the foibles of what the iraq war had meant to the middle east an toward american power, there was more of a hesitancy of using overt power, using soldiers and boots on the ground because you knew how messy it can be at the other en. and that became maybe more of the use of drones on his part, more of the use of intelligence. and not that direct intervention. and i suppose for every president just like for lbj, there is that memory of the moneyic agreement that is still
there. and you can't allow something to happen as he thought would be badly happening in vietnam. there would be a domino affect. you can't get away from whatever that previous experience was that you have just had. and it does change the world power. so that is-- i hadn't thought build that. but i think it's really interesting what you are saying. >> bob gates has said to me and he worked for as many presidents as you've written about, bob gates said to me once that the central quality for president is to have the right temperment. it's that more than almost anything, as you know better than i do. i think it was walter littmann and others who said franklin roosevelt had a second class mind and first class temperment. >> right. >> who said that first, oliver wendel homes. >> no, oliver wendel homes. when he saw franklin roosevelt and he said ah, wes, first class temperment, second class int select. i don't think he had a second
class intellect but he had a first class temperment. it means you have to be confidence-- confident but you have to have some sense that you may not know things all the time. you know you will make mistakes. franklin roosevelt said about himself i know i will bat three out of four times i will get a hit. or maybe one out of two times and that would be great. but when i make a mistake i'm just going to own it and move on. that's part of temperment. one of the things that mr. trump said is that he said president-elect trump, he said i think i have the best temperment of anybody ever running for president because i always win. and that is not true. i think it's learning from adversity. it's learning from failure. it's learning how to grow as a result of your mistakes. and it's also a temperment that can take enormous criticism from the outside in. and not take it personally. and show be able to know they're against my ideas, they're not against myself. temperment is who you are. it's character, it's disposition. and i think it is the most important thing we look for in a president.
it gets revealed over time. we'll see more as we see trump get into office. we saw more of the no drama obama temperment as he got into office. and i think that will be one of the things people will look back on too that he kept a certain stability during a very tough time and temperment helps with you that. >> so in fact that's my last question. if in tact temperment is so critically important, how would you rate the temperment of president obama in looking at his legacy. >> and that's not an easy question, but i think when you look at temperment, you look at a man who, you know, who came into the office during a period of great uncertainty. when you imagine what it must have been like in that fall right before he took office, when it seemed like the economy was falling part, and he went along with what he thought needed to be done. he didn't seem to lose his sense of oh my god s this overwhelming me. you never had the 2350e8ing he felt that. so there was that confidence.
sometimes that confidence might have moved toward kokiness or arrogance but sometimes it was measured by humility, at least i could feel that humility in some of the conversations with him. and i think he projected to the american people somebody who felt comfortable in the job. maybe didn't love it the way you might want somebody to love every aspect of it, love talking to congressman until 3:00 in the morning. but recognizing that he had been given a great responsibility and felt that he was doing it to the best of his ability. so there is a certain kind of, you know, of prudent-- prudence and easiness and stability, i think, about that temperment that i think people will look back on, that we saw. i don't think he will seem to historians very different from the person we saw. so then the question is did he make the most of his time. did he exploit the opportunities that were there. could he have done more, you know, i think he might feel he went in the right direction, that he wished he 4 begun in.
others may disagree with that. but the question is could he have done more, could it have been different. and those will be the things that he will live with for the rest of his lives but hopefully when he writes about it, he will be able to think about it and in a way that most, as i say, most politicians can't think about themselves from the outside in. it will be great for us as historians if he can do that. because that is what we try to do 50 years later and we're having a real life person doing it now. >> dorris, it's always great to have you here, thank you so much. >> are you the best. bye. >> rose: bye, happy new year. naomie har sis here. she first rose to fame in danny boil 2002 zombie thriller, 28 days later. later went on to costar in the pirates of the caribbean and james bond film series. she is now earning praise for her performance in barry jenkins film "moonlight" she plays a crack addicted single mother in the projects of miami. the los angeles time rights that harris conveys an emotional
rawness that is almost too much to witness. here is a look at her performance. >> shut the [bleep] calm down, shut-- up, what's wrong with you? >> who the hell you think you is. huh? you going to raise my son now? huh? you going to raise my son? yeah. that's what i thought. >> you going to raise him? >> you going to keep selling me rocks? huh?
don't give me that you got to get it from somewhere. i'm getting it from you. but you want to raise my son, though, ray? hmmmm? you ever see the way he-- you watch your damn mouth. you going to tell him why other boys kick his ass all the time, huh? you want to tell him? >> i'm please todz have naomie harris back at this table, welcome. >> thank you, thank you for having me. >> what is it about this film? >> for me it is one of these rare films that isn't just speaking to your head but it speaks to your heart.
and it has this ability to cut through all of these identities that we like to attach to ourselves like race identities, ethnicity, gender. and it just breaks all of that and says that ultimately in our hearts, we're all the same. and we're struggling with the same issues which issues of connection, our desperate search for love. and we also ultimately all come from this kind of damaged beginning. because nobody had the perfect childhood. and it makes our journey to get that love and connection that we so desperately need really convoluted for everybody. >> but you had said one time, and i had this quote. i always said that i want to-- portraying positive image to black women, i never ever want to play a stereo typical role because there were enough of them out there and i always said i would never play a crack addict. i assume you like this character because it was such, it gave you such a dramatic rang range and because there were some positive things you could find there. >> to be perfectly honest with
you, i did not want to take this role. i wanted to play the role of theresa played by janelle mondayae. i wanted to be part of this project but i did not want to play paula. but it was actually speaking to barrie that kind of changed my mind. because i always had said that i do want to only portray positive images of women. and that's because of my upbringing. my mum had me at 18 years old. and she then decided that she would wait until i was five and i could go to school and then she would put herself through university. so when she went to university i used to sit in the corner of the room coloring in. and i was just so inspired by this woman who managed to turn her life around and become a very successful television writer. and she was surrounded, she was part of a community of women that was strong and capable and intel genlt and i was like, i don't see those women represented on screen and i desperately want to see women represented on screen. so that is why i really struggled about taking on this part. but it wasn't until i sat down
with barrie and she had a skype conversation with him and he said look, i don't want to ask you to play a stereotype but the reality is this is my story. and my mother was a crack addict. and to tell my story, i have to include that fact. and i thought here for the first time is someone who invested emotionally in insuring that this woman doesn't get reduced to just her addiction. but she has her full humanity and emotional complexity. >> and a concern for her child right there. >> yeah. her concern for her child as the film goes on, we see that you know, her addiction really makes it very difficult for her to continue to care for her son. and she's incredibly brutal with it. a lot of people say that they don't like her. which hurts my feelings because i think that paula is an incredibly damaged human being and it's very difficult for her to be loving and likable at all times because she never got the love and nurturing that she desperately needed.
>> how did you prepare for this? >> youtube. youtube is like this incredible-- gold mine it really is. because you have these people with like camera phones who go into crack dens and places you could never go. and they just had these really intimate interviews. >> because i suppose in a crack den it just seems like it's just two people interacting with a little phone. and you don't really think about the thousands of people that potentially can see it once it's uploaded on youtube. but there are these incredibly intimate interviews which i found online. and they gave me such insight into what it was like, what was-- what the world of addiction is all about. >> rose: and what are you looking for. the world of addiction is all brk the world that you knew nothing about. >> yeah. >> rose: but are you looking for the way they express themselves, the way they move? the way. >> all of that. all of that. but also-- . >> rose: is it physical or. >> it's also about-- it's really literally all of that.
but it's also about i'm looking for a way in. because for me i started with paula and i really struggled to connect with her because i didn't understand, you know, i had a lot of judgement. i had a lot of judgement about the fact that she at many points is such a brutal mother and such a negative influence on her son's life. hi a lot of judgement about the fact, how could you be a mother and be an addict, you know. and i had to overcome all of that to say what is paula's journey. how does someone really become an addict. what, you know, encourages them to have to develop this habit. and so i'm looking for those kind of answers. and for me the biggest end to paula was seeing that every single woman that was interviewed about their addiction had been raped or sexually abused. and that was the biggest aha! >> rose: every single one. >> every single one. >> rose: had been abused in one way or another. >> every single one. and even a woman that i
interviewed a woman, personally about her a dings as well. and she was kind enough to share her journey. and it did involve you know, sexual abuse. >> rose: how did that affect your performance? >> i also have to tell you before i go to tell you, ho how it affected my performance. with respect to barrie, i said i discovered that, he said yes t was true for his. >> rose: confirmed it for himself. >> and the original, you know, playwright. >> rose: right. >> it was his mother as well had the same thing happen. and it helped me because i understood, i saw what was going on. because when i think people don't understand about rape and sexual abuse is that nobody ever sexually abused just once. nobody is ever raped just once. it's a trauma that is relived in the body and the mind continuously. so it becomes like a-- . >> rose: you can't rip it out. >> exactly. and you are desperately searching for some way to do that, to numb the pain and that's what drugs are about. because especially in a community that is deprived, you know, economicically, how you can, you can't afford to go and see a therapist.
who do you reach out to. and it's still unfortunately stigma a tamped to sexual abuse as well. >> rose: is it the violation of self, is it the violence against self that makes it? >> i think it's the violence. i think because it's such an intimate form of violence. i think because of the stigma and the fact that you can't talk about it. >> rose: and the power. >> there is so much shame attached to it as well, all of that. >> rose: and you-- and you incorporate that and how do i see that in your performance? >> you see that for me in the way that i-- build paula from you know, i'm basically wanting to show her trauma. i'm wanting to show that here is a woman traumatized and then she is handed this child and she's trying to do the very best she can for as long as she possibly can. but her demons eventually catch up with her. and it all becomes too much for her. so her self-hatred actually is played out in the way that she
treats her son. >> rose: what did barrie add to your performance? >> the biggest thing that i think barry added to my performance was the freedom that he gave me. because is he one of these rare directors, i've never had a director actually do this before but he actually, you know, i gave him every reason not to give me this part. because he said do you have any experience of addiction. and i was like no, i don't know anyone 234 my family. i don't smoke, i don't drink alcohol. i don't do-- i'm a health nut. so it couldn't be further from me. and despite me saying that, he still gave me the role. and then he never once checked up on me during my sort of research process. he just left me to it. which was so wonderful because i thought-- . >> rose: it gave you confidence. >> it gave me real confidence. i thought he really trusts me, you know. and the first time he saw me deliver was on set. and all he did was just provide an environment where it felt totally nonjudgemental and
nurturing and free it is one of the most creatively rewarding experiences i've ever had. >> rose: this is a scene from a film, from moonlight in which your character, paula is asking your son for money, here st. >> i need some money within for what? >> that's my business. don't you ask me no -- like that. >> i don't have no money. >> don't lie to me, boy. i'm your mama. i am your blood, remember? i ain't feeling good. i need something to help me out. come on, baby. come on, baby. >> where am i supposed to get money from? >>-- you play mommy and put something, get the money, give
me the damn money, give me the damn money. >> i don't have no money. mama. >> come on. all right, all right, all right slm. >> give me the damn money. here, man. >> you my child, okay and tell that shall-- better not forget it go on to school. ain't you late? >> rose: when you watch this. >> it's pretty upsetting, i have to say. it's really upsetting. yeah,. >> rose: i can feel it being next to you. >> she, yeah, very brutal. very rough. and it is hard to do scenes like that, particularly, i have to
say, not just with ashton but when i was with young alex who played my youngest child, only 11 years old and being asked to do scenes where i'm really traumatizing him. and jeem screaming at him at the top of my voice. it was very hard. i asked for him not to actually be on set when i did scenes like that. because i just felt it was too much for someone like that. >> rose: how do you handle it as a human being? >> how do i handle-- . >> rose: handle it when you've got to go deep inside is obviously it's called craft and skill i thif you have to have that kind of well of emotional pull within you to be able to find it show. so you've got to be drawing on stuff that's already there. but i find it very, you know, it's hard to watch. i also find it very cath artic to do, to exercise whatever demons are in me, you know.
>> you have a capacity to reach in and bring them out. >> exactly. i think in every day life we get so constrained into portraying just one version of who we are. i think as human beings we're incredibly complex and multifaceted. and so i think it's really a luxury as an actor that you get an opportunity to really del-of-into all of that. >> just think about all you just said. take a look at this. roll the-- roll the clip. >> a tantalizing question of with you are really doing here. >> i am to help in anyway i can. >> like spying? >> mad am e isn't as bad as you
think witness's a bay bureaucrat >> he was a lieutenant colonel. >> lieu tan corn knell northern ireland. yes, spent three months at the hands of the ira. >> there is more to you than meets the eye. >> we'll see. >> keep still. this is the tricky part. i said it was a good experience, you said wonderful experience. >> really wonderful, yeah. >> you have from one to the second shows you your range but
also a sense of what acting is about. >> diving that these different worlds, and that is the joy, that's the gift. i particularly love being part of the whole bond franchise because barbara buckly is an extraordinary woman, really, you know. >> i met her, yes. >> she is just like this mother earth figure who just wants to take care of absolutely everybody. i did a film with dam onlewis and he was saying that he happened to mention to her while he was filming that his pillows in his hotel room from a little hard. do you know that barbara actually went on a train, bought two pillows for him and brought them back to the aisle of man. and that barbara is such an incredible woman. >> that will generate a friendship, won't it. >> she's like that with all of us. she thinks if she treats us like we are all her children. >> and that she can do, it is her responsible to do favors for you when you need them.
>> exactly. >> and how many, when you think about the future, where you are and the choices you have, is it simply diversity that you pursue? >> it is actually, yeah. i always want to be kept on my toes. i always want to feel challenged. i always want to feel scared as well 78 every role i take on completely scared me. and paula terrified me i think more than any other role that i-- apart from playing winnie mandela thark was absolutely terrifying. >> rose: why was that terrifying. >> because she is a living icon. and i was filming that in south africa. and i into you that people had such specific ideas about how-- . >> rose: and opinions. >> yeah, exactly. and who she was as well. and i knew my producers had a very specific idea about who she was as well as my director. and you know, when you read about who winnie is, wow, she's like, she founds like two different people. and to find her in the midst of that was a real challenge. >> she is the one that carried the torch while she was in
prison. >> absolutely. >> rose: and at the same time she has been accused of a lot of horrific stuff. >> an also found quilty for quite a few crimes as well. >> rose: so you have two things there. >> yeah. >> driven by her own ambition on the one hand for good or bad, right? >> yeah. and you know, winnie is a prime example of someone who is incredibly brutalized doing her time in solitary confinement. she won't speak about what happened to her in prison. >> no, it is a hor tisk-- horrific thing. >> can't talk about it because it's too mainful-- painful. >> she just doesn't want to go there, because you know, she is a product also of brutality, immense brutality. >> collateral beauty. >> uh-huh. >> tell me about mad line. >> mad line is a beautiful person i would love to be. she is someone who has immense
tram trauma of having lost her child and then dedicated her life to helping other people get over that trauma. not that you ever get over that tra trauma. and find some form of healing as well. i just think that it's so beautiful to dedicate your life to helping other human beings. 245 is what life should be about, right? >> what is the story. >> the story is howard played by will smith is going through a kind of breakdown and his friends device the plot to bring him out of this depression that he's in which involves getting love time and death to become personified. and to speak to him and interact with him so that he can learn to see the beauty in life again. >> so you get to work with some pretty interesting people. >> some amazing people. >> amazing people. >> and will smith is one of the most extraordinary.
because-- extraordinary human beings. >> you didn't say extraordinary actors. >> no, human being. i just learned so much from him. >> do you know that we would be filming on the streets of new york and we would have crowds wherever we fill filmed. hoards of people who want autographs every day and playing a very depressioned character, emotionally wounded character. he would still step offset every day, sign every autograph, take selfies with everybody, and entertain the crowds and i was like how do you do that? how do you find the energy. and he said because nearly every single one of these people is going flew something and we had the opportunity to give some light, and some joy. >> st an easy thing in the world to do. >> exactly. >> it takes nothing-- to look at a kid. >> exactly. so many people have i worked with don't do that. >> i know. >> and it's extraordinary. you are right t doesn't take
much. and it actually gives you energy to give other people joy but not people many noam that. >> what is the essential quality that a good actor has to have? >> an open innocence-- openness, an emotional vulnerability. a willingness to share because you know, you have to be open to your fellow actor and be willing to go on an emotional journey with them my final scene in moonlight, i met trevante several minutes before we did that final scene, that meant we didn't have to connect on personalities. we had to deep on a soulful level and be ready to be incredibly vulnerable with each other in a really short space of time. >> thank you so much. >> thank you for having me. >> our pleasure. >> naomie harris, moonlight and collateral beauty, both are in theaters now. much talk about her performance
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