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tv   Late Night With Seth Meyers  NBC  September 13, 2016 12:37am-1:37am EDT

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[ cheers and applause ] ? >> announcer: from 30 rockefeller plaza in new york, it's "late night with seth meyers." tonight -- victoria beckham. from "empire," actor jussie smollett. author colson whitehead. featuring the 8g band with matt garstka. ? [ cheers and applause ] ladies and gentlemen, seth meyers. >> seth: good evening, everybody. i'm seth meyers. this is "late night." how is everybody doing tonight? [ cheers and applause ] great. fantastic. you have fantastic, fantastic energy for a monday. in that case, let's get to the news. hillary clinton upset republicans this weekend after she accused half of trump
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basket of deplorables, which is also trump's usual order at kfc. [ laughter ] i will have the 12-piece basket of deplorables. tremendously crispy. [ laughter ] rnc chairman reince priebus spoke out against hillary clinton's attack on donald trump's supporters and said, "clinton's comments show outright contempt for ordinary people." then again, so does the name reince priebus. [ light laughter ] can we rearrange those letters to make an ordinary person's name there we go. that's so much better. [ cheers and applause ] prus -- prus beneire. hillary clinton left the ground zero memorial service early yesterday because she felt overheated. said trump, hey, if anyone's too hot it's my daughter ivanka. [ laughter ] it will have to be a lot hotter than yesterday. [ light laughter ] following the announcement that
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that he was also diagnosed with pneumonia several weeks ago. and vice president joe biden also stepped up and admitted he is suffering from disco fever. [ laughter ] takes a lot of courage to admit that. [ light laughter ] following the admission that hillary clinton is currently suffering from pneumonia, the clinton campaign put out a statement saying doctors are advising she rest and modify her schedule. so, uh-oh, look like dad's in charge, everybody. [ light ht hey, america, who wants some sandwiches and ice tea for dinner? [ light laughter ] it is tim kaine o'clock. [ light laughter ] yes, we kaine. following the news that hillary clinton is suffering from pneumonia, donald trump has promised to release his own medical records. wait, you wanted me to save those? said his doctor. [ light laughter ] i've been using those for rolling papers, my man. [ light laughter ]
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said on sunday that she would not have assassinated osama bin laden, but instead would have captured him and brought him to trial. i would say that would hurt her poll numbers but she only has one. [ light laughter ] the eighth annual philly naked bike ride was this weekend in philadelphia. and let's just say, you shouldn't host the naked bike ride when this is what your city is known for. [ laughter ] [ cheers and applause ] the man who once tried to assassinate former president ronald reagan has been permanently released from a washington area mental hospital. this, after his doctors determined that there is very little chance that he would ever shoot ronald reagan again. [ light laughter ] russian researchers believe they recorded the first conversation between a pair of dolphins which consists of sentences of up to
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"be cool,this dude's listening." [ laughter ] new york's carnegie deli has launched a new menu item called the fashion sandwich, which is free for any professional model who can finish the triple layer combination of pastrami, turkey and cheese. you're on, yelled "it" girl christy christi. [ laughter ] [ applause ] [ light laughter ] that's right. new york's carnegie deli has launched a new menu item called the fashion sandwich, which is free for any professional model who can finish it. they're ten inches in diameter, and weigh in at over six pounds. no word yet on how big the sandwiches are. [ laughter ] and finally, donald trump said in an interview this morning that he recently completed a physical and it was mostly good,
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[ cheers and applause ] ladies and gentlemen, we have a fantastic show for you tonight. she's an iconic fashion designer. she has a brand new makeup collection. victoria beckham is on the show tonight. [ cheers and applause ] how about that? i'm so excited she's here. and from fox's "empire," jussie smollett is joining us. [ cheers and applause ] and he is the author of a fantastic new album that i love, called "the underground railroad." colson whitehead is here tonight to talk about his book. [ cheers and applause ] now, as we mentioned, at a fund-raiser on friday, hillary clinton answered a question about trump supporters in part by saying you could put half of trump supporters into what i call the basket of deplorables, which brings us to a segment we call "hey!" ? [ applause ] >> seth: hey! hillary clinton, what are you doing? you called trump supporters a basket of deplorables? what's the matter, you couldn't think of an insult that made you
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[ laughter ] basket of deplorables sounds like what they call the bargain bin at neiman marcus. do we have izod? check the basket of deplorables. [ laughter ] and hey, if you're going to get in the gutter with trump, you have to do better than that. don't bring the vera wang shrimp fork to a knife fight. [ light laughter ] yeah, donald trump called mexicans rapists and has called you and your supporters 100 different names, but there's a double standard in play in this election. sure, it is patently unfair, but you can't play tit for tat with donald trump, because the media's only going to talk about your tat and completely ignore his tits. [ laughter ] and hey, i know it stinks, but this election has an older sister, younger brother dynamic. basically, trump is ferris bueller and you're his sister jeanie. [ light laughter ] trump can cut school, dance on a parade float, and claim to be the sausage king of chicago, but you, hillary, you should know better. [ light laughter ] you were secretary of state while he was televising a
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you know how i know the rules are different for you? you told me. and hey, it's not fair. but if life were fair, donald trump wouldn't be the republican nominee, he'd be the second best salesman at a carpet store in queens. [ laughter ] [ cheers and applause ] and lastly, hey, you have to rest because these are the kinds of things you say when you have pneumonia and give a speech. i once gave an oral report in high school after taking sudafed and said if ahab wanted to kill a big white dick, he should have chucked a harpoon at mr. fenton. am i right? [ laughter ] and i wasn't wrong, but i shouldn't have said it. this has been "hey!" ? [ cheers and applause ] we'll be back with victoria beckham. ? [ cheers and applause ]
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? [ cheers and applause ] >> seth: welcome back, everybody. give it up for the 8g band right over there. [ cheers and applause ] also, we're very happy to have him sitting in this week with the 8g band. he's regarded as one of the most talented progressive rock players of today. matt garstka is here. [ cheers and applause ] there he is right there. and be sure to check out the upcoming release of matt's band, animals as leaders, "the madness of many" available everywhere
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here, matt. looking forward to the week. [ cheers and applause ] we are very excited about this too. our first guest is a celebrated fashion designer whose new estee lauder makeup collection launches tomorrow. please welcome to the show, victoria beckham. [ cheers and applause ] ? ? welcome to the show, victoria. >> thank you very much. >> seth: you look gorgeous. >> thank you. >> seth: and congratulations. you had your fashion show yesterday. >> i did. i did. >> seth: is it such great relief now to know that it's six months until you have to do that all again? >> well, it never really stops. >> seth: right. >> so, we've already started on the next collection. but it was a huge success yesterday. i'm relieved, and couldn't be happier. >> seth: and it happened in the morning, yes? >> it did. it did. >> seth: so, does that mean you just get to party from, like, 11:00 a.m. on? [ laughter ]
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if you did your after party, you'd have to go for hours. >> yeah. no, i mean, straight after the show we carry on working. we have sales appointments and all that kind of thing. >> seth: you are making it sound so boring. >> i -- [ laughter ] >> seth: fashion is supposed to be exciting and cool. >> it is. it is. >> seth: no, but you're saying it's hard work. and this is exciting, too, because i know you've been doing fashion for a long time. now you have a makeup line with estee lauder. tell us a little bit about that. >> i'm really excited about the makeup, it's been a dream come true for me to work with estee lauder on a capsule collection of must have pieces that every womee really has been a dream come true for me. they've been great to work with. the product is great. it's everything that i wear, that i want. i created looks so that customers can buy into specific looks. whether it's paris, london, new york. so, key fashion looks for everyone. >> seth: different -- you have different makeup for different cities? >> i do. >> seth: wow. [ laughter ] >> don't you? >> seth: no, i wear the same stuff everywhere i go. [ laughter ] >> you know, that is so last season. >> seth: oh my goodness. >> yeah. >> seth: oh, no. >> yeah.
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in 2015 constantly. [ laughter ] >> we'll get you a new set. we'll get you a new set. >> seth: i am going to get your number and just be like, i am going to paris, what do i wear? [ laughter ] >> absolutely. i'll put a beautiful red lip on you. >> seth: alright, thank you. now, i'm glad that you would do that. i'm also -- i know that you have four children. >> yes. >> seth: and your youngest is your first girl. >> yes, correct. >> seth: now, was that, i know obviously you love your sons a great deal, was it exciting to finally have a girl, considering what your passions are? >> do you know it was so great to have a girl and the boys are so great with her. and david's such a great dad it's so cute to see him -- [ faint woo hoo ] with a little -- did someone just do a woo hoo? [ laughter and applause ] >> seth: yeah, a little one. someone did a woo that, that woo came from a place that they knew not to do in front of his wife. [ laughter ] >> okay, but no one did that woo when i came out, that's what i'm saying. [ laughter ] >> seth: yeah, that's true. that's true, yeah. [ cheers ] >> thank you, thank you. >> seth: that was when -- they only did it out of respect to me. 'cause then -- [ laughter ] then it keeps going down the line. i'm like, where were my woo's? it really gets, yeah.
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>> yeah, you know, she's so great. and she's a little tom boy playing in the garden with her brothers playing football and david as well, but she's also very girly. so she loves to play with makeup. she has been able to run in a pair of high heels for a long time. >> seth: wow. >> so proud. so proud. >> seth: that's fantastic. that's great. i mean, i don't know when that comes in handy except for horror movies or something. [ light laughter ] so you also, your youngest son is cruz. >> yes. >> seth: and obvio h father is athletic, his mother musical. he seems to have a little bit of the music. your husband posted this video i'd like to show real quick. 'cause i'm very impressed with his skill. >> okay. >> seth: alright, let's take a look. ? i got my ticket for the long way round two bottle a whiskey for the way ? ? and i sure would like some sweet company and i'm leaving tomorrow what do you say? ? ? when i'm gone when i'm gone
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? you're gonna miss me by my hair you're gonna miss me everywhere, oh ? ? you're gonna miss me when i'm gone ? [ cheers and applause ] >> seth: so how many times did he have to do it? >> do you know -- he didn't -- he's so musical, cruz. and we didn't realize that he could sing, you know? he's always the one that plays football and he was just sitting in the back of the car one day and he was singing and i was like wow, you can really sing. and then he picked up his cups and off he went. >> seth: that's fantastic. >> yeah. [ laughter ] >> seth: got a big career ahead of him. >> i mean, we are like a traveling circus, our family. we sing, we dance, we do football, we do fashion. >> seth: you run in high heels. you've got it all down. [ light laughter ] >> we do. >> seth: what, now, does cruz -- do any of the kids, what is their sense of you and the spice girls? do they know it? do they know the music? >> they know the spice girls, they know that mommy wore the heels. >> seth: okay. >> and did the pout and point. >> seth: yep. >> um, they're proud.
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and when i was on tour with the spice girls, i took the children with me. so, they were with us. >> seth: oh, great. so, they know it. that's really exciting. >> yeah, they know it. >> seth: so, you're on the cover of "british vogue." and i really love this piece, because you wrote -- it wasn't just an interview with you, you wrote a letter to your 18-year-old self. >> i did. >> seth: and it was really sweet. and there were a lot of things in it, we talked a lot about heels here, but it seems like you learned a lesson because one of the things you tell your 18-year-old self is one day you'll have children and there wie not to wear heels. >> yeah. >> seth: what went down? >> well, i was at sports day and i thought, you know, it's just the taking part that counts. and i was in tight jeans, really, really long flares, big platform shoes and one of the other moms said, listen, we'll run together, we'll start at the back and we'll run together and then we can both come last, 'cause i'm presuming that you're going to be pretty not very athletic. >> seth: right. >> which i'm not. and then -- so the race started and this mother looked at me,
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i was at the back slightly mortified. and she turned around and she said, i think you might find that you came last there. >> seth: oh, my goodness. [ light laughter ] >> and so, okay. so, don't ever do that. >> seth: yeah. >> don't ever go to sports day in high heels. >> seth: also, don't trust the other parents. [ laughter ] >> more to the point. >> seth: the bigger take away is don't trust the other parents. >> and if only you knew who it was. >> seth: exactly. you also talk -- i guess it's theater school where you're sort of -- you talk about being put in the back of the dance line. >> yes, i was. i went to theater school. and it was tradition that at the end of every show at every term, everybody had to wear a tight, like a tight cat suit in a bright color. >> seth: uh-huh. >> and a silver belt, a top hat, and a pair of high heels. and everybody used to come on singing razzle dazzle. >> seth: yeah. this sounds wonderful. [ laughter ] >> it was beautiful. and i had a bright purple shiny cat suit on. and the principal at the school told me that i was gonna have to
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little bit chubby and a little bit awkward and so i'd be flown in the back with my top hat. >> seth: and they would just see your hat above other people's heads? >> yeah, yeah. and as i'm saying it, i'm not surprised i was put in the back, because -- >> seth: okay, you're willing to admit that maybe they made a strong artistic decision. >> yes. yes, yes, yes. >> seth: you also talk about a lifelong relationship that you had with hairspray. and that there was a time in your life where you maybe used too much of it. is that a safe thing to say? >> oh, yeah. >> seth: have i read the text correctly? i mean, me and elnett hair spray. yeah, i was at the theater one night and the lady sitting behind me says would you mind taking your hair down because i can't see the show. [ laughter ] well, the funny thing was, is i didn't have it up. [ light laughter ] i just had a lot of spray and i looked like i'd been caught in a wind tunnel. so my hair was not up, it was just back combed. i mean, it was the 90's we all, you know. >> seth: yeah, we all -- we all made choices. yeah. >> did you do that then? >> seth: i did when i was in
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>> okay. >> seth: yeah. >> to go with your lips. >> seth: exactly. >> okay. >> seth: you know, i think if you saw it all together, you wouldn't think it was bad look. >> okay. >> seth: alright, this -- i almost don't want to say this because my wife will see this and will then judge it against our romance, but you talk, this is the sweetest thing, because you talk about love at first sight being a real thing. and you talk about the first time you saw your husband and he asked for your number and you were living in london. >> yes. >> seth: you met him in manchester and you wrote it on your plane ticket. >> seth: and is this true? where is that plane ticket now? >> i still have it now. >> seth: that's unbelievable. >> yeah. we keep everything, you know, over the years. all the little cards that we've written to each other. >> seth: if you kept it from the beginning, you really knew at the beginning. >> i do believe in love at first sight. and i knew when i first met david that we, i don't know, we had a connection, we really did and yeah. >> seth: that's fantastic. >> he's great. he's a wonderful husband, a fantastic father. and, you know, inspires me every
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>> seth: we were on our like tenth date before i even saved my wife's number in my phone. [ laughter ] i said, i just don't wanna rush into it and then, you know, then i feel like it's a commitment and i might not be ready for that. but i will say, we've, i think we found a similar place to you and your husband. so, congratulations. >> thank you so much. >> seth: and thank you so much for being here. it's a delight talking to you. >> thank you. [ cheers and applause ] >> seth: victoria beckham, everybody. the victoria becham estee lauder collection is available for purchase starting tomorrow. we'll be right back with more "late night." ? man, i'm glad aflac pays cash. aflac! isn't major medical enough? no! who's gonna' help cover the holes in their plans? aflac! like rising co-pays and deductibles... aflac! or help pay the mortgage? or child care? aflaaac! and everyday expenses?
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? [ cheers and applause ] >> seth: welcome back to "late night." before we move on with the show, i want to talk about something that's very important to me, very important to all of us. we make a lot of jokes about the upcoming election, but i want to take a minute to say that no matter who you're voting for, the most important thing you can do this november is vote. in the last presidential election, 40% of americans who are eligible to vote didn't. and that's -- [ buzzer ] >> 42%. >> seth: i'm sorry, what was that? >> that was me. the percentage of eligible voters who didn't vote in the
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>> seth: and i'm sorry, who are you? >> i'm a fact checker. [ light laughter ] nbc wants to be sure that any information presented on the network during election season is 100% accurate. so they sent me to fact check your show. every time i hear something wrong -- [ buzzer ] i'll press this button. [ light laughter ] >> seth: okay, well, great. you know, i'm definitely committed to presenting correct information. so thank you so much for being here. >> you're welcome. >> seth: okay. anyway, like i was saying, 42% of eligible americans didn't vote in 2012. we live in a democracy. >> we live in a constitutionally limited representative democratic republic. [ laughter ] >> seth: okay. fine. we live in a great country. okay. [ laughter ] and we can't take it for granted. it's like i was saying last night while my wife and i made dinner -- [ buzzer ] >> your wife made dinner. [ laughter ] >> seth: i helped. [ buzzer ] >> you googled "how to turn on stove." [ light laughter ] >> seth: fine. but i did the dishes. [ buzzer ]
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plates and then reordered them on crate and barrel. [ laughter ] >> seth: fine. while my wife made dinner, i cracked open a beer, and -- [ buzzer ] i made a complicated daiquiri in my blender. [ laughter ] and said how lucky i am to live in america. my most prized possession is my right to vote. [ buzzer ] my most prized possession is an x-men lunch box. but my -- [ laughter ] my greatest fear is that americans will become apathetic. [ buzzer ] g [ laughter ] they eat the eggs of other birds! [ light laughter ] but that was when i was a kid. i outgrew that. [ buzzer ] can you just be cool? >> i'm extremely cool. [ buzzer ] [ light laughter ] >> seth: i'm sorry, who are you? >> i'm also a fact checker, and her ex-boyfriend. and for my birthday she gave me a thesaurus. [ laughter ] >> what's cooler than synonyms? >> good point. i still love you, barbara. >> seth: you do?
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[ laughter ] it was cold but effective. [ ding ] [ laughter ] >> seth: all right, you know what? you two, enough. look, america's not perfect, but the great thing about our nation is that every time we step into a voting booth, we have a chance to make it better. so dig out your voter registration card, and stick it in your wallet right now. find out where your polling place is and make sure you go there on november 8th. all l right. i know i'll be there when the polls open at 6:00 a.m. [ buzzer ] i will be there at 8:00. [ buzzer ] i will be there at 11:00. [ buzzer ] i will be there at noon and [ laughter ] we will be back with jussie smollett! [ cheers and applause ]
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? [ cheers and applause ] welcome back, everybody. our next guest tonight plays jamal lyon on the very popular series, "empire." season three premiers september 21st on fox. let's take a look. >> that can't be the song you're performing for the extreme event. >> what if it is? >> well, i know lucious didn't prove it so what? >> i am going to ask for forgiveness, not permission. >> jamal, why? >> mom, because freda's entire trial is stalled. her lawyers don't care about her and the whole world hates her for what she did to me, but honestly, my family is to blame. >> wanna pick a fight with your daddy? it's on you. just better be damn ready for it. >> seth: please welcome to the
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? how are you? >> the band -- the band is dope, man. >> seth: yeah, we have a very dope band. >> yeah, you guys are dope. >> seth: they are dope 24/7. >> yeah, yeah, yeah. yeah. hey, everybody. >> seth: so this is -- you're so perfect on the show. >> oh, thank you. >> seth: it almost strikes me that they would have written it with you in mind. that is very much not the case. you actually reached out to lee daniels via instagram? >> slid up in them dm's. >> seth: wow. [ laughter ] >> yeah. >> seth: so, you just dm'ed the your audition? >> no, you know what? i was already going to have an audition. but i knew that somehow maybe it would set me aside or, you know -- >> seth: sure, just give him one extra thing to say, oh, this guy. >> you know, maybe -- >> seth: this guy doesn't respect boundaries. >> yeah, he's -- [ laughter ] yeah, exactly, like wow, he's a loser. let me look at him. but yeah, like i said, i slid up in his dm's. >> seth: but they didn't -- i mean, this did not come easily. you auditioned seven times? >> seven different times. >> seth: now did you have to sing every time you auditioned?
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"ex-factor" by lauryn hill. >> seth: okay. >> and then, but the thing is that when i sing acappella i close my eyes all the time. and then lee told me when i met him, first i met leah daniels buttler who's our incredible casting director and his little sister, and i went back and i met lee and i had my eyes closed. and he said open your eyes. and i sang it again with my eyes open and, like, in the middle of it, i feel my eyes -- [ laughter ] starting to close. and i left there and i felt like such a loser. 'cause i was like, he's gonna think that i can't take direction. >> seth: yeah. >> and but thehe was like, "call me." and so, i called him and he's like, i am not -- i'm convinced of your acting, convinced of your singing. i'm not convinced of you as a performer, because you didn't perform. so he was like, "what's that song -- what's that song -- that white boy that can sing who was married to paula?" i was like, "robin thicke, 'blurred lines'?" and so i went in and i did -- i sang "blurred lines" and it was just the perfect song for my voice and then down the road i
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>> yeah, thank you so much. [ cheers and applause ] >> seth: and have you figured out -- have you figured out your eye thing? >> yeah, i kind of have. >> seth: i'm gonna look the next time i see you to make sure they're not cgiing your eyes open. >> like, you know, it's like a twitch, but you know i'm a little bit better now. >> seth: so, this show is a lot of inspirations to this show, "king lear", "lion in winter" -- >> yeah. >> seth: little bit of "dynasty." do you -- do you channel anybody to play -- to play the character? >> well, the character is based on lee, you know? just in a higher stakes environment. but for me i kind of look at jamal as a cross between two michaels. michael jackson and michael corleone. >> seth: alright. >> in my opinion. and i also feel like, you know, jamal's kind of like the gay tupac. like he -- [ laughter ] you know, he got shot, he took a bullet, he keeps it movin'. >> seth: yeah. >> you know, he's gangsta. like, he's got it. he's alright. >> seth: and one of the upsides, if there's ever an upside of being shot, jamal then got to work with mariah carey, which of course meant that you got to work with mariah carey. >> sure did.
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[ laughter ] >> sure did. >> seth: we have a photo of you guys. >> it was amazing. >> seth: oh, this is a bummer. look whose eyes are closed again. [ laughter ] >> oh, my god! my eyes are literally closed! >> seth: that's too bad. >> do you see? >> seth: that's too bad. >> my eyes are literally closed. >> seth: i mean, with mariah, if there's ever a time to open your eyes it's when mariah's there. >> especially when mariah is sittin' there lookin' like she-ra from "master of the universe." like, it's incredible. no, it was -- >> seth: did you learn anything from working with mariah? >> i know that everybody's gonna think that i'm talkin' about voice and yes and i learned a i learned about publishing, but i really learned about the light, because -- this is very serious. mariah is all about the lighting has to be perfect. >> seth: uh-huh. >> she will not facetime you or anything unless the right light is there. [ laughter ] the above lighting? because it's just not good for us. >> seth: right. >> so she -- "darling, that light. no, no, no. that light. darling. [ laughter ]
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it's not a moment." so, you know, it's a -- i learned about the light, baby. >> seth: i will say, if there's anyone take lighting advice from it's from a woman who's looked the same for like 20 years. [ laughter ] >> literally. >> seth: like, yeah, that is a person to say if she's like, well, you know, the product is here. >> she knows. she knows a thing or like a billion. >> seth: a billion things. >> yeah, she's good. >> seth: you get to work with another force of nature, taraji p. henson. how is that? [ cheers and applause ] >> yeah. >> seth: we love taraji here. is she as much fun to work with as you'd think? >> yeah. and more. more. whatever fun you'd think you would have with taraji, you have that much more. she's -- she's just -- i know i say this all the time, but to me she's like the perfect woman. the perfect human being. and she's just -- she's everything. i keep saying that she's like a cross between if betty davis had a baby with like samuel l. jackson. [ laughter ] you know, that's taraji. you know, truly, because she's obviously a wonderful leading lady of our times and everything, but to me she's a fantastic character actor.
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also and she's just so -- she's incredible. i love her. i love her from her toe to the top of her head. >> seth: now you have worked as an actor for a really long time. you started when you were a kid and at a very young age you got the role of a lifetime. you got to play mc hammer. [ light laughter ] >> thank you. [ cheers and applause ] >> seth: you really did though. in a commercial, right? >> i did. and i thought that was my moment. i was like, yo. >> seth: how does a child -- what's the context of a commercial plays mc hammer? >> you know what i think it was? and yes, i could do the running >> seth: well, when you stood up it was very -- >> well, i knew you thought i was gonna give you that, seth, but no. >> seth: yeah. >> maybe the second visit. >> seth: okay, great. that's fair. >> i had a rat tail, right here in the back. just like mc hammer and i honestly think that that is what solidified my role in that. >> seth: wow. >> yeah. >> seth: everything happens for a reason. [ light laughter ] >> yeah, everything happens for a reason. that's what they say. >> seth: you also, you took some time off from acting. you were a birth -- is this true that you were a birthday clown? [ light laughter ] >> yeah.
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>> seth: did you have this much enthusiasm for it back then? >> the exact same amount of enthusiasm back then. >> seth: hey, everybody, get ready the sad clown is here. >> i thought that -- and i thought, i thought that i was -- that's a lie, i did not think i was a good clown. i knew that i was a bad clown. but what made me a good clown is like, i would make original songs for the kids. >> seth: oh, that's a good clown thing. >> they actually weren't original, they were the same song for everybody, but i add the name and they thought it was amazing. >> seth: oh, right like -- >> yeah, i made you a song. >> seth: like how happy birthday is original when you chath >> exactly. exactly! >> seth: yeah. >> but i had a -- my older sister, jazz, had a buggy at the time. so i used to, you know, on my gigs, $40 for an hour of working. i used to do like three parties a weekend. >> seth: alright. >> i was pullin' in bank! [ laughter ] bank! so, it was good. i also worked as a bartender at "the lion king" on broadway. >> seth: oh, wow. >> yeah. >> seth: were you a good bartender? >> i thought i was, because i think that bartenders should make your drinks, like, strong. >> seth: yeah. [ laughter ] >> you know what i'm saying?
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>> but they checked it -- they checked it, you know, you're supposed to do 1, 2, done. you know? >> seth: yeah. >> and they would check it based on how much you sold, they would check it to see how much they -- >> seth: oh, at the end of the night. >> yeah, they would know and i would get in trouble because you know, if i sold eight jacks and cokes i, you know, was really as if i was selling like, 14. >> seth: right. [ light laughter ] they both noticed there was not enough liquor and they were like eight ladies passed out in aisles. >> yeah. [ laughter ] >> seth: some old ladies have been knocked out. >> that's for damn sure. >> seth: well, thank you so much for being here. >> thank you for having me. >> seth: congrats on the show. i'm so happy it's back. >> thank you so much. jussie smollett, everybody. "empire" returns september 21st on fox. and pick up the complete second season available on dvd tomorrow. we'll be right back with colson whitehead.
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our next guest is a best-selling author, pulitzer prize finalist, and macarthur genius grant recipient. his fantastic new york times best-selling novel "the underground railroad" is in stores now. please welcome to the show, colson whitehead. [ cheers and applause ] ? ? >> seth: congrats on the book. >> thank you, sir. >> seth: i loved it. i loved reading, and it must be -- we were talking backstage. you're about to go on a book tour. to be done with a piece of work and to be in the part now where you just get to talk about it. >> yeah, i mean, i think -- i mean, when you're on a book tour, you get up at 5:00, get on a plane, do interviews. and the nice thing is at the end of the day, you do the reading. and you get to meet folks who come out to see you, so. >> seth: that must be great. now, you got possibly one of the highest pieces of praise an author can get, which is oprah put this on her book club. [ light laughter ] >> yeah, i mean, um -- i'm not used to nice things happening. i'm a writer, so --
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reading in durham, and the plane was touching down and i checked my phone, and my agent had called. usually when she calls me, i've screwed something up. >> seth: yeah. [ light laughter ] >> so i called her immediately, and she just said, "oprah." and i said, "shut the front door." [ laughter ] 'cause i was on a plane and that's some weird sitcom thing. >> seth: yeah, yeah, yeah. >> and then she said, "oprah's book club." and i was like, "[ bleep ]." [ laughter ] and so people were staring at me and i had to apologize. but no air marshalls came or anything. >> seth: oh, good, good, good. and you've got -- part of that, being on oprah's book club, is you go and get interviewed by oprah. and you went to her house, yes? >> yes, her house in southern california. she has a compound with like a, pond in the middle of the thing. [ light laughter ] >> seth: oh, if anyone should have a pond, it's oprah. let me just say that. [ laughter ] >> sure. and it's very pleasant, but it's very secret. it's all a secret, because they want to launch it as a surprise. and so i flew out, and i told my wife, and she was able to come. no one really red where i was
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cares. [ light laughter ] but my wife -- my wife has colleagues, and so -- >> seth: right. you're a writer, you work alone. she has like, a job and people who notice when she's not there. >> no one's gonna notice i'm just down there. so people are like, "where are you going?" she's like, "it's a family thing." and no one wants to talk about a family thing. >> seth: yeah. >> so that was a good cover. >> seth: oh, that's great. [ light laughter ] >> like, nothing too personal. >> seth: a year from now people are gonna say, "how'd that family thing work out?" she was like, "oh, shut the front door. it was oprah." [ laughter ] >> yes. mother blankety blank. >> seth: yeah. so, and then, as if -- you think, "well, oprah. president obama put your book on his summer reading list. so you were really doing incredibly well. >> uh, it wasn't -- [ cheers and applause ] yeah, yeah. >> seth: and after -- after cnn tweeted that that was the book, you actually tweeted back to potus and basically said, "well, thanks, potus. when you wrap up your white house gig, come over with the fam and i'll make some ribs." that was very nice. [ laughter ] >> sure, no, you want to pay back the -- >> seth: you want to pay back the compliment. >> i know he's a little busy, but --
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so, this book is about an escaped slave and the underground railroad, that she uses to sort of go to place to place. and one of the things you do in this book is you make the underground railroad a literal railroad that she rides. now, i -- when i was young, the first time i heard the underground railroad, that's what i thought it was. i -- i just pictured an underground railroad that slaves used to escape. is that -- how did you come to the choice to make it a literal railroad like that? >> well, yeah, i mean, that same mistake. i think when you hear about it in the fourth grade, you it's a literal subway network beneath america. it's not really practical, all the miles and tunnels you have to build. then you find out that it's not, and you're disappointed. but, i think i was just sitting on my couch about 16 years ago and thought, "but what if it actually was a real thing?" and that's a premise, not much of a story there. and so i added this element where our hero, who's running away from the plantation, will go from state to state and each state is an alternative state of american history.
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each -- going from island to island and uncovering a different sort of face of america. so those two things together provide the structure. >> seth: you use something that i -- of course made sense when i read it, but i wasn't that familiar with, which is the ads that slave owners would take out in newspapers describing their escaped slaves. was that something that you had been aware of before you did this, and what made you decide to use that as such an important part of the book? >> yeah, i mean, i had read about them -- you see them in history books. but you know, as a writer, i like doing people's voices and being a ventriloquist sometimes, and copying how people speak. but the slave ads, the classified ads from the 1820s were so perfect, i could never compete with them. and it really just drove home how complicated and extensive the slave system was. there was basically a guy at the newspaper who would take a classified ad for runaway slave, and you know, they start with like, "$30 reward. my slave bessie ran away for no reason."
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it's really mysterious. [ laughter ] >> seth: yeah. >> and, uh -- >> seth: probably had a family thing. >> sure. [ laughter ] sure. and so i couldn't compete with -- >> seth: right. >> with that. and i think there's four that i took from -- the university of north carolina digitized a lot of the ads. and there's one towards the end of the book that's actually for cora, and that's, um -- sort of altered. i think i felt so bad about putting her through all this stuff that i wanted to have one classified slave ad that w hers that was sort of my gift to her and not as cruel. >> seth: i wanted to ask about that, because as a reader, you care very deeply about cora. you as a writer -- i don't think we would care that way unless you did, and yet you have to put her through all these things. is that difficult? or is it just the necessary cost of writing a book like this? >> yeah, i mean, and i didn't realize it, how extensive -- how hard it would be until i got so deep in the research. before i started writing, i just
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the rest of the slaves through. it was pretty difficult. but, um -- i usually have like, a lot more satire in my books, and there's this ironic distance. but once you contemplate that your great-great-great-great- grandfather, nameless, went through this brutal system, and i don't know if they lived and died in georgia or florida. it's sort of the black hole of slavery. i realized that to pay tribute to them and all the other nameless slave dead that i'd just to be realistic. >> seth: you've written, you know, a lot of books, so you've gone through this before, but i was wondering, specifically for a character with cora, is there also something where, when the book ends, is it sad for you that you don't -- you won't write her anymore? that you have a bit of a separation, and that it's a finished work now? >> usually i'm really sick of a book, and don't want to talk about it or open it up again -- >> seth: yeah. >> -- when i'm done. but with this book, i keep going back to difffferent pages and chapters.
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this situation, and i still feel very excited and connected to her, which is sort of new for me. >> seth: as i mentioned, you've written -- you've been doing this a long time. this book, with not just its subject matter, but the way you wrote it, do you think you could have written this book this way earlier in your career? or is this being an experienced writer, the kind of book -- >> i had the idea 16 years ago, and i was sort of like, gen x, douchey guy. [ light laughter ] task, and i didn't think i was wise enough. i didn't think i was a good enough writer. and every couple years i would go back to the notes when i finished a book and think, "am i ready now?" like, "no, i'll screw it up." so i think, you know, becoming a father, and i have two kids, and becoming a better person and less of a gen x douchebag, i think i brought a little more wisdom and maturity to this book. >> seth: yeah, if -- with this book and the subject matter, if you went to the back flap and saw a super douchey guy, you'd say, "i'm not gonna read this." [ light laughter ]
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>> seth: so, i want to talk -- this is fascinating to me, too, that you use -- is it the federal writers project? >> yeah, in the 1930s, fdr, trying to get people back to work because of the great depression, put writers out to interview former slaves. i guess we don't really have presidents who want to employ writers in this way, but they -- to collect the oral narratives of people who were kids or teenagers at the time of the civil war. and they interviewed hundreds and hundreds of former slaves. >>h: do the interviews, and then the federal government would pay them to do that? >> yes. >> seth: that's great. >> that's a magical thing. and now they're all -- they're ours. they're paid for by the government. they're all digitized, so i don't like leaving the house to do research, so i just download them. and some of them are two paragraphs long, some are ten pages, and some are just very quotidian stories about farming. some are about master/slave relations. and it really showed me the variety of the slave experience. you could be a slave in a
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two slaves on a small farm, or in that plantation we know from pop culture that's 100 people. and it freed me up to write my own plantation, and also just gave me you know, the gritty details of plantation life. that you don't think about. >> seth: well, it certainly speaks to the authenticity that you did research like that, and it really shows. i've been a fan for a long time, but this book was -- just blew me away. so thank you so much for being here. >> oh, thanks so much, seth. [ cheers and applause ] >> seth: colson whitehead, everybody. "the underground railroad" is in stores now. we'll be right back. [ cheers and applause ]
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? [ cheers and applause ] >> seth: my thanks to victoria beckham, jussie smollett, colson whitehead, everybody. matt garska, the 8g band stay tuned for carson daly. we'll see you tomorrow. [ cheers and applause ] ? ? ? ?
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? ? ? ? >> carson: well, it's 1:30 in the morning on nbc which means it is time for "last call." i'm carson daly. thanks for being here.

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