tv Tavis Smiley PBS September 12, 2017 6:30am-7:01am PDT
pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. so pleased to welcome martin sheen. the beloved actor of stage and screen best known for his roles in west wing. he just finished shooting the new season of grace and frankie and will be seen on pbs starting this thanksgiving in ann of green gables. good to see you. you been all right? >> been fine. >> been busy. you were born ramone estevez.
>> i still am. >> earlier this week donald trump had his say on daca. i want to start by asking you what do you make of the man that holds it now and what do you think of what he did this week on daca? >> so deeply disappointed. i just hope please god he comes to his senses about this one. this is the one thing that president obama really asked him personally not to change. and he like with many things that mr. obama asked him to keep his hands off of he has grabbed with both of them. we are deeply disappointed but equally encouraged with the amount of support. we are seeing it in the streets with these kids that are coming
out. they are not afraid of the consequences. they have lived through this for most of their lives and their lives are at stake. i think the soul of our nation is really at stake. >> when you say the soul of our nation is at stake i couldn't agree more. for those who would want me to ask you to unpack what you mean by that i'm asking you now. >> i would say specifically that when we don't stand taller than when we stoop to help someone in need. and that unlocks the very best part of ourselves, our humanity, our compassion when we look in the face of another person and have a deeper understanding than color or social status or success or failure. we see each other's humanity and we are graced by that recognition. i call that the god spark in all of us. it is the sense of knowing that
we are worthy just for being human and that we are loved and that when we express that love and that compassion nothing really nurtures us more as individuals or as a community than that kind of compassion. it has to cost you something. if it doesn't cost you something then you are left to question its valuable. it is very valuable and costly. we have to speak up and defend these young people. >> take me back. i want to have you juxtapose for me the hatred that you had to endure when you started out as an actor all those years ago and that name didn't serve you so well. juxtapose the hatred you experienced then with the same hatred that you have seen this week that is being applied against the same? >> my father came to this country as a young boy. he was 16 in 1914.
so he arrived with his brother at the port of new york. they were denied entry because there was still a quota on spaniards because of the spanish american war which had been fought a decade earlier. there was a very severe quota on spaniards. they then got on a boat to cuba. he came in port of miami and worked his way up to date dayt ohio. we grew up in dayton, ohio. my mother had 12 pregnanciepreg ten survived, nine boys and one girl. my mother died when i was young. i was almost 11. my dad had enough burdens to begin with with all of these
children in a still foreign country and on a factory salary. so we all had to pitch in. we were caddies at a local golf club. i caddied there until i left home at the age of 18 from 9 to 18. people don't believe that i started in 1949. it was one of the longest jobs i ever had. so interesting thing about my dad is he never spoke in public. if he did it was always yes, ma'am or no, sir or hello or good bye. he rarely ever spoke more than that. we came to understand that it was because he was not comfortable with his accent. he spoke with the -- and i loved him saying our names. my name in particular. i loved it.
we would jack him up just to get him to talk. i loved his accent. outside the home he would rarely speak. so when i went to new york i was going around at auditions and worked for the american express as stock boy for almost a year. i would go looking for acting jobs and looking for an apartment and some extra jobs. i would get on the phone and say particularly about housing and i would say i'm coming to see that apartment. what time are you coming. 2:00 i'm finished working. what is your name? ramone estevez. why don't you come around 3:00 or so? i remember having to tell people -- i remember pulling one out of the hat saying i am a chemical engineer.
anything but an actor y. invented this character martin sheen. i took the martin from a guy who was very encouraging to me. and i took the sheen from bishop fulton sheen because i thought of him as an actor. he was one of the biggest things on television. he hosted a lecture basically and he was this very handsome, dramatic guy. i didn't always understand what he was talking about. he was kind of conservative, but his performance, per se, was gripping. i would say i'm going to respond to that. i became martin sheen. >> so thank you for telling that story. i loved hearing it. so when you juxtapose and compare what you had to endure then with what these dreamers, the pushback that they are getting now, what does that say
about the country, how far we have come or not come? >> for me, we were safe. we were american born, first generation. there was never any fear of deportation. my father and mother both became naturalized citizens. that is where they met. my father didn't speak english. my mother taught him english and they fell in love and got married in 1927 and started raising a family. we didn't know that kind of pressure or prejudice that these kids are feeling this day. they are not even -- the phaseiology about the whole daca thing does not include them in the conversation. they are called dreamers. they are called undocumented. they are called aliens. these people are americans. they have contributed and continue to contribute to a community. we understand community.
like all communities are integrated and very integral with each other. it's not just a language or a culture, but it is a support system for each other. they have a specific understanding of what it means to be vulnerable. this fellow out here in los angeles who was arrested months ago for dropping his daughter off at school and one kid filmed his arrest. that caused such a stir. this guy has been here for 30 years and his children are born here and now they are going to take his father away. he spent a couple of months in prison and his case is pending. are we going to do that to everyone of these people? that's what is at stake? if we are not willing to stand between this gross injustice and these people, then we're losing our sense of what it means to be an american, what our culture is
all about because we are still a nation of immigrants. how many people do we know that can trace their ancestry right here? very few. most comes from asia and south america and western and eastern europe, all over the place. we are the very best of the whole world because we got them all. in the early part of the last century the united states contributes much of its success to the immigrant population. the u.s. held gates open longer and kept them open wider than any other nation on earth. that enabled them to have this workforce that built the nation and railroads and big cities and mines and all the things that enrich the country and was built on the backs of the immigrants. >> i gave a speech the other day. when you can't change the game you change the rules. you can't change the game you change the rules. i went into this talk about something we had a great time. i read that only because i want to ask you how you situate this
moment in the story of what america is or will become? put another way, if we are a nation of immigrants, what has happened that has caused this to happen? what is it about the story that we are writing at this moment that caused us to turn on immigrants if we are a nation of immigrants? >> that's the fundamental question. of course, particularly let's talk about the hispanic community specifically. there is not a nation between mexico and panama that has not been effected by the united states either military, economically or outright colonialized. all of central america. most of these people are coming from these countries. the war in elsalvador, so many hundreds of thousands fled that
war. we were supporting this very conservative right wing basically military dictatorship all those years until it was finally peace accord was achieved. same thing in nicaragua. we invaded that country how many times and controlled their governments, controlled their economy. so all of the immigrants that are in the country from those countries, whose children came with them and tiny ones and some have been born here probably would not be here in such numbers if it hadn't been for our involvement in their countries in this hemisphere. we are looking at what we have brought. this horrible catastrophe going on in houston, the largest, one of the largest immigrant
populations in houston is vietnamese. over 250,000 that came into united states, people that most of which we abandoned when we left vietnam. incidentally, that series -- >> coming to pbs in a matter of days. >> we just saw all episodes. >> you're ahead of me. what did you make of it? >> it is so powerful. it is so painful. you just weep. so many situations. i think it will cause the country to pause and reflect it is a very good time for it right now. i think it will have the same effect that silver war had. we will see a reflection of ourselves that we don't always want to embrace. so many people that were involved in it that fought in it and came back. so many people in the streets that protested, so many men that
fled to canada, all the lives that were effected is coming home in deeply personal ways. there is one episode where this vietnamese soldier who witnessed this scene after a battle of these american gis hugging the lads that were killed in the battle and wrapping them up and weeping and grieving with each other and carrying them out and putting them on choppers. he said we were astonished that they were just like us. they had the same feelings for their comrades. they hurt in the same way and mourned like we did. we are hardly ever given the chance to think about the people we have been taught to slaughter that we made enemies out of. now we are made to see basically the very best reflection of ourselves in our humanity, our compassion.
>> now you have martin sheen endorsing the vietnam series. just another reason to make sure you watch it september 17 when it premieres here. >> it is so powerful. >> when you mentioned vietnam two things came to mind. i'm thinking vietnam. i'm thinking of your first name martin. i go to martin luther king who gave that powerful speech called "beyond vietnam". >> on april 4. >> i didn't think there was any footage of that speech. it's in this documentary. it was recorded. >> only a few minutes of television. >> it's in the documentary. >> absolutely. i read that because martin king was willing to put his life on the line and willing to get
arrested countless times. i come to martin sheen who at my last count had been arrested 67 times in your career arrested for those things that you believe in. tell me about what started that and why you have continued to be so true to literally getting arrested for those causes that you believe in? >> i supported the civil rights movement when we lived in new york in the '60s. we went through the whole anti-war and pro civil rights movement. we saw all of our heroes murdered. it was quicker to make change with a bullet than a ballot. we came out of the '60s still with that belief that lost causes were the only causes worth fighting for. and the only weapon to use was nonviolence. we learned that from reverend king and bobby kennedy.
we carried that into the peace movement that continued after the vietnam war because of the cold war and the multiplication of all of the nuclear weapons. so this was a great concern of mine. i became involved with the peace movement on the east coast and with the brothers and dan became a dear friend and inspiration and so he led me to my first demonstration and nonviolent civil disobedience against "star wars," the reagan idea of putting nuclear weapons in outer space. >> a guy going into a bank with a gun saying give me all your
money or i'll shoot. you never figure out how you wul g will get the weapons up there. i became deeply involved with the anti-nuclear movement. you can't really separate any one social justice issue from another. we had to come to an understanding that it will cost you something because it is worthy. if it doesn't cost you something then you are left to question its value. reverend king was of that belief, as well. that was at the foundation of all the arrests. it led from the nuclear issue to the war in central america very specific as i went to nicaragua and elsalvador and protested
there and the war. >> when you find yourself on the front line, martin, so many times like that fighting for so many causes, so many just causes, how do you sustain your hope? >> the fact that you're not alone. there is always someone to the left and right. somebody has organized it and invited you to come. i never organized a single protest. there are enough around. you don't have to go far to find it. if you want to get involved answer the phone. return a call. you'll find something that will appeal to you that you can have a voice in and really believe in. you do it for yourself because you cannot not do it and be yourself in order to truly become yourself and become free you have to go outside yourself
and you have to depend on the compassion and the humanity of all of those around you including the guys who will arrest you or women in some cases. you never take it personal. you never really believed you were going to have an effect on the issue. you may have an effect on one of the other individuals in the demonstration if you keep your humanity and your sense of humor. you are probably not going to change the issue. you really have to do it for yourself so when you walk away you can say i did everything i possibly could about the issue i believed in. i did it nonviolently and with joy. >> i could talk to you for houfhours about your work and witness. i have about three minutes to go. >> you have been here before and i enjoy every time you come. your witness is so powerful i have trouble getting to the work sometimes. now to the work. so you having fun hanging out?
>> i love it. grace a frank. >> absolutely. >> we just finished our fourth year last month. we will be on the air again in spring. hopefully we get picked up again. they say as long as the girls want to do it netflix will keep it going. >> they seem to be having fun. >> it is great. they call us the gang of four. i adore them. we have a great time. i shouldn't be paid for having such fun. >> don't tell netflix that. >> netflix is honored to have four of your stature on one show. they should be paying you. i have been reading about -- i haven't seen it yet but i have been reading about this pilot you have done called come sunday. i love that movie.
great dj. >> you are one of the few that ever saw it. >> sometimes we do a project and it doesn't hit the way you think it should. that movie was so -- first thing i say is he knows i love it. >> just a great film. >> he killed it. tell me about come sunday. >> it's a true story thatira glass did on this american life a couple of years ago and he helped produce it. it is a story of bishop pearson. he received his education and he became his mentor. he left the college and started a ministry and became a great success. he was one of the few to unite the congregation. one day he was watching the news from rowanda about the horrible slaughter going on and he was
thinking his theology was these people were not saved.o cf1 are they going to hell. then he began to question the theology and thinking god doesn't want us to go to hell. he questioned that and the congregation got testy and he was told that he would lose his church if he didn't get back on the straight and narrow about this hell thing. he refused to do it and the church dissolved. he lost everything. >> i know carlton. >> you know him personally. >> you know who i am talking about. came down to atlanta. >> you play robertson. >> and brilliant young director directed it.
so i just got the news that netflix picked it up. >> netflix is loving martin sheen. >> they are everywhere. they are going to have it at sun dance next year and release it in the fall or spring and then netflix will take it from there. >> anything you are in i am anxious to see. >> my great pleasure. martin sheen, love this guy. that's our show tonight. thanks for watching. and as always, keep the faith. for more information on today's show visit email@example.com. take a deep dive into what is happening around the country. that's next time. we'll see you then. and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you.
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