tv Tavis Smiley PBS January 22, 2015 11:30pm-12:01am EST
good evening from los angeles. i'm tavis smiley. tonight a conversation with emmy winning golden globe nominated and oscar nominee actor benedict cumberbatch starring in the imitation game" which tells the story of computer scientist alan turing a key figuring in cracking germany's enigma code which helped the allies win the second world war. a conversation with benedict cumberbatch coming up right now.á ♪
and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you.t#$cx ♪ "the imitation game" is one of the year's best films. benedict cumberbatch. i love that name, benedict cumberbatch stars in that film as alan turing a key figure in cracking germany's enigma code which helped the allies win the second world war. he's no stranger to viewers of pbs viewers of ósmasterpiece" for his working in "sherlock" right now. before we start our conversation, let's look at a
scene from "the imitation game." >> of course that's what you're working on. but you also haven't got anywhere with it. if you had you wouldn't be hiring crypting to fers out of university. you need me. i like solving problems commander and enigma is the most difficult problem in the world. >> enigma isn't difficult. it's impossible. the americans the russians the french, the germans everyone thinks enigmaing is unbreakable. >> good let me try and we'll know for sure, won't we? >> i was whispering to mr. cumberbatch while the clip was playing that kiera nightly was wonderful in this, as well. i was just saying she was pregnant, is pregnant as we saw at the golden globes and i have to congratulate you because you're pregnant, as well right here. >> not me5i personally. buff doing fine in that department. >> congratulations on that. >> thank you very much. >> congratulations on this wonderful film. >> thank you, thank you very
much. >> wonderful, wonderful film. i was in preparing for our conversation, first time we've met, was reading in a number of places that your parents didn't want you to do this. >> not really no. i sort of thought first time why. it's a very odd parapa at the time tick crazed out of your control work. it's very hard to plan the family life. they worked very, very hard as my parents but also as actors to afford me an education where i had the opportunity and privilege to be able to try and channel myself towards other goals. i wanted to be a bear sister for there's definitely a crossover especially in criminal law trying to persuade an audience of jurors and a judge of the case. and your client's story. so i did go down that road for a little bit. i think they would have been happy if i ended up there. i met so many people who gave me the same story. it's oversubscribed.
you can't controlcg your pay or private life. so much that was similar sets of problems. i thought why am i giving up on my dream for a an very hard career, more competitive career in many ways than being an actor. so i did and much to dade's amazing itselflessness as a man i hope to echo that when my time comes to be a dad, he said to me after a car park after a play i did, he said you're bet now than i ever was or are ever will be. i think you're going to have a great career and i can't wait to the support you as you fly. i was like my god. so primarily motivation for me in my life is to make them proud. i love them both very much.g÷3 c1 >> you said two things i want to pick up on. number one so we're off and running now. number one, barrister, thespian, barrister, thespian. you laid out clearly before why you could see your parents didn't want you to do this given the challenges actors have. but in your life, in your mind
and in your heart what made the difference? what made you make the transition? >> i think that it was something that was just sort of naturally in the blood that i was surrounded by and sort of in an environmental way nurturing way as well as a sort of nature way, you know, the actor community is a vet small but intimate pat familial group of people. and i was enthralled by the company my parents kept. i was enthralled by the work i was lucky enough to see them do at close quarts. some smart feemp thought at school wisely if you give the classroom showoff some responsibilities, give them lines to learn, other actors to compromise with and give them a focus or objective for their unruly energy, good things might come about. thank goodness they did. so i was saved from being another pest in the classroom.&: but given these wonderful roles
and iad know i took off at school. i really enjoyed it. really, really enjoyed it. >> the second thing i want to follow up on and it struck me when i heard you say what your father told you. because it made me think about my own dad. i've been trying my whole life and still not there yet to be half. >> to please him. >> i want to please him but i want to be half the man that my father was or is. my father raised ten kids, only five of9x whom were his but he took in five other kids. he worked multiple jobs. he's a remarkable man for what he did to raise all ten of us. >> he sounds it. >> the way he did. i've been struggling my life. i'm 50,000 to be half the man he is. >> i'm sure you are but with different obstacles in your life. >> i'm working at it. i was struck when i heard you say your father looks at you and says you are better now than i am. how do you process your father giving you that kind of acing
colaid? >> it was a very emotional moment for us. >> it hadñ;ñ to be. >> i knew -- il he already felt unqualified and unconditional love from them from the beginning of my life till that point. >> do you have siblings? >> yes, from my mother's first marriage, a half sister tracy but there's an 1-year age gap. we're very, very close. i'm the only child of that marriage of my mother and father's marriage. and you know, and obviously, you crave what you don't have. i wanted brothers and sisters. all my friends said you don't know how lucky. >> i've got nine."# i can loan you some. >> enough to go around yeah. i've got friends in a similar5 > position. it's like you know big families. you really have to fight for your place at the table. i didn't. my place was there and i felt looked after. i wanted to capitalize on that. i guess i this i what i'm saying going back to how you process that emotionally it was
overwhelming. and then you process it as right, now i have a duty to that promise and that level of sacrifice and humanity i have to honor that. and that gives you a great, great sort of motive for your work ethic and how you go about living your life to honor dad's faith in me that's one of my driving motivations. >> i want to go back to this barrister thespian. i'm still noodling on this these two routes that you could have taken. >> yes. >> so you were abundantly clear earlier about what you hoped to accomplish had you gone the route of being a bear sister. so what did you hope to accomplish? what do you hope to accomplish as a thespian, as an actor? >> to havå longevity really. to have a career that stretches you know, to the great ages that some of our most celebrated and brilliant men and women still manage to work in.
and i -- i think i only really set out with wanting to make a living out of it, yes, but to continually evolve as an artist and challenge myself and get better. you know just keep failing better keep failing upwards. >> samuel beckett said that. >> yeah. it's all of that. it's an imperfectible art form. we're imper at the fectable as a species let alone as actors sort of portraying species. so i've got so much to learn and so much more i hope to give. while this is an amazing moment, the word moment sort of has a tinge of dread about it for me because i didn't ever project to this point i didn't project to award ceremonies or i he projects to getting opportunities to do good work but it could have been in television or theater. all i ever really saw was a long game and a career of longevity
and i think the only other goal was a measure of respect from my peers for doing it the right way i suppose. yeah, i have fun with it, as well. let's not get toot serious. >> how do you define i promise we'll get to the movie in a second. you got me zrgoing. how do you define doing it the right way? >> well, you know, just sort of grassroot basics. being respectful, being approachable, knowing your craft doing your homework. i'm still working on being good at being on time all the time. i'm still working on being perfect with lines. i seem to get quite a lot of them. nevertheless, i always find it difficult tozi learn lines. and yeah, just creating an environment that's fun for everyone to be part of rather than just being about you and the list goes on. i've learned from the best. i'm worked with the most extraordinary people in that
regard. people like judi dench and extraordinary cast i work with on "sherlock" all of them are exceptional in every one of those roles. there's a huge support network in that and it's a happy place to be. >> that seems a serious work hazard being an actor and having trouble learning lines. are you sure you made the right choice? are you sure barrister isn't calling you? >> you're right. >> quite a lot from the being a bear sister, as well. there's a hell of a resource you have to carry inside your head as well as being able to improvise an argument or situation. you have to carry the might and truth and fact of the law in your head. so the they have their virgs of lines as we all know from courtroom dramas closing speeches and all of it. my work 0 would have been cut out there too. >> i'mtz working my way to the imitation game". i loved the film. when you -- when you saw this --
let me start with this. you mentioned the award season and how you hadn't factored all this. you're in the middle of it, nominated for this and nominated for that and an all the ceremonies. i saw you photobombing meryl streep? >> i couldn't resist. >> did i see that picture. >> i asked. >> you photo bombed meryl at the golden globe. >>w'o like i've got not respect for the woman. it's very much the opposite. it was happening right in front of me. it was a sort of on going satirical nudge at everything north korean related in the recent year of sony's trials. i thought i can't -- you're dangling a carrot way too close to me. they knew what they were doing. i think they knew what they were doing. >> the photo looked like you were having fun. i only raised because how are you navigating your way through all of this process of award season? how are you handling it it? >> to have fun. i went online loon right now the
which is a dangerous thing to do in my loo line of work. i rarely do because i wanted to see -- i literally got off a plane onto the red carpet literally about an hour after landing. we were delayed an hour in london. skin of the teeth moment. getc, thering literally meet jen on the red carpet. beat had a rough idea of doing it as if i had been picked at random by amy and tina. i didn't know whereñi my mark was. didn't know who would have the envelope. i didn't know the anything about the nuts and bolts of it. so that first bit was just sort of really nerve-racking. i sat down in my seat. i was like was that all right? did we hit the right note? i was just looking now back is taken trying to see a clip of it. and before i even got to it, be there was this whole review of me andwa award seasons and my strategy. look, i leave that to the weinstein company. i'm happy to be at the forefront of a film of a very quiet man
who would hated this. and the reason i enjoy this is because it is gets to talking about alan turing thissicsceptional human being, shy awkward, never really fitted into any of the sets he should have done and to be able to stand up front and say this man who died too young is a gay icon war hero and the founder of modern computer-ú$vñ programming should be on the front cover of history and?ñ social text books as well as science books. he should be on the back of bank notes. he's a great cultural and scientific importance. this award season for me and i'm really proud of my work. i don't mind if i'm the guy who is the bridegroom and someone else is the bride. eddie is a really good friend of mine. i'm happy top applaud his work. >> eddie redmayne from -- >> yeah. all this sort of thing about strategy, somebody said am i going to dedicate the award to my child. the idea that this is my life,
it's not. i'm working in london playing sherlock holmes. i'm in the middle of doing the christmas special. i'm here for a day and go home. and it refocuses you. it is all about the work. let's not forget the other performances like steve carell. just incredible performances. >> i did not realize until i waskñ reading for our conversation since you mentioned eddie redmayne who won the golden globe in the category that you were in for playing stephen hawking. is it true that you played hawking? >> yeah. >> you played hawking in another project. >> which is a slightly weird hall of mirrors aspect. i know these are framed, as well. i only played him up to the point he gets his doctorate, the great paper he wrote reversing the idea of a black hole into a big bang kind of idea. out of a point of singularity the universe could have been born. this incredible science of einstein made beautiful again by this paper, this is young
brilliant mind that was already crippled by the disease1÷ and that wonderful moment in his life. sooty can watch from afar but there is a weird thing. it's odd, yeah. >> i'm a long way from being the brightest bulb in the box. >> i wouldn't say that. >> but it's always arresting for me to go see a movie like this movie. and have had no clue about the subject matter. >> i know. >> i'm saying i know because i had the same reaction. >> i'm stuck on stupid. i had no idea. i'd use a computer a bunch of every day. had no idea about alan touring >> i know. not enough people do. that's sort of double tragedy not only of his demise and how he was treated by the very government that he helped save but at the end of reading that script, the emotional impact of the story was raw but also the feel of anger and frustration. this man hadn't achieved recognition that he deserved in his too short life. and you know, it's a very
weighty responsibility when you're portraying somebody who existed whose legacy is important to his family to the gay community to the science community. but also to people who have yet to meet him. this is a chance top shine a bit of a light on somebody and engage people and our version of the story and ask people to investigate. obviously a very complex man. leading andrew hodges beautiful biography which the script is basedo
and it's about him building a machine to try and break the german enigma code. using an algorithm that's still employed with google search engines. this guy's legacy continues well into our lives and beyond. it's a story of the kind of pressure cooker environment this point in the war, the island of great britain was under siege. we were having ourselves starved. we had ships with supplies will being sunk by german u boats. we had to crack the code to get an intelligent step ahead. in conjunction with that we learned about the puzzle of alan as the sort of thriller aspect and the humor of seeing this slightly awkward nonteam player kind of come into the group with
love and trust and collaborative work. very much through kiera nightly's character joan clark thawing this protective man, you see this extraordinary human being evolve and you jump backuw to what he was as a young man when a lot of his most formative experiences happened. >> i talked to so many actors over the years who have had the honor, the opportunity to play historical figures, some dead, some alive. dead too soon at the age of 41 touring. and yet when i saw you in in film, i thought whatj a wonderful gift you were given. you gave us a gift with your wonderful acting. >> thank you. >> what a wonderful gift i think you were given to enlighten us about someone that we knew nothing about. we can't get much better than that. >> when you've got material that hooks you from the first page. graham's script is extraordinarily deft and complex thrilling, moving it funny wonderful ingredients to
play with as an actor and filmmaker. all of us had a great, great time with our parts and all of the parts in the film deserve -- incredible characters in the story of bletchley park. this particular man at the center of it all, you know, he's rendered in such a vivid and apologetic, unvain frank manner from the very first encounter you see a little bit of in that clip. he's single minded has complete irreference for figures of authority. he's very funny and casually kind of very pedantic with language. there are miscommunications which are both funny to laugh with him and laugh at him slightly because of his misfit status. and out of this evolves this incredible story of an outside hero who is relevant now as he was then. it's a very extraordinary story rendered in a very brilliant script. it really was a gift of a role. i got hooked from that first
page, graham had me. >> i mentioned earlier that pbs audiences know you well and love you for your work in "sherlock." tell me how that's going right about now. >> it's going well. we're into doing our christmas special which will be out christmastime i suppose next year. i'm gunning for a dual transition date so the we don't pretend that christmas happens later in america than it does in the uk. our little lag of a couple ofkj hours. i really want that to happen because it's become a communal thing this moment of whenever we air a program it's got such a loyal fan base around the world. it's huge. it's alarmingly big. and but it's exciting. we're doing a great show. it's going to be a corker. >> to your point about it being loved around the world you must be clearly be aware that the pbs audience in this country i don't know that you could put anything on air that is not british born. >> i know. >> british based.
that the audience would not love. what is it about what you guys are drinking in the water over there that seems to work so well over there? >> i don't know. we use our consonants more than you do. accents. we know how to do a table setting >> sherlock, you name it. >> formal state dinner. listen, much is made of the you and us kind of thing. even looking at that map over there it's not that big a distance t anymore. the global village makes it instantaneous. i think it's the appeal, it's the same as why ispx american culture always appealed to us. >> it's gotten so bad now, let me say this again. don't take this out of context. it's gotten to the point. >> your work is huge. >> it ain't even just white bridge. it's brack brits taking jobs now. you look at the "selma" script "12 years a slave." i love these actors. they're wonderful.
you guys are coming over taking over. >> well, it's an even playing field. we all send in our tapes under the same conditions. i can't speak for david. but those are two actors who work and live here, as well. they paid their dues for years. and just beautiful, beautiful performances from very fine actors. and i think as long as we pay our subs and taxes over here when we work here, it'sm6 fair game. meryl streep it can come over and play margaret thatcher why can't we come over. in all seriousness, he know what you're saying. i think as far as it gets really difficult in the u.s. a lot of my friends have had more opportunities here than in the uk. that's something that needs to change. lenny henry a brilliant actor, comedian and charitier an amazing figurehead in razing money for africa through comic
relief. k:z he's rightfully he wants to campaign to keep it in check because something's gone wrong. we're not beingñw representative enough of our culture of different races. that really does need to step up a pace. i don't want to get involved in any debates about that but it's clear when you see certainmy graer to patterns there are more opportunities here. >> we had the director of selma. i raised that only because up with of my favorite movies of 2014, she sat in this chair speaking of black brits emma assante. what a beautiful film. >> she's a fantastic lady, as well. i live not far from that property where she -- where the whole story. >> sure. >> so i was aware of it. i said why hasn't this been made into a film almost not finishing my sentence before the person told me it's coming out. >> i love the name.4 r say it again
benedict cumberbatch stars in not just "sherlock" for fans here on pbs the but the star of "the imitation game." it is a wonderful film and it's going to get more buzz as this award season continuesje on. i'm honored to have you on the program. congrats on the baby. come back back when you can. >> i'd love to. >> that's our show for tonight. thanks for watching and as always keep the faith. for more information on today's show, vista vis smiley at pbs.org. >> hi i'm tavis smiley. join me next time with a conversation with jorge ramos and paulette brown of the american bar association as we talk about justice for all in america. that's next time. we'll see you then.
. >> rose: welcome to the program, tonight manhattan district attorney cyrus vance junior. >> the job of a prosecutor although it sounds trite is at the end of the day not to fight dirty and win but it's to do was's right. and i will tell you that that is what you're told when you come. it's what i tell the young assistants when they come and start working for me. it's what i belief the bureau chiefs instilled in their lawyers literally every week while they are working there. there aren't too many jobs in america where you go to work and what the boss tells you to do is do what you think is right. and obviously you're guided. but that's a powerful it's a powerful mission. it's very satisfying emotionally. it's also intellectually interesting. >> rose: cy vance for the hour.