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Grace Paley's Collection Lacks Irony.

Book critic Maureen Corrigan reviews Grace Paley's collection of short stories and other writing "Just As I thought."


Other segments from the episode on May 8, 1998

Fresh Air with Terry Gross, May 8, 1998: Review of the television show "Homicide: Life on the Street"; Interview with Tom Fontana; Interview with Andre Braugher; Review of Grace Paley's book "Just as…


Date: MAY 08, 1998
Time: 12:00
Tran: 050801np.217
Head: Last Day for Pembleton
Sect: News; Domestic
Time: 12:06

TERRY GROSS, HOST: This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross.

Tonight on NBC, "Homicide: Life on the Street" presents its 100th episode -- a pivotal season-ending installment that marks the farewell appearances of at least two of its castmembers. Later on FRESH AIR, we'll hear from one of those actors, Andre Braugher. And we'll hear from Homicide's executive producer Tom Fontana.

TV critic David Bianculli was on the Homicide set when tonight's episode was filmed. He has this review.

DAVID BIANCULLI, FRESH AIR COMMENTATOR: NBC's on-air promos already have blown most of the secrets about this episode, so there's no need to be evasive. In tonight's Homicide, Andre Braugher makes his last appearance as Detective Frank Pembleton, and Reid Diamond (ph) makes his last appearance as Detective Mike Kellerman (ph).

It's how they leave, though, that demonstrates why Homicide is the best drama series on television. Homicide unfolds more like a novel than a weekly series of self-contained episodes. Kellerman, for example, is a character who joined the homicide squad a few years ago.

He started out as totally idealistic, but fell into a long, slow downward spiral. Wrongly accused of taking kickbacks on his previous job, he survived a grand jury probe, but in the meantime lost his girlfriend, became an alcoholic, and tried to kill himself.

Then, in a showdown with drug kingpin Luther Mahoney (ph), a character who's been around for years, Kellerman shot him in cold blood. Mahoney's sister, Georgia Rae (ph), swore revenge, leading to the bloodbath that began last week and continues tonight.

All this history reaches a climax tonight, and so does the long history of Andre Braugher's Frank Pembleton, who has been with the show from the beginning. Pembleton is and always has been the master of interrogations in the cramped room the homicide detectives call "the box."

And from the very first season when Pembleton was partnered with Tim Bayless (ph), played by Kyle Secor (ph), the box has been where those two have done some of their, and television's, very best work.

From last week's show, here they are working on Junior Mahoney, the ex-con son of Georgia Rae, whom they suspect of stabbing a judge to death in broad daylight.


ANDRE BRAUGHER, ACTOR, AS FRANK PEMBLETON: That six months you just did? Must have been an eye-opener, physically, mentally, and sexually. Can you handle that?


You get to carve out a space in your head that says it's not really me doing all these nasty things. It's somebody else. I'll go back to being me as soon as I get out of here. That how you made it? Day after day, hour after hour?

REID DIAMOND, ACTOR, AS MIKE KELLERMAN: That's not gonna happen now. You don't get to be "you" anymore.

BRAUGHER: Is it true what they say about prison time? Slowest time in the world.


ACTOR AS JUNIOR MAHONEY: Hey, you don't need to worry about me, all right? I can do the 20.



That's very impressive, Junior. But what about life? Can you do life?

ACTOR: I don't have to do life.

BRAUGHER: For the murder of Judge Gibbons (ph)?

ACTOR: What you talking about, man? I ain't killed nobody?

DIAMOND: Now wait a minute, Frank. You misspoke. See, when you murder a judge, you don't get life. You get death.

BIANCULLI: In tonight's season finale, Pembleton enters the box again, but this time he and another detective, John Sade (ph) as Paul Falzone (ph), are there to interrogate their colleague, Kellerman.

That's one lengthy, powerful scene I saw acted over and over again on the Homicide set in Baltimore. And each time, the three actors achieved a level of intensity you don't often see on television -- or on film or Broadway, for that matter.

On Homicide, the acting and writing are as good as it gets. And while I'll miss Braugher and Diamond as cast members, I also missed Ned Beatty and Melissa Leo (ph) and Michelle Forbes (ph) and lots of other castmembers when they left Homicide. And the show survived just fine.

There's no reason to expect next year will be any different.

GROSS: David Bianculli is TV critic for the New York Daily News.

This is a rush transcript. This copy may not
be in its final form and may be updated.

Dateline: David Bianculli, New York; Terry Gross, Philadelphia
High: TV critic David Bianculli reviews the season finale of "Homicide: Life on the Street." It's the last episode for regular Andre Braugher who plays Detective Pembleton.
Spec: Media; Television; Homicide; Andre Braugher; Health and Medicine; Stroke; Cities; Baltimore
Please note, this is not the final feed of record
Copy: Content and programming copyright 1998 WHYY, Inc. All rights reserved. Transcribed by FDCH, Inc. under license from WHYY, Inc. Formatting copyright 1998 FDCH, Inc. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to WHYY, Inc. This transcript may not be reproduced in whole or in part without prior written permission.
End-Story: Last Day for Pembleton
Date: MAY 08, 1998
Time: 12:00
Tran: 050802np.217
Head: Starting Homicide
Sect: News; Domestic
Time: 12:10

TERRY GROSS, HOST: Tom Fontana is the co-creator and executive producer of "Homicide." He won an Emmy for his writing on the series. He's also executive producer of "Oz" -- the HBO prison series.

Homicide is as much about character as it is about crime solving. In this scene from an early episode, Tim Bayless (ph), a rookie homicide detective played by Kyle Secor (ph), is in the car with his more experienced and cynical partner Frank Pembleton, played by Andre Braugher.



KYLE SECOR, ACTOR, AS TIM BAYLESS: You know something? You said to me something the other day, you said that I would never be a homicide detective 'cause I don't have a killer's mind.


SECOR: So do you?

BRAUGHER: Do I what? Do I have the killer's mind?

SECOR: Yeah.

BRAUGHER: Do me a favor. Take a look outside there. Tell me what you see.

SECOR: Let's see, I see people hanging out on their stoops. I see some trees. I see a grocery store.

BRAUGHER: OK. I look out here and I see the same stuff, but all this stuff has my name written on it, just like the criminal. I see unmarked cars. I see snatchable pocketbooks. I see windows open just a crack.

SECOR: What does this have to do with murder?


That's funny?

BRAUGHER: Don't you get that?

SECOR: What?

BRAUGHER: That's my point exactly, Bayless.

GROSS: I talked about Homicide with executive producer Tom Fontana in 1993, six weeks after the show premiered. Before Homicide, Fontana spent five years as a producer and writer on "St. Elsewhere."

You said that you get notes from the censors, from the networks, from the studio -- what kind of notes do people give you when they're critiquing a script or an episode?

TOM FONTANA, EXECUTIVE PRODUCER, HOMICIDE: Well, the censors' notes are always very difficult to take because they -- for example, on one show we had this -- this sequence where one of the detectives was telling a Polish joke.

And one of the other detectives was saying: "well, why does it have to be Polish?" And there was a discussion about -- between a couple of the detectives about why a Polish joke is a Polish joke, as opposed to a Belgian joke, right?

Now, I'm -- besides being Italian-American, I'm Polish-American and I didn't find the particular -- the sequence particularly offensive as a Polish American because it was about exactly that: why do people tell Polish jokes? It's -- it makes no difference.

Well, the censors -- you would have thought we had, you know, taken Lech Walesa and like put paint all over him or something. I mean, I -- the reaction was "oh you can't make fun of Polish people." "No, no, we're not making fun of Polish people. We're making fun of people who make Polish jokes."

"No, you can't do that." Anyway, you know, you fight and fight and fight, and part of it is you put stuff in and then depending on how you're feeling that particular week, you know, you either fight for it or you say "eh, you know, forget it. I'll just cut it out."

That week, we fought for it, so it stayed in. And you know, the notes from the network tend to be: "oh, why can't they all hug each other" and you know, "wouldn't it be nice if they, you know, they actually, you know captured somebody, or somebody, you know, said 'I'll never do that again.'"

You know, they always want the easiest kind of comforting resolution because they -- they have no -- I'm amazed -- I think that the network has virtually no faith in the intelligence or the sense of humor of the American public. I think they -- I think they think America is just filled with completely stupid people who don't get anything, you know.

And this is from, you know, guys, you know -- middle-aged white guys who live in Pacific Palisades, who know no more about the general American public than, you know, than George Bush did.

GROSS: Well, when you're starting to write, or conceive of a series, are you always second-guessing: what are the network executives gonna want? What will the censors say?

FONTANA: Well, you -- you try not to let that influence you too much. I mean, with St. Elsewhere, the hilarious thing was, they constantly wanted to turn it into "Young Dr. Kildare." And we did everything we could to resist that, because it's boring. It would be boring to write that every week.

GROSS: What did you get the most grief for from the censors on that?

FONTANA: On St. Elsewhere?

GROSS: Yeah.

FONTANA: We did a story about testicular cancer, and we weren't allowed to say -- we actually got permission to say the word "testicle," which was a huge breakthrough for them. We were not allowed to say the word "balls." And it was about a bunch of college students, one college student in particular who had testicular cancer.

And so it was kind of odd, these guys, you know, a bunch of college guys sitting around talking about testicles. But at least we got to say the word "testicle," but we got -- what was incredible about it is they didn't want us to do the story at all; did not want us to do the story. When they read it, they freaked out -- the censors. They said: "you cannot cut off a guy's ball on national television. It's just -- you can't do it."

So we said, well that's interesting, because last week we cut off a woman's breast and you didn't even raise an eyebrow about that. And that kind of made that problem go away. I mean, they suddenly went, you know -- 'cause we were going to go to the press with that. We were going to say: "hey, you know, it's OK to like to a mastectomy, but it's not to, you know, cut off a guy's ball on television? This is ridiculous. It's a double standard."

And -- but the fight for what words you could use to say "testicle" was hilarious.

GROSS: Now, you were going to go to the press if they didn't let you do that. That's -- that's a tough choice to make isn't it? Because if you alienate the network too much, that's going to be a big problem for you.

FONTANA: Yeah. Yeah. But you know, sometimes -- when, you know, it's one of these things where, you know, they suck it in and you suck it in and then eventually you like say, "I'm pissy now. I'm gonna -- I'm in the mood for a fight."

And what they do is is that -- they'll tend to back down, and then they'll kind of say: "well, you're gonna see. We're gonna get letters. Oh, it's gonna be terrible -- blah, blah, blah."

And I guess for as often as they get letters, they don't get letters. I mean, what was the ironic part about the whole testicular cancer story was that the letters we got were from young guys who said they never knew about testicular cancer. They didn't know you could do a self-examination. They didn't know that they were particularly a risk group. And that they did the self-exam; found out that they had a lump; went to the doctor; and were alive because they had been watching St. Elsewhere.

So you know, those are the kind of letters you should just kind of go: "nah, nah, nah, nah" to the network with because when you can really, you know, do something like that. I mean, we never did -- well, I shouldn't say that.

We often did things that were -- that we did just to -- just to piss them off, but -- but a lot of times we were trying to be as responsible as we could possibly be. You know, we did a thing about a breast self-examination, and because one of our characters had breast cancer, and they wouldn't let us -- oddly enough -- they wouldn't let us show her do a self-exam, but they would let us show, on a monitor, the American Cancer Society's breast self-examination.

So, we had to do it like a session where a bunch of women were being instructed about, but a woman couldn't actually -- we're still seeing a nipple on television, but because it was on a monitor, they thought that was OK somehow. I -- you know -- it's that kind of thing that makes you crazy because it all seems kind of arbitrary and ultimately gets kind of debilitating.

GROSS: What were some of the lessons you learned from St. Elsewhere about what you have to do to make a continuing story line work?

FONTANA: Well, I think that one of the mistakes we made early on in St. Elsewhere was not allowing the audience to get to care about the patient, so that when we killed the patient, which we always did, that -- we wanted the audience to have some kind of an emotional response to that. And the way we did that was by tying it into the doctor or nurse who was taking care of that particular patient.

On Homicide, it's a little different because the focus of the story is a person who's been murdered, so you don't really have a lot of communication between the detective and the murder victim. So what we've tried to do with homicide is to deal with it much more on the relationships between the two -- the two detectives working on the case and kind of the horror of what they -- what they experience on a day to day basis.

I mean, these are guys who every day they go to work, their job is to look at a dead body -- something that most of us do maybe once in a lifetime and are repulsed by it then.

GROSS: When you're doing a series, you write a lot of the episodes.

FONTANA: Yeah. What I do is, I tend to conceive the story for the episode, and then hire a freelance writer or story editor who's on staff -- they then do like two drafts of the script. And then it comes back to me -- well each draft comes back to me for notes, and then the draft comes back to me for final -- for a polish.

And that's -- that's pretty much -- you know, I have the final say, then I get notes from the network and the censors and the studio and you know, everybody and their grandmother. But pretty much, you know, I do the final script that goes out of the set.

And if the actors have any changes, they come and deal with me about them.

GROSS: Now, how do you feel about this idea of conceiving of the story and giving it out to a freelancer to actually write?

FONTANA: Well, it's actually a lot better for me than it is for the freelancer, because I conceive it and because I get it at the end, I can -- I can make sure that the story I wanted to tell gets told. I think it's a little frustrating to be a freelance writer in television, because you have no power whatsoever.

The only reason I'm a producer is because I learned very quickly that in Hollywood if you don't produce, you -- if you're a writer and you don't produce, you're never gonna see what you've written get on the screen. I always try to keep as much as I possibly can of the freelance writer's stuff, but a lot of times they either just don't get it or they -- or, you know, it's just not what I had intended, and I haven't been able to convey to them properly what I was -- what I was looking for.

GROSS: I know you used to be a playwright. Does the playwright within you say: "this is no way to write."


FONTANA: No, actually, I was a terrible playwright and a particularly unsuccessful playwright. So, I've gotten more off my chest writing for television, and more people have seen it than -- you know, I used to play to houses of six. And now, you know, 30 million people or 10 million people will see the show.

And that's pretty juicy for a writer to know that -- that that many people are at least going to, you know, on their way to the kitchen to get something, they'll be watching what you're doing.

GROSS: My guest is Tom Fontana, executive producer of Homicide. More after a break.

This is FRESH AIR.

Back to our 1993 interview with Tom Fontana, executive producer of Homicide.

The opening episode of Homicide was on just a few weeks ago, right after the Super Bowl, right?


GROSS: Good placement.

FONTANA: Forty-three million people saw it.


GROSS: Not bad. What are some of the burdens that an opening episode of a series has to carry?

FONTANA: Well, you know, it's very tough to write the first episode because what you have to do is you have to introduce -- in terms of an ensemble show, it's difficult -- not the -- all pilots are difficult, but an ensemble show where you have 10 to 12 different characters, introducing those characters, defining those characters in a very short amount of time, is very difficult.

Then the added burden is, you know, you want the -- you want the audience to like the 10 or 12 characters that you've introduced, so that -- because episodic television is about seeing friends. You know, every week you say, "oh, let's go see what those knuckleheads at 'Cheers' are doing." And so you want -- you want the audience to not necessarily identify, so much as appreciate, the characters on your show.

So that's -- that's difficult because you've only got 47 minutes or something like that. Then what you want to do is to try to come up with a story or stories in the particular case of Homicide that will indicate the kind of stories that you're going to tell on a week to week basis.

Now, in the Homicide, the first episode of Homicide, we didn't really emphasize the story. And it wasn't really 'til the second episode that we really, really started to say: "OK, well here's the A, B, C, D side of the show. You know, here's a little journey that you're going to take each week with these people."

One of the reasons we did that in the first episode is, again, because we wanted to say to the audience: "whatever your expectation is of a cop show, you ain't gonna get it here." And as dangerous as that is, because, you know, most people want to see things they're familiar with, we thought it was important to say that to the audience -- to not lie to the audience and say: "well, you're gonna get to see them arrest somebody every week and it's gonna be, you know, like a typical cop show."

GROSS: So, what were some of the expectations that you felt you had to dash early on?

FONTANA: Well, I think that for example the show -- the emphasis on the show is not on solving the murders. The emphasis is on the relationship between the partners. And so, you might spend -- whereas in a regular show, you'd spend, you know, 45 pages dealing with the murder and 10 pages dealing with the kind of "buddy" side of it -- you know, the joking and the, oh you know, jump in the car and all that stuff. We do the complete opposite. Most of it is about people kind of living their lives, and every once in a while, they step over a dead body.

The other thing is is that we're not doing any car chases. We're not doing any gun shoot-outs, because most homicide detectives get there after the murder. You know, they're not a part of the action the way a uniformed cop would be. And theirs is a much more intellectual kind of job than any other policeman. They're there doing research and investigation.

And so, the rhythm of their particular job is very different from anything I -- you know, most murder -- most homicide shows, you see the cops and they're running and they're chasing and they're -- you know, and they're facing the bad guy and all that stuff.

And in real life, it just doesn't happen that way. And because we were coming off of David Simon's book and because we felt we had an obligation to the Baltimore homicide squad to depict them in an honest way, we kind of abandoned all that television storytelling.

GROSS: Tom Fontana is the executive producer of Homicide. Tonight's season finale is also the show's 100th episode. Our interview was recorded during the program's first season in 1993.

Later in the show, we'll hear from Andre Braugher. One of the other stars of the series, Richard Belzer, is also a comic. Here's an excerpt of Belzer's latest comedy album, "Another Lone Nut."



RICHARD BELZER, ACTOR/COMEDIAN: Thank you. Thank you so much. Thank you. Thank you.

Here we are on Broadway. All these great shows. Well, they're not that great, but there's a lot of shows around here. You know, the thing is, what do Broadway show cost now? Like $12 million to get in? It's like -- costs $100 a ticket now, right? So it's two people -- that's $200. Babysitter, dinner -- you know, by the time you get to the theater and you're sitting there and you're hearing the overture, you're out $1,100 and you're really pissed off.


So they have to be -- they have to fool you to thinking you spent your money properly, so now on Broadway, they have these big production numbers like you're in the audience, the lights go down, you hear the overture -- da, na, na, na, da, na, na -- and you get excited -- hey, there was a composer, there's instruments, there's musicians. Somebody went to some trouble here, OK, it's a show. I'm feeling pretty good.

And then the curtain opens up and let's say the show is a musical about big business, all right? And there's like -- they have to impress you, so there's like a hundred switchboard operators lined up, all these great Aryan youths all lined up at the switchboard, and they're taking messages -- "hello? Yes. No. Mr. Jones isn't in. Message for Mr. Jones. He's not in. Mr. Jones is not in. Mr. Jones, well, he's out. He's not in. Mr. Jones. Mr. Jones isn't in. Mr. Jones."

Then a guy comes in with a briefcase: "I'm Mr. Jones, any messages? Any messages?"

Yeah, I've got a message. I want my (EXPLETIVE DELETED) money back. That's my message. And you get that little pink slip -- "while you were out" -- yeah, while you were out, I want my money back. OK, thank you.

Then they have these really terrible lyrics and you're supposed to think these are great songs, so they sing them really dramatic, like:

Do you think if I stand on the corner
And make believe I'm waiting for a bus
And Mary walks by she'll fall in
Love with me?
Does she have any messages? Any messages?"


GROSS: Richard Belzer, from his CD, Another Lone Nut on the Uproar Entertainment Label.

I'm Terry Gross and this is FRESH AIR.

This is a rush transcript. This copy may not
be in its final form and may be updated.

Dateline: Terry Gross, Philadelphia
Guest: Tom Fontana
High: Executive producer and writer, Tom Fontana of "Homicide: Life on the Street." The show premiered in 1993. Most recently Fontana was part of the team that put together the adult drama on HBO, "Oz," a realistic look at an experimental unit of a maximum security prison whose aim is to rehabilitate its inmates.
Spec: Media; Television; Cities; Baltimore; Homicide
Please note, this is not the final feed of record
Copy: Content and programming copyright 1998 WHYY, Inc. All rights reserved. Transcribed by FDCH, Inc. under license from WHYY, Inc. Formatting copyright 1998 FDCH, Inc. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to WHYY, Inc. This transcript may not be reproduced in whole or in part without prior written permission.
End-Story: Starting Homicide
Date: MAY 08, 1998
Time: 12:00
Tran: 050803np.217
Head: Andre Braugher
Sect: News; Domestic
Time: 12:30

TERRY GROSS, HOST: This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross.

Tonight, the series "Homicide" loses a good detective and a great actor, Andre Braugher. He's played Detective Frank Pembleton since the series premiered in 1993. TV critic David Bianculli once described Braugher as the most compelling and potent dramatic actor on series television.

Braugher has also been praised for his work as a Shakespearean actor. He also played the young intellectual soldier in the film "Glory" and co-starred in Spike Lee's "Get On The Bus." He's now featured in the film "City of Angels."

In Homicide, his character Frank Pembleton is smart, obsessive, and aloof. Here he is in an interrogation scene from last week's episode of Homicide. The suspect is accused of killing a judge.


ANDRE BRAUGHER, ACTOR, AS DETECTIVE FRANK PEMBLETON: Eyewitnesses put you on the corner of Pratt and Saratoga bright and early this morning.

ACTOR: And it wasn't me, man. They mistaken.

BRAUGHER: Right where the judge was standing?

ACTOR: I wasn't there.

BRAUGHER: What about the pay phone?

ACTOR: What pay phone?

BRAUGHER: Around the corner where the judge died? You ever use that pay phone?

ACTOR: Man, how would I remember something like that?

BRAUGHER: Well, we dusted it for prints. And we came up with one hit -- Nathaniel Lee Mahoney, aka Junior Bunk (ph).

ACTOR: Yeah, so what?

BRAUGHER: So we put you right in the middle of the crime scene.

ACTOR: Hey, I might have been there earlier, you know, but before anybody got killed, though.

BRAUGHER: Well, why were you on Saratoga Street early this morning?

ACTOR: It wasn't early. It was late. I was coming home from clubbing. I used that phone to call the cab like -- like five, six in the morning.

BRAUGHER: So you were out and about in the wee hours of the morning, wandering around downtown and you just happened to leave your thumbprint on the public pay phone where a judge gets stabbed in the heart two hours later. What incredibly bad luck.

ACTOR: Ain't that a bitch. Tell me about it. I always had bad luck, you know.

GROSS: In 1995, Andre Braugher told me that the Homicide cast gets the scripts one episode at a time, so Andre Braugher and his character, Detective Frank Pembleton, would both be in the dark about where the story is heading.

I asked Braugher if that affected how he played the role.

BRAUGHER: Well, my problem with not knowing where my character is going the tendency sometime to paint myself into a corner that I can't get out of. I remember early in the first three episodes of this year, I only had the first episode.

And they -- it was the beginning of Pembleton's religious angst, but I didn't know that. So consequently, I didn't play certain parts, certain scenes -- I didn't play with a kind of fervor or doubt or intensity that I needed, as a matter of fact.

And writers would come up to me on the set and say, "I think you play it this way; I think you should play it this way" -- and of course, I didn't know what they were talking about and I couldn't see the justification.

Now, of course, when I hear that a script will be in one, two, or three parts, I try to find out what the -- the over-arching idea or theme or journey for my character will be, so that I won't paint myself into a corner. I won't goof up in the -- the elemental scene-setting.

GROSS: On Homicide, you have a different director each week.


GROSS: So, does each director want to put their own touch on the character? And do you find that you have to assert yourself to maintain certain things about the character consistently from week to week?

BRAUGHER: Well, there are two things going on. The directors are all talented individuals, and they come in and they'd like to put their personal stamp on Homicide, but Homicide is a show that has its own theme; its own style. And it, too, constantly reinvents itself.

But there are certain thematic elements which have to be maintained, and directors would like to change that -- change the shooting style, film from odd, interesting and quirky angles. And I don't think the show can really go overboard -- you know what I mean? -- in terms of changing, in terms of being innovative. Innovation almost killed us back in 1992.

Pretty much I know more about my character than my director does. I take suggestions and I work with my director, but I do know the fundamental aspects of my character and I know how to maintain my character's integrity.

Things change from week to week. The writers change their mind. I used to have kids. Now, I don't have kids.

GROSS: Tell -- no, what happens in a transition like that?

BRAUGHER: Suddenly I don't have kids? Suddenly, it's just me and my wife, you know. I thought I had a son, but now I don't.

GROSS: Well, how did you realize you didn't have a son anymore?

BRAUGHER: Because in the script one day, I saw -- there was a conversation between Pembleton and Bayless in which Pembleton says: "my wife and I are thinking about having kids." And that's how I learned.

GROSS: So did you go up to the writer and say: "guess what? We've already got one?"

BRAUGHER: Well, I have -- I have a picture of a child on my desk, as a matter of fact, who was always, as far as I've known, been my son. And now, I don't know who that child is. He's my nephew or something. And it just changed right then and there.

I don't think the memory of the viewer is very long. And also, not having a child allows for the development of having the child. It'll be another adventure. If you have children, you know what I mean about "adventure."

GROSS: You've done a fair amount of Shakespeare.

BRAUGHER: Oh yeah, I love Shakespeare.

GROSS: On stage.

BRAUGHER: Oh, yeah.

GROSS: The way that a Shakespearean character uses English is different than the way -- the way a contemporary detective speaks. What -- what can you learn from Shakespeare that you can apply to contemporary film and television -- in terms of speech. I don't mean making speeches, but intonation...

BRAUGHER: Oh, all of that -- all of that work came to me from the Juilliard School. Breaking up -- communicating -- breaking up the sentences into understandable parts and putting them back together again. The pure technique of speaking in order to be understood through complex thoughts was taught to me at the Juilliard School.

Shakespeare, of course, his thoughts are quite long and quite expressive and quite complex. And the actor is forced to think through the line from beginning to end. And it -- as opposed to modern speech -- modern, I guess you can call it that -- it's not broken down into short fragments, but rather longer and more subtle thoughts.

So consequently, when I go over to Homicide, when I get a long sentence, I break it down into its component parts and I use the entire sentence, you know.

GROSS: Is there any way I could get you to take a line from Shakespeare or to take a long sentence from Homicide and show us how you break it down and how you actually analyze that line before delivering it?

BRAUGHER: Wow, I don't have the script in front of me. Let me think. So, we're looking for a van that -- I can't remember the line -- we're looking for a van that does not exist, which carried kidnappers who never lived, which did not abscond with a U.S. Congressman and then didn't drop him off here?

So the line --- I think I got the line.

GROSS: Is this -- this is from last week's episode?

BRAUGHER: Is that last week episode? Right.


BRAUGHER: Last week's episode. So, we're looking for a van which does not exist which carried kidnappers who never lived, which did not abscond with a U.S. Congressman and then didn't drop him off here? "I guess" is what the other character responds.

Now, that's a -- that's a long and complicated thought, which you typically don't get. Typically is like "where is this guy" or "these kidnappers don't exist" or some smaller thought. And I relish the idea of taking a long thought and breaking it down to its component parts, putting it back together again, and being able to deliver it in one breath from beginning to end, and have it end up sounding like a question that I actually asked, and have made my own, rather than sounding like a newspaper clipping or something to that effect.

GROSS: You said before, you loved Shakespeare even when you were young. What -- what did you find when you were young in Shakespeare? A lot of young people don't -- just don't like Shakespeare because it's such a different period and because the language can be very difficult to understand compared to contemporary writing.

BRAUGHER: This is my impression -- that if your vocabulary is limited, then your thoughts are limited. And I'm not a man who wants to be limited and I found something really, really beautiful in Shakespeare; something very spiritual and lovely in Shakespeare. And I'm not willing to give it up.

I'd like to be -- I'd like to feel the kinds of feelings that Laertes feels upon hearing about the death of his sister, you know. Or when he sees his sister mad with flowers in her hair and talking outrageous jibberish; and acting -- her behavior -- acting with incredible kind of sexual license that he's never seen her act with. He said simply: "oh, God, do you see this?"

Now, a lot of people would say: "what's wrong with her? Let's get her to a doctor." They'd try to solve the problem. They'd do a lot of different things. But Laertes is a very spiritual man and he looks up and he says: "oh, God, do you see this?" It's a crime against nature, in a certain way, you know. And his strange love for his sister is expressed in this way.

And, it can't be beat. It can't be beat by cop shows and it can't be beat by the most interesting kind of television drama. Shakespeare lives and his characters express the deepest parts of themselves.

Pembleton doesn't express the deepest part of himself, you know. There's so many -- so many chameleon-like layers and aspects to Pembleton's behavior and his speech and his relationships with everyone else. But in Shakespeare, I find the opportunity to really glimpse the most elemental and human part of a person.

GROSS: My guest is Andre Braugher. More after a break.

This is FRESH AIR.

Back to our 1995 interview with Andre Braugher. Tonight is his final episode of Homicide.

I read that your grandmother taught you how to read before you even started school. What do you remember about that?

BRAUGHER: About my grandma? Well, she...

GROSS: Well, about her teaching you to read.

BRAUGHER: Well, she read from the Bible, you know. She was a very, very religious woman -- the sweetest woman I have ever known. And yeah, she would read to me from the Bible, and I'd look it up and I'd keep reading with her.

So when I got to first grade with the "see Dick run" and "see Jane run" stuff, I knew it already, you know. And I remember being I guess in third grade at a school called Spencer, which is over in my old neighborhood in Austin, and I could read so well that the teacher no longer called on me.

So I remember going home one day and I told my father, I said: "Daddy, they won't let me read." And he said: "what do you mean?" I said: "well, when we sit in the circle and everybody else reads, I raise my hand and the teacher doesn't call on me."

And you know, I never saw that school ever again. The next day I was in St. Thomas Aquinas, a Catholic school right around the corner. I didn't clean out my locker. I didn't clean out my desk. I didn't take my pencils away. My father figured way back then, it must have been 1969, that education is life, you know. And without an education, you really can't make anything of your life.

And he was a man who, even today, he does not fool around. He makes decisions based upon, you know, his future goals and his future needs. And he acts upon them immediately. So, I remember the most impressive thing about my father is, he decided in that instant that his son was not going to be in a school where they did not let him read. And I was moved the very next day.

GROSS: When your parents decided that you were going to go to Catholic school right away, did you thrive there? Did you like it? Were there things that you -- you didn't like about the discipline or the uniform you had to wear?


BRAUGHER: The uniform -- the blue pants, and oh my goodness. Things that I didn't like about the Catholic school -- no, I actually loved it. You know, it was a very challenging environment and I thrived in that kind of environment.

I thrived with that kind of discipline, not because I believe that rules were made to be broken, but I enjoy structure in my life. That same sort of discipline makes me sit at home and really break down a script into all its intimate characteristics, so that I can do the best kind of work when I get to the set.

So that I learn my lines before I get there, you know, and I ask questions before I get there -- before I get to the set. And I look for changes a couple of days before by calling the writers and discussing aspects of the character of the script before, so that things aren't left -- left to chance.

I love to rehearse. Homicide is not a show in which we get rehearsal before we begin the film, but in all the best work that I've seen myself do on television, and I see a lot of flaws in my own work, the best part of my work has always involved rehearsal. I remember back in 1992 when we did "Three Men and Adina (ph)" with Moses Gunn (ph) and Kyle Secor and myself in the box.

GROSS: This is the interrogation episode.

BRAUGHER: The interrogation episode -- we rehearsed every day two hours before we started shooting.

GROSS: That was a great episode.

BRAUGHER: And -- it -- well, the work -- the homework we did in rehearsal showed up on screen.

GROSS: Now, what kind of homework did you do?

BRAUGHER: We would actually run through the lines, and we made choices right then and there. We rehearsed like -- as if we were doing a play. We found the best choice, not the first choice. We found the best choice and I love to work that way.

Back in 1993, Isaiah Washington, who was the kid in that episode "Black and Blue" -- the kid who's -- who I get a confession out of, although I know he's innocent -- we rehearsed the day before that and that made that episode so -- that interrogation so much better for me is because I was no longer worried or filled with anxiety about what I might do; what choices would be best.

And consequently, when we got to the set and we had to do -- we chose to do eight and a half pages, maybe nine and a half pages, in one take, I knew what I was doing from beginning to end.


KYLE SECOR, ACTOR, AS DETECTIVE BAYLESS: You want to know what a polygraph test is, hmm? You're lying. You're a liar. You even tried to hold your breath to cover up. And you know what blew it off the charts, hmm? Off the screen? Look here. Your heart. Your heart just blew those needles right off the screen. Man, a man could get whiplash looking at your test. And this guy says it's the highest he's ever seen -- and this guy is an expert.

BRAUGHER: Your heart. Your heart, of all things. That's perfect for you, Risley (ph), don't you see? Your heart, 'cause your heart doesn't want to lie.

ACTOR: Let me see that.

SECOR: No, no, no, no. This is police property. This is evidence for your trial.

ACTOR: I know enough about the law to know you can't use that in court.


SECOR: See Mr. Legal Beagle, here. He knows all about the law.

BRAUGHER: Is that because you watch the Court Channel?

ACTOR: I didn't lie.

SECOR: Oh, and how come you failed the test?

ACTOR: I don't know.

BRAUGHER: "I don't know" -- that's your answer for everything.

SECOR: Well, it's not going to work now.

BRAUGHER: If you weren't lying, why'd you fail the test?

ACTOR: 'Cause I was nervous.

SECOR: Why were you nervous?

ACTOR: I feel guilty.

BRAUGHER: You feel guilty 'cause you did it.

ACTOR: No. 'Cause you made me feel guilty.

SECOR: No, you failed this test because you are guilty.

ACTOR: If I was guilty and knew it, then why would I take the test?

BRAUGHER: You tell us.

SECOR: No, I know why. I'll tell you why...

BRAUGHER: Because you know we got you. You know it's over, Risley.

SECOR: Mm-hmm. You're going to jail.

BRAUGHER: You gonna do time.

SECOR: That's right.

BRAUGHER: Damn, look at his eyes.

ACTOR: What's wrong with my eyes?

SECOR: Tears coming out of your eyes.

ACTOR: Those ain't no tears coming from my eyes.

BRAUGHER: His eyes are brimming with tears.

SECOR: Ready to burst.

BRAUGHER: It's gonna get a lot worse.

SECOR: A lot worse.

BRAUGHER: It never gets any better.

SECOR: He'll probably go back to drinking.

BRAUGHER: Back to being a drunk?

ACTOR: No, I ain't never gonna do that.

BRAUGHER: And you'll wind up killing yourself.

SECOR: If you're lucky.

ACTOR: I didn't kill her.

BRAUGHER: Why are you putting your head down?

ACTOR: 'Cause I'm tired of saying it.

BRAUGHER: You're tired of saying 'cause it's not true.

SECOR: Be a man for once. Own up to it.

BRAUGHER: I would.

SECOR: I would.

BRAUGHER: Anybody else would too.

SECOR: Be a man for once.

BRAUGHER: Why don't you want to tell me, Risley? Huh? Why don't you want to tell me? Huh? Why? Why? Why?

GROSS: When you were young, was it easy for you to find friends who were as serious about education and about other aspects of life as you were?

BRAUGHER: Oh yeah, sure. Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm. You could find the athletes and the jokers and the scamps and the rascals. You could find every, you know, everybody anywhere you'd look for them. You know, I've been -- I've been gifted by God to be able to take tests well. Who knows what I know, but grad school was the hardest challenge I've ever had in my life because it's not about tests. It's about what kind of person you are.

I went to the Juilliard School as a very naive young man, full of myself, and I was exposed to -- I was a member of a class with 22 fine actors, and I had to look down inside myself and find out what kind of person I was. I lost my mind several times at the Juilliard School. I was reduced to tears on many occasion and I fought back to be this kind of man.

GROSS: When you were reduced to tears, was that during a rehearsal or you know, in class in front of other people?

BRAUGHER: No, I remember my -- a woman who I love and respect today, Liz Smith (ph), my voice teacher. We were doing some -- some poems by Dylan Thomas and I was doing Dylan Thomas -- "And Death Shall Have No Dominion."

And I'd worked so hard to improve my speech and my posture and my voice and the tonal production and all these different things. And I did that poem and I thought I'd done quite well. And she looked at me and she looked at me for a long time -- about 15, 20 seconds after I'd done it.

So I was saying: "well does she like it? Does she not like it?" And she says: "it was very, very well spoken and your voice is improving tremendously, but it's rather boring, isn't it?" And she looked around the room and she looked for the assent of my classmates.

She says: "it's very, very boring. I didn't see any of Andre Braugher in that." She called me "Andre" as a matter of fact -- Andre Braugher -- "I didn't see any of Andre in that. And so I want you to do it again."

Well, I was -- I was humiliated by that. I had tried my hardest and I had done my best to master the technical aspects of acting. And she was asking for me. She was asking for me to show myself; to show what kind of person I was and how I interpreted things.

And she was asking me: "do you know anything about being a human being?" And I was reduced to tears by that because I now knew that instead of faking my way through acting, you know, by perfecting the technical aspects of this profession, this craft -- I would have to put something of Andre Braugher in this, you know.

GROSS: So...


GROSS: So, where did you take it after that? Were you able to do it right afterwards? Or, were you really humiliated by the whole thing?

BRAUGHER: I was humiliated by the whole thing, you know, and through my tears I re-did the speech again and then she said, and of course everything went awry, you know.


Everything -- everything was bad. And she said at the end of that, she said: "now, that was interesting," you know. And I could have taken the wrong -- I couldn't have taken the wrong lesson from what she was trying to tell me and created a very showy aspect of my personality or a fake humanism, but I think she wanted to see Andre Braugher because that's really the only reason that we -- we work in this profession -- to show not who we are in a very egotistical manner. This is me. And let me go on radio stations and let me talk to magazines and tell them all about Andre Braugher.

What she was suggesting is that there is a very human part to me, and that I must show it in order to earn my keep in this craft, in this profession; that there's no point -- there's nothing really wonderful about Andre Braugher who has mastered the technique, yet refuses to show himself.

GROSS: Andre Braugher, thank you so much for talking with us.

BRAUGHER: Sure, my pleasure. Thank you.

GROSS: Andre Braugher, recorded in 1995. Tonight is his final episode on Homicide. You can also see him in the film City of Angels. He's currently in production for the movie "Thick as Thieves," which also stars Alec Baldwin.

Coming up, Maureen Corrigan reviews Grace Paley's (ph) new book.

This is FRESH AIR.

This is a rush transcript. This copy may not
be in its final form and may be updated.

Dateline: Terry Gross, Philadelphia
Guest: Andre Braugher
High: Actor Andre Braugher. In the NBC series, "Homicide," he plays the shaved-headed Detective Frank Pembleton, a man described as "eloquent but icy." Braugher was educated at Juilliard and is an experienced Shakespearean actor. His other acting credits include the film, "Glory," and the TNT special, "The Court Martial of Jackie Robinson."
Spec: Media; Theater; Actors; Television; Homicide; Andre Braugher
Please note, this is not the final feed of record
Copy: Content and programming copyright 1998 WHYY, Inc. All rights reserved. Transcribed by FDCH, Inc. under license from WHYY, Inc. Formatting copyright 1998 FDCH, Inc. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to WHYY, Inc. This transcript may not be reproduced in whole or in part without prior written permission.
End-Story: Andre Braugher
Date: MAY 08, 1998
Time: 12:00
Tran: 050804np.217
Head: Just As I Thought
Sect: News; Domestic
Time: 12:55

TERRY GROSS, HOST: For over 30 years, Grace Paley (ph) has been a renowned writer and political activist -- a combination rare in America. To her critics and admirers, she's known as a troublemaker. Paley has just brought out a collection of essays, interviews, short-stories, and other writings called "Just As I Thought" that trace her evolution as a writer and activist.

Book critic Maureen Corrigan has a review.

MAUREEN CORRIGAN, FRESH AIR COMMENTATOR: As a short-story writer, Grace Paley walks on water. So the news that she'd written an autobiographical collection of sorts made me and her other fans rejoice. How wonderful it would be to learn about the real-life models for all those tough, funny, Russian-Jewish immigrant characters who populate her stories. How inspiring to hear about her awakening to feminism and her own struggles with love and divorce, mothering and aging.

Yeah, well, maybe some other time in some other book, because as Paley's quasi-autobiographical collection of short-stories, speeches, poems, and prefaces called Just As I Thought makes dramatically clear, hers has been a life where writing and personal reflection have been wedged in at the odd moment -- in between protesting the war in Vietnam, serving time in jail for civil disobedience, traveling to North Vietnam and Moscow on peace missions, roughing it in sit-down actions outside nuclear power plants, protesting the Gulf War, and rushing off to zoning board, school board, water board, and food co-op meetings in the Vermont village where she now lives part of the year.

Oscar Wilde once said that the problem with socialism was too many meetings. But Paley obviously wouldn't agree. As the mostly political writings collected in Just As I Thought demonstrate, she seems to thrive on steering committees. Some of the pieces are interesting.

Many more, however, are tedious and too bound up with the factional battles of their own historical moment. Only true believers and die-yard Paley partisans will be able to muster up interest in works like "The Women's Pentagon Action Unity Statement" that Paley wrote in 1982.

The first pieces in the book are most characteristic of the Paley her readers love. In them, she traces the roots of her own political activism to her father the socialist, her uncle the anarchist, and her two aunts -- a Zionist and a communist respectively.

The most powerful piece here is an autobiographical essay called "Traveling" where Paley recalls a bus trip her mother and sister took down South in 1927, during which they refused to move to the front of the bus with the other white people.

Paley connects this incident to her own memory of riding a bus to Florida in 1943, to rendezvous with her first husband, a soldier. On that journey, for a brief time, she held a black child on her lap, much to the disgust of a white passenger.

Paley, now the grandmother of an interracial child, ends the essay by saying: "on just such a journey when I was still quite young, I first knew my grandson -- first held him close -- but could protect him for only about 20 minutes 50 years ago."

As the writings move forward in time, Vietnam becomes the focus of Paley's public life. "Everybody Tells The Truth" is a piece written in 1971 that jumps out because of Paley's harsh judgments about bellicose American POWs she and other peace activists escorted home from North Vietnam. These days, Paley's POW criticism, as well as her idealization of the North Vietnamese, don't play so well.

As other writings dogmatically illustrate, Paley's antiwar convictions are of a piece with her feminism. Paley is convinced that women are naturally kindlier and gentler. It's hard to believe this essentialist claptrap is coming from a woman who, as even the dullest pieces collected here illustrate, never ran from a fight. Irony -- working class, earthy irony -- that's what Paley offers in abundance in her fiction and that's what's so missing in these political writings.

Just As I Thought is a sober testament to Paley's life of engagement and I feel shallow for wishing it were entertaining too. But that's the way it is. As a reader, I want roses and dancing along with my bread and revolution.

GROSS: Maureen Corrigan teaches literature at Georgetown University. She reviewed Just As I Thought by Grace Paley.

This is a rush transcript. This copy may not
be in its final form and may be updated.

Dateline: Maureen Corrigan; Terry Gross, Philadelphia
High: Book critic Maureen Corrigan has a review.
Spec: Books; Authors
Please note, this is not the final feed of record
Copy: Content and programming copyright 1998 WHYY, Inc. All rights reserved. Transcribed by FDCH, Inc. under license from WHYY, Inc. Formatting copyright 1998 FDCH, Inc. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to WHYY, Inc. This transcript may not be reproduced in whole or in part without prior written permission.
End-Story: Just As I Thought
Transcripts are created on a rush deadline, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of Fresh Air interviews and reviews are the audio recordings of each segment.

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