The world knows Will Smith as a musician, a comedian and blockbuster movie star — perhaps even the most bankable star in the world. But in his new memoir, called Will, Smith explores another identity, one that has fueled his unwavering work ethic: that of a coward. Smith says that when he was 9, he stood by, watching helplessly as his father beat his mother. It was a moment that shaped his identity.
Billy Porter won an Emmy for his starring role on Pose, an FX series set in the underground gay and trans ball culture of the late '80s and '90s. Porter grew up in the Pentecostal church convinced that he would be damned for being gay. It wasn't until he was introduced to the world of theater in sixth grade that he began to imagine a different future.
Melvin Van Peebles, who died Sept. 21, was best known for his 1971 film, Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song. He spoke with Fresh Air in 1990. His son Mario, also an actor/director, was interviewed in 2004.