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Remembering the Fall of the Berlin Wall 30 Years Later; Christopher Mallaby, Former U.K. Ambassador to Germany, Andrey Kortunov, Director General, Russian Intelligence Affairs Council, and Timothy Garton Ash, Historian and Author, "The Magic Lantern," are Interviewed About the Fall of Berlin Wall; Wendell Pierce in "Death of a Salesman"; Wendell Pierce, Actor, "Death of a Salesman," is Interviewed about "Death of a Salesman" and "The Wire"; Interview With Ellie Kemper; Interview With Wendell Pierce. Aired 1-2p ET
Aired January 1, 2020 - 13:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hello, everyone, and welcome to "Amanpour." This Holiday Season, we're dipping into the
archives and looking back at some of our favorite interviews from the year. So, here's what's coming up.
Thirty years since the fall of the Berlin Wall, and we look at how that night changed the world for better and for worse. Our panelists are all
witnesses to history.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WENDELL PIERCE, ACTOR, "DEATH OF A SALESMAN": You can't eat the orange and throw the peel away. A man is not a piece of fruit.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Actor, Wendell Pierce stars in "Death of a Salesman." He joins us to talk Arthur Miller, "The Wire" and working with Meghan Markle.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm having candy for dinner.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Comedian and actor, Ellie Kemper, on finding luck and success in an ultra-competitive industry.
Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Christiane Amanpour in London.
Thirty years ago, this weekend, the Berlin Wall fell. It didn't only divide that city into east and west, it was the Cold War frontier between
the Western powers and the Soviet Union. Two years later, that block would collapse and Germany would be reunified. In her address to Harvard
graduates this year, German chancellor, Angela Merkel, who grew up in East Berlin made clear just how stark the divide was before that night.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANGELA MERKEL, GERMAN CHANCELLOR (through translator): I lived near the Berlin Wall. I walked toward it every day on my way home from my
institute. Behind it lay West Berlin. Freedom. And every day when I was very close to the wall, I had to turn away at the last minute in order to
head toward my apartment. Every day I had to turn away from freedom at the last minute.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: And neither the CIA nor Germany at the time had any idea this was coming, that the people trapped behind the wall would muster the
courage to breach it. But after three decades of progress towards freedom and democracy, the last three years have seen a worrying shift back towards
nationalism and even authoritarianism across Europe and the United States.
So, where do we stand 30 years later? Three people who all saw the wall fall with their own eyes join me. Christopher Mallaby, who was a U.K.
ambassador to Germany at the time, Andrey Kortunov, the director general of the Russian International Affairs Council, and historian, Timothy Garton
Ash, author of "The Magic Lantern."
Gentlemen, welcome to the program.
Let me start with you Ambassador Mallaby. You were there. You were an ambassador at the time. What was going through your mind when you heard
this wall was coming down?
CHRISTOPHER MALLABY, FORMER U.K. AMBASSADOR TO GERMANY: Well, the very first thing I felt was surprise. I'd be in some sort of reception
(INAUDIBLE). I went home. My wife had her face right against the television screen and she said, the wall is opened. And I said, how many
cases of whisky have you drank?
And then I telephoned the British general in Berlin who was my sort of representative there, and it was true. And so, my second reaction was joy
because, obviously, it was going to open a better era in Europe. And my third was hilarity because then I heard exactly what had happened in the
press conference when the East German, Schabowski, had made the announcement but he botched it several times. And so, actually, it was a
good watch botch.
AMANPOUR: Well, just remind us of what that botch was because that mistranslation or misunderstanding led to the hordes going to the wall and
MALLABY: Yes. He was -- had a piece of paper in his hand which came from a meeting of the leadership of the communist party and he was sort of
squinting at it and not getting all of it right. The main thing he did not get right was that he said that the opening of the fascia would be right
now when it was supposed to be seven hours later. So, a huge difference but it made -- it brought the people out and that was the beginning of a
great improvement in European peace.
AMANPOUR: So, let me turn to you in Moscow. Andrey Kortunov, because this was all about the face-off between then the Soviet Union and the West.
What did you think when you heard what was going on? Because you also were in Berlin at the time.
ANDREY KORTUNOV, DIRECTOR GENERAL, RUSSIAN INTELLIGENCE AFFAIRS COUNCIL: Yes, I was in Berlin and I participated in a small meeting of emerging
And when we heard that the wall was going down, we decided to take part in the physical demolition of this structure. So, we went to the Brandenburg
Gate and we made our very modest contribution to the physical destruction of the wall.
And for us, it was a great happening. We were very young. We felt that it was almost a medical or holiday. And, of course, everybody was very
enthusiastic. And as a Soviet citizen, I can tell you that I didn't feel any unease or awkwardness because it was Gorbachev was a magic word for
many Germans around. So, I felt pretty together with other emerging leaders from various European countries.
AMANPOUR: That's amazing. Mikhail Gorbachev, obviously, the leader on whose watch this happened. And to you, Timothy Garton Ash, who was there
at the wall, who saw, you know, the initial attempts to breach it. It is so important that Gorbachev himself said, that we will not send in the
tanks. We will not crush this. This has to be a peaceful situation. Tell me what you thought as a young man all those years ago.
TIMOTHY GARTON ASH, HISTORIAN AND AUTHOR, "THE MAGIC LANTERN": So, I had lived behind the Berlin Wall and East Berlin and traveled behind the
(INAUDIBLE) for 10 years before. So, for us, the wall was almost like a fact of physical geography. It was if the (INAUDIBLE) have come down. I
got here the next day. I walked through an immediately -- recently demolished great section of the Berlin Wall, actually, side by side with
the American commander who looked rather bemused by this surreal happening.
For me, the most important thing about it was the ordinary East Germans who felt liberated, having been stuck behind the wall for nearly three decades.
And I remember one said to me, you know, it's like something in the bible. I think the sick will stand up and lift up their sick beds. And another
one said to me, I just saw a poster which had said, only today is the Second World War over. And I think that is exactly right. That this
moment, the 9th and 10th of November, 1989, the fall of the wall was actually effectively the end of the Second World War, the post war era, and
the beginning of a new era, which is what I would call the post wall era.
AMANPOUR: Well, and we're going to discuss the post wall era. But it is so wonderful to hear your memories of that day because it was such a day of
hope and it was such a day that people thought that this was going to be the end of history in the famous words of the American historian, Francis
But let me first go to a little of the lead up. So, let me ask you, Ambassador Mallaby. You are a British diplomat. The prime minister,
Margaret Thatcher, famously said to Ronald Reagan, I think, in 1984, when Mikhail Gorbachev started to ascend the leadership in the Soviet Union.
She said to Ronald Reagan, president of the United States, I like Mr. Gorbachev, we can do business together. Was that the beginning of this
transformational change in the Cold War adversaries?
MALLABY: Well, the real transformation, of course, begins with Gorbachev himself before it came to any western comments. But when she said that,
and she said it to Ronald Reagan, she did start something. She already, herself, is talking to Gorbachev doing business that others followed and,
above all, Reagan. And that was part of the breakthrough in Europe.
AMANPOUR: And it was really amazing because Reagan, as we all remember, had said things like, the bombing starts in five minutes, he had call it
the evil empire. He had really raised the Soviet Unions. You remember, Andrey Kortunov. I see you smiling. Do you remember the rhetoric that was
coming out of the Reagan White House at the time?
KORTUNOV: Absolutely. And across the years of the Reagan administration were pretty depressive. We saw a real threat of a nuclear confrontation
between the United States and the Soviet Union. But later on, of course, the whole thing has changed completely and Ronald Reagan emerged as a very
popular figure in Moscow as a person who could assist in bringing the end to the Cold War.
AMANPOUR: And yet, let's not forget that Reagan didn't get touchy feely all of a sudden. And in 1987, he visited, in fact, where Timothy Garton
Ash is, right by the Brandenburg Gate --
GARTON ASH: The other side.
AMANPOUR: The other side, exactly. The other side, you're right. Well, explain it us. Because then he said, and he laid down the gauntlet to
Mikhail Gorbachev. This is what he said and then we'll talk about it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RONALD REAGAN, THEN-U.S. PRESIDENT: General Secretart Gorbachev, if do you seek peace, if you seek prosperity for the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe,
if you seek liberalization, come here to this gate. Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate. Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Honestly, I'm sure it still gives everybody chills, that. But as a historian, Timothy, let's just make it very clear that Gorbachev has
written many times that this could not have happened had it not been a partnership, that it was neither him nor Reagan who did it. You know,
everybody claims to have been the one who ended the Cold War, but it was the two of them.
GARTON ASH: No, I don't think it was just the two of them. Both of them were absolutely essential. And the Berlin Wall did not come down because
that have speech. Gorbachev was, of course, absolutely indispensable, the green light that he gave for change in Eastern Europe. And the Reagan
administration one has to say the term, from the arms race of the Reagan first term to embracing (INAUDIBLE) Gorbachev in the second term was hugely
But it's really important to say that there was another major historical actor in this, which was the people of the Eastern Europe. And it didn't
start with Gorbachev in 1985. If anything, it started with the Polish pope, John Paul II, in 1979, the Solidarity movement in Poland which made
the push for liberation in Eastern Europe.
And please remember that in the first half of 1989, Poland had already had the round table talks, the first semi free election in Eastern Europe for
40 years, the appointment of the first noncommunist prime minister in Eastern Europe for 40 years. And Hungary had cut the iron curtain between
Hungary and Austria.
I was just talking today to the German president and he has quite deliberately invited on the occasion of the fall of the wall the presidents
of Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia as a signal and a tribute to their contribution.
AMANPOUR: You were a Soviet citizen. You'd obviously traveled some. You had come to the West, as you mentioned. Describe the feeling amongst
people behind the iron curtain at this time leading up to the fall of the wall. What did people want in the Soviet Union, for instance?
KORTUNOV: Well, first of all, I think people wanted changes. They were fed up with the old system. I think that, clearly, people underestimated
the problems of political transition and they believed that the victory in the Cold War was not just to the West victory but also the victory for
So, I recall that when the war went down, we felt almost triumph that we, may be in a very small way, contributed to changes in Europe. And, of
course, we were sure that the most difficult mission had already been accomplished. And from now on, we will enter this yellow brick road that
will lead us directly to miracle of the European reunification.
AMANPOUR: That's a good place to now turn the corner from the hope and the promise to, you know, the yellow brick road where, in fact, it lead,
Ambassador Mallaby. So, when you see what's happened in the intervening decades, some of it has been very hopeful, German reunification and many
other issues, the expansion of the E.U. to incorporate former East European countries that was -- that were behind the wall.
I mean, Timothy was mentioning Hungary and the amazing role Hungary played in the lead up to that. And even -- I mean, if you go back and read the
history, the current prime minister was a real dissident for democracy back then. What has happened to turn somebody like Viktor Orban away from pure
democracy to using the leavers and the institutions of democracy to actually concentrate and consolidate power in his own party?
MALLABY: Problems is the answer. You try with perfection and you find some of it doesn't work and then your moral sense owes you back or doesn't
and you may do things then which are not so good.
I want to comment, if I may on what Timothy said about Poland. I do think that Solidarity was a big player and the pope was too in the start of the
change in Europe. And one of the great things was that at that moment, pre-Gorbachev, Britain have decided not to invade Poland and not to crush
Solidarity in the way that had been done in Czechoslovakian and Hungary before that.
So, the seeds have change. The seeds of better behavior were ready that even before Gorbachev.
AMANPOUR: I want to turn you then, Timothy. Again, you mentioned Hungary. To what do you attribute this illiberal democracy, this rise of, you know,
not real democratic democracy, if you like?
GARTON ASH: The first thing to say, Christiane, is this was an extraordinary success story. Probably the biggest success for freedom,
Europe, the West, any of us will see in our lifetime. And we weren't cocky and overconfident at the time. We thought it was a huge mountain to climb,
seeing all the damage that have been done by communism.
The joke at the time, as you may remember was, we know you can turn an aquarium into fish soup, but can you turn fish soup back into an aquarium?
And if some of an aquarium. However, in just the last 10 years, Viktor Orban, who I remember as an idealistic young student leader, has
systemically demolished liberal democracy inside a member state of the European Union. It's really quite shocking.
I would say Hungary is no longer a democracy. I would say it's what political scientist call competitive authoritarian. This is an example of
a very skillful political leader who has exploited all the discontempts that, as Christopher rightly said, have gradually accumulated over the
years with the inequality, with the apparent injustice over transition, with all the changes that come from joining the European Union. And he's
exploited those very skillfully to consolidate his rule.
But let's keep it in proportion. Hungary is an extreme case. Poland, which I followed very closely for 40 years, is somewhere between liberal
and illiberal democracy. And please remember, it's not just Eastern Europe. If we say this is an East European phenomenal, then Nigel Farage
and Donald Trump and Matteo Salvini must all be East European.
AMANPOUR: OK. That's an interesting point and well taken. I wonder whether, Andrey Kortunov, you see it the same way. You know, of course,
that famously, your current president, Vladimir Putin, in 2005 said, and I quote, "The greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the 20th century is how he
described the fall of the USSR." What do you make of what we've just been discussing, this sort of move from dictatorship to freedom and back to
authoritarianism in some parts of Europe?
KORTUNOV: Well, President Putin has mentioned recently that he thinks that liberalism is antiquated and obsolete. And I think that President Putin
really believes that this is the case. I'm not sure that this is the case, but what I'm sure of is that liberalism does go through a very serious set
of challenges. And it is no longer considered to be the only way for various countries, including Russia, including Turkey, not to mention China
and some other East Asian communist states.
So, I think that, indeed, they see an alternative. They question universal advantages of liberalism. And right now, it's not clear how it will end
because the jury is still in session. And China, especially, gives an example of an alternative modernization path.
AMANPOUR: I want to ask you this. Because, you know, a lot of it is about haves and have not. And we know, I mean, Andrey, the Soviet Union was a
state-controlled economy that almost overnight was encouraged by western partners to turn to the free market. And who got all the state resources
were the well-connected, the oligarchs, members of the, you know, communist party, et cetera, and it led to this kind of what they call gangster
economy. How did that come about, Andrey?
KORTUNOV: I think that, definitely, some very serious mistakes and blunders were committed. But I think it was practically unavoidable, at
least at the first start of the Soviet transformation. And there was a joke that in Poland they had shock therapy but in Russia they had a shock
without therapy. And I think, to some extent, this is right.
Plus, I think Russia was in a more complicated situation because it didn't have any prospects of joining the European Union or Nato. And that's why
there was no incentive from the outside to engage on radical political and economic forums. So, one can argue that these reforms have never been
AMANPOUR: That is really interesting. Let me ask you, Ambassador Mallaby, what happens now? I mean, we heard earlier from Andrey Kortunov that this
war was over. It wasn't just the wall that came down but there was a feeling that this war between the West and the East, in terms of embodied
by the USSR is over.
And yet, now, all we talk about is how -- you know, we have Vladimir Putin pitted against whoever is running the United States. People like to say
he's really in charge. I know there's a lot of hope and there's been a lot of success. But where do you see the place for maybe restructuring the
MALLABY: Well, I think that Putin's reactions to the problems he faced were very human. I think that it was possible then that there could have
been an attempt to return to some kind of authoritarianism, which he did but not immediately. And I don't think what he's gone all the way. I
don't think that what he's up is as authoritarian as we've seen in Russia for previous decades.
So, I think we ought to look upon Putin as a man who thinks about each step. I don't think he's impetuous at all. So, I hope we can talk to him
because I think he has a logical head.
AMANPOUR: So, finally, to you then, Andrey, because this is now all about Putin facing off against the West and vice versa. Who do you think has the
upper hand right now? Do you believe that Putin is on the way to restoring the grandeur? Like make Russia first, that he wants to do?
KORTUNOV: Well, I think that every leader would like to have his or her country first. No doubt about that. And definitely, now, like it was the
case in the former Soviet Union, more and more people want change. There are discussions about what this change might entail but, definitely,
stability is no longer the perceived as the supreme value.
AMANPOUR: So interesting. We'll see what it brings in the next, I don't know, 5, 10, 15 years. Andrey Kortunov, Timothy Garton Ash, Ambassador
Christopher Mallaby, thank you so much for joining us.
Back then, during the Cold War, the great American playwright, Arthur Miller, wrote his masterpiece "Death of a Salesman." Even 70 years ago, it
was lamenting the death of the American dream. A fresh take is now playing in the west end here in London at the suggestion of Miller's daughter,
Rebecca, the Loman family is African-American led by actor, Wendell Pierce, in the role of Willy Loman. It is receiving rave reviews.
Now, when they say break a leg, that is usually meant as good luck. But this week, part of the historic theater ceiling fell in during a
performance on Wednesday night. Four people ended up in the hospital. Injuries, thankfully, were minor. And Wendell Pierce met with evacuated
patrons outside the theater and promised all their tickets would be honored during the 10-week run.
Just before this happened, though, he joined me here in the studio to discussion "Death of a Salesman" and his break out role in "The Wire.
Wendell Pierce, welcome to the program.
WENDELL PIERCE, ACTOR, "DEATH OF A SALESMAN": Thank you very much. Thanks for having me.
AMANPOUR: "Death of a Salesman," I mean, it is an American classic. It's 70 years old, right?
PIERCE: Yes, 70 years old.
AMANPOUR: What made you want to do this?
PIERCE: Well, first of all, because it's a classic. It was unexpected as an actor of color. You know, I didn't expect to even have the opportunity.
It's one of the greatest challenges I've ever had in my life. Not just in my career as an actor, but just in my life. It plums the depth of your
And the closest thing to description of acting for me is being a psychologist. You know, you are creating a world so strong. It's so real
for yourself that it induces behavior. And as a student of human behavior, that's the thing that makes you a better actor. And that's exactly what's
a psychologist, it's a study of human behavior. In this play, is one of the great challenges of the study of the human psyche.
AMANPOUR: It is a marathon. It's like 3 1/2 hours long.
AMANPOUR: And --
PIERCE: With intermission.
AMANPOUR: With intermission, yes. But nonetheless, it is a commitment.
AMANPOUR: And you are practically on stage the whole way through, you are.
AMANPOUR: And you are, in this version, progressively kind of losing it.
AMANPOUR: And so, when you talk about psychology and human psyche, I wonder how difficult it was for you just to keep -- you know, to keep your
own spirit together because it's a very dispiriting story. It's the kind of the end of the American dream, the disillusion of a family, and the --
AMANPOUR: -- dissolution of the principle character.
PIERCE: It is really -- I had to -- I took a note from Philip Seymour Hoffman on Broadway. We share an agent. And I asked my agent, what did he
say about playing the role? And he said, it's the 24/7. So, I made that commitment just as in the rehearsal process. And then also, as I'm
performing it now, I realized I have to carve out some time for myself to actually do some self-care when it comes to my own psyche.
I normally look at something very light, I read something light, something comedic. I have a decent meal for dinner. And all to step away from the
fact this man is breaking down psychologically. That he has lost hope. It is an investigation of your own insecurities.
It's the first time I've ever subscribed to the idea of an actor saying, oh, man, I'm so deep in this role. I have to break-away from it. I always
feel as though I can play the character and then just leave it at the theater. But in this case, it was really examining -- self-examination to
the point that you have to be very careful --
AMANPOUR: Not to tip over the edge yourself.
PIERCE: -- not to lose -- not to tip over the edge yourself.
AMANPOUR: And you mentioned Philip Seymour Hoffman. I mean, he's no longer with us.
PIERCE: It's one of those things, as I was doing this play, I thought of that. I actually had to kind of check my drinking when I was doing the
play. I would come home and drink a lot when I was doing rehearsal. And so, you have to be very careful.
AMANPOUR: So, you had to really impose some discipline on yourself.
AMANPOUR: Seeing it again, and I've seen it before, different actors, I just couldn't help but think this is not just a tragedy in itself. Does
that affect you, as well, the fact that this really is, maybe, more than at any other time since it was written really relevant?
PIERCE: Well, that's the thing that makes it a classic. What makes it a classic is the fact it speaks to the humanity across time and place, age,
race, gender, and, well, it was written 70 years ago, it is relevant today and it will be relevant 70 years from now because it is a cautionary tale
of the ugly side of human nature and the mistakes we make in our communities of giving into this idea of just materialistic wealth that that
is more important than the individual finding character within himself.
And it is so significant today because we have to understand that our value are in the people of our communities, period.
AMANPOUR: And, again, so relevant. Because the idea of the inequality, the left behind and the resulting populist backlash, the nationalist
AMANPOUR: You mentioned being a person of color that this was a great opportunity for you. But actually, it's completely unprecedented ensemble,
AMANPOUR: It's the first time "Death of a Salesman" has been done with an all-black cast.
PIERCE: Yes. And it's not all black, it's just the Loman family that's black.
AMANPOUR: Sorry. Yes.
PIERCE: Yes. It has been done before in regional theaters in America in different community theaters around. But on this scale, it's historic. To
be on the west end, to be exposed to so many people here in the heart of London, which is the capital of theater in the world, is quite historic.
AMANPOUR: It's 2019, 400 years since 1619 when --
AMANPOUR: -- the first Africans came as slaves to America. I wonder what you think about where you are as people today given we see the really tough
edge of racism still so present, we also see such a huge focus, there's novels, there are films, there's theater, there's, you know, massive
articles and radio pod casts on the African-American experience. And basically, telling the world that American, essentially, was built to a
large part on the back of your people.
AMANPOUR: In every which way, meaning music, art, literature, everything, agriculture.
AMANPOUR: How do you see it?
PIERCE: Well, I am an accolade of Albert Murray.
And he believed, as do I, that the uniqueness of the African-American experience is something that contributes to the overall understanding of
the human experience, that that is our specific contribution that we gave, that there is a concurrency that happens, that, in the face of -- in the
face of oppression, of violence, of prejudice, that there has to be something in the human spirit that adapts, that is improvisational, that,
within that restriction, you can find ways of freedom and being unrestricted and uninhibited.
That's the essential nature of what jazz is, right, the finite amount of notes that you have to honor, but you can put them together in an infinite
amount of possibilities in the individual who plays the solo.
And his solo can go or her solo can go wherever it wants to go, at the same time honor the chords, right, and honor the framework. Ultimately, that
contribution is unique to our experience that we, within this framework of coming from 1619 to now, 2019, to understand that, over those 400 years,
that we have come to an understanding of how to adapt in the face of that oppression, and how you cannot only adapt to survive, but adapt to thrive,
because we have given so much to the discussion of Western civilization and culture, and that, with that in mind, with that in mind, we also have to
remember that is an ugly part of human nature.
One of the most detrimental things that we could subscribe to is this idea of being post-racial, right, because, ultimately, it is -- the original sin
of America is in our DNA.
And we have to be vigilant in fighting it, like a chronic disease. It's not something that is going to go away. And we have moments like now that
we lift the veil and actually see the ugliness. I think it's naive -- I think it is naive when people say, oh, where is this coming from? I didn't
Oh, you know, I really -- I hate when people say that I never really knew that this sort of thing happened. They see Charlottesville, and they're
shocked, you know?
And it's a danger because, even with overwhelming proof of videos where we've seen unarmed black men murdered, there's still people that doubt
their lying eyes. So, there's a vigilance that we, as an African-American community, also understand, that, along with all the achievements, that
that has to be the duality, be ever vigilant, because there are those who do not have your best interests at heart.
AMANPOUR: I mean, it is very heavy. It really is, because, I mean, it just still such -- as you say, it's such a vigilance that we all have to
PIERCE: But here is the other thing with that.
But the blues idiom, which is what Albert Murray so eloquently spoke about, is that duality, that, in spite of that, you can still achieve and actually
fulfill some sort of human development, right, because that's what the blues is all about.
The blues is not, oh, I ain't got no shoes, oh, and my feet hurt. The blues is, oh, I ain't got no shoes and my feet hurt, but I'm still going to
walk to Chicago, because they got a job up there.
It's that duality that always brings to light that the two can coexist. Never let one overwhelm the other.
AMANPOUR: Music features unusually strong in your production of "Death of a Salesmen."
Music for the African-American is a defining art form, and art being a form where we reflect on who we are. Entertainment is just the byproduct of
art. Art is actually formulating a perspective about living a purposeful life.
The first song is a hymn that we sing in the play. It's about someone who is going to see their loved ones again, hoping to take that river and it
will travel them back to who they are.
It's really -- it's really emblematic of Willy trying to find his truthfulness.
And it was -- the first day of rehearsal, it was played, and I just wept, because I realized it was exactly the story that's been in my family my
entire life that I always heard, Aristile Harris sold as a baby with his mother in Kentucky, as one white man sold, enslaved people to another.
And his earliest memory is, his brothers and sisters and his father on the banks of the river. And at night, his mother would lead him in prayers,
saying, "One day" -- excuse me -- "Aristile, if you ever get free, go back and find your family."
He never did. And no one in the family has ever made that reconnection to find the Christophes in Kentucky. And that search, that search for the
connection of who you are and your identity is in the music and in just creation of jazz itself in Congo Square, this example of that, where
Africans, enslaved Africans, found freedom in their creativity before they found their own physical freedom.
They took the bamboula, African sticks, combined it with the brass music of Europe, and made jazz. Those are the contributions to the human existence
that the African-Americans have made. And that's music, and that's what we tried to put in the play as well.
AMANPOUR: I want to get back to your -- the origins of what motivates you to be an actor.
You came on a school trip or a family trip to London...
AMANPOUR: ... when you were 15 years old?
PIERCE: Yes, I was 15 years old. I was studying at the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts, which is a performing arts high school in New Orleans,
and came here with Elliott Keener, my teacher and my mentor.
And I saw the RSC, the Royal Shakespeare Company, Kate Nelligan in "As You Like It." And I saw Yul Brynner on the West End in...
AMANPOUR: "The King and I."
PIERCE: "King and I," yes, with a 30-minute-long curtain call. I will never forget that. Oh, he was great.
AMANPOUR: He was great.
PIERCE: And then I saw "Evita." I saw "The Mousetrap," which has been running for 70...
AMANPOUR: I think it's still on, right?
PIERCE: It still is on.
And I realized then, wow, you can be a professional actor. At that point, I only thought that, you know, you could do community theater, because
that's just basically what was happening in New Orleans, community theater.
And I never -- and I knew there was New York, and there was that possibility. But when I saw the tradition of theater here in London,
people go to theater here the way we watch television in the United States. That sparked me to be an actor.
AMANPOUR: I would be remiss if I didn't ask you about "Suits," because many people got to know you in "Suits," and also because we're in sitting
here in England, you were the father of Meghan Markle's character.
AMANPOUR: She's going through a hard time right now in the press. And there's all sorts of allegations, certainly by her own husband, Prince
Harry, that the tabloid press is piling on in a very unfair way, with tinges of racism.
Do you feel -- do you see that? Do you -- what do you think?
PIERCE: When evil people plot, good people plan.
Meghan, as any woman of color who has a great parent like her mother, bless her, probably knows and prepared, because all parents prepare their
children that way, and saying, there are people that don't have your best interests at heart just because of who you are. And what you need to do is
focus on those who do have your best interests at heart and who do love you.
And so that's to be expected, because that's the ugly side of human nature. And so I would just hope for her that she focuses on two people right now,
that lovely child named Archie and that wonderful man, who is a prince, Prince Harry. That's the only thing that is important.
And be the patron to the arts that she is. I'm thankful to her, because, if it wasn't for her, "Death of a Salesmen" wouldn't be on the West End.
PIERCE: Yes. She's a patron of the arts here.
And the Young Vic, it started at the Young Vic. The entire theater community here is subsidized in a way by this government and monarchy.
That is not done anyplace else.
So, she's indirectly -- well, no, really, actually directly responsible for the theater that I am so happy to be a part of.
AMANPOUR: That's nice.
Has she come to see your performance?
PIERCE: She hasn't. She was having the child the first time.
PIERCE: We did communicate. I sent an invitation to her. And her office came back and said, we'll look for an opportunity.
So, hopefully -- I'm here for a couple more months, so, hopefully, they'll be able to come through.
AMANPOUR: How does this all stack up? And I'm going to play a little bit -- little clip from "The Wire."
How does "Suits" or "Death of a Salesman" -- I know they're all very different, but "The Wire" kind of exploded you into the public
AMANPOUR: So it's a very important part your work.
PIERCE: It's the most important part of my career so far. People wouldn't know who I was if it wasn't for "The Wire."
AMANPOUR: I'm going to play a clip.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "THE WIRE")
PIERCE: My father had me on the street. But, like any young man, I wanted to be hard too. So, I would turn up at all the house parties where the
tough boys hung.
(EXPLETIVE DELETED) They knew I wasn't one of them. Them hard cases would come up and they would me and say: "Go home, schoolboy. You don't belong
Didn't realize at the time what they were doing for me. As rough as that neighborhood could be, we had us a community.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: That is really poignant, that community, because you were talking about -- so you are Bunk, the police officer.
AMANPOUR: And you are chastising Omar for a life of crime.
PIERCE: Yes, a homicidal -- homicidal life of crime. He is actually a killer who's leaving all of these bodies.
I found that most African-American police officers became police officers because the criminality that was happening in their neighborhood did not
reflect the good people that were there, that it was just maybe 1 percent making it very difficult for the 99 percent that get up every day, law-
abiding, just trying to live a good life and provide for their families, educate themselves, and enjoy a better quality of life.
And that's why they became police officers. But African-American police officers who speak to me about that role all the time said, that's the
thing they appreciated the most, because that's the thing that they want people to know, that we became police officers because we saw the
criminality that was disproportionally affecting my neighborhood, that I wanted to be able to do something about it.
AMANPOUR: It's a great place to end, on community.
What a body of work.
Wendell Pierce, thank you very much, indeed.
PIERCE: Thank you very much. Really happy to be here.
AMANPOUR: Such an insightful take there.
And next up, two time Emmy nominee and contagiously cheerful Ellie Kemper, star of comedies like "Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt," "Bridesmaids," and "The
Ellie's now put her wit to pen and paper in a new memoir called "My Squirrel Days."
She joined our Michel Martin as Kimmy Schmidt, Netflix's happiest character, is ending her run.
MICHEL MARTIN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Ellie Kemper, thank you so much for joining us.
ELLIE KEMPER, ACTRESS: Thank you for having me.
MARTIN: And congratulations on everything.
KEMPER: Thank you.
MARTIN: But I wanted to talk about your latest offering, your book, "My Squirrel Days."
And, of course, as one would expect, you make fun of yourself for writing it.
MARTIN: You suggest that it's sort of -- that you were required to, somehow, that perhaps it's in the Constitution.
MARTIN: That an actress at your level is supposed to write a book.
But why did you really want to write the book?
KEMPER: I wanted to write the book.
I have been writing for a while. I wrote for The Onion, the satirical newspaper The Onion, "McSweeney's," which is the humor magazine. And I
really wanted to write a more full book, I guess, a collection of essays.
And I wanted to give myself a deadline, because the problem is always nice in theory to be able to write a book, but getting it down on the page is
one -- is a different story altogether.
So, actually, when I found out I was pregnant, I thought, OK, I'm going to be giving birth in July. I have no idea how my life is going to change
after that. I know that I have like six months before I'll have a baby, so I'm just going to try to write as much as possible.
So I put together as much of the proposal as I could. We signed on to write the book in June. And then I had the baby in July, and then it took
like two more years to write the book.
MARTIN: Did you always dream of writing a book? Did you always want to write a book? Is there something about a book that feels important or
KEMPER: Yes, there is something satisfying about having an actual bound copy of a book of things that I wrote. It's also terrifying, because you
can't go back and change it.
But I did -- I also sort of wanted to demonstrate to myself that I could do something other than act. I wanted to -- it was -- I did set it up, I
think, as a challenge for myself, but, also, I just wanted -- I wanted it to be entertaining.
MARTIN: And you also talk about the fact that it's such a cliche, but it's -- in your case, it's like one door closes, and another opens.
MARTIN: There was a job that you had desperately, desperately -- if you don't mind my saying...
KEMPER: Oh, yes.
MARTIN: ... desperately wanted.
MARTIN: Didn't get.
Would you mind telling us?
KEMPER: The "Parks and Recreation"?
KEMPER: So, I -- this is where it all started.
I had auditioned for "Saturday Night Live." I did not get a part on "Saturday Night Live," but the silver lining was that I guess, to be -- use
a discussing term, heat, I feel like when I auditioned for the show, my name was out there.
So, OK, so, suddenly, I started having meetings with, like, important agents and signing on with them. And one of these agents set me up for a
meeting with Greg Daniels and Mike Schur, who adapted the British version of "The Office" to American television.
So, I felt the meeting went well. It was so great. And then a few months later, I got called back for an audition. And I didn't know at the time
that it was for "Parks and Recreation." I just knew it was for the new show they were working on.
And so I had an audition. I thought it went fine. And then my manager called me a week later to tell me I had not gotten the part. And I felt,
like, so crushed, because I thought, oh, this was my big opportunity, and nothing came of it. But, oh, well, what can you do? You can, like, lick
your wounds for a day, but then get on with it.
And a few months after that, the -- there was a storyline in "The Office" where Pam, who was the receptionist, was going to work at the Michael Scott
Paper Company for a few episodes. So they called me in to audition to be the temporary replacement. And I got the part.
And then that part ended up being extended and stayed on for the rest of the series.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "THE OFFICE")
OSCAR NUNEZ, ACTOR: Oh, for God's sake.
KEMPER: Planking is one of those things where, hey, you either got it or you don't. And I don't. But I am so excited to be a part of it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KEMPER: I don't know what the lesson is there. I think it's to take any opportunity you have and hope that timing and luck is on your side, because
so much of it is just good luck.
MARTIN: I just think that that's true in life for a lot of people, but, in your field, it's so particularly true.
Your character on, for example, the "Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt" is kind of like a really super hyped version of you. I mean, she's like super
KEMPER: Total -- yes.
MARTIN: Super positive.
KEMPER: Super hype, yes, version of me.
KEMPER: I would -- for like a fraction of her optimism -- correct.
I mean, let's be honest. Like, that -- it's true. It's sort of an amped- up version of myself. And, yes, there is only so what you can do with most things in life, I guess. You try to have control, but what control do you
I don't know.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "UNBREAKABLE KIMMY SCHMIDT")
KEMPER: Life beats you up. You can either curl up in a ball and die, or you can stand up and say, we're different, and you can't break us.
UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Hey, red, you're making me wish I was those jeans.
KEMPER: Well, I wish I was your yellow hat.
Look out, New York. Nothing can stop us now.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MARTIN: Why are you on your last season of "Kimmy Schmidt?"
You just -- you feel that you have said all you have to say about her? I mean, I think a lot of us are still interested in her adventures above the
KEMPER: Oh, my gosh.
I love these characters. I love this story. I love their world. There is talk. I don't -- I don't have confirmation this. There is talk that there
might be a movie for Netflix. I hope that that happens, because it'd be so wonderful to revisit these characters.
But I do feel like the creators and the studio and Netflix felt like, in this day and age, in like streaming time, we had over 50 episodes. That's,
like, a long time in this day and age. And I feel like we were so lucky to be with these characters.
It sounds like they're all dead. They're not dead, but we were so lucky to be with these characters as long as we were. I personally and selfishly
hope we can do a movie just so we can revisit them.
But, yes, I think it was a wonderfully nice run with them.
MARTIN: It's interesting to me that you -- again, this might just be your personality -- you have an attitude of gratitude -- but that you give
credit to the people who gave you specific advice along the way.
Like, I noticed you make a point of highlighting particularly women who gave you good advice or stood up for you or helped you with opportunities.
Like, there was just one scene. You remember -- you were writing about the fact that for a minute on "The Office," you dyed your hair darker...
MARTIN: ... so that -- because they wanted you to look different from another character, and she also had red hair.
MARTIN: And so you did. And then Mindy Kaling, who was also the show, said: You're a good sport. I wouldn't dye my hair.
Well, first of all, I adore Mindy Kaling. I think her voice is singular. I think that what she does is incredible. And there really is no one like
her. I think she's incredibly smart.
And she had been -- she was writing at the show from the beginning. So, when I joined as, you know, a newer cast member, I did certainly feel like
on my second day of shooting at their house -- this is not my house -- I'm a guest at their house -- I'll dye my hair brown. I'll do whatever you
say. This is my big break. I'll do whatever.
I thought there was such wisdom in her response, which was: "Oh, I wouldn't dye my hair if they asked me to."
And I thought, oh, that's an option. I didn't have to say yes. Like, I thought that was very empowering in a way, because you don't have to. You
can say what you would prefer.
MARTIN: So what was it like working on "Bridesmaids"?
KEMPER: That was the thrill of a lifetime.
Annie Mumolo and Kristen Wiig wrote the screenplay, and I auditioned. I actually auditioned for Melissa McCarthy's party, whose character's name
I'm suddenly forgetting. But I was cast as Becca. She's probably closer to me in real life, sadly.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "BRIDESMAIDS")
KEMPER: Is this your husband?
KRISTEN WIIG, ACTRESS: No. No, no, no, no, I don't know him. I'm sorry.
UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Do you want to go for a walk later?
WIIG: Oh, I can't. I can't.
UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: All right.
WIIG: I'm sorry.
KEMPER: I'm so sorry.
WIIG: I'm not with anybody. I'm here solo.
KEMPER: Let's start it again.
KEMPER: I'm Becca. I'm here with my husband. You don't have a husband. Sorry.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KEMPER: But that was crazy, because, when we were making the movie, I don't think anyone set out to change the world with, like, this is going to
be all women, we're going to make an empowering movie for women. That was never brought up.
Instead, it was, oh, here's a story we wanted to tell, that Kristen and Annie wanted to tell, about being -- having -- being a bridesmaid, being a
bride, having friends get married, and how that changes lives.
And then the -- all of the hilarious moments that ensued and all of the emotion and comedy that surrounds that was brought into the story. And --
but I think what was so funny was, after the movie came out, and when they were promoting the movie, I specifically remember one review saying, hey,
it's a chick flick that doesn't suck.
And I thought, OK, first of all, like, where do I begin?
MARTIN: Excuse me. Really.
KEMPER: I know.
The best thing that came out of "Bridesmaids" is that I always knew women were funny. You always knew were funny. Like, everyone who in the movie
understood women were funny. That's why we were in the movie.
I think that it demonstrated to box -- to studios that a comedy, a huge comedy, with an all-female cast can also make money. That was the best
thing, because then studios think, oh, well, we will keep making movies with all women in that case.
MARTIN: What is it about improv?
I mean, it seems to give life to so many people. Could you describe it to those of us who have like zero talent?
KEMPER: Yes. Oh, untalented you.
MARTIN: None whatsoever.
KEMPER: I actually...
MARTIN: But just tell me about it. I have never done it. Just what's it like?
KEMPER: Oh, see, I love it.
So I started doing improv in college. And I actually took a class in high school, but I really -- I joined the improv troupe called Quipfire.
Improv troupes in college always have hilarious names, like Quipfire, firing quips. And I love it because it's the opposite of stand-up. You
are never on your own. The jokes do not begin and end with you. It's truly about the ensemble.
And the best -- now I'll get little artsy-fartsy, but the best improv sets are those that serve the whole. So it's never about the individual. It's
about the entire piece.
And the central tenet of improv is, yes, and? So you take the reality that you're seeing partners given you, and -- sorry -- you accept that reality,
and then you add something to heighten it. So it's sort of this lovely way of interacting with people.
And might I say the world would be a nicer place if we all obeyed the rules of improv. But it's just -- it's not nerve-racking because you have your
teammates there to help -- not only to help you, but to define the piece.
So I just -- I love it. When I auditioned for my troupe in college, I did feel like it was something that I was good at. And I don't feel that way
about most things.
MARTIN: One of the things I really liked about the book is that you are really honest about a lot of things, even though you're making fun of
yourself through the whole way.
But I'm appreciating the fact that you acknowledged that your parents paid your way a lot, that they created a foundation that allowed you to kind of
get your start. But you have mention several times that you're really grateful to your parents.
Can you just talk about why it was so important to you to say that?
KEMPER: Yes, well, first and foremost, because I am so grateful to my parents. I have two of the greatest parents -- or the two parents on the
planet. They are supportive, they're caring, they're loving.
But I also thought it was important to mention it my book because I didn't want to misrepresent what was going on. Like, I knew that when I moved to
New York, my parents were supportive of the idea of me pursuing a career in comedy or acting or however it might play out, but also that I was able to
take the time to write my own shows, to take classes while working.
I mean, I needed -- it was important to earn money to pay the rent. I knew that, if something went horribly wrong, I would be able to ask my parents
for help. So I just thought it was important to mention, because I didn't -- I wanted to be fair and realize that not everyone has that advantage.
MARTIN: One of the things I noticed about it, it's kind of like a gift to a younger self.
I mean, it's like a road map for people who might want to do the things that you have done.
KEMPER: Oh, thank you.
MARTIN: And it's very honest.
Like, I was wondering if, when you wrote it, were you thinking, it would have been nice to have a book like this when I was -- when I was starting
KEMPER: Yes, well, thank you for noticing that, because I have to -- I have to confess that the parts about doing improv, improvisation, in New
York and trying to get an agent and doing commercial and stuff, to me, I thought, oh, is this going to be boring?
Is someone going to want to read this? And I thought of the -- I thought of the very people reading it who might be looking for advice -- or not
advice, necessarily, but just...
MARTIN: Well, it is advice. Sure, why wouldn't they look for advice?
I mean, wouldn't you like to have had advice when you were starting out?
And I remember -- I mean, I think -- I'm not comparing my book to Tina Fey's. I remember reading "Bossypants" and being like, oh, this is --
she's worked at the Y and this is how she started. And, of course, it's just -- it's priceless information.
So, I hope that the stories that I told about starting out, because any career as an artist is uncertain, and there isn't a set path. So, that's
the version mine took. And I hope it's interesting.
MARTIN: Well, what do you want to do next?
I mean, gosh, you have been the star of a breakout hit.
KEMPER: Oh, that's nice. Thank you.
MARTIN: You have got a beautiful family. You have got your book.
I am trying to figure that out, because this is the first time in my career where I will be making a shift, trying to find a new job while have --
being a mother, because, when "Kimmy" started, I didn't have my son, James, yet.
And so now James is 2. And I feel like striking that balance, which is impossible for any working parent -- I have no idea how anyone balances any
of it -- is something that I'm going to try to work out.
MARTIN: Ellie Kemper, your latest book, your first book, "My Squirrel Days."
Thank you so much for talking to us.
KEMPER: Thank you for talking with me. That was a pleasure.
AMANPOUR: That's it for now. Thanks for watching this special edition of AMANPOUR.
And remember, you can always listen to our podcast, see us online at AMANPOUR.com, and you can follow me on Instagram and Twitter.
Goodbye from London.