Here's The Thing with Alec Baldwin
Summary: From WNYC Studios, award-winning actor Alec Baldwin takes listeners into the lives of artists, policy makers and performers. Alec sidesteps the predictable by going inside the dressing rooms, apartments, and offices of people we want to understand better: Ira Glass, Lena Dunham, David Brooks, Roz Chast, Chris Rock and others. Hear what happens when an inveterate guest becomes a host. WNYC Studios is a listener-supported producer of other leading podcasts including Radiolab, Snap Judgment, On the Media, Death, Sex & Money, Nancy and many others. © WNYC Studios
This interview was conducted in April 2016, prior to new reports that Anthony Weiner continued to be involved in explicit text and digital message exchanges. Anthony Weiner is charismatic, full of ideas, quick on his feet — he's a natural politician. These personal strengths were well suited to governance during his stint in the New York City Council, and as a U.S. Representative in Washington. But his personal flaws became very public, and very visible, during a series of well-publicized sexting scandals. The professional fallout was swift in both instances: Weiner resigned his House seat, and later suspended his candidacy in the 2013 race for mayor of New York City. He talks to host Alec Baldwin about the ways in which an elected official has to publicly atone for private misconduct, and considers his next professional move.
Ellie Kemper leapt into pop culture consciousness in 2009 when she joined the cast of "The Office" during the show's fifth season. Her portrayal of earnest, perky receptionist Erin Hannon introduced viewers to Kemper's strongest weapon as an actress: her own effervescent personality. And Kemper's bright disposition is now front and center in the Tina Fey-created Netflix series "The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt." "I am naturally cheerful and sunny — not manic," Kemper tells host Alec Baldwin. "I think for an actress, I'm the most normal I've ever met." She's also hysterically funny, and talks about her formative experiences learning improv comedy from Jon Hamm; her newfound love of Dick Cavett; and why a set of bathroom fixtures recently brought her to tears.
Mary Brosnahan recalls a trip she took to Belfast, Northern Ireland, during the height of The Troubles: she was 16, raised in a Detroit suburb, but here she saw soldiers deployed with rifles right in the city center. The trip politicized the young Brosnahan, even though the seed didn't sprout right away. She had wanted a career in the film industry, but a stint doing presidential advance work for Michael Dukakis reactivated the political animal, and conversations she had with homeless neighbors near Cooper Union suggested a focus. She took a job with Coalition for the Homeless, and quickly became its chief operating officer. In the more than twenty years since, she's been a tireless advocate for New York's homeless — a population that now surpasses 60,000. Brosnahan sketches the history of the chronic urban problem for host Alec Baldwin, and offers insight into what she's learned at the helm of a New York institution.
Director Cary Fukunaga was born half-Japanese, half-Swedish. His works travel wide cultural distances, as well. He's told an immigrant story (Sin Nombre), created authentic British period drama (Jane Eyre), and explored gothic noir (True Detective). His latest film, Beasts of No Nation, travels to an African country of no name. And while he's got a great eye for the specifics of his locations, Fukunaga also studies the emotional landscapes of complicated characters. He tells host Alec Baldwin that he enjoys the conflict between the appearance of normalcy and a darker underlying reality. WNYC wants to get to know you better! Take our survey
In 1993, tens of thousands of native Ecuadorians filed a civil suit against oil giant Texaco, alleging that the corporation's activity in the country's north-east Lago Agrio oil fields resulted in the poisoning of drinking water, land toxicity, and biological defects and cancers among local communities. A young Harvard-trained lawyer named Steven Donziger first visited Ecuador in 1993 as part of the plaintiffs' legal team. After decades of litigation — still ongoing — Donziger has ultimately become the Ecuadorian plaintiffs' primary American legal counsel, as well as an outspoken critic of the legal tactics employed by Texaco (which was absorbed by Chevron in 2001). In 2011, Donziger won in Ecuador, resulting in a $9.5 billion judgment against Chevron. But a federal judge in New York ruled that the judgment could not be enforced due to what he described as the “dishonest and corrupt” measures of Donziger’s team. Donziger is currently appealing that decision.
Joanne Liu is the the International President of Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders), a non-governmental organization that administers humanitarian medical aid and assistance to war- and disaster-ridden areas. They don't just treat victims of bomb blasts or famine; MSF also makes public pronouncements about the political forces exacerbating oppressive conditions for innocent civilians. MSF's resolve to work in the world's most dangerous places has been tested lately. Last October, a U.S.-led airstrike in Kunduz, Afghanistan, devastated a non-partisan hospital run by the organization, and killed dozens of people. And this February, at least seven people were killed after another airstrike hit an MSF-supported hospital in Syria's Idlib province. Despite the blows her organization has incurred over the last year, Liu tells host Alec Baldwin she still believes that wars have rules about the treatment of non-combatants and civilians, and articulates MSF's role in addressing protracted political conflicts that compound injury to innocent people.
For movie fans who came of age in the 1980s, Molly Ringwald is the definitive "it" girl. As the creative inspiration for director John Hughes, Ringwald was the de facto center of generationally-significant films like 'The Breakfast Club,' 'Sixteen Candles,' and 'Pretty in Pink' (written by Hughes and directed by Howard Deutch). Her red hair and sardonic wit became cultural icons all their own, and made Ringwald one of the greatest teen stars in film history. But she tells host Alec Baldwin that these films, as important as they are to a whole generation of movie fans, are passing moments in her growth as an artist and an actor: she's written two books, acted in numerous films and television shows, and released a jazz record, 'Except Sometimes,' in 2013.
Mickey Rourke started boxing as a young man as a way to cope with a rough home and a rough neighborhood. He was undefeated as an amateur in the ring, before coming to New York to study at The Actors Studio. Working with renowned acting coach Sandra Seacat, Rourke found success on the screen in the 1980s, starring in The Pope of Greenwich Village, Body Heat, Angel Heart and others. But there was a string of disappointments, too — and a reputation for being a pugnacious collaborator — and Rourke disappeared from Hollywood for much of the 90s and early 2000s. He resurfaced in the acclaimed 2009 drama The Wrestler, and was nominated for an Academy Award. Rourke tells host Alec Baldwin about how he learned to throw punches in his childhood, and why boxing is still the source of his pride and his renewed on-set discipline.
In 1985, Steven Avery was convicted and imprisoned for sexual assault in Manitowoc County, Wisconsin. He served nearly two decades of his sentence before being exonerated on the basis of new forensic evidence. Shortly after launching a multimillion dollar lawsuit seeking compensation for his wrongful detention, Avery was arrested and convicted for a horrific local murder. The ten-part Netflix documentary series Making a Murderer examines both cases, and asks whether and in what ways the criminal justice system has failed Avery over the last thirty years. The series, written and directed by Laura Ricciardi and Moira Demos, has caused an uproar, and the case is undergoing new public scrutiny based on the film's interviews and narrative heft. The filmmakers tell host Alec Baldwin why the current case against Avery is inconclusive, why they're disappointed in public statements from officials familiar with the case, and how a decade of collaboration has changed them as professionals and partners.
In anticipation of a new season of Here's The Thing, we're looking back at some of our favorite interviews from 2015. The Graduate. Midnight Cowboy. Lenny. That's just the beginning of Dustin Hoffman's legendary Hollywood career. Over the last five decades, he's stretched and contorted himself into dozens of defining roles, earning recognition as one of the most talented actors in cinema history. Hoffman tells host Alec Baldwin that he savors each new opportunity like it's the first, and recalls his salad days when he was mis-cast, underestimated, and, on at least one notable occasion, sick on a co-star's shoe. Edie Falco says she is nothing like Carmela Soprano. Nor does she have much in common with Nurse Jackie. But Falco made these characters two of the most identifiable and human women in television history. She has an armful of Emmys, Golden Globes, and Screen Actors Guild Awards—and a cadre of dedicated fans—to prove it. Along the way, she's battled cancer, raised two children on her own, and is a recovering alcoholic. She credits her multiple successes to good luck, great mentors, and says there's no predicting which way her career could have gone—or will go yet.
It's a new year — and soon, a new season of Here's The Thing. So today we're looking back at two of our favorite interviews from 2015. After shooting the pilot for Sex and the City, Sarah Jessica Parker told HBO she didn't want to go through with the project. But after the first day’s taping, she says, she "didn't want to be anywhere else." Parker is now indelibly linked with her character Carrie Bradshaw—one of the most prominent women in the history of television. Ian Schrager is in the hospitality business. Hotels or nightclubs, uptown or downtown, Miami or Manhattan, Schrager defines luxury and leisure. In 1977, he co-founded Studio 54, which quickly became the epitome of the disco era's cultural mores. It was Mick Jagger, Andy Warhol, Cher, and as Schrager recalls, "serious, sweaty dancing." Today, Schrager says nightclubs are a young person's business; he's long since reinvented himself as one of the pioneers of the boutique hotel.
The London Philharmonia is one of the world's great performing ensembles; over its seventy year history, it has engaged conductors as distinguished as Wilhelm Furtwängler, Arturo Toscanini, Richard Strauss and others. Today, Finnish composer Esa-Pekka Salonen holds the baton. He has, of course, absorbed the great traditions of the Old World, but found fresh inspiration in a somewhat unlikely setting: Tinseltown. Salonen spent almost twenty years at the helm of the Los Angeles Philharmonic before landing in London. "It was incredibly helpful to be away from the European, arrogant intellectual canon," Salonen says. "Of course when I started out, I had some residue of that 'culture as medicine' thing. Which is vile." As if all of this wasn't enough to keep busy, now Salonen is also the Composer-In-Residence at the New York Philharmonic. He joins host Alec Baldwin to talk about his passion for composing; the psychological difference between conducting and composing; and why he has a complicated relationship with Italian opera.
When Jimmy Fallon landed a spot on Saturday Night Live in 1998, he told executive producer and comedy kingmaker Lorne Michaels, "I'm going to make you proud." Six years later, Fallon departed as a audience favorite, the show's go-to impressions guy, and the co-host (with Tina Fey) of SNL's "news" unit, Weekend Update. But he became famous without "working blue," and has always wanted everybody to be in on the joke. It's a trait that makes him a perfect television personality. Now, he occupies the most coveted seat in the business, as the host of The Tonight Show. He tells Here's The Thing host Alec Baldwin that he got his start in Saugerties, New York, practicing the stuff that every comic needs in their toolkit: impressions, musical numbers, and...a troll routine. In this clip from SNL in 1998 (referenced in the above interview), Jimmy Fallon and Alec Baldwin unwittingly predict a future success:
Growth comes with costs. On this episode of Here's The Thing, Alec Baldwin talks to two individuals who are protecting places that are most vulnerable to development and destruction. Andrew Berman has been called one of the most powerful people in New York real estate, but not because he's a deep-pocketed developer. Berman is the Executive Director of The Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, where he advocates for the protection and conservation of historically important buildings and sites, including cultural touchstones like the Stonewall Inn. Rob Synder works with thousands of individuals living on islands off the coast of Maine. His organization Island Institute develops community alliances, economic programs, and sustainability initiatives to ensure that island culture remains vibrant, and that local resources remain intact as climate changes and development encroaches.
Amy Schumer says she's been called the "girl next door, fastest-rising comic" for ten years. But it's more true than it's ever been, given three high profile successes in 2015: her increasingly hilarious and transgressive Comedy Central television show "Inside Amy Schumer;" the feature film "Trainwreck" (written by Schumer); and a new HBO comedy special filmed at the Apollo Theater. She talks to host Alec Baldwin about growing up on Long Island, playing the worst person ever, and the Pilates class they shared a decade ago.