After Kirsten Johnson's dad started showing signs of dementia, she had a hard time accepting that his death was getting closer. Her new Netflix documentary, 'Dick Johnson is Dead,' enacts his death from a series of imagined accidents. Johnson has been the cinematographer for over 50 documentaries, including 'Citizenfour.' We'll also talk about her 2016 film 'Cameraperson,' which she's described as a memoir. She spoke with 'Fresh Air' producer Sam Briger.Also, Justin Chang reviews 'The Forty Year...more
Andrew Weissmann, a lead prosecutor in the Mueller investigation, shares his experience with the probe and its report on Russian interference in the 2016 election. Weissmann says the constant threat that President Trump might fire Mueller and shut down the probe and the prospect of Trump granting pardons to key witnesses had an effect on Mueller and his team. Weissman believes Mueller was timid when he should have been aggressive in getting information and testimony, and he says the final report...more
In his new book, 'The Bomb,' journalist Fred Kaplan pulls back the curtain on how U.S. presidents, their advisers and generals have thought about, planned for — and sometimes narrowly avoided — nuclear war.Also, Kevin Whitehead reviews the first album from an all-star band of jazz women, called Artemis.
Yannick Nézet-Séguin, conductor of the Metropolitan Opera and Philadelphia Orchestra, talks about Verdi's "Requiem." He'll talk about how Verdi communicates suffering and hope through music, and how music has helped him find a sense of connection during the pandemic. Ken Tucker reviews a new EP from singer-songwriter Mickey Guyton, one of the few Black women recording country music hits.Also, we'll talk about Donald Trump's finances with 'Forbes' senior editor Dan Alexander. His new book is 'Whi...more
The new drama 'The Glorias' is based on the feminist activist's memoir 'My Life on the Road,' and follows Steinem from ages 20 to 40. Steinem spoke with Terry Gross in 2015 about her unique childhood, the illegal abortion she had when she was 22, and how aging has been liberating. We'll also hear an excerpt of her 1987 interview, about the 15th anniversary of 'Ms.' magazine, the feminist publication which she co-founded. Also, TV critic David Bianculli reviews the fourth season of 'Fargo,' starr...more
Yannick Nézet-Séguin, the young, charismatic conductor of the Metropolitan Opera and Philadelphia Orchestra, talks about Verdi's "Requiem." He chose the piece for his inaugural performance as music director of the orchestra in Philadelphia. We'll talk about how Verdi communicates suffering and hope through music, the piece's meaning in Yannick's own life, and how music has helped him find a sense of connection during the pandemic.And John Powers reviews the new Apple TV+ series 'Tehran,' about a...more
'Politico' reporter Dan Diamond describes efforts by Trump loyalist and HHS spokesperson (currently on leave) Michael Caputo to alter weekly CDC reports and have scientists change their findings on the course of the coronavirus pandemic. "Caputo walked in the door of the health department in the middle of this once-in-a-century pandemic, having been personally recruited by the president, and the goal was very much to execute the president's agenda and to knock down any messaging, any communicati...more
'Forbes' senior editor Dan Alexander examines President Trump's sprawling business interests in his new book, 'White House, Inc.' Alexander says the president has broken a number of pledges he made about how he would conduct business while in office. We talk about Trump's holdings and potential conflicts of interest, and what Alexander found when he looked closely at the numbers.Also, Ken Tucker reviews Mickey Guyton's EP 'Bridges' and her single "Black Like Me."
Legal analyst and 'New Yorker' staff writer Jeffrey Toobin spoke with Terry Gross in 2013 about his profile of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, written as she marked her 20th anniversary on the Supreme Court. We'll talk about how her work led to breakthroughs in the equal treatment of women. And Toobin will tell a touching personal story she shared with him. Ginsburg died Sept. 18 at the age of 87.A new documentary, 'Oliver Sacks: His Own Life,' chronicles the late neurologist's efforts to understan...more
Harvard historian and 'New Yorker' writer Jill Lepore tells the story of the Simulmatics Corporation. Founded in 1959, it used a so-called "people machine," a computer program it claimed could predict the impact of political messages or advertising pitches. Her book is 'If Then.'TV critic David Bianculli reviews Ryan Murphy's new Netflix series 'Ratched,' an origin story of the notorious nurse from 'One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest.'Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright and novelist Ayad Akhtar talks...more
The HBO series 'Watchmen' uses sci-fi and action heroes to examine American racism. We talk with show writer Cord Jefferson, who wrote the episode of the series in which the main character narrowly survives the 1921 Tulsa Massacre, when white supremacists destroyed a prosperous Black community. The series has scored 26 Emmy nominations — more than any other series.Also, film critic Justin Chang reviews the grim thriller 'The Devil All the Time,' now streaming on Netflix.
The Grammy winning singer-songwriter started out in Lester Flatt's backup band. Now he's being inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame. Stuart played some of his own music in this 2014 interview, and talked about his archive of cowboy couture.
College campuses have become the pandemic's newest hotspots, with more than 88,000 COVID cases at the nation's colleges and universities. We talk with reporter Scott Carlson about the tough decisions colleges are facing as they decide how to continue classes, test students, and quarantine the sick. We'll also talk about the financial strain these institutions were already facing before the pandemic. TV critic David Bianculli reviews Ryan Murphy's new Netflix series 'Ratched,' an origin story of ...more
Harvard historian and 'New Yorker' writer Jill Lepore tells the story of the Simulmatics Corporation. Founded in 1959, it used a so-called "people machine," a computer program it claimed could predict the impact of political messages or advertising pitches. At the time, Simulmatics drew condemnation from scholars and political leaders who saw it as a threat to democracy. But now, 60 years later, the company's data collection practices and predictive models have become commonplace among political...more
Actor, playwright and novelist Ayad Akhtar won a Pulitzer Prize for 'Disgraced,' his play about an American-born Muslim who hosts a dinner party that sparks a heated discussion of religion and politics. Akhtar's new novel, 'Homeland Elegies,' explores the experiences of a Muslim man who, like Akhtar, grows up in Wisconsin, the son of Pakistani immigrants.Also, Ken Tucker reviews the album 'What Could Be Better' by the band The Happy Fits.
Ghanaian-American author Yaa Gyasi drew on her own experiences growing up in a largely white community in Alabama for her new book, 'Transcendent Kingdom.' In the novel, she explores themes of depression, addiction, religion and race. Book critic Maureen Corrigan reviews pastry chef Lisa Donovan's memoir, 'Our Lady of Perpetual Hunger.'Former FBI agent Ali Soufan interrogated dozens of Al-Qaida members and other extremists in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks. He says he got valuable information...more
Donald Ray Pollock worked in a paper mill and meatpacking plant for 32 years before becoming a writer. He spoke with Terry Gross in 2011 about his acclaimed gothic crime novel, 'The Devil All the Time.' The film adaptation, starring Robert Pattinson and Tom Holland, will begin streaming on Netflix on Sept. 16.Also, we listen back to an interview with Anna Konkle and Maya Erskine, creators and stars of the Hulu comedy series 'PEN15.' They play 13-year-old versions of themselves, navigating the tr...more
Historian David Nasaw tells the story of the concentration camp survivors, POWs and other displaced people who remained in Germany following the war. Many had no home to return to. Nasaw's book is 'The Last Million.'
Ghanaian-American author Yaa Gyasi drew on her own experiences growing up in a largely white community in Alabama for her new book, 'Transcendent Kingdom.' In the novel, she explores themes of depression, addiction, religion and race. Her award-winning debut novel, 'Homegoing,' opens in Ghana in the 1700s and chronicles the legacy of slavery from the perspective of several generations of the same family. Also, book critic Maureen Corrigan reviews 'Our Lady of Perpetual Hunger,' a memoir by pas...more
Former FBI agent Ali Soufan interrogated dozens of Al-Qaida members and other extremists in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks. He says he got valuable information by preparing carefully for interviews and building rapport with his subjects. When CIA contractors used coercive techniques — like waterboarding — Soufan says subjects ceased cooperating, or gave bad information to make the torment stop. Soufan's 2011 memoir about his experiences appeared with large portions redacted by the CIA. After ...more
Today is the 90th birthday of the great tenor saxophonist and improviser Sonny Rollins. We celebrate by hearing some of his music spanning five decades, with commentary from our jazz critic Kevin Whitehead. And we'll listen back to Terry Gross' 1994 interview with Rollins.Also, we revisit Terry's interview with Octavia Spencer. She's nominated for a best actress Emmy for her performance in the Netflix limited series 'Self Made,' inspired by the story of Madam C.J. Walker, who was born in 1867 t...more
Cherry Jones is nominated for an Emmy for her role in the HBO series 'Succession' as Nan Pierce, the head of a family-owned media empire. She's also known for her roles on 'Transparent,' '24,' and her career in the theater. We'll talk about these roles and growing up gay in Tennessee. Also, TV critic David Bianculli reviews the TCM series, 'Women Make Film.'In his new book, 'The Quiet Americans,' author Scott Anderson profiles four daring and resourceful soldiers who became intelligence agents a...more
Both RuPaul and Padma Lakshmi are nominated for Emmys in the best reality/competition category. RuPaul describes his drag persona as "one-part Cher, two-parts David Bowie, one-part Diana Ross and two heaping spoonfuls of Dolly Parton." The reality show he hosts and created, 'RuPaul's Drag Race,' has had 12 seasons. Padma Lakshmi is nominated for her role as host and executive producer on 'Top Chef.' She spoke with Terry Gross about splitting her childhood between the U.S. and India and her early...more
We're revisiting some of our favorite recent entertainment interviews, as we approach the 2020 Emmy Awards. Both guests today are nominated for their lead roles. In the Hulu series 'Little Fires Everywhere,' Kerry Washington co-stars opposite Reese Witherspoon as Mia Warren, a bohemian artist single mom with a mysterious past. Washington spoke with Terry Gross about how she drew on her own mother for the role. In the semi-autobiographical Hulu series 'Ramy,' Ramy Youssef plays a first generation...more
Pulitzer Prize-winning 'New York Times' reporter Michael Schmidt says it's unusual for White House officials to be so focused on preventing a president from hurting the country or breaking the law. His new book, 'Donald Trump v. The United States,' focuses on two staffers who stood up to Trump: Former FBI Director James Comey and former White House Counsel Don McGahn.
In his new book, 'The Quiet Americans,' author Scott Anderson profiles four daring and resourceful soldiers who became intelligence agents after World War II, when America was strong and respected after defeating Nazi Germany. The CIA then embarked on hundreds of ill-considered covert operations in Eastern Europe, and its obsession with fighting Communism propelled it into the subversion of several democratically-elected governments around the world. Anderson says the result was the loss of Amer...more
Jones is nominated for an Emmy for her role in the HBO series 'Succession' as Nan Pierce, the head of a family-owned media empire. She's also known for her roles on 'Transparent,' '24,' and her career in the theater. We'll talk about these roles, growing up gay in Tennessee, and how she struggled with the violence in 'The Handmaid's Tale.'Also, TV critic David Bianculli reviews the TCM series, 'Women Make Film.'
The HBO series 'Watchmen' uses sci-fi and action heroes to examine American racism. We talk with show writer Cord Jefferson, who wrote the episode of the series in which the main character narrowly survives the 1921 Tulsa Massacre, when white supremacists destroyed a prosperous Black community. Kevin Whitehead shares an appreciation of jazz great Charlie Parker for the 100th anniversary of his birth. "It's impossible to understand the Trump era, with its unparalleled polarization, without tracin...more
Jazz saxophonist Charlie Parker created a totally new sound known as bebop, along with other virtuosos like Bud Powell, Dizzy Gillespie and Max Roach. To celebrate Parker's 100th birthday, we go to our archives for interviews with musicians who knew him and loved him: Drummer Max Roach, trumpeter Red Rodney, and alto saxophonist Jackie McLean. And our jazz critic Kevin Whitehead kicks things off with a crash course in what made Parker's playing so brilliant.
'Atlantic' journalist Alexis Madrigal says millions of at-home saliva tests for COVID could be the key to life returning to normal — even if the tests are less accurate than the traditional PCR tests. We talk about the advantages and disadvantages of different kinds of testing, and what it would take for the government to fund and manufacture millions of daily tests. "I think what's happened in the U.S. has been so catastrophic on so many levels — economically, psychologically, educationally — t...more
Historian Rick Perlstein has spent 20 years studying the roots of American conservatism. His latest book, 'Reaganland,' is about the events that propelled Ronald Reagan to the White House and made him a revered figure among Republicans. He says that "viciousness and a naked will to power" has always been part of the conservative Republican coalition.
CNN media correspondent Brian Stelter says the president's "cozy" relationship with Fox News is like nothing he's seen before: "In some ways [Trump] wants to be a television producer more than a president." Stelter's new book is called 'Hoax.'
"It's impossible to understand the Trump era, with its unparalleled polarization, without tracing Stephen Miller's journey to the White House," journalist Jean Guerrero writes in her new book 'Hatemonger.' She describes the ideological arc of Miller's life, investigates his ties to right-wing mentors and far-right groups, and explains his role as Trump's advisor.
'Miami Herald' columnist and author Carl Hiaasen talks about his new novel, 'Squeeze Me,' a hilarious mystery set in Palm Beach, featuring wealthy widows, the president and first lady, a scrappy wildlife removal specialist, and some gigantic Burmese pythons.Film critic Justin Chang reviews the unusual film 'Tesla,' starring Ethan Hawke. Documentary filmmakers Shaul Schwarz and Christina Clusiau talk about their visceral portrait of the U.S. immigration system — including ICE agents, immigrants, ...more
In the summer of 1964, hundreds of student volunteers — most were white and from the North — spent weeks registering African Americans to vote in Mississippi. We hear from Stanley Nelson, director of the 2014 documentary 'Freedom Summer,' and also Charles Cobb, an organizer who was interviewed for the film.Justin Chang reviews 'Tesla,' starring Ethan Hawke.
QAnon, the conspiracy theory that claims President Trump is battling a deep state child sex trafficking ring run by high-profile democrats and celebrities, is the subject of a new 'Atlantic' article by Adrienne LaFrance. "It's almost like a bad spy novel," LaFrance says. QAnon adherents often appear at Trump rallies, and one supporter has won the Republican nomination to a Georgia Congressional seat.
Historian Lesley M.M. Blume's new book, 'Fallout,' tells the story of John Hersey, the young journalist whose on-the-ground reporting in Hiroshima exposed the world to the devastation of nuclear weapons. "Hersey had seen everything from that point, from combat to concentration camps," Blume says. "But he later said that nothing prepared him for what he saw in Hiroshima."Maureen Corrigan reviews 'Black Bottom Saints,' by Alice Randall.
'Miami Herald' columnist and author Carl Hiaasen's new novel, 'Squeeze Me,' is a hilarious mystery set in Palm Beach, featuring wealthy widows, the president and first lady, a scrappy wildlife removal specialist, and some gigantic Burmese pythons. We'll also talk about politics, and battles over voting in Florida that are setting the stage for a dramatic election in November. Also John Powers reviews the documentary 'Coup 53,' about the US-supported coup which overthrew an elected government in ...more
Documentary filmmakers Shaul Schwarz and Christina Clusiau paint a nuanced portrait of the U.S. immigration system — including ICE agents, immigrants, activists and smugglers — in their 6-part Netflix documentary series, 'Immigration Nation.' And jazz critic Kevin Whitehead reviews James Carney's album, 'Pure Heart.'
"Female characters are not [usually] the center of the story," filmmaker Gina Prince-Bythewood says. Her new movie, 'The Old Guard,' follows a diverse group of world-weary warriors who've been alive for centuries. Prince-Bythewood makes history as the first Black woman to direct a film adaptation of a comic book. Film critic Justin Chang reviews the documentary 'Boys State,' about a week-long mock political campaign for teen boys.Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X are frequently seen as op...more
Prejean is best known for her 1993 memoir, 'Dead Man Walking,' about her role as a spiritual adviser to a convicted killer on death row. The story was adapted into an Oscar-winning film starring Susan Sarandon and Sean Penn. Prejean has accompanied six prisoners to their executions and has been at the forefront of activism against the death penalty. She spoke with Terry Gross in 2019. David Bianculli reviews HBO's series 'Lovecraft Country.'
The HBO series 'Watchmen' uses sci-fi and action heroes to examine American racism. Cord Jefferson wrote the episode of the series in which the main character narrowly survives the 1921 Tulsa Massacre, when white supremacists destroyed a prosperous Black community. In addition to writing for 'Succession,' 'The Good Place' and 'The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore,' Jefferson has also written personal essays about his mother's cancer diagnosis, donating a kidney to his father, and being biracial. ...more
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X are frequently seen as opposing forces in the struggle for civil rights, but Black Power scholar Dr. Peniel Joseph says the truth is more nuanced. His new book, 'The Sword and the Shield,' braids together the lives of the two civil rights revolutionaries. Also, film critic Justin Chang reviews the documentary 'Boys State,' about a week-long mock political campaign for teen boys.
Veteran Republican strategist Stuart Stevens says the party's support for Trump reflects the abandonment of principles it long claimed to embrace, such as fiscal restraint, personal responsibility and family values. Stevens has helped get scores of Republicans elected, including George W. Bush and Bob Dole. His new book about how Trumpism has hijacked the party is, 'It Was All A Lie.' Also, TV critic David Bianculli reviews 'Star Trek: Lower Decks,' a CBS All Access cartoon.
"Female characters are not [usually] the center of the story," filmmaker Gina Prince-Bythewood says. Her new movie, 'The Old Guard,' follows a diverse group of world-weary warriors who've been alive for centuries. Prince-Bythewood also talks about choreographing fight scenes, and her other films 'Love & Basketball' and 'Beyond the Lights.'
In 'Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents', Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Isabel Wilkerson examines the laws and practices that created a bipolar caste system in the U.S. — and how the Nazis borrowed from it.Book critic Maureen Corrigan reviews two new novels: 'The Aunt Who Wouldn't Die,' and 'Blacktop Wasteland.'Since 2004, more than 2,000 American newspapers have gone out of business. 'Washington Post' media columnist Margaret Sullivan talks about the decline of local news coverage, a cris...more
This year marks the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Negro Leagues and today we remember one of baseball's greatest pitchers, Satchel Paige. We hear from Larry Tye, author of 'Satchel: The Life and Times of An American Legend.' Paige began his career pitching in the Negro leagues and later became a Major League star. In the 1930s, he made his way across the country amazing audiences with his blazing fastball and pinpoint accuracy.Also, Maureen Corrigan shares a remembrance of journalist...more
Pete Hamill, who died Aug. 5, was a columnist and editor at the 'New York Post' and the 'New York Daily News,' covering wars, crime and the people of NYC's boroughs. He helped convince his friend Robert Kennedy to run for president, and on the night RFK was shot, helped tackle the assassin. Hamill spoke with 'Fresh Air' about RFK's assassination, giving up drinking in a boozy industry, and his work in the tabloids.
In Jeffrey Toobin's new book, 'True Crimes and Misdemeanors,' the CNN legal analyst examines how President Trump and his team out-maneuvered special counsel Robert Mueller. Mueller, he says, gave Trump "a free pass" on obstruction of justice. We'll also talk about the impeachment trial and the Supreme Court.
In 'Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents', the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist examines the laws and practices that created a bipolar caste system in the U.S. — and how the Nazis borrowed from it.Also, John Powers reviews Raven Leilani's debut novel, 'Luster.'