tv Tavis Smiley PBS November 12, 2013 12:00am-12:30am EST
tavis: good evening. from los angeles, i am tavis smiley. and, a conversation with edward james olmos and lisagay hamilton about their new movie "go for sisters," with independent director, john sayles, dealing with a mother's search for her son across california's border with mexico. we are glad you could join us for our conversation with edward james olmos and lisagay hamilton coming up right now. ♪
by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. ♪ films thatpendent deal with complex human interaction can often get lost in the push for big-budget movies around here, and one film that i hope does not get lost in the mix is from to time oscar nominated director, john sayles starring edward james olmos and lisagay hamilton about a
mother's search for her son in tijuana. and we start with a clip from "go for sisters." >> so? >> i want him back, and if there is anyway, i do not want him to go to jail. juan.s you must still have friends on the local fours. >> no. that is a federal staying. the voice is on the tapes. taking money. you have to be careful who you do favors for. >> sergeant? >> i had to resign. >> i have money. i had such a wonderful conversation on my radio show, ay, and i said we have
to talk about this, and i do not normally do that on both mediums, and it was such a powerful story that i thought i would do it. since you are one of the producers as well as being one of the stars, i will let you tell us about "go for sisters," >> all i can say is that lisa and yolanda do excellent work. it is exquisite. it is about the love of a mother for her son and the love of friendships, and it is really a very simple theme that people will be able to understand, but it has never been done. i have never seen a movie like is in my life. never when you say it has been done, what has never been done? >> that we have people of a cultural dynamics. tavis: color. in a positionare that they need to come together in a way i have not seen before. john sayles has written a
masterful piece of work. now, will people see it? i do not even think people will know about it. is it was not for you and a few people who saw it and said, wait a minute, this is important, it will be very difficult, and all i can tell you is that the story deals with them other looking for her son and needs help, so she goes to an old friend. when they were in high school, people would say that you guys could go for sisters, and then both of them head out to try to get to tijuana and go to mexico, and they need help, and they but i am blind. did you know that? tavis: i did. counting the money. you could tell. macular degeneration at its highest form. to make people who are looking right now and understand it, everything where my frame is, i cannot see.
i cannot see anything. i can only see out of the side. i cannot see straight. so i can see you straight forward, but i cannot see you now. i am totally blind except for a slight amount of peripheral vision, and that makes my experience very difficult. it has got a lot of humor in it also. tavis: i am going to come to lisagay. you say this is a simple film. the film is simple, but there is a more complex relationship between the sisters that i will get to in a second, but, eddie, you said something that struck me. one of the reason for having this conversation on pbs is to make sure people hear about the film and get out to see the film, so i went to make sure that we do our small part, but what is it with an artist that allows him or her, you in this case, to do something that one believes in for whatever reason and produce it, in your case,
even if one believes that it might not be broadly seen, what is the point of doing work if you do not believe it will be broadly seen? you must believe in it. >> yes, i do. i believe passionately in what i do, or i cannot do it. we are going to die. everybody is going to die. nobody gets out of this alive, and 100 years ago, they will take a look and say, have you ever heard about this guy? these are some of the things that he did. they will be able to go into my body of work and see the passion that i had. there have been very few pieces that i have done passionately, and this is the one, i was surprised, i was shocked when i read it, because lisa and i will both tell you, and everybody, it was all on the page. and you start to realize, my god. here is six feet, six inches, caucasian kid, writing for us,
and writing for us like i have never been written for, and it is a very compelling story. you talk about how complex life is. watching this story and tell me it is not complex. lisagay into this situation, and the sisters. tell me about the relationship early on of these two sisters. >> fontayne, yolanda ross played by the brilliant yolanda ross, she and i are best friends, and we are younger coming from two different backgrounds. she is very gregarious, outspoken, sexy, and i think my character is a little bit more theysh and quiet, and yet, were very close friends, and as andy said, they could go for sisters. their lives separated drastically, and i think that is what is wonderful about john's writing. he really gives a story that you do not get to see artistically, so one of the issues he is
dealing with is incarceration. what is it for a black woman to fall on hard times, perhaps drug addiction, perhaps getting involved in things that are illegal, and then be in the system and get out of the system fontayne, and that is what happens to fontayne. she is a parolee. of the system, and that is what happens to fontayne. so their lives needed just by chance. bernice'ss parolee. gets out, ande her prologue is there ends up being her old friend. >> yes, and my character asks fontayne for a favor, knowing full well that she will be breaking the law as a parole officer and as a parolee. fontayne is willing to sacrifice
a great deal to help my character. talked earlier about his passion. give us a sense of what you saw and as an african american who happens to be an actress, what pulled you into really wanting to do this? and let me say that differently. as opposed to pulling you into this, and i have read where john where hes said this, has written something where he had two or three actors in mind. he knew he wanted edward james olmos for this, he wanted lisagay hamilton, and it must be a great feeling to have a two writingar nominee something for you. >> yes. danny glover, i worked for that job. period, and i worked hard on that audition, and i knew that there are those
directors that let you in the family once you are in. you are in for good, and so being part of the john sayles family was a call, and i could not have been more honored. i were talking about, it would be ok if we were in a few scenes, and we started reading, and it was, my character is on every page. i did not have those kinds of opportunities, and yolanda did not have those kinds of opportunities, so to be able to work on a script that is so interesting and full and full of humanity with the complexities, to work with john sayles, to work with edward james olmos, to work with yolana, to know that it was a two dollar budget, but it does not matter. it does not really matter, because this is something. you mentioned opportunities. it is rare for me to have on
this couch a hispanic american, an african-american am working on a project that speaks to the humanity of all of the characters in the project. that is a rare thing. talk to me. and i am not naïve in this question, but talk to me, eddie, about why this is so rare, why it is so rare in my 10 years plus working on the show that i have a black woman and a hispanic american on this couch working in a project that does justice to the humanity of our being? >> it goes back to the simplicity of economics. it is what drives show business. it is how much money can you make, and we really have not had a major, major film that has become accessible, and everybody goes to see it. that has had that combination. he did not look for it. i mean, will smith, jennifer
lopez, these kids have really gotten to a point where they can command their own films, and of colorys uses people in different aspects of his films, and sometimes jennifer does also when she is producing, but there are far and few between, and the studios never do that, and they never will. it is up to us to produce our own work. it is up to us to make this happen. tavis: why do you say they never will given that we now live in the most multiracial, multiethnic america ever, and given that people of color spend a whole lot of money at the box office? why is it your sense that they never will? >> especially latinos go to see block esters, period. you can have latino people in it or not, and it does not matter. they just go.
37% of all of the major motion pictures that come out in the first weekend are attended by latinos, so one third of the box office on any given day of any given major motion picture is latinos. we are more than 17% of the population, latinos are, and we make up less than two percent of the images you see on film and television. thank god that people like will friedman have come about to sustain this, because the african-american population is 12%, and they'll hold 17% of the images, and we need that, and we need to keep them there and back because this relies really on how well we project to
we are, and right now, it has been ready flimsy. ," one of the best films last year, it won the best feature, and i love unathletic, but he lost when he did not make his character latino. it was men then does. y menendez, and he would say that tony does not read at all like a latino, but he looks more mexican than i do. you are not going to look like the person. culturally, at least bring about the understanding that this person happened to be an american of latino ancestry, so, please, just give me that inkling, you know? but he did not. i think they mentioned menendez 's name twice, even in passing,
showedn at the end, they the real characters against the actors, how well he cast, but when it came to his character, it was a long shot of carter putting a thing on his head, and it was a profile shot of tony. 'shot.ver saw tony mendez that is one of the great stories. who did that story? it happened to be a person of latin descent, so give them credit. davis: to the point that edwar is addressing now, recently saturday night live took it on late night, they took it on the chin, as they should have, for not having any african-american women in their cast, and they have not done it for quite some time now, so we all know that thompson has been playing a number of female characters. he has decided he does not want
female characters in drag anymore, when he says that, who plays the african-american characters, and there are so many black women that are part of our culture, from beyoncé to michelle obama, you run the list, who is going to play these the wayrs on "snl," so they chose to do with the crisis that is now being brought to the and in "the new york times" everyone else, lisagay, is to spoof it when kerry washington was on the show. it, to mya joke of mind, made a mockery of a very real issue. everybody has their own opinion, lornenl" is a comedy, and michaels can choose to do what he wants to do, but they chose to make a joke out of what is a really we are -- real issue
about the lack of opportunities for african-american women in this business. that is a long way to ask you about how you stay so dedicated to the craft, remain in this business, when it seems to be an uphill battle, and that is true for most after his. let's be honest of it, regardless of the collar, they do not roll into work everyday. there are only a handful of people that can greenlight their script. most actors are working actors. but for a black woman, it is even more of an uphill struggle, and when you see a show like "snl" making a mockery of it, what do you think? >> i do not think i care. as i get older, more and more, if our focus is on will smith and jennifer lopez, we are missing the boat, he could is the community is much larger than commercialism. it is much larger than a green. that is why someone like john ayles --this could not be
film about two white woman, because it was not. this is about a hispanic detective. the cultural makeup of the movie was specific, because john wanted to talk about all of humanity. this came out of john's pocket, period. john does not make movies because he thinks he is going to make money. john makes movies because he wants to see them. and i went to work with who i want to work with. but he is not going to make a lot of money with me starring in a film, but he wanted to make it, and that is significant, because it says to me that the grand scale of one million people seeing the film, i do not know how tangible, how practical that is, but with the internet and with all of these other mediums, i think it is possible in one small way to get your whether it is a filmmaker or a screenwriter or a poet. whoever you are artistically, i think it is possible.
you may not make a living. you may not be a millionaire. you may not be making a living at this craft, but the hope is, you know what? it will i do something, make a difference. if i do this project, it will fulfill this creative thing i have inside me. i understand that politically, we should pay attention to that, but there is so much other stuff going on that they do not really matter. for me, they do not. tavis: for me, what i am getting at? and i take that point and get it. i do not think "snl" is not a harbinger of anything. it was another way into a conversation that if, to any's point, the community of latinos, of african- americans, if it is not at the box office, how do you change that? you may not care about that, but
that israel. >> -- that is real. >> in your own local community, whether it is a 15-year-old asian kid who wants to do a film about his grandfather, and wherever he lives, then he needs to show that film at the local school, and he needs to put that film on youtube, and he needs to hope that he is making a difference and that his story, which it is, the told, and he has put his voice out there for the cosmos, and once again with the internet, everybody sees so ithing at this point, cannot convince them. i cannot convince those that come with a lot of money to do different kinds of films, because i cannot, and they choose not to, and that is ok. that is their choice. adding people are saying, oh, but if i had that money. if i had that money, what would i do?
i would be supporting this young filmmaker, and i would be doing this, because you have the opportunity to give back, and i think that is what our responsibility is. i was reading the other day, annie, and i do not want to screw the name up -- eddie, and i do not want to screw the name up, so tell me. >> it is a film done for children, but grown-ups will go see it, and they will love it. pixar. they are made for grown-ups. this is really a wonderful, simple, beautiful animated film. it is the first one of its kind that has been produced, and it will come out probably around march next year. thank you for mentioning it. sees: i am fascinating to it. when i saw all of the names of
people that are in it, you are using people who deserve to be used. >> big-time. and i have to tell you, lisa is correct. we cannot change it, that we can sure augment it really quickly if people go see this movie. this film is a priceless piece of artistic work, and it has got a great story, and it is entertaining. you talk about a powerful character study of people in situations that just make you want to go, whoa, and it is all real. it is all true. john is an amazing, amazing writer and filmmaker, and people who have seen his movies, some people dismiss them, other people do not, but all in all, they truly have been very thankful that john sayles is alive and well and doing these kinds of movies, and he did finance the whole movie himself. love. it is really about
>> this movie, big time. big-time. love for her son. mean, itver seen -- i is an emotional roller coaster. it will tear your heart out, because this woman is not going to give up, no matter what. >> and i think it is so wonderful to see two black women love in this way, that it is very -- you can touch it. you can see it. you can feel that. yes.: it is tangible, >> and very much so, and i love the ending of the film. they find their way back together, and i am appreciative of john giving the platform for these cure ears to breeze -- breathe and live and not tear one another down. it is wonderful. tavis: my time is just about up,
and i say this all of the time. a great actress, and your documentary on her was so fabulous. i have it in my possession and watch it from time to time. are you going to do some more documentary work? >> i hope so. tavis: that was a brilliant piece. you should to more. you really should. lisagay, thank you. when "go for sisters you get home. the movie is "go for sisters, -- when you get home. the movie is "go for sisters." edward james olmos and lisagay hamilton that is our show. as always, keep the faith. >> officers and clients, prohibited. as of now, you have violated
your parole. >> she came into the diner. i have not seen her for some time. she offered to give me a ride home. >> a drivers license? >> you do not ask to see a sure id. danger ofs in returning to prison, i would not take any chances. >> i did not know. >> you went to two ours before you were picked up. >> i had club soda. you see where i live. there is nothing but that. >> for more information on today's show, visit tavis smiley at pbs.org. tavis: hi, i'm tavis smiley. join me next time for a conversation with steve tyrell.