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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL
STROUMBOULOPOULOS: Interviews with Russell Simmons, Eric McCormack, Danny Huston, Keanu Reeves
Aired August 9, 2013 - 23:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
GEORGE STROUMBOULOPOULOS, CNN HOST: Hey, come on in. What a program we have.
How do these connect: Def Jams, Phat Farms, moguls, vegans - who embodies all that? Russell Simmons.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SIMMONS: I said, you want a white woman to give you the book, because that's your audience; I gave you the book, the hip-hop dude gave you the book.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STROUMBOULOPOULOS: And we have a guy that started one of the most revolutionary and hilarious comedies in TV history, now the second season of his crime drama, "Perception," is airing on TNT, my fellow countryperson, Eric McCormack.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ERIC MCCORMACK, ACTOR: Your name is Frankenstein.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STROUMBOULOPOULOS: And Golden Globe nominee Danny Huston from "Magic City" is here.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DANNY HUSTON, ACTOR: In the case of this particular character, I thought I'd plan for the badass that he is.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STROUMBOULOPOULOS: We started this whole journey together, you and I, Keanu Reeves and I, on motorcycles. We hit the highway with him again. It's all coming up on STROUMBOULOPOULOS. As the poets and The Ramones once said, one, two, three, four, let's go.
(APPLAUSE) STROUMBOULOPOULOS: Hey, what's going on? Welcome to the program (inaudible) have you (inaudible) off the top there's a lot to get into and I'm going to start with Russell Simmons.
He didn't create hip-hop, but he's certainly one of the pillars on which hip-hop's house is built. So much to get into -- and he's a yogi. Here's his story.
STROUMBOULOPOULOS (voice-over): You're familiar with that Isaac Newton quote, right, "If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants."
Well, in the hip-hop world, one of those giants and those shoulders belongs to Russell Simmons. Here's his story. Russell Wendell Simmons was born in Jamaica, Queens, in 1957. His dad, Daniel, was a professor of black history at Page University (ph) in Manhattan. His mother, Evelyn, a New York City park administrator.
Despite the grounded upbringing, Russell, well, turned to a life of drug dealing like many in his neighborhood. And throughout his teens sold on the corners of Queens, all the while working on his business acumen.
In 1975 -- now imagine, mid-'70s, disco fever taking America by storm. But Russell identified another genre of music that was starting to rise in the depths of the New York City boroughs. 1982 comes along, Russell meets Rick Rubin, a longhaired punk rock Long Island kid. He impressed Russell right away with his (inaudible) and he got into the business and music history together.
They started Def Jam Records. Soon, Def Jam artists like LL Cool J, the Beastie Boys and Public Enemy exploded onto the American consciousness and music was never the same.
But it was never just about the records for Russell; it was about the culture. Early on, he began designing clothes, eventually creating his own lines. He also embraced the comedy and poetry scenes, helping to develop those brands into TV and Broadway shows.
Well, today, Russell uses his mogul status to strive for change. We'll get into all of that with Russell tonight.
The next time you hear a song from Kanye or a critique of today's culture from Jay Z, you realize they are simply standing on the shoulders of a giant, a giant named Russell Simmons.
STROUMBOULOPOULOS: Russell Simmons, everybody.
STROUMBOULOPOULOS: How are you doing?
RUSSELL SIMMONS, ENTERTAINMENT MOGUL: Awesome. Doing good.
STROUMBOULOPOULOS: (Inaudible) play with those socks. I like those.
STROUMBOULOPOULOS: Style icon.
Were you a style icon in the day?
SIMMONS: (Inaudible) fashion business. I make argyle clothes (inaudible) Macy's.
STROUMBOULOPOULOS: Well, back in the day, though ,when --
SIMMONS: Still now.
STROUMBOULOPOULOS: When you first got into all this back in the day, did you think you were going to be --
SIMMONS: I had no idea. But 20 years ago I started designing. I've been designing for 20 years now.
STROUMBOULOPOULOS: I like the fact that you're here. I didn't know that we would get you here, because you're such a defined New York guy.
SIMMONS: I moved here because of my kids. I want to wake up every morning, meditate with them and take them to school. But then I drive down the hill, I have an office on Sunset Plaza. I'm in the film and the TV and in the Internet business here. So I have new inspiration.
So I started Def Pictures and I have a company called ADD, which suits me.
SIMMONS: It's called All Def Digital, and it's a fun Internet idea, like an Internet TV channel, like, you know, all these Google channels they gave out. I'm going to make mine -- I'm doing -- like I must have 20 little series.
Yesterday, I was in my office and all these Internet stars, I had like six Internet stars. They all happened to be in a room at the same time, they were like meeting each other and I was like, wow.
STROUMBOULOPOULOS: Is working with this kind of star -- with this Internet personality similar to what it was in the early days, working in a new medium?
(CROSSTALK) SIMMONS: Yes, because no one knows what they're doing and respects them. No one really knows why people love them. It's a whole new world of talented artists, who are not getting managed and not getting opportunity and these kind of things, so that's what ADD is.
STROUMBOULOPOULOS: So you operate with empathy then, (inaudible) how you sign clients. You're trying to find different ways in?
SIMMONS: Yes, find ways to help them express themselves.
Also, All Def Music will be part of it.
So I'm back in the music business.
SIMMONS: I just backed into it. I didn't mean to be --
STROUMBOULOPOULOS: You thought you were out of it, right?
SIMMONS: Yes, keep bringing me back.
STROUMBOULOPOULOS: When you talk about fashion and we see what's going on with fast fashion and see what's happening with warehouses and manufacturing plants around the world, safety has come up in the conversation, what is your responsibility as a fashion designer and as a guy who makes clothes?
SIMMONS: Well, it's tough. Some of our suits are American, but as we learn more ways to be competitive and do that, I always want to be conscious first. In my books, I always write about being a business yogi. My books are about consciousness, but about -- the last book is called "Super Rich." You probably -- (inaudible).
All right. So "Super Rich" is about giving, and it's about good givers are great getters, but it's really about from a yogic perspective, how to go to work every day and be a good servant. And it's also about being able to receive. So it's a little bit of that.
But it's not one of those typical books about prosperity at all. It's about happiness. Money doesn't make you happy is a big part of this rap and this reality. But happy makes you money is another part of it. Because those happy givers, they attract all kinds of stuff. So that's kind of the philosophy in the books.
STROUMBOULOPOULOS: Who walked you through that? Who is your guide?
SIMMONS: It came -- you know, this first yoga teacher was here in L.A., actually, and it's this guy, Steve Ross. He still teaches here in Brentwood. He has something called Mahal Yoga (ph). And Steve's class was phenomenal. He played loud rap music. It was fun.
And then one day he gave me the yoga sutras, which is both basic scripture, 6,000 years old, 5,000-6,000 years old, and it's the science of yoga in that book. And that was the first. And there were three scriptures from yoga in that, the Bhagavad Gita and the Hatha Yoga Pradipika. And I studied all of them because they all became, you know, and they changed my life and the way I thought about the world.
And it was stuff that I already knew. Eckhart Tolle, who wrote "The Power of Now," was in his back yard living in a little shack -- Eckhart Tolle. And so Steve gave me that book and I gave it to Oprah and he sold 40 million copies.
She once said that -- yes, I gave her the book. She told everybody that Meg Ryan gave her the book.
STROUMBOULOPOULOS: But it was you that gave her the book?
SIMMONS: I gave her the book.
STROUMBOULOPOULOS: Wait a second.
SIMMONS: I said, you want a white woman to give you the book, because that's your audience; I gave you the book, the hip-hop dude gave you the book.
STROUMBOULOPOULOS: And so when you called, what did she say when you called her up?
SIMMONS: She said, well, I think that Meg gave me that book. Another, also, Goldie Hawn. That was class was really a weird class with Goldie Hawn, with all these actresses and stuff. This was 20 years ago.
But when I got "The Power of Now" and I gave her and Gayle King "The Power of Now," at Cipriani's downtown, they're like, oh, really, we'll look into this. I said no, you should -- I don't even read this book. You got to read this book.
And then the next thing you know, he's a big star. And I just one day mentioned casually, you know, I gave you that book, right, because I read somewhere you said Meg Ryan gave you that book.
And you know, she was in the class, in all fairness. She might have gave it to her after.
SIMMONS: I gave it to her first.
STROUMBOULOPOULOS: The hip-hop guy gave it to her first.
SIMMONS: That's right. The hip-hop dude, not your audience necessarily. I think she could have gotten it from more than one place, of course. STROUMBOULOPOULOS: Stick around. More with Russell right after this.
STROUMBOULOPOULOS (voice-over): All right. There's more to talk about with Russell Simmons, including why he thinks rich people should pay more taxes.
And then I go back on the road with Keanu Reeves.
STROUMBOULOPOULOS: We're back here with Russell Simmons.
(Inaudible) put out records or designer stuff, but there's to it than you -- than just that, there's about meditation, there's about feelings, spirituality, connectedness, whatever that is.
SIMMONS: Well, that, you know, we all are spiritual beings and we have physical experiences, right. There was a moment that I started to realize it, it's true. Like I think my first yoga class, is coming out being so high after class, having experienced this idea of being fully awake. After the first class I felt alive. I said, oh, I keep doing this. I'm going to lose everything.
In fact, operating from a present, happy space attracts everything. You don't lose. Just being less -- the idea for all of us is, as we release anxiety and noise, then we become more expansive in every way. So discovering that through a physical yoga practice and reading scripture, and living a yogic life; I'm a vegan, for instance. I don't eat any animal products.
Making choices that have to do with moving towards consciousness or a relationship with -- we might call it God, but I don't want to confuse -- scare people.
But this idea, moving towards that is something everybody is doing whether they like it or not. Being conscious of it and taking steps to move you towards a more present, awakened state, Christ consciousness if you're Christian or nirvana if you're Buddhist or Samadhi, the yogis refer to Samadi, Taqwa, Muslims, all of these people talk about being still and knowing.
STROUMBOULOPOULOS: I'm sure there's so much of the conversation around religion, organized religion is about what separates us, and the division of this. But ultimately it boils down to the same system for most people, doesn't it?
SIMMONS: That's my favorite discussion. I'm chairman of an organization, The Foundation for Ethnic Understanding. We have 30 countries where rabbis speak in mosques, and imams speak in synagogues. And we have a dialogue and more than the dialogue, they actually fight for each other.
In Israel, we actually have 20 programs like that. And the grand mufti and the Palestinian people and the chief rabbi of the Israeli people, they really believe in this dialogue and it's really them who can forge a new future. And so it's not only for them, but in all, they find the sameness.
STROUMBOULOPOULOS: What are you learning about people through this process?
SIMMONS: People are the same. Same aspirations, same inspiration, to some degree. And as I get older I learn more and more of this idea. You say it but having total faith in the fact that we're the same, is something that is an ongoing process. You're moving towards that.
That's what we're talking about with consciousness, including the animals, including, you know, all living -- one living, breathing -- I like to say if God were the ocean, then we would be a cup of God and all things inclusive. So it's all -- and I feel that way.
STROUMBOULOPOULOS: How do you get people to get there? Because there are a lot of people who feel like they're not the same. Animals are not the same and this is what -- everybody just has a different world view. It's one thing to say live and let live. But live and let live, in your opinion an others --
SIMMONS: People lack --
STROUMBOULOPOULOS: -- defense of others.
SIMMONS: That's why I talk back about meditation. Because when you think about what you're involved in, what abuse you cause, some of this stuff you're fed, you digest, you have to really be a little bit of an individual. And that's why meditation is important. Because as you sit, you come to make choices in the beginning, and maybe sometimes you have total stillness, but you start to realize things and they feed you.
STROUMBOULOPOULOS: When is the first time you heard a record scratch?
SIMMONS: EZG (ph). He was the deejay for a rapper named Eddie Cheever (ph) in 1977.
STROUMBOULOPOULOS: Part of why rap is so important and still is, but it's different now is --
SIMMONS: They all say I'm going to get older. I want to say why.
Why is it different now, it's bigger?
STROUMBOULOPOULOS: No, (inaudible), it's the relationship with its truth. It was about something. It was about being heard.
SIMMONS: It's still a voice for lots of voiceless people.
STROUMBOULOPOULOS: Sure it is, but --
SIMMONS: (Inaudible) that we hear their story, that struggle, that reality. They say things that we think. They say things about society accepts and acts like it doesn't exist or push it aside.
Poets have always done this. They've always said things that make people uncomfortable, but they are the reality. They are the mirrors of societies.
STROUMBOULOPOULOS: Let me show you this picture we're talking about art. This is art make you feel, this one painting.
SIMMONS: That's my brother, isn't it?
SIMMONS: That's Danny.
STROUMBOULOPOULOS: Your brother did that.
STROUMBOULOPOULOS: I think we've got a couple of them.
SIMMONS: That's dope. I haven't even seen those pictures.
STROUMBOULOPOULOS: What's going on inside your family, where this is what comes out of it?
SIMMONS: My mother was a painter, my father was a poet. So that helped -- and that's why I run the Rush Foundation that we do -- we have an event coming up. We've had it for 15 years in The Hamptons and it's for the -- we underwrite art education for inner city kids. It's important to me that kids get art, practice appreciation, opportunities, because it's like you've got to cultivate creativity.
Or not, you can't imagine yourself -- art, like I said about what presence comes from art, from looking inside, from writing a song, from -- you know, the bankers don't get that. And numbers don't mean anything unless you can imagine what to do with them.
So cultivating the imagination is a very important part of a kid's education and it's being overlooked. All the programs have been cut. So we try to supplement programs like that with the Rush Foundation.
STROUMBOULOPOULOS: Do people step up when the government's not there?
SIMMONS: You know, I mean, like, look, if we can raise $3 million in a year and give it out, that's nice.
But we need hundreds of millions.
So the people step up, they would say, oh, we don't need to tax people. We all run charities. Get out of here, rich people, just pay more taxes and shut up and let us take care of -- give people what they deserve.
Every other country is giving artistic education, art education to kids. Every other country is giving good education to kids. So while we starve our children of an education, we are slipping. And I'm not a competitive person like that, like, oh, other countries do it so we should.
We should just give people what's fair. We have a very, very special country and lots of people have great opportunities and we should give back.
STROUMBOULOPOULOS: It's good to see you, man.
SIMMONS: Thank you.
STROUMBOULOPOULOS: Russell Simmons, everybody. We'll be right back.
STROUMBOULOPOULOS (voice-over): He taught us where there's a Will, there's a Grace -- Eric McCormack after this.
STROUMBOULOPOULOS: (Inaudible) on the program, oftentimes media misrepresents certain parts of our culture. A lot of people felt that for the longest time there was an irresponsible representation of mental illness on television. Now you're seeing more and more being done in the right way.
One of the guys who was charged with the responsibility to do it right -- his name is Eric McCormack. There's a lot to get into with him. Please welcome Eric McCormack.
MCCORMACK: Thanks for having me on.
STROUMBOULOPOULOS: What's happening, brother?
MCCORMACK: Just finishing. Just wrapping it up.
I spoke to you just before this was going to be unleashed on the world, this character and this conversation, as you know, we've talked about it, that mental illness plays such an -- and the conversation around it, such a current one and such an important one.
Getting into the second season of it, have you had a different relationship with a character in that conversation?
MCCORMACK: Certainly in the first season there was so much of an attempt on my part to define who this character was, to define his particular illness, which is paranoid schizophrenia, and define the tone of the show. There are moments where we see how awful that can be for someone. There's also moments where we see he's a guy, as in control of it as you can be without being fully on your meds. He's a guy that has figured out how to live with it and almost needs it.
So now that we've established that playing ground, the second season was a lot more fun in a way. He's become a lot more of an advocate for other people living with mental illness. So many of the crimes -- because it's a crime solving show and we have a lot of fun with it. But a lot of the crimes begin with someone that has done something terrible. And then as soon as he meets them, as the FBI expert, he goes, wait, wait, wait, there's something wrong here. There's something going on here that no one else has noticed.
And that's when we get into this whole new area of neural law, the idea that we are identifying more and more. It's not just that he's insane or he's not insane, like in the old days, it's black and white. There's this whole gray area of how responsible are people with this -- yet another mental illness that has been identified and named. And it's getting into a strange area (inaudible).
STROUMBOULOPOULOS: After a big hit TV series, it's hard for someone to imagine that they would get another one and have another run.
Did you have a moment your last one, after "Will and Grace," you didn't know where you were going to go?
MCCORMACK: It was a brief moment, about six years. It's terrifying, because there's a part of you going, hey, dig me, I'm that guy. And then you realize, so what? That's on my tombstone. What happens between now and then?
And you do have to reinvent yourself, particularly if you were a gay sitcom lawyer. There's much reinvention to be done.
And so for me as an actor, I started -- as you know, I started in the theater in Toronto, when I started in drama. So I was, in fact, trying to find my way back to the old me.
STROUMBOULOPOULOS: For all the wonderful things that being in a successful sitcom will give you, does -- is the artist in you satisfied?
At a certain point, these characters are what they are. Right?
MCCORMACK: Yes. I think it's a conversation I have with people, because it's like, well, why did you stay in television, is it time to do a film? I do love the stage, and that is incredibly rewarding. But what I do love about television, when you can get on a good one --
STROUMBOULOPOULOS: Is the money.
MCCORMACK: Is the money.
MCCORMACK: But we -- but, no, it is -- I do love the continuity of a crew that becomes family and of a character that surprises me as much as it surprises the audience. I don't know what he is going to do next week. The writers might give me a bit of a hint. But when I read that script, I'm going, I didn't know I was going to do that. I didn't know that was going to happen to him. I didn't know I had a brother. (LAUGHTER)
MCCORMACK: That's the joy of television.
STROUMBOULOPOULOS: That's a fantastic reality, right? You're always on a high wire.
MCCORMACK: Yes. It's the fluidity of television. If you can last long enough, in success, you have to get really creative and come up with new stuff.
STROUMBOULOPOULOS: We just passed the birthday of one of the greats, Gene Wilder. And you've done stuff with Gene, right?
MCCORMACK: Gene, yes.
STROUMBOULOPOULOS: Just tell me, because --
MCCORMACK: Well, we had this insane run on "Will and Grace," where every week we had somebody great come on and there were two people. And when Gene came on as Will's boss, Mr. Stein, for I think two episodes, there was a tremendous amount of handshaking kind of reverence. He is one of the ones we all steal from. I have definitely stolen from him.
But there was a great moment where he was supposed to be playing sort of the silent partner that is very shy, even though his name is in the title of the law firm. I sit down with him in a restaurant and I said, Mr. Stein, you have got to speak up, you have got to be you, you're Mr. Stein. Say it, I'm Mr. Stein. He said, I'm Mr. Stein. I said, you're Mr. Stein.
He says, I'm Mr. Stein.
And then totally improv and in front of the audience, I stood up and I said, "Your name is Franken-stein."
And he fell -- I actually made Gene Wilder fall out of the booth laughing.
STROUMBOULOPOULOS: That has got to be a trip, man, "Young Frankenstein."
MCCORMACK: I mean, that was the luxury of that show, was after a while, realizing we're in front of an audience, but we're not live. We can fool around and get the audience enjoying themselves and surprise the -- I pulled one on Michael Douglas that was fun. And it was a luxury.
STROUMBOULOPOULOS: We know how big a deal "Will and Grace" was on a cultural level because it really did help (inaudible), oh, there's a gay guy on TV I can look at and there's a couple of them that I can connect to and I'm sure you've heard that, with perception. Have you had people come up to you and talk to you, have a conversation about schizophrenia and mental illness? Have you had that?
MCCORMACK: Yes, it's been great. And it's, in its own way, it is the next taboo, that everyone -- for years nobody talked about mental illness in their family. It was so murky and so ill-defined. And now through -- for various reasons, including Oprah and Dr. Phil and everything else, it's become more and more public, it's more and more OK to talk about the pills your mother took and the effects this had on you and that kind of thing.
So for people to come up and say my brother has paranoid schizophrenia and I've never seen it portrayed like that is affirmation that we're doing something right.
STROUMBOULOPOULOS: (Inaudible) greatest impact any performer could ever have is an intimate effect on somebody else's life.
MCCORMACK: It's a privilege, because you want -- choosing acting is so selfish. You completely do it for yourself. You're not thinking about how you're going to feed your kids down the line or how disappointed your parents will be if nothing happens. And so to do be able to do something that not only rewards you and pays for your family, but also is giving a lot of other people something, it's great.
STROUMBOULOPOULOS: You mentioned your parents. You've lost your parents. As the years go by, how do you think of them, what do you think of them? And what would they think of the guy they have now?
MCCORMACK: I think that they would be pretty pleased. They didn't see all this coming. When they came to the "Will and Grace" set to see a show tape; when they came to the "Lonesome Dove" set 20 years ago, they -- everything was gratifying.
STROUMBOULOPOULOS: So they showed up on set, your folks? And what -- I mean, tell me that experience.
MCCORMACK: On "Lonesome Dove," they came and they immediately said we want to be in this. So they became extras for a day. I have a great shot somewhere of my mom in a big bonnet. And it was fantastic, some church picnic scene or something.
STROUMBOULOPOULOS: It's pretty incredible.
MCCORMACK: Yes, it was pretty great to give them that. And frustrating now, because I think in some ways this show "Perception," is probably the one they would have liked the most. It would have been most up their alley.
STROUMBOULOPOULOS: Because of the subject matter?
MCCORMACK: Subject matter and the kind of show they would like to watch just as an audience member but I get to use a lot of me in Daniel Pierce, so they'd probably like that. STROUMBOULOPOULOS: Stick around, more with Eric right after this.
STROUMBOULOPOULOS (voice-over): Tons more to talk about with the star of TNT's "Perception." Eric McCormack after this.
STROUMBOULOPOULOS: We're back here. We've got Eric McCormack hanging around with us right now.
So your son is about to have a birthday?
MCCORMACK: Yes, he just had a birthday. He's 11 and he was born on the same day as our country. He was born a Canada Day baby, born in Santa Monica, California, but a Canada Day baby, which is great, because my wife and I are both Canadians. So he's got the dual personality going on.
STROUMBOULOPOULOS: You -- obviously there's a lot of space that's you operated on. I know that you worked on behalf of the Cancer Society in Canada. When you spend so much time dealing with that kind of stuff, the realness of losing your parents and knowing all this, are you -- does that -- do you find comfort in that, being in that place?
MCCORMACK: Yes, but I'm -- it's just so dismaying that the word is completely common in our life now. It's no surprise that someone has cancer. Someone else has cancer. We just did a story on "Perception" coming up, with -- Jo Beth Williams plays my mother and she has cancer. So there I was, doing scenes about my mother having cancer, which is how my mom died. And it was -- it's just -- it's both -- it makes you angry and it's completely underrated, too. It's just like it just stamps you down that it's how do we get to a point, maybe our kids will get to a point where it's something they talk about like we talk about polio. That would be nice. But...
STROUMBOULOPOULOS: Who tells you that your TV character mom was going to have cancer? Who breaks the news to you?
MCCORMACK: Well, it's the creator of the show, Ken Biller, who -- it's an amazing thing to -- I remember, every year on "Will and Grace," Jim Burroughs (ph), our director, would tell the writers, "Don't be afraid to paint yourselves into a corner."
And they would. Every season finale, we'd be like, this happens? How do we get out of that in two months? But you find a way. And the bigger you make it -- so when Ken comes up with these stories and I think, how long can we do this? How many hallucinations can I have?
But he came up with some doozies this year with his writers. And the idea that I'm -- that my mom gets introduced in such an interesting way, and we've got this great actress, it's great to have something exciting to tell.
STROUMBOULOPOULOS: But if you go back into yourself, to leave part of you in the story, you've lived that.
MCCORMACK: Lived that. And it's -- but that's -- like I say, it's -- to say that it's the hard part of the thing is in some ways not true. The hard part was in theater school, not having any life experience and trying to coming up with that stuff.
But at this age, to have, in a strange way, the luxury of I get to show something that I actually went through and not have to act so much, is a very different thing. It's a good thing.
STROUMBOULOPOULOS: Let's go back to the '60s and show you this thing here. Tell me what this makes you think of.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "GET SMART")
BARBARA FELDON, ACTRESS, "99": Come on, Max, it's really me.
DON ADAMS, ACTOR, "MAXWELL SMART": Sorry, 99, but you know the new control protective code. I cannot open that door unless I am absolutely sure that it is really you.
"SMART" Oh, it's you. Come on in.
(END VIDEO CLIP, "GET SMART")
MCCORMACK: That was my every day after school. I would come home with my friend, Bill, and we would sit and watch "Get Smart." And I was Agent 44 and he was Agent 85. And it was a fantastic -- and all we wanted to do was sleep with Barbara Feldon. We didn't know what that meant yet because we were in 4th grade, but -- and yes.
And so years later, (inaudible) told you this story, but years later, I got to meet Don Adams at an NBC party. It was the NBC 75th anniversary or something.
And I got to tell him how much I loved him and I didn't know if he was really listening. But cut to -- there was a "Get Smart" panel at the Motion Picture Academy. And I was in the audience and they were telling stories of Leonard Goldberg and all the people related to the show, and Barbara was there. And there was Don, looking a little frail.
And somebody said, Don, do you think there will ever be a -- this was years ago.
He said, "Do you think there will ever be a 'Get Smart' movie?"
And he said, "I don't know, but if there ever is, I want Eric to play me."
And I didn't even know that he knew that I was there. And it was the greatest moment, and I told Steve Carell that story.
(LAUGHTER) But it was a very exciting -- so much for me of this business has been the excitement of making childhood dreams come true, meeting heroes -- and it happens in the craziest ways, from a friendship with Elton John to meeting Alice Cooper to whatever it is. And I'm just a giddy fan.
And every week on the sitcom, it was just like, who's coming in? I'm going to fall apart. I can't take it. Because there's -- I can never get jaded about that, because I was such a -- it was everything to me as a kid.
STROUMBOULOPOULOS: Did you ever sit beside Elton John, just randomly, and then in your head you have to -- you start singing a song and you have to suppress it? Like singing an Elton John song?
MCCORMACK: Oh, absolutely. And I -- oh, there was one day, I met him and Bernie Taupin backstage because they would furnish his boyfriend -- or his husband -- and I were in high school together. So there were times when I will suddenly start asking crazy fan questions. You know, like he was Shatner, you know.
And I do. I said -- there was one day Elton and Bernie were backstage and something. And I was there. And I might have had a beer or two.
And I said, can I ask a question?
And they're like sure.
Because I said I may never see you guys together again and I asked some obscure question about the Captain Fantastic album and these two men stared at me and said, I don't know, I haven't the faintest idea.
STROUMBOULOPOULOS: What was the question? That's my favorite Elton John album.
MCCORMACK: Absolutely my favorite, too.
In the original lyric notes that came with the actual vinyl album, there are lyrics to a song that isn't on the album, called "Dogs in the Kitchen."
And I said whatever happened to "Dogs in the Kitchen," get recorded, or is -- why is it there? And they literally stared at me like they had no memory, like the publishing company had put it in there and they didn't know. It was just -- yes, I know.
STROUMBOULOPOULOS: That's the best life experience when you don't remember. It means you remember enough that you forget something as awesome as that.
You were telling the joke about you didn't even know what sex was at that age or what it meant to sleep with that person, but culture is so different now. Your son is still in that sweet spot, sweet age, and as they get older, how are you managing that part of it, like those conversations that you have to have?
MCCORMACK: Well, we all -- every parent has the same conversation these days, which is about the Internet, which is just that everything we went through, which any innocence is obliterated by a touch of a keystroke.
So that part is hard, because what I see in my son and I think in a lot of kids, is they're still -- they still want to be innocent. They actually don't -- the childhood desire to see secret things and find out stuff is there. But it's just they also -- I think they're subconsciously aware that childhood is finite and I keep trying to remind them; you'll be an adult forever. This is a very brief time where you should be a kid.
I'm still a kid. I stretched it out.
STROUMBOULOPOULOS: It's good to see you. Thank you so much.
MCCORMACK: Thank you.
STROUMBOULOPOULOS: Eric McCormack, everybody. We'll be right back.
STROUMBOULOPOULOS (voice-over): Let's go from Hollywood to Magic City. Danny Huston (inaudible) famous families in Miami mob type. That's all coming up.
STROUMBOULOPOULOS: All right. We're back here on the program. I'm really excited to give you this next guy that's going to be in the chair because I like talking to people who play bad guys. He happens to come from a Hollywood family that is Hollywood royalty. Shall we? Danny Huston, everybody.
STROUMBOULOPOULOS: How are you?
Your family's had quite a life in this business, which is challenge when it's -- you're in the -- it's the family business, your business.
STROUMBOULOPOULOS: I mean, the Huston name is kind of a part of it.
HUSTON: It is, it is. And I'm very proud to be part of it. My grandfather, Walter Huston --
STROUMBOULOPOULOS: Canadian born.
HUSTON: Canadian born, absolutely, Toronto.
STROUMBOULOPOULOS: That's right.
HUSTON: Yes. My father, John Huston; my sister, Anjelica, who is my Anjel; and now my nephew, Jack.
STROUMBOULOPOULOS: Did you always feel like a part of it?
HUSTON: I did. I did. And I always wanted to make films. One of the lessons my father gave me, when -- I had this Super 8 camera and I was just filming everywhere.
And he said "Danny, stop."
He said, "This is nonsense, stop that." He said, "When you look from left to right, and right to left, what do you do?"
"I don't know, I give up."
He said, "You blink. That's a cut." He said, "Don't worry about all the nonsense in between. Focus on what it is that you're trying to say."
And that was my first film lesson.
STROUMBOULOPOULOS: I remember reading about -- was it "Mr. North" that you were directing when your father passed, right, and you were about to direct your father.
What was it like to see him in the moment, knowing you were going to get to work with him in that context?
HUSTON: Oh, directing him was -- well, I made a film prior to "Mr. North," called "Mr. Corbett's Ghost," and I was a young 20-year old, a young buck, and he fluffed a line and he said, "Cut."
I said, "Dad, you can't do that. I'm directing."
"Oh, I'm ever so sorry. I promise I'll never do it again."
And he was so sweet and supportive. Of course, he could say cut. But he was giving me that feeling of authority.
STROUMBOULOPOULOS: Well, like a lot of kids for a minute, they grow up and think their parents are God in their life.
HUSTON: That's right.
STROUMBOULOPOULOS: What was it like when your father is God? Because in "The Bible," he narrated the God voice.
HUSTON: He did. He was the voiceover for God and my mother was in the film also, she played Hagar, and she was in the desert, dying of thirst.
STROUMBOULOPOULOS: Well, like kids don't want to watch their mother die on film.
STROUMBOULOPOULOS: It's very disconcerting. HUSTON: Yes. But as you say, one's father is God for a child, and to actually hear him as God is --
STROUMBOULOPOULOS: So obviously much, much time has gone on and you forged your own career and your own identity.
When you spend enough time as an actor working on something, do you want your life -- like I need to get, I need to direct, I need to go back? Because this is something you love; it's in your blood.
HUSTON: I'm itching to direct again. You see, basically I made a couple of films, and my father was very much my buddy in making these films.
And when he was no longer around, suddenly I was stuck in L.A. in this sort of seasonless state. And years were going by. I was having meetings and I was developing things. But years were going by, and fellow directors, friends, out of the kindness of their hearts, started giving me small parts. And the next thing I knew, the parts got bigger. And I became an actor.
STROUMBOULOPOULOS: Let me show you this clip here.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "MAGIC CITY")
HUSTON, "BEN DIAMOND": Things happen for a reason. Now take Havana. You will write of Castro's injustice to me, and the status quo will be reestablished.
JEFFREY DEAN MORGAN, "IKE EVANS": You cannot be my partner in the Havana hotels.
"DIAMOND": (Inaudible) Havana hotels?
"EVANS": Actually, no, they're Castro's hotels.
(END VIDEO CLIP, "MAGIC CITY")
STROUMBOULOPOULOS: It's "Magic City," and it's this place where -- it's just a time in American pop culture, isn't it?
He's got sort of Meyer Lansky, Bugsy Siegel kind of qualities about him, 1959 Miami. There's a certain amount of research I had to do, but it's a fantastic period. Batista has fallen; Castro is in; Kennedy is about to be elected, free jazz, the atomic bomb.
STROUMBOULOPOULOS: What does malice feel like?
HUSTON: Quite normal.
HUSTON: I take great pride in dissecting my characters, like literally with a scalpel, the villainous ones, and prodding them and seeing where it is that they feel, because nobody necessarily regards themselves as villainous or evil or purely bad.
But in the case of this particular character, I thought I would give all that up and just play him for the badass that he is.
STROUMBOULOPOULOS: Right. It must be fun, too, to get in a series and act in a series when you know how hard it is to write and direct and produce and to make stuff.
Is it a different experience?
HUSTON: Well, I like to work backwards a lot in the sense that I like to know what happens to the character. And not knowing, I find it's a little daunting, a little bit like life. You don't know what corner you're going to take and what's going to happen to you.
But so that's what I find a little bit uncomfortable, is not knowing where the story is going necessarily or what's going to happen to your character. But it's also exciting. And it's -- I really, I treat each episode like a film unto itself.
STROUMBOULOPOULOS: Well, life doesn't let you know where it's going.
How are you handling that?
HUSTON: Certainly not. I mean, I have a daughter, so immediately that's -- any sort of recklessness about one's self, suddenly you become a bit conservative. And you care about her future.
STROUMBOULOPOULOS: Have you figured out your role in it?
HUSTON: She's just a great friend. She's -- the other day she said to me, "Dad, would you sit down?"
I sat down.
"Would you stand up?"
I stood up.
"Would you now sit down again?"
I said, "Stella, what are you doing?"
She said, "I'm directing."
STROUMBOULOPOULOS: Where is that coming from?
HUSTON: Exactly. Well, a family.
STROUMBOULOPOULOS: Right. So many Hustons. Can't you just all get together and just pull one massive family movie?
Like, you know, because I would imagine, you know, that old joke saying, oh, watching somebody's vacation photos would be the worst invite ever to the slide show. But like a Huston family slide show is a feature film.
HUSTON: Yes, it's true.
We're big believers in nepotism. In "Mr. North," I directed my sister. I mentioned I directed my father. I just worked on a film called "Two Jacks," with my nephew, Jack, which was another Tolstoy adaptation, based on a story called "The Two Hussars."
And so, yes, we're definitely going to keep working together and hopefully entertain you.
STROUMBOULOPOULOS: My pleasure, man. Thank you so much.
HUSTON: Thank you.
We'll be right back.
STROUMBOULOPOULOS: All right, next, Keanu and I go for a little bike ride: the art of motorcycle maintenance with Keanu Reeves, next.
STROUMBOULOPOULOS: Welcome back to the show.
So as we get ready to close this out, I want to get to a space where we started this thing. We had the Keanu Reeves piece on our show and we got a lot of great responses from you and partly because it's so nice to see somebody drive towards their passion.
The thing that motivates you, the thing that makes your heart sing, for lack of a better phrase, and watching somebody do it is kind of infectious. He loves motorcycles.
So let's go back to Arch Motorcycle Company, a company that he co- founded, to see more of what drives Keanu.
REEVES: OK, so this is my Norton. This is what I came in on today.
STROUMBOULOPOULOS: This is your main commuter?
REEVES: Yes, this is one of them, '72.
REEVES: Happy birthday.
STROUMBOULOPOULOS: Thank you, bud.
When did you first ride, what was your first bike?
REEVES: I actually started pretty old. I started when I was 22.
STROUMBOULOPOULOS: And so were you just -- you decided I always wanted to ride?
REEVES: I was in Germany doing a movie --
STROUMBOULOPOULOS: Which movie (inaudible)?
REEVES: It was called "Babes in Toyland," and this young lady had an Enduro. And I was like, can I -- can you teach me? And she was like, sure.
So I ended up riding around the lot. And then got back to Los Angeles and I went to this place in L.A. called Super Twins and got a Norton and so I've been riding them since. I guess it was around '88.
STROUMBOULOPOULOS: All the people in your life look at you say, please don't get a motorcycle, especially in Los Angeles?
REEVES: Yes, but they're wrong.
REEVES: This is an amazing place to have a motorcycle.
STROUMBOULOPOULOS: It's like riding in a video game, it's beautiful weather almost all the time.
REEVES: You know, and you've got the ocean, you've got the desert, you got sunset to the ocean, you got PCH, Santa Monica Mountains. And then when you're in traffic on the 10 or the 405, you're like --
STROUMBOULOPOULOS: Do you think they're wrong when you wreck your bike?
REEVES: No, that's when they're right. Yes, yes. When you get the wrecks, yes, that's when they're right. You've had that, right?
STROUMBOULOPOULOS: I've had four of them, yes.
REEVES: Right? So...
STROUMBOULOPOULOS: You just get up and go.
REEVES: Yes, if you can. Hopefully when you can, it's like, that's a good day. And then as we're coming over here -- could we just take a little look how this is shaping up here?
STROUMBOULOPOULOS: So if we're in an art gallery, (inaudible) what are we seeing?
REEVES: Beauty, balance, symmetry, and its totality is wonderful. It has -- it feels like it wants to move forward. It works in a hole, but also as you go into it and you're looking at the detail of it, you're like, wow, look at that.
STROUMBOULOPOULOS: Will there be a version that's just straight like this?
REEVES: Yes, absolutely, I think that will be our ground.
STROUMBOULOPOULOS: I can't wait to ride it.
REEVES: (Inaudible) get some feedback. You'll give them some (inaudible) feedback.
STROUMBOULOPOULOS: You'll go for it and I'll go behind you and I'll just veer off and I'll ride it back to Canada.
STROUMBOULOPOULOS: And look, I can get quite a bit of miles on those 3 kilometers (inaudible).
REEVES: Yes, indeed. Yes, indeed.
REEVES: For this kind of motorcycle, when you think of like a custom big twin, you can really tuck in and go and just have that "Mmm!"
STROUMBOULOPOULOS: When you're out there, what does that feel like for you when you get that "Mmm!"?
REEVES: It's just a physical experience of pleasure. You know the sensations of the sound, the wind, the kind of contemplative place, that place you can just go.
STROUMBOULOPOULOS: You're also an active participant in your space as opposed to watching it.
STROUMBOULOPOULOS: Behind the windshield, like you're just -- you're in it.
STROUMBOULOPOULOS: What a great ride, bro.
It has a nice rumble to it, man. REEVES: Yes, it's nice.
STROUMBOULOPOULOS: So you're obviously so recognizable. When you get out there, do you feel like that's where you're just -- you're not?
REEVES: No, for me, sometimes motorcycling is escape. Sometimes it's a release. Sometimes it's just for pleasure. It's for like with what you do. You're a seeker in a way.
STROUMBOULOPOULOS: (Inaudible) in some way.
REEVES: Yes. You know, and also, I mean, you're talking about crossing North America, Canada, what is it, five times now?
STROUMBOULOPOULOS: (Inaudible) across Canada. Have you ridden across Canada?
How often do you go home?
REEVES: Not that often.
REEVES: Not that often.
STROUMBOULOPOULOS: Do you feel like Canada is home?
REEVES: Yes, absolutely.
REEVES: Yes, that's where I grew up, you know.
All right. So here we go.
STROUMBOULOPOULOS: What a pleasure it was hanging out with Keanu Reeves, and a pleasure hanging out with you all summer long. Thanks so much for hanging with me and my friends. On behalf of us and the crew, see you next time.