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Axe Files - Whoopi Goldberg. Aired 7-8p ET
Aired February 3, 2018 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[19:00:12] UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): Tonight on the axe files. Actress, activist, and outspoken talk show host, Whoopi Goldberg on her personal history with President Trump.
DAVID AXELROD, CNN HOLD: You never say his name.
WHOOPI GOLDBERG, ACTRESS/ACTIVIST: I don't.
GOLDBERG: I can't.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Her hopes for the women's movement.
GOLDBERG: Women are saying, look, we are not taking it anymore.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And the Hollywood friendships that forever changed her life.
GOLDBERG: Robin was unlike anybody else.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Welcome to the axe files.
AXELROD: Whoopi Goldberg, so good to see you again.
GOLDBERG: Thank you.
AXELROD: Thank you for being here. You have lived -- yes, this is your life.
GOLDBERG: I want to live in this loft.
AXELROD: Yes. We broke into - we actually broke into your house and stole all this stuff. But we will return it.
GOLDBERG: All right.
GOLDBERG: You have led an amazing life and I want to talk to you about that. But you know, I think it's either by law or executive order you have to talk about Trump first.
GOLDBERG: You know. AXELROD: So I have to ask you about him because you have known him
for a long time. You were in the little rascals with him. He was Waldo's father and you were (INAUDIBLE) mother. Let's go back in the 90s. You are both New Yorkers. Tell me about that. Did you say back then here comes the president of the United States?
GOLDBERG: NO. You know, look. I have had issues, not personal issues with him, but you know --.
AXELROD: But what was your personal relationship?
GOLDBERG: Cordial, you know. Because, you know, you don't want to just walk up and somebody is screaming in the face. But you know, I saw what he did to the Central Park five, you know. And it bothered me deeply.
AXELROD: The five young man who were wrongly accused.
GOLDBERG: Wrongly accused of beating --.
GOLDBERG: And called for the death penalty. And you know, then this the nonsense about, you know, whether Barack Obama was an American citizen.
AXELROD: You actually had a pretty sharp confrontation with him on "the View" in 2011.
GOLDBERG: Yes. I think that's the biggest pile of dog mess I have heard in ages.
Any white president asks to show their birth certificate.
AXELROD: Why did that offend you so much?
GOLDBERG: Because I know he went to school. And I know he knows the Hawaii was part of the United States. And I know that the real bottom line of that conversation was how can he be our president? And it's like, listen, man, you are.
AXELROD: He says I'm the least racist person you know.
GOLDBERG: In his mind he probably is.
AXELROD: How about in your mind?
GOLDBERG: In my mind I think it is an inherent believe there are inferior people to him. And it would not surprise me, because, you know, you listen to some of the things, talk about his dad and what his dad did and how he himself has treated people of color. And so he can say he is the least racist person. But then, you know, you might want to start working on that part, you know. You keep saying you are not racist, and then you do racist stuff. And then you hear racist things, and you don't say, hey, that's not how we talk here. So for me, he has a lot of issues. But I always said he had issues. AXELROD: You wrote this book called "Is it just me, or is it nuts out
there in 2011." Seems like that question has been asked and answered now.
AXELROD: But are (INAUDIBLE). You said now I have always known that there were bullies in the world. We have seen a lot of it in politics lately as well as in daily life. You see it where people who may be stronger or big or better with verbiage than other folks show off. To me that's what bullying is. It's showing off and saying I'm better than you can. I can take you down, not just physically but emotionally.
AXELROD: Does that describe Donald Trump?
GOLDBERG: To me, yes. I mean, you know, when you know that there are all these kids whose lives are in the balance because they just need to know what am I doing.
AXELROD: The DACA kids.
GOLDBERG: The DACA kids. And you know that this is scary for them and scary for little kids who sort of have heard about it, am I going to come home and find mom or dad gone, you know. When you know that this pressure is what you are putting on children, this anxiousness, and you don't take a minute to say, listen, let's do a state of the conversation for the children, since I'm the reason you are anxious. But you haven't done that, you know, because it wasn't about, I think, becoming the president. It was about winning. He wanted to win. And he won however he could.
I am not as concerned about him as I am concerned about the people we are about to lose, you know, the moderates on the other end on the Republican side.
[19:05:24] AXELROD: (INAUDIBLE)
GOLDBERG: Yes, you know. Because I believe that moderates can help get stuff done.
AXELROD: Well, listen our politics doesn't really allow for it now because the parties are so polarized. And the rewards are in the wrong place. So the big worry politicians have is someone on their left or right will come after them.
GOLDBERG: The idea that you cannot have a moderate Republican and a moderate Democrat, it's unconscionable to me. Because I grew up with moderates on both sides. That's why you could always have conversations with people. Because the greatest thing is that no one is ever 100 percent happy. But we make it work and we make it better.
When I heard Mitch McConnell say, when Obama was elected, I'm not going to do anything, anything to help this president. To me, that was a big FU to the United States. Because he wasn't the president of black people. He wasn't the president of the liberals. He was the president of everybody.
AXELROD: Yes. I was there. I remember how appalling it was. There are people on the other side now who say, well, that's what they did to Obama, so we are going to do the same thing.
GOLDBERG: But that doesn't work. Because then it just becomes the same crap over and over. I just want people and who remember what the promise of America is. Not was. But is.
AXELROD: You know, I work for the president. He's a good friend of mine and good friend of yours, President Obama. How much of Trump was a reaction to Obama?
GOLDBERG: I knew that a Democrat was not going to win. I knew that. Because history tells us that. There has not been a two-term Democrat and then newly elected.
AXELROD: It's hard for any party to elect the president for third term rarely happens.
GOLDBERG: It was rare. So I knew it was going to be somebody. But I knew it wasn't going to be Hillary. Just because of the way people were treating Hillary I knew that wasn't going to happen.
AXELROD: You think unfairly?
GOLDBERG: Yes. You know, listen. You may not like her. You may disagree with her politics. But you cannot try someone over and over and over and over and overlooking for looking for stuff. You can't put them on television and ask question after question after question after question and blame everything on her and still come up with no information without saying, hey, maybe there is nothing there.
The fact that they tried to beat a dead horse is insane. I thought that if Jeb Bush had turned around to Donald Trump, Jeb Bush say hold on, what did you say about my wife? What did you say about my sons? Because you know my family, my wife is Mexican, my sons are part. What did you say? And when he didn't check him, then I knew it was done.
GOLDBERG: Because there wasn't, in my opinion, there wasn't a Colona in that group, you know. They all let him walk all alone.
AXELROD: Well. And they also all of them behaved in a way that conformed to what sort of the standard of political debate was. Trump doesn't play by those rules. Trump plays by his own rules. He understands television. He understands how to cut through. He has no sense of decorum about what he says. And that in a weird way gave him ha big advantage.
Just turning to Obama for a second, how much of that opposition was routed in race, in your view? GOLDBERG: I think a lot of it was based in race. Because remember, I
know you remember, but when you had Obama won and you had some of those talk radio people asking questions, like doesn't he remind you of curious George? You know, all of those little things that I remember hearing, reminded me that, you know, that group that never got over the fact that slavery was abolished is still out there. It's still out there.
AXELROD: So you saw the shar Charlottesville events and the President's reaction to it, his comments about the African countries, his dealing with Colin Kaepernick, is there a strategy there or is just visceral?
[19:10:21] GOLDBERG: No, that's his base. That's his base. When he keeps harping on the flag, the flag, the flag, it is because he doesn't somehow realize that our ability to say this is not right, however we do it, is our right to do that. That's a right. You can't take that.
Now, I understand when somebody says I don't think this represents me, and here's why, I'm not doing a work stoppage. I'm not being disrespectful. I'm kneeling. My back is not to the flag. I'm kneeling, begging to be recognized. Instead, we have somebody said well that's disrespecting. It's not disrespecting, you know.
Let's not forget that we had a segregated armed forces where thousands of soldiers came home after World War II and couldn't vote. And you would think in all these NFL teams where they have men of color, they got men of color, ask them. You haven't been stopped before they recognized you? Yes.
I thought that people would recognize that this was the most respectful way to do this. That this is part of our right as an American citizen. Instead people were like how dare do they do this? Listen. Nobody owns these guys. These guys work their tail off. And when they get a bad knee, they are done. So this kid to me, I had nothing but respect for him because it's hard to stand and piss in the wind.
AXELROD: You know, the President's attacks have hurt the NFL because he is such a polarizing figure, his base reacts to what he says. He can be a market mover and he knows that.
GOLDBERG: Yes. And he knows -- listen, he knows everything he said is what they love.
AXELROD: He watches TV a lot. I think you saw that.
AXELROD: If you had a message for him, what would that message be?
GOLDBERG: You know what, I have no message for him. I have messages for the people around him. Change is coming. Change is coming. And it's not coming because it's even ideological. It's coming because you are in danger. You are allowing things that endanger our children, our country, our air, that's why the change is coming.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ahead of the axe files.
GOLDBERG: Hey, you are not allowed to say stuff like that. And if you do, these 18 women are going to come up to your office, and we are going to dangle you out the window.
[19:17:47] AXELROD: You are out there for the marchers in both years.
AXELROD: What motivated you to go out and speak?
GOLDBERG: Well, one of the greatest stories was of this young woman who didn't go to the march last year, but she watched it, and then listened to her representatives speak. And he joked, gee, I hope the women's march ends early enough so the women can go home and cook dinner for their husband's. And it pissed her off so much she ran. She ran. And she won.
And the idea that women said, you know what, this is not funny to me. This is not funny to me. These are scary things for me, you know, because you as a man, you are never going to have women's issues. You are never going to have to make the hard decision to decide whether or not to bring a child into fruition. You will never have to make that decision. So you are not funny to me, you know.
So I decided to make sure I got out there and said, you know, hey, listen, we have a lot to do, but we are doing a lot. People are saying, women in particular are saying, you know what, I just don't want to do it like this anymore.
AXELROD: The second women's march took on a different character in certain ways because this Me Too movement has now exploded. And I'm interested in your thoughts about that because there was a great deal of controversy about your defense of Bill Cosby.
GOLDBERG: Well, here -- let's be clear. I had questions. I grew up during Tulana Brawly (ph). I remember the Duke La Crosse team. I remember the Central Park five. I had questions. Because I feel you should have to answer them. So I said I have questions. And apparently people didn't understand it because people didn't remember the things that I remembered.
The Duke La Crosse boys, you know, their lives were ruined. Their lives were ruined. A man took his life (INAUDIBLE) in the story. And you know, the Central Park five spent all the time behind bars and still didn't get an apology. So I don't want that. I don't want just anybody to be able to say you are going to go, you are going down.
[19:20:24] AXELROD: And you ultimately were satisfied in this case that there was more than smoke there, in the Cosby case?
GOLDBERG: Well, you know, forgive me, but a pig is a pig, you know.
AXELROD: I think all of these egregious examples of harassment, abuse, and worse are rattling the country and it's a good thing. And it's long overdue. But there is such a furry about it. I think of senator Franken's case, which you probably followed. How do you feel about what happened there?
GOLDBERG: I think it is -- listen, there is an ethics committee. Make him deal with the ethics committee. That's what they are there for.
But, you know, listen, that horse is out of the barn now. And so women are saying, look, we are not taking it anymore. So now we are going to go around the long way. Then going around the long way and we will come to the place where we say, OK, case by case, what's happening here because everyone is now listening.
I'm a moderate kind of person. And I don't mind taking the time to build a case that puts you away for life in order to maintain and change the system as we know it. We have to walk into it and say, hey, you are not allowed to say stuff like that. You are not allowed to say stuff like that. And if you do, these 18 women are going to come up to your office and we are going to dangle you out the window.
AXELROD: That seems persuasive.
GOLDBERG: I think it's very clear. You know. But you know --.
AXELROD: I saw these displays of solidarity at the awards ceremonies all in black. I was really impressed by the women who were courageous enough to step forward in the front and - for Harvey Weinstein's case, for example. And then behind them came a bunch of very prominent people in showbusiness and yes, he we knew about that. He did it to me too and so on. And I guess, where were all the sort of mega stars when this was going on? And why didn't they step forward earlier?
GOLDBERG: Well, you know, I don't know.
AXELROD: And it is easy to wear black.
GOLDBERG: I'm furious, you know. If you can't prove it you may not want to say it.
AXELROD: And there was fear.
GOLDBERG: And there was a lot of fear. I mean, there is fear anytime someone in power abuses it. It is scary for the person who is being abused. And that's why for me until women said I will stand with you, I will stand next to you, and we will scream together so that you don't feel like you are out there alone, nothing was going to change. And until you made it dangerous to do. We still have so much to do right now. I mean, we still have 16 women who are accusing the man in charge.
AXELROD: You are talking about the president?
AXELROD: You never say his name?
GOLDBERG: I don't.
GOLDBERG: I can't.
AXELROD: But it's only one syllable.
GOLDBERG: I know. I know.
AXELROD: Do you think that it somehow honors him to use his name?
GOLDBERG: In conjunction with that word, yes.
AXELROD: You mean president.
AXELROD: I see.
AXELROD: But you recognize that he is the president?
GOLDBERG: You know, he is there, you know. Listen, this is the first time where I can't wrap my mind around this and that people felt the need to put this in. So, yes, I know people don't like that I don't do it. I'm fine with that. There is lots of stuff I do people don't like, you know. I can live with it.
But I do, you know, you asked me earlier about Al Franken, and so I think to myself, well, Al Franken has a lot of people lost of this. This one is still sitting there. So for me all these women's groups need to be raising money for these women's defense fund so that they can go on and do what they need to do because seems to be no ethics committee for him.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Next on the AXE FILES.
GOLDBERG: All kinds of drugs out there.
GOLDBERG: You know.
AXELROD: And apparently you sampled a bunch of them.
[19:25:01] GOLDBERG: Yes, I did.
AXELROD: And how did that work for you?
[19:29:29] AXELROD: The whole world knows Whoopi Goldberg.
AXELROD: Tell me about Karen Elaine Johnson. Who is Karen Elaine Johnson?
GOLDBERG: She's a very nice lady. It's my real name.
AXELROD: And tell me about growing up as Karen in New York in the '60s.
GOLDBERG: In Chelsey.
AXELROD: In Chelsey, in the projects.
GOLDBERG: In the projects.
I lived in the Chelsey projects. And I was very lucky to be raised by a fairly strange and wonderful woman. We knew smattering of different languages because of course a lot of immigrants coming into Chelsey.
[19:30:08] AXELROD: You said earlier that you don't mind being out of line, out of step. And I read somewhere that your mother sort of preached that, that it's OK to be different.
GOLDBERG: Well, I mean, she didn't preach it. She was really clear about it. And my mother said, listen, if you are going to insist on being an individual, people are going to be mad at you because you are not flowing the way everyone else is flowing. And if you can handle that, if you can handle that, life should be quite interesting.
AXELROD: Well, that's an under statement.
AXELROD: You started acting quite young. Why? What drew you to that?
GOLDBERG: I just liked it. You could pretend to be people from other places. You could be from the moon. You could be anything. You could be anything. You could be a knight. You could be a dancing frog. You could be a dancing princess. You could pretend to know how to do lots of different things and that seemed like a fun thing to me.
AXELROD: The thing that wasn't fun apparently was school.
GOLDBERG: Well, I'm dyslexic, and there wasn't really a word for it.
AXELROD: And do they -- how did they categorize you?
GOLDBERG: By the time we talked about it, by the time adults were talking about it, I was long gone.
AXELROD: You dropped out of school?
GOLDBERG: I did. I didn't like school.
GOLDBERG: But I loved to learn.
AXELROD: What did your mom say about that? Well, it's good to be different?
GOLDBERG: Actually, it was.
AXELROD: Really? She was OK with it?
GOLDBERG: Well, she said to me, listen. If you are not going to go to school, then I need to know where you are and what you are doing. So let's see what's available in New York. And so each day I would have to come and say this is what I did today.
AXELROD: I grew up here at the same time you did just a mile from you.
AXELROD: And it was a pretty lively place.
GOLDBERG: Oh, my goodness, Central Park. You could gather with people in the park and hear poetry being spouted. You know, there was change happening, you know. There were Yippee is, you know, marching against the war and marching against, you know, capitalism and, you know, all kinds of conversation happening. And there were all kind of drugs out there.
GOLDBERG: You know.
AXELROD: And apparently you sampled a bunch of them?
GOLDBERG: Yes, I did.
AXELROD: Including heroin.
GOLDBERG: I did. You know. And LSD and all kinds of stuff.
AXELROD: And how did that work for you? GOLDBERG: Well, I don't do it anymore, so it didn't work that well.
I did what most kids do. In the '50s, people drank beer and, you know, did stuff like that. I did all the same stuff. I don't like beer. I like marijuana.
AXELROD: And then you took off for -- you went to California.
GOLDBERG: I went to California. Someone said I have a kid, your child's age, would you come and be a nanny. I was like, sure, California, I said, yes. So we drove and stopped in Lubbock, Texas at the (INAUDIBLE) dinner theater where they perform and then drove to San Diego. And that was sort of life shifting. Warm air all the time. Lush plants. And you could thrive out there. I stayed there for a while and sort of watched my kid grow and go to school.
AXELROD: Yes. You were doing a bunch of stuff.
GOLDBERG: Yes, I was a bricklayer.
AXELROD: Qualifying people going to their internal rewards taking up --.
GOLDBERG: Hair and make-up on dead people, yes. No one has talk back.
AXELROD: That's it. It is like no tipping either.
GOLDBERG: No tipping. Very good, David.
So -- and when did you recognize that you had a gift that you could actually make a life as an actor, as a performer, as a comic?
GOLDBERG: I was always an actor. I was always a person who liked the theater. And you know, Hudson Gil theater was always. They are so -- for me, it was never -- it was never something I wasn't going to do. I always knew I had to do other work, but I liked it.
AXELROD: Was there a moment when you said, dam, I could actually make a career of this? This could be my job. I could be a success?
GOLDBERG: No. That was not the thinking. The thinking was, listen, I want to do this more. How can I do this more than I have been doing it? Maybe I can create some monologues for myself that make it look like I'm really good. Yes, that's what I will do.
[19:35:07] AXELROD: You had been exposed to so many characters in your life. Were you collecting these characters in your head? How is it -- because I mean, I watched these things and it blows you away.
GOLDBERG: I was in the beach like with all my friends, I like all my friends with me, I don't know, we were all together. I mean, total hunk comes over to me and he goes like hi. And I was totally not ready for like this kind of conversation, OK.
I come from mimics. My mom and her cousin would get together and they could mimic anybody. They would be doing accent. But it was going into my head. And I had on to mimic and my mother was a lover of film. Loved movies and television and performers. And so it was always in my psyche. No one ever said I couldn't do it. And so, when I got to San Diego, I was working with lots of different people. And then I met another guy years later whose company was coming through San Diego to do stuff. And I just liked what they did. And he said well we are from San Francisco. We are up there. And you know, you should come up and, you know, come work with us. And I was like, well, maybe I'll try that. So I did.
AXELROD: And you and your daughter went up there?
GOLDBERG: Yes, we did.
AXELROD: And how did you end up in east Germany. You spent quite a bit of time there.
GOLDBERG: Well, we went back and forth a lot. People would get smuggled out and people get smuggled in. And you would spend time with a particular group. And they would get flown to the U.S. and they would spend time with your group.
And so to be able to go first to Germany and find out that I was the (INAUDIBLE), which is the black story teller. And someone says, well, we want you to work with these group of actors. You know, you do the workshops and to this plays. And somebody says, well, we have folks that, you know, we just want you to come and play with us. So you go and play and you start talking. And then listen. Well, just come through here and spend some time with us.
And so and then you realize, there is a wall here. Did I just go through the wall? So you go and you would improve with people. You would write strange sound poems with them. And it was the greatest thing that could have ever happened. Europe for me was the greatest thing that could happen because I had never been. I had no idea.
You know, I went to Scotland. I ordered food, Chinese food. And two Chinese kids came. And when I asked them what I owed them, they had Scottish accents and I was stunned. I was like you have to talk to me. So you realize that you are insular until you get out into the bigger world.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Up next on the AXE FILES.
GOLDBERG: Steven Spielberg wants to see you when you go back west. And I'm thinking, yes, I'm going to be in, you know, Indiana Jones, man.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)
[19:43:09] AXELROD: You started touring with a show of your own of these stories you put together.
AXELROD: And Mike Nichols happened on to one of these performances.
AXELROD: And that was life changing.
GOLDBERG: Yes, it was. It was stunning, really. I started doing my shows. And you know we got four people come. And then maybe two. Because, you know, nobody knew what was going on. And then a man named Mel Gusau (ph) came to the show from the "New York Times" and wrote the most extraordinary thing. And that review, I think it was like on a Wednesday, by Friday night we were sold out downtown. It was like, oh, oh, oh, because suddenly people are really actors that I had had always admired were coming to my show.
AXELROD: Yes. So Mike Nichols walked in?
GOLDBERG: No. Here's what happened. I'm backstage and my mother comes. She says I have to tell you there is somebody really amazing in the audience. Bye. And she left. So I go out and somebody --.
AXELROD: Are you scouring the audience?
GOLDBERG: Well, I'm not scouring, but I'm aware in case. So the show is done. It's really great. I go backstage. I say, ma?
She said did you see him?
GOLDBERG: I was like I didn't. Who is it? How can you miss him? I said who is it? She said it's Mike Nichols. I said the graduate Mike Nichols? She was like he was sitting right over there. And then I hear (knock, knock, knock). And I open the door for I was and oh, shit and I closed the door. And then my mother said you might want to open it again. So I did. And there he was. And he was very moved by a piece I did about being in Amsterdam and going to the Ann Frank house.
I could name that that I recognize because it said the Ann Frank house and I wondered, you know, if it was the same chick, you know. So I said I'm going to go check the pad out.
[19:45:31] AXELROD: Yes, I saw the piece. Wonderful piece. And he put you on Broadway.
GOLDBERG: Yes, he did. Yes, he did.
AXELROD: And the show was incredible success.
GOLDBERG: Yes. AXELROD: And then Alice Walker comes through and sends your stuff to
GOLDBERG: Yes, he sent it to Steven Spielberg and Quincy Jones.
AXELROD: What's going through your head at this point? Because you are doing like, you know, improve in San Diego a few years earlier, smuggling in and out of east Germany. And now you are on Broadway and you are sitting in front of Steven Spielberg.
GOLDBERG: So I did the show on Broadway. And then in the interim I got a manager and agent. And the manager whose name was Sandy Galen said Steven Spielberg wants to see you when you go out west. And I'm thinking, oh, yes, I'm going to be in, you know, Indiana Jones, man. I'll be running right next to Indy. And I wasn't sure why he wanted to see me, but I knew I had some time. And go an to me with Steven and I'm just looking at him. And I was thinking, wow, I am at emblem (ph). This is amble (ph). This is where ET lives. This is where all this things happens. And he says, so I want you to do your show if you wouldn't mind. And break in our little theater here at emblem (ph). I was like, no problem.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is the actual apron you got up on?
GOLDBERG: I'm very good with this. And I told him how much I loved ET. So now, I'm backstage and curtains and I peak. And I see Michael Jackson and I see Quincy Jones and I see Ashley Simpson and I see Steven Spielberg, I see all kinds of people and I'm thinking, this is really bizarre.
Then I come out and I do the show. And had a great time. And someone says more. I said, well, I was asked not to do more. And Steven said, well, why not. Well, because it's about ET. I call it Blee T what would happen if ET had landed in Oakland which was, you know, a tough city there.
So he says, OK, you have to do it. I said OK, but I'm telling you, you may not like this as much as other stuff. And the story basically is these kids find Blee T and they take him home to the projects. And he can't phone home because, you know, in those days, you have phonebooths in the streets and none of those work so he couldn't call anybody. But he becomes aqua mated into being in Oakland and he sports a Jerry Curl and he would have on like the John Travolta suit, you know, the suit with the big shoes And so, he was walking around. And when his people come to get him, he shoots them all up because he doesn't recognize them because he is acclimated and forgotten where he comes from.
GOLDBERG: And Steven was far from upset. He was --.
AXELROD: Blown away.
GOLDBERG: Blown away.
AXELROD: You got the part.
GOLDBERG: Yes, I did.
AXELROD: And the color purple. How much did it mean to you to play that role? You know, you talked earlier about the challenges that we have in this country. It seems important to remember the progress we have also made. And the history that you helped bring to life in that film and other films. How much did it mean to you to play that role?
GOLDBERG: Well, I thought I was playing a character. As it turns out she bothered a lot of people, particularly men did not like her and felt that Alice Walker's book did not represent black men the way they felt that they should be represented. So those were all the challenges.
There were a couple of times where I sat in a set and looked over and I thought, wow, I am sitting on the set of a Steven Spielberg movie, and started laughing way down inside. Or Oprah and I are looking at each other going, oh, my God, there we were brand new kids. And we were doing what we did and it - it was a great experience.
[19:50:27] AXELROD: I have to talk to you about another friend of yours. You did comic relief famously in the '80s and '90s to raise money for the homeless with Billy Crystal and Robin Williams. And I had one chance to meet Robin Williams. He came to do an event for Barack Obama. And it was interesting to be around him because he was almost stoic before he went on stage and then there was this explosion of creativity and he was brilliant. And then after he was again kind of withdrawn and then quiet. Obviously his life ended tragically. Were those struggles apparent to you?
GOLDBERG: I won't say that his life ended tragically. It ended too soon. But Robin was unlike anybody else, his mind worked at amazing speeds, but he was incredibly quiet as well. You know, the thing that Billy and Robin and I shared was the fact that we knew each other, you know. And I had known Robin a long time. But we knew each other and looked out so that Robin didn't have to be on with us, you know. When other people came around, you know, they expected him to be Robin Williams, and he was. But the Robin I think that Billy and I knew was a very different Robin. He was like a normal guy like us, except faster, you know.
AXELROD: Yes. I mean, I was touched by that. I have lost family members to suicide. And so I'm really attuned to this issue of mental illness and treating it as an illness and giving people the freedom to get the help that they need.
GOLDBERG: Robin might have had depression. But I do think that whatever medication he was dealing with or taking did not service him well. But when I think of Robin, I think of his love of family. I think of all the stuff that he gave, I don't know what he had. I don't know that that was something that was in his mind to do. But I do know that that was -- that would not have been the way that the man I know would have gone.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Up next. GOLDBERG: Yes. You know, I miss it. But nobody is checking for me,
you know. It is not my turn right now.
[19:57:42] AXELROD: So what about your life? You have had this incredible journey.
GOLDBERG: I have?
AXELROD: Yes. Well, I'm not suggesting the journey is --.
GOLDBERG: I'm just saying.
AXELROD: I'm sorry, Whoopie. I have some news for you. And you have done it in your own way. You are a mega movie star and what they call e-gut (ph). You have won an Emmy, and a Grammy, and an Oscars and a Tony. And yet, you famously say, I'm not going to do the glamour thing.
GOLDBERG: Well, I mean, some people can. I tried. It didn't work well for me. It is not my favorite thing. And I don't carry it off well.
But listen. I have a really interesting career, interesting life. I do what I want to do. I fight battles all the time, you know, half the time -- I do a show every day. Half the time the entire country, half of the country hates you and half of the country is OK with you.
AXELROD: I mean, going back and looking at a lot of your work before this show, I was -- and I told you this beforehand, and I was really blown away by what a creative genius you are. And, you know, the view is a different kind of thing. And obviously you are contributing to the dialogue and the debate. But part of me was saying, man, I want her back out there doing this other thing.
GOLDBERG: Yes. You know, I miss it. But I'm also -- nobody is checking for me. You know. It is not my turn right now. And I'm lucky enough to have a turn in another place. So you find other things to do. And I just don't want to be bored. I don't want to bore myself. I just want to have a good time and try to make a difference here and there and, you know, cop to it when you are wrong and cop to it when you are right, you know. And stand up and say I don't think this is OK.
AXELROD: Well, you have had so many different platforms in your life and all of them have been impactful. So I -- as a consumer of your work, I want to thank you.
GOLDBERG: Thank you.
AXELROD: And thank you for being here. GOLDBERG: Good to see you, David.
AXELROD: For more of my conversation with Whoopie, you can visit iTunes.com/axefiles.