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Teachers Across America on Strike; Interview with Distinguished Professor of Education, UCLA, Pedro Noguera and 2016 Washington State Teacher of The Year, Nate Bowling; Racial Struggle in Athletes; Interview with Author or "The Revolt of the Black Athlete," Harry Edwards; Activism in Sports; Battle with Sexism. Aired 1-2p ET
Aired February 22, 2019 - 13:00:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[13:00:00] CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hello, everyone, and welcome to "Amanpour." Here's what's coming up.
Across America, tens of thousands of teachers are walking out of their classrooms. We look at what's driving these educators to strike.
Then, athletes fighting for racial equality. Our Michel Martin talks to scholar and activist, Dr. Harry Edwards.
And, one of the world's favorite actresses in a cutting-edge role written 70 years ago. Gillian Anderson in the role Bette Davis in immortalized on
screen in "All About Eve."
Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Christiane Amanpour in London.
A tsunami of teacher strikes all across America is exposing a bitter truth. The country's educational system is torn and frayed, with class sizes
growing and budgets plummeting. Teachers have hit a wall. So, they're walking out of their classrooms and parents are right by their side.
Already, this year, there were strikes in Colorado, California and West Virginia, with teachers threatening more walkouts in the coming weeks. It
is a question of basic priorities; education money is pouring out of the already underfunded public schools and into charter and private schools in
the name of "school choice"
Meanwhile, state and local spending on prisons is rising at triple the rate of funding for children's education.
Pedro Noguera, distinguished professor of education at UCLA is an expert on issues of race and educational equality. And Nate Bowling is one of
America's great teaches, he was a finalist for National Teacher of the year in 2016 and he himself went on a school strike in Tacoma, Washington last
Professor Pedro Noguera and also, Nate Bowling, thank you very much for joining us.
Let me start with you, Professor. This is quite an amazing phenomenon. You've got hundreds of thousands of teachers in different states striking
and they've been doing so for quite a long time. Is there -- has there as the anything like it? Is this sort of unprecedented?
PEDRO NOGUERA, DISTINGUISHED PROFESSOR OF EDUCATION, UCLA: It is a precedented. We have seen isolated actions in different communities across
the country at various times but to have these many strikes in -- this many different parts of the country at once is truly unprecedented and it's a
sign that many teachers are very frustrated at the State of Public Education.
AMANPOUR: And just to expand on that, it is connective, so to speak? They're all striking for pretty much the same things and I know there are
several issues that are at stake. But first, let me focus on conditions in the schools, in the classrooms. What are the conditions that they are
particularly exercised about?
NOGUERA: So, the conditions vary. But since 2008, the Great Recession, many states began on a path of fiscal austerity, which took a particular
toll on the schools and resulted in both cuts and major, you know, no raises in teacher salaries and the like.
And what we see that many states haven't -- even if the Congress improved, have not reinvested in education. And so, consequently, teachers are
frustrated, particularly in areas like the Bay Area where housing costs are so high and the cost of living has risen but salaries haven't risen, that's
a huge factor. But economics is not the only issue driving these strikes.
Nate Bowling, you are a teacher. A few years ago, you were declared Washington State's best teacher and you yourself, in the last few months,
have also being on strike, in the streets, out of your classroom. Flesh out for me was the professor has told us on a macrolevel. What does it
mean to be a teacher in the public-school system today?
NATE BOWLING, 2016 WASHINGTON STATE TEACHER OF THE YEAR: There's a two- track problem that I see in teaching. On track one, you have that basically almost all teachers are underpaid and overworked and asked to a
job that they don't feel they're valued by society. And then within the profession, your highly effective educators, they have options.
And so, for me and for my colleagues, if you're a highly effective educator, that means you can go to other career paths that are less
stressful and pay much better.
AMANPOUR: So, how has that affected you? I mean, have you been tempted to leave the school? Have other of your colleagues left? I mean, how has it
impacted you and also the school?
BOWLING: I love the job of teaching and I choose to stay in the classroom. But if you look at my Teacher of the Year cohort, we have four finalists.
Of our four finalists, two of them are not doing policy work in Washington D.C., one's a member of Congress and the remaining two who stayed in the
classroom both walked a picket line.
And so, if the Teachers of the Year are frustrated, imagine what it's like being one of the anonymous teachers who's toiling in a low income urban or
rural school in America.
AMANPOUR: Professor, where is this going? If it's hitting the top teaches so badly, what's the solution?
NOGUERA: Well, the only solution is to really reinvest in education, that we have to make teaching an attractive profession so that teachers like
Nate Bowling will stay in the profession and we have to do things to improve conditions in schools.
In this country, there is no social safety net for children. So, poor children come to school hungry, come to school with basic needs not met.
Teachers are the front -- on the front line addressing those needs but they're not paid to be social workers and therapist but they are expected
to take on those roles.
And so, what we've done is we've put more and more pressure on teachers, ask them to do more and more, we haven't raised the pay and teacher are
finally pushing back. And I think in the process of pushing back, what they're doing is really calling attention to the deterioration of
conditions in our schools, which has occurred over several years.
AMANPOUR: What do the parents say when they see teachers going out on strike? What have you heard?
BOWLING: I've been in the classroom at Lincoln High School for 10 years and I have a very good relationship with many of the parents in the
community. There are families who -- I'm teaching like the 3rd and 4th kid in their family and they're incredibly supportive.
The families at my school and the families across the country, I think, are supportive of what teachers are trying to do. Teachers are advocating for
better conditions for themselves and the conditions for themselves will improve the learning environment for their students.
AMANPOUR: Professor Noguera, you know, you alluded to the fact, and obviously so did Nate, that teachers are simply, in America and in the
public school system, not compensated in kind, they're not respected as being at the top of a professional ladder, they're almost, you know,
treated as the least paid, the least worthy in society when, in fact, they are the most -- and you see in other countries, for instance, here in
Europe, where teachers are paid massively higher than those in the public school system in the United States. Where here in Europe and elsewhere,
it's considered a top-notch profession to be a teacher.
Tell me a little bit about what you know about that and whether that's even transferable to the United States.
NOGUERA: I think that's a very important point, Christiane, which is -- that the teaching is not a position held in high regard the United States.
We actually assume that anyone could be a teacher. And in several states, we've made it easy for anybody with the bachelor's degree to become a
teacher, provide them with very little training, put them in classrooms with very disadvantaged students who are struggling to learn and then we
blame the teacher for why they're not getting better test scores.
The whole situation is one to set people up for failure and to not meet the needs of our students. So, we could learn a lot from the countries that
outperform us, most of the countries in Western Europe, in Japan, in Canada, that -- where teachers are treated with much greater respect, the
profession is held in much higher regard. And what we see in those countries is it has an impact on student outcomes.
So, we've claimed in the last several years to be very concerned about our competitiveness in the world with respect to education performance but we
haven't made the investments in education that would lead to better performance from our students. And so, the teachers' role in this is
AMANPOUR: Let's to talk about policy now, because it's not red or blue states where this is happening, these walkouts, it's in many red and blue
states. And apart from the conditions and the pay that we've just been talking about, there's also this policy issue, and that is you, in the
public-school system, in the public-school sector, are concerned about the ever-increasing privatization of American education, whether it's charter
schools or the like.
Why is the charter school issue being such an issue in West Virginia with their strikes and what is wrong with charter schools?
NOGUERA: Well, I think what the teachers in West Virginia saw and what's happening in other places where charter schools have been allowed to
proliferate, what it's done is it diminished the amount of money available to public schools.
Charter schools originally envision as a way to bring innovation into public education. But instead, what we've done is we've created a
competitive system that's unregulated. So, we have lots of cases of charter schools being run by for profit organizations that have engaged in
corruption and really been irresponsible to the public for the use of public funds.
And so, the threat posed by charters really does undermine public education further as we've seen in Los Angeles where it has the largest number of
charter schools in the nation. So, it's become an issue that public-school teachers increasingly are concerned about and are striking over.
AMANPOUR: And yet, of course, it's preached as the solution.
NOGUERA: And, again, that's both Democrats and Republicans. So, this is - - it's interesting the way this is playing out and it will play out in the next election.
AMANPOUR: What is the problem with the increasing privatization of the public education system, particularly in your area, in the California area,
now we're in the second big strike, Oakland is now underway? And apparently, it's disproportionately affecting children of color, Latinos,
Blacks. Tell me about that.
NOGUERA: Yes. Our public-school system is the most accessible institution in the country. And so, when we allow those conditions to deteriorate, as
we have, what we see is that the kids' basic needs are not being met but we've created as a competitive environment where charter schools and public
schools are competing for kids but we haven't put more money into the system.
So, in Los Angeles and Oakland, what we see now is many under enrolled schools and therefore, we can't sustain them and what we've seen is that as
the number of schools has decreased, our ability to support schools and public education declined.
So, the real question, why is California in the midst of these strikes? You know, California is a very blue state. We have a democratically
elected governor who was elected with support from the unions but California spends 41st in the nation in per people spending.
And so, they're going to have to do a lot to change the tax laws to reinvest public education. But that means, turning away from the kind of
privatization policies that were embraced both by the Obama and the Bush administration and now, the Trump administration, which has resulted in
this decline and deterioration in public education throughout the country.
AMANPOUR: Nate, do you feel based on the evidence so far that these strikes are getting to where you want them to get? Are lawmakers
listening? Do you see any change or hope on the horizon?
BOWLING: I can say that here in Takoma when we went on strike, we were able to come back from the strike with essential pay raise, and that's made
a difference for my -- in my life and the lives of the teachers.
The thing is, going on strike is a miserable experience. Nobody wants to be on strike. And what we're trying to do is capture the public's
attention. I feel like Americans talk about value education but they don't actually show they value education. And hopefully, these strikes can be a
catalyst to get policymakers attention.
I can say that like I know that here in Washington State, I'm well compensated. For me, it's not about the money, it's about the conditions.
I make, frankly, double what some teachers in Florida make. And on a lot of these states they've passed laws to make it illegal to strike. And in
doing so, what they're trying to do is silence educators.
AMANPOUR: So, Nate Bowling, if you would just then say, and I'll ask Professor Noguera as well, what does this mean for the United States of
America? We hear all over the world that the only way to get ahead, to propel yourself and your nation and your community is education. It's like
a religion. Education is the holy grail. What does this mean for the future of America if kids are not getting the education they deserve and
BOWLING: We tell students every day that education is the gateway to a middle-class lifestyle and a way out of poverty. But if we continue how
the system of school that we have, with the systems of poverty and lack of support, what we're really going to do is we're going to solidify people's
social conditions. And kids who are going to grow up are going to live for and die for.
Like by having the school system that we have, we're removing and taking away education's ability to be an equalizer.
AMANPOUR: That's a pretty dramatic way to put it. And, Professor Pedro Noguera, when you study this and look into it, I mean, it must be making
America not only less healthy in the ways that Nate Bowling just said, but certainly less competitive around the world.
NOGUERA: It is because the big issue facing America today is inequality and the rising inequality. The only way to address an equality is to do
what Nate said and that's to invest -- ensure that all kids have access to good education so they can improve their lives, help themselves, help their
families and communities. But that's not what we've been doing, we've been doing the opposite of that.
And we're a country with an aging population. And what many people don't realize, particularly older voters in this country, is if young people are
not working and not earning good salaries because they got a good education, they're not going to be able to support this pension system and
So, what we don't see is that education is key to our future and that we are, in fact, interdependent, that we don't do a good job of educating this
generation of young people, we will pay for it later. So, it is in our own interest as a nation to make these kinds of investments in children and in
AMANPOUR: Well, you both made that case very, very clearly and we thank you both, Professor Pedro Noguera and also, Teacher Nate Bowling. Thank
you both very much indeed.
NOGUERA: Thanks for having me.
BOWLING: Thank you.
AMANPOUR: Now, in a moment, we'll bring you my interview with the theater, film and television star, Gillian Anderson.
But first, we turn from activism in schools to activism in sports, where America's racial struggles play out to every level, from the youngest
beginners to the highest paid professional athletes.
Dr. Harry Edwards is a sociologist and a civil rights activist who's been behind protests by high-profile athletes for more than 50 years. And our
Michel Martin asked Dr. Edwards how he sees the many links between sports and social justice.
MICHEL MARTIN, CONTRIBUTOR: Professor Harry Edwards, thank you so much for speaking with us.
HARRY EDWARDS, AUTHOR, "THE REVOLT OF THE BLACK ATHLETE": Thank you for having me.
MARTIN: When did you understand that sports was about more than the contest itself, more than the game itself, that there was a bigger picture
to it? Do you remember when that insight came to you?
EDWARDS: Well, yes. My awareness evolved in the face of my study of sociology and my experiences as a scholarship athlete. It became very
clear to me early on that in point of fact it wasn't how well you play the game or your competence or capability or potential in terms of the sport,
it has to do with a lot about the issues, oftentimes reflecting issues that were in the broader society.
I thought that there was something strange as an undergraduate scholarship athlete about the fact that the greatest trainers (ph) and track players
that we had at the school were Black, the leading rebounders, the scores at basketball were Black, the best running backs and defensive backs were
Black, but there were no Black coaches, there were no Black professors on campus to speak of. I think that there was one that I never got to know,
never got to meet white I was an undergraduate there.
But I thought that there was something wrong with that. And as I began to delve into it from a sociological perspective, it became very, very clear
that it reflected circumstances in society.
MARTIN: You have been a part of our discussions about sports and society, particularly race and society for half a century now. I mean, people will
remember, say with Tommy Smith and John Carlos, the Olympic sprinters who made a protest at the 68th Olympics, I think to this day maybe one of the
most sort of iconic images of protests in sports going straight through to Colin Kaepernick, the former 49ers quarterback, who has gotten so much
attention for his protests against police violence, sort of, and other matters.
You have been influential in all of that. What would you describe as your role in these important moments?
EDWARDS: I'm basically a teacher. And in all of these instances, I was a counsellor or a teacher in the case of Carlos and Smith, a counselor to
Kaepernick, and they would ask me questions and I would give them honest answers and perspectives on the issues that they were raising.
There's nothing new about athlete protest. This goes back to the turn of the 20th Century, it goes back to pleasure Plessy versus Ferguson and
separate but equal. In point of fact, Plessy versus Ferguson, which was the United States Supreme Court edict in 1896 says nothing about separate
So, when you look at athletes such as Jack Johnson who trailed White heavyweight champions all over the world, demanding a fight, when you look
at athletes such as Jesse Owens, when you look at athletes such as Joe Lewis, when you look at athletes such as Paul Robeson, when you look at the
Negro Leagues, you begin to recognize upon analysis that the Negro Leagues, for example, was a resistance movement. The goal of Plessy versus Ferguson
was to push Black people back as close to slavery as possible without actually calling it that.
Athletes had a role in rebelling against that and the resistance against that and the parallel Black athletic performances that, at the turn of the
century, were about establishing legitimacy were part of that resistance movement.
Kaepernick was saying there's something wrong about 147 Black men, women and children being shot down, largely unarmed, being shot down by police
every year. But instead, it was converted into, "Well. this is a protest against the flag. This is a protest against the police."
MARTIN: Let's go back into your history lesson, if you would, for a moment. You're saying that Black athletes have always been part of
resistance movements, in fact, you're saying, I think what I hear you saying, is that Black athletic -- Black athleticism, in itself, has
sometimes been resistance in and of itself, like, for example, the Negro Leagues was itself a resistance movement.
But wouldn't it be fair to say that say Tommy Smith and John Carlos making overt political gestures did represent something new? Would you say that
that was true?
EDWARDS: Well, it represented something new but every phase of the athlete's resistance movement, protest movement has been something new.
So, the first era was about legitimacy and the situation of abject segregation. The second wave of athletic activism with Jackie Robinson was
about the struggle for desegregation and access. The third wave was about dignity and respect.
Jim Brown said straight out, "I've played football for respect." Muhammad Ali wanted respect for his name, he wanted respect for his religion, he
wanted respect and the dignity of conscientious objection. Bill Russell refused to be called a basketball player. He said unequivocally, "I'm a
man with a whole bunch of talents. One of which is I have a tremendous talent for winning basketball games, but that doesn't make me a basketball
And so, as we go through these various phases, we find that no error does things the way that the last era did. Colin Kaepernick and Eric Reid and
Michael Bennett and Malcolm Jenkins and those athletes are not doing things the way that Tommy Smith and John Carlos did.
MARTIN: Many people say they believe that Kaepernick has been blackballed as a result of this. Do you think he was prepared for all of that? I know
that you spoke with him and advised him. Was he prepared for the magnitude of all this?
EDWARDS: I think that he was accepting for whatever came. He was accepting of whatever might come. And we discussed specifically the
outcomes of Muhammad Ali who lost the championship, the outcomes of Smith and Carlos who were banned from amateur athletic competitions, we talked
about Joe Lewis and Jesse Owens as great an athlete -- as great as they were as athletes, as patriotic as they were of athletes, they wound up
being hounded most of their lives by the Internal Revenue Service.
So, anytime you are high-profile and you stand up for it or you are a part of the resistance movement in terms of this whole history of America's --
one of America's original sense, White supremacy, the other one being patriarchy, then you're going to pay a price.
And so, I don't think that Colin had any illusions that that would be some backlash and in point of fact, the backlash came all along the way, and he
was accepting of that reality and willing to pay that price.
MARTIN: You're a tenured professor, you were a professor at Emeritus at your institution and I know that you had a struggle to get tenure for --
because -- I think it's assumed in part because of your activism, shall we say, although you did ultimately get tenure.
But is there any part of you that when you see a young man like Kaepernick coming forward, seeking your advice, wants to tell him no, don't do it?
EDWARDS: No, I never tell athletes or anybody else I counsel what to do. I tell them the likely outcomes, depending upon what type of option they
choose. I have been in that situation. I was fired from San Jose State for organizing the Olympic Project for Human Rights and shutting the school
down over issues of racial injustice.
I was persona non grata at Cornell University for half a century. They have just invited me back this coming April as a consequence of the
takeover of Willard Straight Hall, which they -- the chancellor blamed me for at Cornell.
And so, for 50 years, I've never been back on that campus, even though I lectured at virtually every other league university, from Harvard
University, to PAM and Yale and so forth.
University of California denied me tenure over that period of time that I've been out there as an activist. I mean, in the 1960s I was shot at,
twice. So, I know that that goes on. You don't have to be a celebrity to run into those kinds of issues. You don't even have to be an activist.
MARTIN: I know that you are aware that these protests, particularly ones that attract a lot of attention, sometimes, you know, repel as many people
as they attract and I know that -- I was reading that you actually conducted an exercise or thought experiment, if we want to call it, that
with an audience that you were speaking with and you asked them, you know, "How many of you are uncomfortable with these protests or slightly
uncomfortable to very uncomfortable?" and you said that -- what, was it something like 60 percent of the hands went up?
MARTIN: So --
EDWARDS: About 75 percent of the audience.
MARTIN: So, how do you respond to that then, those who say, "Well, it's not productive then," if most of the people in the audience are
uncomfortable with it? What do you say to that?
EDWARDS: No, because they don't want the discussion. You got -- I'm not - - these protests are not about making people feel comfortable, making people feel OK, it's about promoting the discussion. And the reason you
have the shift from the points that Kaepernick and these other protesting athletes have been trying to make, that we are better than a 147 Black men,
women and children being shot down in this society every year since 1968 by representatives of the judicial system, we're better than that.
They don't want to discuss that. They don't want to discuss why it's so (INAUDIBLE). They don't want to discuss injustice. So, that is simply the
nature of protests. There has never been a protest by a minority in American society where the American mainstream has stood up and said,
"Amen, we support that." That's why they call it a protest rather than a picnic.
MARTIN: So, you've recently wrote a piece talking about why there were so few people continuing to kneel during NFL games. Last year, for example,
there were a couple of hundred people who are participating in these protests that became like a major sort of story. By the end of this
season, there were sort of very few.
How should we interpret that? Does that mean that these protests were not successful or that the athlete were intimidated from continuing them?
EDWARDS: Well, first of all, you have a situation which is not organically connected to the sports that are involved. The issues that Kaepernick and
these athletes were taking the kneel about and so forth came over the Stadium Wall from the broader society.
So, you're unlikely to get a large proportion of athletes saying, "Yes, I'm going to do that because they're not directly and specifically impacted and
affected by the issues in question."
The second thing is that these types of movements tend to have about a six- year life span. That is to say if you go back and look from the time that Lebron James and D. Wade and the Miami Heat did the hoodie demonstration,
up until last year, it's about six years, from 2012 up until 2018.
So, these movements have about a six-year lifespan, the Black Power Movement, which was initiated with Stokely Carmichael in 1966. By 1972, it
was virtually dead. They have that period of life principally because of internal contradictions and challenges.
So, these kinds of evolutions and the window of time when you can be active and effective are sociologically predictable. That's one of the things
that we've learned through pursuing the sociology of sports.
MARTIN: Well, I know that you say that you don't tell athletes what to do but I am going to invite you to you and say, now -- you've said that this
is like the natural lifespan of this kind of protest, what should happen now in your view? What would you like to see happen now?
EDWARDS: Well, I would like to see this whole thing move from protest, which have already diminished substantially, to policies and programs for
the interest of generating progress. Kaepernick is not against the police, he's not against the justice system, he's against injustice.
That means that collaboratively, we're going to have to come together and get everybody around the table, including the police, including the
citizens, including the people from the various sports and determine how do we move this thing from this focus on protest to progress through changes
and policies and the development of collaborative programs.
MARTIN: There have been a couple of reports lately that suggest that the American love affair with football is waning. In fact, a number of high-
profile figures in the sport, for example, like Terry Bradshaw have said that he wouldn't let his sons play. In fact, he's not the only one and I
wonder what you make of that. I mean --
EDWARDS: Well, not -- you have Hall of Fame football players, NFL football players who say they would not allow their sons to play football. You have
the USA Football League which is down 17 percent, you have Pop Warner Football down -- which is down over 20 percent over the last two years.
And so, what you have is this decline at the level of development in terms of people allowing their sons to play football but that is why you're going
to have an overwhelmingly black league.
As I talked to one mother from Oakland who had a son playing football in college and in high school, she said, "Hey. You're telling me about the
concussion issue and my son could be killed on the way to football practice right here. If he can play football and that's the way for him to move up
and out and be -- and get better circumstances, not just for himself but for the family, then he's going to play football."
When you look at that kind of reasoning, which makes sense, don't tell me about a concussion that might impact my son 25 years from now, look at the
circumstances we're in. You see blacks being channeled into football despite the medical issues.
The other thing is that blacks historically have not trusted the medical profession. Going back to the Tuskegee experiments on syphilis and beyond,
they have not trusted the medical profession. So even when they have the information, oftentimes they look at it as scams.
And then the third thing is because they're so committed to the sport, they tend to dominate in those positions that they have access to. And so
there's nobody else out there competing at that level. So for all of those reasons, blacks are going to prevail in football. And that's who you're
going to be watching in the NFL.
So it's not just an issue of whites pulling their sons out of football at the developmental level, it's that old issue of whether whites will watch
what is substantially an overwhelmingly black league.
MARTIN: I do find myself wondering after half a century in the fight, what's your state of mind? I mean do you feel that progress is being made?
Do you feel optimistic?
EDWARDS: I'm overwhelmingly optimistic.
EDWARDS: We have to understand that movements are a part of America's political DNA. Old Sam Adams and his sons of Liberty Movement was not a
British government program when they threw that 300-plus boxes of tea into the Boston Harbor.
All throughout American history, there have been movements. This protest movement that was set in motion by the Miami Heat and followed up on by
Colin Kaepernick, those are traditional and as American as cherry pie.
We came out of the Abolitionist Movement better. We came out of the Labor Movement with an eight-hour day. We came out of the Women's Movement with
the women's right to vote. We came out of the Civil Rights Movement with a Voting Rights Act and the Civil Rights Act.
We're going to come out of the Black Lives Matter Movement better. We're going to come out of this movement among protesting athletes better because
that is what we Americans do.
MARTIN: Harry Edwards is Professor Emeritus at San Jose State University. He's the author of "The Revolt of the Black Athlete." Professor Edwards,
thank you so much for talking with us.
EDWARDS: Thank you. My privilege.
AMANPOUR: Doctor Edwards was talking about his relationship with Colin Kaepernick. He settled his case against the NFL. Though the details have
not been disclosed.
And now, we turn to another distinguished veteran, Gillian Anderson, an actress at the very top of her profession in television, theater, and film.
From her breakout role as star of the number one hit, the X-Files to her surprisingly as a self-proclaimed shag specialist in the Netflix comedy
Now, she's back on stage in London's West End in a brilliant, new production of "All About Eve." It's an adaptation of the classic Hollywood
movie, which is best remembered for its iconic performance by Bette Davis as the actress Margo Channing.
Anderson's take on Channing is very much of this cultural moment. It's a penetrating look at hot button issues from sexism to ageism to our
obsession with physical beauty. When I spoke with Gillian Anderson here in London, I asked her about the daunting challenge of filling Bette Davis's
shoes in the play that has just made its debut.
Gillian Anderson, welcome to the program.
GILLIAN ANDERSON, ACTRESS: Thank you for having me.
AMANPOUR: What brought you back from film or T.V.?
ANDERSON: Well, I like to do a stage every three or four years. And the last play that I did was "Streetcar." And it's difficult I think to find
something once you have done Tennessee Williams or something like Blanche Dubois. It's challenging to find something that could potentially be as
meaty or challenging and enjoyable.
My partner had suggested I might want to look --
AMANPOUR: Your r partner is?
ANDERSON: Peter Morgan.
AMANPOUR: Oh, right. The creator of "The Crown" --
AMANPOUR: -- and all sorts of other things.
ANDERSON: And quite soon after we got together, he said have you ever thought about looking into doing an adaptation of "All About Eve" as a
AMANPOUR: How much do you love this play, this story?
ANDERSON: It's a wonderful film.
AMANPOUR: Also Bette Davis, the 1950 film, and Anne Baxter.
ANDERSON: Yes. And everybody --
AMANPOUR: Margo who you play and Eve who is your understudy and then takes over.
ANDERSON: Yes. And it's hugely popular, won a lot of Oscars at the time.
AMANPOUR: I mean first of all, did you feel the pressure to Bette Davis's? Did you feel you should mimic or do something different? Because
obviously, your premise is completely different. She was like sarcastic and incandesce and you are, as they've described, somewhat glacial, much
AMANPOUR: Just give us the seatbelt line.
ANDERSON: Well, no.
AMANPOUR: Come on.
ANDERSON: No, no, no, no. Hang on. I'm going to answer your question which is that my understanding and going into work with Ivo is you come in
knowing nothing. You have no idea how he's going to treat it, what it's going to end up as.
I think, in the end, we actually didn't even know what it was going to be until we were told what it was after the previews have started really.
Because we're not in the audience and that so much is going on technically.
And so also not knowing whether things were going to be cut, whether it was going to be present or past or an amalgamation of different eras. And so I
think all of us kind of showed up with an empty mind and wanting to learn and be taught.
And so in that process, one lets go of preconceived ideas of who this character is. And also if you're working from the text alone, the text
alone is not itchy. The text is not as monstrous at all. And so a lot of -- and also, what we don't realize -- and seeing this again, I watched it
before -- again before -- I haven't watched it until --
AMANPOUR: The film.
ANDERSON: -- the film, until -- before I sat down with Ivo. And then he said he was not working on the film. The script, yes, but would not watch
And -- but I watched it again for the second time this morning. Just for you -- just have a conversation about what it is that Bette Davis actually
does. And actually, a lot of her lines are quite gentle. She has a harsh face and she is -- but actually, she's acting against that. And she's very
often much gentler than we remember her. We have a tendency to misremember --
AMANPOUR: And are you --
ANDERSON: -- how monstrous she is.
AMANPOUR: So we tend to think she's very monstrous and she's not.
ANDERSON: Yes. And she's actually really not. And I --
AMANPOUR: Can you do the lines? I let Annie Lennox sing at this table.
ANDERSON: Well, OK. Hang on a second. So, where we find Margo in this minute is that she -- the party is starting and she is starting to feel
already usurped by this young actress who she has allowed to take over her life and to be her assistant.
AMANPOUR: Who stalked her.
ANDERSON: Who essentially stalked her and now is living her house and maybe making a move on her younger boyfriend and eventually will make the
move on her career. But in this moment is the very beginning of Margo's feeling that maybe this is happening.
And she's -- they've got a welcome home party for her love of -- for her boyfriend. Yes, welcome home and birthday party. He's been away for a
while. And he has spent the first 20 minutes not coming to say hello to me, but to say hello to this young girl in the other room. And so she's
already grumpy and she's a little bit drunk.
And her good friend Karen has said to her, you know, what's happening here? You know, why -- we've seen you in this mood before. Is it over or is it
just beginning? And she assesses them all in the room, all of her friends lined up in front of her and says fasten your seatbelts, it's going to be a
bumpy night or something.
AMANPOUR: I love it. It's fantastic. It's fantastic because it goes to the heart of it. So let's talk about the really serious themes. First and
foremost, this Ivo van Hove camera work is remarkable because one of the cameras is stuck right into the makeup mirror where you do a lot of your
And there's one where you can see, you know, you're doing this with your face. You're taking off the makeup. And then there's another way you
literally morph 10 [13:40:00] years or more. More?
AMANPOUR: Thirty years.
ANDERSON: Yes, yes.
AMANPOUR: Thanks. Sorry, Gillian.
ANDERSON: That's all right.
AMANPOUR: But what does that feel like? A, as a woman, B, as an actress, what does it feel like to be seen and shown doing that every night?
ANDERSON: That doesn't bother me at all. That's the essences of -- it's one of the essences of what this play is about. It's not just about aging
but that is certainly at the core of her insecurity, you know, as well as her whole life has been her work.
And if her -- if she's no longer going to be Able to even work, then what is she? And she doesn't even know -- she keeps saying over and over again
she doesn't even know herself. So many people seem to know her but she doesn't know herself.
But to speak to what you just asked, it's not -- I mean aging is inevitable. It was fascinating to go through this prosthetic process that
-- so Ivo's right-hand man and husband of 30 years and production Designer, art designer, came up with this idea of projecting -- because there's a lot
of videos that's projected up on the screens of us.
But projecting my face as I'm sat in front of the mirror, in front of the audience, up there, they're going through an aging process of 30 years.
AMANPOUR: Yes. So it was shocking and moving.
ANDERSON: And -- but I'm touching my face at the same time. So you don't quite know what's happening. How am I -- if I'm sat there, touching my
face, how is that aging working? So it's prerecorded. It's six hours of prosthetics. Extraordinary work by Millennium who do a lot of movie work.
And first of all, it was fascinating to go through the process. I mean I've aged before in something that I had done, but it wasn't -- the quality
that you get today, in today's prosthetics that are done. And it was moving for me to see it in real life because there were no seams.
AMANPOUR: Not scary?
ANDERSON: No, not scary. But I wonder if part of not being scary is that I am in a relationship with somebody who is my age. We are very aware of
the fact that we are our age and celebratory of the fact that we are our age and that we are going through this together.
And when I sent him these pictures, he was very moved and touched and felt compassion and love and understanding. And so if -- which also then speaks
to Margo's concern, which is if she's with somebody who's younger than herself, then is she with somebody who is not going to be able to hold her
in these moments, hold her through menopausal, understand her through these changes?
Is he going to ditch her for somebody younger? Will he be able to understand the pain and the trauma that everybody has to go through in
coming to terms with it?
AMANPOUR: Did you as an actress worry, freak out, that you would be forgotten once you got to 50 or that you wouldn't get the roles? Did the
whole aging thing in your real life, was it traumatic?
ANDERSON: Well, I -- I mean I've been extraordinarily lucky in my career. You know, I continue to --
AMANPOUR: You could say that you've aged in front of us for the last 25 years.
ANDERSON: Yes, I have. Yes. Yes.
ANDERSON: And I have been -- I keep working. And that doesn't happen for all actresses. I don't know what -- you know, I have been incredibly
lucky. And so that's first and foremost.
But also I have -- there have absolutely even -- we were talking earlier about Sex Education which --
AMANPOUR: We're going to talk about in a minute. Yes.
ANDERSON: Which is in seeing myself on camera in that -- when I first saw it, I thought, "I've aged. Look, I'm so old." And --
AMANPOUR: But we're going to have to bleep I've aged.
ANDERSON: Yes, sorry. Oh, my God.
AMANPOUR: Yes, Gillian.
ANDERSON: I said oh my goodness
AMANPOUR: There you go. But let's just -- we're going to get on to Sex Education in a second.
AMANPOUR: Because that's a whole another realm and it's very different to Margo and it's very relevant and it's very zeitgeist right now what you're
doing on Netflix, Sex Education. But just to stick with the play for a second.
AMANPOUR: I've read that you say you complain that you have a not very good memory and that it's hard for you to maybe remember all the dialogue.
ANDERSON: It seems to be OK in theater. What I really struggle with is doing speeches, doing interviews, doing press.
AMANPOUR: Like this?
ANDERSON: Yes, doing anything that triggers anxiety of some kind. Yes.
AMANPOUR: Are you anxious now?
AMANPOUR: No? Good.
ANDERSON: No. I have had panic attacks in my life, in my earlier life. Quite severe ones. And so that's always in the back of mind and --
AMANPOUR: What would you [13:45:00] tell young people who are so stressed right now, so anxious, boys, girls, young people, middle-aged people, old
people. Panic and stress and anxiety seems to be a very prevalent emotion right now.
ANDERSON: Yes. Well, I think, firstly, is getting honest with oneself about the fact. I think very often we run and we push into the background
and we don't address it because it feels like a weakness of some kind. We don't tell somebody. We get more and more depressed or more anxious
because we're keeping it at bay just and feeling like we have to juggle so much in life.
And so I would say, first of all, find somebody to properly talk it through with. And then what I have found is that finding as much time for myself
as possible, I've really struggled with that before. I have three kids, doing, giving. I'm the last person that I think about.
So whatever -- whether that means 10 minutes in the morning to sit quietly or going separately at lunchtime to take a break where one gets to
decompress, meditation or close one's eyes, or just taking care of oneself and communicating.
AMANPOUR: Well, communicating leads me right on to the other big thing that you're doing right now. So it's a Netflix series, Sex Education.
You've completed series one. It's up there. Everybody thinks it's phenomenal.
I just did a series which ended up on Netflix as well. I did it for CNN for Sex & Love Around the World. Mine was more documentary. Yours is
fiction, set in a -- in an English High School. What drew you to that? And were you surprised that you really hit the sweet spot? This is the
zeitgeist. Everybody is talking about this right now.
ANDERSON: I was so surprised. I'm going to be honest with you. I started to read it and I -- as much as I embrace com, I don't get offered comedy
very often. And I'm really, really always on the lookout for comedy.
I had thought yes but not this one. And I had -- I put it down. I had got the offer and I'd toss it away. And then because my partner also works
with Netflix and had heard that they were keen on it, had said, well, let me give it a read.
And all of a sudden, I started getting these texts saying you've got to pick this up again. It's hilarious. You've got to have it. It would be
so good for you to do this. And so begrudgingly, I picked it up again and laughed from beginning to end.
AMANPOUR: And it's phenomenal. I mean I binge watch five of the episodes. I've got to watch the rest. Waiting for the next series.
ANDERSON: But even though --
AMANPOUR: I'm doing it as well.
ANDERSON: I didn't know. It's so different from what we've seen before. It's so broad. It's gotten no specific time, place, era. It's both
American and British. Would people embrace that or would it just confuse them?
AMANPOUR: I'm going to play a little a little clip. The only one we have at the moment is from the first episode of series one. It's you. Anyway,
we'll see it.
ANDERSON: Yes. OK.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OTIS: How old are you, Dan?
DAN: How old? Uh, I'm 32.
OTIS: You're having some kind of preemptive midlife crisis?
OTIS: Mum, he rides a motorbike.
DAN: I'll take you for a ride in it sometime.
OTIS: No, thanks.
DAN: Do you have an Oedipal complex?
OTIS: As in, you mean do I want to have sex with my mum?
DAN: Uh, not really. It's not really my thing, that.
JEAN: Just ignore him. he's teasing you. Otis, it's perfectly normal for a younger man to be sexually attracted to a mature woman. In fact, when
you stigmatize his choice, then you feed into an unhealthy narrative on masculinity in middle age.
DAN: That's why I say you should never date a shrink, huh?
JEAN: Sex and relationship therapist. Thank you very much.
OTIS: That's me.
DAN: Yeah, I should probably, uh, shoot off as well. Thanks.
OTIS: Thanks for everything, mum.
DAN: Uh, Jean, Jean. Definitely Jean.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Honestly, I mean it's hilarious. So you're the sex therapist.
AMANPOUR: Otis is your son.
ANDERSON: Yes, Butterfield.
AMANPOUR: Who's phenomenal. And that's one of the people who passes through the night, I'd say.
ANDERSON: Yes. Yes.
AMANPOUR: And what have you heard from young people? Because the real focus is on the kids and how they talk about sex and all the issues around
it, whether it's bullying, whether it's performance anxiety, whatever it might be. What if -- what's the reaction been?
ANDERSON: Well, I guess -- I mean what I've been surprised at is how is the age range of viewers. I mean hopefully not younger than 14. But from
14 to 70, I've had people e-mailing me. [13:50:00] And I guess the response is how refreshing. How refreshing at this particular time,
specifically that we're able to have such a frank and an unflinching look at sex.
But also a lot of -- you've brought up communication and that's -- so I play sex therapist. My son played by Asa Butterfield takes it upon himself
to be a sex therapist in his high school because he's grown up with it basically and he has a knack for it.
But what -- mostly what --it's not that he's preaching. Mostly, what he's trying to relay to his fellow students is about communication,
communication between couples, the importance of intimacy which I mean have we ever heard that word in high school ever?
Let's learn in our sex ed classes. And so there's something incredibly touching and moving about just those two things. Even though we also see
the painful, the awkward, the messy, the gross, the -- and these
AMANPOUR: The funny but sometimes violent.
AMANPOUR: Bullying, yes.
ANDERSON: And those broad tropes that are then counterbalanced and broken down.
AMANPOUR: Well, you seem to be embracing it. I gather your current Twitter bio. It says Gillian Anderson, shag specialist.
ANDERSON: Oh yes. You need to stop that now though.
AMANPOUR: It's pretty funny. Just a quickie. You just said that you're a working mother. Your first kid arrived while you were in mid-X-Files.
ANDERSON: Yes. Well, the first year.
AMANPOUR: First year of X-Files. But just on the issue. You were paid a lot less than your male co-star David Duchovny.
AMANPOUR: Maybe half as much as he was.
ANDERSON: No. Well, initially.
AMANPOUR: Initially. We're going to ask you how you changed it. And I even read that you had to, excuse me, get out of the car after him, walk
ANDERSON: Yes. So initially, when I was cast, he was the star and I was - - I had never been seen ever in anything pretty much. And so it made sense that our salaries were either complete -- I don't even know what the
percentage is but completely different.
In the third season, as it was successful and there were awards and it was the number one show, it was the right time to negotiate. And it took a lot
of negotiating. It took threatening to leave did they not raise it up close to what his was given that we were both doing the same amount of
The big issue and why it was brought up again recently is when we went back in again, post the series ending and us coming back to do another series,
even four years ago whenever it was that we did it, they were offering me a third of what they were offering David. And we just could not --
AMANPOUR: You said -- did you say how much?
ANDERSON: We couldn't --
AMANPOUR: We, being you and David?
ANDERSON: No. We, being me and my representatives who were getting the phone calls saying they've offered you this and they've offered him that.
It was like, are you kidding me? So that was when I talked. So I spoke about it again.
And it's been -- in this particular instance, it's a no brainer because you can't have one without the other. And so it was an easy negotiation for
me. For most people, it's not so easy. And also the stakes are not so high. They're not as high for me as they are for most people who have to
sit in front of their boss and risk losing their job to be that bold or to ask for what they deserve. And so I struggle a little bit to have this
conversation because --
AMANPOUR: No. But it's important. It's not fantasy land. The more people ask and demand, the more it happens.
ANDERSON: True. Yes.
AMANPOUR: Finally, we've mentioned your partner several times.
AMANPOUR: Peter Morgan. He is in continuing with The Crown and there's a whole another series envisioned that's about to drop. And I understand
that you're going to be playing Margaret Thatcher.
ANDERSON: That has not been announced. We're not allowed to talk about it.
AMANPOUR: Would I be wrong?
ANDERSON: We're not allowed to talk about it. When is this airing?
AMANPOUR: Would you like to play Margaret Thatcher?
ANDERSON: Yes. Should they come to me or should they offer it to me, I would be delighted to play Margaret Thatcher. An extraordinary woman,
AMANPOUR: Well, we'll see. We'll watch this space.
AMANPOUR: Gillian Anderson.
ANDERSON: Thank you so much.
AMANPOUR: In London with All About Eve. Thank you very much indeed.
AMANPOUR: We look forward to that bit of news being officially confirmed when The Crown launches its third season on Netflix later this year.
But that is it for now. Remember, you can listen to our podcast. See us online at amanpour.com. And you can follow me on Facebook and Twitter.
Thanks for watching and goodbye from London.