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Interview With "The Lehman Trilogy" Actors Adrian Lester And Adam Godley; Interview With "Unprotected" Author Billy Porter. Aired 1-2p ET
Aired November 15, 2021 - 13:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST: Hello, everyone, and welcome to AMANPOUR.
Here's what's coming up.
BORIS JOHNSON, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: We came to call with a COP for real action coal, cars, cash, and trees. And real action is exactly what we got.
AMANPOUR (voice-over): The Glasgow climate summit is over. But did world leaders buy humanity enough time to avert disaster? The hard truth with the
U.N.'s former top negotiator Christiana Figueres and the world-renowned climate scientist Michael Mann.
UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Three brothers, travelers, immigrants, they came with nothing, not even a word of English. And they built an entire universe.
AMANPOUR: How three brothers built a company that would bring the global economy to its knees. As "The Lehman Trilogy" comes to Broadway, I speak
with two of its stars, Adrian Lester and Adam Godley.
BILLY PORTER, ENTERTAINER: It still stops everything called when a boy is wearing a dress in public. Like...
AMANPOUR: The boundary-breaking entertainer Billy Porter opens up to Michel Martin.
AMANPOUR: Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Christiane Amanpour in London.
The COP 26 climate summit wrapped up over the weekend in Glasgow, ending not with a bang, but with a whimper, literally, the summit's president,
Alok Sharma, fighting back tears and emotions after last-minute changes to the climate pact, which watered down efforts to phase out coal.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ALOK SHARMA, PRESIDENT, 26TH CONFERENCE OF PARTIES: May I just say to all delegates, I apologize for the way this process has unfolded. And I'm
I also understand the deep disappointment. But I think, as you have noted, it's also vital that we protect this package.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: It's a stark contrast to the joyous end of the last major climate conference in Paris. But there was some optimism, Sharma saying the deal
means the world can still limit temperature rises to 1.5 degrees Celsius.
Climate activists like Greta Thunberg, though, didn't quite agree, her brief summary of the conference, more "blah, blah, blah."
So which one is it? And what does the world need to do before leaders meet again at COP 27 in Egypt next year?
Let's get some answers with my guest tonight. As the guiding force of the 2015 Paris accords, the former U.N. climate chief Christiana Figueres knows
all about wrangling world leaders into a climate compromise. She's joining me, alongside the eminent climate scientist Michael Mann, author of "The
New Climate War."
Welcome, both of you, to the program.
So, Christiana Figueres, we have talked a lot about this, and you were there throughout the summit. We talked there as well. Is it a failure or a
success? Or is it something in between?
CHRISTIANA FIGUERES, FORMER EXECUTIVE SECRETARY, UNITED NATIONS FRAMEWORK CONVENTION ON CLIMATE CHANGE: I think it's something in between.
It really depends on what your expectations were. If anyone went to the COPs or was witnessing the COP expecting that one conference to close the
gap from where we are now to a trajectory of 1.5, that would have been ill- advised.
What we do have is a much narrower gap, definitely, than where we were 12 months ago. And we have the commitment, which is hugely important, from
countries to come back next year, because let's remember that, prior to these decisions, countries would have come back in five years, and that has
been recognized by science as being way too late.
Because we have to be at one-half current emissions by 2030, speed and time are absolutely critical here. So, changing the five-year cycle to a one
year, coming back next year, is vital.
AMANPOUR: So that is good news. And it does accelerate the timelines.
So, let me ask you, as the scientist, Michael Mann, when you see Alok Sharma, who is the U.K.'s head of all of this, the president of COP 26, and
he's got another year on the job, when you see him emotional about the language in the final document, which seems to have boiled down to phasing
out vs. phasing down coal, what do you say to that?
Is that a wiggle? Is that a wiggle out? Is it a dereliction of duty? Or does it still mean, as Boris Johnson said, travel in basically the same
MICHAEL MANN, PENN STATE UNIVERSITY: Yes. Thanks, Christiane. And it's good to be here with both you, Christiane and Christiana.
This is -- as Christiana already said, it's somewhere in between blah, blah, blah and a total success. And, in particular, the language on coal
was disappointing in the end, and it was a last-minute gambit by India. It's easy to blame India for that. And they have been at the receiving end
of quite a bit of blame for watering down that language.
But, in fact, at the same time, the leading industrial countries haven't yet anted up and provided the funding that they are expected to, to help
developing countries develop clean energy infrastructure and leapfrog past this fossil fuel stage.
So there's blame to apportion either side, but we do have to step back. And, as Christiana already said, there were some real -- there was some
real progress here. And, in fact, if you total the obligations we now have from the various countries, including for the first time a commitment for
India to bring their emissions down to net zero, fairly late in the century, 2070, but, nonetheless, when you add that to the tally, and you
and you crunch the numbers, they now come in potentially under two degrees Celsius.
And let's recognize that, back in 2016, going into Paris, we were looking at potentially four degrees Celsius. And now we have roughly cut that in
half. So there's a lot of work to be done. We have to make sure that countries live up to their obligations and ratchet them up, because we're
not yet on a course to keep warming below 1.5.
And, as Christiana said, one important development here is that we are going to revisit all of this next year. And so there's an opportunity to
fine-tune and ratchet up these commitments. It is still possible to see a path towards keeping warming below that very dangerous 1.5-degree Celsius,
3-degree Fahrenheit warming.
AMANPOUR: So, in my book, that is reason for optimism. And I do think that people need to know that, when they bang heads together and when activists,
which are mostly young, tell these old people, which they are, old men mostly, deciding our climate future that they're listening.
But I want to ask you both, because, yes, great that we have two-point -- it's going to be under to two degrees, you estimate. And to follow on what
you just said, the rich countries have not followed through on their financial pledge. But I found from interviewing Boris Johnson at the
beginning of the climate that rich countries are also equivocating on the very issue of coal and coal mining and production.
So this is what I asked Boris Johnson on the Tuesday of the conference, at the beginning of the conference, about this famous Cumbria mine -- coal
mines that they might start digging. This was our exchange.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Would you say that, at this point, given everything you're saying to me now, you would intervene to stop that?
JOHNSON: I don't have the legal powers. That's something for local planning.
AMANPOUR: But local planning has already ruled on it and it's come back to the government.
JOHNSON: But what we're already saying, and if you look at what has already happened in the U.K., is, we have moved away from coal at extraordinary
AMANPOUR: Because I understand it's come back to the government, to the minister in charge.
JOHNSON: Because I -- because we are a legal -- a legally scrupulous and punctilious country. And there's a planning decision that has to be taken.
And I'm not the planning authority.
But I don't want...
AMANPOUR: But it is your government.
JOHNSON: I don't want more coal. And our government doesn't want more coal. And we're going to...
AMANPOUR: And would you intervene to stop it?
JOHNSON: We will do what is legally -- we're legally able to do. But this is a planning decision.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: So, you see, I was trying to pin him down. He wanted to have it both ways.
Can I ask you, Christiana, if that's a problem, if a rich country is telling India to stop its coal and China and the others, and yet it is
still not -- not coming out and saying that it won't stop its coal mining and production either?
FIGUERES: No, that is definitely concerning, Christiane.
But the other part of this, the other 50 percent of this reality, one -- the first 50 percent that we're talking about is policy and government
decisions. Completely agree with you. And the other 50 percent is that, from a private capital perspective, coal is simply no longer competitive.
You do not find all financial institutions that want to continue to invest in coal, either mining or plants. You do not find insurance companies that
want to provide insurance to either coal plants or coal mining, because it is widely recognized as being a stranded asset, an industry very much going
into oblivion, into extinction, if you will.
And so I think we have to see both of these sides and understand that, usually at the COPs, we have traditionally focused at what governments do.
And on the finance side that Michael was mentioning, we definitely did not see public finance step up to where they should. But, on the other hand, we
saw private finance definitely step up. And so we saw 450 private -- private financial institutions from 45 countries with over $130 trillion in
assets, actually say that they're going to reduce their emissions across their financing activities, that they're actually going to go in with their
fair share of 50 percent emission reductions by 2030.
And you come down from there, I mean, the list of private finance intentions that, of course, have to be actualized, but what I think is
fascinating is that the private sector, whether it be the finance sector, or corporations, are definitely in the lead right now.
And that has not always been the case. I would argue that, in 2015, it was the governments that were in the lead, because they were adopting the Paris
Now, six years later, you have the private sector in the lead. And governments are going to have to catch up. The fact is that the scientific
and moral imperative to do the right thing in a timely fashion coincides. And so we know that technology can go exponential. The financial shifts are
definitely going exponential.
The question is, is the financial shift in the private sector, which is much larger than the public, is that the necessary underpinning for how
policy can go exponential?
FIGUERES: That, for me, is the question.
AMANPOUR: OK, so, to that very point, I had an interview, again, last week with the CEO of BP, Bernard Looney, as you all know.
And as you all know, the fossil fuel heads were not invited to COP, and he admitted that their president could be disruptive. He, on the other hand,
did take part by teleconference or whatever, virtually. And he told me that he actually gets it.
But -- and I want to put this to you and see what you think in a scientific emissions way -- that they still need to have their legacy -- their legacy
economy, i.e., fossil fuels, to be able to finance renewables. This is what he told me.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BERNARD LOONEY, CEO, BP: We have an ambition to become an integrated energy company, to become a net zero company.
And the reality is, Christiane, that the world needs companies like ours to transition. You simply cannot build and scale enough new green companies
fast enough; 70 percent of the world's emissions come from companies and sectors like ours. Unless we transition, the world's not going to
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: So, honestly, Michael Mann, how do you translate that? Isn't that a little bit like having your cake and eating it too, like, we get it, but
it's going to take a long time? We can't give you a date on when fossil fuels are going to be eliminated, or we're going to get -- or completely
MANN: Yes, I'm shocked. I'm shocked that a fossil fuel company isn't willing to admit that it's time for the end of the fossil fuel industry.
And for too long, fossil fuel companies have not been engaged in good faith in this process. And they have spent billions of dollars in disinformation
aimed at discrediting even the scientific evidence and scientists like myself. And so they're going to go kicking and screaming.
And Christiana made a really important point. We have been talking a lot about the supply side of this problem, stopping new coal mines, stopping
new oil and gas pipelines. But let's talk about the demand side, because, if we price carbon, if we provide the right subsidies for renewable energy,
if we remove the subsidies that are keeping fossil fuel energy alive, because, as Christiana said, in a truly free market, it's no longer
competitive with renewable energy -- the levelized cost of renewable energy now outcompetes the levelized cost of fossil fuels.
But it's propped up by all these subsidies. And so we can do a lot when it comes to these various market mechanisms. And that's why this current
package that's working its way through the U.S. Congress is so important, because the Biden administration has made a commitment to lower our carbon
emissions by 50 percent.
But to make good on that commitment, we're going to need to codify that in the form of legislation that has key market provisions. And that's really
the way forward here on policy. Yes, let's try to stop as new -- as much new fossil fuel infrastructure as possible. And the courts are getting in
our way. They have done that here in the United States.
But let's also recognize that we have got these demand-side mechanisms at our disposal, and we need to level the playing field, so that renewable
energy, which isn't damaging the planet in this way, is competitive with fossil fuel energy.
AMANPOUR: And that is a story that doesn't get out enough, the fact that the old industries, the so-called legacy industries, get heavily
And I'm sure taxpayers and activists would be pretty upset if they knew the extent to that, while we hear them saying, well, the renewable economy is
not sufficient yet to allow us to transition. And it's, I guess, because of what you have just said.
But I want to ask you, Christiana, about the surprise, which was apparently a pleasant surprise, of course, that the U.S. and China, the two biggest
polluters in the world, did come to an agreement that they would both work to cut emissions.
Did you -- was that a pleasant surprise for you? And do you see details in there as to how and how they will be held accountable?
FIGUERES: Well, it was a surprise only in its timing, Christiane, actually, because, if you look back into history, and when all three of us have been
there, we remember, for example, that, before Paris in 2015, U.S. and China came together and signed four bilateral agreements on climate change, even
before they got to the COP.
And that was a very important framework for the collaboration that then ended up being captured in the Paris agreement. And we also know that the
United States and China have been, in the person of John Kerry on the United States' side and Minister Xie Zhenhua on the China side, they have
been working on trying to ring-fence climate change and protect the collaboration between those two largest emitters from all of the other
issues that they do not see eye to eye on.
They have been working on this for months. In fact, just before the COP started, COP 26 started, they were in London locked away trying to figure
this out. The fact that the COP started without disagreement coming out into public view, I was actually quite disappointed.
And so I was thrilled to see it come in just three days before the end of the COP. It is -- it does have a tradition. It does have a precedent,
certainly, back in Obama's years, and it makes a big difference. It makes a big difference politically. And it makes a big difference in terms of
technology advancement, because these two countries can advance on technology that addresses climate change individually.
But if they do so in collaboration with each other, you can have two advances that are linear. When they merge, they can actually go
exponential. So it is very important, it is very promising that they managed to ring-fence that from everything else that they do not agree on.
And to your question about, is it enough details, no, not yet. Not yet.
FIGUERES: We do know that they're going to be working on methane and other things. But we look forward to finding out what else they're going to do.
AMANPOUR: So we have had agreements on methane and also on deforestation. All that's good and in the right direction.
But to you, finally, Michael Mann, we have got only a minute-and-a-half left. And I want to play what the Maldives environment minister said. Let's
just play this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SHAUNA AMINATH, MALDIVES MINISTER OF ENVIRONMENT, CLIMATE CHANGE AND TECHNOLOGY: I would like to remind us all that we have 98 months to halve
global emissions. The difference between 1.5 and 2 degrees is a death sentence for us.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: So that's pretty dramatic, and says it as it is.
Michael Mann, what do you expect, then, for this intervening year and what needs to happen by COP 27, which is going to be in Egypt?
MANN: Yes, what we need, again, is to get those commitments ratcheted up, so that they're consistent with limiting the warming below 1.5 degrees
Celsius, because that is a death sentence for the Maldives. It is a death sentence for so many low-lying island nations.
And by some measure, dangerous climate change, catastrophic climate change has already arrived for so many of us. If you're Australia, and you lived
through what they call the Black Summer, those bushfires, or here in the Western U.S. unprecedented wildfires and heat waves in recent summers,
devastating floods around the world, for so many, dangerous, catastrophic climate change has already arrived.
So, at this point, it's a matter of preventing any additional warming, preventing as much additional warming as we can. And, certainly, if we are
to avoid crossing that 1.5-degree Celsius mark, we're going to need not only to close the implementation gap that we have been talking about --
it's one thing to make a pledge to do something.
It's something else when you're continuing to build pipelines and coal mines.
MANN: So, we need to close that implementation gap. Countries need to actually live up to the obligations that they have already made.
And they need to ratchet up those obligations, so that we can get down to 1.5 degrees Celsius. It's still possible.
MANN: But we're going to need some real progress over the next year if it's going to remain possible.
AMANPOUR: OK, well, I think all eyes will be on that.
So, both of you, thank you so much, Michael Mann, Christiana Figueres. Thanks for joining us with this assessment of COP 26.
Now, from the West End here in London to Broadway in New York, the bright lights are shining again over theater districts, with new shows and
revivals of plays that COVID abruptly shut down in March of 2020, Among them, "The Lehman Trilogy."
It made it through just a few previews in New York before Broadway went dark. Now it's making a triumphant return. Its three-actor cars takes on
more than 50 characters to tell the 160-year story of Lehman Brothers. The bank triggered that global economic meltdown when it collapsed in 2008 with
$600 billion in debt.
I recently spoke with two of the stars, Adam Godley and newcomer to the play Adrian Lester, about finally bringing the show over from London, and
taking on such a monumental challenge.
AMANPOUR: Gentlemen, thank you, and welcome to the program.
ADAM GODLEY, ACTOR: Thank you for having us.
ADRIAN LESTER, ACTOR: Thank you.
AMANPOUR: So, look, it must be really a great sense of anticipation. I know it started last month, but you have been waiting since March of 2020 to be
on Broadway, with the whole COVID lockdown.
How is it? I mean, how did you keep those acting chops and muscles flexed all this time?
Adam, because you started in London, you have been with the play the whole time.
GODLEY: Yes, absolutely.
And this was our third iteration of the play. We had just started on Broadway. We were about four previews in. We hadn't opened yet. And then
everything happened, everything shut down. That last performance for us was very strange. And, of course, there are so many echoes in the play.
You see the family going through various crises that happen, and one was happening around us as we were performing it. So that last preview was
really strange. And then we had this 17-month hiatus. So, the play, as you know, is quite sort of long. It's quite epic.
So I, once a month, wherever I was, I would run the whole play in my head on my own, walking in a circle in the room, just to keep it fresh, knowing
that we might, fingers crossed, be coming back. And then, of course, walking back into that theater where the set had just sat there for all
those months gathering dust, and we pick right back up.
And it's been incredible. I mean, the audience, you can really feel how people are so thrilled to be back in the theater seeing live theater. We
even get a round of applause as the curtain goes up, which is extraordinary. And I think it's just an expression of people's joy of being
back in the theater and of some sense of normality.
LESTER: It's like, we made it, we made it.
GODLEY: Yes, yes.
AMANPOUR: That's -- I love that.
I just want to ask you, Adrian. You're new to this play. You are a replacement for Ben Miles, who played your role. How much of a heavy lift
has it been for you? There's just the three of you in general. It's "The Lehman Trilogy" on stage for more than three hours.
LESTER: It's been scary, is the word that comes to mind. I could be more professional and say it's been a challenge, and we have climbed this
But, no, it's just fear, just fear.
LESTER: Make it fear.
To jump in and work with two actors that I admire and have admired for years on a piece that I saw in London and knew was very, very complicated,
to jump in and say, right, yes, it's already a success. It's got wonderful reviews. It's already going to Broadway. You are being added to the cast.
So if it's not as good as it was before, everyone will know why.
AMANPOUR: I mean, it's an extraordinary and I would say epic play, an epic story and an epic endeavor, thespian endeavor.
But let's give our audience a chance to just get a precis of what the actual story is about, obviously, the Lehman brothers who emigrated from
Germany to the United States, and set up this behemoth eventually, the Lehman Brothers, which then, as we all know, collapsed, and triggered the
global financial recession.
Tell me though, a little bit, both of you, about how this is played out over a period of three hours.
GODLEY: The conceit of the players that the ghosts of the three original Lehman brothers, who emigrated to America from Rimpar, Bavaria, in the
1840s, come and tell the story of the company, right from that point, from the arrival of Henry Lehman in the Port of New York in 1844, right up until
the evening of 2008.
And the three of us, as the three brothers, tell the whole story of all the successive generations of -- that they started down in Alabama, working in
with cotton, and then gradually moved to New York, and their sons and their grandchildren and their wives. And we play everybody, everyone they
GODLEY: And right up until I guess we end with Bobby Lehman, who's the last Lehman...
GODLEY: ... Who was involved with the company, I think, in the late '60s.
LESTER: To give you a taste of what we play, I'm -- Adam plays my wife at one point.
And then I -- at one point, I play -- I play Adam's son.
GODLEY: Yes, 3-year-old son.
LESTER: Which, for many of my friends will just go, that makes sense.
LESTER: But, yes, that's what -- we just switch on stage.
The conceit is that we change manner, we change voice, and the audience just goes with it.
GODLEY: And, really, the whole process of developing the play was being able to tell this epic story over such a long period, 160 years, as
efficiently as possible.
So the whole thing takes place in this one room. We don't change costume, we just use what is in that room, these iconic boxes that people were seen
leaving the building with when they were sort of dismissed containing their possessions. Those are really the main prop that we use.
AMANPOUR: But let me play just a little sort of couple of -- a sound bite between two of you brothers, which sets up the original endeavor about what
actually is a stock market, what actually are these commodities.
This is from the early part of the Lehman brothers' experience. We're just going to play this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LESTER: Now, instead of negotiating iron at the iron market and fabric at the fabric market and call at the call market, they created one market,
ceilings higher than a synagogue, under which, morning to night, nonstop, they talk, negotiate, yell.
And the exceptional thing...
GODLEY: The exceptional thing, it seemed to Maya (ph), is that they're on Wall Street, where they seem to sell everything, iron, fabric, coal, every
type of thing you could imagine.
In reality, there's no trace of it. There's no iron, there's no fabric, there's no coal, there's nothing there.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Adrian, what does that say to you about the Lehman brother experience, because that's kind of what Lehman Brothers is known for.
LESTER: Yes, trading and stock. And they have gone from trading in things to trading on the idea of things, trading on futures, trading on things you
can't put your hand on.
And every one of the brothers, as that is created through the show, as it was -- we crossed those lines in period, 1900s, 1930s, each one of the
brothers takes a different view on what they're doing. But the real power of the show is not that we spend 3.5 hours looking at what happened in
What we do is, we spend 3.5 hours looking at the nature of trade, and whether Lehman Brothers feel insecurity, feel fear, and then push forward,
push forward into need, exploit need, and -- for commodity, and push even further forward, and always thinking of how they can make money.
Their skill is -- many people would say is in a form of exploitation, but their skill is always to find the area inside any group of people where
they are in need or fear of losing things and to provide that.
AMANPOUR: Let me ask you both, then, because, in the aftermath of the latest manifestation of Black Lives Matter and the focus on racism in
America and, frankly, around the world, there was some criticism about not directly addressing in the play the issue of slavery and Lehman Brothers
profiting of the transatlantic slave trade.
And the "Washington Post" columnist a couple of years ago said not addressing it head on would be -- quote -- "tantamount to writing a play
about Germany in 1933 and not even mentioning what was happening to the Jews."
Adam, do you think the original iteration of this play should have been more directly explicit on that issue?
GODLEY: Well, the original version of the play, Stefano Massini's play, about 5.5 hours' long, and it's a very dense piece. There's so much in
there that is not touched upon.
And I think each time we have come back to it, it's afforded us an opportunity to dig a little deeper, to look at areas where maybe we have
glossed over something and to reexamine that.
AMANPOUR: Let me ask you, Adrian.
I know this is colorblind casting. Obviously, the -- there was no black Lehman brother. And I wonder whether that -- or am I just intuiting too
much or putting too much into it -- was a way of addressing this issue.
Because I think there is an extra line that's been put in, that's not specific but it does address the issue of slavery. What do you think about
LESTER: The awareness of things that may have been lacking in the original production I think is something that has happened across all institutions
and industries in the West, in Britain and in America. I think anybody who interacts with anybody, the public as one of their own workforce are now
asking themselves some very serious questions about their attitudes, about their knowledge and their awareness of how the workplace is for people who
don't look, love or sound or even move like them.
The play has done the same thing. We've reflected. We've looked. And in areas we thought, hang on, we can do this better. We have strained to do
this better. Having me on stage present aspects of the Lehman's dealing in cotton sets, first of all, among the audience.
But also, I'm pretending to be Jewish. I recite the kaddish. I talk about some -- we -- some people will say we gloss over the fact that the Lehmans
were already established in very, very rich when immigrants arrived from 1930s, 1940s Germany and just arrived in America after the war.
That's not really dealt with in a very warm and fuzzy way either. It's quite a hard look at the aspects of human nature. But in terms of what
we've learned through lockdown, the play has learned that. The company have learned that and I'm sure many, many institutions up and down the country
have learned the same thing.
AMANPOUR: I mean, that's what makes it so fascinating because it is not just a story of this incredible immigration story and achievement story,
but it's also, you know, the big moral and timely issues that are, you know, dealt with or rather that are addressed. And I want to just play,
because you mentioned Sam Mendes, your director, several times. I want to play a little bit about what he said, about living in the context that we
all live in these days when the play opened in October. This was specifically, I believe, about COVID.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SAM MENDES, DIRECTOR, "THE LEHMAN TRILOGY": There was some dark weeks and months for everyone, but perhaps we came back with some renewed
understanding. Perhaps we understood disease better, perhaps we understood race better. Perhaps we understood the environment better, and we certainly
understood community better.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: So, then let me ask you both finally, about community, because I think that's what everybody is really focusing on these last few years.
Adam, for you. What does the context that we're living in and this play in particular say to you about community and what you would like to project
GODLEY: Well, I think, you know, the three brothers came in, they started in Alabama and they started, in a sense, providing a service for the
community and becoming a part of their community, and that was what mattered to them. And during the course of the play, you see them becoming
disconnected from community, disconnected from their spiritual roots. They're no longer providing -- as Adrian alluded to earlier, they're not
providing anything. They're not serving their community in any way.
By the end, it's just gambling money on money. And that sort of disconnect is where, I think, the play and Stefano Massini felt the danger lies. So,
the play, I think, reflects the fact we need to be connected. We need to be in touch with each other, aware of each other, love each other and serve
each other. And that's crucially important and that spoke to me very strongly about this -- in this play and this story of these brothers.
LESTER: At the beginning of the play, you see an immigrant arrive and he's scared. He's worried. He's been on the ship for a while and he just wants
to try and make a life in America.
The Lehmans in our play, at the very beginning, they are very true to each other at brothers, as family, and they try to remain true to their faith
and everything their faith teaches them about humanity and their social conscience and what you see slowly, very, very slowly, all three people,
and generations of people who slowly lose that connection. And the more they lose that connection, the more they exploit and the richer they get.
AMANPOUR: It's fascinating. I just want to end with a sort of a performance question. And we've addressed it somewhat, but how both of you, do you play
all of these different characters every night for three hours plus? It is really -- I mean, just what we're watching, I mean, it's just an incredible
art form. Just -- is it really tough? What are the training -- what sort of training do you put yourself through for that?
LESTER: Spent a long time talking to yourself. Actually, the only way we can play so many characters is because the audience allow us to. And so, at
a certain point, without changing our costume, as Adam said, we will turn around different facial expression, different way of holding the body and a
different voice comes out, and the audience love it.
They don't -- the audience don't say, well, actually, now, you need more make-up, you need a wig, you need a different costume, they don't at all.
They allow us to say, I am now being three years old, I am now being nine, I am now being 30 years old.
The audience allows it. And because the audience allows it, that's the only way we can play something like 52, 53 characters between the three of us.
GODLEY: Yes. It's the kind of ultimate exploiting of the suspension of disbelief and it's -- you know, it's what's so beautiful about live
theatre. As Adrian has said elsewhere, the audience agree. It's a sort of bargain we strike between us and the audience every night.
We're going to tell this epic story, but we tell it really very simply and we ask you to believe that, you know, we are all these different people and
all these different characters, even though we're not going to change in front of your eyes. And that's the magic of live theatre and why you need
to come and, you know, experience it in person in the theatre.
LESTER: I will say one thing just so people get an essence of what the performance is like. There's a point where Adam is being Bobby Lehman, who
is now in control of a company but he's also, at the same time, commenting on what Bobby Lehman is doing and what Adam does is, he is speaking in a
classic American accent when he's talking to his father, then he turns to the audience and tells the audience what's happening in the room and does
it with a very light Bavarian German accent and then switches straight back into Bobby in the American accent, and that's what -- that's the prime
example, but that's what we're doing for the whole evening, we're saying, then he sits down, then he wiped his brow and then he goes straight back
into the scene and the audience just allow it. It's great.
AMANPOUR: It's thrilling, actually. Listen, thank you both so much. "The Lehman Trilogy," thank you Adrian Lester, thank you, Adam Godley.
LESTER: Thank you.
GODLEY: Thanks for having us. Thank you.
AMANPOUR: Incredible performances. And Broadway also brought my next guest career center stage.
Billy Porter made his name as Lola in "Kinky Boots." He then went on to become the first openly gay black man to win an Emmy as the lead actor for
"Pose." And is a key figure in the movement Degender Fashion. Porter's new biography titled, "Unprotected," is a powerful reflection on race,
sexuality, art and healing. And here he is talking to Michel Martin about fame and grappling with the structures around masculinity.
(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)
MICHEL MARTIN, CONTRIBUTOR: Thanks, Christiane. Billy Porter, thank you so much for joining us.
BILLY PORTER, AUTHOR, "UNPROTECTED," AWARD-WINNING ACTOR AND SINGER: Thanks for having me.
MARTIN: You have become a fashion icon as well as, you know, a multi- talented performer. You are a director. And now, you've written this book, which I have to say, is raw and kind of searing in its candor about some of
the most tender moments of your life, really, from the first words, you are putting your story out there. Your identity as an out gay black man has
been so central to your story from the very beginning.
But how did you first know that you were different in a way that bothered people for whatever reason?
PORTER: Well, it was like, I was five. You know, but I was in a house full of women and very religious people, and you're born gay. We're born this
way. And I was a sissy. I was what traditionally is called a sissy and everybody was concerned that that was because I was hanging out with too
many women and that all they needed to do was fix me.
Fix that. A femenisy (ph). You're not masculine enough. The masculine conversation at five. It was already happening without me. It was happening
about me and around me, without me having any say, you know.
MARTIN: But one of the things that fascinates me about you, on the one hand, you are not shy about naming the people and the places and the things
that have hurt you. But you also talk about the gifts that these people and places and things gave you. Even your stepfather who you are very clear
molested you from a very early age.
MARTIN: It's remarkable to me that you can be so clear about the ways in which he harmed you and yet, be so generous in describing the gifts that he
gave you. How do you sit with that?
PORTER: Well, it's like -- it's holding space, you know, that man is my sister's father. My sister is the closest human being, she's my best
friend. We have to process that. We have to hold space for all of that. We have to talk about it. You know, we can't be silent about it. That's the
problem. The silence is the killer. We have to talk about it so that we can move through it so that we can heal from it so there can be forgiveness and
we can heal and move on. Move on to be better people.
MARTIN: This is not of the same order of magnitude at all. But recently, there was this, as I mentioned at the beginning, you have become like a
fashion icon, a trailblazer for wearing, not just the fabulousness, but of exploring kind gender norms and --
PORTER: Be gendering of fashion.
MARTIN: And there is recently this kind of -- I don't know what you want to call it, sort of a dust-up over your critique of the fact "Vogue" put Harry
Styles on the cover wearing a dress. So, tell me, what's the larger critique that you're making here?
PORTER: Well, the larger critique that I'm making is this. There are systems of oppression and erasure in our culture and around the world that
have permeated and poisoned everything, right? When people of color contribute and are leaders of something, I personally am a leader, not the
only one, let's be clear and I never said that. I'm not the only leader of this revolution, but I am one of them.
The part of the story that people don't know is that earlier in 2019, I sat on a stage with Anna Wintour in front of the Conde Nast staff for their
yearly summit or whatever, I don't know what it's called, one on one. We had a wonderful conversation. At the end of the conversation, she asked,
how can we do better? It was the first time in my life that I was speechless. And I didn't answer her in the way that I should have because I
was too scared.
What I should have said to her was, put me on the cover. Put me on the cover. And let's have this conversation. That's what I should have said. Or
put somebody else who's a leader on the cover and use your power as "Vogue" to elevate these voices and this conversation. I didn't say that.
Five months later, Harry Styles is on the cover of "Vogue." first man in a dress. The reason why I apologize to Harry Styles was because the
gaslighting and the distraction of his name takes us away from the real conversation. It's not about him. It's about the systems of oppression that
make it the choice, that make him the choice to have that conversation, to put him in a position.
When "Vogue" is doing that, they're putting him in a position of leadership for this movement. He's not a leader in this movement. That's all I'm
MARTIN: Why do you think this matters so much? Particularly, if I may, the fashion piece, the sort of degendering fashion, the kind of -- the
statements you make through your appearances, through -- I mean, apart from just the fabulousness?
PORTER: Yes, I just think it's -- I think it is -- it challenges the masculinity conversation. And the masculinity conversation is the only
conversation in our world. To be masculine is to be the best. To be better. You know, we have gotten over women wearing pants. There was a time when
women wearing pants was a problem. We got over that quick. Because a business suit is strong. A business suit is considered powerful. Pants are
considered powerful. Dresses, femininity, is not.
So, basically, what you're saying and what we're saying consciously and unconsciously is to be masculine is better than being feminine. Being
feminine is less than being masculine. And I don't care anymore. Right? I lived my whole life never being masculine enough.
I fought for years to be masculine enough, to be perceived as masculine enough so that I could eat and I never was, so I stopped trying. And when I
was trying to be masculine, I was broke and unemployed. Bankrupt and unemployed. When I leaned into my truth and my authenticity, look at what's
MARTIN: When you receive the Emmy, I just want to point out, you won the 2019 Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a drama series.
That's for your portrayal of Pray Tell in "Pose." You're the first openly gay black man to be nominated and winning any lead acting category. How do
you understand that moment? What that -- how did you receive that?
PORTER: I am humbled. You know, it's thrilling. And for me, as a black queer out man, the awards matter. They open up a different kind of door for
me. You know, that would never have been opened before. The good news is that I was the first, I broke the glass ceiling.
The complicated news is, there's still a glass ceiling about that. You know, there's still a glass ceiling. It's still a conversation for a man to
show up in a dress. There's still a conversation. It still stops everything cold when a boy is wearing a dress in public. Like, OK. You know.
MARTIN: I was thinking more about the boy you were growing up in the Pittsburgh area though, who -- I mean, you were bullied from the word go. I
mean, you --
MARTIN: I have to say, as a parent myself, I mean, those passages were so hard because it speaks to the title of your book, "Unprotected." You were
so unprotected. Talk more about like the arts though as a refuge for you. Tell me about how you figured that out.
PORTER: It is the most profound part of the journey. You know, sixth grade, I was introduced to theatre. Rise and Shine Musical Theatre, Rise and Shine
Middle School. And I was just changed. I was forever changed. I was bit by the bug. There was a group of people who understood me, who respected me.
I have found my tribe, and I have found a group of people whose minds weren't expansive, which allowed for me to expand my mind outside of the
religious bubble that was the only thing that I knew and the only thing that everybody around me knew. It was magical to find the refuge inside of
all of that trauma that I was going through.
MARTIN: But how then did you face the constant rejection? I mean, you faced that so often as an actor, as an artist. I mean, how did you --
PORTER: This is probably going to sound egoic, and I don't like to sound that way but it's just the truth. I'm talented. I know I'm talented. And I
have worked at every part of it, never once have I leaned back on those talented laurels. I went to school. I studied every single bit of it. There
was a part of me that always knew that the rejection that I was receiving did not have anything to do with me or my talent.
MARTIN: Why do you think you knew that?
PORTER: Because I'm a black man in America. You got to be 10 times better than your -- you know, it's like -- and it's true. I sat and watched all my
white counterparts become stars and work all the time. If they weren't stars, they were working all the time and I was unemployed and bankrupt,
for years. I stayed in it. I stayed in it. You've got to stay in it. You know, I stayed in it and my number got called.
MARTIN: And what about "Pose"? Like what has that meant to you? It's my understanding that Pray tell was actually written for you.
PORTER: Yes. Yes, it was.
MARTIN: And what has that meant to you?
PORTER: It's was -- it's everything. 1995, I went and I saw Tony Kushner's "Angels in America." On Broadway. First time I had ever seen a gay
character played by the brilliant Jeffrey Wright who wasn't the butt of the joke, who wasn't, you know, reviled, who was the moral and spiritual
compass of the story. First time I saw it, changed the trajectory of my life.
I took myself out of what -- of the trajectory that it was and started down the road less traveled. That was 1994. I went through a lot of stuff in
between 1994 and 2010. 2010, I come back after not having worked for 10 years to the revival of "Angels of America" off Broadway playing believe.
When I looked at -- when I went to that play, I said, that is the kind of art that I want to do and nobody knows.
By 2010, they knew. By 2013, it was "Kinky Boots." And then by 2016, it was "Pose." And that is the culmination and the affirmation of me choosing
myself, of me choosing service. If service is your intention, everything else will work itself out. I ask myself, what does service look like for me
in an industry and a world that's inherently looked narcissistic? Hit me like a ton of bricks. It's your queerness.
Queerness, when nobody else was being queer. Queerness when me leaning into my queerness meant I was unemployed and bankrupt. But I leaned into it
anyway. And all of these years later, here I sit in the middle of my service, in the middle of my calling, in the middle of my ministry, right
in the center of it.
MARTIN: Earlier this year, you disclosed you've been living with HIV for 14 years. Would you mind sharing about your decision to talk about it?
PORTER: Yes. You know, well, let me share my decision to not talk about it first.
PORTER: You know, 2007 was one of the worst years of my life. You know, February, I was diagnosed with hereditary type 2 diabetes. March, I was
signing bankruptcy papers. And by June, I was HIV positive. Every statistic, I became the statistic that everybody said I would be. It almost
took me out. That almost took me out of here. And the only way I could deal with it in the moment was to not talk about it and stay busy.
I also didn't want to talk about it because I didn't want my mother to have to go through yet another -- you know, she was vilified by her religious
community because I was gay. And I wouldn't conform to what they thought that I should conform to and she took a lot of stuff for that. And I didn't
want her to have to live through the I told you so that would come with me revealing that diagnosis.
So, I sat in the shame and I sat in the silence and I was dying a slow death for 14 years. When I booked Pray Tell on "Pose," I knew there was a
healing coming. I knew that whatever this character was, was going to stand in proxy for a journey toward my own healing. I knew it was going to.
Because art has always been that for me. So, I allowed myself to lean into that.
MARTIN: And in fact, Pray Tell does -- there is a story line in "Pose" where Pray Tell is living through his illness and in despair at some point.
PORTER: Yes. Yes.
MARTIN: And so, the community lets him know how much they love and need him. And so, has the community done that for you, Billy Porter?
PORTER: Yes, yes. And, you know, Pray Tell dies. And I remember going in on the day that I was shooting that scene and I said, today is the death of
Pray Tell, but the rebirth of Billy.
MARTIN: Well, thank you so much, Billy Porter, for talking with us.
PORTER: Thank you. It was a delight.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
AMANPOUR: And that is it for now. You can always catch us online, on our podcast and across social media. Thanks for watching and good-bye from