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Fighting The Opioid Epidemic; Russian Aggression; Where Is Peng Shuai?; Interview With Designs Addiction Treatment Programs, Zinnia Health Senior Leader Nikki King; Interview With "Cowboy Bebop" Actor John Cho. Aired 1-2p ET
Aired November 18, 2021 - 13:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BIANNA GOLODRYGA, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST: Hello, everyone, and welcome to AMANPOUR.
Here's what's coming up.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Honestly, it's shocking that she's missing.
GOLODRYGA (voice-over): Where is Peng Shuai? The Chinese tennis star has not been seen since making assault allegations against a former Communist
Party leader. We discuss what her fate says about China.
GEN. AUSTIN MILLER, COMMANDER, U.S./NATO FORCES, AFGHANISTAN: We're not sure exactly what Mr. Putin is up to.
GOLODRYGA: Russia is building up its forces on Ukraine's Eastern border. What could happen next with top Russia expert Andrew Weiss.
Then: As U.S. drug deaths hit a record high, I speak to Nikki King, who is pioneering new ways to fight the opioid epidemic.
Plus, actor John Cho talks to Hari Sreenivasan about bringing super stylish anime "Cowboy Bebop" to life.
GOLODRYGA: Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Bianna Golodryga in New York, sitting in for Christiane Amanpour, who will be back next week.
The Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai has not been seen since November 2. That's when she posted comments accusing a former Chinese vice premier of
coercing her into having sex.
Well, now new fears have been sparked by an e-mail to the Women's Tennis Association purportedly from Peng Shuai herself. It walks back all previous
The head of the WTA is now casting doubt on this e-mail, saying it only further raises concerns for Shuai's safety. So what has happened to her and
what does her disappearance say about China?
Joining me now on this is former tennis pro Pam Shriver. Just like Peng Shuai, she was a doubles champion during her career. And also with us is
James Miles, China editor for "The Economist."
Welcome, both of you.
Pam, let me begin with you just to give our audience a sense of Peng as a player and what she was known for as a doubles champion.
PAM SHRIVER, FORMER PROFESSIONAL TENNIS PLAYER: Yes, she won a couple of majors actually playing alongside Hsieh Su-wei, who is from Chinese Taipei,
and just got to the semifinals the U.S. Open about six years ago. So she was considered a top singles and doubles player.
She last played just before the start of the pandemic, but had not officially retired. And so it's obviously of great concern to all of us in
the tennis world, both current players and retired players like myself, as well as, of course, the entire organization of the WTA Tour.
GOLODRYGA: And, James, clearly, she is a well-known player within the tennis community and tennis world, but I would assume within China itself
And we can't talk about her disappearance without talking about the accusation, the shocking accusation that she leveled before the
disappearance. And that was the country's first real MeToo accusation, and one where she accused a high-level government official, at that.
What was the initial response following that accusation that we should note was quickly taken down off of social media within minutes?
JAMES MILES, CHINA EDITOR, "THE ECONOMIST": Well, she of course, is now purportedly through this e-mail to the WTA denying all of this and
distancing herself from what appeared on her verified Weibo account on November the 2nd.
But the message on that account, which was a long one, detailed allegations against Zhang Gaoli, a former deputy prime minister, a former member of the
Politburo Standing Committee. That's a group of the most powerful seven men in China.
Describing an on-again/off-again relationship over a number of years, but, at some point, forced sexual advances by Mr. Zhang. There's been no
response from him to this. The authorities have not commented directly on these allegations. And there's simply no way of verifying whether indeed
it's the case, as is now purportedly the case, that Peng Shuai is absolutely fine, resting at home, or whether indeed she is now under huge
pressure from the authorities to keep quiet and this message is being forced out of her.
GOLODRYGA: And so, Pam, leading to the initial message that she posted with the accusation, the post disappeared, and then she disappeared.
And I would imagine that China, being a repressive regime, would have imagined that this is the case closed. Had it not been for management's
response from the Women's Tennis Association, and specifically from its chief executive, who, in response to her initial allegations, added that
there needed to be a thorough investigation and said: "If at the end of the day, we don't see the appropriate results from this, we would be prepared
to take that step and not operate our business in China, if that's what it came to."
It's rare that we see this kind of a direct threat from the chief executive of companies that do business in China. How big of an impact do you think
this had throughout this crisis?
SHRIVER: Well, Steve Simon, who is the CEO, the current CEO, has definitely come out with some very strong statements.
As head of one of the leading sports organizations in the world and the leading professional sport for women, the WTA, he has to do this. It's a
tough one. There's 11 WTA Tour events scheduled to be in China. And, obviously, they have been on hold because of the pandemic.
But they have more WTA Tour events than any other country. That wasn't the case 20 years ago, so they have been a rapid business partner that's been
growing. But, at a certain point, you can't have one of your players or future players, their safety be in doubt.
And what the WTA stands for is equality and freedom for women to express what has happened to them. And it's going to put the WTA, obviously, in a
tough position. But I think, true to the values of the Original 9 that Billie Jean King helped found, the reason why women's tennis has been a
brave organization for years, will give Steve Simon and the WTA right now in this situation, I think, a lot of motivation to do the right thing.
GOLODRYGA: And perhaps it was his initial response that led to what we now have heard overnight purportedly from Peng herself in an e-mail that the
Let me read what the e-mail says. In part, it reads: "The news in that release from the WTA, including the allegation of sexual assault, is not
true. I'm not missing, nor am I unsafe. I'm just resting at home, and everything is fine."
Now, to that, WTA Chairman Steve Simon responds: "I have a hard time believing that Peng Shuai actually wrote the e-mail we received or believes
what is being attributed to her."
Now, we should note that CNN cannot independently verify this post and has reached out to both Peng and the China State Council. We have yet to
receive a response from them.
But, James, where do things go now? What is the next step? We have this purported e-mail, which the WTA says sounds suspicious.
MILES: Well, you have got to bear in mind that this is the first allegation of this kind that has come out against a senior politician at this kind of
So the authorities will be trying as hard as they can to cover this up. This was a man, Zhang Gaoli, who held enormous power during the first five
years of Xi Jinping's rule. He was the center of much of the most important decision-making in China about economic matters, about the Belt and Road
Initiative. That's the global infrastructure building project.
And this is not a time in China when -- I mean, there never is, but this time in particular is not a time when the authorities want this kind of --
want these kinds of allegations coming out in public. It's a tense time politically, building up to the Communist Party's 20th Congress at the end
of next year, at which Xi Jinping is expected to be endorsed for another five-year term as general secretary of the party.
And there's a lot of politics surrounding that. He doesn't have any obvious opposition within China, but there are certainly many people who grumble
about his rule in private, many people with misgivings, not least about his campaigning against corruption, which has taken down many thousands, tens
of thousands of officials.
And so they will be trying to make sure that this is completely silenced. And, indeed, they have been eradicating it from social media. You can't
find the name now of Peng Shuai.
If you search for it online, all that comes up is stories dating back to last year. If you try posting messages containing her name, they are
deleted by censors. And, indeed, there was a time at least briefly after this news first broke in early November, when even the word tennis was --
became a sensitive one on social media and censors were trying to stop that term circulating.
GOLODRYGA: So, this -- Pam, this may be the first time that one of these types of accusations is leveled against a high-ranking official, but it's
not the first time that a well-known figure within China has just disappeared.
I mean, we talk a lot about where Jack Ma is these days. There was a film actress who for a time was not heard from as well. And I guess this leads
to the question, I guess, the fine line that business leaders and corporations, the WTA one of them, has to walk about doing business within
China, when you know that these types of events are taking place, when human rights is front and center, and the authoritarian regime just seems
to be getting harder and harder.
SHRIVER: Well, when you consider the role of sports in China in recent years from hosting the 2008 Summer Olympic Games, and just in a couple of
months, they're supposed to be welcoming athletes, men and women, from all over the world.
I would -- I was the IOC right now, I would be really concerned. And if I was a female athlete coming from some part of the world into China, I would
have a lot of doubts, unless I know that Peng Shuai is safe and freely going about her business as a WTA tennis player.
GOLODRYGA: Well, we do know, Pam, we heard -- we have heard from Naomi Osaka. We heard from Billie Jean King, Chris Evert. Others have spoken out
and talked about their concerns and voiced their concerns about where Peng Shuai is now.
But it is still rare and a bit taboo. Look at what happened with the NBA, case in point. They have a huge investment and relationship with China. And
Enes Kanter happened to be on this program recently and addressed this in speaking out about human rights issues around the world that are
highlighted, except for perhaps China.
And let's play that clip for you to respond to.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ENES KANTER, BOSTON CELTICS: You see there are so many athletes, so many actors, so many singers, there's so many people who has a platform are
speaking on many of the issues out there in the world, but when it comes to China, when it comes to China's Communist Party, they're scared, because
they care too much about money, they care too much about business, and they care -- they care too much about endorsement deals.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GOLODRYGA: So is that hypocritical? I mean, is he right? And is it right then for China not to view this as a major threat, given what he just said?
SHRIVER: Well, when the news broke a couple of days ago, I was actually working live for The Tennis Channel, because the women's tennis tour just
finished their year-end championships last night in Guadalajara that was moved from Shenzhen, China, because it couldn't take place last year. And
they needed to have these tour championships.
And I did some calling around to see as a tennis commentator crossing over in sort of to the news media side of things, with a little bit of a
journalistic look at it, and I was certainly told by people in the know that I needed to be pretty careful if I wanted to do business in China, go
back to China as an ambassador for tennis, that if I say things that were a little too strong, that that probably was not going to happen again.
Well, I already played once in Beijing back in '94, first time they ever had a women's professional tournament. It's not a big part of my life. But,
obviously, it's a concern. But in the end, I think all of us in the world of tennis, the thing that we want most is to know that Peng is free and
healthy and able to go out and practice tennis if she wants.
And we want to see her, and not see an e-mail that, as Steve Simon correctly analyzes, does not seem like it's coming from Peng Shuai.
GOLODRYGA: And, wow, 1994 Beijing is quite different from 2021 and '22 Beijing.
And that makes me lead to the next question, James, about what the U.S. should do, because there are reports that the administration is considering
a diplomatic boycott, not sending administration heads and figureheads and politicians perhaps to the Games, but still allowing athletes to go and not
Do you think that is a measured enough response? Would that be the correct decision by the U.S. government?
MILES: Well, first of all, it may be a moot point. It's not entirely clear whether China is the act welcoming foreign leaders to come to Beijing.
It has, of course, announced very strict measures, quarantine-related measures in order to prevent imported infections of COVID-19 during the
event. So there will be a bubble, if you like, around the Games. That will mean that athletes are kept within it. There will be long periods of
quarantine surrounding that.
And it'll be very difficult, I think, were they to invite large numbers of foreign leaders in, how to handle that from a quarantine point of view. And
you have to bear in mind that Xi Jinping himself, of course, has just had this online virtual summit with Joe Biden. That was an indication.
Many months after Mr. Biden took office, this was the first such in-vision meeting between the two men, and it was held online. So it's not entirely
clear that they want people to be there in person. And, of course, they're very mindful that, were they to invite a lot of foreign leaders, questions
of boycotts would come up and be very embarrassing for them.
They are not inviting in spectators from outside the country, just as the Japanese didn't at the Tokyo Summer Olympics.
MILES: So, this is something that remains to be seen.
GOLODRYGA: Well, and it is telling that in the three-hour meeting, virtual meeting, reportedly, the Olympics did not come up, and an invitation was
not extended from President Xi to President Biden.
Obviously, the most important point here is finding that and making sure that Peng Shuai is OK, and her well-being is the primary order here. So, we
will continue to follow this story.
Thank you so much, Pam and James. We appreciate your time.
Well, from China to neighboring Russia, where President Vladimir Putin is gathering Russian forces on the Eastern border of Ukraine, that stoking
fears of a potential military escalation in the region. The Ukraine issue is personal for Mr. Putin, a recent report from the Carnegie Endowment
saying: "There is little doubt that Ukraine is the single most important piece of unfinished business, as the Russian leader contemplates his
Well, earlier today, I spoke with one of the authors of that report, Andrew Weiss. He oversees research for Carnegie on Russia and Eurasia, and he told
me what he thinks is Russia's goal.
GOLODRYGA: Andrew, thank you so much for joining us.
As we know, Russia has once again amassed tens of thousands of troops along its border with Ukraine. And that has many experts, yourself included,
worrying about a possible incursion, similar to the one that we saw in 2014, when Russia annexed Crimea.
Why are you so worried this time in particular?
ANDREW WEISS, CARNEGIE ENDOWMENT FOR INTERNATIONAL PEACE: I think the real reason people are worried is that this is the single most important piece
of unfinished business on Vladimir Putin's record.
If he looks back over his more than 20 years in power, he's obviously done a lot to make Russia great again, in his eyes. But what he has not done is
kept ahold of Ukraine. In fact, he's lost Ukraine twice. So what I think a lot of policy-makers around the world are worrying about is whether, this
time, it's different, and whether he is really intending to change in a fundamental way Ukraine's orientation and to basically show that it has to
come back into the Russian fold.
GOLODRYGA: Well, listen, it definitely has got the attention of world leaders.
And in the U.S. as well, Secretary of State Blinken had warned that Russia may be laying a trap for Ukraine to respond, and thus view that as a
provocation to once again invade the country. But we saw something similar from Russia, amassing troops earlier this year in the spring, and that
So why do you think this time is different?
WEISS: Well, back in the spring, the signal that I think the Russians were focused on was they had a new U.S. administration, and they were really
worried that the Biden team was gearing up for sort of a full-court press on Russia.
And they used the military buildup back then to serve a couple purposes. One was to show that you can't trifle with Russia, that Russia has the
ability to punch back, especially in places like Ukraine, where it has potentially the upper hand, and certainly geographic proximity on its side.
But then it also got Putin what he wanted, which was a one-on-one meeting with Joe Biden in Geneva. Now the situation looks a little different. What
the Russians are indicating is that they are really worried that the United States and our NATO allies are basically using Ukraine as a platform for
conducting military activities for basically the foreseeable future.
It's an open-ended set of activities that, over time, any Russian leader who's thinking about his legacy is not going to be very comfortable
bequeathing to their successor.
So, in some ways, Ukraine is looking more and more, if you're sitting on the Russian side of the table, like an aircraft carrier that's parked just
off the coast of Russia.
And using that imagery, it was just today that Vladimir Putin said that NATO bombers that are flying near the border are -- quote -- "crossing red
But it's not just the Ukraine issue in particular that has Western leaders concerned. Obviously, we have been spending a lot of time focusing on
what's happening in Belarus and its border with Poland and the migrants that are caught in between there.
Obviously, Russia and Putin has played a conduit here in relations between Lukashenko and Western leaders, including Angela Merkel. I want to play for
you sound of what the Ukrainian foreign minister said about this and how it relates to the conflict at its own borders with CNN earlier this week.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DMYTRO KULEBA, UKRAINIAN MINISTER OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS: This moment seems to be extremely tense, not only because of the military buildup of Russia
along our border, but also because other elements of this crisis that we are observing in Europe, when Russia uses gas as a weapon, migrants as a
weapon, and is bringing more weapons to the border with Ukraine.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GOLODRYGA: So, clearly, Ukraine is sending a message that it too is worried.
And I'm wondering, going back to what Blinken had warned, could be a possible provocation that Russia uses as a sign from Ukraine to invade. How
are Ukrainians and how is the government responding to the provocation that we're seeing there on the border? And are you -- do you think they're
handling it appropriately?
WEISS: Well, people are sounding the alarm. And they're doing what you would expect them to do, both the Ukrainian government and their Western
partners, which is, they're indicating that -- what they're seeing, and they're basically forcing the Russians now, who've kept their activities
largely clandestine, to respond.
And the Russian response is basically to say, yes, we're upset. And we have got all these concerns. Some of their concerns are longstanding. Some of
them are new. So the idea that the West shouldn't be cooperating with Ukraine in the military area, that's basically a new demand.
And the question will be, is any U.S. president willing to go there? I suspect not. The other issue, which you have to accept, is that the
Russians use activities to throw the West off-balance. And they like using the element of surprise. And they like using escalation as a way of testing
Western resolve in seeing whether we back off.
And, oftentimes, largely because Russia is a formidable country armed with nuclear weapons, no one has an interest in pushing the confrontation button
their desk. People want to be really careful not to overcommit and not to mismatch what our real capabilities are -- what our real commitments are.
And if you go back just a few years, President Obama said very publicly that it appears that Vladimir Putin cares more about Ukraine than we do,
and the United States is not prepared to go to war. I'm not sure anything has changed.
And that leads me to ask about your latest piece with your colleague Eugene Rumer, where you call Ukraine Putin's unfinished business. Why is Putin so
obsessed and focused on Ukraine in particular, as opposed to other former Soviet republics that are now too independent?
WEISS: Ukraine is special. It's the largest and most important of the post- Soviet successor states. It is located in a very strategic position between Russia and Europe.
It has been a place that has connected in many ways to Putin on a metaphysical and emotional level. And given the black eye he got from
popular revolutions in Ukraine in 2004 and then again in 2014, this is the place that basically feels like it's totally slipping away, and that wants
to be on a decisive path Westward.
Putin can't abide that. And he's written publicly and said publicly multiple times that he will not allow it, basically, over my dead body. And
because of the concern that he means business, and because he has a lot of tools at his disposal to make Ukraine take him seriously and make the West
take him seriously, I think, once again, we need to listen to what Putin is saying and we need to take it very seriously.
We shouldn't act as if this is a person who's obviously just bluffing or who's trying to basically jawbone the Ukrainians into making a few modest
adjustments in their foreign policy.
And that's why people are so worried.
GOLODRYGA: And that leads to the question of whether Putin right now is a rational thinker, because, on the one hand, he wouldn't be in power for
this long if he wasn't.
That having been said, you talk in this piece about his longtime obsession with Ukraine it, but one also has to think back to the consequences
following the annexation of Crimea. Sure, he was popular back home for a while, but that led to unlimited number of sanctions against Russia by
Western leaders. The country is still ostracized based upon that incursion.
Why wouldn't he learn lessons from that, as opposed to doubling down and wanting to continue that mission?
WEISS: It's a great question. And we have a split-screen.
On the one hand, you're right. The Russians are pretty good at calculating and spotting our weak points and exploiting them. They know that the United
States is not prepared to go to war in Ukraine. They also know that, after 2014, the West basically took its best shot at Russia in terms of sanctions
and other steps.
And the Russians have sort of lived to absorb those blows and keep on going. At the same time, there's a side of Vladimir Putin going back to his
earliest childhood, when he was basically a street tough on the streets of Leningrad in the 1960s, who is pretty emotional, and who can do things and
sort of lash out in ways that don't necessarily make sense to us.
And so if you look at the situation now, he's indicating very clearly that the idea that Ukraine as a Western military partner is a threat to Russia
and something that's unacceptable to him, a red line, that he may mean business.
GOLODRYGA: How would you rate or analyze the Biden administration's approach toward Vladimir Putin in Russia, in particular to the Ukraine
issue? We know that CIA Director Bill burns had a rather unusual meeting with Vladimir Putin just a few weeks ago.
Obviously, there's a history there. He had been U.S. ambassador to Russia. He knows that the Russians quite well. Would you say that Biden and his
administration are approaching and dealing with Russia in a way that you think is constructive?
These are all very experienced people, starting with President Biden and on through the core members of the national security team, who understand
Russia and who understand what they're dealing with. There's no question at the same time that they would much rather have the Russia problem basically
be in a box and be stable and not a major distraction, as they retool the U.S. national security apparatus to gear up for a long-term challenge,
which is China.
And Vladimir Putin is, I think, once again, doing a great job of showing he knows how to jerk our chain, he knows how to get attention, and he knows
how to throw people in the West off-balance.
And finding the right balance on the U.S. side of resolve and commitment, without doing things that are unneeded -- that it would be needlessly
provocative, that's where the Biden team, I think, is particularly focused, as well as building a strong multilateral response to the Russians, so that
they see how isolated they are and so that they begin to frame in their own minds some of the downsides, whether it's economic sanctions, international
And then, let's not forget, the people of Ukraine have made a decisive move Westward, and they're prepared to fight and die for their country.
GOLODRYGA: Right. Right.
Yes, it does make me think of whether or not you can compare how Putin views Ukraine with how President Xi of China views Taiwan, right?
But we will have to end it there.
Andrew, thank you so much for joining us. It is this fascinating piece. And I know you will be continuing to watch this space very closely. We
appreciate your time.
WEISS: Great to be here. Thank you so much.
GOLODRYGA: Now to a domestic crisis for Americans. There were a record 100,000 deaths from drug overdoses during the 12 months ending in April.
Just let that number sink in, 100,000. It's a huge number driven by opioids, which caused nearly two-thirds of those deaths.
My next guest has seen the toll of the U.S. opioid epidemic up close. Born in small-town Kentucky, Nikki King left home at 18 determined to make a
better life for herself and help her community, which had been hit hard by the drug epidemic. Now she's a senior leader at Zinnia Health, and she
heads up treatment programs nationally for at-risk individuals.
Nikki King joins me now from Rhode Island.
Nikki, I know that you are an optimist here. So I don't want to have such a dour start to our conversation. But just to let those numbers sink in for
our viewers, numbers that you are well aware of, 275 people died a day; 100,000 deaths is higher than the toll of car crashes and gun fatalities
You see this on a daily basis. You have seen it for many, many years. What is your response to it? And how did we get here?
NIKKI KING, SENIOR LEADER, ZINNIA HEALTH: Well, honestly, I think -- I think that the question of how we got here, I think you have to look back.
I think that we talk about the drug epidemic like it's new, like this has just been a thing for the last 10 years, when anybody can tell you, inner-
city communities, minority communities were struggling with this for years before it got public attention.
And I think what you're really looking at is, you're looking at a very long and protracted trauma response. And you're looking at a lot of untreated
mental illness in people that we were really willing to shove under the rug as a company -- or as a country for a long, long time.
And how that ultimately evolved into, you know, a substance use epidemic, which is obviously really come to a head during the pandemic.
GOLODRYGA: I want to ask you --
KING: Sorry. Go ahead.
GOLODRYGA: No, no. Go ahead. Go ahead. Finish.
KING: I was just going to say, you know, my response to it is, yes. You know, I mean, I'm not going to act like that's not a gut punch, like that
doesn't -- it doesn't make you feel like, you know, you're not doing enough or nothing is ever enough. But, yes, we have been heading this way for a
GOLODRYGA: You have had your wakeup call on this. You've lived a wakeup call given what you have experienced with your family, friends, your
childhood and what you deal with on a daily basis, that's for sure.
I wanted to ask you because you touched on the pandemic. And look, this has been an uphill battle, something that was a major talking point that needed
to be discussed as a country during the 2016 election. Everyone from both sides of aisle seems to be aware that this is a crisis.
But then again, you add on a pandemic and everything shuts down, and people are isolated. They lose their jobs. They can't go to the hospital. They are
home alone. And that seems like it was a recipe for disaster for those who were already struggling with opioid addiction.
KING: Yes. You know, I think -- I didn't expect it to get better during the pandemic. What I was somewhat shocked to see is how many people who were
rock solid and sustained recovery. People that I personally felt would never return to use. I really feel like the vast majority of people that I
know who had been, you know, living drug free lifestyles for years were kind of forced back into their old coping mechanism.
And it's devastating. You know, you do all this work and you see people turn their lives around. Anybody who works in treatment can tell you the
difference between the day that somebody enters treatment and the day they leave is just like you -- like life has just been breathed back into them,
And it's so hard to watch that fall apart. It's so hard to just watch it crumble, especially in the face of, you know, we're asking more ask more of
our health care workers every single day. And you just see it come to less and less fruition.
But to your point about me being an optimist, something that I have been thinking about through all of this as well is, you know, as you mentioned,
the social isolation, things shutting down and the effect that had on causing this huge unpresented uptick in substance use disorder, this. I
think that it bodes really well for the future in a weird sort of way. Because think about it, if we are so interconnected that taking us and
putting our society into isolation has really created this big of an uptick, what could we do if we reversed that?
You know, if we really pulled together as a community, as you mentioned, reaching across both sides of the aisle, if we really pulled together and
did like the opposite of the pandemic, what would that do towards fixing it? Because look what a huge effect that had. So --
GOLODRYGA: Well, look, I think just given your work in treatment and a new approach that it you have brought to experts in the community, who
initially were a bit skeptical about the medical assisted treatment that you have prescribed and you have seen work talk about that and why it was a
struggle to convince those who are well meaning to help addicts overcome their addiction do it with medication.
KING: So, you know, I would say back in the '90s, there was really a big push in medicine that pain is the fifth vital sign and that we're not doing
enough to treat pain and chronic pain. And, you know, frankly, there's some truth to that. And I would argue today, in a way, we're not doing enough to
treat chronic pain. You know, we -- at the time, you know, with OxyContin and everything else, there was a full-court press on doctors to prescribe
more, more, more, and they did, and it set loose a wildfire.
And now, we've swung so hard back the other way that people who have really, really need chronic pain management in order to live their lives,
now they can't get the treatment and we still have over prescribers. And so, I think that it's unfortunately -- you know, the doctors heard for so
long, you're a terrible doctor. You're not controlling your patient's pain.
You're giving them poor quality of care and you don't care about them. And so, then, they controlled the pain and then it's, well, you made everybody
addicted. Look how many hundreds of thousands of people you've killed. Don't you feel any shame about prescribing OxyContin? And now, the doctors
are like, OK. I'll stop prescribing. And now, they're like, well, why aren't you prescribing MAT?
And to them, you know, they see the narcotic component and that makes them very nervous.
GOLODRYGA: MAT is the Medication Assisted Treatment. And just to give our viewers a sense of the results after a year of you working with patients
with Medication Assisted Treatment, 45 had completed the eight-month program with no issue. 18 had relapsed once. Eight of whom reengaged
immediately in treatment. No one had an overdose.
In fact, you write, one participant used a Narcan kit from CATS, this is a program, the Court Addiction and Drug Services Program, to resuscitate a
relative. So, technically, you said, we're at a plus one. This it does seem to work. Are you getting positive reception from other experts across the
KING: Yes. You know, really, what we did in that treatment program, in a sense, replicated multiple times, it's not really anything that we didn't
know. It was just pulling together a lot of pieces and getting a lot of community buy in. And, you know, it kind of goes to what I was saying with
the pandemic. You know, one of the biggest success factors that we had was really pulling in criminal justice folks and helping them see across the
I think that it gets really easy for people in the treatment side to completely criminalize the criminal justice side in our minds. And it gets
really easy for criminal justice people to completely write off the treatment, people with being bleeding hearts who aren't tough enough on
And, you know, the truth of the matter is, is that we have shown that it takes everyone. It takes those communities working together, it takes the
faith communities working together, it takes the prescribers working together with the therapists. And we build that community.
And when we build the community, we see the results just like when we lost that community during the pandemic, we saw those results.
GOLODRYGA: Well, Nikki King, thank you so much for your compassion and your dedication to this issue. And it's something that has raised awareness
across the country. Too many lives have been lost and your approach to view this as a disease as opposed to blaming those who are suffering through it
is really game changing, I think. Thank you for that and for your optimism. We appreciate it.
KING: Yes. No, thank you. And, you know, I would say to people who see it as a disease, it just doesn't help. We've done that. It's not working. Try
GOLODRYGA: Yes. Try something new. Nikki, thank you.
Well, one of the most influential anime series of all time has been given the life action Netflix treatment, and it's out this Friday. "Cowboy Bebop"
is an action-packed western set in space decades from now. It stars John Cho, best known for roles in "Harold and Kumar" and "Star Trek." At a time
when Hollywood is talking about diversity more than ever, Cho sat down with Hari Sreenivasan to discuss his journey as an actor and what it means to be
part of such a well-loved project.
(BEGIN VIDEO VIDEOTAPE)
HARI SREENIVASAN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Thanks, Bianna. John Cho, thank you for joining us.
So, for someone who is not familiar with the anime or with the Netflix version yet, what is "Cowboy Bebop"? Because it's a genre bending.
JOHN CHO, ACTOR, "COWBOY BEBOP": It is. That was certainly the attraction for me. But it is kind of a mixture of film noir (ph), westerns, comedy,
action, all blended into this big soup. It's set in the future in 2071. And humans have left earth because it's become uninhabitable. Sound familiar?
And we play bounty hunters who are -- you know, we're vigilantes taking in people, making a couple extra bucks trying taking criminals for the cops.
SREENIVASAN: OK. And I want to play a clip here. This is pretty -- well, this will be pretty self-explanatory when we take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What, you're taking a dump now? We ain't got all day. Hello? Spike? Hello? Hello?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SREENIVASAN: We'll get to the crazy physicality in a second. But one of the things that you notice right away, the Bebop in the name. I mean, that is
not the music that you expect in the middle of kind of a martial arts fight scene. It's really part of the show.
CHO: Yes, I will give all credit to our composer, Yoko Kanno, who was a composer for the original series. And we managed to lure her back for our
show. And she's very idiosyncratic. She makes choices that are really unconventional at every turn. And I would argue, she kind of -- the choices
are so interesting, they sort of change the meaning of the scene, scene by scene, because it's almost a character.
SREENIVASAN: OK. So, there's not a scene that we have that reveals this, but can we talk a little bit about -- is there a Spike Spiegel abs workout
that you're just coming along with this? Because you get in unbelievable shape for a man -- well, let's just say, our age.
CHO: I'm working on an infomercial right now. $29.99, five easy payments.
SREENIVASAN: And you never have to do a sit up?
CHO: Yes. But yes, definitely the physical requirements were challenging, and we had had a great team. But, you know, my focus was definitely trying
to do as much as I could and be visible so that they could use as much of me as they could. But it was the biggest challenge of this role.
SREENIVASAN: You know, do you feel any pressure because with something like this that has a history, that has a solid fan base, has a guy with
incredible abs who is just a cartoon, right, and then you get cast in this role, you know, like -- you know what I mean?
You obviously -- you've played Sulu, which is an iconic character before with a huge fan base. So, how do you approach something like this when you
know there's people who are going to be watching every move and say, oh, is this guy legit or not?
CHO: Sure. A lot of that is built into any big project. You know, you get excited and start to feel pressure. And what really relaxed me was every
single person I met as I went down the line seemed to be devoted fans of the original anime and I thought, oh, we'd be good in stead moving forward.
And as long as you start with good intentions, I think you can relax and be free in the knowledge that you're approaching it the right way and
hopefully -- and then, you know, whether people like it or not, you can't control. But what you can control are your intentions, you know.
SREENIVASAN: Well, when did you want to be an actor? When did this start for you?
CHO: I fell into it in college. It's a story that, in retrospect, sounds unbelievable. Like I -- am I misremembering this? But I was an English
major at college and I was in a creative writing group. And one of the guys said I am directing a play and one of my actors got sick. And you look like
you could fit the costume. And I said, OK. So, I gave it a shot.
SREENIVASAN: You were the right size for the script.
CHO: I was the right size for the script. By the way, the costume was sweater and jeans. So, in retrospect, I'm like, what? What was he talking
about? But that's how I started.
SREENIVASAN: So, when did you know? After that first play? Did you like, I could do this? Was it, did get cast in a film somewhere?
CHO: I didn't know -- I got cast in a professional play that they had to use students because they were using our campus theater. So, they were
required to cast a couple students and I got one of the roles. And it was at that point because it was based on a very famous Asian-American novel
called "The Woman Warrior" by Maxine Hong Kingston. And it was then that I actually met Asian-American actors in the flesh. And here (INAUDIBLE), I
didn't think that there were any professional Asian actors.
I think in my mind, I didn't really have a thought about it, but I must have thought that they were waiters and office workers who were, you know,
sort of the cast and said, would you like to do this bit role on mash or something.
CHO: But I didn't think that there was a profession surrounding it or that it was possible. And this was a whole cast of Asian-American actors. And I
thought -- and they were brilliant and they were amazing and they were making a living doing plays and commercials and parts in film and
television. I thought, oh, OK. This looks fun. And they were wonderful people. So, I thought I just want to keep going -- keep hanging out with
SREENIVASAN: How do you think the business -- the industry has changed today, I mean, from when you started in the business and when you perhaps
didn't see that many Asian-Americans or you saw them in kind of these supporting roles, these bit parts? Meaning, we have "Minari" and "Parasite"
and "Crazy Rich Asians" that have kind of elevated the visibility in some ways. But, you know, as an actor, producer, director kind of behind the
scenes and the peers that you talk to, what are you hearing?
CHO: I think it's really -- it is changing. And I really was very pessimistic because when I started, I looked back at the 50 years prior to
my arrival and then made a mental graph, and I thought, well, it's likely just going to keep going like this. It's -- I don't see an even that would
make it to this. But there was an event that made it through that.
And I would suggest that there was a lot of technology behind. You know, we went through the internet revolution and Korea also made a very intentional
effort to -- as a government, to spread their pop culture throughout the world, and it's worked. And we Asian-American are also the beneficiaries of
that, that visibility.
And so, there has been kind of an industrial revolution within the industry of cinema and also, the fragmentation of the audience and the number of
outlets available has helped us. So, I think there are way more working Asian-Americans in the industry than there used to be and that is a good
thing. And we are -- and I notice an ethos change.
You know, when I was younger, I felt like everyone had to be the one. You know, the one. And think that is thankfully disappearing. And we -- I know
that -- I meet lots of Asian-Americans in the business who are actively seeking to collaborate with one another. And that's kind of new.
SREENIVASAN: You're also an author. You wrote a book. It's going to be out, I hear, in spring. It's aimed at kids called "Troublemaker." What's it
CHO: It's about a kid who comes home on April 19, 1992 and discovers that his parents are home for some reason and that they are home because there -
- it's possible unrest in Los Angeles. And so, the father goes to the store, their store in South Central, to board it up.
And the boy decides that his father needs protection and sneaks out of the house with a gun in his bag pack to deliver it to his father. And it's a
story of that night trying to get to his dad.
SREENIVASAN: Why was that moment important to you? What was just going on? I mean, you were a little older and the child that you're writing about is
the central character, but what did you start thinking about during that time when the whole country was watching what was happening on TV?
CHO: Well, what happened was I was set to write a different book altogether. And when the pandemic hit and George Floyd was murdered and we
were watching the protests on television stuck inside our houses and then, the anti-Asian violence started happening and we were trying to discuss
these things with our children.
So, my mind just started thinking about all the kinds of things, including the '92 riots and started to measure things like how much progress have we
made, thinking about the Latasha Harlins' murder and all of those things and realizing it's been a long time and -- since that event and thinking
about, relatively speaking, how little progress has been made.
And so, those are the things were on my mind. And I -- the idea sort of came to me to maybe tell the story through a child's lens. And I pitched
the idea to my editor and said, I have a -- I'm sorry, but I -- maybe I have a completely different book in mind that I would like to it write. And
I think maybe I need to the get it out of me. And so, that's where it came from.
SREENIVASAN: So, if you don't mind me asking, what kind of questions were your kids struggling with during the pandemic and what kinds of answers did
you and your mom come up with?
CHO: I don't know that they were asking so many questions as we were trying to sort of ride this balance between telling the truth, but not have them
be scared. And that's a very -- that turned out to be a very difficult line to straddle, you know, because we did have to call our -- their grandma and
grandpa and say, maybe you shouldn't take a walk for a couple of months, you know, maybe you should curb those walks and maybe you should carry mace
and, you know, like -- things like that. And that's going to frighten the children. And yet, we had to know -- they had to know what was going on.
We had -- on our street, we had somebody spray painted China below the word stop, on the stop sign at the end of our street. So, it was very close to
us. You know, we didn't have anyone that was beaten or anything, but it started to creep in. And I think the discussion was really what country are
we living in? And I think there may be a battle going on right now to define what America is, to some extent.
And that's what the book was to me, me reflecting on what this country is and comparing it to what my parents thought they were bringing us to and
what I grew up thinking this country was and hoping -- and it still is, you know, because I hope that our institutions are what I thought they were.
Because I'm very proud to be an American and I'm such -- I'm so admiring of our institutions and our capacity for improvement. And I hope that long-
term that is the case. And I just feel like we're in a moment of crisis trying to figure it all out.
SREENIVASAN: You know, I remember at the beginning of the pandemic you wrote a column, jotted down a sentience from it, it said, the pandemic is
reminding us that our belonging is conditional. One moment we are Americans, the next we're all foreigners who brought the virus here. Do you
think things are better now, I mean, compared to March, April of 2020?
CHO: I guess a casual survey would suggest yes. I mean, I don't know if the root feelings have changed, that is to say the virus is in a better place
as compared to a year ago. And so, maybe that anxiety is dissipating a little bit as people are kind of coming out of their homes. I don't know.
And I think the history of Asians in America would suggest that when there is a crisis, somebody has to be scapegoated. And it might be us again. You
know, I certainly hope that's not the case. And maybe we learn something from this event. But, you know, I have been out of the country for a year.
We were in New Zealand shooting this and I shot another movie there. So, it -- I'm trying right now also. I've only been back a couple weeks, trying to
understand what's changed and what the mood of the country is and what's going on. So, I'll come back tomorrow and let you know.
SREENIVASAN: OK. Good, good. Once you catch it all. You do so many different types of films. Some people are watching this, and they say, oh,
it's the guy from "Star Trek." And there's a good chunk of people who are going to remember you from the "Harold and Kumar" movies.
And recently, your co-star from those films, Kal Penn, wrote a book in which he said he was engaged to a man. And I wonder if at the time that you
were making those films, would it have had an impact had Kal Penn been openly gay then?
CHO: The pace of social change is dizzying. And during the pandemic, I was just remembering -- I was rewatching "Friends," you know, comfort food. And
I was like, wow, there's a lot of gay jokes in this sitcom. And it doesn't seem that long ago. It's a completely modern sitcom. And yet, it was just
sort of wall-to-wall gay jokes. You know, I enjoyed it. It was -- I didn't notice it then.
CHO: But in terms of Kal. Kal's an exceptional performer. He's so lovable. I would like to think that it wouldn't have mattered. I really do. And I
tend to think that the American audience is underestimated. I could be wrong. I could be wrong. But I would hope that it would have been the same
SREENIVASAN: What are you up to next? I mean, have you guys already gotten a green light for another season of "Bebop"?
CHO: I can't talk about that. But what's up for me next, I'm unemployed currently. So --
SREENIVASAN: But what do you look for now? Let's say you're Asian or your manager or whoever brings your projects, what's the thing that
automatically says to you, this is something I want to sink my teeth into? Because you've done lots of different types of projects.
CHO: You know, for me now, if there's any personal philosophy, I have in terms of what I'm going to be doing going forward, I think I'm done with
the portion of my career where I go this is the smart move or this is the strategic move. I'm going to stop thinking about strategy or any of those
things. I think it's moving forward, if I can. Then you might see me doing the ab infomercial.
But if I can, I just like to say, this speaks to me. And I don't know -- and sometimes you don't know why something speaks to you. Sometimes it's
just has you fall in love. It's -- and you have to do it. And so, I think that's what I would like to do and not worry about a career trajectory or
money or what's cool or whatever it is, I just would like to do things that speak to me.
SREENIVASAN: John Cho, thanks so much for joining us.
CHO: Thank you. It's been a pleasure.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GOLODRYGA: And we look forward to seeing where his career takes him next.
And finally, capturing the wild at its whackiest from a fish hamming it up to acrobatic rodents, even an awkward Pidgeon. Well, this year's winners of
the Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards are out with the top prize going to Ken Jensen for snapping this picture of a very uncomfortable monkey sitting
on a bridge water.
I guess it's to know that animals, like humans, also have uncomfortable moments and sometimes they are caught on camera. We hope that monkey is
feeling much better now.
Well, that is it for now. You can always catch us online, on our podcast and across social media. Thank you so much for watching and good-bye from