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First of All with Victor Blackwell

Chicken And Milkshakes With A Side Of Politics; Viral Trump Meeting With Black Supporters Sparks Debate; Supporter Who Met Trump Says Viral Video Drew Backlash; Civil Rights Leaders Push To Swap Name Of Collapsed Bridge; SD Gov. Kristi Noem "Banished" From Parts Of Her Own State; Actor Gabriel Luna On Increasing, Improving Latino Roles. Aired 8-9a ET

Aired April 13, 2024 - 08:00   ET



VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN HOST: So first of all, we talk a lot about black voters who support Donald Trump but we don't often hear from them. And I'm not talking about the people who hold the Blacks for Trump signs at the rallies, not them. I'm talking about the people at your church, down at the job, the neighbors, and that might explain why the reception the former president got from a parent's supporters at a Chick-fil-A went viral. Now Trump's backers claim this clip is proof that he really is winning over Black voters.


MIKAYLA MONTGOMERY, UNIVERSITY OF NORTH DAKOTA, MEDICAL RESIDENT ORTHO: Come here. Let me give you a hug. Thank you. I'll tell my mama, I made it.


BLACKWELL: Now skeptics see this is a planned campaign stunt. Mikayla Montgomery, the woman they're hugging the former President. Conservative media has been playing this clip of her hugging Trump on a loop almost every hour on Fox. Understand that this was no chance meeting.

Mikayla told Trump that she canvassed for him. She fundraised for him. She volunteered for the Georgia GOP. She organized the crowd of students and brought them there because he was coming. Trump didn't just happen to walk into a random chicken joint and all the Black people just stood up and cheered.

Mikayla says that she and the HBCU students with her now have gotten a lot of backlash because of this video and I planned to ask her about all of that. And we invited her to the show. She accepted the invitation to come on but then she cancelled. She did however, as I mentioned, she spoke to Fox.


MONTGOMERY: And this is a sentiment I get a lot coming from the young people themselves is that they feel like he's honest. They feel like this is somebody who while we might not agree with how he says things, how he goes about things, at least he's telling us what it is. We don't feel like this is a snake in the grass waiting for his chance to bite us.


BLACKWELL: My next guest represents the district where this viral meeting happened. Republican Georgia State Representative Mesha Mainor is here with me. Thank you so much for your time today. Mikayla Montgomery lauded by the right, excoriated by the left, and you met with her yesterday or earlier in this week. What's your reaction to what you've heard the reaction to that moment with the former President?

REP. MESHA MAINOR, (R-GA): Let me first off just say hi Bison. Makayla is --

BLACKWELL: Hey, it's you.

MAINOR: She's a single mom. So she has a lot of responsibility that may be the reason she canceled. I don't want to make it seem like it's a negative reason why she isn't here.

BLACKWELL: Okay, sure.

MAINOR: She is completely involved in the movement. She organizes grassroots for HBCU students. A few weeks ago, we did a bloom of that for young women. She helped coordinate that with her organization called conserve the culture. I think what we have to remember really is all Black people are not the same. Even though President Biden says all Black people are the same, we're really aren't. And so that's the main thing.

We have different opinions. We have different likes. We have different interests. We have different policy priorities. And if we could all just get along and learn to respect each other's opinion, we would be in a much better place.

BLACKWELL: And here's the reaction from the Biden campaign thinking Black voters relate to Donald Trump because he spent 20 minutes handing out freebies at a fast food restaurant is yet another insult to our intelligence and perfect example of just how disingenuous Trump's outreach to Black voters continues to be. You got any response to that?

MAINOR: My initial response would be something negative. So I'm trying to not be negative and say that to say that if you don't vote for him, or you don't vote Democrat, you're not Black, to just put us in a box is what my problem is.

We care about legal immigration, many Black people. We care about public safety. We do not want to defund the police. We care about educational opportunities, where -- Donald -- Donald Trump has been to my district twice, once on Chick - to the Chick-fil-A on MLK, which is the neighborhood I grew up in and two, and then he went to Rice Street. At both times he was applauded for being there. So look, sometimes he comes unexpectedly and sometimes he comes

expectedly and we just need to embrace that everyone does not think the same. Really the major issue here is what are the policy issues that are most important to people in Black communities.

BLACKWELL: You know, there really is this shift and we see it in younger voters. There's this fascinating new report from Pew on the trend of Black voters. So follow me, a lot of numbers here. But stay with me, everybody.


2013, 7 percent of Black voters over 50 were registered or leaning Republicans, 9 of Blacks under 50 were. Fast Forward 10 years, still 7 percent of Black voters over 50 were registered Republicans at 7 percent, 17 percent of the voters under 50 now are leaning or registered Republican. So nearly a 100 percent increase in 10 years.

Representative Mainor, what do you think that generational shift is attributed to?

MAINOR: I think at the end of the day, we put a lot of emphasis on the presidential election. The presidential election is not putting food on people's table. The presidential election is not helping kids learn how to read. People are realizing that school board members are very important. Your county commissioners are very important. Your city council members are very important. And that's what I'm out educating my community on.

Let's look at local politics because media will distract us from what really is important. And what really is important is local policies that really impact us every day. And it's those Republican policies. You know, Georgia, in -- at the Georgia State Representative, we just passed a lot of tax laws that are going to put more money into people's pockets. People are more interested in that than the chaos surrounding the presidential election or as far as Black people are concerned.

BLACKWELL: The state has also passed a Heartbeat Bill banning for most cases, abortion after six weeks, and the Vice President was in Arizona, pinning that on Donald Trump and I'm sure she'll come and make a similar speech in Georgia to -- how much do you think that will impact the vote here and especially women, the age of -- of Mikayla Montgomery that the -- the Democrats are targeting?

MAINOR: Heartbeat Bill passed before I was in office. So I can't really speak to the dynamics of that. What I can say is that I do believe that women should have a choice. I think that there are different reasons why people or women have abortions.

One of the things I'm really proud to say, this past session, we did a lot of deals from maternal mortality, as well as infant mortality. We have a new Maternal Health Commission that we're trying to get started to help with that. That's my answer to that.

BLACKWELL: All right. State Representative Mesha Mainor, thanks so much for coming on.

MAINOR: Thank you.

BLACKWELL: Let's keep the conversation going now with Nii-Quartelai. He's the host of a More Perfect Union on KTLA talk radio. He's also a professor at Pepperdine, and the author of the upcoming book, Kamala, The Motherland and Me.

Nii-Quartelai, good to see you again. Good to have you on. I was going to start talking about Cornel West and Dr. Melina Abdullah, but if you heard that last conversation with a representative Mainor, there is this trend over 10 years where we're seeing an increase of younger voters moving toward Republicans, to what do you attribute that if anything?

NII-QUARTELAI QUARTEY, HOST, "A MORE PERFECT UNION" ON KBLA TALK 1580: Well, good morning, Victor. I attribute that to the fact that there are a number of voters that are just absolutely disillusioned and disenchanted and disappointed. You know, politics has been a -- an -- it's been rough, you know, these past several years, especially coming out of the darkest days of the pandemic. And while there has been progress, progress has been very slow.

You know, the President oftentimes talks about the government giving folks that breathing room. Well enough, people aren't feeling that breathing room fast enough. And so they're looking at alternatives and in a healthy democracy, they shouldn't be able to look at alternatives. But they also shouldn't be the subject of misinformation and disinformation either.

BLACKWELL: All right. Let's talk now about the announcement from Dr. Cornel West, the independent candidate for president announcing his running mate, Dr. Melina Abdullah, Professor of Pan African Studies at Cal State and a Black Lives Matter organizer.

In other cycles, a third party candidate who is polling in the low single digits announcing a running mate would be met with a shrug. Why is this not that?

QUARTEY: Well, this is not that because Dr. West happened to choose a leader from the Black Lives Matter movement. It wasn't that long ago where the BLM Movement was one of the biggest move movements not just across the country but around the world and in recent years there have been some challenges related to the BLM organization but still the Black Lives Matter grassroots organization has continued to be on the forefront of issues that are fundamental to what they believe.


Look, you know, it's not -- it's not on, you know, it's unlikely that there are folks out there that will look at this ticket, and maybe give it a second glance. It's not insignificant that Dr. West has chosen Dr. Abdullah to be his VP. And what makes it really, really important to look at is the fact that right now, you know, there's a lot of political headwinds blowing. You know, not too long ago, we saw a record number of folks vote

uncommitted in places like Michigan and Wisconsin. These are young voters, some of them are Black voters. These are folks that are looking for different options. And so, you know, while there are a number of people in the beltway that might think, you know, organize money and organize people, win elections, and it doesn't seem that this campaign is getting the traction that it needs to do that, you know, they also should not dismiss it at face value.

BLACKWELL: Yes. Right now, the campaign says they're on the ballot in four states, Alaska, Oregon, South Carolina, and Utah. But as you make the point, if they get on the ballot in Georgia, if they get on the ballot in Michigan, in Pennsylvania, in Wisconsin, where it's tight, some -- around some of these major cities may be having a Black Lives Matter organizer could, I guess, bring over enough of the disillusioned Democrats to say Biden hasn't earned it, maybe this ticket has.

Let me let me go to this. No one expects it, they're going to get 270 electoral votes. So what is a win for the West- Abdullah ticket? Well,

QUARTEY: Well, if they are following the Reverend Al Sharpton model, remember back in 2004, Reverend Sharpton ran for President and the win for him was elevating an urban agenda, a Black agenda, a racial justice agenda. If they are able to get on a debate stage, if they're able to gain some traction, that could be a win. But alternatively, so siphoning off votes, you know, from the Biden campaign, you know, could they might view that as a win. I think a lot of folks might view that as a great loss.

You know, I'm not making any predictions here. But I'm saying again, organized money, organize people win elections, and I took a gander at their platform and it seems they have work to do. I know Dr. West is planning to hit the road. He'll be in Scranton, Pennsylvania, and in Texas, and in Colorado, in the next couple of weeks. But it's one thing to show up in these places. It's another thing to turn this moment into a movement. And so we'll wait and see.

BLACKWELL: Nii-Quartelai Quartey, thank you so much for joining me.

QUARTEY: Thank you, Victor.

BLACKWEL: While we're talking about 2024, the historic first criminal trial of former President Trump starts with jury selection in New York on Monday. Watch CNN special live coverage starting at 9:00 Eastern on CNN and streaming on Max.

Coming up the community that says their youth suicide rate is three and a half times that of the national average, and how they're now taking on big tech to save their children. Plus, Governor Wes Moore says rebuilding the Key Bridge is a top priority but should Maryland also rename it? Meet a leader who says it's time to drop the author of The Star Spangled Banner



BLACKWELL: Two Native American tribes say that deliberate misconduct by social media companies is hurting their children. On Tuesday, the Spirit Lake and Menominee tribes filed separate lawsuits against social media companies including the parent companies of Facebook, Google and TikTok.

The Chairwoman of the Menominee tribe says that we are demanding these social media corporations take responsibility for intentionally creating dangerous features that ramp up the compulsive use of social media by the youth on our reservation. According to the CDC, Native Americans have the highest rate of suicide among all ethnic ethnicities. Now for native teenagers suicide rates are almost three and a half times higher than the national average. That's according to the Center for Native American youth.

Joining me now is Jazmine Wildcat. She's a member of the Center's Youth Advisory Board. I think we have a problem with her shot. But we will get back to her as soon as we can. I want you to hear from what some of these social media companies said, those named in the lawsuit, key parts of their statements into us as we tried to get Jazmine back. Meta says, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram. They said in part, that these are complex issues, but we will continue working with experts and listening to parents to develop new tools, features and policies that are effective and meet the needs of their teens and their families.

Alphabet, this is the parent company of Google and YouTube. They said in part, "In collaboration with Youth Mental Health Oh and parenting experts, we built services and policies to provide young people with age appropriate experiences and parents with robust controls. The allegations in these complaints are simply not true."


This is part of Snapchat's statement. "We will always have more work to do, and we'll continue to work to make Snapchat a platform that helps close friends feel connected, happy, and prepared, as they face the many challenges of adolescence." And we also reached out to ByteDance and the parent company of TikTok but we haven't heard back. But we've got Jazmine back.

So Jazmine, let me go straight into my first question and thank you for being with me. The chairperson of the Spirit Lake Nation says that, quote, "Native youth are particularly vulnerable to the social media apps." Why are they more vulnerable than other young people?

JAZMINE WILDCAT, YOUTH ADVISORY BOARD, CENTER FOR NATIVE AMERICAN YOUTH: Yes. I believe that, you know, Native youth, and we're vulnerable, because due to, you know, genocide and assimilation. This is paving the way for intergenerational trauma. And by, you know, having this intergenerational trauma, we are already predisposed to different mental health issues and addictions.

This, you know, sort of leads to that heavy reliance on social media. This heavy reliance, you know, you see a lot of youth who are struggling to find their identities and are sort of seeking validation that they might not have in their own home and this --

BLACKELL: Yes, I mentioned from the CDC that they say that Native Americans have and also Alaskan Natives, the highest suicide rate of any of the ethnicities. If there -- if that exists, among other age groups, what is the connection to the social media companies for young people? As tragic as those numbers are three and a half times for -- for youth, why are they responsible for what's happening to children if we also see it in adults?

WILDCAT: Yes. I mean, I think the social media is just the -- them targeting, you know, the younger generation. And I think for Native youth, especially being in rural areas, some people may never have left, their, you know, their rural area or their reservation, and are sort of using social media, especially as an outlet to experience the world. You know, they may not know anything else. And, you know, that's how they stay connected. So I think, you know, that's especially why I think Native youth are impacted.

BLACKWELL: So at least once a year, there's this showdown between members of Congress and the heads of the social media companies and members drill them and they say that reform is coming and that they're going to reform section 230, the Communications Decency Act, which gives them the companies this shield for what they allow on their platforms. Congress has not done it. They have this liability. It is what has protected them from lawsuits before. Why do you expect that this will be different?

WILDCAT: Yes. I really expected this to be different because I think the statistics don't lie. This is a very important issue and this is just one of the factors that is contributing to it. I think that that this is an epidemic going on, that our Native youth are, you know, dying at rates that have pretty much been unheard of. So I think that this lawsuit will bring forth an issue and sort of showcase how serious this is.

BLACLWELL: Yes. As tragic as these numbers are, what we've seen though, is that the Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act has protected these companies. We'll see if this lawsuit is any different. Jazmine Wildcat, thank you so much for being with me.

Now, if you at home you are watching and you are struggling, there is help. Call a text 988 to reach the suicide and crisis lifeline 24/7 free and confidential.

Coming up, the threats that some port officials say they're facing after the Baltimore Bridge collapse, because they're black.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Some very ugly messages. Your hatred and ignorance is pitied.




BLACKWELL: Since the bridge collapse in Baltimore, there's now a new debate over what to name the replacement and whether this is time to make a change. The bridge was named for Francis Scott Key and he wrote the words that became the Star Spangled Banner, our national anthem. Well, he also owns slaves at one point and a group of civil rights organizers in Maryland and they called themselves the caucus of African American leaders. They are now demanding the Francis Scott Key Bridge be renamed once it's rebuilt.

Both the Governor of Maryland and the mayor of Baltimore were asked about changing the name this week but they dodged.


GOV. WES MOORE, (D) MARYLAND: I think that any conversations about anything else, there will be time for any any and all of the conversations. But right now, if we're not focused on those four things, then we're being distracted.

MAYOR BRANDON SCOTT, (D) BALTIMORE: These families haven't had funerals for their loved ones we haven't recovered everybody and we should be having those conversations as we would say in church in decency and in order. And when we would not want someone to be talking about renaming something if we lost a loved one that we haven't even had the ability to identify yet.



BLACKWELL: Carl Snowden, the founder of the Caucus of African American Leaders is with me now. Mr. Snowden, thank you for being with me. I offered just the overview here. But you make the case, why rename the bridge?

CARL SNOWDEN, CAUCUS OF AFRICAN AMERICAN LEADERS: Well, first, let's respond to what was just said. Why now? Martin Luther King Jr. once said, the time to do right is always now. The fact of the matter is that we should be looking at renaming the bridge. Francis Scott Key, not only wrote the Star Banner, but he was also a slaveholder.

And his brother-in-law, Roger Taney, wrote the infamous Dred Scott Decision. And a decision was made four years ago to remove a statue of Roger Taney, that had been on statehouse grounds for 100 years, because we in Maryland decided that symbols are important. So I think at this point, we have an opportunity to rename the bridge after a Great Marylanders. His name was Congressman Parren Mitchell. He was a founder of the Congressional Black Caucus. He represented the district in which that bridge is located.

And more importantly, he represents inclusion. He represents someone who was trying to make America better and not bitter. And we have a situation with the bridge now is very divisive, it's offensive. There are African Americans taxpayers who live in the state of Maryland, who should not be required to spend a tax dollars bill -- rebuilding a bridge named after slaveholders.

BLACKWELL: But this is also the conversation. We've been having this since certainly 2020 to a greater extent than before then, and removals of Confederate statues and renaming of military bases. The question is, what then is the line? I mean, George Washington owned slaves, but nobody's renaming the national -- the capital or taking them off the dollar bill. What is -- what should do -- disqualify, one, is the broader question?

SNOWDEN: Well, I think Annapolitan, Marylanders, citizens of America have the right to petition their elected officials. This is a complicated question about their people who believe that there were men and women who were slaveholders who should be honored. I have a different opinion. I think that we as Americans, should honor people that all Americans can be proud of. The debate whether Jefferson and Washington should be removed, I'm sure that that's a debate that some of them have.

But I want to remind people that when we move to remove the statue of Roger Taney, who was the only Marylander to serve as the chief judge, there was a lot of debate.


SNOWDEN: But eventually, as people learn more about who Roger Taney was, they decided that that statue should come down. And I think the same thing will happen in this case.

BLACKWELL: Yes, let me --

SNOWDEN: Most people don't realize who he was.

BLACKWELL: Let me play for you something that happened in 2018. We just heard from Governor Wes Moore. I want you to hear from private citizen Wes Moore. This is when he was hosting a monthly NPR show. And the question was about Confederate statues. Here's what he said then.


GOV. WES MOORE (D-MD): Whether or not we learn from our history is not the question. What we celebrate about our history is, an understanding that interpretation of historical events is just that it's an interpretation and how people view that interpretation, directly affects whether or not a person feels that our society welcomes them, cares for them, and invests in them.


BLACKWELL: From what you heard there, do you think that suggest that he is sympathetic to the call that he will likely change the name of the bridge?

SNOWDEN: I'm really proud of Governor Wes Moore. Governor Wes Moore in his short tenure in public office has done more to bring Marylanders together. And I respect his leadership. I think he will bring a number of people together different points of views, will have an opportunity to have a discussion with him.


SNOWDEN: The Caucus of African American Leaders meet with Governor Moore on a quarterly basis. We hope to be meeting with him very soon to have this discussion.

BLACKWELL: All right.

SNOWDEN: I welcome to his views on this particular subject matter.

BLACKWELL: Carl Snowden, thank you so much for sharing your thoughts with me.

SNOWDEN: Thank you, Victor.


BLACKWELL: All right, coming up and escalating feud between Governor Kristi Noem and Native American tribes in South Dakota. Why she's now banned from a growing part of the state she governs.


BLACKWELL: South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem is not welcome in a growing number of places in her state. She's now banned from four tribal reservations. This week, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and Rosebud Sioux joined the Oglala Sioux and the Cheyenne River Sioux in Bangor. It was in reaction to these recent comments Noem made linking tribal leaders to Mexican drug cartels.


GOV. KRISTI NOEM (R-SD): They are here in South Dakota on our tribal reservations, trafficking drugs and kids and sex trafficking out of South Dakota throughout the Midwest. And these communities in our tribal reservations are living in fear. We've got some tribal leaders that I believe are personally benefiting from the cartels being matter. And that's why they attacked me every day.



BLACKWELL: Governor Noem also accused Native American parents of not being involved enough in their children's lives. In February, I spoke with the President of the Oglala Sioux Tribe after they voted to banish Noem over similar rhetoric. He says that she's targeting them to score some political points.


FRANK STAR COMES OUT, OGLALA SIOUX TRIBE PRESIDENT: He utilized the -- our tribe in we believe for a political gain, and some of the things that she mentioned on there were disrespectful to the tribe, without our knowledge. (END VIDEO CLIP)

BLACKWELL: Political context here is that Noem is reportedly on former President Trump's vice president short lists. So take that into context. Sometimes, and this caught my eye, there's a study that comes along, that confirms what you already assumed was happening. This is one of those and this is all discrimination and looking for a job. Economist with the National Bureau of Economic Research sent out more than 80,000 fake resumes to Fortune 500 companies.

And they changed applicant's names to suggest that they were white or black or male or female. So they used Lakisha (ph) or Emily (ph) on one, Greg (ph) versus Jamal (ph). Well, they found a typical employer called back the presumed white applicant around 9 percent more than the black ones. But for the worst offenders, these are auto parts or service companies, car dealers, that number rose to roughly 24 percent.

Now as bad as that is, it's actually better than the original study 20 years ago, that found that white names got 50 percent more callbacks in that era.

So we've been talking about the Baltimore bridge collapse, people of color will play a major role in rebuilding it. But there is an ugly trend by some on the right that has been trying to tie the collapse to diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives. It first really came up online when a troll over the -- on X called the mayor of Baltimore, that DEI Mayor elected for 70 percent of the vote, I should say.

But now we're hearing the rhetoric is turning into threats. Karenthia Barber is Maryland's Port Commissioner. And she shared with us some of the threats that she's got. Here's one, DEI cause this and you will pay. You didn't earn it. You don't deserve it. Don't deserve to be around to enjoy it. And a threat that includes the N word. It's disturbing, racist. Sadly, as Barber told us, not surprising.


KARENTHIA BARBER, MARYLAND PORT COMMISSIONER: You know, there's a long list of black leaders who have accomplished and done many things, and left their legacies but haven't been acknowledged or respected in that. I'm not surprised that because we have some strong black leaders leading on every level of government, in the state of Maryland, that we are being the target of these hate campaigns.


BLACKWELL: Barber says the most important thing should be supporting the families of the victims and those who are rebuilding the bridge at the port. Anything else is noise.


Latinos are the largest minority group in the U.S. So why are there disproportionately fewer roles in T.V. and film for them? Actor Gabriel Luna, one of the stars of "The Last of Us" is here to talk about the mission he's helping lead to change that, next.


BLACKWELL: You know what some folks make a point to talk about representation. We're deliberately advocate for diversity and inclusion there, those letters again in T.V. and film. Others ask why does this matter? Well, if the people on the screen who look most like you, our gang or cartel members, maids or housekeepers have a stereotypical accent or over sexualized, there is an impact that if they show up at all, that's what many Latinos say they see reflected back on them in the media.

Listen to this. There's this recent USC study. It looked at lead or co-lead movie roles from 2007 to 2022, 15 years, 1,600 films, 75 Hispanic or Latino roles, 75 out of 1,600 films. The National Hispanic Media Coalition says this is just one piece of a big problem. And this week they came out with a blueprint they hope can help.

Part of the campaign is actor Gabriel Luna, of course you'll recognize him from HBO's "The Last of Us" he stars in it alongside Pedro Pascal.


PEDRO PASCAL, ACTOR: If -- that I've been through Tommy trying to find you these last few months.

GABRIEL LUNA, ACTOR AND PRODUCER: I'm going to be a father. Maria is a few months long now. So I just got to be more careful. To be honest, I'm scared to death. But I don't know, I feel like that I'd be a good dad.



BLACKWELL: We should mention HBO is also owned by CNN's parent company Warner Brothers Discovery. Gabriel Luna is with me here. Gabriel, hello to you. Good to see you. You've said I think it was to "Variety" that your role as Tommy in "The Last of Us" is an example of what the industry should be doing more of, how so?

LUNA: Good morning, Victor. Yes, no, it is -- it was an opportunity that for the audience, for us to realize that audiences are ready to receive characters that don't look like them as their heroes and they're professionals.

You know, oftentimes, as a couple of your stories preceding our discussion here, kind of made evident was is, you know, that how we are depicted in the media is eventually going to be how people see us and treat us on the streets. And whether it be the indigenous community or the Latino community, I think that there is, there's very, very little opportunity.

When it comes -- it just comes down from the top. I think that Brenda Castillo and the NHMC have done a really great job of compiling this data. And just making it clear and putting in black and white how we can better create these roles, such as the characters that Pedro and myself play.

BLACKWELL: Yes. You know --

LUNA: -- was originally written as Caucasian roles. And our show is an example of that. It can be anybody, and we can see ourselves with people that don't look like us.

BLACKWELL: Yes. It just makes good business sense, I would think with the changing demographics over the last several decades, that if you're reaching an audience, that you would want to reflect a diversity and depth of that audience, and it would attract them. Why is the industry from your perspective behind lagging on that angle?

LUNA: Yes, I think it's just been reinforced over the years. You're absolutely right, it's a win-win. The last was one of the biggest shows on television last year.

BLACKWELL: "The Fast and Furious" pictures have had a lot of Latino representation, and we amount for about 37 percent of those ticket sales for that picture.

LUNA: It's -- the proof is there that if you only put the ball in our hands there are really rich stories to be told. And the audiences are ready, I just believe, it's a matter of sitting down with the powers that be and bringing that to light making them realize that, yes, we all win in this scenario.

BLACKWELL: I read that you've had to turn down some roles because you are conscious of your image and the message you send.

LUNA: Yes, yes. I've felt very strongly that I wanted to be at the center of the story. I wanted to be -- I wanted to play characters that my mother, my grandmother would be proud of, you know. And it's -- and those roles were few and far between. It was, you know, when you when you grow up in this business and you see yourself and you have a vision for what could be possible, you know, you have to adhere pretty strongly to those opportunities or seeking those opportunities and know becomes a very powerful word. And but, you know, you wish that there were for every one role there is as a lead for Latino there are 20 for other demographics.


LUNA: So it's just -- it's -- but, you know, you have to play it. You have to be a little more strategic there. And I've been very fortunate to play roles with a ghost writer for Marvel, "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.," "The Terminator" and "Terminator: Dark Fate" roles traditionally played and depicted by Caucasian actors and while that while I was met with a bit of pushback on at the onset, once it came out, and it was evident that people if the quality is there, they're willing to accept and see themselves and heroes that are in Latino characters.

BLACKWELL: There is space and there is an appetite not a tolerance, but an appetite for diverse roles with depth and backstory and many dimensions. Gabriel Luna, thank you so much for spending time with me and we look forward to Season Two. Thanks so much.

LUNA: Yes, sir. Victor, thank you very much.


BLACKWELL: All right. So competitive pool can apparently get really heated but that did not stop two from setting their rival aside, these two men to save a life. That's next.


BLACKWELL: So apparently a competitive pool is a big thing and it gets heated. James Harris and Russ Redhead they've been playing against each other in tournaments for years so they were rivals. But when Harris needed a kidney, Russ stepped up.


JAMES HARRIS, JR., KIDNEY TRANSPLANT PATIENT: No, I don't know you. Thanks so much for doing some like. So I wouldn't know what to say to him, but thank you. I don't think he realize this, how much it means to me to have a life back.


RUSS REDHEAD, KIDNEY DONOR, HARRIS' FRIEND: I'm doing this because like I said it's the right thing to do. And I think that if the roles were reversed, I would want somebody to step up for me.


BLACKWELL: Russ Redhead, thank you for stepping up. And Russ and James, I see you.

Thank you for joining me today. I'll see you back here next Saturday at 8:00 a.m. Eastern. Smerconish is up next.