Return to Transcripts main page

Piers Morgan Live

Interview with Patricia Cornwell; Interview with John Grisham; Interview With Rashida Jones

Aired December 09, 2011 - 21:00   ET


PIERS MORGAN, HOST: Tonight, crime and punishment. The queen of American mystery, Patricia Cornwell. The story on real life cases and the death of Natalie Wood.

And the courtroom dramas that captivate America -- Casey Anthony, Conrad Murray, Amanda Knox -- was justice served? I'll ask a man who knows the legal system inside out. Another best-selling author, John Grisham.


JOHN GRISHAM, AUTHOR: We have the crime of the century every six months. So for people like me who enjoy, you know, taking these stories and writing about them, the material is endless.


MORGAN: Plus, she was born to make it in Hollywood.


MORGAN: Why aren't you as a productive two superstars just lying on some sun lounger in a bikini spending daddy's money being a brat?

RASHIDA JONES: That's a really good question. I often ask myself that.


MORGAN: Rashida Jones on television stardom, to sharing the screen with the muppets.



MORGAN: Patricia Cornwell is truly the queen of crime writers. She sold well over 100 million books, and scared the living day lights out of her readers, including me, and that is this "Red Mist."

Patricia joins me now.

And this is going to terrify me. I know it is, before I even read. PATRICIA CORNWELL, BESTSELLING AUTHOR: Well, I think it will. I'm not going to tell you why. But you'll start looking around your kitchen in various places and thinking, I don't feel so good about certain things. You wait, you'll see.

MORGAN: Where do you get this desire to scare people?

CORNWELL: Well, you know, I don't know. But when I was a little kid, I was always writing stories and illustrating little books that I would create. And the kids loved me to tell stories to them. I mean, I was the favorite babysitter starting at age 12.

And I remember one day on a vacancy lot with two little boys my neighbors and I started telling a story. And I scared them so badly that they started crying and ran home. I realized I had this ability to terrify people.

MORGAN: Did you get something like (INAUDIBLE).

CORNWELL: No, I felt terrible about it. And as a matter of fact, I'm careful as I write these books today, I want to hold people in suspense, but I don't want to give them terrible nightmares. But I fear I failed at my kindness.

MORGAN: Talking about the craft of writing a great crime novel, what is it? When you were trying to analyze the best way to do it -- you're one of the best people to ask -- what is it?

CORNWELL: Well, first of all, you have to have really good characters because if you don't have somebody that you really want to spend time with, it might be -- it's going to be a workman like sort of book. It's not going to be that interesting and passionate. That's why I think the Scarpetta series has worked so well because people like spending time with this character.

But you got to do your home work. You need to go out there, be a good journalist.

MORGAN: You do. You go and immerse yourselves into these worlds.

CORNWELL: Exactly, and it's because I started out in journalism. And, you know, I went looking for stories. I still go out looking for stories. I go to the morgue, the labs, out with the police, with the military, whatever it is.

MORGAN: On this book, "Red Mist," you spent in a female prison in Tennessee. And previously you've actually witnessed an execution in the preparation for these kind of books.

CORNWELL: Well, you know, the execution, I'm happy to say it wasn't researched, because I think that would have been really inappropriate. But the victim's family asked me to be a witness to the execution of their daughter's killer in Oklahoma. And I really thought about it hard. I wasn't sure I should do it. And I said, you know what, I'm going to because they've asked me to and I really want to understand this, because people are always asking me about the death penalty.

And there are reverberations of what I witnessed in this book in "Red Mist," because right when they were about to administer the lethal injection to this inmate 10 years ago, all of a sudden, all the inmates in the prison started kicking the doors. And it sounded like the gates of hell slamming. It was unearthly in which I have a scene where that happens in this book.


CORNWELL: And the mother of the girl who had been killed was sitting next to me. She got this very upset look on her face. And she said to me later that for the first time in all the years that this man had been on death row for this horrible crime he committed, she actually envisioned him stabbing his daughter repeatedly with every kick of the doors in that prison. And it actually caused her to live something she'd avoided living.

And there were so many things that went on with that experience that I've never forgotten. I still see it as if it was yesterday. And I saw -- I saw him die. And --

MORGAN: What conclusions did you draw after that about the death penalty?

CORNWELL: I was very disturbed. I was very disturbed by it and I concluded a number of things. First of all, it does not deter crime, the death penalty. It just doesn't stop people from doing it. And it's -- these people are on death row for so many years anyway.

The family who was left behind in this case who I spent sometime talking to, actually the violence created more violence in her mind while she was watching it. She actually saw the violation of her daughter because of the violence of the kicking of the doors and watching somebody struggling to breathe. And that was the other thing.

I wondered -- I hope this guy isn't feeling this because his eyes were shut and his diaphragm was frantically pumping in and out trying to get air while his face turned blue. And that went on for about three minutes and I was rather horrified. I said I hope -- how do you know that someone's not feeling themselves asphyxiate when this, you know, when the paramedic administered the bromine, you know, which paralyzes those muscles so you can't breathe.

In the end -- and the thing is also controversial about it, the very quick acting anesthetic that's used wears off obviously very fast. And if you're not doing this exactly as you should, that may wear off before you're paralyzed and then you can't breathe.

MORGAN: What's fascinating is you have such an incredible recall of the details. It's very journalistic recall that you have.

CORNWELL: I am a journalist.

MORGAN: Is that how you feel? CORNWELL: I do. That's why I like journalists so much and get in trouble all the time. I relate to them and then tell them way too much.

But I am still a journalist. I go out and do reporting. I have my little notebooks. I take my notes. And I report on things as I'm going to write a real story about it. But then I weave into fiction and it creates a very special brand that's a little bit unusual.

But it's also the only way it works for me. If I don't do my home work, I have nothing to say.

MORGAN: Where do you draw the line as a writer?

CORNWELL: I draw the line like I was saying a minute ago, like if someone said, do you want to watch an execution for research purposes, I would say no. I did not take notes during that or anything. I was there for the family. I've never really written about it either.

I wouldn't do -- I wouldn't do anything -- let's say a forensic pathology says, hey, Patricia, take the scalpel, why don't you try the Y incision this time, see what it feels like, I would never do it. So, that's a real person. They don't want a crime writer experimenting on their dead body, nor do their relatives want that.

So, I have to have certain barriers that I feel I don't go beyond.

MORGAN: You had a very, very troubled childhood in many ways, five years old your father left. Your mother suffered from terrible depression.

CORNWELL: If you had me for a daughter, you would be down sometimes, too.


MORGAN: (INAUDIBLE) that you got any humor about it because you and your brother spent time in a foster home and you were sexually molested by a patrolman. All of this, you know, any of those thing would have been unsettling for any young child. To have all of that stuff going on -- very, very tough for you I would have thought as a young girl.

CORNWELL: You know, but I don't regret any of it. I'm so grateful because I think it helped make me who I am. You know, my father leaving when he did made me want to be a better father than he was -- meaning I wanted to be strong and self-sufficient and take care of other people if I could later on in life. What -- you know, the abusive situation in the foster home I think that's why I have a lot of female villains in my books, because this was a woman who was very abusive to me psychologically.

Somehow these things can make you stronger. Just like having your first books rejected. That's probably the best thing that could have happened to me because I had to really work my way to get where I am. And now, I'm determined to stay there because I know what it's like not to be there.

MORGAN: How do you feel about the people that rejected you?

CORNWELL: Well, the first three books I wrote they should have rejected, they were really awful. They were my learning experience. When "Postmortem" was rejected by six or seven major houses in New York, I really didn't understand that.

But I could understand people having trouble with the world that I was showing them, in these rejection letters like nobody wants to read about morgues or laboratories and certainly not a woman who works in these environments. And I understood what I was doing was very different. I was disappointed.

But I never felt any sort of gloating thing about those people. I don't even know who most of them were. I'm just very grateful that they were wrong.

MORGAN: Let's take a little break and come back and talk about -- you got a good connection to Billy Graham and his family and to the Bush family. Let's talk about that and about politics and some of the juicy crime stories over the last year. It's been quite a year for crime.

CORNWELL: It has been quite a year for crime.

MORGAN: Hold your thoughts.


MORGAN: Back with my guest is Patricia Cornwell.

Patricia, talk about your link to Billy Graham and his family.

CORNWELL: Well, that's a strange link and most people completely misunderstand it. It's really -- they were my neighbors when growing up in a little town of Montreat. I didn't know Billy. I mean I would see him occasionally when he came into town. And he was, of course, the most famous man in the world at that time.

But Ruth was the one I knew because she was the one who stayed home and, you know, if I was walking to the tennis courts with my brother's hand me downs on and my little bag of flat tennis balls I fished out of the creek, she would stop and give me a ride. And I got to know her. She's a very kind, wonderful person.

She was my friend. But in terms of the entire context of the Grahams and their organization, I had nothing to do with any of that. It was just the woman on the mountain who I would go visit and who helped me with money and college and did all kinds of wonderful things and became a very special friend.

So I wrote her biography. And interestingly enough, you mentioned politics a little bit earlier. That segued into my meeting Barbara Bush because I interviewed Barbara Bush when I did the Ruth Graham biography. And then later she got me involved in her literacy programs when I became a novelist. And so, my relationship with the Bushes started out completely friendship literacy directed had nothing to do with politics.

A lot of people think I'm some diehard Republican or used to be. But, in fact, some of these early relationships of mine were completely friendship that's had nothing to do with politics t all.

MORGAN: And are you a Democrat?

CORNWELL: I think I am a Democrat now. But I would just be anything where somebody really good wants to run our country, I believe. So --

MORGAN: Is President Obama that person?

CORNWELL: I think we should give him another chance. How does anybody clean up this mess after three or four years? I'm not any aficionado or expert when it comes to politics at all, but I would like to give -- I'd like him to have another chance to finish what he started. I mean, this was a terrible legacy.

MORGAN: We've also have big crime stories this year and big trials and so on. What do you make of -- let's take one, Natalie Wood case being reopened. If you're a crime writer of your renown, do you read that kind of thing in the paper and get, you know, pretty excited?

CORNWELL: I've not only heard about that, I went -- looked at the autopsy report. I wanted to see for myself.

MORGAN: Did you really?

CORNWELL: Absolutely. I read all 20 pages of it and the lab reports and everything.

MORGAN: And what was your conclusion?

CORNWELL: That it was a really well done autopsy and there is no evidence whatsoever that she was a victim of foul play. She's a classic drowning case.

Now what led up to that, that's something that investigation has to prove. Science and medicine are not going to change that story. I mean, even the bruises they made so much out of, they're perfectly consistent with a body that's recovered from water. Bodies get banged up. They get scraped when they get dragged them into the boat. It's not pretty. And so, in her -- her postmortem artifacts are consistent with her dying very shortly after she went in the water, not having been out there for five hours or something.

You have to have some understanding of what these things mean. They're easily misinterpreted. But, you know, I say all the time now that science and medicine don't solve crimes, people do. And that's a perfect case that's going to be investigation and witness reports that might bring a little more clarity to that very sad night 30 years ago.

MORGAN: If I'm watching this interview as a woman, I'm thinking Patricia Cornwell looks bloody good for whatever age you must be.

CORNWELL: I have a drip of formaldehyde every morning before my coffee. Don't tell anybody though.

MORGAN: I wouldn't know how old you are.


MORGAN: That's it. I thought you weren't going to say that.

CORNWELL: But, listen, you just had Jane Fonda on and saying the same thing about her. That's your line. I got you all figured out.

MORGAN: She is 74.

CORNWELL: Listen, I'd like to look like that at 34. Wow.


MORGAN: How do you keep in such good --

CORNWELL: Well, I go to the gym. I do walking and I try stay fit. I believe alcohol helps preserve you. Isn't true? I mean, we put specimens on it.

MORGAN: Well, certainly, we British follow that philosophy for a long time.

CORNWELL: But, you know, I try to take care of myself. I'm vain. So, I do whatever it takes.

MORGAN: Do you have crazies coming after you?

CORNWELL: Sure, you get some. I mean, there are a lot of disturbed people out there. And it's -- you know, it's just smart to be vigilant. I can't imagine you don't worry about the same thing.

I mean I read your tweets. I thought you were being followed the other day. So, I know a lot about you. You better watch out. You better worry about me.

MORGAN: Well, you and I have -- we have a Twitter relationship.

CORNWELL: Well, you got me in so much trouble because I was going through my tweets. I saw you say, I don't know why I bother. I thought oh, boy, he's having a bad day. Poor Piers.

So I tweeted back and said but everybody loves that you do. And suddenly I had cyber beer bottles being flung at me from the U.K. All these rage soccer fans, I mean football fans. I had no idea what I just walked into.

MORGAN: If I reply to someone well known and they're not expecting what's coming, it can be quite a difficult moment.

CORNWELL: I've never been called such names in my life. I really turned three shades of white.


MORGAN: I can only apologize. Unfortunately, I deliberately enflame the soccer fans back in Britain.

CORNWELL: You do do it deliberately.


CORNWELL: I watched, yes.

MORGAN: It just amuses me. It's very childish but I enjoy it.

Patricia, it's been a great pleasure.

CORNWELL: This has been great fun. Thank you so much.

MORGAN: And I'm told that Angelina Jolie may be playing Scarpetta? Is this true?

CORNWELL: She's attached to it and we're hoping to begin filming next year. So, we'll see what happens.

MORGAN: How cool is that?

CORNWELL: I think it's going to be way cool, lots of fun.

MORGAN: It was a cracking book, "Red Mist," latest Scarpetta novel, warmly recommended. It will send chills down your spine. That's what you want to hear, isn't it?

CORNWELL: Absolutely.

MORGAN: Patricia, thank you so much.

CORNWELL: So much fun. Thank you. I really appreciate you having me on your show.

MORGAN: Don't go anywhere. You're not allowed to.


MORGAN: I'm not finished yet.

Next up, John Grisham, best-selling author of thrillers like "The Firm" -- what does he think of the cases that fascinate America?


MORGAN: We all know John Grisham as the blockbuster author of legal thrillers like "The Firm," "The Pelican Brief," and more than two dozen others. But he's also on a real-life crusade, one that put him in front of a Senate committee this week. He's working with The Innocence Project to save people who are behind bars after being wrongfully convicted.

And John Grisham joins me now.

John, I've always been curious about you, that as an avid reader of your books -- and you've got me through many a vacation -- would you ever think back to that time before you sold a quarter of a billion books, before your movies based on the books made a billion dollars worldwide, to when you were just a humble criminal lawyer?

Do you ever do that?

GRISHAM: I think about it every day, because I still get inspiration from cases I had back then, clients I knew, people I knew back 20, 30 years ago. That's where many of the ideas come from for novels today.

So I've never gotten away from those days, when I was a young lawyer in the trenches and, you know, fighting to help people who were accused, sometimes falsely accused. And I think that's kind of led to my work with The Innocence Project, even today and tomorrow.

MORGAN: And what was the moment for you when you thought I'm going to be a writer, I'm going to make money, I'm going to make a career out of this? Was there a wakeup moment, a utopia moment when you went, whoa?

GRISHAM: No, it was very gradual. After I'd been a lawyer for about five or six years, I started playing around with fiction. I had an idea for a novel, a courtroom drama, as seen through the eyes of this young, idealistic attorney in a small town in Mississippi. It was very autobiographical.

And I began writing this book, just, you know, sort of as a secret hobby.

And so the success of the writing, even though it was a five-year process of writing two --the two books back-to-back, the success hit quickly, and I could -- I could walk away from the law office.

I never -- I never once said, OK, I'm tired of being a lawyer. I'm going to be a writer. It just sort of gradually happened until one day when I could walk away.

MORGAN: Well, "The Firm" obviously became fantastically successful, both as a book and as a movie. Let's see a clip from the movie -- I'll talk with you about afterwards.


MITCH MCDEERE: Let me get this straight. I steal files from the firm, turn them over to the FBI, testify against my colleagues, send them to jail.

WAYNE TARRANCE: They suckered you into this. MCDEERE: Reveal privileged information that violates attorney- client confidences, get me disbarred then testify in open court against the mafia?

TARRANCE: Well, unfortunately, Mitch --

MCDEERE: Let me ask you something. Are you out of your (EXPLETIVE DELETED) mind?



MORGAN: Tom Cruise in "The Firm."

I've noticed, by the way, John, that every single lawyer in these movies of your books is incredibly good-looking -- Tom Cruise, Matt Damon, Julia Roberts, Denzel Washington, Sandra Bullock, Matthew McConaughey, Susan Sarandon -- on and on it goes -- no ugly lawyers.

But that's not true in real life, is it?

GRISHAM: It's certainly not true in real life. I have nothing to do with the -- I have nothing to do with the casting of the movies. In fact, I have nothing to do with the movies, period, especially those early films, when I just went to the set one time and said, hello, and never went back and hoped that movies were good.

And the movies were good. I mean, I've had nine of my books adapted to film, and almost all were enjoyable. I've been very lucky with Hollywood, and look forward to more movies being adapted. But I don't get involved in that process. I know nothing about making movies and I stay away from it and hope for the best.

MORGAN: Let's talk about The Innocence Project, because it's been a running theme, I felt, this year of miscarriages of justice, particularly since the discovery of things like DNA, overturning previous convictions and so on, the debate, obviously is raging about the death penalty because there are so many people now who are saying, hang on a second.

You know, if we now have DNA evidence, how many people on death row, for example, are actually innocent? What do you make of that debate, given the way that the law has changed due to technology in many ways?

GRISHAM: Well, if not for DNA, there would be no Innocence Project. There would be no innocence movement. There would be no effort to change laws, to prevent wrongful convictions. There would be no -- DNA has made all the difference in the world. Because of DNA, you know by clear biological proof that if a person's guilty or innocent.

With The Innocence Project, we're now up to 280 people exonerated by DNA, 17 of whom were on death row. And of those 280, at least half were convicted with science that was not really sound in the courtroom.

And that's what we're trying to do now here in Washington, tomorrow in Congress, is try to work with Congress to adopt some type of national standard for forensic sciences, because the forensic science world is not -- is not too well-organized.

And it's not -- it's not always fair, because there's a lot of -- there's a lot of bad science that kind of contaminates trials. And because of that a lot of innocent people get convicted and they go to prison. And some go to death row, and that's what we're -- what we're trying to prevent.

MORGAN: I mean, you're from Mississippi. They have the death penalty there. Would you advocate the end of the death penalty? Do you think it's time just to move on?

GRISHAM: Well, personally, yes, I'm opposed to the death penalty, very much opposed to it for a lot of reasons, moral reasons but also questions of fairness, how it's implemented.

And we have a long, long sad list of people who --innocent people who have been convicted and sent to prison with -- because of bad science. And we're trying to clean up that aspect.

There are -- there are a lot of reasons for wrongful convictions. And the number one reason is improper eyewitness identification. Eyewitness ID is famously unreliable. Number two is bad forensic science. Experts are allowed to testify in trials using scientific methods and theories that have not been proven and are not accurate.

False confessions, false testimony from jailhouse snitches, misconduct by police and prosecutors, bad defense lawyers -- it's a long list of reasons why wrongful convictions happen and they happen all the time. And what's -- what was hard for me to finally believe, Piers, years ago -- a few years ago, was that there are thousands of innocent people in prison. And so, that means there are thousands of guilty people who are still out there, doing their dirty work.

And that's the mission of The Innocence Project in New York, is to exonerate people who have been wrongfully convicted, and also work from a policy angle with Congress and state legislatures to prevent future wrongful convictions.

MORGAN: John, let's take a short break. When we come back, I want to talk to you about some of the very high profile trials we've had this year, Casey Anthony, the Michael Jackson trial of Conrad Murray, Amanda Knox and so on, and get your perspective from a criminal lawyer point of view and also as a top selling author about crime.



DENZEL WASHINGTON, ACTOR: I checked with all my sources last night at the Bureau, Langley, the White House. All of them said the brief doesn't exist, never has. You may be the only witness that can ever prove there was a brief. If you disappear, so does justice.


MORGAN: That's from the movie version of another Grisham blockbuster "The Pelican Brief." John Grisham is back with me now.

There have been three trials that I have covered a lot this year, which I'm just curious what your instinctive criminal lawyer verdict would have been, based on everything you read about them. One was the infamous Casey Anthony trial. What did you think of that?

GRISHAM: Didn't really follow that closely. I'm really suspicious of trials where the cameras are in the courtroom, because it creates this circus around the courtroom that I think really does not help us pursue justice. As I understand the casa -- and you can't completely avoid the case if you're awake and somewhat literate in this country. The prosecution could not prove the place of death, cause of death, you know, none of the basic things you have to prove.

And I think the jury was faced with a very difficult task, but probably made the right decision, because the prosecution has to walk into court and prove certain basic elements of the crime. If that's not done, then the jury must acquit the accused.

So, again, I don't know a lot about it. Just based on what I picked up with everybody else and saw on television, that is kind of my shoot from the hip reaction to it.

MORGAN: Well, I totally agree with you about the cameras. In Britain, for example, we don't allow cameras into the courtroom. And it brings with it that decision, I think, a much higher level of seriousness to the proceedings. And it makes it much less of a soap opera. Watching that Casey Anthony thing, I remember seeing footage of people fighting to get tickets to get into the courtroom, as if they were attending some kind of showbiz event.

I mean that to me is ridiculous.

GRISHAM: It becomes entertainment. It becomes something other than pursuits truth and of justice. You know, I was -- I think it goes back to the O.J. Simpson trial, where the cameras in the courtroom did so much to sort of pervert the quest for justice and the truth in that case. I'm very much opposed to cameras in courtrooms.

MORGAN: The second trial that attracted lots after tension was the Amanda Knox case, obviously involving a British girl, Meredith Kircher, who died. Amanda Knox was the American girl. My sense after all that was it was extraordinary being in Britain and America, as I was through that period, and seeing how differently the media covered that in both countries.

And if it had been the other way around, if it had been an American girl killed and a British girl charged with the murder, I think you would have seen the media conference completely reversed. It showed me that media coverage can have a big effect, I think, on some trials like this. GRISHAM: Piers, it is worse than that. It goes beyond that. It so permeates our culture because if -- you know, if you look at the Duke lacrosse case, we should have learned -- we should have reminded ourselves at that time that in this country, there is a presumption of innocence. OK? When you are accused of a crime, you're presumed to be innocent.

Well, we've all -- we've forgotten that. It's not all the fault of the media. But with the constant news cycle and the constant coverage, when we see a sensational trial, we just immediately forget about the presumption of innocence.

It's the exact opposite. It's the presumption of guilty. We know that they're guilty. That is really difficult for a defendant or an accused person to get fair trial if it's somewhat notorious. By the time you get to the courtroom, you're really fighting an uphill battle to walk into court, presumed to be innocent, when most people think you're guilty anyway.

And it's very troubling to see how we handle these cases after -- you know, beginning with the arrest and the pretrial motions and the pretrial court hearings. And the police leak information to the press. You know, you had this circus ahead of time, before you ever get down to the actual trial where the truth and facts are presented, supposedly fairly to a jury. These full blown Giuliani style press conferences just to say hey, look at us. We've got the indictment, which is a far away from the trial.

Then you've got the defense lawyers on the steps of the courthouse, you know, chasing cameras and spouting all this kind of stuff. So you get into this media fight long before the trial. And both sides are wrong. It is -- it's very troubling to me, as someone who thinks the law still should be fair. You should have the right to a fair trial -- and someone who enjoys creating these stories and writing about them.

MORGAN: The final case I was just going to put to you was this -- the Conrad Murray trial, obviously involving in the death of Michael Jackson. Do you think the right verdict was reached in that case?

GRISHAM: You know, I hate to pass judgment. Because, again, I don't know all of the facts and I didn't follow it that closely. Again, when I -- you know, when I see -- when the case is coming out of California and you have the cameras in the courtroom, I just get real suspicious and turn it off. I'm really not going to pass judgment on Dr. Murray because I don't know much about him.

You know, it's funny -- go ahead. You mention these three cases. And I'm constantly asked by people, you know, where you do you get your information? Where do you get your ideas for all these novels? And you just mentioned three, you know, that happened this year. We have the crime of the century every six months.

And so people like me, who enjoy taking these stories and righting about them, the material is endless. MORGAN: Well, you're a terrific writer, John. But also, more important, the Innocence Project I think is an outstanding project that you're involved with. I feel very strongly about these miscarriages of justices. John Grisham, thank you very much.

GRISHAM: My pleasure, Piers. Thanks for having me.

MORGAN: Coming up, the daughter of Hollywood legend. She was born to be a star, Rashida Jones.


MORGAN: Rashida Jones was born to be a star. Her father was music impresario Quincy Jones, her mother the actress Peggy Lipton. Rashida's made a name in everything from "the Social Network" to "the Office." But what would compare to her latest role opposite that grand dame on the screen, Miss Piggy?

Rashida, what a moment.


MORGAN: The Muppets, Miss Piggy, dream come true?

JONES: Dream come true. I thought about just offing myself right after it happened. Because how is it going to get any better than this?

MORGAN: Let's have a little look at this, because this is the stuff of dreams.


JONES: Who is hosting? Did you fund a celebrity?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yeah, I wanted to talk to you about that. You see? Because, actually, I'm kind of a celebrity.

JONES: You? No. Kermit, listen, I will not air the show unless you find a real celebrity host. I will rerun "Benson" if I have to.


MORGAN: It's a great movie.

JONES: It is a great movie.

MORGAN: And it's ripping up the box office.

JONES: It is. By the way, it broke my heart to have to tell the Muppets that they weren't famous, because there is --

MORGAN: You told Kermit, who he is the most famous animal ever created in the history of the universe, he's not a celebrity. Bigger star than you'll ever be. How could do you that?

JONES: Best acting I've ever done in my life.

MORGAN: Now you should be an absolute spoiled brat. So what went wrong.

JONES: Thank you.

MORGAN: What went wrong? You're perfectly nice, normal young lady. My early experience of you, a few moments ago, has confirmed this. Why aren't you, as a productive of two superstars, just lying on some sun lounger in a bikini, spending daddy's money, being a brat?

JONES: That's a really good question. I often ask myself that. No, my parents are -- they're great people. And they -- their priorities were very much in check when my sister and I were born. They just wanted to have a normal family.

And my dad also kind of got more famous as I was a kid. I mean, he didn't really become a face, a celebrity until I was about eight. So it wasn't really like a -- you know, I wasn't a celebrity household.

MORGAN: Your house must have been like -- like a daily walk of fame and notoriety and legends. I mean, everyone must have been coming through.

JONES: There was a lot of legendary personalities.

MORGAN: Start name-dropping. Biggest names that walked through that door?

JONES: Michael Jackson, Ray Charles.

MORGAN: Didn't you go in a car with Michael Jackson once and spray gun complete strangers with a water pistol?

JONES: It was a childish prank, yeah.

MORGAN: You actually did that?

JONES: Yeah.

MORGAN: What was he like, Michael Jackson.

JONES: I'm not making any excuses. He was so wonderful. He was a big kid. He really was that. It wasn't -- he was so innocent and just a big kid. And to me, at that age, he just was like me but taller and very much more talented.

MORGAN: That guy just knew how to do it, didn't he?

JONES: He did. But he was also had this like -- this thing just bubbling over. He had no choice. I mean, when you sound like that and you dance like that, what choice do you have? You have to give it to everybody, you know.

MORGAN: Is it true that Frank Sinatra offered to go and smack a few skulls.

JONES: It was a suggestion. It was a suggestion. We were -- I went to go see him in Vegas when ways 18. My dad was very good friends with him. And we had a hard time -- my sister and her boyfriend at the time and I had a hard time getting backstage, as one would at a Frank Sinatra show.

When we got back, he was like -- we said we had a hard time. He said do you want me to talk to somebody? We were like, no. Because we know what that is. So, no.

MORGAN: That would have been that, right?

JONES: Maybe I don't know. But he definitely was formidable, to say the least.

MORGAN: We're on a roll now. You've been shoot strangers with Michael Jackson. You have Frank Sinatra --

JONES: You make me sound like a weirdo.

MORGAN: You are a weirdo. This isn't normal. These are the greatest entertainers ever.

JONES: It was all the same to me. It was just a bunch of talented musicians.

MORGAN: Did it make you feel I want to be part of this? Your career route to being a celebrity who is an actress and so on isn't the normal one. You went to Harvard. You could have been a lawyer, maybe even a politician. You might still do both those things. We'll talk about that after the break.

But did you have any kind of gut feeling you wanted to be like them, be a star?

JONES: Well, you know, the star part of it was never interesting to me. It was actually kind of scary. I have to say, you know, I've seen so many people go through the cycle and become famous and not famous anymore and, you know, want -- have their priorities change and want different things.

It was never anything that really interested me. And still it's a byproduct. And I'm grateful for it in the way that hopefully things that I want to do can be made and whatever. But for me, it was my dad's connection to his music and his love of what he did, and how hard he fought to be the kind of musician he was and the kind of person he was simultaneously.

That to me was what was interesting. And I thought whatever I can do to find that amount of passion and pursue something like that, I would be so lucky to be able to do that.

MORGAN: I hear that he carries newspaper clippings of you around wherever he is in the world.

JONES: He does.

MORGAN: That's so --

JONES: He folds it and puts it in his little pocket.

MORGAN: That is so sweet, isn't it?

JONES: So sweet. He's so cute, my dad.

MORGAN: I bet he's a great dad.

What does he think your biggest talent is?

JONES: That's funny. You know, he still has -- he holds out hopes for me and music. And he knows how much I --

MORGAN: Both your parents, I've seen them on the records. They think you're a fantastic singer, never mind the acting.

JONES: It's something that I love to do. But I feel so strongly that I want to be so good at it, and I want to know music in and out. And I want to know theory. I want to lock myself in a room for six months and just know it -- you know, know music in and out, and feel comfortable with it.

But unless I could devote my soul to it, I wouldn't want to do it, because I would want to make him proud.

MORGAN: I bet you do.

JONES: Yeah.

MORGAN: Produced by Quincy Jones. Home run, isn't it?

JONES: Yeah.

MORGAN: Let's take a break. I want to come back and talk about politics with you.

JONES: Oh, boy.

MORGAN: You have flirted with the idea that you may one day mach a run at something. I want to find out what.

JONES: Oh, boy, OK.


MORGAN: Sunday night, "CNN Heroes, An All-Star Tribute" airs live. For five year, you have been telling us about people in your communities who are helping others, people who are rarely in the public eye. Now we are shining a spotlight on these inspiring heroes.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN AN CHOR: Since 2007, CNN viewers have helped us find these rare individuals, submitting more than 40,000 nominations from more than 100 countries. From those thousands, we have honored just 164 men, women and young people worldwide as CNN Heroes. They are all determined, resourceful, passionate and their missions run the gamut.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Go, girls, go, good job.

COOPER: Sustaining life, preserving dignity, protecting the powerless, Defending the planet.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You want to come touch the turtle?

COOPER: And nourishing the soul.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We will be here for you. We will help you out.

COOPER: They have helped hundreds of thousands of people in 75 countries, creating a legacy of change around the world.

Tonight, we gather to honor the best that humanity has to offer.

Each Fall, we select an even more elite group, the top ten heroes of the year. The award brings 50,000 dollars and global recognition at "CNN Heroes, An All-Star Tribute," a celebrity studded gala, which salutes our heroes' selfless work.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The people that they find are always pretty amazing.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They've been absolutely doing everything from the goodness of their heart. Great to give people that attention.

COOPER: That night, we also announce the hero of the year, the person with the most online votes who receives an additional 250,000 dollars. But it is the exposure, the spotlight on the world stage, that benefits all our heroes the most.

Since 2007, our honorees have raised more than six million dollars in donations and grants. With their courage and humanity, our CNN Heroes are still lighting the way, inspiring others to follow their example.


MORGAN: I will be there Sunday night, 8:00 Eastern, for "CNN Heroes, An All-Star Tribute," hosted by my colleague, Anderson Cooper, live from L.A.'s Shrine Auditorium. You don't want to make this. It is going to be a cracking evening.


JONES: Hey, did you maybe tell people that I diagnosed that guy with mumps based on his porn photo?

ROB LOWE, ACTOR: I did. I'm so proud of you.

JONES: OK, because now I have everyone at City Hall sending me pictures of their junk, asking me if they have mumps.

LOWE: Oh, my god. Your inbox is literally filled with penises. I'm so sorry.

JONES: Oh, look, Ed Miller from payroll.


MORGAN: Rashida Jones on NBC's "Parks and Recreation," He is a funny guy, Rob Lowe. I loved interviewing him.

JONES: He is so great. Rolo, as I call him. He is so great. And I've kind of known him over the years, just because, you know, we have both been kicking around for a long time.

MORGAN: Now, he was quite keen, when I interviewed him, to flirt with the idea of maybe becoming a politician. He was serious, I was asking about Sam Seaborne and "West Wing" and so on. You have done the same. I would love to be a senator, you once said, governor, or work in the public sector.

JONES: You know, I definitely have an inclination to work in the public sector. And I feel like, if you at all have that instinct, at some point in your life, you should probably do it, because I think it can be potentially hellish. And I don't think everybody wants to do that. So I feel like if you want to do that, you should probably serve some sort of public office.

MORGAN: You also came up with a very unique way, I thought, of solving the economic crisis. Let's take a look at this clip from "Funny or Die."


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The global financial crisis is affecting all of us.

The panic on Wall Street has now reached Main Street.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There doesn't seem to be a clear answer.

JONES: And the worst may be yet to come.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: After careful consideration, Rashida and I have determined the best course of action.

JONES: Puppies. Yay.


MORGAN: That is funny.

JONES: Yeah, it's good. We wanted to do something for the campaign. We were kind of, you know, poking a little bit of fun at the black and white seriousness of, you know, actors being like, it's time for change and change is now and here we are.

MORGAN: It was so, so on the money.

JONES: Thanks.

MORGAN: Listen, here is the weird thing about you -- so, you're very funny. You're very charming, dare I say it attractive. You've dated some of the hottest guys in the world. And yet currently, as I sit here opposite you -- this would excite a lot of men watching this -- you are single. What's going on?

JONES: Um --

MORGAN: How did this happen?

JONES: How did this happen? This is a little bit of a choice for me. My career is paramount at the moment. I've had a lot of luck in the past couple of years. And I want to be open to it and available to it. And my career right now is very time consuming. And I like it that way. It's good.

I'm acting and I'm writing and it's taking up a lot of my energy. I'm also -- you know, I'm picky.

MORGAN: Are you? What's your perfect man? You must have worked out --

JONES: It's you. You know it. Don't put me on the spot like this.

MORGAN: I know that.

JONES: Don't do that.

MORGAN: I'm sorry. This is getting very awkward. Move on. Chelsea Handler did this. It is just uncomfortable for me.

JONES: I know. You're blushing. I can tell.

MORGAN: It's awkward for me. If you can't have me -- and I'm not ruling anything out here. Let's not be too hasty. But who would be the perfect guy be?

JONES: I don't know. I guess, you know, funny is important.

MORGAN: Make you laugh or laugh at your jokes?

JONES: That's a good question. He doesn't have to laugh at my jokes. He has to make me laugh.

MORGAN: Do you dream wistfully of a fairy tale wedding and children, all that kind of thing, or not really? I know you've -- when I've seen you interviewed before, you've kind of said marriage is -- you are not that hung up on marriage. JONES: I'm not incredibly hung up. I've been kind of misrepresented here and there about that. But I just think that marriage, you know, it was -- this is just factual. It was an institution that was created for property and power dynamic and to marry two powerful families and to make sure that the property was, you know, given to the right people.

MORGAN: You make it sound so cynical. Love and romance?

JONES: It was. Then it became that during the Renaissance, which was great. I totally appreciate that. I totally believe in romance and love and all that. But the actual institution of marriage -- in this country, more than half the people get divorced. So something's not working.

I'm not staying it doesn't work for everybody. I love going to weddings. And I totally support my friends that are married. I just don't know if it works all together across-the-board. That's what I'm saying.

MORGAN: What is the great ambition for you now, an Oscar. Are you seeing yourself up in lights, Academy Awards? Rashida, come on down.

JONES: Only if you can say that over the lights. Yeah. I would be interested.

MORGAN: I would love to introduce you as the winner of an award. Is that -- is that the holy grail for you as a performer?

JONES: You know, I've never won -- I was thinking about this, I have never won anything before as a performer. So that would be really cool. For me, I feel like I just want to keep things interesting is. I want to stay curious and I want to keep acting, because I love it. But I want to do other things, too.

You know, I want to find challenging roles and I want to -- you know, I want to not be put in a box.

MORGAN: If I said to your father, right, I can award Rashida a Grammy for an album produced by you, Quincy Jones, or an Oscar, which one would he go for?

JONES: I think he would go for the Grammy, because he really wants me to sing.

MORGAN: I think you should do it.


MORGAN: When you make the album, I want the first interview with your dad.

JONES: You got it. Deal.

MORGAN: Shake on it. Where I come from, that is better than blood.


MORGAN: Rashida Jones, thank you.

JONES: Thank you.

MORGAN: Been a pleasure.

JONES: Thanks for having me.

MORGAN: That's all for us tonight. "AC 360" starts right now.