Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Kam's Movie Kapsules for 10-31-14

Kam's Kapsules:      
Weekly Previews That Make Choosing a Film Fun         
by Kam Williams
For movies opening October 31, 2014


Nightcrawler (R for violence, profanity and graphic images) Jake Gyllenhaal stars in the title role of this character-driven thriller as a freelance journalist caught in a cutthroat competition covering the crime beat in Los Angeles. With Rene Russo, Bill Paxton and Ann Cusack (Sister of John and Joan). 


ABCs of Death 2 (Unrated) Horror sequel featuring another 26 short comedies by 26 different directors, each titled for a different letter of the alphabet, from A is for Amateur to Z is for Zygote. Cast includes Martina Garcia, Tristan Risk, Beatrice Dalle and Andy Nyman. (In English, Hebrew, Japanese, French and Portuguese)

All You Need Is Love (Unrated) Sigourney Weaver narrates this inspirational documentary chronicling the daily lives, dreams and plight of Burmese children attending the Good Morning School in Mae Sot, Thailand in defiance of the dictates of their own country’s repressive regime.

Before I Go to Sleep (R for profanity and graphic violence) Screen adaptation of the S.J. Watson best seller of the same name revolving around an amnesiac (Nicole Kidman) whose husband (Colin Firth) has to remind her every morning that her memory gets erased every time she falls asleep. With Mark Strong, Anne-Marie Duff and Adam Levy.

Bitter Honey (Unrated) Female empowerment documentary exposing the betrayal and violence visited upon abused Balinese women stuck in polygamous marriages. (In Indonesian with subtitles) 

Braddock (Unrated) Cinematic tribute to a tiny town in Pennsylvania of historical significance as it tries to reinvent itself in order to remain relevant in the 21st Century. 

God the Father (R for violence) Mafia documentary in which former Colombo crime family mobster Michael Franzese recounts finding his faith and being born again after learning that his own father had taken out a contract on him.   

The Hazda: Last of the First (Unrated) Anthropological examination one of the world’s last remaining tribe of hunter-gatherers, the Hazda, who have lived in Africa’s Rift valley for the past 50,000 years. Narrated by Alfre Woodard, and featuring commentary by primatologist Jane Goodall and geneticist Spencer Wells.

Hit by Lightning (Unrated) Romantic comedy about an aspiring writer (Jon Cryer) who gets more than he bargained for when the passionate lover (Stephanie Szostak) he meets online suddenly announces she’s married and pressures him to murder her rabbi hubby (Jed Rees). With Will Sasso, Alexis Maitland and Sean Tucker.

Horns (R for sexuality, profanity, rape, disturbing violence, drug use and graphic nudity) Daniel “Harry Potter” Radcliffe stars in this horror fantasy as the prime suspect in his girlfriend’s (Juno Temple) murder who wakes up with horns growing out of his head after a night of heavy drinking. Featuring Max Minghella, Joe Anderson and Kelli Garner.

Magical Universe (Unrated) Retrospective revisiting the final decade in the career of Al Carbee (1914-2005), an eccentric, Barbie-obsessed artist who worked with dolls as his medium.

Missionary (R for violence, profanity and sexuality) Romance drama about a struggling single-mom (Dawn Olivieri) who embarks on a passionate affair with a Mormon (Mitch Ryan) only to watch him go berserk when she reconciles with her estranged husband (Kip Pardue). Support cast includes Connor Christie, Randy Molnar and Dushawn Moses.

Plot for Peace (Unrated) Historical documentary chronicling the previously-unknown role played by mysterious, French businessman Jean-Yves Olivier in freeing Nelson Mandela and toppling South Africa’s Apartheid regime. (In English, French, Portuguese, Afrikaans and Spanish)

Private Peaceful (Unrated) Romance drama, set in Devon, England, and revolving around two brothers (Jack O’Connell and George MacKay) who fall in love with the same girl (Alexandra Roach) before enlisting in the army and being shipped off to fight in Flanders fields during World War I. With Maxine Peake, Frances de la Tour and the late Richard Griffiths.    

Showrunners (Unrated) Behind-the-scenes documentary illustrating everything involved in the making of a TV series, from the creation of the concept, to the production, to the writing, to the casting, to the shooting, to the airing.

True Son (Unrated) Political documentary chronicling 22 year-old Stanford grad Michael Tubbs’ campaign for a seat on Stockton, California’s City Council.  

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Rainbow in the Cloud (BOOK REVIEW)

Rainbow in the Cloud
The Wisdom and Spirit of Maya Angelou
by Maya Angelou
Random House
Hardcover, $20.00
128 pages, Illustrated
ISBN: 978-0-8129-9645-6

Book Review by Kam Williams

“’Words mean more than what is set down on paper,’ Maya Angelou wrote in her groundbreaking memoir ‘I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.’ Indeed, Angelou’s words have traveled the world and transformed lives—inspiring, strengthening, healing…
Now, in this collection of sage advice, humorous quips, and pointed observations culled from the author’s great works… Maya Angelou’s spirit endures... A treasured keepsake as well as a beautiful tribute to a woman who touched so many, Rainbow in the Cloud reminds us that ‘If one has courage, nothing can dim the light which shines from within.’”
-- Excerpted from the book jacket

Dr. Maya Angelou was born Marguerite Annie Johnson in St. Louis, Missouri on April 4th, 1928. She overcame a traumatic childhood to blossom into a world-renowned poet, author, educator, actress, historian, filmmaker and civil rights activist.
Over the course of an enviable career that spanned a half-century, she would write 7 autobiographies, 5 collections of essays, 18 books of poetry, 2 cookbooks, 7 children’s books and 7 plays. She also received innumerable awards and accolades, including 60 honorary doctorates from such schools as Columbia, Howard and Smith, to name a few.
                Rainbow in the Cloud is a collection of 200 of the late icon’s most memorable quotes borrowed not only from previously published works but from social media posts and pearls of wisdom shared over the years with her only son, Guy, and other family members. Her uplifting words touch on a litany of themes ranging from community to spirituality to grace to love.
On relationships: “Everything of value takes work, particularly relationships.”
On friendship: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
On self-esteem: “If we have someone who loves us… then it’s easier to grow resilience, to grow belief in self, to grow self-esteem. And it’s self-esteem that allows a person to stand up.”
On race: “Prejudice is a burden which confuses the past, threatens the future, and renders the present inaccessible.”
On emotions: “I’ve learned that whenever I decide something with an open heart, I usually make the right decision.”

            Timeless insights from a treasured teacher likely to touch lives for generations to come.

To order a copy of Rainbow in the Cloud, visit:

Monday, October 20, 2014

Gina Prince-Bythewood (INTERVIEW)

Gina Prince-Bythewood
The “Beyond the Lights” Interview
with Kam Williams

Gina the Dreamer!
Born on June 10, 1969, Gina Maria Prince-Bythewood studied film at UCLA before beginning her career as a writer for the TV sitcom, “A Different World.” In 2000, she made a noteworthy directorial debut with the critically-acclaimed Love & Basketball, which netted a dozen accolades during awards season, including a couple of NAACP Image Awards, a BET Award and several Black Reel Awards.

Gina’s next feature was The Secret Life of Bees (2008), which also earned its share of trophies, including Image Awards for Best Picture and Best Director. Here, she talks about making her third movie, Beyond the Lights, a romance drama co-starring Gugu Mbata-Raw and Nate Parker.

Kam Williams: Hi Gina, thanks for the interview. I’m honored to have this opportunity.
Gina Prince-Bythewood: Absolutely! Thank you, Kam.

KW: I have to start by asking: Why so long between films?
GPB: Well, I didn’t expect it to take this long. This one took a very long time. I started writing it in 2007. But I stopped to make The Secret Life of Bees, which took up a couple years, before coming back to this. Then, it was another four-year journey between the writing and setting it up. The project was turned down by everybody a couple times. I was fighting, fighting and fighting for it until BET and Relativity finally stepped up. 

KW: Beyond the Lights was obviously a labor of love. What was the source of your inspiration for the project?
GPB: A couple things. One, I knew I wanted to write a love story. And I’ve always wanted to write a music film. Some of my favorite films are musicals, like Walk the Line, The Rose and Lady Sings the Blues. I just love the way the music and the story fuel each other. I wanted to do that with Hip-Hop, since it had never been explored before. It was really marrying those two together. The next question was: What’s the story going to be? I was dealing with two things in my life at the time. Someone very close to me had tried to kill themselves, changed their mind halfway through, and was able to get themselves to the hospital, thankfully. Going through that with them, and researching suicide afterwards, I was amazed to learn that 60% of people who succeed at committing suicide try to change their mind. I thought that was a pretty important thing to explore. This character, Noni [played by Gugu Mbata-Raw], if she’d been successful on the balcony attempt, her life would’ve been over at that point. She could not see past all the pain she was feeling but, by having the second chance, she did get to change her life, find her voice and experience true love. I wanted to put out a movie that could let others in a similar position to take a chance know that there might be something positive past the pain. The other inspiration had to do with issues surrounding my finding my birth mother, who was white, and her not being the fantasy I expected, and my realizing what my life would’ve been if I’d grown up with her, in a home where I was loved and hated at the same time. Because I was black, her parents told her to abort me, and would not allow her to have me. I thought that was a fascinating thing to deal with, and served as the basis of Noni’s relationship with her mother [played by Minnie Driver].         

KW: So, who were you raised by?
GPB: I was adopted by two amazing people, a Salvadoran mother, and a white father who were incredibly supportive of me and my work. I am eternally grateful for them.

KW: Gee, I didn’t know any of that about you. This question is from Thelonious Legend. He says: I recently interviewed your husband [actor/writer/producer/director Reggie Rock Bythewood] and was very impressed with his passion for bringing diversity to film and with his using his talents for a cause bigger than himself. Do you ever feel a pressure from women or minority communities to “do the right thing,” and how does that influence your creative process?
GPB: I don’t feel any pressure because these are the stories I want to tell. People often ask me if I feel discriminated against as a black female director. I don’t. I’m actually offered a ton of stuff. But I only want to direct what I write. And I prefer to focus on black female characters. What’s most important to me is to put characters up onscreen who are not perfect, but who are human and flawed. 

KW: Sangeetha Subramanian says: I am a huge fan of Love & Basketball. I was just talking about the film the other day. The trailer for Beyond the Lights looks great, as well. She asks: Has your perspective of women’s struggle of career versus love changed over time?
GPB: [LOL] That’s a great question! Back then, as now, I want us to have it all, love and career. It’s a struggle sometime to achieve that, but I love the struggle.

KW: How did you come to cast Gugu in the lead? Did you feel like you were taking a big chance since she’s British and not a singer?
GPB: I found her in the auditions. My original plan was to go with a musical artist, but then I realized I needed an actress, given the depth of what her character goes through. She came in to audition two years ago, and she was phenomenal. I saw the movie when I watched her. She sang “Blackbird” as part of the audition, and she knocked that out of the park, too. After hearing her connection to the material, and her being raised by a single-mother, it became obvious that she was the one. It was a gut thing. I knew that she was a star. She just hadn’t been broken yet. That was exciting for me as a director, to be able to give her that opportunity. As far as Nate [co-star Nate Parker], I’d worked with him before on The Secret Life of Bees, and always felt like he was going to be the next Denzel. So, I’m really hoping that this is the breakout role for him, too. Once I put him and Gugu together, it was crystal clear that these two had amazing chemistry.

KW: I thought he also had great chemistry with Alicia Keys in The Secret Life of Bees. So, maybe you deserve a share of the credit for cultivating that between your leads.
GPB: Nate and I have a great trust with each other, and we had these live improvs on both pictures. I sent him and Alicia on a date in character that ended up lasting three hours and really connected them on such a deep level. With Beyond the Lights, we did a live improv early on in the process where I sent Nate and Gugu to a restaurant in character. I secretly told her not to take her sunglasses off. And I whispered to him to get her to take them off. They had no idea. I also hired about 30 paparazzi to show up and swarm all over her. They stayed in character and he protected her. The restaurant had no idea, either. They thought it was all real. That real-life experience bonded them throughout the shooting in a way that just rehearsing never would have.

KW: When I saw Love & Basketball, it was with an inner-city, all-black audience that yelled back at the screen. Did you get to see it that way?
GPB: Oh, my goodness! Yes, the very first time I played the film for an audience was at a mall in Crenshaw, so it was very scary. But once folks started talking to the screen, it was fun. It was great that the audience was that engaged.

KW: I included funny things people shouted out in my review. Is there any question no one ever asks you, that you wish someone would?
GPB: [Chuckles] Not really.

KW: The music maven Heather Covington question: What music have you been listening to? 
GPB: Beyonce’s “Drunken Love,” which came out right when I was in the middle of editing the film. I never thought I’d be able to afford it, so the fact that it ended up in the movie was such a shock to me.   

KW: The bookworm Troy Johnson question: What was the last book you read?
GPB: Gone Girl.  

KW: What is your favorite dish to cook?
GPB: Salmon with barbecue sauce.

KW: When you look in the mirror, what do you see?
GPB: [LOL] Wow! I see a wife, a mom and a filmmaker.

KW: If you could have one wish instantly granted, what would that be for?
GPB: Honestly, happiness for my children.

KW: The Anthony Mackie question: Is there anything that you promised yourself you’d do if you became famous, that you still haven’t done yet?
GPB: I hate to fly. I’m deathly afraid of it. And I keep promising myself to take a fear of flying course because I have to fly around to promote each film, but I still haven’t done it.

KW: The Viola Davis question: What’s the biggest difference between who you are at home as opposed to the person we see on the red carpet?
GPB: I’m much more comfortable at home.

KW: If you could have a chance to speak with a deceased love one for a minute who would it be?
GPB: Wow! I would say my Oma, my adoptive grandmother, who was Salvadoran but embraced me instantly despite my being black, and who encouraged my grandfather to follow suit.  

KW: The Ling-Ju Yen question: What is your earliest childhood memory?
GPB: I remember standing up in a crib in an empty room. I think it was the first time my parents came to the orphanage to meet me.

KW: The Harriet Pakula-Teweles question: With so many classic films being redone, is there a remake you'd like to star in?
GPB: No, a classic is a classic for a reason. Let’s try to create new classics. The idea of repeating ourselves drives me a little crazy.

KW: What advice do you have for anyone who wants to follow in your footsteps?
GPB: Be passionate about your material, because you’re going to have to overcome a lot of “No’s,” and it’s that passion that fuels the fight. So, yeah, be passionate.

KW: Thanks again for the time, Gina. Best of luck with the film. Don’t take so long to make your next one. I look forward to speaking to you again in less than six years.
GPB: [LOL] Same here. Thank you very much, Kam. Take care.

To see a trailer for Beyond the Lights, visit:

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Earth to Echo (DVD REVIEW)

Earth to Echo
DVD Review by Kam Williams

Headline: “E.T.” Inspired Sc-Fi Adventure Arrives on DVD 

            Most people know E.T. revolves around several kids who befriend an alien stranded on Earth and eager to return home before ill-intentioned adults can do him any harm. That coming-of-age classic landed four Academy Awards back in 1983, and was even voted the best sci-fi of all time in a recent survey by Rotten Tomatoes.    
But if you’re too young to remember Steven Spielberg’s heartwarming adventure, or if it’s been so long since you saw it that the storyline’s a little fuzzy, have I got an homage for you. Much about Earth to Echo just screams remake, starting with the picture’s vaguely-familiar promotional poster which similarly features a human hand reaching out to touch an extra-terrestrial.
Still, this delightful variation on the theme endeavors to refresh the original by incorporating current cultural staples, ranging from texting shorthand to social media. So, when the protagonists here communicate with each other, they often rely on inscrutable slang apt to befuddle fuddy-duddies unfamiliar with the lexicon employed by today’s average adolescent.
At this found-footage flick’s point of departure, we find narrator Tuck (Astro) lamenting the impending separation from his BFFs Alex (Teo Halm) and Munch (Reese Hartwig) when their Nevada neighborhood is razed in a week to make way for a turnpike. The plot thickens after all their cell phones inexplicably “barf” simultaneously, and they decide to discern the source of the mysterious malfunction.
Equipped with a camcorder and state-of-the-art spyglasses, the youngsters ride their bikes into the desert in the middle of the night accompanied by a cute rebel (Ella Wahlestedt) with her own reason for running away from home. GPS sends the sleuths to a site in the desert where, lo and behold, they find Echo, a cuddly visitor from another galaxy with pressing issues akin to the aforementioned E.T.
The kids, of course, kick it into high gear on his behalf, keeping just a step ahead of the untrustworthy authorities. Their noble efforts inexorably lead to a satisfying resolution every bit as syrupy as Spielberg’s.
An unapologetic retread bordering on plagiarism that will nevertheless delight the tyke and ‘tweener demographics.

Excellent (4 stars)
Rated PG for action, peril and mild epithets
Running time: 90 minutes
Distributor: 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
Blu-ray Extras: Creating the Truck Scene; Casting the Characters; We Made That: The Making of Earth to Echo; Friends No Matter How Far; and the original theatrical trailer.

To see a trailer for Earth to Echo, visit:

To order Earth to Echo on Blu-ray, visit:

Anthony Bourdain (INTERVIEW)

Anthony Bourdain
The “Parts Unknown” Interview
with Kam Williams

Arcane, Urbane & Insane Bourdain!

Chef, author and world traveler Anthony Bourdain is an outspoken trailblazer with unique insights about food, culture and current events. Here, he talks about his life, career and his Peabody and Emmy-winning TV-series, Parts Unknown.  

Kam Williams: Hi Anthony, thanks for the interview. I love the show. I’m honored to have this opportunity to speak with you.
Anthony Bourdain: Oh no, my pleasure, Kam.

KW: Congratulations on the his Peabody and Emmys for Parts Unknown.
AB: Thank you. It feels good.

KW: I told my readers I’d be interviewing you. So, I’ll be mixing their questions for you in with my own. The first is from editor/Legist Patricia Turnier who is French Canadian. She says: You have French background and you’re fascinated with French cuisine. Do you speak the language?
AB: Yes, badly. But my French definitely improves the more I drink, as I worry less and less about absolutely perfect grammar. [Chuckles] I do speak and understand the language, just not particularly well.

KW: Patricia also asks: Did you spend any summers in France with your parents growing up?
AB: Just a few. Two or three. Three summers, I think.

KW: Patricia says: you are an excellent writer. What is the best advice you have for young writers about cultivating a unique writing style with a sophisticated voice like yours?
AB: Wow! That’s hard to say… I just don’t know… Be true to yourself. I write quickly with a sense of urgency. I don’t edit myself out of existence, meaning I’ll try to write 50 or 60 pages before I start rereading, revising and editing. That just helps with my confidence. I listen a lot to how people speak. I’ve read a great many good books in my life. I had some excellent English teachers. Surely, those things were helpful.   

KW: Besides your books, the show is extremely well-written. Do you have a hand in that?
AB: I write the voiceover as part of the editing process, some of it beforehand. Working with the producer, we’ll sort of hash out the flow of each show, the sequence of events, and the general framework. And maybe there will be some writing as well that they can edit to. But much of it is done afterwards. It’s a long and interactive process that takes about 9 to12 weeks sometimes, per show. So, a lot of attention is paid. I’m very aware that we’re telling a story here, and that we want to tell it in the most compelling, honest and accurate way we can.

KW: I’m not surprised to hear that you wear several different hats on the show, since you strike me as one of these versatile, multi-talents like David Byrne.
AB: I wouldn’t want to compare myself to David Byrne whom I consider a genius, but what I think what we have in common is that he’s also a guy who is very interested in the world and who has a lot of passions beyond singing and playing guitar. Clearly, if you track his career, you see a great many collaborations with interesting artists, and his work reflects whatever’s turning him on that year. In that sense, what a great way to live, if you could always do things that interest you, and do them with people who interest you.

KW: Editor Lisa Loving says: This is tough because you have already been asked everything from your worst meal ever [unwashed warthog rectum] to the most disgusting food you ever ate [McDonald’s]. Would you mind comparing McDonald’s to some of the wildest dishes you’ve sampled on the show?
AB: I think it’s very hard to make an argument that a Chicken McNugget is either chicken or a nugget? If you’re eating unwholesome, street food in a country where they have to make do with whatever scraps are left to them, at least you know what it is, and generally have some sense of where it came from. Whereas a McNugget, to my way of thinking, is a Frankenfood whose name doesn’t necessarily reflect what it is. I’m still not sure what it is. Listen, Kam, when drunk, I will eat a McNugget. It’s not the worst tasting thing in the world, but it’s one of the things I’m least likely to eat, because I choose not to.    

KW: Isn’t there beef in the Chicken McNugget’s bread crumbs?
AB: They use a beef flavor that they spray or somehow add. I think it’s in the French fries, as well. Manipulating flavor, salinity and sugar levels is an important part of convenience food, snack food and fast food.

KW: Lisa also asks: What does your daughter Ariane like to eat? Have you cooked together yet?
AB: We cook together all the time. And since her mom and grandparents are Italian, a little Italian gets snuck in. She eats like a European kid in the sense that she’s very daring. She eats raw oysters, chicken hearts and yakitori and other Japanese food. She’s very curious about food and isn’t afraid to try new things. She loves to cook with me, and I love cooking with her. When we do cook together, we generally make ratatouille and pastas. Simple things. She’s 7, so I have to monitor her knife work very carefully. But I just gave her her first chef’s knife. 

KW: when you’re in the middle of nowhere, do you ever hesitate before eating something alien, fearing a negative reaction that might call for emergency medical attention that’s too far away?
AB: No, wholesome food is wholesome food anywhere. I may not like something but, generally speaking, if it’s a busy, street food stall serving mystery meat in India, they’re in the business of serving their neighbors. They’re not targeted toward a transient crowd of tourists that won’t be around tomorrow. They’re not in the business of poisoning their neighbors. I have eaten food that was clearly not fresh, that was dirty. I knew I was spinning the wheel of fortune there, but I did it because there was no polite way out. I saw it as the lesser of two evils, and I did pay a price. But it’s one I was willing to pay because turning your nose up at a genuine and sincere gesture of hospitality is no way to travel or to make friends around the world.

KW: Jeff Cohen says: I love that guy and his show. I want to know how I can get that job. Best job in the world!
AB: Hell if I know. I still don’t know how this happened to me. One minute I was dunking French fries, the next minute I had a TV show. I still haven’t figured it out. I guess not giving a crap is a very good business model.

KW: More seriously, Jeff asks: What fuels your passion to find out of the way places and cuisine, and how do you incorporate those experiences into your cooking?
AB: As far as the first part of the question, that’s just how I like to eat. Those are the places that make me happy, and they’re the most representative places, if you kinda want to get the flavor of what a place is really like and of who lives there. As to the second part of the question, it may come as a surprise to some that I do not incorporate those flavors that I discover or encounter around the world into my own cooking. I’m not so arrogant as to think that I can visit India for a week and then come back and cook Indian food. Just because I like sushi, doesn’t mean I can make sushi. I’ve come to well understand how many years just to get sushi rice correct. It’s a discipline that takes years and years and years. So, I leave that to the experts. When I cook, I generally stick with what I know, what I’m comfortable with, and what I feel I’ve paid my dues learning, and am good at.  

KW: Jim Cryan has a question related to one of his favorite episodes of Parts Unknown: What's the best street food to eat while watching cricket in India?
AB: Gee, I forget the name, but it was this very spicy, colorful, flavorful Rice Krispies-type dish.

KW: Cousin Leon Marquis asks: What's the strangest food you ever ate, and where were you when you ate it?
AB: I think I’d refer back to Chicken McNugget or a Cinnabon.

KW: Attorney/Pastry Chef Bernadette Beekman was wondering whether you have a preference for any particular type of cuisine.
AB: If I were trapped in one city and had to eat one nation’s cuisine for the rest of my life, I would not mind eating Japanese. I adore Japanese food. I love it.

KW: Bernadette would also like to know whether you will do other love stories to cities in period style such as you did with Italy? Loved the black and white “La Dolce Vita" feeling!
AB: That was one of my proudest accomplishments, and one of my favorite shows. I don’t know whether we’d do it in black and white again, but yes, I hope to do another richly-textured, carefully-designed, cinematic ode to a city I love and to its food. Sure! That’s always what I like to do, and when I’m at my happiest.

KW: Pittsburgh native Robin Beckham says: Parts Unknown is one of my favorite shows. She asks: Do you ever plan to visit the Steel City?                                                                                
AB: Very likely, yes.

KW: Robin goes on to say: Mr. Bourdain, through your show you call attention to the variety of food choices people are indulging in around the world. And on your journeys visiting various countries, you have a unique way of helping to break down religious, racial and ethnic barriers by presenting people in a light that forces an audience to think about other cultures in a positive manner (in a way they may never have in the past). When you return to the United States and witness the racial divide we have in Ferguson, what are some of your thoughts about what we need to do here in America to bring people together? What are the “Parts Unknown,” from your perspective, that can help to heal our country?
AB: Wow, that’s a big, big, big, big, big question, Robin. I wish I knew. We are, in many ways, a much more divided nation than we like to think or say we are. In some of the countries I’ve visited, like Malaysia and Singapore, people are mixed up, whether they like it or not. Here, it’s like a grid system, even in New York, where we like to think of ourselves as enlightened and multi-racial. It’s a complicated question that I certainly don’t feel qualified to answer. I could suggest that all that’s needed is for us to sit down and share a meal together, but I don’t know if that’s true. Certainly, to the extent that people can walk in each other’s shoes for a few hours, or even just for a few minutes, this can only be a good thing. Looking at Ferguson, Missouri from the outside, I would guess that the Police Department has a particular siege mentality, an “us vs. them” mentality, that’s not all that unusual in this world when you look at angry, disenfranchised, paranoid people. It’s a mentality that emerges in groups of people. It’s ugly and, frankly, I’m the last person in the world in terms of having a constructive clue as to what to do about it.      

KW: But you have a natural ability to relate to people and to reduce the human experience to a collective one. Add in food, and you’re a natural ambassador.
AB: It’s not my intention. I’m out there looking to tell stories about other cultures, places I go, and things I see. That’s all, really. I’m not trying to explain other cultures, or to give a fair and balanced account of a country, or the top ten things you need to know. I’m not trying to spread world peace and understanding. I’m not an advocate or and activist or an educator or a journalist. I’m out there trying to tell stories the best I can. I come back and make television shows that give as honest a sense of what I felt like when I was there. If that enables the audience to empathize with people they felt hostile towards or never thought about before, that is good and I feel happy about that. But that is not my mission in life. My mission in life is tell an entertaining, well-made, well-crafted story that is true to myself. I am proud and pleased when viewers report afterwards feeling some kinship with people they never imagined empathizing with before. I’m not Bono. I’m not on a mission.

KW: You’re doing something that resonates with the audience to come to CNN and become the network’s highest rated show almost immediately.
AB: I see Parts Unknown as an adjunct to the news in the sense that when you see something terrible or something good that transpires in Libya or Palestine or Iran or Congo or Southeast Asia, you know who we’re talking about, if you’ve watched this show. You’ve sat down with a family from the West Bank or Gaza. You’ve seen the daily routine of a Vietnamese rice farmer. You have some sense of whom we’re talking about in Congo, the next time a statistic pops up. We put a human face on places faraway from where we live. I think it’s useful. It may not be news, but it’s useful. 

KW: Do you think you’re helping to obliterate the “Ugly American” stereotype by being so sensitive to and appreciative of other cultures?
AB: I think many, if not most, of the people I’ve met in countries where you’d not expect them to be friendly, make a definite distinction between our government and us. They are extraordinarily friendly and welcoming just about everywhere, and are often cynical about their own leaders and government. So, the idea that they could disagree with many things about our government and yet still find it in their hearts to invite us to their table and to enjoy sharing their culture with us is not an unusual impulse, at all, in my experience. People everywhere have been very, very good to me, whether I’m with or without cameras.   

KW: Robin asks: Do you have any updates on a possible show in North Korea? AB: The state control is so tight there that there’s no way we could have anything resembling an organic or real experience. They really keep you inside a sort of North Korean Disneyland, and there would be no way, at all, of seeing how ordinary North Koreans live, and that, of course, is what we would want to show.

KW: The Ling-Ju Yen question: What is your earliest childhood memory?
AB: Playing with plastic army men on the beach with my brother at around 3.

KW: When you look in the mirror, what do you see?
AB: I see a face full of lines, and every one of them has been earned.

KW: What is your favorite dish to cook?
AB: I love making Neapolitan style ragu of neck bones, oxtail and tough cuts of meat, and slowly cooking down with a tomato sauce into a ragu.

KW: The Sanaa Lathan question: What excites you?
AB: A bowl of spicy noodles, a beautiful beach, anything involving my daughter, a fat unread book, any number of film directors coming out with a new film, and seeing stuff that few others have seen. And Brazilian jiu-jitsu. I’ve been doing  lot of that lately, and it’s deeply satisfying.

KW: Sangeetha Subramanian says: I have really enjoyed and learned so much watching Parts Unknown. What advice do you have for vegetarians who want to travel to countries where it's a bit harder to find meals with no seafood and no meat?
AB: I’m sort of unsympathetic. I just think it’s bad manners.

KW: Robin asks: What do you share with your daughter about your experience connecting with human beings who welcome you into their very different worlds?
AB: She watches my show, and I try to bring the family along to one family-friendly location a year. She’s only 7, but she’s traveled pretty widely. I think it’s important for a kid, especially a privileged kid like my daughter, to see that not everybody in the world lives like her.

KW: How does she react to seeing daddy on TV?
AB: She doesn’t take it seriously. In my house, neither my wife nor my daughter are impressed that I’m on television, and they remind me of that frequently.

KW: If you could have a chance to speak with a deceased loved one for a minute who would it be and what would you say?
AB: Well, my dad. When my father passed, I was still an unsuccessful cook with a drug problem. I was in my mid-thirties, standing behind an oyster bar, cracking clams for a living when he died. So, he never saw me complete a book or achieve anything of note. I would have liked to have shared this with him.

KW: The Anthony Anderson question: If you could have a superpower, which one would you choose?
AB: I’d like to play bass like Bootsy Collins. I’m serious. That would be my dream. Or I’d play with James Brown’s Famous Flames or with Parliament or Funkadelic.

KW: What advice do you have for anyone who wants to follow in your footsteps?
AB: Show up on time and do the best job you can.

KW: The Tavis Smiley question: How do you want to be remembered?
AB: I don’t care.

KW: Thanks again for the time, Anthony, this has been tremendous. All the best with the family, the new season and all your travels.
AB: Thank you, Kam. It’s been fun. I really enjoyed it. So long.

To see a trailer for Parts Unknown, visit: