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‘That American Experience Never Had Me In Mind’: Sterling K. Brown on Lincoln’s Legacy

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Sterling K. Brown, an actor who has starred in the NBC hit drama “This is Us” since 2016, has won multiple Emmys, Screen Actors Guild Awards, a Golden Globe, and a NAACP Image Award for his acting. But during His successful career, Mr. Brown asked himself, “What is my responsibility?”

“Can I just do a good job?” said Mr. Brown, whose other notable roles include characters in “The People vs. OJ Simpson: American Crime Story”, “Black Panther”, “Frozen 2” and “Waves”. “For example, do I just want my art to speak for itself? And then you recognize that people care about you. You owe it to the people who have brought you to the current level of success that you are doing to say something meaningful, to make it easier for people who are like you, who come behind you, to be able to do similar things and more.”,

The desire to do more is precisely what drew Mr. Brown to two upcoming projects. He will join the cast of Will Smith’s Netflix documentary Exploring the 14th Amendment, and he narrated a six-part documentary series that aired this weekend on CNN.

In a phone conversation, I spoke with Mr. Brown about the documentary “Lincoln: Divided We Stand,” which analyzes Lincoln’s legacy. Our interview has been lightly edited and condensed.

How did you get involved in the documentary?

We watched the elections unfold and we saw how divided the country is.

During the electoral process, this project fell on my table. First and foremost, it was a good dose of perspective that we have already been divided. So when people say: Has the country ever been more divided than it is now? It’s like, well, we were so divided that we were divided. There was a secession and we were two different countries from each other’s point of view.

How did it go? President Lincoln has found a way. There was bloodshed, there was loss, but he found a way to keep this country together. I was curious to see how this man came through this period. They don’t just portray him as a great savior, they don’t just portray him as a morally supreme human being, but also as a tactile politician.

The combination of these elements served him in terms of maintaining the Union. I learned a lot about someone whose global vision I had. But in his humanity, to see how he evolved politically from someone who was against the expansion of slavery, to someone who was a slavery abolitionist, who still believed in the colonization of freed blacks, he didn’t necessarily think they should coexist in this United States, but should be a safe place for them to flourish. One of the great things to remember is that at no point did I ever think we were meant to be here as liberated citizens.

What did this project bring you? Did you have any hesitation?

There was no reluctance. It was more of an exploration of my own curiosity. In fact, I gained a lot of respect for Lincoln and recognized the struggles he went through to become who he was – being a self-taught lawyer, growing up in a predominantly agrarian society and having resistance from his own father, who thought he was wasting time in the books. He lost his mom early on, lost his first love, lost two of his children, lost his sister. He was in the grip of depression for most of his life and always found a way to navigate the political landscape.

What I remembered most of all was not just his perspective on slavery, but how delicate it is to maintain a union.

Did you have any comments on how the documentary was put together?

Most of the contributions I have had have been when I read the Lincoln quotes and try to give them a voice and meaning, because reading Lincoln is like reading Shakespeare, and I can see how them. people could interpret it in very different ways. So in really trying to get into the heart of the language, and in terms of what he was trying to say, I probably had the most leeway and input as to how I read these lines.

Everything that happens alone in a booth is play, in a way. For me, when you have the chance to look into the eyes of another human being and bounce off them and see life changing between two people, that’s quite something. But there is a technical skill in terms of, what is your keyword? Which sentence has the most impact and importance in that particular sentence? What is the pace? Are you trying to attract people? Are you trying to warn? I love Shakespeare, I love classical lyrics, and I love breaking down words that way.

So it was a fun intellectual exercise, especially for someone in 2020 trying to interpret someone’s words from the mid-1800s and the political melting pot he was trying to find a language that spoke. both in the North and in the South simultaneously. . Because his ultimate end game was to keep the Union together. It was to make this experience work and not see it crumble on her watch.

Could you listen to Lincoln’s speeches to get a feel for how he spoke?

There isn’t much to listen to, or at least I haven’t found much. So I read a few of them and it was very interesting too, because they are not simple at all. It’s almost like going back to a bible verse and you can hear each preacher interpret a bible verse in multiple ways. This guy has double talk in the lines themselves, and depending on whatever else you want to pay attention to, you can get whatever you want out of them.

And it’s a gift, but it’s boring to read. You can see how people on the right and on the left can cite this president as a way to support the argument they are making in the present.

Is this the most surprising thing you have learned? And what was the most encouraging or the most disappointing?

There is a speech, and I wish I could remember the exact quote, where he said unequivocally that he does not think black people should be considered on an equal basis with whites. That was never his intention in abolishing the institution of slavery – not to compete for the same types of jobs. I was like, ‘Oh, wow, okay.’ It was a quote that had been swept under the rug that they shouldn’t be property, but they shouldn’t be seen as equal either. It is his humanity that shows in a way that is not so alluring to yours really.

Also, when it comes to colonization – and I don’t think it was planned in such a way that it was harmful – I felt like he thought blacks couldn’t really coexist peacefully with whites. , then they should go somewhere where they can actually thrive and not have to worry about the competition.

There was a point where we recorded, and I took a moment and stopped. This American experience never had me in mind. It never thought of me. You could say that the drafting of the 14th Amendment was the beginning of the question of whether or not I was going to be part of this experience or not, but until then I was not supposed to be here. It was a moment of reflection.

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Trump campaigns in Georgia with his own lost race in mind

“The best thing they can do, those who have backed Trump, is support his legacy by bringing back the Senate with a Republican majority,” said Republican Senator Thom Tillis of North Carolina, expressing the message that the GOP lawmakers are hoping Mr. Trump delivers. .

Yet Mr Trump refuses to even admit that he has lost and every day sows mistrust in Georgia’s electoral system as he takes to Twitter to falsely shout that the election was “rigged.” He has repeatedly criticized the vote-counting machines used by the state and falsely claimed that the mail-in ballots are full of fraud, giving Republicans reason to question mail-in and ballot voting. no one.

“The best argument of the senators is that Georgia must elect them to defeat President Biden,” said Whit Ayres, a veteran Republican pollster. “The problem is, President Trump won’t let them get this message out. And that puts the candidates for the Senate in a real impasse.

If Mr. Trump departs from his teleprompter on Saturday and on subsequent trips here to challenge his loss of 12,000 votes and lash out at Mr. Kemp and Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, it could overwhelm his scripted message and undermine the purpose of his visit by convincing his supporters that their votes might not count in January.

To complicate the challenge for Republicans, and to the delight of Democrats, the President was joined in his promotion of conspiracy theories by a pair of far-right lawyers, Sidney Powell and L. Lin Wood. But Ms Powell, who until recently was on Mr Trump’s legal team, and Mr Wood went even further, arguing that Georgia Republicans should punish the party by boycotting the Jan.5 runoff.

If even a modest number of Republicans do not participate in the election, especially in rural areas where Mr. Trump’s support is strongest, that could be enough to change electoral calculations in this evenly divided state and tip the two. races to Democrats.

Democrats hope Mr. Trump’s appearance will serve as a motivation for their base. Just as Republicans depend on the president to energize their constituents, Democrats believe that making the second round a referendum on the president will rally both liberals and moderates.

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This election week, revisit the Constitution, then ease your stressed mind

Here’s a sample of the week’s events and how to log in (all hours are eastern). Note that events are subject to change after posting.


Start preparing for Thanksgiving (it’s never too early) with the Homeschool Online Co-op, run by volunteers pie crust making class. During this hour-long seminar, you will learn how to make a double crust or two single crusts from scratch. The organizers will send you a recipe in advance so you can follow it from your kitchen. (The course is free and attendance is limited to 100 participants.)

When 4:30 p.m.
Or homeschoolcoop2020.com/all-classes


Refresh America’s founding document with the full document from the Philadelphia-based National Constitution Center Interactive constitution. Browse the full text, then dig deeper with blog posts, videos, and podcast episodes addressing questions like why, really, do we have an electoral college? And how are voting rights lawsuits decided?

When At any time
Or constitutioncenter.org/interactive-constitution

Get the tools you need to teach your young child about an election and the voting process with PBS. Printable voting kit, ideal for ages 2 to 5, includes a bingo game and “I Voted Today” badges to color, cut out and wear. For older kids, ages 6-8, take civic conversation to the next level by having them organize their own home election and create ballot boxes. If your kids are very ambitious, you can even help them write their own story.

When At any time
Or pbs.org/parents/lets-vote


Let yourself be carried away by three performances hosted by New York City Ballet Principal Dancer Tiler Peck. The series, entitled “A New Stage”, was filmed in September and is available to stream on CLI Studios, an online dance education platform. Ms. Peck stars in two of the three tracks, including “Petrushka Reimagined”. Brooklyn Mack and Lil Buck join her in this hip-hop take on classic ballet. In “Unusual Way,” Ms. Peck collaborates with actress and Broadway singer Sierra Boggess. And finally, Syncopated Ladies uses songs by Ciara and John Legend in “Syncopated Ladies: Amplified”. The series costs $ 19.99, and viewers must create a free CLI Studio account to watch it. In addition to the ticket, you’ll have access to a handful of free dance lessons each week.

When At any time
Or clistudios.com/anewstage


Spend the evening with the Seattle Symphony, who will perform a selection of works by composers Claude Débussy, Frank Martin, Arthur Honegger and Thomas Adès. The concert will be conducted by conductor emeritus Ludovic Morlot, who returns to the orchestra for the first time since stepping down as music director last year after an eight-year term. Access to Seattle Symphony online programs costs $ 12.99 per month.

When 10:30 p.m. (and on request until November 12)
Or live.seattlesymphony.org

If you’re one of the more than two-thirds of Americans whose stress levels have risen dramatically this election season, bring some calm to your cluttered mind with The New York Times Guide to Meditation. Learn the basics of mindfulness and what to do when your mind continues to wander. The guide includes one, four, 10 and 15 minute recordings, as well as recommendations of proven mindfulness applications to continue your practice.

When At any time
Or nytimes.com/guides/well/how-to-meditate


Take the last opportunity to watch “November” a new movie directed by Phillip Youmans Adapted from the play by poet and playwright Claudia Rankine, “Help”. Produced by The Shed and Tribeca Studios, the film explores the privilege of white men and the joys of being Black by recounting conversations Ms. Rankine has had with white men in frontier spaces (such as airports or waiting areas. ) throughout his life, interspersed with scenes from Black Life filmed in New York.

When Until November 7 at 11:59 p.m.
Or theshed.org/November


To explore the world of sea otters with a free course from the Monterey Bay Aquarium in California. Fun fact: these cuddly creatures have a million hairs per square inch of their body to keep them warm. (For comparison, most people have 100,000 to 150,000 on their head.)

When At any time
Or montereybayaquarium.thinkific.com

Hear a conversation between two iconic actors, writers and Texans: Matthew McConaughey and Ethan hawke. During this discussion, hosted by the Texas Book Festival in partnership with Book People bookstore in Austin, Texas, they will discuss recently published memoirs by Mr. McConaughey “Greenlights”. Tickets cost $ 41 and include a copy of the book; the costs are tax deductible.

When 5 p.m.
Or texasbookfestival.org


See “Othello” carved out to its most essential elements in a performance of Shakespeare’s classic, abridged and staged by an actor on the surface of a dining table, using household items as characters and props. This is part of a presentation of 36 Shakespeare plays – comedies, stories, tragedies – directed by Forced Entertainment, a theater collective based in Sheffield, England, at the Center for the Art of Performance at the University of California. in Los Angeles.

When 3 p.m.
Or cap.ucla.edu/calendar/details/shakespeare