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THR Icons: At 100, Norman Lear looks back (and looks ahead) on what's changed since 'Maud' abortion

“I’m the one with the white hat”, Norman Lear in his and his production partner Brent Miller (dozens of years younger than him) ) was announced in late August when it appeared in the Zoom box.

exist50, as he proudly describes his “new centurion,” still loves to laugh . After all, the white hat has been Lear’s aesthetic hallmark for most of his career – with seven series airing and more than 120 million. Lear has been known as a sitcom expert over the years, responsible for productions such as All in the Family , Good Times , Maud and Jefferson .

Many of his shows, now part of a catalog mainly owned by Sony Pictures Television, have been reimagined as Day by day for Netflix and popular TV, or revisit as Facts of Life and good times for living in front of the studio audience , Lear and Jimmy Kimmel won an Emmy for their ABC collaboration. September09, the same network will air Norman Lear: 48 Years of Music and Laughter

, a star-studded special to commemorate Lear’s latest milestone, on his Vermont farm in July Celebrate with family.

THR Icon and World War II veteran, major philanthropist, father of six (and father of four) grandfather) and the oldest Emmy winner in history, he insisted that Miller join him in his “honorable struggles” over his childhood dinner table, his struggles with internet censors and his old age. Experienced career renaissance 22.

First of all, happy birthday. How one celebrates 22?

Norman Lear by getting up in the morning. (Laughs.) Got a call from Brent.

That said, “let’s get busy, we’re going to make a million shows”?

Brent Miller other methods. More importantly he told me we had a million shows.

Lear We do have a lot of work to do. ( Laughter. )

Norman, I Knowing that “end” and “next” are buzzwords in your lexicon, but I have to believe that milestones like this, will be celebrated with a TV special that forces some level of reflection…

LearI Interrupting to say “over” and “next” to the hammock in the middle is to live in the moment. And the truth of this moment is that it took me every minute of a hundred years to get to this moment, and every minute and every second of your life has heard me say that.

Descriptors like “icon” and “legend” now accompany your name. Looking back, do you remember the first time in your career when you felt successful or at least safe?

Learabsolute. That was the first time I realized my kids didn’t have to worry about going to college. That was the first time I thought, “My life is comfortable.”

Norman Lear2021. CBS Company via Getty Images

One of your legacy is your willingness or interest in constantly challenging the gatekeepers in terms of your vision. Where does the courage come from?

Lear To the extent I know where it might come from, I think it’s love for America. When I was a kid, I think we knew more about who we are and what we mean than thinking we were God’s chosen people. I’m a combat veteran, I’ve been on a lot of missions in WWII, and I think the love of country has changed. We don’t think that way anymore – there are left and right, not enough community.

There are a lot of stories about you saying “you change it in my script and I’ll walk”. How close do you think you are to that point?

Lear Earlier, moments like the web insisted that Archie [Bunker, of All in the Family] couldn’t say what it was, I think This is simply stupid. Not because I won’t or can’t give in, but because I think if I do, I’ll be a victim of too many of them. It’s easy for me to say, “If that line was removed, I wouldn’t be here tomorrow.” I remember being on a show, driving home thinking it was all over, only to find out when I got home that they hadn’t removed the line .

exist next to the actors and creators of All in the Family s. Lear’s seminal sitcom is one of his most acclaimed and enduring. CBS/ Courtesy Everett Collection

Aren’t you nervous at that moment?

Lear The network is worried that [viewers] will find this and that evil, I think I know the American people better than I hear – from the guy on the second floor of the CBS building in Los Angeles for the fifth and seventh floor Talk, they’re talking for people on other floors of New York.

You are resuming several of your shows. What did you learn from day by day will be applied to the next experience?

Lear Want to talk, Brent?

Miller Mike Royce and Gloria Calderón Kellett caught the original , but it is 100 degrees are different. So, it didn’t restart. It’s been reimagined, and not just because it’s a brown family. It ended up being this arranged marriage because we brought Gloria and Mike together and they got along so well and complemented each other so well. I think the experience we left was that maybe we should start looking for a husband and wife together. (laughs.)

Lear But life is a collaboration. Among the partners I have a Bud Yorkin and a Jerry Perenchio and a Hal Gaba and an Alan Horn. We do nothing alone. We’re talking now because I have a Brent Miller in my life.

Norman Lear and his production partner Boo Lent Miller 16 Years ago. JSQUARED

) Norman, I’d love to hear more of your advice for the writers in the room. I’ve heard nuggets like, “It doesn’t matter if the boss comes to dinner.”

LEAR That’s exactly what I’m going to say to the writer. “No more ‘The roast is broken and the boss is coming for dinner.’ No more ‘Mom hit the car and we can’t let dad know.’ “My instruction to writers is to pay attention to what happens to your wife, children, and family. Think about your neighbors on the street, down the street, and across the street. Reflect on these questions every day at work. This is what we do. Sometimes these issues include family political disputes, sometimes family economics or difficulties getting along.

You deal with things that would be considered avant-garde or adventurous even today. Did you see it?

LEAR I grew up in a family where many things were argued and these were just another set of arguments. I believe in listening carefully to everyone’s point of view, accepting when you agree, but also sticking to your own beliefs. Young writers have come to me for advice over the years, and this is my advice every time: listen carefully, accept what you might agree with, and stick to your beliefs.

You have been with Seth MacFarlane, Kenya Barris, Matt Stone and Trey Parker Wait for the young performers to develop a good relationship.

Lear Oh, I love those guys. I’ve heard from them, but they don’t need my advice on anything. As friends, we mean something to each other and we all learn from each other. But I’m glad we’re talking about collaboration, all Schiller and Weiskopf [Maud writers Bob Schiller and Bob Weiskopf] And [All in the Family Producer] Mort Rahman of my life and all the young people today. As someone who believes that music and laughter, especially laughter, can add time to one’s life, I believe everyone we’ve been talking about adds some time to my life.

Marta Kauffman has been admitted in recent years like One of the people on such a show)Friend

Not much diversity because at the time TV as a whole wasn’t diverse, but your work seems to ignore that because it’s very inclusive sex. Why is it important to you?

Lear It comes from the appreciation of talent. Esther Rolle knocked me out when she played Florida on Maude so much that we brought her husband into a show and cast John Amos. Or Marla Gibbs in The Jeffersons. We have these amazing performers who add time to my life through laughter. I didn’t know they were the first show to feature an African American actor, but the motivation was talent.

(from left to right) The cast of Good Times, in 1970s and Bea Arthur in 1967-22 sitcom Maud . Of all Lear’s roles, he says she resembles him the most. Courtesy E Fret Collection (2)

You’re referencing shows with black actors, but you also have shows that feature gay men or single moms, and that sort of thing was almost on TV at the time Not the norm. What kind of resistance have you encountered?

Lear The only resistance is that it is difficult to get them to air. But it was the women’s movement, known as the women’s movement, that inspired Bonnie Franklin’s role in Once a Day . There are far too few women in the lead roles — especially high-performing, talented, and capable women professionally and mothers. Being able to respond to this is a gift.

There’s been a lot of talk in Hollywood lately about who can tell what stories, and I’m curious what you think about this discussion and how you Tell stories about different races and cultures throughout your career.

Lear I am reminded of a moment that happened in the good old days of . It could have happened another way in The Jeffersons , but the actor [of Good Times], black actors or a few of them, have problems with their lines or attitude or whatever, and then rely on the fact that they are black and I shouldn’t make their arguments. I often agree, we solved it.But when I didn’t, I remember sitting down with a couple of African-American actors and saying, “Look, I’m not black. I’ve heard of it, and I’ve made these changes many times. But, in this case, Next, I’m relying on the fact that while I’m not black, I’m a man, I’m a father, I’m a brother, I’m an uncle, I’m a cousin, I’m a male, and we share so much more than our skin color differences, I’m making a decision [on behalf of] all the other people [that I represent] and I have to disagree . We are going this way. “They got it.

In your memoir, you wrote: “Of all the characters I created and shaped, The most like my favorite is Maude. “I’m curious why you feel this way, did you realize it when you were writing the show?

Lear I think Maud is a nonsense liberal. She’s a total libertarian, but she knows far less than she should know to support her point of view. I feel that way about myself. I thought of [All in the Family actor] Rob Reiner, I obviously like him, he knows what he’s talking about. He knows everything he’s up for. I can’t tell you how much I admire that because, like Maud, I consider myself a piece of crap The libertarian.

Did you bring your shards to other characters?

LEAR in all of them Has my knowledge of the stupidity of the human condition. The stupidity of the human condition has made me happy since I was 9. My father is in jail and my mother is selling furniture. I’m going to live with my grandparents, When I was 9, a man who was going to buy a red leather chair for my father put his hand on my shoulder and said, “Norman, you are the master of the house now. “From that moment – or maybe later, when I think back to that moment – I understood the stupidity of the human condition.

I thought, at that moment, there were tears.

Lear Yes. I’m looking at this chair that my [childhood] sat with my dad hundreds of times and now the horse’s ass is buying it.

Before the sitcom reign, Lear was Buddy Jorkin’s partner, Bud Jorkin, directed Lear’s script 1967 Marriage Irony American Divorce . From left on set: Dick Van Dyke, Yorkin, Jason Robards and Lear . Courtesy Everray Special Collection

I heard you describe yourself as an outsider at the time, I wonder how that feeling affects your work?

Lear I live in a family that lives at the end of their nerves and yells at each other a lot. Thanksgiving parties, when people come in from Boston because we live in Hartford, often end up with these huge arguments. [There is a kind of] Love is at the heart of the family, but with these glorious arguments, their voices are at the highest point and their nerves are on their toes. That’s how I’ve always used to describe them. I love it.

you did it?

Lear Yes, that’s part of the family I represent.

You make a decision sooner or later 771 You’ll be stepping down from your day-to-day production duties on many, many shows, a job you passed on to Alan Horn. In your memoir, you state the decision as fact, but I doubt it’s easy.

Lear I was never alone. I have great compatriots, partners and collaborators, and it comes from us. I don’t deny that I’m the leader of the team, but without the team, I wouldn’t be able to do it. [Step down] It’s not difficult at all. Time to move on.

Do you always know when it’s coming?

Lear Yes. Regarding this interview, I am now thinking about it. ( laughed. )

Fair enough. I do want to ask you about Maud, heavily cited after Roe v. Wade inversion. I’m curious if you think, in 5153, you would be able to Play that episode.

Lear I don’t think I need to do anything different. I think everything we talked about then applies now. Maud’s story then may be Maud today. In the end, Maud decides to have an abortion, Maud says to her husband Walter, played by the extraordinary Bill Macy, “Am I doing the right thing?” I’ll never forget his last words, which is exactly how I feel: “Maud, we’re doing the right thing in the privacy of this bedroom and the privacy of our lives.” In one’s life, one makes these decisions. A woman, this is her body, I say so as a father of five daughters.

How serious are you about revisiting it in the next part of Live in front of studio audience , assuming you can do more?

MILLER If we end up doing another one, it’s definitely worth exploring. Not only is it one of the most influential TV episodes of all time, it’s anniversary. Based on everything on the Supreme Court, it feels like, why not?


Lear was Cast and crew surrounded by of audience in studio Live in front of , revisited the facts of Life and Diff’rent Strokes with stars including Jennifer Aniston. By Christopher Willard/ABC supply

Before we go, is there anything I haven’t asked you wish I had?

MILLER I just want to say one last thing. About Norman 70 birthday, we did get a call right as he sat down to eat that [Amazon] Freevee was going to greenlight our new collection [Clean Slate] with Laverne Cox and George Wallace. And I don’t think anyone’s ever done this before, a guy got the green light on his new collection 50 Birthday. Aside from that, this is the first [sitcom] to center on a trans character, and I’m excited for Norman to do it again.

For good reason. I feel like each of the past few birthdays has brought a green light or a new deal. Guess you’re going to have to go on birthdays, Norman.

LEAR until you see 70. (Laughter.)

Can’t wait. I also wish we could be in 100, Then102 and101…annual check-in.

Lear Oh, I will come.

Interview edited for length and clarity.

This story first appeared in the September 6 issue of The Hollywood Reporter. 1972Click here to subscribe .



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