Martin Sheen Interview – TALK TO ME

     July 12, 2007

To help promote the release of the new movie “Talk to Me,” I was able to participate in some roundtable interviews, the one below is with Martin Sheen.

While I’ve been a fan of Mr. Sheen for as long as I can remember, this was the first time I was able to interview him and I’ll admit to being quite excited. And while I knew he supported a lot of issues and was quite passionate about his beliefs, I’ll admit to being unprepared for where this interview went as I think we spent all of 3 minutes talking about the movie and the rest of the time talking politics and protesting.

And while that might not be the best way to promote the movie… I sat there captivated by this words as most actors nowadays aren’t willing to say what they’re thinking as it might shorten their career. Martin is one of the few remaining in the industry who speak their mind and for that I give him a lot of credit. Of course, it does helps that Martin is quite knowledgeable about what he talks about.

If you’re a fan of Martin or just want to read an interesting interview you’ll like what’s posted below. As always, you can either read the transcript or download the MP3 of the interview by clicking here.

And before getting to the interview, here’s the synopsis:

Academy Award nominee Don Cheadle portrays the one and only Ralph Waldo “Petey” Greene Jr.; Petey’s story is funny, dramatic, inspiring – and real. In the mid-to-late 1960s, in Washington, D.C., vibrant soul music and exploding social consciousness were combining to unique and powerful effect. It was the place and time for Petey to fully express himself – sometimes to outrageous effect – and “tell it like it is.” With the support of his irrepressible and tempestuous girlfriend Vernell (Taraji P. Henson), the newly minted ex-con talks his way into an on-air radio gig. He forges a friendship and a partnership with fellow prison inmate Milo’s (Mike Epps) brother Dewey Hughes (double Golden Globe Award nominee Chiwetel Ejiofor). From the first wild morning on the air, Petey relies on the more straight-laced Dewey to run interference at WOL-AM, where Dewey is the program director.

At the station, Petey becomes an iconic radio personality, surpassing even the established popularity of his fellow disc jockeys, Nighthawk (Cedric The Entertainer) and Sunny Jim (Vondie Curtis Hall). Combining biting humor with social commentary, Petey openly courts controversy for station owner E.G. Sonderling (Emmy Award winner Martin Sheen). Petey was determined to make not just himself but his community heard during an exciting and turbulent period in American history. As Petey’s voice, humor, and spirit surge across the airwaves with the vitality of the era, listeners tune in to hear not only incredible music but also a man speaking directly to them about race and power in America like few people ever have. Through the years, Petey’s “The truth just is” style — on – and off-air – would redefine both Petey and Dewey, and empower each to become the man he would most like to be.

And before getting to the interview, if you missed the movie clips I previously posted you can watch them here.

“Talk to Me” opens tomorrow in select release.

How did the film and yourself keep the character from being just the white guy who runs the station?

Well, it was a black station. It played Motown music. It was obviously geared towards the vast majority of the population of Washington, D.C. which is black, and the inner city. So he knew that he had better appeal to the community if he wanted to stay on the air. So bringing in Petey Greene was a business decision and a risky one. You have to remember that the ratings, they were trying desperately in any number of ways to improve the ratings and it just went further and further down. People were not listening. So when Petey Greene arrived at the station, it was a big risk because he was so open and just so vulnerable and publicly unchanged from any private behavior including his language. So it was a risk. At the same time, it was a business adventure. It was not an accident that he chose him. He was feathering his own nest and that’s cool. They became very close. In the end, he had an opportunity to sell the station to a white consortium for more money but he realized he owed a debt of gratitude to the black community and he wanted that station to remain in black hands so he sold it to a black consortium who still owns it.

This was one real guy, not a composite?

No, he was one guy. Sonderling is a real guy, he’s dead now, God rest him, but he was a good and decent man. He had a lot of heart and he had pretty good taste in radio. He was in on what has to be considered the invention of talk radio. He was Petey Greene, talk to me. He was the guy. But he was talking to a specific community, one that didn’t condemn him for his addictions or his felonies or for being blunt in his language or assessment in the culture, of the society. He said it like it was, man, and this is at a very critical time in our country. Remember, I knew this time. I lived in the east coast from 1959 to 1969. I don’t remember Peter Greene specifically but I remember the time and place and the turmoil the country was involved in in tandem with the Vietnam war and the civil rights movement and they were inextricably connected. It was about where our priorities were going to land in the heavens. It was about human rights, human dignity or force of will. It was a great conflict and a wonderful time to be alive. Very tragic time as well because we lost two of our heroes in Reverend King and less than 60 days later, Bobby Kennedy and the country never recovered. We lost an opportunity with Robert Kennedy and we ended up with Richard Nixon and it’s gone downhill ever since. With all due respects to Mr. Carter, and Mr. Clinton, it’s gone steadily downhill. It’s about corporate America that gets the lion’s share and their say. Most of the people on radio now are the voices and the mindset of corporate America. You couldn’t get Petey Greene on the radio today, I’m sorry. I think that time passed. They wouldn’t tolerate him. They couldn’t tolerate that measure of truth with that much passion.

Even Howard Stern or Imus?

No, these guys are media stars. They’re not social activists. They have no real passion when it comes to risking everything for what you believe. They’re very well paid, with all due respects, they’re very well paid but they’re media stars. They don’t risk anything as far as furthering the truth of an issue or risking anything by becoming involved in advocating peace and justice issues, social justice. No, never. Not gonna happen.

Do you think there might be a resurgence in 10 years?

Yes, I think the American people are just on this one issue of Iraq, have woken up to this administration, that this administration lied and cheated and they all belong in a federal penitentiary for their actions. He used the military to further a political agenda. That’s the bottom line. Finally, the military is waking up to this. It’s very hard to find anyone in the top brass that wants to risk their reputation by throwing in with this crowd. It’s a hopeless situation because it was born in arrogance. Arrogance is ignorance matured. I didn’t make the rules. I observed the results and that’s what we’re dealing with here. When we started protesting this administration and its policy towards iraq, 70% of the American people supported this administration. I was part of the 30 that opposed. Now 70% of the population is opposed to this administration and 30 support it so as long as you’re not uncomfortable being on the side that’s not winning, you’ll be okay.

Is the internet the great equalizer for people saying things?

No, no, because very few people really have access to the internet or know how to use it. This is the great fallacy. It’s also like thinking, ‘Well, how come we don’t know more about the rest of the world?’ We don’t travel to the rest of the world. Only 10% of the American public have passports, have even been out of the country. George Bush had never exited the United States until he became president. He didn’t have a clue what was going on in third world. And most of our citizens have no idea what’s happening in third world and how we affect their lives. We have the most powerful political machine, military machine and economic machine. We run this whole hemisphere without question or any opposition. There’s a little more opposition in the west, western Europe or eastern Europe and the mideast is where most of the opposition comes from for our policies. But we’re a disaster in Africa and the middle east, central and south America. We’ve really blown out leadership. Any moral ascendancy we’ve ever had was sunk with this crowd. It’s just despicable. Disgraceful bunch. Lying, businessmen who further their own agenda, political agenda and it costs the lives of, we know so far, nearly 4,000 young men and women, able bodied young men and women. 30, maybe more thousand severely wounded and now handicapped. Their families, how many hundreds of families of Iraqis we know just two million refugees alone. And we’re not taking any of them. Switzerland and Sweden and Denmark are taking more than we are. Come on. We furthered our nest.

If you applied the same reason for invading Iraq on Korea, that’s where we should have gone. They had the weapons. They were an oppressive society. I’m not saying a good thing about Saddam. He was as bad as you could get but he did not have weapons of mass destruction. You know what I’m saying? It was about oil. It was about ego. He did it because he could. Early in the protest, I was asked by a reporter, a big news conference of artists against the war. “Well, are you saying that the president is lying to us?” I said, “Absolutely, that’s what he does for a living. Most governments do. They call it diplomacy but it’s lying. And the very best of them do it.” And he said, “Well, why do you suppose he was doing this?” I said, “Me personally? I think he wants to hand his father the head of Saddam Hussein and say, ‘See, daddy, I have credibility. I did what you could not and would not do.'” That’s what it was all about. And even when he was asked by Bob Woodward before the invasion, did you consult your father, meaning George Sr. he said, “I consulted my heavenly father.” Please, you know you’re in big trouble when that goes down.

Has being so outspoken been detrimental to your career?

I hope so. No, really. But you see, I don’t know myself on the winning side. I’m never comfortable unless I’m uncomfortable. I don’t know that, I don’t want that. I’m not interested in being loved or likes. I’m interested in being free. I’m interested in knowing myself as I really am. I’m interested in uniting the will of the spirit to the work of the flesh. The only one that I have to account for is myself. I’m not trying to influence anybody. I don’t really care a damn if anybody follows me or believes me. That’s not important. I do it for myself so that I will know myself and earn my own freedom. We’re not asked to be successful. We’re only asked to be faithful. We’re not asked to do great things, we’re only asked to do all things with great love. That’s Mother Theresa’s quote. It’s one of my favorites. One of my quotes is “the only things that we can take with us when we leave this life are the things which we cherished and gave away with love including our precious time.” That’s all that interests me because I’m not going to be able to lay off on my government my actions when it comes to the end of my life. “Oh, I would have done more service to justice or peace or the poor. I would have spoken out if my government would have only supported me.” No. They won’t be there to intercede between me and my soul. My only salvation is what’s at stake and all of us have to answer to that. And everything that I’ve been involved in has not improved. It’s gotten worse. All the issues have gotten worse.

Why don’t you run?

No, no, no because that’s not what I do. I wouldn’t have a clue and I could not serve a specific constituency. I’d have to serve my own spirit. I was asked to be involved on one level politically. I’m not interested in politics. I’m interested in social justice. I had to make it clear to them that they were confusing credibility with celebrity. There’s a big difference. I’m not qualified for public service.

Continued on the next page ——–>


Any picks for the upcoming election?

Well, I have a great fondness for governor Richardson. I think he’s probably the most qualified of the lot. But I’m holding out my support, although I support him from the candidates that are now going, because I believe that Mr. Gore is going to come in and maybe before Labor Day. I think he will be the next candidate and I think he’ll be the next president. I really do. Deservedly so.

What makes you think so?

I’ve heard, not from him specifically, but there’s a lot of movement among the democrats. And it’s no secret that Mrs. Clinton is of course qualified and I would love to support but the angst is that she could win the nomination and not the election, that Fred Thompson could beat her or Guiliani.

Don’t you feel there’s a groundswell of support now for Gore and environmental issues?

Mm-hmm. I think that if ever a nation needed a public servant desperately, it’s now and he is the one. I think he’s starting to realize that. Will he want to go through it again and put his family through it again? Accept that? I don’t know, man. I wouldn’t ask it of anyone but he has experience and he’s done more than any public servant living for the world, not just our country and the environment, but for the real. But the measure of hope that he has provided and the inspiration he’s provided, he may win the Nobel peace prize which wouldn’t hurt either, next fall. If that went down, boy, we’ve never had a president that I can remember that won the Peace prize. I think we had one Nobel Prize winner, Mr. Wilson.


Yes, you’re right, but after. Not when he was president. I think Mr. Wilson, for economics, I don’t know.

One word: immigration?

Oh, Jesus. Both my parents were immigrants. My father could not get into the United States in 1914. He was 16 years old, came with his brother Alfonso. Because there was a quota against Spaniards, not against Hispanics but Spaniards, because of the Spanish-American War. So he was denied entrance at Port of New York and he went to Cuba. And my father was in Cuba with his brother for several years and he saved his money and he came into the United States through Miami and worked his way up to Dayton, Ohio. He was naturalized in Philadelphia, not New York. And he met my mother in Ohio. That’s where I was born eventually but don’t get me started on immigration. We are a nation of immigrants. We are so made and we must not forget it. This whole issue is one of bullying. Finally, we have someone to blame for all our problems. It used to be Al Queda, it used to be this one or that and now it’s the immigrants. They’re responsible for all of our problems. What a load of bullshit. We ought to give thanks and praise for these people, welcome them in, praise them.

Do you have a sense your projects will influence social and political feelings?

No, I never think that it’s going to go beyond what I’m asked to do. I never invite anyone to go with me to stand with me or protest or be a part. I never, ever do that because that’s so deeply personal. To actually go out there and stand. I’m the biggest sissy I know. I’m not joking. I hate doing it. I worry about personal attacks and physical retaliation. Yes, I’m concerned about it. I have a family. I had to put a gate up at my house because there are so many lunatics coming around to protest me and throw things at the house. My family is innocent. So no, I don’t look forward to it and I haven’t done anything significant except in my own soul. But I don’t advocate, I’m not leading a movement or an organization. No, I’m not and I’m not able to do that. I’m a Catholic who believes in the command of the gospel to do nonviolence, to love mercy, to do justice and to walk humbly. Basically that’s the four energies that we have to- – our founder was the nonviolent Jesus. Jesus did not approve of violence and it cost him his life. They didn’t kill him because he was a nice guy. They killed him because he was demanding heart of the law, not the letter of the law. And he was an itinerant rabbi and it took both of them to get rid of him, church and state equally. “We gotta get rid of this guy because he’s changing the situation, the power structure.” Actually, he was examining it in a human way. He was leading with his heart, not the law. And he changed the world but he was nonviolent, and we’ve forgotten that. We have a just war theory. Sorry, Jesus did not say, “Well, there’ll be no war except when you deal with this one or that. Sorry.”

And we’ve hijacked the gospel and made it according to our ego. God is a reflection of who we are. I went to confession to a priest in a rural community down south one time. I was on the road working for a candidate and the priest, we started talking about theology and I was just amazed at this guy. He said to me at one point, “We don’t know what God is, do we?” And he asked it as if well, maybe I ran into someone who does. I mean, do you have an opinion? You’re just like saying, you know, I thought, Wow, the humility of that and the reality of that. We don’t know what God is. God is the great mystery and every explanation that I have heard about God is usually what God is not. So what is God? To me, as a Christian, as a Catholic, the genius of God is hiding within us choosing to be human, flesh and blood. And choosing to hide where we would least expect to find that presence, within ourselves. Because once I look at myself and I can say, “Whoa, okay, God chose that? Okay. What about you? You can’t be any different. And you, and you.” So it becomes a recognition of our humanity with everyone else and that’s the thing that connects us to everyone else is that presence. It’s in you, you, you and you. But I have to find it in myself first and accept it. But we usually start from the outside. We project God. Oh, God is- – then we start punishing people and God becomes a reflection of our ego rather than we don’t know what God is, the great mystery. I’m sorry to get into theology.

Your last protest was successful?

Yes, that was a quiet victory, but thanks to Mr. Schwarzenegger. Seriously, he got the message and he served the right cause there.

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