Rick Yaeger: Hey everyone, it’s Rick Yaeger here, with one question interviews, the show where I ask famous people curious questions. My guest today was the patriarch of the Von Trapp family singers. He’s been “The King of the Jungle,” and the leader of the free world. Please rise, for President Tony Goldwyn.
Tony Goldwyn: Thank you for having me, Rick.
Rick: Thank you, for being on the show. Tell us what you have been up to.
Tony: Well, lets see. We’re a few weeks away from starting the fourth season of Scandal, which we’re really excited about. Next week, on the 16th, is the premier of a new series that I co-created and am executive producing, and directed the first two episodes of, which you will see on Wednesday nights at 9:00 on the WE network — the first scripted series on the WE network, called “The Divide.”
I am really, really excited about it. My partner, Richard LaGravenese, who’s one of our great screenwriters, wrote pretty much all of “The Divide.” We just think it’s really good, so we want to share it with people.
Rick: You mentioned Richard LaGravenese, who’s having a really big year. He’s got “The Divide” coming out. He’s also the screenwriter for “Unbroken,” which is pretty amazing.
Tony: He did. “Unbroken” is such an amazing book. He got nominated for an Emmy, I think a Golden Globe, and BAFTA Award for “Behind the Candelabra,” which was amazing. Anyway, Richard’s such a great writer and a great friend.
Rick: We should tell people what it’s about.
Tony: “The Divide” was inspired by a movie I made that came out in 2010 called “Conviction,” which was a true story. It starred Hilary Swank and Sam Rockwell. It was the true story about a woman, whose brother who was convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison in Massachusetts.
He spent 18 years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit and his sister — they were poor and she never finished 10th grade — was the only person who believed he was innocent and she promised him she’d get him out.
She went back to school and became an attorney to try and find a way to get him out. She stumbled across this extraordinary group called The Innocence Project, who are the group that pioneered DNA testing to exonerate the wrongfully convicted.
A very famous lawyer named Barry Scheck, who co-founded that with another amazing lawyer named Peter Neufeld, took her case and helped her free her brother, who was freed after 18 years.
We made a movie about it, and I got absolutely fascinated with the subject matter. That film, I thought, “Well, if someone’s in prison, they probably did something to get there.” I had a semi-blind faith that our justice system, sure it might have problems, but, basically, it really works. The more you study it you realize there are tremendous cracks in our system.
It’s very complex and there are lots of gray areas of how decisions are made, how justice is done, what the meaning of justice is, and what is truth and what isn’t truth. It’s also very dramatic in terms of all the stories are amazing.
I wanted to pursue it with a television series. I thought this was a great world to explore further. I was having a drink with Richard and said, “What do you think?” He had helped me with the draft of that film “Conviction,” which I directed and produced.
We came upon this idea of focusing, “What if a very successful prosecutor maybe got it wrong and possibly put someone to death, or had someone on death row for something they might not have done?” That would be dramatic to explore.
We came up with this idea of a series where the first African-American district attorney for the city of Philadelphia. The current DA of Philly is the first African-American real DA of Philadelphia, so we created a version of Seth Williams, the current DA.
Our character, Adam Page made his career 10 years before, 12 years before on a very high-profile capital murder case, where an affluent black family was murdered, apparently, by two white guys. He was the lead council on this as a young prosecutor and he put these two guys away. One of them got the death penalty and he became very celebrated.
It launched his career. It was a very racially tense case, because people in the black community were used to justice not being done and now it was served. It was a very high profile case and made the guy a star. Twelve years later, when we meet him, is on the eve of the man who’s on death row, of his execution.
A young woman who was an intern at the “Innocence Initiative,” we’re calling it, which is the fictional Innocence Project, who had just finished law school — is not even a lawyer yet — finds a piece of evidence that calls this execution into question.
She pulls a thread that starts to unravel this case and this DA is absolutely certain he was right. He had DNA evidence on his side and his case. He had an eyewitness who testified against the condemned, and he’s going to make sure justice is served. It will be very provocative and inflammatory if justice is not served.
You followed this case, and is the execution going to happen? Is it not going to happen? There’s a second convict in this case, who’s been in jail for twelve years, who may, in fact, be innocent. Is he or isn’t he? We pursue this.
We get into the lives of all of these characters, and what the show really studies is the impact of a violent crime on all the people around it — the lawyers, the victims, the victims’ families, the community. This case is a very complicated and fascinating one that gets very…It’s a whodunit as well, and you follow that, the thread of, “Wait. If they didn’t do it, who did?” It gets insane where it goes.
It’s a way to explore, through looking at the gray areas in our justice system and our institutional morality, those ways in which, as human beings, in order to do what we believe to be the right outcome, what kinds of moral gray areas do we all traffic through in our day-to-day life? What moral divides are within ourselves — to touch on our title? This gets into marriage and family. We really are about the characters behind this crime.
Rick: Like you said, these ripple effects that happen from a violent crime, you’re talking about the initial ripple from the original court case. Now that we’ve all taken a breath and relaxed from that, it’s over. They found the guy. Justice was done. Now we’re going to throw another stone in the water. [laughs] It started all over again.
Tony: It’s so interesting that one thing we crave as human beings, and certainly as Americans, it seems, is we want closure. We want an answer. We want to know. We want to get it done, when something terrible happens.
In the case of our show, a husband and wife and a 16-year-old daughter were murdered, the daughter was raped, and a young 12-year-old girl survived and was an eyewitness to this. It was an unspeakable crime and we want justice to be done. We want to find the bad guy. We want to put him down. We want to have closure. It’s too painful. In our society, we have these open questions, and we are very uncomfortable with the gray areas.
Look at our political system. We want certainty, and it ain’t certain. That’s really compelling. In fact, if take it you can personalize it to so many aspects of our daily lives, in our marriages, in our relations with our kids, in relations with our friends, in relationships to our society, and our attitudes towards law and all of it, so little is clear cut, and it’s very uncomfortable, but it makes for really good drama.
Rick: It’s great TV. As you say, as we’re scheduling this show, it will hit on July 17th. The premier was yesterday. The second episode is coming up the next Wednesday.
Tony: The premier was the first two episodes put together, so you saw our premier. Those of you who saw it, possible spoiler alert, you know the outcome regarding the execution. Those who haven’t seen it, you better go see it.
Tony: I won’t spoil it for you, which way that goes. Suffice it to say that Pandora’s Box is opened on this crime, which really destabilized all of the lives associated with this violent event.
Rick: You say we like closure. We seek closure. When we get closure, we don’t want to open it again.
Tony: No, we don’t.
Rick: Even if it’s unjust. It’s good enough, close enough. I’m happy with this outcome, even though there’s a guy out there who really did do the crime.
Tony: It’s the same thing in our relationships. This is something “The Divide” really gets into. In our marriages, we want to know. We want to feel certain, and, when things start to get shaken up, it’s very difficult to confront our spouse and say, “Wait. What’s going on here? What is the truth?”
Or in a relationship with a father and a son, or a mother and a daughter, or vice versa, we don’t like open questions, as human beings. And yet, those are the things that we need to face down a lot of times to grow as human beings.
Rick: Speaking of open questions, [laughs] I’m about to throw one at you.
Tony: All right.
Rick: Let me put my hat on. As you know, the show is called “One Question Interviews.” I have almost a thousand different questions ranging from the profane to the profound. I will choose one at random. You can answer it seriously or in a funny voice if you like and everyone goes home happy.
Rick: It sounds good?
Tony: It sounds perfect.
Rick: I’m going to grab a handful here. I’m going to riffle them aside, and you tell me when to stop.
Tony: OK. Stop.
Rick: Stop. Would you like the top or the bottom?
Tony: The bottom.
Rick: The bottom. OK.
Tony: I now I’m going to regret this choice.
Rick: Tony Goldwyn, what is the next barrier you’d like to see broken?
Tony: That’s a really good question. I would like to see the impasse between Republicans and Democrats in our political system, particularly on the federal level, smashed to smithereens. Get people talking to each other and working together, and not by a knee-jerk impulse to entrench and demonize one another.
That was the funny voice answer by the way. I’ll do the serious one next.
Rick: OK. [laughs] . Me, coming from Canada, looking at the American political system, and thinking, “Yeah, ours isn’t great either, but looking at the at the infighting and the Democrats verses Republican keeping anything from going forward…
Tony: It’s incomprehensible, really. I’m without words.
Rick: [laughs] .
Tony: People who, literally, do not the job that we elected them to do. I believe that almost all of them go into the job with good intentions, with wanting to make a difference, with wanting to make our system work. I guess it’s because it’s so driven by money which then, by extension, means it’s driven by fear of not getting that money and becoming irrelevant. People entrenched in the…Argh, it just makes me crazy.
Rick: [laughs] . It’s issues that you do touch on in “Scandal,” with your vice president, Sally Langston, who’s kept in the far right, regardless how she really feels or…
Tony: I think that that’s right. Deep down, Sally, I think she’s a good person, but the lust for power is a very tricky and deceptive thing. Like so many leaders in Washington and those who are drawn to seek power, once you’ve got a taste of it, you’re going to bloody well hold on to it.
Rick: [laughs] .
Tony: Look at “House of Cards.” Those characters are so similar. In many ways “Scandal” is a study of power. To quote Shonda, she says, “It’s sexual power, it’s gender power, it’s political power.” It’s very intoxicating, and Sally, I think that’s really what she wants. She wants to be in power, and we all will do what we have to do to hang on to it.
Rick: Yes. You’ve had a long history with her.
Tony: We do. I met her in 1981 on my very first job, and many times since.
Rick: Yes. I saw there was some kind of Instagram collage that somebody put together. You guys were in Elizabethan costumes.
Tony: I can’t remember. Was it Greek? I was playing a Greek warrior, or, to be more accurate, a spear-carrier with no lines.
Rick: [laughs] .
Tony: She was a slave girl. We’ve been through “many relationships”. She’s a great woman.
Rick: That’s good. That’s your question and that’s the interview. Thank you so much for coming on the show.
Tony: It’s a great pleasure. It’s really fun talking to you.
Rick: Good. Check out Tony on…It’s a limited series, is it not?
Tony: It will be six more weeks after last nights premiere. We did a total of eight hours, so yeah, limited in that sense. Hopefully, we’ll have more for you for a second season.
Rick: There you go. Check out “The Divide.” Let’s make sure it’s a little less than limited. Check it out on WE TV. It’s 9:00 pm, 8:00 Central, #TheDivide. Spread the word. Definitely watch him as President Fitzgerald Thomas Grant III in “Scandal,” Thursdays this fall, also 9:00 PM and 8:00 Central on ABC. If you’ve never watched “Scandal,” what’s wrong with you?
Tony: You’ve got a couple of months to catch up so start binging. [laughs]
Rick: Yes, it’s all on Netflix, which is insanely smart. The whole thing is on Netflix. I’m almost caught up myself. We’re taking our time with the last ones, because we don’t want it to be over. [laughs] .
Tony: Last one gets really nuts at the end of last season.
Rick: Yeah, all three seasons are on Netflix. Get caught up, and you’ll be ready with your wine and popcorn for season four.
Rick: Follow Tony on Twitter @TonyGoldwyn.
Tony: That is correct.
Rick: That is correct. You’ve got Facebook?
Tony: Facebook is TonyGoldwynOfficial.
Tony: Instagram, which I’m really not too great at –I’ll get better — is at @TonyGoldwyn, as well.
Rick: I’ll source out these links and I’ll make it really easier. If you go to OneQuestionInterviews.com, I will have a transcript of this interview and link it all up with all the good stuff we’ve been talking about, show you where you can check out “The Divide” and “Scandal” and make it all easy. Sound good? Sounds good.
Tony: It’s awesome.
Rick: That’s it. This is Rick Yeager for “One Question Interviews.” Thank you so much for watching, and subscribe to the show in iTunes or on YouTube. They’re both free and easy, it’s great, and then you don’t miss out on the next episode. OK, everyone, thanks again. Bye-bye.