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tv   Overheard With Evan Smith  PBS  December 10, 2016 4:30pm-5:01pm PST

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- [announcer] funding for overheard with evan smith is provided in part by the alice kleberg reynolds foundation and hillco partners, a texas government affairs consultancy, and by klru's producers circle, ensuring local programming that reflects the character and interests of the greater austin, texas community. - i'm evan smith. she's an actress whose credits include the hit tv series, orange is the new black and jane the virgin. her memoir, in the country we love: my family divided has just been published. she's diane guerrero. this is overheard. let's be honest, is this about the ability to learn or is this about the experience of not having been taught right? how have you avoided what has befallen other nations in africa? at 17, he made his own bed, but you caused him to sleep in it. we saw a problem and, over time, took it on. let's start with the sizzle before we get to the steak.
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are you going to run for president? i think i just got an f from you, actually. (applause) diane guerrero, welcome. - thank you for having me. - so nice to meet you. the book is amazing and maybe the most amazing thing about it is the bravery that had to have gone into the decision to write it. you could have gone along in your very successful career as an actress and never written this book, never told this story, probably not subjected yourself to what, i'm sure, you've been subjected to in writing it. - yes, it's-- - so, why do it? - well, first, you give me way too much credit. - as somebody who is brave? well, okay. - i think brave and successful-- - you have to live on twitter after this book comes out, so that's up to you. - that's right, that's right. i mean, look. i saw a need for this story to come out and i so desperately wanted to be part of that movement and join the fight. i was inspired by dreamers going out there and
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putting themselves at risk, demanding for immigrant rights. i knew i had such a personal story but i was a citizen child and i hadn't heard that story. - yeah. - like so many stories, this was just another one of so many stories. - right, but because it's your story and because we know you in another context and because everything you do we look at and go, "oh, let's pay attention to her," as opposed to the average, random person. more people are going to pay attention to your story than to the other stories. - well, i did feel it was important because of this new platform that i had with orange is the new black and jane the virgin and people were starting to interview me and i was starting to come on shows and i thought there was a need to talk about something important. - i love it when people use their power for good and not evil. that's always a good thing. - yeah, i always wanted to be a good guy. - that's good. the decision to do this book actually goes back long enough that you may have had some sort of nostradamus-like abilities. your prescience in this in identifying this as an issue that we were going to be talking about, right?
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you didn't just decide to do this last week. - no, no, i mean, i'd always thought about it. i always wanted to do something big and i wanted to be of service and-- - it wasn't entirely for political convenience or because you favor one candidate or one party. it wasn't about that. - no, a lot of it was for me. - yeah, it was a personal decision. - it was a personal decision. in the book, i talk about the struggles that i faced and it was really tough to keep this secret and to keep on living that way and so, i just thought it would be a disservice to people in my same position, to this country, if i didn't come out with this story. - and we know there are many people who probably have a story like this who are probably not brave enough, my word again, to tell the story or don't feel like they can tell the story publicly and you've given them voice even if they can't tell their story. - yes. - so, let's go to the day. so, you're 14 years old. - yeah. - come home from school. tell us the story. - well, i had been used to sort of living in fear
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and i had constant anxiety about coming home and not having my parents. i would lose my mom at a store and i would freak out. but, this day, i had an argument with my mother in the morning and i was dying to get home and tell her that i'm sorry. - yeah. - i got home and their cars were there, my mother's dinner was started and i felt that they were gone. - [evan] something was wrong. - something was wrong and so a neighbor came and told me that they were taken away. - right, so we're clear for the benefit of people that don't know your story and don't know the book. your parents were in this country undocumented. - undocumented, yes. - [evan] and your brother. - and my brother, also. - [evan] older brother. - my older brother. - you, however, are a citizen. - i was born in jersey. - right, right. so, what they call birthright citizenship. you were born here, therefore you're a citizen. - yes, exactly. my parents tried for years to, i mean, they overstayed their visas, obviously, which a lot of people do. it's illegal, but they desperately tried to find
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a path for citizenship and they just could not find it. they were scammed by lawyers and people who took their money and told them that they could help them and so they were desperate and this was a topic of conversation every day in my home. - as you say, you were worried that today would be the day. - oh yes, oh yes. - all the time. - and you know, they weren't just here saying "okay, cool, let's see what happens." they tried really, really hard but you know, and honestly, we didn't have, now that i've joined this movement, now that i've come out, now that i've met so many people on the way, i really thought i was alone in this. come to see, there's so many people. - well, the overstaying the visa, which you identify specifically, the overstaying the visa phenomenon is really pretty pervasive, right? coast to coast, we hear stories like that. - yes, yes. - it's refreshing, not entirely surprising but very refreshing, you're very matter-of-fact about the fact that their status here was not legal. - yeah, and i'm not trying to deny that. - you're not saying, well, my parents got a raw deal
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and that really they were not here. - right. - you're good with saying factually you understand that. - yeah, i'm very honest about that. what i wanted to bring out was the separation, the way we were separated and how i was able to stay here with no one checking on me. - let's be clear about exactly what happened. so, you're 14. - yes. - your family is taken away and nobody, you say the government doesn't check on me, nobody calls me. - no, it was as if i didn't exist. - they just basically leave you here. - yes. - right? - and i'm also very honest about the fact that i decided to stay because i didn't feel like i had any prospects in columbia. i had never been there. the us is my country. - it's the only home you've known. - it's the only home i've known. my parents didn't have a lot of money and i was really afraid that i wasn't going to get the education or the resources that i knew that a poor kid can maybe achieve here if they really try. - and the best of america, neighbors, immigrants here legally, take you in, right? - [diane] yes.
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- right, best of america. - yes, it was really, really wonderful. - but for them, who knows what would have happened to you? - i could have been in the street. i could have fallen through the cracks. who knows? a lot of kids go through it and i really want to put a face to the story and really have an open discusion because i know that if we can achieve some sort of reform, immigration reform, this country would be better off. - because i don't want to turn you into a political candidate-- - please don't. - or somebody who is a policy expert, but i do feel the need to ask you about that, because, you know, we've had battles going back to ronald reagan and george w. bush, two republicans who attempted to pass something like comprehensive or semi-comprehensive immigration reform and couldn't do it. we're about to enter into a period where, regardless who, as we sit here, we don't yet know, is the president of the united states, it is unlikely that we'll be able to come to some kind of easy, maybe not even hard, agreement about this. what should we do? so, we have a certain number of people, millions. it's said to be 11 million, 12 million people in this country who are not documented. you know, the continuum is send them all back and
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make them get in the back of the line and reapply. that's at one end. over here, maybe is just wave a wand and go, "you're forgiven." let's figure out how to make them citizens without sending them back. what's the right, you live in the middle of this issue, so be a political person for a second. what's the right place? - you know, it's funny. i had a tweet from someone yesterday saying, "hey, you're funny, "but do you just not believe in immigration laws? "do you just feel like everyone should be able to come "and we should just take them in?" no, i do believe in immigration laws, and i think we should have them and they're important. we have an outdated immigration system. what i'm talking is about creating a path for citizenship. you mentioned, this back of the line. there is no back of the line. there is no system in place. there are people waiting 20 years for a visa. - right, but of course, the other side, i say that with big air-quotes, the other side. the other side says well, why should people who have been here without documentation get any preference over the people who have dutifully followed the rules and waited in line for 20 years. no matter how bad the system may have been, or may be, at least they've done their part in waiting.
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- well, it's an unfair system, plain and simple. - so, you'd scrap it and start over. - yes, absolutely. - what should have happened to your parents? so, let's as you say, your parents actually worked really hard to try to figure out how to stay here under the circumstances. - [diane] yes, right. - so, they exhaust all their options. now, it's sort of go-time. what happens now? what should have happened? - well, the thing is, there should have been an easy, a better process in place, right, so that when they can file their papers it's not so, i mean, it's not so stacked, the odds aren't stacked against them. i mean, i'm not saying, i mean, look, my parents made mistakes, right? it just wasn't easy for them. however, it's the reunification process has been difficult. the process for a child to ask for their family back is very difficult. - the reality is your family relationships have forever been impacted by what happened on that day.
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- yes. - by the decision of the government to send them away. - yeah, we've suffered greatly. - the impact has had a long tail and in fact, there was a period of time, seven years you talk about in the book, where you basically didn't talk to your family. - yeah, i was angry at them. i mean, a lot of it was i didn't understand what the immigration system looked like in this country, what the real problem was. i thought it was them, you know? i was on the side of the people who took them away. i said, "this is your fault." but, through learning, opening myself up, by sharing my story, by being honest with myself, that has changed and we're a lot better. i talk about very candidly in my book about how i struggled with mental health issues because of our separation and you know, the politicians don't talk about that. they don't talk about what happens to a family when you just separate them like that. - well, some don't talk about it. - right, some don't talk about it, of course. let me not say that. - right. - and it's been a long journey but
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i'm glad i joined the fight and i'll continue doing that. - and you have no regrets. i mean, i alluded to what happens to people who talk about issues like this or identify themselves as in the center of this. we live in a world in which cruelty is matter-of-fact and it's every day. you mentioned twitter. nobody wants to be in a fight on twitter with the kinds of people who can be anonymous and hide behind their anonymity, say whatever they want. you obviously have a lot of inner strength if you're willing to subject yourself to what you, no doubt, have heard since you published this book. - right, i mean, i won't pretend to be a politician. i don't know the answers to everything. i'm just a person who went through this and i'm sharing the experience so that we can have an open dialogue about it, so that we can reach maybe, a better system in place. - your family is in columbia. - yes. - and everything's okay? - yeah, for the most part. - ish. - ish, yeah. we struggle every day but you know, every time we talk, it's very romantic.
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i miss you, i love you, i wish i could see you. that's tiring for both ends but this is what we've been given and we're just gonna make it work and i'm making it work. - one of the things that i thought about, reading this book, was how sad it is to have deprived your parents, whatever their status, of the opportunity to witness your emergence as a person and as a celebrity, a success, from up close. they've essentially been denied what a lot of parents live their lives hoping to experience, which is to see their children thrive and blossom. - yeah, one of the things i mentioned is that i've missed out on so much with my family. i just wish my parents could be in the audience right now. that would be, or the gala that i went to with the texas book festival-- - or any of the other successes. - any of the other things that i've done. - the success of orange is the new black-- - my graduation. - the success you've had on jane the virgin. the fact is, there are more mundane things that everybody experiences, graduation, right?
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- yeah. - school performances. - right. going to a store. - just anything matter-of-fact. so, the upshot of the publication and the success of this book and the fact that you've been willing to tell your story, interestingly, there's going to be a television series that is inspired by your story. - yes, yes, which is really great. i couldn't have asked for anything more. we're still in the process of that and hopefully it does happen. - as the reporting has gone, the story will be of a woman who is a lawyer who steps up to represent people in situations much like the one that you describe yourself and, it turns out, she herself was in a situation similar to that. - exactly, and she works really hard to get to this place. she's a corporate lawyer and she works really hard to live her american dream but she can no longer move further if she doesn't face this troubling past and if she doesn't recognize her responsibility with the community. - [evan] pay it forward.
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- pay it forward. - isn't that amazing? good, and you're gonna be star of this program? - we don't know yet. - would you like to do that? would that be a little weird? - i don't think so. i'm open to it, i'm open to it. i wanted to be a lawyer at some point so this will be my chance. (laughing) - [evan] can't be an actual lawyer-- - can't be an actual lawyer, so play one on tv. - [evan] there's always tv, that's exactly right. - exactly. - so, your journey from this moment to the place you are now is not without the sort of steps that could have predicted it because, back at that point, when you were 14, 15, 16, you actually had in mind that you wanted to do the kind of work that you are doing now, right? the arts was your thing. - yes, yes. - talk about that. how did you get interested in it and what were the early things that got you set off on your path? - well, i mean, my parents were always working two or three jobs and it was really hard for them to really concentrate on my academics. for me, for a kid growing up around this trauma,
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this uncertainty, it was pretty hard for me to focus. - at this point, you're no longer in jersey, you're up in boston. - we're in boston, i grew up in boston. i was always very resourceful. i did enjoy school a lot even though i wasn't very good at it, but i always sort of gravitated towards the arts and any creative learning, so when i got to, i had the privilege of attending a performance arts high school in boston which really saved my life. - boston arts academy. - boston arts academy really saved my life. it was conducive to how i learned and how i retained information and obviously, the arts, i think for education, is really necessary for kids to flourish. - and especially in a situation like the one you were in where you had so much going on outside of school that was so problematic and distracting. - yes, it was a release. - it focused you. - yeah, and it was really therapeutic and i talk about that, how it served as therapy for me. i mean, when you're made to be empathetic or
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connect to other people's stories and experiences, it automatically helps you. - your first professional role was? the first job you got, was what? - my first big job was orange. - or your first small job. - i played, it was ashley/amber and it was short by a woman by the name of rebecca rojer and she was doing her thesis at harvard. - so, it was just a little part in somebody's film that most people didn't see, right. - no, no, most people didn't see it, i'm sure. - right, but your first big part was, in fact, orange is the new black. - it was orange is the new black, yes. - so, talk about that. how did you get that part? what did you imagine it was going to be? obviously, we're in the new world of entertainment today where the three networks, in my day, when i was your age, i was even younger than you. you think somebody's on television in a successful program it was one of the big networks. there was no streaming service. there were no disrupters in this world.
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- right, which has been really great because it's really given so many of us the opportunity to play and to have a place in this world. - leaving aside the question of whether any of the networks ever would have run this show, or could have run this show because one of the things about the streaming services is it's more like a cable channel. - yeah, you're allowed to do a lot more. - cuss and, you know, do stuff you can't do on tv. so, what's the story of getting this show? - well, after i moved from boston, i figured, what the hell? i'm just going to try. i was at a point where i needed to really see if i could do this and so i moved to new york. i took acting classes, you know, i got a manager and i just, i auditioned and so my manager calls me and says, "well, there's this prison show." and i go, "yikes, prison?" (laughing) i've seen a lot of the prison system and it's scary to me because it's so personal but i said, you know, i have nothing to lose and i went in and i got the part.
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it was exhilarating, really. every actor will tell you, "that was the day i was gonna throw in the towel." - was it literally for you the day you were gonna throw in the towel? - i swear, i swear. - what were you gonna do if you didn't get a part or get a toe-hold in the industry? - i don't know. i never had any delusions of i'm gonna go to new york or l.a. and i'm going to be meryl streep right away. i just wanted to try it. i really had no, i just gave myself the chance and i didn't give myself so much of a back-up but i just started thinking and i said maybe i can go back to school. i gave myself that option. there's really nothing i can do. - first thing i'd say is most people foreclose even on the possibility that they're going to get lucky and get a part but the second thing is, most people who get in the business, who get in the business like you, it's baby steps. they don't think they're gonna be meryl streep. they just want to be themselves. they hope they can get in and so it's heartening to hear that you had this idea and you wanted to do it. you auditioned and somehow you got this part.
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- yeah. - and got lucky enough to be on a show that would be a phenomenon. - right and so appropriate for me and the people who are working on the show and what i believe in and what i'm about. it's just, it's perfect, you know. you see how things work out this way. but, yeah, i had no idea it was going to happen but i also just gave myself the chance. i said yes to myself, because it made me a better person. doing this work made me a better person and it made me happy and what i was doing before wasn't. - was not making you happy. - exactly. - another thing that occurs to me about this show, which i've watched faithfully, like a lot of other people have watched it in the four seasons, is that it was one of the early successes in the streaming services in episodic series and, unlike, say, house of cards, which happened around the same time, which had recognizable stars as the leads, this was largely an ensemble cast of people you hadn't seen before. you might have seen laura prepon in that 70s show or on something else, sort of taylor schilling might have been in something. a couple of people were people you knew, but largely it was people like you who had been hard-working people who aspired to be
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great actors and actresses. it was a sorority and fraternity of largely unknown people. - it gave us a chance. it opened some doors. - it made the parts more believable. i'm not sure that kevin spacey behind bars in an orange jumpsuit was gonna do it for me, right? or robin wright. - i hear you. - so, that show is now four seasons. - yeah, we're on our fifth. we're shooting our fifth. - shooting your fifth. so, i was going to ask you, do you have a sense yet and if you do, are you in the position to tell us or talk about it, whether your part will be materially different, larger, changed, in the new season? - i think you'll see it much the same. - you've now been, candidly, you've been, it seems like you've grown a little bit in visibility on the show in this part. - yeah, i think it's funny. there are no small parts. (laughter) no small parts but you know, i've been very fortunate and people seem to resonate with the character, as silly or as interesting, i'll use, as she is, i think people have connected and
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that's all you can ask for. - the other thing that i'll say, and i'll say this as a white man of a certain age, to see latina characters on television in major series is itself a thing these days as the population of the country has changed. - yes. - television now, blessedly, looks more like america than it did just a few years ago. - i know. good thing, good thing. - right. - but, i don't think-- - i mean, diversity of the casting in that show, which i suppose i'd say, well, you look at the prison population, it probably more likely correlates to the way that the cast has been built. but leaving that to the total side, the reality is there are so many strong actressses, actresses, primarily, not actors, on that show of color at the time when the population of the country is changing to a degree that now, really, there are all these new folks who we would not have seen on television five years ago. - absolutely. - [evan] which is great. - and i'm happy to be part of that. i mean, i didn't limit myself because i didn't necessarily see myself represented on tv. i wanted to be one of those people representing my community in a big way and through storytelling is the best way.
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entertainment is one of the ways we receive most of our information and i wanted to be out there representing my community and being visible and opening doors for others. there's room for all of us. - can you say a couple of words about jane the virgin? i think, until the award seasons came around and jane the virgin was suddenly recognized as the show that people ought to be watching but probably were not. i think many people hadn't even heard of it. - yeah, it's a wonderful show on the cw. it focuses on a latino family which, you know, literally hardly had seen in such a light. - [evan] again. - and again, to be part of that show is really great and revolutionary. revolutionary, i wish i didn't have to say that but you have to start somewhere. - well, you know, it's baby steps, right? it takes time but you eventually get there. - yes. - what have you not done in this business, in the couple of minutes we have left, that you wish to do? obviously, this book is going to result in this program that you may or may not get involved with but you now have a path forward that you probably would not have had or did not have
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without the success that you've had up to this point, so what is it you want to do? - well, i mean, producing was definitely in the cards for me and that's what i would get to do on this show if it happens. - regardless of whether you're actually on camera, you'll be producing it. - yes, i'm definitely executive producing if nothing else. but, i want to do film. i want to do more. i want to play. i want to play with different characters and i want to keep on telling stories and creating more stories that represent our country in its entirety. - are you done, necessarily, in the realm of doing this other non-entertainment work? the sort of good news-bad news of doing a book like this, telling your story and getting into the middle of what are complicated issues that grip the country, the good news-bad new is you've got everybody's attention, the bad news is they're now not going to let you stop. - oh, no no. now you have to do the work. - right, so president obama has made you, what is it? some sort of honorary ambassador? - yeah, ambassador for citizenship and naturalization.
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- on behalf of this. - yes. - and you have done voter outreach, non-partisan voter outreach in this campaign. and a campaign that very well may turn on the turnout of latinos? - yeah, go figure. - well, you know, it turns out that the hispanic vote may decide the election and it may be donald trump that actually cause latinos to turn out for the first time. - thanks, d! (laughter) - the democrats may have been looking for their way to turn the latino vote out and there he was, on the apprentice all along. nobody actually knew it. - right, right, right. - so, going into another administration again. as we sit here, we don't know the outcome of the election, but going in, you don't intend to stop your civic involvement, public involvement on this issue. - oh, no no. my work has just begun and this has been such an exciting time for me. look, volunteering and sharing myself in this way has been great and my work has been good but a lot of this has been great for me. - it's like therapy, isn't it? - oh, yes, absolutely and i so wanted to be involved and i so discovered my purpose,
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which is to helpful in any way that i can. no, cat's out of the bag. i can't stop now. - so, when young girls come up to you, or anybody comes up to you and says, "i want to tell my story," you would say the net of this experience has been positive. - yes. - to the point that you would be encouraging? - absolutely. - tell people to tell their story. tell them fade the heat. whatever difficulties come as a result of this-- - just go for it. - just go for it and tell your story. - just go for it. your story's important. your story matters. - yeah, that excellent. well, again, i end where i started. i think it's incredibly brave of you, at this moment when people are being punched and yelled at and kicked and bullied on twitter and in social media around the country, to have opened yourself up and put yourself out there in this way, at this time, is a remarkable and brave thing, so good for you. - thank you so much. - [evan] diane guerrero, thank you so much. continued success. - thank you so much. thank you. (applause) - [evan] we'd love to have you join us in the studio. visit our website at to find invitations to interviews, q&as with our audience and guests and an archive of past episodes.
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- the people who took me in were the greatest mentors that i had. to be so selfless, to take someone in, to have that extra responsibility to me was so inspiring. i thank them every day. it was the first time that i really understood what community meant and i hope to take that along with me and if i ever see anyone in that situation, i hope that i can help just the same. - [announcer] funding for overheard with evan smith is provided in part by the alice kleberg reynolds foundation and hillco partners, a texas government affairs consultancy and by klru's producers circle, ensuring local programming that reflects the character, and interests of the greater austin, texas community.
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[ ♪ ] this program on women in science, technology, and business has been brought to you by zoho corporation. hello and welcome, i'm kamla. my guest today is amy love. she is an entrepreneur and the chief marketing officer at violin memory, a silicon valley-based company that is publicly traded. but we're going to be talking to amy because she is the one because of what happened. actually, let me read out something that was said about you way back in the '70s. "you just might be the best known 10-year-old girl in the bay area," wrote tim hunt in tri-valley herald. this was i think in '74-'75. why were you known as the best little girl in the bay area?


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