Archive for the ‘"Roots"’ Category

Producer David Wolper (“Roots”) has Died — Co-Founder of the Archive of American Television

Wednesday, August 11th, 2010

Legendary producer David Wolper, whose many documentaries and notable TV projects include Roots and The Thorn Birds — has died at the age of 82. Wolper was one of the co-founders of the Archive of American Television and was interviewed about his career on May 12, 1998.  His full Archive interview is currently available online.

Interview Description:

In his Archive interview, David Wolper talked about forming his first company, Flamingo Films, with father and son friends Joe and Jim Harris.  He discussed many of his documentaries, including the “Race For Space,” “Hollywood: The Golden Years,” and “The Making of a President,” among others.  Wolper fondly recalled working with his long time friend Mike Wallace, as well meeting and working with oceanographer, Jacques Cousteau.  He talked about two classic sitcoms, Chico and the Man and Welcome Back, Kotter, as well as the many television movies and specials he produced. Wolper also discussed in great detail his three highly acclaimed ABC mini-series, Roots, The Thorn Birds, and North and South.  The five-and-a-half-hour interview was conducted by Morrie Gelman.

Trailblazing Cinematographer Joseph M. Wilcots Has Died

Wednesday, January 6th, 2010

The first African American to join the International Cinematographers Guild, Joseph Wilcots was nominated for an Emmy for his work on Roots. The Archive of American Television interviewed Wilcots on December 5, 2007; his over three-hour Archive interview is now online.

Link to his L.A. Times obituary.

Interview description:
Joseph M. Wilcots was interviewed for three hours plus in Los Angeles, CA. Wilcots spoke about his early interest in photography as a teenager and his filmmaking experiences while serving in the Navy. He described his work, following the service, at the Westheimer Optical House, in particular the creative work being done for the special effects on the original Star Trek series. He related how he became the first African-American member of the camera operators union and identified the slow shift in adding other African-American members into the union over the years. He talked about his work in independent filmmaking and reminisced about some of the people he worked with including director Gordon Parks and cinematographer Robert Surtees. He spoke in great detail about the two projects for which he is most associated, the miniseries: Roots and Roots: The Next Generations in which he served as Directory of Photography. He talked about his approach to the Roots shows (“I wanted to make the audience smell the dirt”), meeting and working with Alex Haley (“Everything he wrote was shootable”), and working with actor Marlon Brando (he says he took 200 pounds off him using a fireplace as the key light). He noted the impact of Roots and what working on the miniseries meant to him. He acknowledged his work on the Alex Haley/Norman Lear series Palmerstown U.S.A. Lastly, he gave his impressions of three individuals for whom he worked for extensively: actor/director George Stanford Brown, Bill Cosby, and Michael Jackson. The interview was conducted by Gary Rutkowski on December 5, 2007.

Cinematographer Joseph M. Wilcots Interview Now Online

Monday, July 14th, 2008


Joseph M. Wilcots’ full Archive interview has now been posted online. Wilcots, who is currently at work on several projects, was nominated for an Emmy Award for Outstanding Cinematography for Roots. He was interviewed on December 5, 2007.

Click here to access the full 4-part interview.

Interview Description:

Wilcots spoke about his early interest in photography as a teenager and his filmmaking experiences while serving in the Navy. He described his work, following the service, at the Westheimer Optical House, in particular the creative work being done for the special effects on the original Star Trek series. He related how he became the first African-American member of the camera operators union and identified the slow shift in adding other African-American members into the union over the years. He talked about his work in independent filmmaking and reminisced about some of the people he worked with including director Gordon Parks and cinematographer Robert Surtees. He spoke in great detail about the two projects for which he is most associated, the miniseries: Roots and Roots: The Next Generations in which he served as Directory of Photography. He talked about his approach to the Roots shows (“I wanted to make the audience smell the dirt”), meeting and working with Alex Haley (“Everything he wrote was shootable”), and working with actor Marlon Brando (he says he took 200 pounds off him using a fireplace as the key light). He noted the impact of Roots and what working on the miniseries meant to him. He acknowledged his work on the Alex Haley/Norman Lear series Palmerstown U.S.A. Lastly, he gave his impressions of three individuals for whom he worked for extensively: actor/director George Stanford Brown, Bill Cosby, and Michael Jackson.

Archive Interviewee Ruby Dee Gets Her Due

Friday, February 1st, 2008


Actress Ruby Dee won the Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role for American Gangster and has received her very first Oscar nomination for the role as well. Dee’s acting career spans over sixty years. The Archive interviewed both Dee and her late husband (and frequent) co-star Ossie Davis.

Click here to access Ruby Dee’s entire four-part interview.

Interview description:
Ruby Dee talked about her start as an actress in feature films and on Broadway. She described the experience of being an African-American lead actress working in series television— a rare sight in the 1950s and 60s. She described her early work in television, such as her regular role in the 1955 soap opera This Is Nora Drake. She talked about her continued work in television in the 1960s on the anthology series Actor’s Choice, Camera Three, and Play of the Week, as well as the drama series The Nurses, East Side/West Side, and The Defenders. She talked about her regular roles on the series The Guiding Light (as “Martha Frazier”) and Peyton Place (as “Alma Miles”). She talked about her numerous roles in television movies and miniseries in the 1970s including I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings and Roots: The Next Generations. She spoke of her collaborations with her husband of many years Ossie Davis, including their radio show With Ossie and Ruby (1981-82).

Producer David Wolper Turns 80 Today

Friday, January 11th, 2008


Legendary producer (and Archive of American Television co-founder) David L. Wolper is 80 years old today. Wolper’s name is most associated with documentaries, such as Race for Space and The Making of a President as well as miniseries such as Roots. He also produced such feature films as Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory; sitcoms Welcome Back, Kotter and Chico and the Man; and special events such as the opening and closing ceremonies of the 1984 Los Angeles Summer Olympic Games. Wolper was interviewed by the Archive about his life and career in 1998.

Soundbites from the interview.

On his philosophy of filmmaking:

I [devised] my philosophy of filmmaking, making the Race For Space and I never changed it from that first show. I want to entertain and inform, not just inform and not just entertain. I want to do both in the same piece. Because I remember, I saw a film in school once. And I came home and told my father. You know I saw this film in school, it was terrific. And my father said well you probably didn’t learn anything. I said no dad, I learned more today because it was terrific. I enjoyed it, I did learn a lot. He said how can you learn a lot just watching film? That sort of reminded me. And when I did the Race For Space I wanted to get that entertainment.

On Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory:

Roald Dahl had a book. Mel Stewart, who has worked for my company, said his son read a book and really liked it called Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. I thought it was terrific. About that time, Quaker Oats was sponsoring one of my shows. And Quaker Oats was coming out with a candy and they said maybe it’s a good idea if we do a television thing on Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. And I said well why don’t you do a feature film, why don’t you do a theatrical picture and get it out all over the theaters and the time you release the candy is the same time the movie comes out. So they put up the money to make the movie. They changed it to Willy Wonka because the name of the candy was going to be Willy Wonka. They changed it to Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. We made the movie. It’s a big hit. And the candy melts on the counter, they had the wrong formula and all the candy, they had to recall back all the candy.

On selling Welcome Back, Kotter:

We’re going to New York and it’s the selling season. Everybody goes to New York to sell the shows as a program. Everybody is trying to see the heads of the network, you know, this and this and this. So I [thought] I wonder when Fred Pierce is flying back to New York, the head of ABC, one of the top people. So I knew his secretary because I had done a lot of business with ABC. I said when is Freddy flying back. She said well he’s flying back Wednesday. What flight is it? You know the seat number? Yes. Thank you. I called up the airline and I said I have to have this seat, this flight. Well somebody’s there. Move him to another seat, I want seat 6 on flight 225. Just think, I’m going to be all the way to New York with Freddy Pierce sitting next to me and I’m going to sell him Welcome Back Kotter. And we get on the plane and I say oh Freddy, isn’t that a coincidence. So I sit down. I talk about Welcome Back, Kotter subtly, you know. …And “Welcome Back, Kotter,” blah, blah, blah. By the time we got to New York I knew in my heart that they were going to buy Welcome Back, Kotter. And everybody is hustling, how do we get that guy? I need two minutes of your time Freddy. And I had four hours of him on the way to New York.

On meeting Roots author Alex Haley:

I negotiated the deal and bought the property from Alex Haley. The book had not been written. I hadn’t met Alex Haley. So Alex Haley comes out to California. We have a little luncheon. Myself and some of the people in my company and in about ten minutes we’re the table was won over. This man mesmerized us in a ten to twenty minute conversation, we were [mouth agape]. I went home from the lunch and said my god, this man is unbelievable.


On his favorite shows:

Well my favorite shows, they all have something to do with turning points in my life [A] favorite [documentary] was The Making of the President in 1960. I was once called “Mr. Documentary.” Then I was in the miniseries and my favorite obviously is Roots. So now all of sudden I’m “Mr. Miniseries.” Then I do the opening ceremonies of the Olympic Games that… it was even worldwide. So everybody thinks I’m [Mr.] outdoor spectaculars, you know. But really, you know, my real love is the documentary.

The entire 11-part interview can be accessed here.

Interview description:
David Wolper was interviewed for nearly five-and-a-half hours in Los Angeles, CA. Wolper talked about forming his first company, Flamingo Films, with father and son friends Joe and Jim Harris. He discussed many of his documentaries, including the Race For Space, Hollywood: The Golden Years, and The Making of a President, among others. Wolper fondly recalled working with his long time friend Mike Wallace, as well meeting and working with oceanographer, Jacques Cousteau. He talked about two classic sitcoms, Chico and the Man and Welcome Back, Kotter, as well as the many television movies and specials he produced. Wolper also discussed in great detail his three highly acclaimed ABC mini-series, Roots, The Thorn Birds, and North and South. The interview was conducted by Morrie Gelman on May 12, 1998.

2006-07 Primetime Emmy Awards Nominations Announced

Thursday, July 19th, 2007

Nominations for the 59th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards were announced today. With this year’s nominations, ER has become the most-nominated television series of all time with 120 nominations (Cheers has 117). Sally Field, who was first nominated for an Emmy in 1977 for Sybil (she won), received her seventh career nomination and her first as a regular in a series, for Brothers & Sisters.

Another Emmy perennial, Edward Asner has received his 16th Emmy nomination. Asner holds the record for most acting Emmys won by a male actor (7). He is nominated for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Miniseries or Movie for The Christmas Card. Asner was inducted into the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Hall of Fame in 1996.


Edward Asner was interviewed by the Archive of American Television on April 7, 1999 in North Hollywood, CA.

Click here to access all Edward Asner interview segments.

Interview description:

Asner began by describing his start as an actor in theatre and in “live” television. He talked about his appearances in filmed series television in the ’60s such as in Naked City, Route 66, and The Defenders; his appearance as a regular on the political drama Slatterly’s People (1964-65); as well as television movies. He discussed the portrayal of his most memorable role, that of “Lou Grant,” which he played on the sitcom, The Mary Tyler Moore Show (1970-77) and its dramatic spin-off Lou Grant (1977-82). He discussed many of his other notable television appearances such as in the miniseries Roots and Rich Man, Poor Man; the telefilms The Life and Assassination of the Kingfish and The Gathering; and the series The Trials of Rosie O’Neill. He also discussed his political activism in the 1980s and his role as Screen Actors Guild President from 1981-85.

Tune in to the 59th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards on Sunday, September 16 on FOX.

Fred Silverman’s Interview is Now Online

Tuesday, March 13th, 2007

We’re happy to report that legendary television executive Fred Silverman’s interview is now online. At almost 6-1/2 hours, this amazing interview encompasses over three decades of television history and gives a fascinating inside look at the networks and programming so many of us grew up with (just take a look at the brief interview description below and you’ll see what we mean!). Not one to rest on his many laurels, Silverman is currently ramping up his Fred Silverman Co. to develop scripted and unscripted comedies.

Here’s part 7 of the interview where he describes the programming of the hit miniseries Roots.
PRESS THE PLAY ARROW IN THE PLAYER ABOVE TO WATCH THE SEGMENT NOW.

Click here to access Fred Silverman’s entire interview.

Interview description:
Network television executive Fred Silverman speaks about his first job in TV, at WGN in Chicago, where he created such programs as Zim-Bomba, Bozo’s Circus and Family Classics. He then explains his move to CBS in New York, where he quickly worked his way up the corporate ladder, first as head of daytime programming, (where he revitalized the Saturday morning lineup, Scooby-Doo being among them), and later as the Vice President of Programming. During this time, he oversaw such programs as All in the Family, The Bob Newhart Show, Kojak, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, M*A*S*H, The Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour and The Waltons. Next, he talks his appointment as President of ABC Entertainment, where he oversaw such programs as Charlie’s Angels, Donny and Marie, Eight is Enough, Laverne & Shirley, The Love Boat and Three’s Company. He also touches on the development and scheduling of the miniseries Rich Man, Poor Man and Roots. Mr. Silverman talks about his next move, to NBC as President and CEO in 1978. There, he oversaw the development of programs including and Diff’rent Strokes, The Facts of Life, Hill Street Blues. Mr. Silverman also explains the basic tenets of working as a network television executive, and discusses his methods for development, scheduling and promotions. Finally, he talks about his work as an independent producer for such programs as the Perry Mason television movies, Matlock, In the Heat of the Night and Diagnosis Murder. The interview was conducted in two sessions in 2001 by Dan Pasternack.