TV King Norman Lear Holds a Masters Class
Norman Lear by Jean-Paul Aussenard/WireImage.com
Folk singer Pete Seeger was a major part of the soundtrack of the '60s, backing up his music with a lifetime of tireless antiwar and environmental activism. As such he'll be the subject of the next
, which premieres Feb. 27 on PBS. The executive producer of the film is another prominent progressive - legendary TV mogul and philanthropist Norman Lear. The producer of classic sitcoms such as
All in the Family
One Day at a Time
(we could go on) has been active in getting young people registered to vote. He still makes hits, too, but now it's for his label Concord Music Group (James Taylor, Joni Mitchell and Paul McCartney are on his roster). He's also half-owner of Village Roadshow Pictures (which produced
I Am Legend
), and owns a copy of one of the world's most famous historical documents. The Biz recently checked in with him.
TVGuide.com: You're certainly at a stage in life where you can be choosy about your projects - so why Pete Seeger?
There is an American myth we live with and he is the only one I can think of who has lived the life. He's a real frontiersman. He built his house in upstate New York 50 years ago with his hands. He ventures out to speak his piece. He expresses himself day and night, anywhere on any subject. With his hands and his voice he's lived his life close to the earth.
TVGuide.com: The film tells how Seeger was blacklisted from television in 1963. It's surprising that the residue of 1950s McCarthyism was still around then.
That residue is alive today. If you dare under [these] circumstances to criticize the Iraq War, you're against the troops. It's a very hard time in this country to be a certain kind of dissenter which makes (Seeger's story) vital at this moment.
TVGuide.com: You've taken your own activism online with a voter-registration website, DeclareYourself.com.
It's a major effort to turn out the youth vote. We've registered well over 300,000 new voters since July. America Ferrera and Hayden Panettiere are spokespeople for Declare Yourself. It's amazing. In 2004 we registered 1.2 million. We started in 2002, with the tour of the Declaration of Independence. It morphed into this.
TVGuide.com: You own a copy of the Declaration. Where is it when it's not on tour?
In my house. In a temperature-controlled box. In a temperature-controlled room. But it's out most of the time.
TVGuide.com: You want people to see it.
That's why it's with us. We bought it to travel and share. There are only 25 that exist in the world. The kick that I get out of it is that it was one of those printed the night of July 4, 1776. It is the country's birth certificate.
TVGuide.com: There have been reports that you hang out with NBC Entertainment chairman Ben Silverman.
I really like him. In the land of the walking dead he's a live one. He says what he thinks. He's a great guy. But I wouldn't say we hang out. We've spent some time together, but we don't hang out.
TVGuide.com: He's a big fan of yours.
Well, I'm crazy about people who are crazy about me.