TCA Summer Press Tour Day 2 Quotes: 'Hamilton' Meets the President and Poldark's Imperfections

Daveed Diggs, Ken Burns and Tamir Rice's mother Samaria lead PBS' first day with the TCA.
Rahoul Ghose/PBS
Daveed Diggs at the TCA press tour.

After Wednesday's Netflix opening for the 2016 summer Television Critics Association press tour, Thursday (July 28) shifted gears to the first of two PBS days.

A day with PBS means time among more serious things, things like the rise of Queen Victoria, how African-American parents talk to kids about police violence, small acts of heroism during the Holocaust and coverage of the 2016 election.

We also got a panel about a fall Great Performances documentary about Hamilton. That was peppier.

A few highlight quotes from the day follow:

*** PBS guaranteed a lively room by scheduling an early panel for Hamilton's America, looking at our nation's first treasury secretary and the breakout musical about him. Original cast member and Tony winner Daveed Diggs was on hand and said he realized Hamilton was a phenomenon "the second time we met the president," which was then followed by a White House visit he says "broke my brain a little bit." Diggs said, This is the White House! And then, you meet the President, and every time you meet the President, you’re in a receiving line, right? And so we’re meeting the President and First Lady for the third time. And when they say your name before you say theirs, that’s crazy. When Barack Obama comes up to you and says, 'Daveed, how are you?' 'What? You know?'"

Hamilton's America features interviews with presidents and politicians as well as stars and creative talents from the musical and you can bet I'll be watching it and crying that I never got to see the original cast live. [Check out our full panel coverage.]

*** Folks who love Poldark love it with a white-hot passion. Star Aidan Turner explains why his character isn't just a straight-forward perfect guy, observing, "He isn’t just this legend, Robin Hood who rides in on a horse and feeds the poor and gives work to people. I don’t see him as that benevolent sort of guy. He seems quite real. He’s the modern man to me, you know. He’s heavily flawed. I mean, he’s very proud. We would almost call him today almost like a control freak sort of a guy. He needs to be in pole position for everything, at the helm of every ship he sails and he’s not great at delegation. He can be quite mean and callous and single minded and selfish. So I certainly don’t because that would be intensely boring, I mean, to play a character that’s just a do -ooder all the time. I mean, I’d have no interest in playing someone like that. It wouldn’t feel real for me. He’s a guy who makes a lot of mistakes and realizes them as they happen. I mean, you kind of hope a character like that grows and learns."

*** Four years ago, Mitt Romney's threats to kill Big Bird put PBS brass in the center of the election season debate, but public broadcasting has been something Donald Trump hasn't targeted this year. But public broadcasting is still something to think about at this time of year. PBS President and CEO Paula Kerger noted, "[W]e work together as a system to really try to make sure that we’re talking to people on both sides of the aisle about the importance of public broadcasting. But more importantly, the people in those communities, the people who vote, the people who ultimately legislators care a lot about, are letting their views be known about their feeling about public broadcasting. We have such a deep role, an expanding role that we’re playing in education in the lives of our smallest citizens, as well as the ongoing work that we do for all Americans and for all people in this country. And I think that if we continue to stay focused on that through this strange election process, we will be doing as good a job as we can."

Oh and Kerger also emphasized that casting on Sesame Street is entirely out of PBS' hands, so don't blame her for firing Gordon.

*** Ken Burns is busy, but he almost always finds a way to make it to the TCA press tour to spend an hour with us either every other tour or sometimes every tour and he's already booking his future visits. This time around, Burns was here for Defying the Nazis: The Sharps' War, which he co-directed with Artemis Joukowsky. He's got an Ernest Hemingway doc, a country music doc and his seemingly endlessly gestating Vietnam War project still to come and he also announced that he's planning a probably shorter film on the United States and the Holocaust stemming from questions that The Roosevelts stirred up.

How does Defying the Nazis, focusing on the story of saved children offer a different perspective on the Holocaust?

"[T]hey seem to be the only way we can access the actual horribleness of it. There is opacity, as I’ve said, about the phrase 6 million," Burns said. "And while the Sharps saved only a few hundred, it’s a few hundred, and you get to understand personally what these people did when they were children or young adults and were gotten out. So there’s many, many layers about sacrifice, about the cost of that sacrifice, but also bumping up against the greatest cataclysm in human history, which is the Second World War, and it’s not just the 6 million, but 60 million overall that perished in this human cataclysm, and that’s, I think, one of the things that drew me immensely to this project."

*** It's doubtful that the words of many speakers this press tour will carry more weight than Samaria Rice, mother of Tamir Rice, the 12-year-old boy killed by police officers in November 2014 in Cleveland. Rice is featured in The Talk, a documentary featuring parent, child, police and community perspectives.

"Growing up, my kids watched PBS," Samaria Rice said. "I love PBS. It’s very educational. I didn’t have to, kind of, monitor what they were watching. You know, there’s a lot of crap on TV now and even back then when I started having my kids. So I believe that The Talk is much needed to open up this conversation, this dialogue in America. Yes, it is uncomfortable, but we have to start somewhere to let the government know, the American citizens know that, you know, their racism is uncomfortable, and it needs to be talked about right now. So I think that we should let The Talk go ahead and, you know, hit the air. That’s right. Let it hit the air. Let it be an educational piece. You can’t go wrong from it, and there’s a lot to be learned in there."

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