Stars and Execs Reveal What They'll Miss About President Obama

6:30 AM 1/19/2017

by THR Staff

"He does not need a gold elevator to be happy," says Judd Apatow as Jerry Seinfeld recalls the outgoing president's comedic instincts and Netflix's Ted Sarandos cites his "elegance and grace."

President Obama
President Obama
Carlos Alvarez/Getty Images

  • Issa Rae

    Creator-star, 'Insecure'

    Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic

    "I will miss the example that the Obamas set and the comfort I felt in seeing them in the White House. They have influenced so many people. Our first lady in particular — I felt like she looked like me, I get her. And I don't think I'll be able to say that again in my lifetime. That makes me very sad."

  • Judd Apatow

    Producer, 'The Big Sick'

    Mike Windle/Getty Images

    "My wife and I were lucky enough to meet the president at several fundraisers. We got to sit in on an off-the-record discussion with a small group and his knowledge about every issue raised was remarkable.

    I will miss our president's intelligence and his sincere wish to do a good job for the American people. He is not a selfish person. He does not need a gold elevator to be happy. I think we all appreciate how lucky we were to have such a kind, thoughtful person lead our country through some very difficult years."

  • Jay Duplass

    Actor, 'Transparent'

    Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images

    "We will never have another president as cool as he is handsome. He just makes you feel as if it's all going to be OK. Who else smokes cigarettes and plays basketball? It just doesn't get any cooler than that."

  • Barry Jenkins

    Director, 'Moonlight'

    Karwai Tang/WireImage

    "Just personally I'm going to miss seeing the president and what's possible in this country. There's always been a ceiling in this country for people who look a certain way or dress a certain way or who love a certain way. Obama is a symbol that that ceiling is not fixed; it's always changing.

    He ran the country in a way that exuded class and fairness. He was very thoughtful; even if I didn't agree with everything that he did, I always knew that he did those things in a very considerate and a very considered way. The new administration hasn't begun yet and we shouldn't say what that administration is going to be. But what I've seen, what we've all seen, is not giving me the best amount of hope.”

  • Sterling K. Brown

    Actor, 'This Is Us'

    Daniel Zuchnik/WireImage

    "He was one of the most charismatic presidents we've ever had. I always enjoyed the White House Correspondents' Dinners. He's so funny and I so appreciate that he tried to break the barrier of partisan politics. I hope President Trump takes a page from his book and attempts to do the same."

  • Ted Sarandos

    Chief content officer, Netflix

    Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

    "Elegance and grace. No matter what happens over the next couple of years, that will be hard to match."

  • Jerry Seinfeld

    Host, 'Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee'; Obama was his guest in December 2015

    Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

    "My producer called someone on the White House staff and they said that they'd been wanting to get in touch with us because they were interested in him doing the show. I thought, 'Well, maybe they think it's a good idea but when it gets right down to it, they're going to pass.'

    My favorite moment was when I said to him, 'When I call you, you answer the phone, "White House." I'll say, "I'd like to speak with the president, please," and then you say, "Speaking."' He thought that was a great joke and so we started with that."

  • Zach Galifianakis

    Actor and host, 'Between Two Ferns'

    Vera Anderson/WireImage

    "What sticks in my mind selfishly is that President Obama called me directly after the episode of Between Two Ferns to thank us for having him on the show. He certainly did not have to do that. We chatted for a few minutes. I have never had a president call me before. There is a legitimate gentleman in him. We could use more true gentlemen in this climate. I think his civility will be dearly missed."

  • Kal Penn

    Actor and Obama administration staffer from 2009 to 2011

    Dimitrios Kambouris/WireImage

    "After the defeat of the DREAM Act, I was on the second floor of the West Wing with some fellow staffers, mourning the Senate's rejection of DREAM while celebrating the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell. Lots of mixed emotions. The president came into the room and reminded us that while DREAM was defeated, we came closer than ever before (losing by just five votes), and that only continued advocacy could get us there in the long run. He wanted us to share with folks working on these issues that they should keep fighting.

    That's the kind of clear-headed, realistic and optimistic thinking that was so inspiring every day as a staffer. On Inauguration Day, ironically, I'll probably be stuck at work in a fake White House filming Designated Survivor, but I wish the incoming staffers and administration the very best; it's the honor of a lifetime to serve our country, and I hope they reject divisiveness and focus on making the lives of all Americans better."

  • Ellen Goldsmith-Vein

    Founder and chief executive, Gotham Group

    "His calm demeanor and the stability of having a real leader who understands the national and international landscape and how to lead our nation. His policy initiatives, Michelle and the girls!!!!!!!"

  • Tracey Bing

    Executive producer, 'Southside With You'

    Getty Images

    “What I'll miss about him is his undying optimism and ability to look on the positive side of things, even in the face of complete calamity — I think that you know what I'm referring to! When I first read the script of Southside With You that was one of the things that came through — Obama's belief that we're all meant to work together, even if we don't sometimes see it that way. We can work together whilst maintaining our core beliefs."

  • Susan Kelechi Watson

    Actress, 'This is Us'

    Ron Batzdorff/NBC

    "They genuinely cared about the people of this country. They've really made change that we could tangibly see and tangibly lived out. They walked the walk. They not only took the position but they walked the walk. They were the first family, in and out of the White House, no scandal. The only way they could try to bring them down was to try and stop them at every turn. He always handled himself with truth and grace. He was my president and I will miss him.”

  • Jurnee Smollett-Bell

    Actress, 'Underground'

    "I think we as a nation have taken him and the first lady for granted. You can just see that now that we are going to lose them — you really don't know what you've got until it's gone. The level of dignity that they embodied has been unprecedented and it's so unfortunate that they are about to leave. Let's break some rules and keep them in office."

  • Tichina Arnold


    Getty Images

    "Their calm, their intellect. Their inclusivity. More important, them as parents. Michelle Obama has been a driving force for me as a mother. I will miss them dearly."

  • Leslie Siebert

    Senior managing partner, Gersh Agency

    Frazer Harrison/Getty Images for The Hollywood Reporter

    "I will miss his warmth, his empathy, his compassion. We are not going to get that for a few years."

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