American Masters – Lorraine Hansberry: Sighted Eyes/Feeling Heart

Air date: 01/19/2018

American MastersLorraine Hansberry: Sighted Eyes/Feeling Heart

Premieres nationwide on January 19 at 9/8c on on PBS

 

TCA Bios

 

Tracy Heather Strain, Filmmaker

Tracy Heather Strain, co-founder of the Boston-based media production company The Film Posse, is a director, writer and producer of documentaries and non-fiction media projects for screens large and small. Her credits include coordinating producer of “The Battle of Chosin,” “The Mine Wars” and “The Rise and Fall of Penn Station,” and producer of “Silicon Valley” for American Experience; director and producer of “When the Bough Breaks” for the duPont Columbia Award-winning series Unnatural Causes: Is Inequality Making Us Sick?; director and producer of “Building the Alaska Highway” for American Experience, which was described by The Hollywood Reporter as “truly great storytelling”; director, producer and writer of “The Story We Tell” for RACE: The Power of an Illusion; and director, producer and writer of “Bright Like a Sun” and “The Dream Keepers” for Blackside’s I’ll Make Me a World: A Century of African-American Art, which won a George Foster Peabody Award and Organization of American Historians’ Erik Barnouw Award, among other honors. A former assistant to New York-based still photographer Mitch Epstein, Strain also worked with him as art department coordinator and second-unit assistant director on Mira Nair’s feature film Mississippi Masala.

A graduate of Wellesley College (American Studies) and Harvard Graduate School of Education (Technology, Innovation and Education), Strain serves a Professor of the Practice in Media and Screen Studies at Northeastern University’s College of Arts, Media and Design. She is currently working as coordinating producer of the forthcoming American Experience episode about the history of the Everglades.

Louis Gossett, Jr., Film Interviewee; Actor

Actor Louis Gossett, Jr. is one of stage, film and television’s most recognized and lauded talents. With over 300 titles to his credit, Gossett has earned some of the industry’s highest honors — including Emmys, Golden Globes, NAACP Image Awards and an Academy Award for his portrayal of Sgt. Emil Foley in An Officer and a Gentleman — and now adds author, director and humanitarian to his accomplishments.

With a career spanning six decades, the elder statesman has dedicated this last quadrant of his life to communicate with younger generations and transmit the values of community, self-love and purpose that have characterized our progress as a people. As such, he established Louis Gossett, Jr.’s Eracism Foundation (www.eracismfoundation.org), dedicated to providing young adults with the tools they need for living a racially diverse and culturally inclusive life.

Gossett was born on May 27, 1936, in Brooklyn, New York. At the age of 17, he caught the break every actor lives for when he auditioned for Broadway’s Take a Giant Step (1953). He beat out 400 other candidates to land the lead role, and earned the prestigious Donaldson Award as the year’s best newcomer.

Gossett attended New York University, becoming a marquee player on the NYU basketball team. But just as his sports career was about to begin with the New York Knicks, he had second thoughts and decided to resume his acting pursuits.

His next Broadway role came in 1959 in the watershed play A Raisin in the Sun — a portrayal of African-American life written by Lorraine Hansberry. Gossett starred in both the stage and film version with Sidney Poitier and Ruby Dee.

With a knack for landing guest spots on hit series, Gossett had roles in the early ’60s on such shows as Bonanza, The Partridge Family and Mod Squad, followed by more roles in the mid-1980s on hits including The Jeffersons, Good Times, The Six Million Dollar Man, Police Story and The Rockford Files.

Meanwhile, Gossett made a name for himself on the big screen as well, appearing in such films as The Landlord (1970), The Skin Game (1971) and Travels With My Aunt (1972).

All of this work led the actor to a pivotal role on the silver screen, portraying Fiddler in Roots (1977). The groundbreaking miniseries was a popular adaptation of the book by Alex Haley. Gossett earned an Emmy Award for his performance in Roots, followed by more film roles and critical acclaim. His menacing work in The Deep (1977) and portrayal of a tough-but-fair drill sergeant in An Officer and a Gentleman (1982) brought him rave reviews, with the latter role earning him an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor.

Following his Oscar win, Gossett made a number of big-screen and television appearances, notably in 1983’s Sadat (as Egyptian President Anwar Sadat), the sci-fi adventure Enemy Mine (1985) and the action adventure series Iron Eagle (1985, 1986, 1992 and 1995), which introduced him to a new generation of moviegoers. In 1991, the actor garnered more accolades for his work in HBO’s The Josephine Baker Story, for which he won a Golden Globe Award.

A Los Angeles Times best-selling author (An Actor and a Gentleman), Gossett is working steadily in films and on TV with recent roles on CBS-TV’s Madam Secretary, Extant and the BET miniseries The Book of Negroes. He has roles in several upcoming feature films and will make his feature film directorial debut.

Additionally, he has now dedicated his life to an all-out conscious offensive against racism, violence, ignorance and social apathy. His Louis Gossett, Jr.’s Eracism Foundation was created to support this quest. Through his foundation, Gossett will establish Shamba Centers (Swahili for “farm”) throughout the United States, offering instruction in cultural diversity, historical enrichment and antiviolence initiatives for young adults, teens and pre-teens to help them understand and eliminate racism by creating a living environment where racism and injustice have a hard time existing.

 

Michael Kantor, American Masters Series Executive Producer

Michael Kantor joined American Masters as the series’ executive producer in April 2014 during its 28th season on PBS, and founded its theatrical imprint American Masters Pictures in January 2016. American Masters Pictures was represented by three films at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival: Norman Lear: Just Another Version of You, Maya Angelou: And Still I Rise and Richard Linklater – Dream is Destiny. An Emmy and Peabody Award-winning filmmaker, Kantor has worked on projects for PBS, HBO, Bravo and 20th Century Fox. His PBS series include Broadway: The American Musical (hosted by Julie Andrews), Make ‘Em Laugh (hosted by Billy Crystal) and Superheroes (hosted by Liev Schreiber). Kantor also wrote, directed and produced the award-winning profile American Masters: Quincy Jones: In the Pocket and served as executive producer of Give Me the Banjo with Steve Martin. He is president of Almo Inc., a company that distributes the American Film Theatre series, including Edward Albee’s A Delicate Balance, starring Katharine Hepburn, and Chekhov’s Three Sisters with Laurence Olivier. Kantor has co-authored three books, serves as a Tony nominator, and taught producing at the School of Visual Arts in New York City.

 

 

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Photos
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Lorraine Hansberry leans over her typewriter in her Greenwich Village apartment on Bleecker Street during her April 1959 photoshoot for Vogue. Photo by David Attie.

Lorraine Hansberry wearing scarf and sunglasses sits in red car. Frame grab from home movie. Courtesy of Lorraine Hansberry Properties Trust.

Director/Producer Tracy Heather Strain and actress Alexandria King, playing Lorraine Hansberry, during reenactment filming for Lorraine Hansberry: Sighted Eyes/Feeling Heart at the Strand Theatre in Boston in January 2017. Credit: Eric Levin.

Sidney Poitier in his home in 1959. Poitier premiered the role of Walter Lee Younger in the original Broadway production of A Raisin in the Sun. Photo by Gordon Parks/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images.

Dressed up African American churchgoers outside after Easter Sunday services in Chicago. Credit:Edwin Rosskam/Library of Congress.

Old African American woman standing in a doorway holding onto a chair on Chicago’s South Side in 1941. Credit: Edwin Rosskam/Library of Congress.

Young African American boys and girl stand in front of a sign advertising kitchenette apartments on Chicago’s South Side in 1941. Credit: Edwin Rosskam/Library of Congress.

Lorraine Hansberry surrounded by clapping African American teens at Camp Minisink in Upstate New York. Credit: Gin Briggs/Lorraine Hansberry Properties Trust.

Lorraine Hansberry sits cross-legged on her bed in her Greenwich Village apartment on Bleecker Street during her April 1959 photoshoot for Vogue. Credit: David Attie.

Lorraine Hansberry speaking at an NAACP Rally in June 1959. Credit: Gin Briggs/Lorraine Hansberry Properties Trust.

Lorraine Hansberry smiling during a private photoshoot in her home. Credit: Gin Briggs/Lorraine Hansberry Properties Trust.

Lorraine Hansberry holds hands and sings with Singer Nina Simone and other activists at a pre-benefit gathering for the Student NonViolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) in June 1963 in the home of Activist/Singer/Actor Theodore Bikel. Credit: Courtesy Lorraine Hansberry Properties Trust.

Lorraine Hansberry meeting Bernadette Purvis of Pittsburgh and John W. Lewis of Hampton, VA, two of the four winners of the United Negro College Fund’s Creative Writing Award, in May 1964. Credit: Cosmo Baklar/Lorraine Hansberry Properties Trust.

Lorraine Hansberry speaks on a dark stage at the Village Gate night club during a fundraising benefit concert for the Africa Defense and Aid Fund in January 1960. Credit: Gin Briggs/Lorraine Hansberry Properties Trust.

Crew films reenactments for Lorraine Hansberry: Sighted Eyes/Feeling Heart at the Strand Theatre in Boston in January 2017. Credit: Eric Levin.

Director/Producer Tracy Heather Strain and Producer/Editor Randall MacLowry during reenactment shooting for Lorraine Hansberry: Sighted Eyes/Feeling Heart in January 2017 at the Strand Theatre in Boston. Credit: Eric Levin.

Director/Producer Tracy Heather Strain and Producer/Editor Randall MacLowry during reenactment filming for Lorraine Hansberry: Sighted Eyes/Feeling Heart at the Strand Theatre in Boston in January 2017. Credit: Eric Levin.

Director/Producer Tracy Heather Strain and Production Assistant Abbi Sauro during reenactment filming for Lorraine Hansberry: Sighted Eyes/Feeling Heart at the Strand Theatre in Boston in January 2017. Credit: Eric Levin.

Portrait of Director/Producer Tracy Heather Strain and Producer/Editor Randall MacLowry in October 2016 at Pine Manor College in Newton, MA during filming of an interview with African American Studies professor Imani Perry. Credit: Eric Levin.

Headshot of Actress Anika Noni Rose who voices Lorraine Hansberry in Lorraine Hansberry: Sighted Eyes/Feeling Heart. Rose performed as Beneatha Younger in the 2014 Broadway revival of Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun and was nominated for a Tony Award for her performance. Credit: Courtesy of Lorraine Hansberry Documentary Project

Actor Louis Gossett, Jr. interview in Lorraine Hansberry: Sighted Eyes/Feeling Heart at the Harbor Light Inn in Marblehead, MA in November 2010. Louis Gossett, Jr. premiered the role of George Murchison in the original Broadway production of A Raisin in the Sun. Credit: Courtesy of Lorraine Hansberry Documentary Project

Headshot of Actress LaTanya Richardson Jackson who narrates Lorraine Hansberry: Sighted Eyes/Feeling Heart. Jackson performed as Lena Younger in the 2014 Broadway revival of Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun and was nominated for a Tony Award for her performance. Credit: Courtesy of Lorraine Hansberry Documentary Project

Headshot of Actress Alexandria King who portrays Lorraine Hansberry in Lorraine Hansberry: Sighted Eyes/Feeling Heart. Credit: Courtesy of Lorraine Hansberry Documentary Project

Actress Ruby Dee interview in Lorraine Hansberry: Sighted Eyes/Feeling Heart in New Rochelle, NY in February 2009. The late Ruby Dee premiered the role of Ruth Younger in the original Broadway production of A Raisin in the Sun. Credit: Courtesy of Lorraine Hansberry Documentary Project

Theater Director and Yale University Professor Emeritus Lloyd Richards interviewed for Lorraine Hansberry: Sighted Eyes/Feeling Heart at The Mint Theater in April 2006. The late Lloyd Richards was the director of the original Broadway production of A Raisin in the Sun, and the first African American to direct a play on Broadway. Credit: Courtesy of Lorraine Hansberry Documentary Project

Theater Producer Philip Rose interview in Lorraine Hansberry: Sighted Eyes/Feeling Heart at his Manhattan home in April 2006. The late Phil Rose was the key producer of the original Broadway production of A Raisin in the Sun. Credit: Courtesy of Lorraine Hansberry Documentary Project

Headshot of Lorraine Hansberry: Sighted Eyes/Feeling Heart Producer/Editor Randall MacLowry. Credit: Eric Levin.

Headshot of Lorraine Hansberry: Sighted Eyes/Feeling Heart Director/Producer Tracy Heather Strain. Credit: Eric Levin.

Lou Gossett, Jr. Credit: © Timothy Greenfield-Sanders | Photo credit required at all times.

Michael Kantor, Executive Producer for American Masters. Photo credit: Jayme Roy