American Masters Podcast
Season 4 – Origins
The new season of the American Masters Podcast features 10 biweekly episodes exploring the origin stories of artists and cultural figures. We hear from guests who have created bold new works through an investigation of their own personal history and learn how their upbringings may have influenced their careers. This season’s guests include musicians Tegan and Sara, playwright Tarell Alvin McCraney, Dr. Michio Kaku, comedian Chris Gethard, author R.O. Kwon and more! Listen to season 4 of the American Masters Podcast on pbs.org/americanmasters, Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, Google Play Music, and other podcast apps.
Episode 1: Music duo Tegan and Sara
Release Date: October 9, 2019
Pop icons and twins Tegan and Sara look back at their early days during the height of grunge and rave culture in the new New York Times best-selling memoir, “High School,” and companion album, “Hey, I’m Just Like You.” The duo discuss the book’s honest account of the drugs, music and relationships they each explored in their formative years, and how they crafted a new album from recently discovered high school demo tapes.
Episode 2: Comedian Chris Gethard
Release Date: October 23, 2020
A confessional-style comic, Chris Gethard is unafraid to mine his past. He talks about cramming the entire set of his TV show, “The Chris Gethard Show,” into the back of his car’s trunk, and how he pulls off hour-long phone calls with strangers every week on his podcast, “Beautiful Stories from Anonymous People.” Amidst a tumultuous cultural change, Gethard also discusses the current state of comedy and his comedy special, “Career Suicide,” which chronicles his history with depression and anxiety.
Episode 3 – Bonus Episode: Christopher Rothko and Kate Rothko Prizel
Release Date: October 30, 2019
One of the most influential artists of the 20th century, Mark Rothko’s signature style helped define Abstract Expressionism. After a screening of the new American Masters documentary, Rothko: Pictures Must Be Miraculous at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, Rothko’s daughter and son, Kate Rothko Prizel and Christopher Rothko, sat down with series executive producer Michael Kantor and director Eric Slade to discuss their father’s legacy.
Episode 4: Author R.O. Kwon
Release Date: November 6, 2019
Best-selling author R.O. Kwon writes with an empathy that can attract religious and non-religious readers alike. She talks about her debut novel, “The Incendiaries,” a fierce story that deals with faith, loss and fanaticism, and describes how her own loss of faith in high school, and the grief that followed, led to this bold new work.
Episode 5 – Bonus Episode: Poet Joy Harjo
Release Date: November 13, 2019
In 2019, Joy Harjo became the first Native American Poet Laureate of the United States. She joins us from her hometown Tulsa, Oklahoma to talk about the responsibilities that come with this honor and the importance of representing rich Native American storytelling traditions. She talks about the transcendent nature of language, our human origins as storytellers, our innate connection to the Earth, and lessons she learned from one of her inspirations, writer N. Scott Momaday. This new bonus episode coincides with the upcoming premiere of American Masters – N. Scott Momaday: Words from a Bear, premiering Monday, November 18 at 9 p.m. on PBS (check local listings), pbs.org/americanmasters and the PBS Video app in honor of Native American Heritage Month.
Episode 6: Playwright and actor Tarell Alvin McCraney
Release Date: November 20, 2019
Academy Award-winning writer and actor Tarell Alvin McCraney sits down with American Masters executive producer Michael Kantor in a candid conversation about his semi-autobiographical play “In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue,” and the Academy Award-winning film “Moonlight” that followed. He discusses the centrality of Florida to his work, and the importance of building a sense of community above all else. McCraney’s recent work includes the TV series “David Makes Man” on the OWN Network, the Broadway play “Choir Boy,” and a run of shows as part of the prestigious Steppenwolf Theatre in Chicago.
Episode 7: Actress Lee Grant
Release Date: December 4, 2019
Academy Award-winning actress Lee Grant (“Shampoo,” “In The Heat of the Night,” “Valley of the Dolls”) sits down with American Masters creator Susan Lacy for an in-depth conversation about her upbringing, surviving years on the Hollywood blacklist during the McCarthy era, and her career as an actress and documentary filmmaker. Grant also describes how key moments of difficulty in her life emboldened her toward new heights.
Episode 8: Actor Ethan Hawke
Release Date: December 16, 2019
Actor, writer and director Ethan Hawke (“Before Sunrise,” “Training Day,” “First Reformed,” “Boyhood”) talks with his close friend and fellow actor Josh Hamilton about formative projects from Hawke’s career, reflecting on his own origin story and musing on how one can prioritize life goals and discover meaning through artistic pursuits. Hawke and Hamilton also discuss Malaparte, the theater company they co-founded in the 1990s to stage their own independent productions.
Episode 9: Playwright Lynn Nottage
Release Date: January 8, 2020
Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Lynn Nottage talks about the origin of her Broadway play, “Sweat,” and the time she spent developing the story through her conversations with working class residents in Reading, Pennsylvania. Her focus on the struggles of this deindustrialized Rust Belt town predicted a national conversation around identity, race and economy that remains a focal point of political discussion today.
Episode 10: Writer and director Noah Baumbach
Release Date: January 22, 2020
Noah Baumbach (“The Squid and the Whale,” “Margot at the Wedding,” “The Meyerowitz Stories”) talks about how and why he makes movies. Through equal parts comedy and drama, Baumbach’s films frequently deal with the pains of family life with stunning clarity. His most recent film “Marriage Story,” now nominated for six Academy Awards including Best Picture, explores the complicated fallout of a failing coast-to-coast marriage.
Episode 11: Comedian Maria Bamford
Release Date: February 5, 2020
Fresh off the heels of her brand new stand-up special “Weakness is the Brand,” comedian Maria Bamford sits down to discuss her disarming approach to comedy, including the hilarious ways you can turn life challenges into comedy gold. Recently, Bamford has brought her signature honesty and openness to the new interview series, “What’s Your Ailment?!,” where she engages in candid conversations around mental health issues with fellow comedians and artists, all while stressing the importance of communication and the value of breaking down taboos.
Episode 12: Theoretical physicist Dr. Michio Kaku
Release Date: February 19, 2020
The beginning of the universe might be the greatest origin story of all time, and theoretical physicist Dr. Michio Kaku has made a career exploring this subject and others like it. Dr. Kaku is the co-founder of string field theory, which some suggest will crack the code toward understanding the universe. Dr. Kaku talks about building an atom smasher in his childhood garage, the influence of his hero, Albert Einstein, and why he thinks science is the greatest tool towards progress.
Episode 13: Bonus Episode: Musician Miles Davis
Release Date: February 26, 2020
Miles Davis is widely regarded as one of the most innovative, influential and respected figures in music. To celebrate the new documentary on the jazz legend, American Masters – Miles Davis: Birth of the Cool, filmmaker Stanley Nelson talks with Miles Davis’ nephew and drummer, Vince Wilburn, Jr.
Episode 14: Actor and Playwright Wallace Shawn
Release Date: March 11, 2020
Although he became famous for his work as an actor in films like “Clueless”, “The Princess Bride” and “Toy Story,” Wallace Shawn is also an Obie Award-winning playwright and author, known for his experimental and challenging writing on class politics and morality. Josh Hamilton talks with Shawn about this dichotomy, as the duo explore the ways in which we identify ourselves and find value in our work and life.
The American Masters Podcast is produced by Joe Skinner. Michael Kantor is executive producer.
WNET is America’s flagship PBS station: parent company of New York’s THIRTEEN and WLIW21 and operator of NJTV, the statewide public media network in New Jersey. Through its new ALL ARTS multi-platform initiative, its broadcast channels, three cable services (THIRTEEN PBSKids, Create and World) and online streaming sites, WNET brings quality arts, education and public affairs programming to more than five million viewers each month. WNET produces and presents a wide range of acclaimed PBS series, including Nature, Great Performances, American Masters, PBS NewsHour Weekend, and the nightly interview program Amanpour and Company. In addition, WNET produces numerous documentaries, children’s programs, and local news and cultural offerings, as well as multi-platform initiatives addressing poverty and climate. Through THIRTEEN Passport and WLIW Passport, station members can stream new and archival THIRTEEN, WLIW and PBS programming anytime, anywhere.