TOM HANKS GIVES BACK

The beloved actor is sharing the stage with some of America’s bravest. Tonight, see how Tom Hanks and veterans home from the frontlines, have teamed up for a project that’s benefiting everyone involved.

For more information on the Veterans Affairs program that may help you or a loved one, click here.

Aired on January 24, 2019.

TRANSCRIPT

> TONIGHT WE CONTINUE WITH OUR SERIES FROM THE FRONT LINE TO THE HOME FRONT.

AN INVESTIGATION OF POST-9/11 VETERANS BACK HOME AND IN TRANSITION.

BUT FIRST, HERE'S A QUESTION FOR YOU -- WHAT DO TOM HANKS, SOME OF AMERICA'S BRAVEST WARRIORS AND SHAKES SPPEARE HAVE IN COMM.

LET ME ENLIGHTEN YOU, THEY ARE PLAYERS ON A STAGE BUILT IN A PARTNERSHIP WEAN THE DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS AFFAIRS AND THE SHAKESPEARE CENTER OF LOS ANGELES.

TOGETHER THEY'RE ACTING, BUILDING SETS AND PRODUCING.

A QUICK LOOK AT SOME OF THEIR WORK.

I'M TOM HANKS, I'M AN ACTOR AND I'M PLAYING FALSTAFF IN THE SHAKESPEARE PRODUCTION OF HENRY IV ON THIS VERY STAGE THAT HAS IN FACT BEEN BUILT BY VETERANS.

I PLAY MISTRESS QUICKLY WHO RUNS THE TAVERN IN THE PLAY HENRY IV.

THEY INFORMED US WE WOULD BE ON THE GROUND OF THIS BEAUTIFUL V.A. FACILITY IN WEST L.A.

THE IDEA THAT THE VETERANS IN TRANSITION WERE GOING TO BE OUR RUNNING RUE AND THEY BUILT THE SETS AND THEY LITERALLY CARVED THE THEATER OUT OF THE WOODS.

OUT OF NOTHING.

GUYS AND WOMEN WHO HAVE SERVED OUR COUNTRY AND ARE TRANSITIONING INTO WHATEVER THAT NEXT PHASE OF THEIR LIVES ARE.

WOULDN'T IT BE GREAT IF THEY WENT INTO THIS VERY LINE OF WORK?

THE SAME ONE I'M IN?

I WAS IN THE UNITED STATES NAVY.

I WENT TO GUANTANAMO BAY.

I WAS A SECURITY GUARD THERE.

I WAS A UNITED STATES MARINE CORPS FROM 1981 TO 1985 ON THE MARINE CORPS'S SILENT DRILL TEAM AND WE TRAVELED ALL AROUND THE WO WORLD.

I LEARNED ABOUT THE WEST L.A.

V.A. THROUGH ANOTHER VETERAN WHO WAS HOMELESS AND I WAS STRUGGLING WITH A DRUG ADDICTION AT THE TIME.

THE LOS ANGELES COUNTY DEPARTMENT OF MENTAL HEALTH IS SPONSORING A BIG PIECE OF THE VETERANS IN ART PROGRAM AND THEY ARE UNDERWRITING THIS SPECIAL CLASS THAT WE'RE GOING TO BE GIVING VETERANS, CAME OUT OF ALL OF THE CONVERSATIONS WAS THAT THE VETERANS FELT WHAT THEY WANTED MOST OF ALL WAS A JOB.

A JOB THAT HAD MEANING.

A JOB THAT WAS ASSOCIATED WITH A COMMISSION, A JOB THAT WOULD HELP THEM HAVE A SENSE OF IDENTITY AND A SENSE OF PURPOSE.

SO THEN THERE IS YOUR ANSWER.

AND FOR MORE INSIGHT, BOTH TOM HANKS AND THE VISIONARY BEHIND THIS JOB AND REHABILITATION PROGRAM JOIN US NOW.

GENTLEMEN, A PLEASURE TO HAVE YOU HERE.

THANK YOU FOR JOINING US.

THANK YOU.

THANKS.

TOM, LET ME BRING YOU INTO THE CONVERSATION HERE.

WITH ALL THE THINGS YOU DO IN YOUR PROFESSIONAL LIFE, WHAT DREW YOU TO THE SHAKESPEARE CENTER AND THEN TO THE WORK THEY WERE DOING WITH THE VETERANS?

WELL, I'M A PROFESSIONAL ACTOR AND THE BEST JOB AN ACTOR CAN HAVE IS TO BE IN AN ENSEMBLE DOING SOMETHING LIKE THE GREATEST WORK OF ALL LITERATURE AND ALL STAGE.

MY LIFE CHANGED THE FIRST TIME I EVER WAS IN A PLAY, IT WAS A LONG TIME AGO AND THE SAME CAN OCCUR FOR ANYBODY WHO HAS A CHANCE TO BE EXPOSED TO IT.

AN AWFUL LOT OF VETERANS ARE LOOKING FOR -- LET'S PUT IT UNDER A BIG SUBHEAD OF WHATEVER THE NEXT CHAPTER IS IN THEIR LIVES.

AN EXPOSURE TO ALMOST ANYTHING THAT ATTRACTS THEIR PASSION CAN LEAD THEM ON TO THE LIFE AFTER SERVING OUR COUNTRY.

LIFE AFTER THE ARMED FORCES.

FOR US TO UTILIZE SPACE LIKE WE HAD AT THE VETERANS CENTER, HOW MANY PLAYS DID WE DO OUTDOORS AT THE V.A.?

SIX.

THAT'S LITERALLY FROM THE GROUND UP BUILDING A THEETER FROM THE GROUND UP.

BUT THE BUILDING OF THE SHOW ITSELF WHEN WE WERE ABLE TO INCORPORATE MEN AND WOMEN WHO WERE INTERESTED IN IT AND WATCHED THEIR PASSION DEVELOP BEFORE OUR VERY EYES AND GO ON AND BECOME PAID EMPLOYEES OF THE SHAKESPEARE CENTER THAT'S THE HIGH COUNTRY INTRODUCES PEOPLE WHO WILL MAKE A CAREER OUT OF IT BUT ALSO THAT FABULOUS NEXT CHAPTER OF THEIR LIVES THAT STARTS FROM THEIR FIRST EXPOSURE TO SOMETHING LIKE BEING IN A PLAY WITH AN ENSEMBLE OF PEOPLE, THE MAGIC OFTEN HAPPENS AT NIGHT AND YOU WERE EVERYTHING YOU DO IN THE COURSE OF SHOWING UP TO WORK HELPS AID THAT PRODUCTION FROM GETTING DONE.

IF YOU JUST WANT TO BE FROM AN ALTRUISTIC PERSPECTIVE OF WHAT CAN WE DO IN ORDER TO JUST BE THERE FOR THE VETERANS WHEN THEY COME HOME TO SAY MORE THAN JUST THANK YOU FOR YOUR SERVICE BUT INVITING THEM INTO A DIFFERENT KIND OF SERVICE, WHEN YOU CAN DO THAT AND HAVE IT BE AS ORGANIC AS IT HAS BEEN FOR THE SHAKESPEARE CENTER AND THE VETERANS THEN IT'S ALMOST SELFISH TO THINK THAT, HEY, WE WERE ABLE TO DO WHAT WE WANTED TO DO AND AT THE SAME TIME INTRODUCE PEOPLE TO A WHOLE NEW WAY OF LIVING.

TELL ME QUICKLY ABOUT THE SHAKESPEARE CENTER AND THEN HOW YOU DECIDED LET'S GET INVOLVED IN THESE PROGRAMS THAT CAN HELP BRING OUR VETERANS TO A PLACE WHERE THEY CAN GAIN KNOWLEDGE ABOUT SKILLS TO GET THEM BACK INTO THE REAL WORLD?

I TRIED TO FIGURE OUT A WAY TO CREATE A JOB PROGRAM THAT WOULD SUPPORT THE VETERANS' TRANSITION AND WENT BACK TO THE DRAWING BOARD AND LOOKED AT THE DIFFERENT OPPORTUNITIES WE HAD AS WE BUILD A SHAKESPEARE PLAY THAT COULD BE APPLICABLE TO A VETERAN'S SKILL SET.

I DIDN'T KNOW HOW IT WOULD WORK OUT.

I HIRED PROFESSIONAL THEATER PEOPLE TO BACK UP THE VET AND I NEVER NEEDED THEM THAT CAME IN THAT TOOK OVER AND RAN THE SHOW FROM START TO FINISH.

TOM, YOU TALKED ABOUT HENRY IV, NEGOTIATION PLAYING FALSTAFF, SHAKESPEAREAN HISTORIANS SAY HE'S FASCINATING AND YOU GET TO WEAR A FAT SUIT WHICH IS COOL FOR THE AUDIENCE.

I GET TO LOSE 180 POUNDS A NIGHT.

ISN'T THAT GREAT?

YOU NEED TO DO A NEW BOOK, THE TOM HANKS DIET, LOSE 180 POUNTDS IN ONE NIGHT WHAT DID YOU GET OUT OF IT?

I GET THE CORE EXPERIENCE THAT THE THEATER PROMISES IN THE FIRST PLACE.

PARTICIPATION IN SOMETHING THAT IS GREATER IN YOURSELF.

YOU CAN ONLY CONTROL WHAT YOUR OWN ACTIONS ARE.

YOU CAN ONLY PUT FORWARD THE PERFORMANCE INSIDE YOUR HEAD AND YOU MUST RELY ON EVERYBODY ELSE WHO IS IN THE ENSEMBLE ON STAGE WITH YOU, WHEN WE WERE ON THAT STAGE, OUR PROFESSIONAL LIVES WERE IN SOMEBODY ELSE'S HANDS BECAUSE IF OUR RADIO MICS GO OUT AND THAT WAS ALL A VETERAN CREW, IF THE CUES DON'T COME BACKSTAGE, IF THE PROPS ARE NOT IN THE PLACE, WE HAD VETERANS WHO ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR ALL OF THOSE DIFFERENT DEPARTMENTS OF IT.

THAT IS THE REASON THAT.

AGENTS DON'T WANT TO HEAR YOU SAY THAT.

THAT'S ANATHEMA.

BUT THE RIPPLE EFFECT OF BEING IN A PRODUCTION THAT IS GOING TO RUN FROM WHAT WAS THE -- A MONTH OR FROM THE FIRST OF JUNE TO THE FIRST OF JULY IS ALMOST -- IT'S NOT UNLIKE THE CAMARADERIE AND SKILLS AND EXPERTISE AND LEADERSHIP THAT IS NECESSARY FOR WHAT THEY DID ON THE SERVICES AS IT IS.

WHEN WE SET UP OUR CREWS, WE CALLED THEM SQUADRONS AND WE HAVE PLATOON LEADERS AND WE USE A LOT OF THE MILITARY JARGON TO HELP THE VETS FEEL COMFORTABLE AND UNDERSTAND THEIR IDENTITIES AND THEIR MISSION AND THE MEANING OF THEIR JOB AND THE PURPOSE OF WHAT THEY WERE DOING.

SO IT WAS FUN TO HAVE A.

WE HAD A TONY AWARD WINNING SET DESIGNER WHO SAID I NEVER HAD THE ARMY BUILD MY SET.

WHEN THE ARMY PUT TOGETHER THAT SPEED RAIL IN ORDER FOR PEOPLE TO SIT DOWN YOU KNOW THOSE GRAND STANDS AREN'T MOVING.

WE HAD MOMENTS WHERE WE WERE ALL GETTING TOGETHER FOR ONE REASON OR ANOTHER, EVERYBODY INVOLVED IN THE PRODUCTION AND EVEN THE ACTORS WERE ASTOUNDED AT HOW BIG THAT PHOTOGRAPH WAS.

IN TERMS OF WHAT THE WORKERS ARE DOING, AGAIN LOOKING AT IT, MY FIRST THOUGHT WAS THIS ISN'T VETERANS WORKING AT THEATER.

THEY BECAME THEATER PEOPLE.

WHAT HAVE THEY BEEN ABLE TO GO ON TO DO AFTER ONE OF THESE PRODUCTIONS WRAPS?

IN MY COMPANY IN THE FALL EVERY YEAR WE DO A SPECIAL PRODUCTION FOR HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS TO INTRODUCE THEM TO SHAKESPEARE AND WE WORK WITH GUYS WHO WORK FOR DISNEYLAND CREATING THE HAUNTED MANSION AND STUFF LIKE THAT OTHER GUYS WENT TO WORK AT OTHER THEATERS AS USHERS, A COUPLE WENT ON TO UNIVERSAL STUDIOS, ONE IS A SOUND ENGINEER NOW.

WE PARTICULARLY FOCUS ON VETS WHO ARE SERVICE CONNECTED AND PART OF THE VOCATIONAL REHAB PROGRAM AT THE V.A.

SO THEY ARE REFERRED TO US BY THEIR CLINICIANS WHO ARE WORKING WITH THEM WHERE AT THIS POINT IN THEIR LIVES IT WILL BE A KEY TRANSITIONAL OPPORTUNITY FOR THEM SO WE HIRE GUYS AND WOMEN WHO HAVE BEEN OUT OF WORK FOR FOUR OR FIVE YEARS AND THEY BEGIN TO SEE THEMSELVES DIFFERENTLY AND REALIZE THE SKILL SETS THAT BUILT WORKING FOR THE ARMED FORCES CAN APPLY IN OTHER WORK ENVIRONMENTS SO THEY BUILD THIS CONFIDENCE IN THEMSELVES TO GET THEMSELVES UP AND OUT.

SO OTHER VETS GO TO WORK IN OTHER VENUES.

SO THEY GET THEIR TEETH FIXED, THEY START GETTING SPEECH COACHING.

THEY START DRESSING DIFFERENTLY.

THEY START GOING OUT ON JOB INTERVIEWS.

AND THERE'S A WHOLE NUMBER OF VETERANS THAT ARE A PART OF AN ORGANIZATION CALLED NEW DIREC DIRECTIONS.

THERE ARE CONVICTED FELONS WHO ARE COURT MANDATED TO BE THERE BECAUSE THEY HAVE DRUG PROBLEMS AND ALL KINDS OF DIFFERENT ISSUES.

THOSE GUYS JUMPED IN AND WERE THRILLED TO BE A PART OF THIS AND IT TURNED A BUNCH OF THEM AROUND.

WE HAD A MOMENT BACKSTAGE -- AND IT HAPPENED EVERY NIGHT BECAUSE MYSELF AND A FEW OTHER CAST MEMBERS WERE WAITING TO MAKE OUR ENTRANCE AND WE HAD THREE MINUTES IN WHICH WE HAD DOWN TIME AND ONE OF THE GUYS RESPONSIBLE FOR MAKING SURE THE PROPS IN THE RIGHT PLACE, HE AND I WOULD SIT BACK TOGETHER AND WE'D TALK ABOUT HOW THE SHOW WAS GOING, HOW THE AUDIENCE WAS REACTING, HOW FULL THE MOON WAS OR HOW COLD IT MIGHT GET AND I CAN'T TELL YOU HOW OFTEN HE SAID BOY, I'M GLAD I DID THIS, I CAN'T BELIEVE I'M INVOLVED IN SOMETHING THAT IS AS MUCH FUN AND WAS AS INVOLVE FOG HIM AS BEING IN THIS PLAY WAS AND ALL I COULD SAY WAS MY FRIEND, I FEEL THE SAME WAY.

I WANT TO THANK YOU SO MUCH TOM AND BEN FOR SPENDING TIME.

IT WAS AN INTERESTING CONVERSATION, WE COULD HAVE GONE ON FOR HOURS, MAYBE WE'LL CONTINUE IT DOWN THE ROAD.

THANKS.

YOU BOTH BE WELL, TAKE CARE NOW.

> AND FOR MORE INFORMATION ON THE SHAKESPEARE CENTER OF LOS ANGELES THE CHAPTER 31 VOCATIONAL PROGRAM THROUGH THE V.A. AND THE LATEST MOVIES INVOLVING TOM HANKS, VISIT US AT METROFOCUS.ORG.

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