A chat about the new, more diverse American TV family (think Fresh Off The Boat and Black-ish) took a turn to politics Friday at the ATX Television Festival in Austin. Norman Lear made the room roar with laughter when he said he views “Donald Trump as the middle finger of the American right hand,” a comment that came after fellow panelist Everybody Loves Raymond creator Phil Rosenthal interrupted the conversation on diversity with one word, yelling, “Trump!”
The conversation quickly shifted back to the importance of diversity on TV, and how creators work to incorporate it into their shows. “This is the moment, this is the golden age. Because it’s the moment we’re experiencing it,” Lear said in response to a question about why it’s taken so long to talk about diversity in television.
“I think when we get various ethnicities, it’s the patina that changes,: he said. “We’re all kids and parents and brothers and sisters and aunts and uncles or nieces or nephews. We share the same basic human conditions. My bumper sticker reads ‘Just Another Version of You,’ and I think we are all just versions of each other.”
Turning to Fresh Off The Boat creator/executive producer Nahnatchka Khan — who was on the panel with Lear, Rosenthal, The Real O’Neals‘ David Windsor and State Of Grace‘s Hollis Rich) — Lear asked if she found her Asian actors feel a burden to represent “something that hasn’t existed on television.” Khan responded in the affirmative, saying, “Representation is everything.”
The topic shifted to Trump again later in the day, during a special conversation with Lear and his goddaughter, actress Katey Sagal. Sagal asked Lear about fear and worries, and Lear said he didn’t worry about the success of his shows, but then he jeered, “I am worried about Donald Trump!” He likened the issues in politics now to the issue he saw in the rise of television evangelicals, specifically the way “they mixed religion and politics.”
He was so concerned at the time, in fact, he created a PSA about it. In it the subject says, “There’s gotta be something wrong when someone tells you that you are a bad or a good Christian depending on your political view,” adding, “that’s not the American way.”
Added Lear: “We have a common identity as human beings. We humans are capable of whatever another human is capable of. Just know that there is nobody that is so foreign to human beings from you, that you don’t recognize the common humanity.”
Capping off a talk that also included brief discussions about his stint in the military, being humble, and having no regrets in life, Lear ended his chat with a proposition. “So, here’s what we’re going to do. We’re going to go out and shop for a big bed and we’re all going to get in it.”