NOW with Alex Wagner | January 08, 2013
>>> the new movie "love" directed by sheldon candace starring xlon is a coming of age story about a young boy exposed to the rough life while spending the day with his uncle, an ex-convict. here's a clip.
>> i'm all you got.
>> if you're all i got, why you hit me and put me through all this today?
>> ain't got nobody either.
>> so, common, you were talking in the last segment about role models and positive role models , and the person thaw play in this is sort of trivia in terms of being a positive or negative role model, and i guess what drew you to that? what drew you to the role?
>> for me it's really important to when i portrait characters to show the humanity in the person, and many times if you see someone who is just released from prison and, you know, they've been living the street life , you automatically may judge them. i don't want to live like as a person in my real life so, when i portrait characters i want people to see that just because you may have been a part of the prison system or you may have been in the street life doesn't make you a bad person. you may have made some bad choices, and we all have good and bad in us, so when i take on these characters, i need to show that. i need to show that, like, this person is pursuing the american dream . he wants to be a good father figure to his nephew.
>> ryan, you know, we were talking about some of the issues relating to having been in prison, and there is a stigmatization and there's a whole sort of culture around prisons and post-prison when you get out of prison, and for many folks who serve time, the sort of hope, the sense of mobility within american society is quashed. you have a record, and are you treated in a different way. your options are decidedly less there.
>> it's not just the culture. it's the framework that builds up around it. people that leave prison don't have the same bill of rights that regular citizens do. not only can they not vote, which is the most obvious one, they can't associate with other people who have felonies, which in some neighborhoods is a lot of people. they can't leave certain areas without talking to a probation officer, parole officer . if they fail a drug test , they might go right back to prison. it's not a crime to fail a drug test unless you are on parole. within washington d.c. one of the most heart-breaking sights is if you go down to the courthouse, there's a computer where you can type in and look for somebody's criminal record . it's employers with applications in their hands just typing names into this computer. every time a name comes up, that application dropped in the trash. you know, we arrest something close to a million people a year for marijuana. almost all of them for possession. you might say, okay, it's a slap on the wrist. well, it might be a slap on the wrist. your name comes up on that computer, your application is going in the trash. you know, it's this entire, you know, system built up against people trying to succeed who often are already struggling.
>> trying to succeed. in temz of bringing experience to bare in this, you know, what did you call upon to play this, this character that you --
>> really growing up in chicago you can definitely experience certain things, and i -- you know, i was blessed enough to be in a neighborhood where it was like black middle class , but still street elements there, so i called upon my relationships that i have had with people that i know that in their experiences also, but i also went to baltimore and just did a lot of research.
>> the film is set in baltimore .
>> the film takes place in baltimore . i just lived in baltimore for a while and just really did my best to just let this human being become alive, you know?
>> you know, josh, just on the economics of it, the story of mobility in america. we always talk about the american dream and sort of how much it's within everybody's grasp, but increasingly the story that we're telling is not everybody can get a chance of grasping the top end of the ladder because of systematic failures, but it's not a discussion we often have.
>> by any measure, whether it's income, social services , sadly in all the debates coming up in washington over the next couple of months from here toward how deeply do we cut these things, essentially make it harder and harder to close that inequality gap and have the kind of support that would help anybody coming out of prison or who is a young man in a neighborhood to have a chance to survive.
>> we're going to have to wrap it up. common, i have to ask you, you were invited to the white house to perform. there was some conservatives who didn't like it, but the president stood by his man.
>> yes, yes.
>> are there plans to go back any time soon?
>> any time i'm invited, i will go to the white house . if the president and first lady say, common, come, i'll be there.
>> i actually am the same way. if the president and the first lady say come and rap, i can do crazy rhymes. i encourage everybody in america to go google that right now. there we go. thank you to common. thanks for joining us. thanks to our panel, michael eric dyson , ryan grim, and josh