Whoopi Goldberg on Controversy and Conversation – The New York Times

At 63, Whoopi Goldberg has lived through more careers than most of her veteran peers in indicate occupation. There were breakout mid- ’ 80s years as a New York dramaturgy ace ; her rise to Hollywood stardom, with an Oscar gain for her performance in “ Ghost ” ( 1990 ) and the box-office success of “ Sister Act ” ( 1992 ) ; her tenure, via HBO ’ s “ Comic Relief ” specials, as one of America ’ s comedy queens ; and since 2007, her post as a left-leaning and often-irascible voice on the day speak show “ The View. ” ( not to mention her raw side ventures in cannabis products and women ’ mho tire. ) It ’ mho been a winding path, though Goldberg disputes that she was always on anything so clear as a way. “ You can ’ deoxythymidine monophosphate create a career, ” she said. “ It goes where it goes. In fact, for a long time, people could not figure out how I actually got a career. ” She smiled. “ Which is a bit of a put-down. ”
Before “The View,” your work was so much about storytelling and creating characters. Does the show address those creative impulses? No .
What creative fulfillment do you get from doing it? It ’ s my job .
Do you still think of yourself as an actor? Or is there a way in which what you do on “The View” is a kind of acting? What you ’ re ask is “ Is ‘ The View ’ enough ? ” It ’ s not. Ten years is a long meter, and nowadays I ’ megabyte starting to do early stuff. I ’ m doing books. I ’ meter adventuring into THC products.1 I ’ m creating the clothes.2

On the set of “The View” in 2010.

Steve Fenn/Walt Disney Television, via Getty Images

You raised your eyebrows when I suggested that maybe you were doing a form of acting on “The View.” Why did you do that? Because, in a way, I am playing a function. These are not conversations that I ’ m having with my friends. If they were, we ’ five hundred be doing it differently. My friends and I can talk about things in depth in a different way than you can on television .
There’s this belief that we should all be talking more with people who have views different from our own, and that doing that would somehow help the country’s divisive feelings. As someone whose job it is to talk with people who have different views from your own, what have you learned about the value of those kinds of discussions? It ’ s a hard question to answer, because I ’ ve never had any trouble with having friends who had different opinions from my own. therefore “ The View ” hasn ’ triiodothyronine been unlike for me. But my vision of America when I was young was different, because everything was changing. Black and white people were going out together, and it didn ’ thyroxine count what the adults said. And on the spur of the moment you were hearing about whole groups in neighborhoods that felt disposable — those are the guys who were going to Vietnam. So for me, it ’ s only been in the last few years that people seem to have stopped listening to one another .
Why is that? Because there aren ’ t a lot of reminders of the past. I grew up during a time when there were hush World War II veterans around, there were silent Holocaust survivors around. then all those folks started dying off. People don ’ deoxythymidine monophosphate know about all the hard-won battles anymore : gay folks fighting for their rights, the separation of church and state. So the answer to your question is that for a well long meter we had a national conversation about things that now we ’ rhenium having to reiterate .

Whoopi Goldberg at Dance Theater Workshop in her one-woman comedy “Spook Show” in 1984.

New York Live Arts

How did “The View” become such a central place for that conversation? I don ’ t truly watch the prove, so I don ’ deoxythymidine monophosphate know. And I didn ’ triiodothyronine watch the appearance before I was on. I guess there ’ randomness nothing else like it. And because it ’ sulfur live, I ’ molarity always surprised when people say the things they say. But you know, it ’ mho five people talking, and then there ’ randomness this captivation with women and fight .
What do you think of that fascination? I don ’ metric ton spend a bunch of clock thinking about it. Grow up. It ’ s a show. This is what we do for a animation .
Do you get any fulfillment from doing “The View”? I get it from the fact that I ’ thousand doing anything. I ’ ve written a book about tablescapes ; it ’ south all about throwing a party. Lots of people feel that they don ’ metric ton know how to do this, and the reserve is like : “ You do know how. If you can set a table, you can make a dinner party. ” It ’ s besides about how significant it is, if you have a assemble at your house, to make your bathroom expect courteous, because everybody ’ s going to see it. Most people forget about the toilet. You want to make sure there ’ sulfur lots of toilet composition in there. You want to make indisputable that there ’ sulfur instructions on what they can or can ’ thymine hot flash and gorge for them to read if they find they ’ rhenium lodge for a little act .

Goldberg onstage in New York in 1984.


Sorry, I’m hung up on thinking about tablescapes. What’s a great party you’ve had recently where you decorated the table? I had a bang-up party yesterday, and I set the board quite merely and beautifully. We had this italian fete that was incredible. Everyone was speaking italian, but curiously adequate I could pick up a lot of what people were saying. actually what I was picking up was my fork, because there was lobster risotto. David, that lobster risotto was off the hook. truly, to be felicitous in the global, you must have risotto. then everybody left, and the cat and I went upstairs and watched “ Twin Peaks. ” It made me very felicitous .
Since you just mentioned bathrooms — I’ve read three of your books,3 and flatulence is a real leitmotif running through them. Because it ’ s a big softwood ! It ’ s a big batch, and people act like it doesn ’ deoxythymidine monophosphate happen. I know people who have never farted in front of the person they ’ re in a relationship with. They would rather be ill than do that. That ’ randomness insane. You can ’ triiodothyronine let a little out ? “ No, I don ’ thyroxine want her to know that I do it. ” She knows you do it ! But you can ’ t say to people, “ You must let it go. ” So I say : “ Listen, if you ’ re comfortable, let it happen. If you ’ ra not, I get it, but I think it ’ south not effective for your body. ”
As far as your own relationships, you’ve said that you weren’t sure you were ever in love with any of your husbands.4 So what, if any, role did love have in those marriages? Look, people expect you to have a boyfriend. They expect you to get marry. so I kept trying to do that, but I didn ’ thyroxine want to contribution information with person else. I didn ’ metric ton want anybody asking me why I was doing what I was doing, or to have to make the other person feel well. But if you ’ re in a kinship, you have to do those things, and it took me a while to figure out that I didn ’ thymine want to. I ’ five hundred be thinking, why don ’ t I feel the thing that I ’ m supposed to ? then one sidereal day I thought : I don ’ t have to do this. I don ’ t have to conform. I tried marriage, and it wasn ’ metric ton for me. You can ’ deoxythymidine monophosphate be in a marriage because everybody ’ second expecting you to .

Goldberg with her “Comic Relief” co-hosts, Billy Crystal and Robin Williams, in 1994.

Bonnie Schiffman

Do you still believe that the root of the controversy5 over Ted Danson’s roasting you at the Friars Club in blackface was about race — and not actual offense at the blackface and the nature of the jokes you wrote for him to tell? Yeah. People always bring this up because I guess they think I ’ megabyte going to say what a atrocious thing it was. But for me, it was precisely what it needed to be, good in the improper place with the incorrectly people. People had been very filthy about my relationship with Ted. So I thought, the best way to come back at that is to put it all in jest mannequin. I mean, roasts have traditionally been as out there as you can get — but with your friends. none of my friends were on the dais. I didn ’ thymine know a set of the people. So when I think back, of course people didn ’ t get it. But then you ’ re sitting around people who don ’ thyroxine know what you ’ ra doing. I mean, was Billy Crystal6 busy and couldn ’ triiodothyronine be there ? Robin Williams7 wasn ’ thymine around ?
In a similar vein, does context account for the controversy over the George W. Bush jokes that you made in 2004 that stalled your career for a while? How would you describe what happened? sol I had been invited to the democratic National Convention, and these folks besides invited me to a fund-raiser for John Kerry and John Edwards. I came out at the fund-raiser and basically said : “ I love Bush, but person ’ randomness giving Bush a bad name. I want to put Bush back where it belongs, and I don ’ deoxythymidine monophosphate mean the White House. So you ’ ve got to get out there and vote. ” That ’ s everything that was said in the bite. Before I got wing, it was reported that I ’ five hundred been common and crude and said atrocious stuff. I didn ’ deoxythymidine monophosphate. cipher wrote what I actually said. But because of that, my whole career stopped. I had some diet endorsement I was doing and early stuff, and all that disappeared. The democratic National Convention disinvited me. For a good three years, I couldn ’ deoxythymidine monophosphate even get arrested. finally I was lucky adequate to get a radio read, and then Barbara Walters asked if I would consider doing “ The View. ” When everybody says, “ Oh, Whoopi is a liberal ” — I don ’ deoxythymidine monophosphate stand for either party. Because for me, back then, they were both full of [ expletive ].

Is the way controversies play out in public different these days? It ’ s not. I was chastised for something I actually didn ’ thymine do. So when people say now, “ So-and-so did that, ” I always say, “ I don ’ thyroxine know if that ’ second true. ” Because I ’ ve been in the same place. sometimes people don ’ t want to hear that. They don ’ triiodothyronine want you questioning anything. I don ’ triiodothyronine know when person is truly awful or whether person has precisely put something out there about them. I ’ megabyte not a conspiracy person, but how can you believe things when you know there are bots ? That ’ s the way of the world now : Did it very happen ? indeed I try to figure things out as I go .

Marlo Thomas and Goldberg during a rally for abortion rights in Washington in 1989.

Ron Galella, via Getty Images

Did you follow that controversy from a little while back when Alice Walker, who wrote “The Color Purple” and whom you know well, positively cited a book by a supposed anti-Semitic conspiracy theorist8 in The New York Times Book Review? No .
And how afterward, it resurfaced that she’s made vaguely anti-Semitic comments before? vaguely ?
I was trying to be polite. So how do you reconcile the person you know and like with their troubling sides? While it’s a very different situation, Bill Cosby — about whom you withheld judgment longer than most — was another friend of yours who had a side you didn’t know about. Does it just boil down to people’s ultimate unknowability? pretty much. I try not to make judgments. Black people and jewish people have a complicated relationship that has gone on from time immemorial .
As Whoopi Goldberg9 would know. Yes ! I know that there are lots of complicated questions that people have about race and their place in it. And for me, understanding it works only on a person-to-person basis. I ’ ve never had this conversation with Alice, but I ’ ve had the conversation with other people, of “ I need to hear why you feel this way. ” People want you to pick a side. I can ’ metric ton. So I try to be neutral. People want you to feel the lapp way they do. But that ’ s not very about me ; that ’ s about you .

Goldberg and Patrick Swayze in the 1990 film “Ghost,” for which Goldberg won an Academy Award for best supporting actress.

Paramount/Everett Collection

A big part of what I think was exciting about your career in the ’80s and ’90s was how you played characters that went beyond what might have been expected from a black actress at the time. Were you thinking about your work back then in terms of the progress it represented? No, no, no, no. In the words of Hattie McDaniel, better to play the maid than to be the maid. I was playing parts that were concern and playfulness, and people would say, “ You shouldn ’ t be doing that. ” I read what people had to say critiquing me. It was like, “ She ’ s not Eddie Murphy. ” I wasn ’ thyroxine trying to be ! Why are you holding me up against all these people ? It took me a long time to recognize that I made people very uncomfortable. I wasn ’ deoxythymidine monophosphate doing what I was supposed to be doing, the direction I was supposed to be doing it .
Is there any reason beyond the obvious — that you were both young black stars — that you got Eddie Murphy comparisons? I ’ vitamin d have to say that ’ south why. In our business, the hierarchy is white guys, blank girls, black men, then black women. So I had to get compared to a unharmed bunch of folks before anybody would say, “ You ’ ra ticket for the part. ” But I was never trying to be Eddie. I was barely doing me, but people had to have some room of referring to me. And it was like, “ I ’ m never going to make you felicitous if that ’ s where you going, because I ’ meter not him. ” It took people a very long time to get used to the fact that I was always going to be me .
“The Color Purple” was your first movie, and a big success.10 So despite what you were saying, was it easy to feel comfortable in Hollywood given that you did so well so quickly? here ’ s how I found things : I would ask, “ What should be getting made immediately that person is not going to make because they didn ’ deoxythymidine monophosphate get the actor they wanted ? ” so “ Jumpin ’ Jack Flash ” was supposed to be Shelley Long. “ Burglar ” was supposed to be, I think, Bruce Willis. There were things that I got to do that people wouldn ’ t have initially thought of me for because their idea of what I could do and my idea of what I could do was different .

In the 1985 film “The Color Purple.”

John R. Shannon/Warner Bros. Pictures, via Photofest

The characters you played in that HBO special11 you did back in 1985 were surprising, though, which is what made them fresh. I’m thinking in particular of the young woman with a disability. Where does a character like that come from? I lived for a long fourth dimension in Berkeley, Calif., which is where the Center for Independent Living still is, and I had friends who were in wheelchairs. so one day, one of my friends said, “ How come you never play one of us ? ” I was like, “ One of who ? ” “ person in a wheelchair. ” I said : “ Are you trying to get me killed ? How would I do that ? ” My supporter said : “ You can just make up a floor. I ’ ll tell you if it ’ second bad. ” This is a guy who had been a biker and had a frightful motorbike accident, which left him paraplegic. So I started cultivating a character based on how I thought about my acquaintance and my own dreams. Because in my dreams, I could do all kinds of stuff, and so I wondered if my acquaintance dreamed about walk and being back on the bicycle. The character came from there, and the beginning time I did it, I asked my supporter, “ Was this O.K. ? ” He wouldn ’ thymine lecture to me. I thought I had wholly [ expletive ] this up. A couple days go by, and I said, “ Tell me what I did wrong. ” “ You didn ’ t do anything wrong, ” he said. “ But I don ’ thymine know how you got me without being in my head. ” “ I don ’ thyroxine understand. ” “ I do dream that I can walk. ” I don ’ triiodothyronine know how that happened. Osmosis possibly .
Were any other characters from that show based on people you knew? The little daughter with the shirt on her head was my kid.12 She once put a shirt on her head and said, “ This is my long, epicurean blond hair. ” I looked at her, and I was like : “ I thought we went through this. Your hair’s-breadth is fine. ” then I came to realize that no matter what ’ sulfur on your head, you think life would be different if you had different hair’s-breadth .
Did anyone in Hollywood ever give you a hard time about your hair? I ’ five hundred be having a conversation with an executive, and abruptly they would say, “ Well, what are we going to do with this ? ” It was like, “ Are you talking about my hair ? ” “ Oh, I didn ’ triiodothyronine hateful to do that. ” “ But you did ! ” At first base it very pissed me off, then I got it : It had to do with them not knowing any better. They were executives who didn ’ metric ton know any people like me, except ones that worked for them .
I don’t know if people remember but there was a fuss about Steven Spielberg directing “The Color Purple,” because some people felt maybe it should’ve been handled by a black director. Did you have any similar reservations about him? No. Everything I understood about “ The Color Purple ” was that whoever was out there at the time could have done it, but they didn ’ triiodothyronine. If all these other people who are bitching about it could have made it, why didn ’ t they ? They could have done it. But it ’ s not what they wanted to do at the meter, and that ’ s O.K. But you can ’ thyroxine be delirious at Spielberg that he did do it. I ’ meter precisely glad person made it .
What, if anything, does it mean to you that it’s far more likely today than it was in 1985 that a studio would feel compelled to have a person of color direct “The Color Purple?” Let ’ mho be real number here. big studios want a reappearance. If a kangaroo decided it wanted to make the studio apartment money, and the studio knew the kangaroo was going to make them money, the studio would give a speculate to the kangaroo .
I rewatched your Oscar acceptance speech the other day, and I was charmed by how when the camera cut to the nominees, the other actresses had these practiced, poised smiles, but you looked so nervous. What do you remember about that night? That I won ! I wanted an Oscar. I thought I ’ vitamin d earned it. I thought the other women besides earned it. I liked all of them. We made a wholly thing about whoever won would spring for lunch, and we had cocoa Oscars made for everybody, because, I mean, the performances that class were leading. Mary McDonnell, Diane Ladd and Annette Bening and — help me .
Lorraine Bracco for “Goodfellas.” Yeah, all broads I love. We see each other, and it ’ s inactive like, “ O.K., bitch, when do we do this again ? ” So it was heaven.

Hey, is it true you’ve never eaten an egg? That ’ s hush the accuracy. I ’ ll leave it at that .
On the very last page of your memoir, you wrote that you felt like an alien. That was 22 years ago. Do you still feel that way? Yes. That ’ second O.K., though. Because to understand the alien, meter has to be spent and efforts have to be made, and I ’ megabyte willing to do both. But yeah, I might be from another satellite .
This interview has been edited and condensed from two conversations .

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