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PIERS MORGAN LIVE
Interview with Mark Burnett, Roma Downey; Interview with Rosie Perez
Aired February 26, 2014 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
PIERS MORGAN, CNN HOST: This is Piers Morgan Live.
Tonight, the greatest story ever told brought to you by the power couple behind the top selling mini series of all time Roma Downey and Mark Burnett. Their series "The Bible" debuted with more than 13 million viewers, but their new project is even bigger.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROMA DOWNEY, EXECUTIVE PRODUCER, "SON OF GOD": Well it's encouraging that Jesus is going to be back on the big screen.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MORGAN: Roma Downey and Mark Burnett their big screen dreams and their extraordinary off screen romance.
Plus, Spike Lee is mad as hell.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SPIKE LEE: And we had the crystal ball, (inaudible) Do the Right Thing with John Savage's character, when he rolled his bike over Buggin' Out's sneaker. I wrote that script in 1988. He was the first one. How you walking around Brooklyn with a Larry Bird jersey on? You can't do that. Not in Bed Stuy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MORGAN: I'll talk to (inaudible) and do the right thing. Rosie Perez about that and about her own amazing story.
We'll begin though with our Big Story. Compelling inspirational, powerful, and intense all of those words apply to the new feature film Son of God. Here's a moment from the film.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DOWNEY: My son.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Don't be afraid. Everything is possible with God.
(END VIDEO CLIP) MORGAN: Son of God is from the people who brought you last year's huge success of course The Bible, the mini series had the largest audience of any entertainment program on cable and it's the top selling mini series of all time on DVD.
The Executive Producers are five-time Emmy winner Mark Burnett and his wife Roma Downey who also stars in the movie as Mary and I'm glad to say they both join me now. Welcome to both of you.
What an amazing story this is. I would say it's the movie of the day and I'd only seen about half the mini series on a small laptop and to see this sort of majestic scale of what you did and then to think to myself it's probably my entire lifetime since the Greatest Story Ever Told aired as a movie and no one's really trying to do it since. Who came up with this original idea?
DOWNEY: Well ...
MARK BURNETT, EXECUTIVE PRODUCER, "SON OF GOD": My wife.
DOWNEY: We were in Morocco filming The Bible series and we would gather, the cast and the crew, on a weekly basis to look at dailies on the big screen and as the Jesus narrative started to unfold that was so spectacular. I said to Mark, "I wish we'd be making a film." So we decided there in then that we would shoot additional footage and Son of God was born.
MORGAN: How much of the movie has already been seen in some form in the TV series?
BURNETT: It starts completely -- it's different. We start with John on Revelation go through to the whole Roman occupation of Judea setting up how tense it was. And we've even the scenes of being in the series have been reedit stage with new shots we mountains of stuff there and as you said it's a big cinema surrounds sound experience.
MORGAN: And you must laugh because I know that you pitched the TV series to many people, right? And nobody though it would work. I mean, we talk about he who laughs last laughs longest. When they we're rejecting him, what were you feeling? Did you think they would just play him wrong or did you start to even your amazing self confidence?
BURNETT: Piers, you know me pretty well and when I'm fixated on something I'm sure about. I don't ever hear the rejection. I'm hearing the word "No" as next opportunity to me.
I believed so much as did Roma in this and then some of comments we got where, "Come on, Mark, you might have a lot of hit shows but no one's going to watch The Bible on prime time TV. They'll get that in church." I think you're wrong, I think you're wrong and of course 100 million people later and by the way that's in America, in Canada The Bible beat hockey.
MORGAN: That is so interesting. Roma, you've been a Catholic all your life and you're from a home and when it come to the extraordinary back story between you both because it's very unlikely to put it mildly almost insurmountable many would say you should never been able to get married and fallen in love in the way that you have that you did and it's a great story.
In terms of this, so for you it must have been a very personal thing that you appear as Jesus Christ's mother, Mary in the movie, and I can see from the performance what it must have meant to you as a Catholic to do this.
DOWNEY: Yeah. It's been an extraordinary honor to step into the role and to be able to bring the greatest love story to the screen. I have loved Jesus and his mother my whole life, Piers. I've never really fully considered what his mother must have been feeling. We know she was the mother of the son of God but she was also a mom. And to stand there at the foot of the cross of the scene that is playing to see how she, you know, felt. I brought a mother's heart to it. I'm a mom myself. We wanted to bring the humanity into the story so that you would feel like you were walking in the footsteps with these characters.
MORGAN: You also and I was aware of this when I watched the scenes and that heart rending scenes but I knew that both of your parents died when you were pretty young. And your mom when you were about 10, your father when you were 20 and that is again must have played into all this. You've been through a lot of suffering when you were young.
DOWNEY: Well, I think that if you can take what you've been given, you know, and I'm sure that in many ways that has made me more emphatic, or have a deeper compassion to be able to translate that, you know. For many years, I get to play an angel on television on Touched By An Angel, it's not often I think that you get what you love to do and to be able to combine it with what you believe, and to be able to do it with the person you love. That really has been extraordinary.
MORGAN: I mean, Mark, you've been responsible for some of the biggest hits on television. The Voice this week back in at number one was yours. And I remember seeing you just before that launched and all the critics noise (ph) are out all saying it's not going to work. And I saw you at a press day in Pasadena, I was doing America's Got Talent and you'd -- I had a chat with you and I said, "You OK?" and you went, "This is going to be a massive hit." They're all wrong.
And I remember thinking, "This guy has got this extraordinary unshakable confidence." You had no scintilla of that whatsoever and you became a monster hit, same with the Apprentice and obviously I do seen the first season, same with Survivor one of the biggest hits of all time in American television.
For you, I mean you're just this guy and take this the right way but you're just a Britain guy like me from London, only child, you came over here just in a bit of a whim, washed up in Malibu, baby sitting for people, you flobbed (ph) a few t-shirts on Venice beach and now you are I would say arguably the most successful television producer in the history of American television. How? BURNETT: I don't know. I just do things I like to do and that I have a feeling that I'm committed to. I mean Survivor I love obviously my days in the parachute Richmond in the army, I love being in jungles and those kind of environments so I made Survivor. Apprentice, I love of the idea of American business so I've got on the things that I like to do and in case -- in the case of the Bible and Son of God is to have faith and this turned this really serious to us.
But, you know, I think the -- basically I can say to viewers who are watching this right now, if anybody tells you that they got it all figured it out are out of their minds or lying. You can only have a little bit figured out and go forward anyway and believe in that faith it will work out. The people who need to be 100 percent sure don't do anything, Piers. You know that.
MORGAN: The people who rejected The Bible mini series and then you must bump to them sometime later they must be kicking themselves all over Hollywood, don't they?
BURNETT: They are or they sort of gotten over it now it was last year. But they were I'm not give any names it's either you know and we know and, you know, we're all collegiate and they gave me a pat on the back and said, "I missed that one. I thought you were out of your mind. I can't believe you had that many viewers." But, you know, we're all collegiate and now believe me when Son of God comes out 20th Century Fox this Friday, 3,100 screens ...
BURNETT: ... all over in English, Spanish and in Korean in America.
MORGAN: It's going to be huge I mean got to no doubt about it having seen it because I think it's a -- it reminded me of being the kind of Christian version if you like of 12 Years A Slave in terms of impact on me as a viewer. It brought certain vivid, dramatic presentation to the big screen something I knew about but didn't really know about until you actually see it, reenact it in such a graphic way. That's what I think the great genius of it is. And I applaud you both for that ...
DOWNEY: Yeah, well I ...
MORGAN: ... and all the team involved.
DOWNEY: I think the value as to, you know, for a whole new generation, you know, we have teenagers at home and we know that so much of what they learn is through visual means. And when I was a little girl growing up, you know, watching the Ten Commandments or the Greatest Story Ever Told have left indelible images on my memory.
So for a whole new generation I think that Son of God will present to them the story of Jesus in unlike passion which is already 10 years ago. Son of God tells a story of the Savior's life from his birth right through the death and resurrection.
MORGAN: And crucially no sign of Satan because in the TV series this huge faux scandal blew up because that the actor you chose to play Satan bore a slight resemblance to Barack Obama and you felt that was all a bit the dark forces of work, right?
DOWNEY: I absolutely did. But you know what I felt? It was that its created such hatefulness in people, that the drama that ensued was such a distraction when our story was story of light, and the light of faith, and light of hope, and it was just such a distraction and I said, "That's it. Get you behind me."
MORGAN: So Roma Downey has single-handedly air brushed Satan from a Son of God story.
DOWNEY: Well we cut him and he's on the cutting room floor. He had -- and it was -- and it gave me a lot of pleasure to do it, I can tell you.
MORGAN: Let's take a break. Let's come back, I want to talk about you two as a couple, as a married couple because you were a British paratrooper and you came from Bogside Derry in Northern Island and the twain would never normally meet in civilize circumstances. I want to find out how this happened and what the message is from the way it ended.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Our Father in heaven feeds the birds of the air, how much more will he give to you?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MORGAN: Another moment from Son of God, the feeding of the 5,000 and back with me the executive producers, Mark Burnett and Roma Downey.
All those miracle scenes are great because it's like watching, you know, Frank Sinatra in Vegas you know all the hits but you don't -- and you actually hear them live or see them brought to reality and quite feel it in the same way. And I down in this big screening room, I think a few us, it's like one or after another here come these amazing, famous moments you know about. And there it is as it happened in this dramatic way and it felt very modern, you know, and really powerful. I can go on about the movie for a long time, I'm sure you'd like me to but I'm not going to.
Let's talk about you two because you shouldn't really be married. And I explained to viewers why because I'm actually Irish I'm from Southern Ireland originally. And I know from my background and my brother's in the British army, British Army Colonel now that you as a British paratrooper should never really have fallen in love or been allowed to fall in love with a woman from Derry from the Bogside because politically that is about as sensitive as it could possibly get. For you Roma, when you grew up I guess in an area where the British army were the enemy, you know, this was a reality of your life. DOWNEY: You know, I grew up in Derry which was a city divided. We had a river down the middle of it. And all through my childhood, Catholics lived on one side and Protestants on the other and never between did meet. And it probably wasn't an ordinary childhood because of the turmoil that was there. Yet there was great humor and warmth in our community.
MORGAN: A lot of violence.
DOWNEY: A lot of violence.
MORGAN: Illustrated by U2's famous song of course, you know, Bloody Sunday suddenly became a very iconic and very powerful moment in history.
MORGAN: You're right in the middle of it.
DOWNEY: Yeah. Although, you know, when David Cameron first took power in one of the things that he announced was the apology ...
DOWNEY: ... from the British Government to the people of Northern Ireland and to the people of Derry for Bloody Sunday. And I think that has gone a long way to generate the healing and the coming together in our community. That city that was once divided, Piers, now has a bridge that's amply called The Peace Bridge.
MORGAN: Yeah, I was there a couple of years ago. It feels prosperous, it feels safe again, the undercurrent of violence is not there anymore.
BURNETT: You know, I didn't really even know and Roma explained to me their situation. I had no clue, and so much more sensitive for Roma. I just knew this was Monica from Touched by an Angel and the most beautiful woman I've ever met in my life and I couldn't believe she even gave me this time of day, Piers. But for Roma, certainly it was sensitive. And I think what -- it does show though is just like that Peace Bridge we are a good bridge and think we've done that with Son of God, you know, I think we've managed to bridge across the Catholic community Cardinal Wuerl, Archbishop Gomez have helped us with Son of God and has Rick Warren a good friend of yours ...
BURNETT: ... Joe Lostin (ph) another good friend of yours.
MORGAN: Yeah. Yeah.
BURNETT: Bishop Jakes. Across communities everyone's worked together on Son of God. It's been a good bridge.
MORGAN: Very few couples in Hollywood hold hands when I interview them on this show. I got to see. And I really like it, what's the secret of your marriage. Because I saw it at firsthand how strong it is, but you're in a business littered with wreckage of marriage over the decades. Why are you able to be so obviously happy with each other?
BURNETT: We are best friends. I mean that's the one thing we're really best friends. Roma's taught me something fantastic. Which is, Roma says, between stimulus and response there is space and take that space and I've learned a lot from Roma ...
DOWNEY: A space for grace. I'll say, you know ...
BURNETT: ... it's like (inaudible) and get people tell us, The Bible series while it work, and they also said, "You're completely crazy because not only you're doing The Bible and Son of God, this movie, you're doing it together as a married a couple." You realize once in life is in fact our marriage and friendship becomes so much stronger for this five years working together. Our faith has deepened. It's been all good.
DOWNEY: Yeah, and it's been ...
BURNETT: It's been great.
MORGAN: I like the fact that you said, I mean you're a very nice person. Remind me to take that as allegation in Hollywood but you are. And you said there was moment obviously when you're pitching all this when you needed the tough brilliant paratrooper to come and (inaudible) that.
BURNETT: Listen we, you know, we started our company Lightworkers Media because we were tired of cursing the darkness. And we wanted to be able to provide content that show on a light. And in this partnership we bring very different gifts and talents and strengths. My husband is definitely the hammer, and I bring a lot of the heart, you know, and it's a marriage and a partnership that works very well.
MORGAN: I remember, Mark, when we did The Apprentice and I -- my chosen charity is Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund which looks after very seriously wounded American troops and indeed a few British troops over the years. And I played you tape and I've been down to the Intrepid in San Antonio of these incredible young soldiers and -- they'd lost arms, and legs, and eyes, and everything. But showed this incredible spirit.
I was just meeting you in your office and you welled up and started actually shedding tears and it showed me that underneath all these tough exterior. You're very emotional sensitive guy. Does that help you with all this stuff you did. Did the "Son of God" and particularly The Bible series to bring that real emotion to -- maybe I should ask you Roma. Do you think that side to him is not seen very often but is a powerful cog (ph) in his will
DOWNEY: Absolutely. He's a sensitive man and has enormous capacity for loving. And but when you -- when we were making this film and the series that it had to be about emotional connections.
MORGAN: Does he know how soft (inaudible).
DOWNEY: He's a big old softy. So why do you think I fell in love with him?
MORGAN: You know, his reputation Mark Burnett, tough guy and a Hollywood producer, you know, "Kick Ass" but I bet there's another side to him isn't it?
DOWNEY: But you were all -- all things certainly -- and it's what makes us, you know, we're all multidimensional and it's all those part of us that are -- he is -- is that you want to like a big a revelation here -- yes. He is a bit -- but I think he'll admit it. I don't think he...
BURNETT: Of course, Piers knows me, right?
DOWNEY: ... (inaudible) not to be.
BURNETT: Piers knows me and there are certain things that really set me off...
BURNETT: ... both emotionally and to help me.
DOWNEY: And you're very kind -- he's a very kind man.
MORGAN: But the other thing again that links here is he both been shot and you were shot in the war and you were shot at when you were actually visiting a mother's grave.
MORGAN: Asa young 11-year-olf girl.
DOWNEY: Extraordinary. I was up in the cemetery and there is -- but then I had a red cape on with a sort of with a of sort a twofer who just a little girl and a gun battle broke out between the IRA and the British Army and I got caught in the crossfire and could smell the singeing of fur. And when I got home, a bullet have reaped through the hood of this coat. But it would not have been unusual for us these children going from school and haven't to docked on behind cars and stuff.
MORGAN: You say, you had a job in a shoe shop and it got bomb.
DOWNEY: And the shoe shop got bomb. Yeah, it blew up. It was raining. It was raining shoes that day, but can I tell you that...
MORGAN: You can't -- you began to say that Roma without explain what happened to me.
DOWNEY: I know. When I was working in, it was very first draw as a young teenager. I was 16 years of age and I worked on a shoe shop and I get six pounds for a Saturday. And I was in the shoe shop when they came in with skiing masks and they said, it's a bomb and you still have five minutes to get out. Then I remember that we grabbed their coats because it was so cold and wet. And we were standing in the car park in the rain, and the shop blew up and shoes came down all around us. But I think that the -- here's the thing -- the encouraging thing in this story, it was an awful way. There was so many people died. There was so much hurt and anger and justice. But the good news is that I was home just this past summer, Derry, my hometown was the city of culture...
DOWNEY: ... for all of Europe. This is -- it's a brilliant vibrant, alive society of people living in harmony. And if you had to ask any of those back then if there was (inaudible) there, I'm sure everybody would have said "No, it's not possible" but when you're open, I think, just sitting down and talking and being willing to listen that extraordinary things can happen, you know, Mark and I set out with that intention on this film. How could we listen to all the different denominations? How could we make sure that instead of it being about something that divides us, it could be about something that connects us and brings us together?
MORGAN: Quite ironic. Take another break. Let's come back and talk about the Pope Francis. I love this guy.
DOWNEY: Me too.
MORGAN: He's like a breath of fresh air, isn't it?
DOWNEY: Yeah, I think he's the Pope of hope.
MORGAN: The Pope of hope, after the break with Roma Downey and Mark Burnett.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICK WARREN, FOUNDER OF SADDLEBACK CHURCH: I never questioned my faith in God. I questions God's plan. There's a big difference. I know God is good God. Nothing can shake that from my life. I know God is a loving God. The question is, it's not my children, my children have never doubted that I love them, but they sometimes doubt my wisdom. And they don't think I've made the right the decision.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MORGAN: It's the interview with Rick Warren back in September. It was a heartbreaking interview and I know that you're very good friends but I texted and e-mailed Mark at the time about it because he sounded very stronger with me and this is a father (inaudible) that they lost this troubled son who took his own life with a gun. And they were so honest in that interview and it was so heartbreaking but, you know, I have to ask him as a man of great faith. Have it made him question his faith. And I thought it's also is very fastening (ph). You're both committed Christians, you're a Catholic and you're a Christian, not a Catholic, but have you had time in your life when you've questioned your faith?
BURNETT: First of all, she got to say, how much we appreciate, how you're going to took care of the Warrens and what a terrible thing that some...
BURNETT: ... of the closest friends and it's terrible.
DOWNEY: We love them both dearly.
MORGAN: It's the worst imaginable thing, isn't it?
DOWNEY: Yeah. And if -- have it with such grace, you know, they're such good and dear people. We really genuinely love them. You did -- you were so beautiful in how you dealt with them Piers.
MORGAN: I just -- in the end, you just try to not make it worst and just let them tell the story. But, on that issue of faith, you know, a lot of people will watch the "Son of God" get lost themselves about things that have happened in their lives, you know, great tragedies-- things that happened, you know, whatever it maybe and they'll question their faith. Have you had moments like that?
DOWNEY: Well, I think that, the way my father raised me really reminded me that he always used to say, Roma, either there is no God or there's only God. And in the acceptance that there was only God, there were times I haven't understood why these things were happening, but I've always had a belief system and a faith that will lead me through and I've been very grateful for that. I also believe in the power of prayer and in the moments where it isn't just clear to me, you know, but to take in that space for grace and...
MORGAN: Mark, what about you?
BURNETT: I would say really with me. I thought I grew up being England that the bible is like a rule book. And threatening at times, I'm lucky if I stepped out the line of lightning bolt may come and actually hit me. And I think that what's have been the change of me with the bible and "Son of God" is realizing a lot story is and thinking as a father and God the Father to actually sacrifice your son for another people is a really, really deep lost and I feel it really strongly Piers. So, I'm going to really feel the Holy Spirit. That's been my big shift from a rule book to a love story is how I feel now and that's my big shift.
MORGAN: I've interviewed Rick Warren numerous times (inaudible) I love them both very much. I've got huge respect for them. And one of things we always get into and I'm not get into same debate with you guys because it's a different thing that that pastor's may -- they have her duty to response I think. You're seeing what's happening in Arizona, I Uganda, and other things, there's a huge ongoing clash between religion and tolerance in my view which is playing itself out, good and bad in places, great in many ways, you're seeing a lot of gay rights being encouraged around America for example. But in the Arizona, are a big backward step, you know, in terms of thinking of some people there.
What's the away around this in terms of -- I have great mistake for people who are very religious and interpret the bible in a certain way and it makes them have used about things like homosexual wherever it may be. I just don't like it when people who don't agree with something use bigoted rhetoric. I think that's step too far. But there's a why issue here tolerance and you guys are great examples of a very tolerate implacable divide coming together, what do you think Roma, how's the best way to handle it?
DOWNEY: Well, you know, I thank that perhaps as Christian people, we become known as people who speak out against things instead of being people who speak out for. And, you know, instead of what we oppose, it's what we propose. And I think, you know, we propose love, I mean we come together in our love of Jesus and his message was inclusive, his message was invitational. He reach item to the fringes of society. And he came for all of us, you know.
MORGAN: Pope Francis has been doing this and I've been struck as a Catholic myself. How he's began to change the rhetoric. Almost single analyst saying, "Look, we got to be inclusive and we got to be tolerant and get rid of the hateful talk.
DOWNEY: Absolutely. And I think he's just been an amazing leader. And reminding us of the very, you know, essence of our Christian faith and of what Jesus came to do. And we see him reaching out to everyone. I find his message encouraging and very healing. I think it's been very healing for the Catholic faith as well. He has made it very cool to be Catholic, I think, yeah.
MORGAN: Yes. He's the Pope of Hope, like you said.
DOWNEY: Yeah. He is, I mean we have known...
MORGAN: A lot of humility that comes with him.
MORGAN: Because a pope should be a man who's got humility.
DOWNEY: Absolutely. And he's reaching out to the poor, you know, I mean his really showing mercy, his showing that you cannot just talk the talk, you have to walk the walk, and what it really is to be, you know, to be Christian, to be Christ-like, to be loving.
MORGAN: Mark, and all of the things that you achieved in television and now obviously in movies as well. Is "Son of God" in a way the one you're proudest of because of all the barriers, because of the huge risk you took in, there's so many -- some of them not tried in my lifetime to replicate which is that immortal film.
BURNETT: Well, I think we are -- is very grateful and -- for the -- to intolerance across, you know, (inaudible) if the person Catholic. After I worked again on the "Son of God," I think that's one thing I'm really, really -- (inaudible) but grateful we went for it despite -- and one telling us not to. And how people stepped up and helped us without looking for new ones that might be wrong just work together.
But certainly, I mean, just as human being told by everybody something will not work and no one's going to watch it and then it's the number one thing of last year and the "Son of God", 3100 theaters Friday. Certainly feels good.
MORGAN: So, I have this lovely idea. You can correct if I'm wrong. Have you two down at your Catholic church in Malibu there was another you've attended too Mark and just saying if you praise, there's always rejections came in -- saying if you praise, come on, come on, somebody take this and then it's happening and you're feeling completely...
DOWNEY: Lighting a candle.
MORGAN: ... vindicated, yes. The power of prayer.
DOWNEY: Listen. Yeah. I mean, did we pray that this would happen? Yes. Do we think that this has the potential for good to shine and lighten the world? Absolutely, you know, it's encouraging that Jesus is going to be back on the big screen. That this great love story is going to be seeing unfelt by millions of people not just in this country, but around the world, you know, I think it will add value to the and add value to the planet though.
MORGAN: Well, I think three or 44 great movies to see. "Gravity" was great. It's a space movie, you know, and it's great. Also, "Wolf of Wall Street" which is a monument to excess and terrible behavior. And I'd seem "12 Years A Slave" and "Son of God." And the last two to me are the two that I would recommend people go and see in America because they tell a real story. And they tell it with such powerful imagery that it really gets to you, you feel it. And I think that's an amazing achievement. And I'm so glad you did it because if you haven't done it, we're going to be waiting another 50 years. And who knows, maybe nobody would've taken that job. So, congratulations.
"Son of God" in theaters this Friday.
Coming up, Spike Lee's rant because his beloved Brooklyn has changed to today's and do the right thing. When we come back, I'll talk to the actress who made her debut in that film and lives in Brooklyn, Rosie Perez.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TINA: Hold up. Wait a minute. First of all is, it's too hot, right. If you think I'm going to let you get some, put your clothes on and leave here and as for you, black ass for another week, it must be bugging you.
MOOKIE: I'll see you tomorrow.
TINA: Yeah right. My name is Boogle, the fool.
MOOKIE: So no nasty, huh? TINA: I'm not.
MOOKIE: Tina, let's do something to us.
MOOKIE: Trust me.
TINA: Trust you? Mookie, the last time I trusted you, we ended up with a son.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MORGAN: Spike Lee, "Do the Right Thing" Movie. The movie that's relevant today as it was when it came out 25 years ago.
Rosie Perez got a big break in that film and new book. It's "Handbook for an Unpredictable Life: How I Survived Sister Renata and My Crazy Mother, and Still Came Out Smiling (with Great Hair)."
As an author, Rosie Perez is joining me exclusively and she's in the chair. Welcome to you.
ROSIE PEREZ, ACTRESS, AUTHOR, and "HANDBOOK FOR AN UNPREDICTABLE LIFE": Thank you. Thank you for having me.
MORGAN: It's an incredibly powerful book and it's framing reading it never mind what it was to be like for you to live this life in your early years. Are you sort of surprised in a way you even survived all the endless forms of abuse you went through?
PEREZ: You know, I was surprised after I finished writing the book. I had always thought it wasn't a big deal and that I had survived and moved on and I was like, although, it started to join drawn on me, "Oh my goodness, I went through an extraordinary experience. How did I do it?" And in writing the book, it helped me really revisit that whole experience and see I was really a strong kid.
MORGAN: Amazing. I mean, your mother was schizophrenic, very (inaudible). You could be cared with great love and then just turned like on a switch and you were raised by your aunt, who you thought was your mother, then your mother came back into your life, and sent you to a catholic convent kind of school where you are -- you're beaten and I guess, abused in various ways by this woman, Sister Renata, and yet at the same time, you had -- a moment in time, a bad time with her. And I thought you quite liked another aspect to that education.
PEREZ: Yes. I was previewed to top-notch education at the home. That's what we called it. The nuns were very, very strict, but they also press upon us to make it, to get out. So every -- all the time, we were like, "What is your career choice going to be, what college are you going to go to, you better do well in school, let me see your report card." It's, you know, we had two-hour study homework every single day. And so...
MORGAN: It was tough love. PEREZ: It was tough love and that part of it was wonderful. And the other part that was wonderful, the nuns were the first to say that I should be on the stage. So every time they put on a show, I got to be a part of it. And did I ever think it would be a career? Absolutely not, you know, but they did see something in me and I -- I really did, you know, appreciate that. But the beatings, I really could've done without.
MORGAN: Right. In terms of what imparted on you as a person and your religion, you know, being around all this quite severe religion, I guess, in many ways, I just interviewed Roma Downey, a month but about the Son of God movie and the bible series, you know, we're invigorating if you like religion into American life again. What did it do to you all this experience? Did it give you renewed and stronger faith or did it damage your faith?
PEREZ: That is so interesting. No one put a question like that. First of all, I would say that I'm a recovering Catholic and that's not to suspect for the Catholic Church.
MORGAN: Right. I get it.
PEREZ: Yes. I am in....
MORGAN: Anyone who reads the book will understand exactly what you mean.
PEREZ: Yes. Deep recovery. And I think it's the biggest thing that I got from it is guilt. The guilt is ridiculous. I feel bad about everything and that's reflected in the book, as well. But also just damnation and fire and the devil and hell, that was horrible to deal with as a child. It was just so over the top and, you know, and, you know, I still can walk into a church and recite the whole mass and it's really scary, how ingrained.
MORGAN: Do you pray like you do?
PEREZ: I do pray. Isn't that crazy? I do still pray.
MORGAN: It's not crazy, actually. I can understand it because if you read the book, it's so -- in a way, it's incredibly inspiring. I mean, the fact that you came through all this...
MORGAN: ... and became a seasoned successful star and actress and kept it together is miraculous. Let's come back and talk about Spike Lee because...
MORGAN: ... his movie has made you hugely famous. He has come out today with a great long Spike Lee rant about the gentrification of Brooklyn -- you're a Brooklyn girl. I want to know, is he right?
PEREZ: I think he... MORGAN: Don't answer yet. Hold your thoughts 'till after this break.
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UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I had him in my life. I have thought (inaudible) and I thought it was going to be safe and we'll bump in. I open my arms.
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MORGAN: Rosie Perez, Oscar nominated in 1994, the Fearless. She's an actress, activist, and author. She's back with me now exclusively talk about her new book.
So Spike Lee because he's very exercised (ph) today about Brooklyn and what is going on there. Let's listen to what he had to say.
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SPIKE LEE: (Inaudible)
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MORGAN: I lost, by the way, you know. I'll tell you but the New York Knicks sometimes, he's a big, also, fan like me as some would say, I mean, he's -- that's what he is.
MORGAN: He's (inaudible) get it out there. Was he right, because you've been in Brooklyn the very stage in your life then and now, this gentrification allegation that Brooklyn has become basically too expensive for the people who really have been through the tough times in Brooklyn?
PEREZ: Yes. I do believe he is right. And what's, you know, what's unfortunate is that I think a lot of people are not taking what he has to say seriously because he articulated in such a visceral rant. And so, it's easy to just dismiss it as Spike Lee just being crazy, but he does have a definite point and I think it's right.
And you know, I'll say this much, Danny Hoch, he's a great New York performer and he had to play a one-man show at the public theater. And one of the scripts was he played this Dominican guy going to the bodega and he discovers in their local bodega that he's been going to work all his life that they finally have soy milk. And he goes up to the owner and he says, "You have soy milk?" "My safe beneath, it's soy milk," since she was born, she's 12, "now, you have soy milk, now you have soy milk," you know.
And that's the sentiment. It's like we weren't good enough. You couldn't help develop the neighborhood to make it better and make it safer then. Why now? And so, I understand people's resentment.
In the same breath, it is what it is. We're here. We're now. We got to figure out some common grounds to come together because there is a lot of attention. And I just think that, you know, it's sad. And you know, people always say, "Well, New York always changes." That's true for the city. It is not true for the barrels. You go to Woodhaven, Queens, it still looks like the opening credits of all in the family, you know, (inaudible) land, you know.
PEREZ: And that's what Brooklyn was. And we take great pride in that. We think it's beautiful. And then when they put up this big ugly high rises, you know, it hurts. When a hipster is walking down the street and ignores you, that hurts.
As a matter fact, you know, the Polar Vortex that just went on, right, I come home, I was in L.A. working, and it was still kind of snowing and I was like, "Oh no, no one shoveled my sidewalk" and it's the law, you have to shovel sidewalk if a you're private home owner.
So, I'm in the garage and -- yeah, if I have garage in Brooklyn, I felt so fabulous. And so, go in and I'm about to shovel the snow and this hipster is on the phone with 311 reporting me. And I said, "I am so sorry." I said, "Can I shake your hand? Are you my neighbor?" He goes, "I live down the block." I said, "OK. Well, I'm so sorry. We were away." "Well, you should have someone taking care of that." And I go "I understand that. I'm apologizing. Can you just shake my hand?" "Hello, this is bla, bla, bla" and (inaudible) and he just continued and I was like that's not the Brooklyn way man.
PEREZ: I want to see you again man. And when he was walking away, I was like, that's cowardly of you. I'm going to see you again...
MORGAN: Good for you.
PEREZ: ... you know, and that's part of it.
MORGAN: I get it.
PEREZ: It's a big, big part of it.
MORGAN: Let's talk just quickly about "White Men Can't Jump." It's a brilliant, funny, iconic, and become kind of classic, isn't it?
MORGAN: How much fun was it to make?
PEREZ: That was the most fun I've ever had on the set. Woody and Wesley were ridiculous. They were insane and I loved every minute of it and the synergy between us was undeniable and we clicked, we clicked and there were many of times where on shouting the director would scold us and you know, "focus, focus, this is not a game, this is a movie" and you know, and it was just so much fun.
MORGAN: I want to correct -- all are correct. I've got you a record here of allegation swirling in the tabloids here. You and Jennifer Lopez hate each other. There's a massive feud?
PEREZ: I don't hate Jennifer Lopez. I have great respect for her. When I first saw her and knew she was going to be a star, yes, we had a test and it was 20 years ago and I write it in my book. It's unfortunate that the tabloids try to portray that something that is current and it's not. I've moved on and I'm sure she has also.
We're grown women. And it's really disgusting to me that the media try to put two Latinas against each other and you know, it's just so difficult and so hard to make it in this industry especially if you're person of color. And for them to do that was really shameful. And it was unfortunate that there were a few people that believed it and bought into it.
That said, I don't only talk about her. I talked about how I was rude to Jamie Foxx, how I was rude to Spike Lee, how I was rude to Don Cornelius, I hit that four men in the head with a -- his forehead with a chicken wing, you know, and it was all because I didn't know how to articulate my anger.
The weapons that served me well against Sister Renata and the home, I didn't need them anymore but I didn't realize that. I didn't realize that well, it was over and I had to move on.
One of the counselors in the group home -- the group home did serve me well. I did like the group home but I just didn't want to be there. I wanted to be home that was after the home. There's wonderful man and I'm going to say his real name is -- his name is Nigel Johnson. One day, he told me when I was leaving the group home, he said, "Life dealt you a (inaudible)." I went, "Gee, thanks for the encouragement, you know, and good life to you too" and he says "Well, you could always ask the new cops." And I said "How?" And he said, "You're going to figure it out when you get tired of holding that hand." And that's what I did. And that's really the point of the book.
MORGAN: The Handbook for an Unpredictable Life: How I Survived Sister Renata and My Crazy Mother, and Still Came Out Smiling (with Great Hair.)" And by the way, on that coverage page on that, a great hair.
PEREZ: It's ridiculous. Thank you.
MORGAN: And that's a great hair here. I mean...
PEREZ: Thank you, thank you.
MORGAN: ... slightly common great hair there. Rosie Perez, it's nice to meet you.
PEREZ: Thank you.
MORGAN: Thank you very much.
PEREZ: My pleasure as well.
MORGAN: Nice to see you.
PEREZ: Thank you so much. Thank you.
MORGAN: Nice to see you. We'll be right back.
MORGAN: Tomorrow night, CNN films brings you And The Oscar Goes To, the ultimate backstage look at the Hollywood's biggest night. That's tomorrow at 9 PM Eastern.
That's all for us tonight. Anderson Cooper starts right now.