NBC Celebrates Anita Hill ‘Back in the Headlines’ With HBO Film

In the sixth segment in less than two weeks promoting HBO’s movie rehash of the Clarence Thomas/Anita Hill hearings, on Tuesday’s NBC Today, weatherman Al Roker spoke to the stars of the film and proclaimed: “Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and Anita Hill are back in the headlines thanks to Confirmation. It’s a dramatized version of the controversial Senate hearings, premiering this week on HBO.”

Actors Kerry Washington (playing Anita Hill), Wendell Pierce (playing Clarence Thomas), and Greg Kinnear (playing Joe Biden), discussed their respective roles. Washington revealed “the hearings had always held a special place for me.” Pierce said of Thomas: “This was a man at the pinnacle of his career, about to, you know, mount the summit, and then something from his past comes back and haunts him.” Kinnear lamented: “It was no one’s finest day.”

Each of the three celebrities had already appeared on the morning show on three separate occasions to promote the film. On April 5, Kinnear claimed Biden was “impartial” while leading the smear campaign against Thomas. On April 7, Pierce went on to tout the project. On April 8, co-host Matt Lauer actually pressed Washington on whether it was “political propaganda.”

In addition, actor Eric Stonestreet appeared on March 31 to discuss his role playing former White House chief of staff Ken Duberstein in the film. Anita Hill herself sat down for a softball interview with Savannah Guthrie for Monday’s broadcast.

On Tuesday, Roker declared: “Many Americans, especially the female half of the population, objected to the way Hill was treated by the all-male Senate panel. Sparking a national conversation about sexual harassment, which permanently changed the culture.”

Washington touted: “One of the most dynamic, fascinating visual aesthetics of the film is to see that Senate Judiciary Committee be all older white men. And to know that now, just in the year following the hearings, that the committee became more inclusive. More Americans feeling inspired to participate and to call out harassment when they see it.”

Roker highlighted how she “consulted with Anita Hill early on in the process” and asked: “How does she feel about the movie? What does she think?” Washington replied: “You know, she doesn't agree with every moment in the film, but I know that she is proud of how we've struggled with the issues to try to really flesh out the story and be fair.”

Here is a full transcript of the April 12 segment:

9:14 AM ET

AL ROKER: Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and Anita Hill are back in the headlines thanks to Confirmation. It’s a dramatized version of the controversial Senate hearings, premiering this week on HBO. Kerry Washington plays Anita Hill and she also executive produced the film. So I got a chance to talk with her and her other co-stars, Greg Kinnear and Wendell Pierce.

KERRY WASHINGTON [AS ANITA HILL]: It takes an expert in psychology to explain how that can happen. But it can happen, because it happened to me.

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: Supreme Drama; Kerry Washington Stars in “Confirmation”]

WASHINGTON: I think the hearings had always held a special place for me because it was one of the first times that I was really confronted with different aspects of my identity. This was one of the moments where I remember my parents being at odds because my mother held a certain set of beliefs as an African-American woman in the workplace and my dad, as an African-American man in the workplace, had a different set of beliefs about the dynamics of what was happening in the hearings.

WENDELL PIERCE [AS CLARENCE THOMAS]: I can't not care. I'm not Kennedy. I'm a black man in America. This is a very different thing for me.

PIERCE: This was a man at the pinnacle of his career, about to, you know, mount the summit, and then something from his past comes back and haunts him.

ROKER: Clarence Thomas and Wendell Pierce come from similar family backgrounds, which the actor says he drew on in order to put himself in the mindset of the conservative Supreme Court Justice.

PIERCE [AS THOMAS]: It’s a high-tech lynching.

ROKER: Do you have a different opinion of Clarence Thomas now that you’ve had to portray him than you did going into this?
                        
PIERCE: I want to meet him because of what we share in common. And I actually want to see where our paths kind of separate, you know –

WASHINGTON: Ideologically.

PIERCE: Ideologically, because we actually, we have so much in common.

GREG KINNEAR [AS JOE BIDEN]: I’m not going to be the chairman who knew about a second accuser and didn’t call her in.

ROKER: Greg Kinnear plays Vice President Joe Biden, then head of the Senate Judiciary Committee, who found himself at the center of the controversy.

KINNEAR: It was no one’s finest day. I mean, ultimately, he voted against the confirmation of Judge Thomas. But at the same time, he's been criticized for not letting certain things happen during that process that might have changed the course of history.

ROKER: Many Americans, especially the female half of the population, objected to the way Hill was treated by the all-male Senate panel. Sparking a national conversation about sexual harassment, which permanently changed the culture.

SEN. ALAN SIMPSON [R-WY]: If what you say this man said to you occurred –  

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR [AS SENATOR SIMPSON]: If what you say this man said to you occurred, why in God's name –

WASHINGTON: One of the most dynamic, fascinating visual aesthetics of the film is to see that Senate Judiciary Committee be all older white men. And to know that now, just in the year following the hearings, that the committee became more inclusive. More Americans feeling inspired to participate and to call out harassment when they see it.

ROKER: Washington says she consulted with Anita Hill early on in the process and met up with her again at the film's L.A. premiere. How does she feel about the movie? What does she think?

WASHINGTON: I think she's – she has a range of opinions. You know, she doesn't agree with every moment in the film, but I know that she is proud of how we've struggled with the issues to try to really flesh out the story and be fair. And she feels like I did an okay job being her.

[LAUGHTER]

ROKER: Okay.

WASHINGTON: Which I'll take. Which I'll take.

ROKER: Well, Confirmation premieres this Saturday on HBO.

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