Exclusive - John Legend Extended Interview

December 6, 2016 - John Legend 12/06/2016 Views: 15,207

John Legend compares starring in the film "La La Land" to working in the music industry and weighs in on how he's reacting to Donald Trump's electoral victory. (8:30)

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Please welcome John Legend!

(applause and cheering)

Hello, sir.

-Hello! Hey.-(applause and cheering swell)

Thank you. Thank you.

-Welcome. Welcome. Welcome.-Thank you.

Welcome to the show.

My friend, it's goodto finally be here.

It's good to have you, man,finally.

Been a while. I've been wantingto have you on the show.

I'm glad you made it, and, uh,not a moment too soon,

because you are doingeverything.

-You're living up to the name"Legend." -Everything this week.

-(laughter)-My album came out Friday.

-Yes. -The movie comes outthis Friday, so...

-Let's talk about the moviefirst. -Yeah.

Because this is somethingthat is new for you.

La La Land-- there's a lotof hype around the film.

-Yeah. -Lot of people are sayingit's a fantastic movie.

Ryan Gosling, Emma Stoneand yourself.

It's so secret

that they wouldn't even let mewatch it beforehand,

so I have to ask you,what is it about?

-Oh. You could have faked it.-I could have faked it?

-Yeah.-No, I don't fake it.

-I'm sure you guys fake someof these. -The show is real.

-No, I watch everything.-Come on.

-(Legend laughs) -I mean, real,I watch everything.

Okay. Well, the movie's about...

Ryan and Emma--they are two people

that embark on a romance,

but they also moveto Los Angeles

so they can become starsin their respective fields.

Really, Ryan's character doesn'treally want to be a star.

And then Emma's characterwants to be an actress,

and you see the ups and downsof their career

and also the ups and downsof their romance.

And I represent, uh...

sort of like a villainto Ryan's character,

because I'm kind of telling him,you know...

this whole jazz thingyou're trying to do

is not gonna work out.

And I'm trying to steer himin a more kind of...

commercial direction,and he's trying to decide

which way he wants to go.

You smile the way you say it,

like you enjoyedplaying a villain.

There's just, like,there's just a look in your eye

-while you're telling me that...-My wife watched it,

she's like,"John, Keith is an asshole."


-That's my character.-Was that fun, being an asshole?

It was fun. He wasn'tthat much of an asshole,

but he was trying to give,you know, Ryan's character

a bit of a reality check.

When you are... when youare acting, would you say

you're tapping into somethingcompletely different to...

'Cause, I mean, in music videosI see you acting.

-Yeah.-Like, you have to act

-like you're in love withthe person, you know? -Yeah.

Luckily, I've had my wifein my videos

the last couple of times, soI was really in love with her.


I mean, not the music videos,of course, of course. Of course.

Not the music videos.But, yeah, I think

it's a little differentwhen you're acting.

I think you haveto actually be more subtle

-Yeah.-when you're doing film acting,

because I'm usedto being on stage,

and everything's a little biggerwhen you're on stage.

But when you're filmingin these small quarters,

it's more like catchinglittle expressions,

and you don't haveto raise your voice,

you speak, you know,just normally and subtly

and try to convey the emotionin the best way that you can.

You... you obviously havethe Oscar for the, uh,

-Yeah. Yeah. -Selma album. So, I mean,

this could be the next Oscarcoming your way.

I-I seriously doubtI will get an Oscar from this,

but I think there aresome people in the cast

and... and directorand the cinematographer

who are definitely gonna becontenders this year.

-Let's talk about the album, Darkness and Light. -Yeah.

-Yes.-This is a beautiful album,

-Thank you!-but I think what really...

-Did you really listen to it?-I did.

-Okay. He really listened to it.-I did.

-What surprised me...-(cheering, applause)

-What surprised me was...-(chuckling)

-were some of the themes,though. -Yeah.

You know? Like, I mean,

-you have images of Iraq.-Yeah.

You have themes of, you know,

-I guess, the violenceand the oppression -Yeah.

-of the black man and theblack woman in America. -Sure.

That's not something a personwould normally associate

a John Legend album with.

Well, you might not haveassociated my albums with it,

but you, if you follow meon Twitter,

you know what I talk about,what I think about.

And, uh, if you see meon shows like this,

you know what I talk aboutand think about.

So I think about a lotof different things,

and I wanted to incorporate

-some more of thatinto the music, -Yeah.

because I always writeabout romance,

and I still doon this album, but, uh,

I wanted to incorporate more ofmy world-view into the music.

And so that's what we triedto do on this album.

You know,it's funny you say that,

because I rememberchatting to friends,

and we were like, Trump is gonnabe really amazing for artists.

A lot of peoplehave said that.

(laughing): I wrote all thisbefore Trump, so, I mean...

No. But people say that a lot.Like, they go, like--

-And in-- at a time whenpeople are afraid. -Yeah.

At a time when people feel liketheir liberties are at risk.

-Sure.-That's when artists... express.

I mean, we had some of our bestmusic in the '60s and '70s,

and, uh, you know, we had theVietnam War during that time.

-We had the civil rightsmovement. -Yeah.

There was a lot of unrest inyoung people during that time.

And, uh, we don't want thereto be the conditions

that force peopleto think like that,

but if they are there,

then maybe it will give ussome great art

that will help, help us kind ofdeal with what's happening,

but also help focus us

on what we need to doto make it better.

The, uh, album,what's your favorite song?

No one ever asksthe artist that.

My favorite song--I love the title track,

it's called"Darkness and Light."

I love "Overload,"a song I did with Miguel.

Uh, and I love a song I wrote

for my daughter.It's called, uh,

-"Right By You (for Luna)."Yeah. Yeah. -Oh.

-(cheering, applause)-That sounds sweet.

Let's, um... let's talk aboutyour-your organization,

-Free America.-Free America.

Because you do say,uh, you know, like, you say,

-you're vocal on Twitter.-Sure, I'm vocal, uh,

I'm vocal as an activist.We go to visit prisons,

we visit, uh, jailsand detention centers

-around the country,juvenile centers. -Yes.

And we're trying to make Americaa less incarcerated place,

-a more free place. -What doesthat mean, though, for...

-Like, some people go...-Well, we are the most

-incarcerated country,so that-that's a fact. -Yes.

And a po... uh, a setof policies and actions

by our-our politicians,uh, over the last 40 years,

have led us to that place, andwe're trying to reverse that.

So, part of it's through,uh, getting involved

in local electionswith sheriffs and D.A.s

that control a lot of thesedecisions. Part of it's, uh,

changing laws on the state levellike we've done

in California and Texasand other places.

And then some of it is-isfederal as well, but most of it,

actually, is on a state andlocal level. So we get involved

with activists who are workingon the ground and-and try

to help pass laws that willmake us a freer place.

-A lot of people are...-(cheering, applause)

A lot of people have beenasking the question--

how can they get involvedin activism?

I mean, you-you'rein a different place,

because you're John Legend,but if someone is out there

going, "I want to get involved.I want to do something

-"that'll help. I want to movethe country forward

in this way,"where can they start?

I think there's a lot of places.Depends on what you're...

you're-you're worried aboutand what's important to you.

But I-I think,in a Trump administration,

we should worry about placeslike Planned Parenthood.

-We should worry about placeslike the ACLU. -(applause)

We should worry about,um, organizations

that are out thereto protect people.

The Legal Defense Fundfor the NAACP.

All these placesthat are out there

trying to protectthe people, uh,

from an oppressive government

and from people that would wantto take their rights away.

And so we all needto be involved and be vigilant

and pay attentionto what the government is doing

under our nameand with our money, uh,

and, uh, hold them accountable

and support organizationsthat are fighting the power.

-Let me...-(cheering and applause)

let me ask you a question,

'cause this is somethingI grapple with sometimes

and I know a lot of people do.

I've seen people tweet thisat you--

-Mm-hmm. -they go,"John Legend, great singer..."

"I hate his politics."

"Shut upand do what you're good at.

"Leave the politicsto the politicians.

-Sing more."-Yeah. So I assume...

I always wonder if those peopleare actually politicians.

'Cause I don't think they are.So what they're telling me,

that them, as plumbers, are morequalified to talk about politics

than I, as a singer, am.But we're all citizens.

We're all part of this country.

We all vote. We all pay taxes.

And what decisionsour politicians make

impact all of us. And so, just'cause I have more followers

-than you... (chuckling)-(cheering and applause)

...doesn't meanit's suddenly out-of-bounds

for me to talk about politicsbut you can talk about it to me.

So I think, really,what they want me to do

is agree with them.If I agreed with them,

they would be perfectly happywith me talking about politics.

Um, but we all haveto be involved.

We all have to pay attentionto what's happening.

And when we have somethingto say, we should...

we should say it.And I have a special platform,

and I'm not gonna waste it.

-(cheering and applause)-I appreciate it.

-And I appreciate you, man.Thank you so much. -Thank you.

La La Land will bein select theaters December 9

and everywhere December 16.

Darkness and Light is available now.

-John Legend, everybody.-(cheering and applause)

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