Video: Whoopi Goldberg interview, part 1

CNBC
updated 6/30/2006 4:11:42 PM ET 2006-06-30T20:11:42

MICHAEL EISNER:
Welcome, Whoopi. I want to get something out of the way--

WHOOPI GOLDBERG:
Yeah.

MICHAEL EISNER:
--first.

WHOOPI GOLDBERG:
Yes.

MICHAEL EISNER:
Academy Award, Tony Award, Emmy Award, Golden Globe Award, every award. You are one of the most honored actresses, and the hardest working actress, and have done unbelievable amount of volume of work. You are a real working professional. And it came home to me as I was getting ready to interview you and I just read the enormous amount of material that you've done. And how much your peers have honored you. So I just wanted to say exciting having you here because I go back a long way. And I just thought it would be fun to talk about your childhood a little bit and some of the things we've done together and-- and how you so professionally and kept a career at such a high octane level.

WHOOPI GOLDBERG:
It's-- it's kinda wild. I mean it's really interesting to see you in this-- (LAUGHS) in this position to-- to be interviewed by you. It's-- it's very rare to see people transition to other parts of our industry that they may not know. Most people aren't brave enough to do it.

MICHAEL EISNER:
Well, I tried to transition once I don't know about 25 years ago. I was giving a political-- you may even remember this. I was giving a political fundraiser for Senator Bill Bradley from New Jersey.

WHOOPI GOLDBERG:
Oh, yes, I remember. (LAUGHS)

MICHAEL EISNER:
And in that-- oh, you remember it.

WHOOPI GOLDBERG:
Yeah, I remember it.

MICHAEL EISNER:
And this season there was a lot of political fundraising for Democrats. And Barbra Streisand two weeks earlier had done this event of all events for I think a whole committee of--

WHOOPI GOLDBERG:
Right.

MICHAEL EISNER:
--candidates and-- and she had Robin Williams. And she sang. And-- and everybody in Hollywood went.

WHOOPI GOLDBERG:
Yeah.

MICHAEL EISNER:
And we then had the obligation—we, meaning Michael Ovitz actually and myself to give a fundraiser for Bill Bradley. And we looked around for the new competitor of Robin Williams for Barbra Streisand. And I talked to Mike Nichols.

WHOOPI GOLDBERG:
Right.

MICHAEL EISNER:
And Mike Nichols said, "I'm telling you who it is. It's Whoopi Goldberg." So I said, "Yeah, I read about her. And she's this Jewish New York actress." "No, no," Mike-- "she's not this Jewish New York actress. You should say with it.” (LAUGHTER) Okay, so you agreed to do it.

WHOOPI GOLDBERG:
Yes.

MICHAEL EISNER:
We had a packed house.

WHOOPI GOLDBERG:
Yes.

MICHAEL EISNER:
It was freezing in California (LAUGHTER) and just about to rain. You stepped out on the platform and the first words out of your mouth was after three or four very funny joke--

WHOOPI GOLDBERG:
Yes.

MICHAEL EISNER:
I love being here. And me and the guy serving liquor are the only two African-Americans in the room.

WHOOPI GOLDBERG:
Actually I said the two black—we’re the only black people here. (LAUGHS)

MICHAEL EISNER:
And it was silence like (LAUGHS), oh my God. I think I'm in the wrong profession. And then you went on to do--

WHOOPI GOLDBERG:
Yeah.

MICHAEL EISNER:
--your usual--

WHOOPI GOLDBERG:
Yeah.

MICHAEL EISNER:
--fantastic presentation. And I sat there after working weeks to get the most current, brilliant one-woman show, Mike Nichols find, Steven Spielberg find--

WHOOPI GOLDBERG:
But it was true.

MICHAEL EISNER:
I know it was true.

WHOOPI GOLDBERG:
It was-- it was, you know, one of the great things that-- that I love is that, you know, I still was able to get a job with you after that. (LAUGHS) But you know, people didn't like to hear those things. But the truth of the matter is a lot of folks were dif-- disenfranchised in Hollywood. A lot of black people were disenfranchised. A lot of black actors. And it-- it-- it's not so much that it's really changed that much. But there are more of us. There are more black actors who are in different positions now. So at the time it was like I'm looking out over all these really amazing people. And-- and no one's noticing that there's something wrong with this party, with the Democratic Party. Not the party we were at. But-- and--

MICHAEL EISNER:
By the way--

WHOOPI GOLDBERG:
Yes.

MICHAEL EISNER:
That statement--

WHOOPI GOLDBERG:
Yeah.

MICHAEL EISNER:
That one line--

WHOOPI GOLDBERG:
Yeah.

MICHAEL EISNER:
--stuck with me and everybody else in that room and had more impact at least in the Hollywood community than anything you could've done. And you did-- And I felt sorry for the waiter. (LAUGHTER) I mean this poor guy, everybody turned around and looked at him and said--

WHOOPI GOLDBERG:
What?

MICHAEL EISNER:
"Who are you?" So it was-- it was-- it-- it was very awkward. But I then obviously we made Sister Act.

WHOOPI GOLDBERG:
Yeah.

MICHAEL EISNER:
Video: A cinderella story And-- and we've done a lot of things together which was a giant hit. And-- and your films whether it's a, you know, Ghost Story or The Color Purple or-- are just legends. And it's interesting cause when you read about Whoopi Goldberg and you read about growing up in New York and what it was like it's just a Cin-- it is a Cinderella story.

WHOOPI GOLDBERG:
Yeah.

MICHAEL EISNER:
Wouldn't you say it's a Cinderella story?

WHOOPI GOLDBERG:
Absolutely. I'm the quintessential Hollywood story, Hollywood movie. That is exactly what's happened to me. You know, it-- talent, everybody has talent. There are a lot of talented people, far more talented than myself. But it's about timing and, you know. I grew up in a time when I could do the kind of works that I did. And I just got lucky. I mean if Mike Nichols had had a cold that night who knows what would have happened.

MICHAEL EISNER:
No, I don't think that's true. I-- I've-- I've said to people-- is it lucky I-- I-- I was with you at a certain time or I'd say that so-and-so was lucky with you. The guy who's there who I'm giving credit to says, "You know if it wasn't you it would've been somebody else." The talent will win out. But you--

WHOOPI GOLDBERG:
Maybe.

MICHAEL EISNER:
You had a-- you came from the projects. It wasn't, you know, it wasn't the poorest part of New York. But--

WHOOPI GOLDBERG:
No.

MICHAEL EISNER:
--it wasn't Park Avenue either. Complicated family. Yes?

WHOOPI GOLDBERG:
No, very simple, mom and brother and me. And--

MICHAEL EISNER:
Well there’s one missing ingredient in that.

WHOOPI GOLDBERG:
Well, but you know, that's the story of thousands and thousands since time has begun. You know, I know people are-- are very curious as to what a one-parent household is like. In-- and parents are really interesting. They-- they manage to be both people that they need to be for the most part. And my mom was-- was a nurse, and she was a Head Start teacher. And really smart and funny and silly. And we never really knew that we were missing anything cause a lot of kids in my neighborhood were in the same situation. But there were a lot of kids who had two parents, you know. Two parents don't necessarily make it okay. (LAUGHS) I had a great childhood in New York City.

MICHAEL EISNER:
No drugs?

WHOOPI GOLDBERG:
During the '60s, right? I-- that was part of a great childhood.

MICHAEL EISNER:
Cause that was in the book.

WHOOPI GOLDBERG:
Yeah.

MICHAEL EISNER:
Okay.

WHOOPI GOLDBERG:
And the '60s was a time where everybody was stoned, everybody.

MICHAEL EISNER:
See what I missed. I didn't know about it.

WHOOPI GOLDBERG:
Oh, that's right. Yes, no, he was square.

MICHAEL EISNER:
But..

WHOOPI GOLDBERG:
But in New York Hair was happening on Broadway, students were protesting at Columbia and down at NYU. There was a-- a thing happening in New York. There was a thing happening across the country. Into that mix comes me who's smoking weed and trying, experimenting with all kinds of things, sex and drugs and rock and roll. And it was of a period. And of that period you could do that.

MICHAEL EISNER:
And people didn’t look that down on that.

WHOOPI GOLDBERG:
No. You were safe. Because everyone was trying it. Women were coming out of their-- their homes trying to be, you know, liberated women. Sex was something you could have with almost anybody you wanted because we were liberated by the pill. I mean it was a different time period.

MICHAEL EISNER:
There was a point in your life when you said, "This does not work for me."

WHOOPI GOLDBERG:
Well, it just wasn't any good. It just wasn't any good for me anymore. And when you have a kid it just-- you can't balance the two. Drugs is a very selfish way to live. You can only be into yourself. You have a kid you really can't take care of them.

MICHAEL EISNER:
So you're trying to become a professional and you're moving to San Diego. You're doing a-- and you have a kid. Is the kid hard to be with all the time?

WHOOPI GOLDBERG:
No, I took her everywhere. She-- (LAUGHS) I put her in theatres. This may be one of the reasons she's not crazy about going to the theatre now. Because she grew up in them. She would be with me from the time I woke up to the time I put her to sleep. She-- I think if you hypnotized her she could probably do as many plays in her sleep.

MICHAEL EISNER:
She's in Sister Act Two--

WHOOPI GOLDBERG:
Yeah, yeah.

MICHAEL EISNER:
Yeah, I remember that.

WHOOPI GOLDBERG:
A little bit reluctantly, you know, but she-- she came around and she did it. She's a nice girl.

MICHAEL EISNER:
And when you decided to do-- or get the break, when Mike Nichols said, "Hey, there's this person who is talented. I've heard about her." You did your one-woman show in New York.

WHOOPI GOLDBERG:
Right.

MICHAEL EISNER:
And that exploded. You--

WHOOPI GOLDBERG:
Right.

MICHAEL EISNER:
--were toast of New York as they say.

WHOOPI GOLDBERG:
Right.

MICHAEL EISNER:
Was that an exhilarating change from having, you know, worked through school and-- and all the things you do and--

WHOOPI GOLDBERG:
It was, you know what? It was most exciting because I thought, ooh, I can buy two pair of shoes for the kid, you know. That was what it meant to me was that I could-- I could do better for her than we had been able to do. You know, I was lucky enough to be the recipient of-- of the welfare system as an adult because I needed it. I needed their help. And they were there for me. And I still have framed somewhere the last card that I got from Medical. Cause I was so pleased that-- that it existed for me when I needed it, you know. So years and years ago when they started to talk about people on welfare with such disparaging words it really angered me. Because that wasn't really what was happening. People need assistance. (CLEARS THROAT) And there's nothing wrong with us giving it. Because everybody pays taxes. Well, for the most part everybody pays taxes. And at some point if you're in need that's what your tax money's there to do. It's there to help work for you.

MICHAEL EISNER:
Would you consider yourself liberal?

WHOOPI GOLDBERG:
On some issues. Some things I'm-- I don't think I'm very liberal. I have a very distinct ideas, distinctive ideas about the death penalty and when it should and should not be used. I own guns, registered guns. But I don't mind letting people know I have them, you know. cuts down on them just coming over to see me. (LAUGHTER) You know.

MICHAEL EISNER:
To borrow them.

WHOOPI GOLDBERG:
Yeah.

MICHAEL EISNER:
So you don't follow some doctrine, everything this way or everything that way.

WHOOPI GOLDBERG:
No, because that's not the real world. The real world says you have to be flexible. And you have to know what works for you. And there are a lot of things in the world that work for me, and a lot that I don't. And some I know I have to-- I have to get behind in order to keep what I like.

MICHAEL EISNER:
You know interestingly what you want. Many actresses, performers, sit back and wait sometimes too long or forever for something to be handed to them. If you think something is for you you go out and get it. I remember when you went and got the part on Star Trek.

WHOOPI GOLDBERG:
Yeah.

MICHAEL EISNER:
And you're not gonna let that-- you wanted to do that for some reason.

WHOOPI GOLDBERG:
I did.

MICHAEL EISNER:
And you were gonna get it.

WHOOPI GOLDBERG:
I-- well, you know why, Michael. Because when I as a kid watched Star Trek Lieutenant O'Hura was the only representation of black people in the future. If you look at any science fiction movie or television show done before Gene did Star Trek there are no black people in the future. None. And I fell in love with her not only because she was, you know, the communications officer. But she looked good. And she had a good attitude. And I thought, if that's the future I'm on my way.

MICHAEL EISNER:
And how long did it take you to convince them to do that?

WHOOPI GOLDBERG:
About six months.

MICHAEL EISNER:
And they finally just-- your pestering they finally said, "Gimme a break."

WHOOPI GOLDBERG:
Well, he didn't--

MICHAEL EISNER:
Let her do it.

WHOOPI GOLDBERG:
Well, they didn't believe it. Because you remember at the time movie people did not really go and do television shows. That was like a career bad thing. You weren't supposed to do it. But I wanted to be on Star Trek. I wanted some little kid to come up to me in 50 years and say, "You know what? I know that we're in the future. I saw you."

MICHAEL EISNER:
Well, you do something interesting. You are aggressive to try to get something that you want in the positive sense. Not in the-- the-- in the unpleasant sense. But according to Altman and the Player, which is a movie you wanted, he when he finally said, "Okay, okay, you can have it, you convinced me.

WHOOPI GOLDBERG:
Right.

MICHAEL EISNER:
He said you were fantastic. You brought-- I think you had a tampon.

WHOOPI GOLDBERG:
Yes.

MICHAEL EISNER:
--that you were swirling in the scene.

WHOOPI GOLDBERG:
It’s called pon…tampon.

MICHAEL EISNER:
But anyway, I'm a man.

WHOOPI GOLDBERG:
Yes, you are.

MICHAEL EISNER:
Anyway, you brought it to the set.

WHOOPI GOLDBERG:
Yes, I did.

MICHAEL EISNER:
And you were swinging it--

WHOOPI GOLDBERG:
Yes.

MICHAEL EISNER:
--at the homicide detective--

WHOOPI GOLDBERG:
Well, because he said…

MICHAEL EISNER:
He said that was brilliant.

WHOOPI GOLDBERG:
Well, he said here is a scene that is like a million scenes you've seen. What can you do that will make it different?

MICHAEL EISNER:
You could've had a harpoon. That would've worked too.

WHOOPI GOLDBERG:
That's true. But then I would've had to kill the guy.

MICHAEL EISNER:
(LAUGHS) Right.

WHOOPI GOLDBERG:
But the mere fact that he realized that there was something that was already cliché allowed me to just sort of go into my little box and say, "Well, can we do this? Can we try this?" Because if you were gonna intimidate somebody that's what you'd do. You would take them out of their comfort zone. If you're sitting, talking to somebody, and suddenly they pull out a giant, you know, massage thing and just put it on the table, you know, it would-- you'd be… they'd be thrown.

MICHAEL EISNER:
Right.

WHOOPI GOLDBERG:
So he said, "Okay, try it." So I did. And it worked.

MICHAEL EISNER:
Well, the thing that is interesting is which I've learned over the years and also learned in getting ready for this-- this-- this interview is you're multi-talented, yes. But the personality which everybody has to have to go with it has come together and made you a extremely hard worker doing very interesting things. Be-- obviously you're very intelligent. And you're not afraid to take a part that may or may be not such a great movie and in X movie you take a part, Academy Award winning movie. You're not afraid to not work. So many people who have a hit movie--

WHOOPI GOLDBERG:
Yeah.

MICHAEL EISNER:
--are paralyzed. And they just almost never work again.

WHOOPI GOLDBERG:
Video: Whoopi Goldberg interview, part 3 Yeah. Well, you know, my life span and if I listened to people (CLEARS THROAT) cause apparently it was a shock to people that I was black. I guess they thought I didn't know. Cause people would say, "You know you're black and you're reading for this?" And I'd be like really?

MICHAEL EISNER:
Well, maybe-- maybe the Goldberg made it..

WHOOPI GOLDBERG:
I don't know. But it seemed like--

MICHAEL EISNER:
Is there really--

WHOOPI GOLDBERG:
… shocking.

MICHAEL EISNER:
--a little piece of Jewish blood in you?

WHOOPI GOLDBERG:
A tad.

MICHAEL EISNER:
So okay, wait a second. So you've got a-- you've got a tad of Jewishness which is where the Goldberg came from. And the Whoopi came from?

WHOOPI GOLDBERG:
Do you really want me to tell you?

MICHAEL EISNER:
Is it dirty?

WHOOPI GOLDBERG:
Well, some people would th-- he would think it was dirty. (LAUGHS) He would think…

MICHAEL EISNER:
But it can’t be that dirty.

WHOOPI GOLDBERG:
No. When you work in small, confined areas like theatres and things and-- and there's just a long distance to get to someplace and you're changing clothes, trying to do quick changes, you release air.

MICHAEL EISNER:
Oh.

WHOOPI GOLDBERG:
And you zoom back on stage. Now--

MICHAEL EISNER:
That’s what this is…

WHOOPI GOLDBERG:
Now if you're heard and not, you know, smelled, you would get the name like Whoopi. If you were smelling you'd get a name like Stinky. I was lucky. (LAUGHTER) I got the name Whoopi.

MICHAEL EISNER:
I see.

WHOOPI GOLDBERG:
Yes.

MICHAEL EISNER:
So you tied that to Goldberg.

WHOOPI GOLDBERG:
Yes.

MICHAEL EISNER:
So you're now embarking on a-- again, yet again, a new career.

WHOOPI GOLDBERG:
Yes.

MICHAEL EISNER:
Four hours a day beginning in July, radio.

WHOOPI GOLDBERG:
Yeah.

MICHAEL EISNER:
And even have your own point of view. You're not Howard Stern.

WHOOPI GOLDBERG:
No.

MICHAEL EISNER:
You're not John Cameron Swayze. What are you?

WHOOPI GOLDBERG:
I'm just good things in the morning. I'm gonna try to make an impression

MICHAEL EISNER:
Can you speak for four straight hours?

WHOOPI GOLDBERG:
Me? Oh, yeah. You should ask some of my husbands about that… (LAUGHTER) a lotta talk. So, yeah.

MICHAEL EISNER:
Would you have a co-host?

WHOOPI GOLDBERG:
Yeah, I have another-- a young man called Cubby.

MICHAEL EISNER:
Is he funny? Or is he gonna be the straight man?

WHOOPI GOLDBERG:
Well, he-- he's funny and he's also the straight man and doesn't quite realize it. Which is wonderful.

MICHAEL EISNER:
Have you worked with him before?

WHOOPI GOLDBERG:
No. This is our first time out. But he's very, very, very good at doing the radio stuff.

MICHAEL EISNER:
What-- what are you doing? You do the music, weather? What are you doing?

WHOOPI GOLDBERG:
We're doing music and really my-- my intent is to wake people up with something good. Just some good news. Just to have good things during the course of the day. During the course of this show you will hear 40 good things that are-- that are going on. And things that you can do yourself at home. Little dopey recipes you can make, things you can do with the kids, things that you can do for, you know, Father's Day. Things that-- just things that people can do to make the day better. Cause that's what I want when I wake up. I want some good news.

MICHAEL EISNER:
Well, I think when you look at all—look at for instance, your Academy Awards, not the ones you've won, the fact that you've done four times you've hosted the Academy Awards. And that is miraculous.

WHOOPI GOLDBERG:
Yes.

MICHAEL EISNER:
Are you the first woman that ever--

WHOOPI GOLDBERG:
I think so. Yeah.

MICHAEL EISNER:
You're the only woman that's ever done it alone.

WHOOPI GOLDBERG:
Well, alone, yes. Yes. And I-- I, you know, I had a great time. I, you know, one of the things that I learned and-- and when people do it and they call and say, "What-- gimme some insight as to what's going on," the thing you can never do is read the papers. Because the papers have already decided whether you're gonna be any good or not. And they-- they keep it going every day, every day. So that the day before you're really gonna be terrible. And the day after you made it last hours. (LAUGHS) Everyone forgets.

MICHAEL EISNER:
You wouldn't have done it four times if you weren't extraordinary.

WHOOPI GOLDBERG:
I had a great time. I loved-- look, I love the Academy Awards. I mean I-- I grew up with them. And they-- they mean a great deal. I look at my Oscar. And I think, you know, that number 2,114 I think is the number on mine, says I'm the two thousandth 114th person to have gotten it. When you look at all of the actors who have come before me, how many brilliant actors don't have them. It’s extraordinary.

MICHAEL EISNER:
But you've gotten it on Broadway. You've gotten it on television. You've gotten in the record business. You've gotten it at the Academy Awards. You really are probably amongst the most known people in the world.

WHOOPI GOLDBERG:
Yes, that is the funny thing. Because, look, before Pope John Paul passed and before Princess Di passed, it was Mickey, Princess Di,

MICHAEL EISNER:
Mickey Mouse?

WHOOPI GOLDBERG:
Yes. Pope John…

MICHAEL EISNER:
Well, thank you.

WHOOPI GOLDBERG:
Yes, yes. Whoopi. I think I'm number five. I can't remember who number four was.

MICHAEL EISNER:
Christ probably.

WHOOPI GOLDBERG:
Probably, you know. But you see-- you see this face and you know who it is. You see me from behind, you don't even have to see my face, and you know who it is. It's a wonderful thing. It doesn't necessarily translate into work. But there's something very wonderful in knowing that I've had an impact and nothing that anyone does or says can ever erase that. That I was here. I mean look at what you guys did for me. Let's just talk for a second. In California adventure (LAUGHS) there-- there are two 50-foot pillars of my face.

MICHAEL EISNER:
Absolutely.

WHOOPI GOLDBERG:
That's wonderful. My grandkids when they were little they saw it. But you know, now that the youngest is seven and the oldest is 16. They were-- the ten year old and the seven-year old were there. And that-- it was like, "Granny, You’re.."

MICHAEL EISNER:
The statue.

WHOOPI GOLDBERG:
… and you talked. You're in Disneyland. My ten-year old granddaughter says, "Granny, this is the happiest place on earth."

MICHAEL EISNER:
And is that more impressive to her than Sister Act?

WHOOPI GOLDBERG:
Oh, yes. Much more impressive. More than anything she was impressed that I knew the Disney princesses. Well, yeah, that-- cause that's-- she is a princess. And that's how I've treated her. And so for us, I mean, I-- I know that-- I don't know what if you're-- how you're associated with them still, if at all, but I must tell you that during the time you were there and during the time I was there what you allowed my family to do and to go and you were always-- the company was always really welcoming. And so my grandkids belief about what he initially wanted to do, what Walt initially wanted to do, that's what they have in them.

MICHAEL EISNER:
You know something interesting? We treat everybody that way.

WHOOPI GOLDBERG:
No. But my relationship with them is the way it was because of how you brought me in. That-- and that's what I have to tell you, you know. We-- we have spent years together doing different things. And-- and I just-- and a huge part of my life.

MICHAEL EISNER:
Well, you've been a huge part of everybody's lives. And the great thing is you say what you think and you say it with such intelligence. And you shoot what you wanna shoot. And you push to get the right parts. You're almost always right. And I just love having you on this show. And I--

WHOOPI GOLDBERG:
Thanks for having me.

MICHAEL EISNER:
I thank you for coming. Thank you.

WHOOPI GOLDBERG:
Good to see you.

MICHAEL EISNER:
Good to see you.

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