Norman Lear has created multiple television shows that have taken on racial and societal injustices, but he will soon be in front of the camera as one of the correspondents of the EPIX documentary series, America Divided. Each episode of the series, which Lear executive produces along with Common and Shonda Rhimes, will feature a celebrity reporting on mass incarceration, drugs, and other issues. Lear’s episode deals with the gentrification and housing crisis of New York, with the TV icon going undercover, using a hidden camera to expose racial discrimination. During the show’s Television Critics Association panel Saturday, Lear said he discovered he’s “a really great reporter” while filming it.
He also told journalists he thought we’d be past such issues when he was creating and developing series like All in the Family, The Jeffersons, and Maude back in the ’70s and ’80s. “It amazes me that we haven’t moved faster,” he said. “Adjacent to that problem is the LGBTQ issue, which just moved so quickly over the last 30 years and is in a place now where we wish the racial situation existed. Racial harmony wants to be moving as far-forward in the next decade or two as the LGBTQ movement did.”
Other names who anchor episodes of the series, premiering September 30, include Rosario Dawson, who will look at the Flint water crisis, and Jesse Williams, who will explore the problems in America’s schools. “We knew way before [Jesse] made that BET speech that he’s a real activist in Black Lives Matter,” said executive producer Solly Granastein. “He made that speech at a time when the country was really focused on these issues and I hope this series has the same impact.”