This Tuesday at the NOMO SoHo, HBO debuted its six-episode podcast “Where Do You Exist?” in the spirit of the new hit series, Here and Now which premiered earlier this week on the network on February 11th.
Weaving together a series of live, pre-recorded performances from thought leaders and shakers across the US, the podcast explores the complexities of identity, belonging and family. The podcast was recorded live in Portland (where the series takes place), Los Angeles and made its final stop in New York City. The speakers of the night included comedian and writer Baratunde Thurston, filmmaker Lacey Schwartz, radio producer and writer Lisa Pollak, founder of Native Son Emil Wilbekin and comedian Eudora Peterson. Hosted by notable comedian Chris Garcia, the speakers shared anecdotal stories touching on personal experiences of the trials and triumphs of their lives which helped to shape of their identity in the context of today’s world, which is also the core theme of the series Here and Now.
From the Oscar and Emmy award winner, Alan Ball Here and Now centers on a progressive couple played by Tim Robbins and Holly Hunter, and their adopted children from Vietnam, Liberia, and Colombia and their one biological daughter in an effort to create a new kind of family. Exploring what it’s like to be an “other” in America, the series touches on political, familial, cultural, spiritual and psychological issues of today’s society. Jerrika Hinton, Daniel Zovatto, Raymond Lee, Sosie Bacon, Andy Bean, Joe Williamson and Peter Macdissi also star in the show. Along with Alan Ball, Here and Now is executive produced by, Peter Macdissi and David Knoller.
HBO’s “Where Do You Exist?” podcast is now available on Apple Podcasts and SoundCloud and will roll out over the course of six weeks. Check out our exclusive highlights of the interview with Lacey Schwartz:
Garcia: You have this documentary, Little White Lie, which is amazing; I watched it. So you were born in Upstate New York?
Schwartz: I grew up in Woodstock, New York and I was born to two white Jewish parents and grew up immersed in that culture. Woodstock culture is very much white liberalism. At the age of eighteen, I found out that my biological father was black. And so my film, Little White Lie is about family secrets and about covering my real identity and learning how to live with that.
Garcia: So this whole time you until you were 18, you thought you were white?
Schwartz: Yes, is the short answer. The longer answer is, I knew from a very young age that I was quote un-quote different. There were stories that were told about why I looked the way I did. We had a family story that was going around that it was from recessive genes and my great-grandfather was dark-skinned Sicilian and that was who I looked like. And so I grew up in many ways living in an area where I had progressive liberal parents but we weren’t fundamentally digging deeper and acknowledging it any sort of way.
Garcia: So your family was protecting you from the secret but did other families have questions for you?
Schwartz: Yes, they did. In my immediate circle, people didn’t necessary address those questions but when I would go out into the world I would get various questions and the further I went from my nuclear family I’d get more and more questions.
Garcia: So when did you find out?
Schwartz: So my parents split up when I was 16 and I really started realizing something wasn’t right. And I really think that my story, just like many people’s stories is about the incredible power and strength of denial. That you can convince yourself to believe what you want to believe. So for a very long time, I was living in this space of learned denial. When my parents broke up it was very hard to continue that so when I applied to college I was at that point where I was not fully ready to have a conversation with my parents but also at the same time was no longer comfortable checking a box and saying that I was white so I didn’t check any boxes when I applied to college. I went to Georgetown University and they ask you to submit a photograph which I did and they admitted me as a black student based off that photograph.