Tim Robbins

Tim Robbins is one of Hollywood\'s longtime good guys, with years of famed films and passionate activism to his credit. Last month he premiered in HBO the show Here and Now, the tale of a diverse family tested by unlikely circumstances. It also features Holly Hunter, Sosie Bacon, Avynn Crowder-Jones, Jerrika Hinton and Raymond Lee.

Tim Robbins narrows his eyes as he ponders where his new HBO series, Here and Now, fits in the era of President Trump. The drama pairs Robbins with Holly Hunter as the aging but still idealistic parents of adopted children from three different countries, now grown, and their conflicts in an America that elected a president who continually lashes out against people not born in the U.S. In Los Angeles, we had the opportunity to talk to Robbins about his activism, his career, his parenting skills and his affinity for the Spanish authors

P: Why did you decide to play Greg in the new show Here and Now?

R: I’m tired of stories about super heroes and would not kill anyone to tell a story about a family in a mass scale. Those pieces are being dismiss and is very difficult to find them in movies or TV. It is hopeful that places like HBO is still in that arena, telling stories about us, life and families.

P: Do you feel disillusioned with the actual social situation in America?

R: I think is true for a lot of people, however, the real activist has been here before. I can see it as a cyclical thing that is having difficulties right now. In a way, Trump has done a service to us because he exposed the rotten underbelly of the republican agenda. He isn’t as practiced as other republican politician in hiding their racism, almost talking in code of those kinds of things. He is blunter. Is a more honest portrait.

P: This is a character who lives depressed

R: Yes, and I think is important to address that there are many more people depressed now than in the past. Greg is challenging, particularly when you're in such a happy state that I've been in recently. But there's a darkness in this character that I thought was really important to embrace to try to tell this story. Acting is fun. At the end of the day you get to turn it off and go on with your life. I would say it's challenging, but I would say compared to other jobs it's not so challenging

P: How did you prepare for the role?

R: I did a lot of reading in philosophy, I play a philosophy professor. I tried to infuse a personal philosophy to his own philosophy. But other than that, it was really just such a joy to be able to be working with Alan Ball, who is such a creative and groundbreaking artist. Someone that really speaks to the here and now in a unique way, in a way that tells us all a story about what it is to be living right now in this world, in this environment.

P: Any Spanish philosopher?

R: You did have many but the Spanish authors that I love reading are Lorca and Unamuno. I also like Borges.

P: Have you learned something from the show?

R: It made me think what it is to be like Greg at this time. It made me think a lot about anger, and what if it is productive. I saw through my own character journey a deep level of frustration and impotence, I believe that there are two ways to deal with this kind of challenge: either to live in opposition to it or know that your opposition is not going to change and try to find ways in your own life or your neighbor’s to change things. If we took the collective energy of the people who were on a daily basis tweeting in opposition to these, the hours spent on social media should be applied into volunteerism I think we will be better off.

P: Do you energize yourself to volunteer

R: Yes, I am and I am optimistic. I work continuously on bringing arts programs to school that don’t have them.

P: Is art important

R: I think we can change the lives of kids through our art program

P: Do you speak Spanish

R: Some yes, when you do volunteer work you encounter many people who only speaks Spanish. I’ve being fortunate to travel a lot of times to Spain, I’ve worked there, and I love the country.

P: As a father you identify with the new generations journey?

R: Oh yeah. I mean, that’s being a shift in parenting from my generation to this new one. We were told here are the keys go out. Go play. And I was riding the subway when I was 7 years old. We weren’t hover over but, at the same time, we weren’t nurture as well. So, a lot of good has come with this progress. But I do still believe that we need to let the kids make their own mistakes and if you prevent that, you keep them away from learning from their mistakes.

P: Do you prefer TV over movies or Theater

R: I like doing it all, actually. For me, it's, The Actors' Gang, has also been a respite, an oasis from the business that they call show. It's a way to remind myself that there's a lot to be learned. It's a way to experiment with new forms, create new pieces of work with a company of like-minded actors that are trained in a similar way. I feel it's such a great blessing that I've had throughout my career to be able to go back to my laboratory at The Actors' Gang and create new works and not have to ask the permission of a studio to do it. I would rather be in a situation where I'm continuing to create, both in acting and directing, and continue to test the boundaries of what my knowledge is and what my expertise is.

P: What is The Actor’s Gang

R:  The Actor's Gang was started out of UCLA 36 years ago. It's a professional theater company in Los Angeles, we've toured all over the world. We've played in five continents and in over 40 states. We try to present theater that talks to now, brings up questions that are essential to our community. We have programs in 12 prisons on 13 yards. What we do is we go into the prison and we teach the incarcerated men and women about this form of theater called "commedia dell'arte," which gives them stock characters to play:  the old rich man, his servant, the harlequin, the two young lovers that want to get married but are being forbidden from being married. This story has been told forever, and in every culture. And what, in fact, it does is it winds up making them understand over the course of the training that they have control over their emotions and a choice when it comes to obstacles that are in front of them.

Maria Estévez

Correspondent Writer