I SEE U

I SEE U, Episode 86: Glynn Turman is The Glynn-aissance Man [Encore]

Renowned actor and three-time NAACP Image Award winner, Glynn Turman provides a poignant audio memoir of the triumphs and tribulations of creating legacy in the art of acting. This episode is an encore of the May 13, 2023 original broadcast.

Actor Glynn Turman Photo Credit: Bobby Quillard (www.quillardinc.com).

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Legendary actor Glynn Turman remembers a time when hardly any Black men or women were prominently featured in television. Over six decades later, he’s played hundreds of characters in film, TV and on-stage, including work as an acclaimed writer, producer and director – both in theater and television. Notable roles include the 2020 Netflix film, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom; the FX drama series, FARGO; more recently, the Paramount sports comedy, 80 for Brady, and an upcoming biographical film, Rustin, produced by Barack and Michelle Obama’s production company, Higher Ground. His acting career started as a 12-year-old, when friend of the family—esteemed playwright, Lorraine Hansberry—asked permission from his mother to star alongside Sydney Poitier, Louis Gosset Jr. and Ruby Dee in the original Broadway production of A Raisin in the Sun. But it was his movie role in 1975’s Cooley High, that he admits to I SEE U of his defining moment as an actor. Join us as host Eddie Robinson chats candidly with celebrated actor, Glynn Turman. The Emmy Award winner will share riveting stories and narratives of how he’s managed longevity in the industry. Turman will also offer up a preview of his new documentary, his love and passion for horses as well as his fondest memory of being married to the Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin.

 

Full Transcript

Eddie Robinson: The award-winning, Glynn Turman began his acting career as a 12 year old in 1959 with a role in the original Broadway production of A Raisin in the Sun. He's built a portfolio of nearly 200 acting credits to his name. From Film, TV, and Onstage Productions, but it's his character in the 1975 movie, Cooley High.

Eddie Robinson: That's become his defining moment as an actor.

Glynn Turman: It was a turning point film for my career, you know, because it was so well received.

Eddie Robinson: I'm Eddie Robinson. Stay tuned as we chat unguarded with legendary actor Glynn Turman. He'll share with us compelling stories. About his life and career in the industry and what it was like for him to be married to the Queen of Soul, miss Aretha Franklin.

Eddie Robinson: Oh yeah. I feel you. We hear you. I see you.

Eddie Robinson: It's I SEE U. I'm your host, Eddie Robinson. His acting career started just before he turned a teenager, and he was surrounded by the best black actors and cultural figures of the world literally. His resume is packed with accolades, along with film, tv, and stage credits that would make a seasoned actor jealous.

Eddie Robinson: His new documentary, the Legend of Glynn Turman, will be released soon. But right now, we're so grateful to have with us a special guest, primetime Emmy award-winning, and three-time NAACP Image award-winning actor, writer, producer, and director Glynn Turman. Glynnn, thank you so much for being a guest on I SEE U.

Glynn Turman: Oh, thank you for having me. I appreciate it.

Eddie Robinson: I'd love to start off our chat by just sharing with you how I believe to be my initial passion for movies and radio. It was derived from seeing you, seeing you on screen. Yeah. Uh, as a very young child, I think I might have been maybe, Three or four years old and it took my mom to help plug in some recollection of all of it.

Eddie Robinson: And I, you know, I was talking to her and, and I mentioned that we would have you on the show and she was like, and so she was really excited. But I remember being in a Volkswagen,

Glynn Turman: Well first off, first off, tell her I said hello and thank you.

Eddie Robinson: I certainly will. I certainly will. And it was through this movie that, this little movie, I don't know if you've heard of it, it's just called Cooley High.

Glynn Turman: Yeah, I've heard of it.

Eddie Robinson: But I remember it was 1975. I, I remember being in a Volkswagen at a drive-in movie theater with both my mom and dad.

Glynn Turman: Yeah.

Eddie Robinson: And they were in their twenties, you know, this was, they were young, you know, and so we were, I remember Cooley High, and it was, that's a comedy drama for those who don't know, it's, it was released in this year that follows the lives of a group of high school friends who live in Chicago and they enjoy life to the fullest.

Eddie Robinson: And pretty much the movie is centered around your character Preach. And I, and I say that it was a, it gravitated me to my love of movies and whatnot because, As I was watching this movie, I was just mesmerized by visuals being plastered onto this huge wall. My eyes were as big as my body, and it was just magical to see films being projected onto such a big screen and then had this little box on top of a post that you actually take the speakers right and put 'em in your vehicle if you needed to.

Eddie Robinson: But it forever changed my perception of enjoying movies, watching films, having this desire to see and explore and hear films with the audio right there. And it's just really fascinating with Cooley High in and of itself. Especially with the music too, because it played all these Motown hits.

Glynn Turman: That was the other star of the movie.

Glynn Turman: The other star of the movie was was the, the music, the great,

Eddie Robinson: That's right.

Glynn Turman: Motown soundtrack. Yeah.

Eddie Robinson: What was that experience like for you to shoot this film? Was this like your, your first major? Feature film?

Glynn Turman: No, it wasn't my first major feature film actually, but it was early on in my career where I had to lead parts, you know?

Eddie Robinson: Got it.

Glynn Turman: It was my first, I think it was my first or second leading role in emotion picture. It was a turning point film for my career, you know, because it was so well received because like you so many other young people, eyes became as big as their body as they were hearing their story told and what it was.

Glynn Turman: I think that attracted you and so many others, so much. It's the familiarity of the content. And the substance and the locations and the people involved in the storytelling, I think that that's what, uh, ingratiated Cooley High to the mass majority of its audience, you know? And so I think you had a familiar, because I've heard people tell me this over and over again, and it did the same for me when I went to see it.

Glynn Turman: The joy of seeing. The finished product and realizing as I thought when we were doing, boy, we used to do this, I used to do this as a kid. This is what we did. You know, this is the way we cuts class and riding on the back of the truck, going on the bus, going on to jumping the turnstiles. You know, I would grow up in New York City.

Glynn Turman: So this is a, a very, a very familiar, uh, uh, landscape for me as not only an actor, but a performer, but as a, a young man growing up. So I think we were all. Uh, able to tap into the, into the, the, the narrative. That was so familiar to us.

Eddie Robinson: And even like a cat my age, what's happening? I mean, the TV sitcom, that was a spinoff from the film.

Glynn Turman: Right?

Eddie Robinson: I was a huge fan of, you know, Roger Rerun Run Wayne, Hey, hey, hey, the sister D who would everyone loved D right? But, but yeah, it was, it really captured. Our lives, you know, in terms of who we were and it was so beautiful to see that reflected on screen. My mom wanted me to ask you if the actor who played Pooter , Corin Rogers, is he still alive?

Eddie Robinson: Because she laughs he's still around, right? Okay. She laughs. That's the crazy scene. That's her best scene with the Gorilla. The gorilla scene in Cooley High where you know you guys are playing hooky from school and you go to the go to a zoo,

Glynn Turman: right?

Eddie Robinson: And the gorilla throws poop at Pooter.

Glynn Turman: Exactly,

Eddie Robinson: Do you ever keep in touch with any of the actors from Cooley High or even the director Michael Schultz?

Glynn Turman: Absolutely. One of the wonderful things about the piece, and you know, we just celebrated our, was it 40th? Anniversary, something to that nature. And everybody came, uh, to ca to California and attended a screening.

Glynn Turman: And it was just so great to see everyone. But on a regular basis, Lawrence Hilton, Jacob, and, and I have remained very close. And we both live here in the city of Los Angeles, and we are more than in touch. We are, you know, engaged in each other's lives to this day, you know, uh, He's almost like, like a godfather to my, my kids, you know?

Glynn Turman: And, uh, and, um, so when Michael Schultz and I are, are in constant touch, we just saw each other just last week. Last week. And Larry Jacobs, we were all together and, and, uh, Garrett Morris, you know, so we were all together. We we're in and out of each other's lives continually since that film, which has been over 40 years ago.

Eddie Robinson: It's I SEE U. I'm Eddie Robinson, and we're here with legendary actor Glynn Turman. He's here to talk about his life, his career, and contributions as an actor. Both Glynnand I spoke offline prior to our conversation about why I SEE U was launched in the first place. I mentioned to him how writer Langston Hughes and his amazing poem from 1926 I too serves as the primary inspiration behind this radio broadcast and podcast.

Eddie Robinson: It was a poem with a theme saying that all people are equal regardless of their skin color, and we as black Americans should have a place at the table and not stuck helping in the kitchen. This concept for our show also rang true for Mr. Turman and his remarkable career. We continue our chat. I mean, you've had such a successful career.

Eddie Robinson: Longer than most actors in the business. What do you feel has led to your longevity, Glynn Turman in the film and television industry?

Glynn Turman: Glynn Turman doesn't really have an answer to that other than the fact that I just stayed in the game. You know, I just, I just made myself available. Thank God my health has been more an ally than a foe and it's something that I still love to, to do, and I've been blessed enough that people.

Glynn Turman: Still think that I have some value in my presence and performance contributions, and so I'm still, I'm still here. Good representation. You know, we've got, uh, the managers and agents, you know, who are. Still on the hunt for me, you know, and bringing projects to me. So here I am.

Eddie Robinson: There you are. And it looks like you've just come off the set of cool high.

Glynn Turman: Oh yeah. Right.

Eddie Robinson: I love your, your hat. I mean, what is your secret? What are you eating? Look, fantastic.

Glynn Turman: Well, thank you. Thank you. Okay. You're a shameless lateral, but don't stop. Okay.

Eddie Robinson: What? What do you think it is that filmmakers, casting directors, even audience members, Have always gravitated to you, your work, your projects.

Eddie Robinson: When someone looks at your resume and you know you've done so much material, what is it do you think that it is that gravitates so many people to you and your craft?

Glynn Turman: I try to give some semblance of what that is in an upcoming project of mine, if I might use this as a way, and it's my documented autobiography called The Legend of Glynn Turman, and produced by myself and my partner, Joni Smith and we're, it'll be coming to Stream platforms in in June, and I talk about my journey in this documentary and.

Glynn Turman: One of the key elements, I think, is that you mentioned from the very beginning of our conversation, a man named Langston Hughes and Langston Hughes, of course wrote a poem called A Raisin in the Sun, which was adopted into a play by the Lorraine Hansbury, which I started alongside Sydney Portier, but I was a very young.

Glynn Turman: Young, first time actor and that got me into the business.

Glynn Turman: And watch him on the screen doing pogi and best or something, and then come in time for my cue to the theater right next door to the where the movie is playing and run on stage. And here's that man. But I started in the business alongside, as I said, Sydney Portier and Ruby D and Lou Gossett Jr. Ivan Dixon, BIA Richards, and Claudia McNeil and Diana Sands and a cast that was directed by the one and only Lloyd Richards, the great discoverer of playwright, genius, August Wilson. And so I took off on a launching pad that had a projection over the stars, you see? And with that kind of a boost, with that kind of a launching fire with that much fuel behind me, Having met some of the greatest performers of our time and worked with them and met the rest of them, Sammy Davis Jr.

Glynn Turman: Dorothy Dandridge, you know Lena Horne as a youngster to be in the company of James Baldwin. I have an obligation to continue on a trajectory of import. So I think that that is the my inner mission, and I think that the people in the business who see their work as something that would be best served if it was included people of a like-minded mission sometimes comes to me.

Glynn Turman: Because they say I, from what I've gathered of Glynn Turman, his mission is as ours. It's serious, it's heartfelt, it's human, it's relatable, and it's about the work. And we'll get that from him. And I think that that's what puts me in the game.

Eddie Robinson: Coming up more with acclaimed veteran actor, Glynn Turman. We learn about the challenges he experienced as a struggling actor and a teenage parent juggling a family of his own all while trying to find work. Plus, the legendary actor shares an interesting story about how he got arrested by the police just minutes prior to a curtain call on opening night for a Ron Milner stage production in New York City.

Eddie Robinson: And then later, what was it like for him to be married to the Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin? I'm Eddie Robinson. Don't move our second segment with actor Glynn Turman on I SEE U. Comes your way right after this.

Eddie Robinson: If you're enjoying this program, please be sure to subscribe to our podcast I SEE U you with Eddie Robinson. You can hear all the past episodes and be notified when new episodes are released. Also, please take a minute to give us a review or comment. We love getting feedback from our listeners.

Eddie Robinson: It's I SEE U. I'm Eddie Robinson with Emmy Award winner and three time NAACP image award winner Glynn Turman. He's seen as one of the most sought after actors in Hollywood with the nearly 200 acting credits to his name as it pertains to movies on stage and television shows. He's been involved with. And now he has a documentary to be released in June called The Legend of Glynn Turman, which will be available on all major digital platforms.

Eddie Robinson: We're so grateful to have Glynn calling us virtually from his home in Los Angeles. Glynn, before the break, you spoke about how you started your career as a young child alongside some powerhouse performers in the industry like Sidney Poitier, Lou Gossett Jr. Diana Sands, Ruby D. You're starting your acting career with these spectacular individuals.

Eddie Robinson: Help us understand the environment, the support, the foundation you had with your family, your mother in particular and how she played a role, a significant role. In your acting career?

Glynn Turman: Well, uh, you know, my mother, remarkable woman, and moved us to an environment to where her friends were. Many of the people that I mentioned, Lorraine, James Baldwin, you know, uh, and, uh, so those people that she knew were on that same mission at that time, you know?

Glynn Turman: So I'd go into the living room and there would be James Baldwin and, and, and, And mama and, and you know, her friends discussing all sorts of things. That really made no sense to me. I wasn't, I, I really would rather talk to. You know, uh, Alwin, you have a quarter. I wanna go get some ice cream. Ice cream. Ice cream.

Glynn Turman: Anybody got a quarter, I want a quarter. You know, that kinda take the quarter, get on outta here. Wow. So that was my environment, you know, and that was result, the result of her intellect, you know, because she wasn't in the business, you know, she was a post office worker. But she had an intellect that was, uh, so progressive and so all inclusive of people, of all races and, and, and, and creeds, you know, and, and dynamics, you know.

Glynn Turman: So I grew up in a very, uh, progressive environment. And, and show business was not something that I would gravitated to. I was kind of guided to it by, by her, you know? Cause, uh, her friend Lorraine Hansbury made it clear that there was a role for a, a youngster in her play that she was going to get produced.

Glynn Turman: And my response to it, well I don't, you know, I, I don't, can't audition today if it's, if it's Saturday, I can't do the play. Cause I got a baseball game on Saturday, you know. This So, so, so what, what is? And she said, yeah, good. If you get this part, you know, it'll be many Saturdays. I said, I dunno about that.

Glynn Turman: You know, and, and so when I went to the audition, I didn't know what an audition was. It was the first time I'd ever had to do that. And so I didn't know what all these other little colored boys were doing in the hallway. Cause as far as I was concerned, the part was mine. So they could, they could go home.

Glynn Turman: Course there was only one road. And, and, but I ended up getting the role, you know, so that was my attitude and sh and my, uh, gateway into the business, but it was, it was a result of the environment that I was, I was raised in.

Eddie Robinson: I'm curious, as you went through this acting bohemoth, you know, this television film, Entertainment industry.

Eddie Robinson: How were you able to navigate and maneuver through this industry when, you know, you had casting directors? I mean, I, they could be fierce, they could be very, very intense as it relates to stereotypes and pulling down your self-esteem and, you know, you're, you're not this, you're not that. You're to this, you're to that.

Eddie Robinson: How were you able to navigate those? Strong criticisms of you as a person and not internalize a lot of that stuff.

Glynn Turman: Yeah.

Eddie Robinson: And then get away from the industry and guide under a rock.

Glynn Turman: Yeah.

Eddie Robinson: I don't know. But you did the exact opposite. You plowed through.

Glynn Turman: Yeah.

Eddie Robinson: What was, what was going on in your mental state to ensure that you can press on towards the mark with an acting career?

Glynn Turman: First of all, I'm very, I'm very stubborn. Almost idiotically. So it's like, can't you see that? That's a rock. Can't you see? Don't you know the bumps on your head? If you do that again, you're gonna get another lump on your head. If you run your head into that wall, man, I what? No, I don't believe it. Do it again. So I, I think that's part of my nature, being stubborn. I used to go, there's a paper called Backstage and Showbiz where with cast casting information and when I was in New York, a young, young performer trying to get into the business, trying to get parts.

Glynn Turman: There were so few roles in the passing backstage before Black that that said, wanted. A young black teenager, teenage boy, 18, you know, six foot tall and yada yada. But there was always something that said all American boy wanted, uh, 18, so and so a high school student, da da da da da. And I'd show up. And the casting agents would go, uh, hello, uh oh.

Glynn Turman: And they stumbled just like, I'm stumbling. Not cause they couldn't figure out what to say, cause you know, there's no part for you, they'd say, and I said, it says right here, I'm 18 all American. I'm an All American. What are you talking about? I'm, I'm crying for this part. It's a part of Biff.

Glynn Turman: Audition for Biff. Oh, well, we, I can, well, we, and they, and I let them stumble around how to figure out that this wasn't for me. You know, you tell me you figure it out because as far as I'm concerned, this is for me. And that's been my approach, you know, and that's my approach to the, the, you know, to life. You know.

Eddie Robinson: You're listening to I SEE U, I'm Eddie Robinson. We're here with award-winning actor, director, writer, and producer, Glynn Turman. What were some of the things you had to endure to push through in order to figure out a way to build a successful career in this film and television industry? I mean, is there a story or a narrative or two that you could share with us, Mr.

Eddie Robinson: Turman, that still to this very day, that it makes you feel some kind of way, a real intense, perhaps even racist incident that you've tried and tried with all of your might? To remove from your mind.

Glynn Turman: Here's, here's something that stays with me and I, not even in my documentary actor acting. For over a year and a half being turned down all the time and getting knocked around.

Glynn Turman: And I was a young, a young father, you know, I was a teenage, uh, parent, you know, and, and husband. So I was juggling a family at the same time and trying to get a job, uh, as an actor and trying not to get fired from the jobs that I would lead to go on auditions for. To get an acting job and eventually always fired.

Glynn Turman: I'd get back too late and then of course the lights would be turned off in a dissonance on. So it's struggling, you know, uh, uh, struggling artist scenario, you know, for, uh, a lot of pressure. And finally I got a job, but I, I went up and I got an audition for, for Lloyd Richards, who had been my director in raising the son, but now I'm 19 as opposed to when I first met him as a 12 year.

Glynn Turman: And I get the job, and it's for a wonderful place for the American Place Theater, which was a, a wonderful Upstarting theater in New York, headed by Wynn Hammond was directed by Lloyd Richards and, uh, one of the premier producers of, to this day, uh, Woody King Jr. This was his first play in New York, having come with he and Ron Milner.

Glynn Turman: It was a Ron Milner play who's got his own. Coming from Detroit to start their career and make the impression that they had made over the years in New York. And I landed the road and so I, I, I, I rehearse and I, I I, I was able to quit my job as a truck driver and I go through the whole rehearsal thing and it's going, and it's going great.

Glynn Turman: It's going great, and I'm having a great time. And the cast is fantastic and opening night. I'm on my way to the theater on 46th Street and, uh, I'm headed to the theaters off Broadway play and I pass, uh, a restaurant, uh, a white tower restaurant, and I look to see if I'm on time. The clock was hanging in the window.

Glynn Turman: It was a big clock. And I'm, I'm going to be on time. I'm gonna make it for half hour. And I'm like, yeah. And people are passing and they don't even know that they're gonna come see me in this play. And two police officers are standing in the, the doorway of the White Castle that I looked to see the time.

Glynn Turman: And as I took a few more steps, I heard a voice say, Hey, you come here. And I'm like, What you Yeah, you right here. So, oh, officer, I, not tonight, I can't, I can't, I, I, I can't, I can't, I can't do this tonight. Get over here. I'm against the wall and they surfing and they freshman and I'm like, I can't tell you, you know, so everybody's passing me.

Glynn Turman: They got this mink on and they throw going to the, to the theater on the next block, and they start searching me in empty pocket, da da da. And I, at that time, this was 1966

Eddie Robinson: That's what I was com I was calculating in my mind too. 1966.

Glynn Turman: Yes. 1966.

Eddie Robinson: Yes.

Glynn Turman: And, uh, they, they, they had a civilian review board. Was being indoctrinated into the New York, uh, justice system just because of racial profiling, like this incidents, so they could be reported.

Glynn Turman: So I say to them, what's your badge number? And what did I say that for? Oh, we got, we got a smart one here. All right. And they, they brought me around a few times with the dag on the Night Stick and Billy Club and boom, put me into the squad car and took me around to the precinct, which was literally around the corner, uh, 49th Street or 40 or something or something

Eddie Robinson: insane

Glynn Turman: and arrested me. And all I kept saying is I gotta make a phone call. I gotta make a phone call. I gotta make a phone call. And they arrested me and I got my phone call and I called the theater because now the curtain was getting ready to go up. And I said, I called. And when got on the phone and he says, what the hell?

Glynn Turman: Where the hell are you Turman? Get over here late. I said, Wynn I've been arrested And he, what? And cause I, I told the cop, I said, I explained to him, I'm an actor, got a job, I'm going to work the play's opening. It's opening night, you know? And he says, well, you're not gonna make that curtain. And so, You talk about what are some of the obstacles?

Glynn Turman: It's the same obstacles that we as Black men face to this day, you know? It's no joke. It's not figment of our imagination. To say it's inconvenient is a major understatement.

Glynn Turman: It makes you bitter, but it makes you determined also. And I later realized, and one of the things that helped me deal with it later was I realized that that rage that I felt that night for being missing that opportunity fueled me. And probably still fuels me. You know, it just added to the jet propulsion of my character, you know?

Glynn Turman: And uh, cause I realize how, what a delicate dance it is to survive, period. But for a black man and he had to be ambidextrous, you know?

Eddie Robinson: Thank you so much for sharing that. And I was actually adding that to the point of the question earlier of saying something like, you know, what is it that provides that bit of motivation, right? That spirit of will and determination to make it through.

Glynn Turman: Well, here's the thing. Here's the thing,

Eddie Robinson: yes,

Glynn Turman: the newspaper, the review for the play was not a good review, and one of the things that they stated was Ron Milner would have you believed. That a young Black man could be harassed and beaten up by, uh, officers of the law for no reason other than being Black that was on the newsstand the next morning. It was like can you believe this..

Eddie Robinson: You know, I'd like to talk about your relationship with Aretha Franklin, because with Aretha Franklin being such a star who shines so bright, you know, did you ever feel like you were Mr. Franklin?

Glynn Turman: I never felt like I was Mr. Franklin, but I was aware that there was a danger that that could happen. And it to one of the reasons I was not willing to spend a lot of time outta the business or out of Los Angeles pursuing my career.

Glynn Turman: Had I moved to Detroit, that would've definitely become the scenario as far as I was concerned. So it was an issue, an understandable issue, I think, and it lent to an understanding of an amicable separation. I understood why she had to be in Detroit because her father had been. Mortally wounded, you know, fatally wounded a actually, and so she had to be there to take care of that and, and that was understandable, you know, but for the time that she so diligently kept the support going, the life support going, would've meant a long time away from the being in the heart of the business.

Glynn Turman: For both she and I, but she would not have suffered that part of her career as I would have, you see. So it was something that we had to deal with in, in our marriage and, uh, they have, you know.

Eddie Robinson: Well, you were there with her during her final moments of living, from what I've read. Um, she passed away in August of 2018.

Eddie Robinson: What's something that's memorable? Mr. Turman that you'll always remember her by. Perhaps it's something she said or something she would do, but is there anything from her in your relationship with her that still resonates with you? A moment, a memory, an experience you both shared?

Glynn Turman: I have many. I, I, I have many moments because she was amazing woman.

Glynn Turman: We had a wonderful time together. Our meeting was fantastic. Ben Verine is a dear friend of mine and a fellow schoolmate, and he was asked to perform at the Darthy Chandra Pavilion for Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. And so asked me, Glynn, what are you doing tonight? And I said, nothing much. He said, come on, let's go down.

Glynn Turman: Come with me. I'm, I got a show to do. Done. I said, ok, what the hell? So we get in the car and we go down to the channel. So I'm standing, he's putting on his makeup to do this wonderful routine that he used to do. And I said, uh, you, I'm gonna let you get ready, do thing. I'm, I'm just gonna wander around. And so I'm backstage wandering around, I'm coming up the stairs, and there's a young man standing at the top of the stair teenager.

Glynn Turman: He says, Glynn Turman, he yells down. I said Hi. He says, oh, my mother just loved you. He's like, you was talking to me about his mother. Like you were just talking to me about your mother. Interesting. And uh, and so I said, oh, great. I said, thank you. I said, who's, who's your mother? He says, Aretha Franklin. So I told him, my God.

Glynn Turman: I said, what, where is she? She's, she's in the dressing room. She's getting ready to, to go on. I said, oh. He says, come on, I'll introduce you. So I go with him and I walk into his dressing room and standing in front of this mirror, the lights, you know, the, the, the bright lights, the, the showbiz lights, you know, the, around the mirror, you know, and standing in front of it and dressed in this beautiful white shimmering gown is Aretha looking in the mirror.

Glynn Turman: And she sees me. In the reflection of the mirror being standing in the doorway, and she screamed. And I see her and I scream and we laughed.

Eddie Robinson: Wow.

Glynn Turman: And we just hit it off from there. We, that was, that was where we met how we met. And I'll never forget that, you know, it was just a mutual admiration right away, you know?

Eddie Robinson: Absolutely.

Glynn Turman: And, and that kind of, of, well, because you could tell jokes. You know, she was really hilarious. People really don't really know that she has a, a side, but that was really funny, you know?

Glynn Turman: And, uh, so if you would tell the joke, we, we would travel and do a, a of things. Together, you know, and so, uh, I've got many, many memories like that.

Eddie Robinson: Coming up, we wrap up our chat with veteran actor Glynn Turman. He shares more insight into the roles he's played on screen, and what he looks for in selecting the characters he chooses to portray. Plus he shares with us his connection and passion for horses, even while he lived in New York City. Is there something in his D N A that helped steer his interests and dreams of one day owning a ranch and raising horses?

Eddie Robinson: I'm Eddie Robinson. Our final segment on I SEE U comes your way after these messages. We'll be right back.

Eddie Robinson: If you're enjoying this program, please be sure to subscribe to our podcast I SEE U you with Eddie Robinson. You can hear all the past episodes and be notified when new episodes are released. Also, please take a minute to give us a review or comment. We love getting feedback from our listeners.

Eddie Robinson: This is I SEE U. I'm your host Eddie Robinson with legendary actor Glynn Turman. His film and TV contributions are terrific. I'm sure you've seen him in the 2020 Netflix film, Ma Rainey's Black Bottom, the FX Drama Series Fargo, and he also plays opposite. Rita Moreno, Sally Field, Jane Fonda, and Lilly Tomlin.

Eddie Robinson: The Paramount Film 80 for Brady. Many of you of a certain age remember him as preach the 1975 coming of age film. Cooley High. He also played a retired army. Colonel in the NBC hit sitcom A Different World. We've asked Glynn Turman to be a special guest on the show simply because he's now undergoing what his publicist calls a Glynn-aissance, because despite him being 76 years young, He's busier than ever.

Eddie Robinson: Right now. Move over Beyoncé with your Renaissance. Oh, speaking of which, our own Houston native Beyoncé. In Glynn, has also surprised many of his fans as one of the faces of her Ivy Park denim line. He's been modeling their clothing in a video ad. That was filmed on his own ranch, located in Southern California.

Eddie Robinson: He also has a new documentary that will be available in June on all digital platforms entitled The Legend of Glynn Turman. We're so grateful that he is sharing stories and narratives. Some of which not included in the film, and he's calling us I SEE U virtually from his home in Los Angeles. Glynnn, you've been in some amazing TV series and films.

Eddie Robinson: Another favorite of mine is 1990 twos Deep cover, directed by Bill Duke and starring Lawrence Fishburn. You were only in it for about four minutes.

Eddie Robinson: But it was such a powerful cameo, and it goes to show how memorable your performances really are. But tell us about what it was like for you to play the uncle to the mother of Emmett Till in the ABC series, now available on Hulu entitled Women of the Movement, there's a scene where Cedric Joe, the actor who played 14 year old Emmett Till in the series, has his body pulled out of the Tallahassee River.

Eddie Robinson: You know when this scene was filmed in the same exact spot where the incident occurred in 1955, how did that role impact you as an actor?

Glynn Turman: I had to turn down some work that came to me shortly afterwards that had such a vain in it, and I said, I can't open that wound again.

Glynn Turman: You know, that wound I got, I have to have that. I need some healing here. I can't go back to that place that it took to, uh, ring through that sentiment for me in the playing. Exposed for me, it was a remarkable, remarkable story, but a painful, painful, painful. And to this day even, you know, I don't even want linger on it too long right now cause it'll put me in a funk.

Eddie Robinson: Yeah. Yeah. It's understandably so. And by all accounts, you know, I'm sure you remember that moment when Till was killed in the mid fifties and the media coverage surrounding that incident and to be at that very site that it went down while filming that scene, you know? To even feel the level of hatred still existing today, right. With a recent vandalization of that historical marking.

Glynn Turman: Yes.

Eddie Robinson: Near the site. It really had to have been surreal for you.

Glynn Turman: The saving grace of that was to hear from the family, from the till family and to have them give their blessings and their kudos in saying that we got the story right. That portrayed Mos Wright correctly, and that they were fully behind what we did and were healed by what we did.

Glynn Turman: And that is our job. You know, that's how I've always looked at my work, you know, you know, can say, well, daddy, what did you do during the Civil Rights Movement? You know? I said, well, I, I chronicalized it for you, you know? And. That's, that was my mission, you know, and so that was a part of a continuing mission.

Glynn Turman: And none, no role, no part of story, any more poignant than that. And I'm glad that I was the correct officer to send into that mission. You know, send on that, uh, that detail.

Eddie Robinson: We're also looking forward to seeing you, Glynnn, in an upcoming Netflix biographical drama based on civil rights Pioneer Bayard Rustin.

Eddie Robinson: It'll be produced by Barack and Michelle Obama's production company called Higher Ground renowned actor, Coleman Domingo, who we've seen in HBO's critically acclaimed series Euphoria will play Rustin, the Lead Role. You Glynn, play Civil Rights Activist a Philip Randolph. Tell us more about what it was like to be a part of that project.

Glynn Turman: Yeah, another, another. Oh, wait until you see Coleman Domingo in this, he's gonna knock his socks off. He's just beautiful. And just another powerful story, you know, that I'm blessed to be a part of, you know, that, uh, this man telling the story of this man who, who cause of his, um, uh, sexual persuasion was not, Uh, given the, uh, the kudos that he should have been given for, for putting together the March on Washington, one of the most monumental moments in the Civil Rights movement, and you would think that, well, the story will go into, I don't want to comment on, you know, but the, the difficulties that he had convincing his own cohorts to follow his vision and not be dissuaded by his choice of lifestyle, you know, but to back him up was a hell of a story. And it takes in a wonderful care, a Coleman Domingo and Chris Rock, who does a fantastic job, you know, and, uh, CCH Pounder (Carol Christine Hilaria Pounder) again got the chance to work with her. Andra McDonald. You know, Jeffrey Wright, who was one of my favorite actors, so it's a hell of a cast.

Glynn Turman: And so it's a, it's a heck of a story. It comes out, and, and the, the thing was that I had a chance to have a, a Zoom call with the Obamas, who's calling a company meeting of all of us because there was a, you know, a delay in production as a result of dancing around the Covid thing. So he gave us a kind of a pep rally on Zoom.

Glynn Turman: So just like I'm talking to you, you know, in this room I had President Obama, you know, and of course my wife was peeking. You see the door back there? My wife, she's peeking through the door and I'm like close the door I'm talking to the president.

Glynn Turman: So we had a great time. But you know, he indeed assured us that we would get this project done and, and we did. And I can't wait because, uh, it is gonna be a, a monster, you know.

Eddie Robinson: And I wonder if you've ever thought about this in terms of a comparison. It just seemed like back in the seventies there was this sense of camaraderie.

Eddie Robinson: Black audiences went in droves to see films that had people that looked like us, that represented us. We were thrilled to be in those seats and in those drive-in cinemas and witness this amazing plethora of films with Black actors, Cornbread, Earl, and Me. Which Way Is Up. Sounder. Car Wash.

Eddie Robinson: You know there was this heap of support from Black audiences. Compare that feeling to now what's going on with Black films. Today is that same support base from black audiences, that same level of energy from black audiences back in the day?

Glynn Turman: No, it is, and it's, it's a, it's a different engine that's driving this new wave of Black entertainment and, and viewers, because now it's a given that there are Black stories being told it's a given.

Glynn Turman: That there are Black producers and writers writing these stories. It's a given that the showrunners are Black. It's a given that someone of a Black skin color can win an Academy Award. These are givens, you see they're Black channels, you know, that have Black stories. That's a given. In the day. If you saw a black person on tv, you called everybody in the household. Mama. Mama Look. This commercial that somebody Black.

Eddie Robinson: Right.

Glynn Turman: You know, you can't not see a negro, you know, there's so many Negroes on tv.

Eddie Robinson: Yes.

Glynn Turman: You know, it's like, Negro, please.

Eddie Robinson: Tired of this movie from Sandford and Son remember?

Glynn Turman: Am I right? You know what I'm saying?

Eddie Robinson: Right. Yeah, that's true. True. So that's true.

Glynn Turman: That's that's different. You See. Our kids, your kids will not have any idea that there was a time that you never saw somebody black on tv. And if you did, it was went through the whole neighborhood. Did you see so and so?

Eddie Robinson: Yes.

Glynn Turman: It's taken for granted now. It wasn't taken for granted when we were coming. That door had to be broken down and we did it.

Eddie Robinson: You're listening to I SEE U. I'm Eddie Robinson, and we're here with award-winning actor, director, writer, and producer Glynn Turman. What legacy would you like to leave behind Mr. Turman?

Eddie Robinson: Well,

Glynn Turman: I don't know. I, I've been blessed to have been involved in some things that I never thought that I would be involved in.

Glynn Turman: On a positive note in 92, Coretta Scott King asked my wife and I Joanne, to come to Atlanta to their foundation after the Rodney King uprising. And we were there along with some wonderful, very powerful people, Andrew Young, some of the leaders from the, the Crips and the Bloods and just above myriad of, of very, very, very powerful people.

Glynn Turman: And uh, the whole point was what can you do to help ease some of the tensions and restore some of the faith and confidence in the community of. And I don't know if you know, but, uh, we have a small ranch that we've had in, in the family for some time now. So having horses in the ranch, I said, uh, to Mrs. King that we're gonna start a summer camp for kids. She said, when are you gonna do it? And I said, this summer my wife was like, oh, what are you talking about? But.

Glynn Turman: We did with the help of some of the cast of A Different World, you know?

Eddie Robinson: That's awesome.

Glynn Turman: John Lewis and Sinbad, some of 'em, helped us get this camp off the ground. That was in 92, you know, and we did it. I thought I was just gonna do it that summer, but it has, we did it for the next 20 something years and it's one of my proudest accomplishments.

Glynn Turman: My most You said, what would define Glynn Turman, uh, successful Glynn Turman. I was ready, I I, when we successfully pulled that off, I said, okay, the rest is gravy.

Eddie Robinson: Houston's own Beyoncé. You know, she featured you in that rodeo campaign for her clothing line, Ivy Park. I thought you were a New Yorker, you know? How did you become exposed to this love of horses? This. This cowboy culture, if you will. What happened there?

Glynn Turman: Well, I just always loved horses. It was a part of me that I could not explain to anyone.

Eddie Robinson: Huh?

Glynn Turman: I was drawn naturally to horses in New York City. We used have horses that Central Park. And all of that, you know?

Glynn Turman: And so I would play hooky and go to the stables, you know, and hang out in the stables all day when I should have been in school, you know? But come to find out, after years later, I never met my grandfather. But when I got to know my father better, I got to understand who my grandfather was. And where he, they were from my father's people, and they're all from Georgia and they're all, uh, farmers and ranches from my granddaddy had a farm and had mules and horses.

Glynn Turman: On the ranch and loved that life and led that life. And obviously that was a part of my DNA. You know, when you look at it, so it's, it's in the blood, you know.

Eddie Robinson: Every time you say something it just brings another wonderful, wonderful moment. Again, this is the next of the last question.

Glynn Turman: Oh yeah, so, right.

Eddie Robinson: I think you probably mentioned it.

Glynn Turman: Yeah, sure.

Eddie Robinson: This is really it. As an award-winning veteran actor. And by the way, congratulations on you being a re a recent recipient of the NAACP Image Award. That was fantastic. You've played some remarkable characters. You've made an impact on generations of fans. What lesson or lessons have you learned about yourself thus far?

Glynn Turman: There's always room for more kindness in my game, you know? And never be too kind. You know, not to be, not to please to where your kindness is, uh, accepted as weakness, but not to be afraid to be kind.

Eddie Robinson: Veteran actor and award-winning presence for I SEE U. We are so grateful for you. Thank you so much, Glynn Turman.

Glynn Turman: Thank you.

Eddie Robinson: Our team includes technical director, Todd Hulslander, producer Laura Walker, editors Mark De Claudio, and Jonmitchell Goode. I SEE U is a production of Houston Public Media. Follow us on Instagram and Twitter and subscribe to our podcast wherever you listen and download your favorite shows. I'm your host and executive producer, Eddie Robinson, and I feel you. We hear you. I SEE U. Thanks so much for listening. Until next time.

 

 

This article is part of the podcast I SEE U with Eddie Robinson

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