Terry Gross

Combine an intelligent interviewer with a roster of guests that, according to the Chicago Tribune, would be prized by any talk-show host, and you're bound to get an interesting conversation. Fresh Air interviews, though, are in a category by themselves, distinguished by the unique approach of host and executive producer Terry Gross. "A remarkable blend of empathy and warmth, genuine curiosity and sharp intelligence," says the San Francisco Chronicle.

Gross, who has been host of Fresh Air since 1975, when it was broadcast only in greater Philadelphia, isn't afraid to ask tough questions. But Gross sets an atmosphere in which her guests volunteer the answers rather than surrendering them. What often puts those guests at ease is Gross' understanding of their work. "Anyone who agrees to be interviewed must decide where to draw the line between what is public and what is private," Gross says. "But the line can shift, depending on who is asking the questions. What puts someone on guard isn't necessarily the fear of being 'found out.' It sometimes is just the fear of being misunderstood."

Gross began her radio career in 1973 at public radio station WBFO in Buffalo, New York. There she hosted and produced several arts, women's and public affairs programs, including This Is Radio, a live, three-hour magazine program that aired daily. Two years later, she joined the staff of WHYY-FM in Philadelphia as producer and host of Fresh Air, then a local, daily interview and music program. In 1985, WHYY-FM launched a weekly half-hour edition of Fresh Air with Terry Gross, which was distributed nationally by NPR. Since 1987, a daily, one-hour national edition of Fresh Air has been produced by WHYY-FM. The program is broadcast on 566 stations and became the first non-drive time show in public radio history to reach more than five million listeners each week in fall 2008, a presidential election season. In fall 2011, Fresh Air reached 4.4 million listeners a week.

Fresh Air with Terry Gross has received a number of awards, including the prestigious Peabody Award in 1994 for its "probing questions, revelatory interviews and unusual insight." America Women in Radio and Television presented Gross with a Gracie Award in 1999 in the category of National Network Radio Personality. In 2003, she received the Corporation for Public Broadcasting's Edward R. Murrow Award for her "outstanding contributions to public radio" and for advancing the "growth, quality and positive image of radio." In 2007, Gross received the Literarian Award. In 2011, she received the Authors Guild Award for Distinguished Service to the Literary Community.

Gross is the author of All I Did Was Ask: Conversations with Writers, Actors, Musicians and Artists, published by Hyperion in 2004.

Born and raised in Brooklyn, N.Y., Gross received a bachelor's degree in English and M.Ed. in communications from the State University of New York at Buffalo. Gross was recognized with the Columbia Journalism Award from Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism in 2008 and an Honorary Doctor of Humanities degree from Princeton University in 2002. She received a Distinguished Alumni Award in 1993 and Doctor of Humane Letters in 2007, both from SUNY–Buffalo. She also received a Doctor of Letters from Haverford College in 1998 and Honorary Doctor of Letters from Drexel University in 1989.

DAVID BIANCULLI, HOST:

This is FRESH AIR. Child advocate Mary Previte spent three decades devoted to the compassionate care of the troubled young people in her charge at the Camden County Youth Center in New Jersey. Previte died last month at age 87.

Copyright 2019 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air.

DAVID BIANCULLI, HOST:

This is FRESH AIR. I'm David Bianculli, editor of the website TV Worth Watching, sitting in for Terry Gross.

Copyright 2019 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air.

TERRY GROSS, HOST:

Author Adam Minter remembers two periods of grief after his mother died in 2015: the intense sadness of her death, followed by the challenge of sorting through what he calls "the material legacy of her life."

Over the course of a year, Minter and his sister worked through their mother's possessions until only her beloved china was left. Neither one of them wanted to take the china — but neither could bear to throw it out. Instead, they decided to donate it.

When BJ Miller was a sophomore at Princeton University, he climbed atop a commuter train that had been parked for the night. What began as a lark took a tragic turn when 11,000 volts of electricity suddenly surged through his body.

"There was a big explosion, a big flash of light, and I was thrown ... quite some distance," Miller says. "My body was literally smoking."

Copyright 2019 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air.

TERRY GROSS, HOST:

TERRY GROSS, HOST:

This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross.

I didn't grow up watching "Mister Rogers," but I love the new film "A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood," starring Tom Hanks as Fred Rogers. I recorded an interview with the film's director, Marielle Heller. But when we first broadcast it last week, it was preempted on most stations by the impeachment hearings. We like this interview and want you to hear it, so we're playing it again today.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED NPR BROADCAST)

TERRY GROSS, HOST:

This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross. Happy Thanksgiving. We're going to spend the holiday listening to some great music by Prince and hearing about his life.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED NPR BROADCAST)

For actor Edward Norton, a passion for urban planning runs in the family. His grandfather, James Rouse, was an idealistic developer and planner who designed Faneuil Hall in Boston and the Baltimore Inner Harbor.

"He saw opportunity in parts of city centers that had really been essentially relegated to being pockets of true decay," Norton says of his grandfather. "He was a big believer in community and culture and revitalization — as opposed to the wrecking ball."

TERRY GROSS, HOST:

This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross. After Donald Trump was elected but before he was inaugurated, BuzzFeed published a leaked document that became known as the Steele dossier - a series of memos written by former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele suggesting Russia had been cultivating, supporting and assisting Trump and that, according to several sources, Russia had compromising information that could be used to blackmail Trump.

DAVID BIANCULLI, HOST:

This is FRESH AIR. I'm David Bianculli, editor of the website TV Worth Watching, sitting in for Terry Gross. Singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen died in 2016 at age 82, weeks after releasing a new album called "You Want It Darker."

Copyright 2019 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air.

TERRY GROSS, HOST:

Director Marielle Heller remembers tuning into Mister Rogers' Neighborhood as a kid, but it wasn't until she was an adult watching the show with her 3-year-old son that she fully appreciated the host's gentle, direct manner. Watching an episode in which Mister Rogers finds that a pet fish has died, Heller was struck by the way he addressed the audience.

British actor Robert Pattinson can't tell you how many times people have said to him: "Hey man ... you know what you'd be great at playing? An English prince."

But that's not really his thing.

"I think when you first start, if you're tall and English and have kind of floppy hair, in England that is the box that you're put in," he says. "But I like movies because of Pacino, basically. I didn't grow up watching period dramas and being like, 'That's what I want to do!' "

Actor Reese Witherspoon became famous in her 20s after starring in films like Election and Legally Blonde, but by the time she entered her 30s, the film landscape had shifted. DVD sales had shrunk and smaller, female-centered movies were in short supply. It was nearly impossible to find good leading roles for women.

Witherspoon began asking different movie studios what projects they were developing for women. "With the exclusion of one studio, everybody said 'Nothing. Nothing with a female lead,' " she says.

TERRY GROSS, HOST:

This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross. My guest Andrew Marantz has spent the past three years reporting on the alt-right's use of social media. He's embedded with the people he describes as the trolls and bigots and propagandists who are experts at converting fanatical memes into policy.

Judd Apatow was a teenager when he first "met" comic Garry Shandling in a phone interview for his high school radio show. Years later, their paths intersected again when Shandling, who was hosting the Grammy Awards, hired Apatow to write jokes for him.

Copyright 2019 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air.

TERRY GROSS, HOST:

As a black gay kid growing up in Texas in the 1990s, poet Saeed Jones remembers getting negative messages about his identity from every aspect of his life. It was around the time of Matthew Shepard's murder in Wyoming, and Jones felt alone and unsafe.

"I was seeing these cautionary tales connected to identity," he says. "It was so clear that it was perilous to be a black gay boy in America."

Editor's note: This interview mentions domestic violence and suicide.

Singer-songwriter Allison Moorer was 14 years old when her father shot and killed her mother — and then himself. Moorer and her older sister, singer Shelby Lynne, were left to live with their aunt and uncle.

Copyright 2019 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air.

DAVID BIANCULLI, HOST:

Editor's note: This interview contains a racial slur.

Sam Esmail, the creator, lead writer and director of the TV series Mr. Robot, has always identified with computer programming and hacker culture — in part because of his experiences with social anxiety.

In college, he shied away from parties and instead took refuge in the computer lab. It felt safer to talk to people online than in person, Esmail says. But working in the computer lab sometimes created problems; at one point, he was put on academic probation for hacking.

Ever since childhood, author Kevin Wilson has lived with disturbing images that flash through his mind without warning.

"I've always had this kind of agitation and looping thoughts and small tics," he says. "Falling off of tall buildings, getting stabbed, catching on fire — they were these just quick, kind of violent bursts in my head."

Not that Wilson would ever harm anyone else — the harm in these quick, intrusive thoughts was strictly internal. The images fed off of his own anxiety, and left him feeling terrified.

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