PopPolitics: Wendell Pierce on Playing Clarence Thomas in ‘Confirmation’ (Listen)

Wendell Pierce Confirmation
Courtesy of HBO

Wendell Pierce says that he wavers in just who was telling the truth — Clarence Thomas or Anita Hill — in the sensational 1991 confirmation hearings depicted in HBO’s upcoming “Confirmation.”

Pierce, who plays Thomas, says that he instead tried to focus on a net effect of the hearings, a much greater importance placed on issues of sexual harassment in the workplace.

Thomas was headed for a smooth confirmation to the Supreme Court until Hill, a law professor played by Kerry Washington in the movie, gave testimony that he made sexually inappropriate remarks and advances when they previously worked together. Thomas denied it, and in his rebuttal he famously called the hearings a “high tech lynching.”

“My opinion of whether or not he did it goes back and forth,” Pierce tells Variety‘s “PopPolitics” on SiriusXM. “I know if he is guilty of what he is accused of it’s awful and should never be accepted…I believe that something happened. I believe a portion, at least at the bare minimum, a portion of what Anita Hill said, but I also remember one thing that the justice said, which is, ‘I fully deny any of these accusations, but if I did say or do anything to Professor Hill or any other woman, I am so very deeply sorry.’ His contrition and that statement really opened up a window to the fact that I know he was reflective of trying to figure out what happened.”

The movie debuts on HBO on April 16.

Pierce says that he had a “preconceived notion of who he was, and the court and his opinions and his political views. I have a lot more information about [Thomas and Hill’s] relationship and how they deal with each other. What happened? Ultimately I have an opinion but it would be speculative. I guess it is all speculative when people consider it.”

Listen below:

Pierce did not talk to Thomas about the role — nor did he talk to Hill until after the project was completed. In fact, when the time came to shoot a pivotal scene, in which Thomas rebuts Hill’s accusations, he even avoided speaking to Washington that day. He says that Thomas’ body language in giving his testimony was revealing in figuring out how to play the role.

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Pierce says that his family and that of Thomas share a lot in common.

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Trax on the Trail

Dana Gorzelany-Mostak, assistant professor of music at Georgia College, talks about why music has become so important in this presidential race. She is creator of the site Trax on the Trail, which tracks the use of music on the campaign trail.

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Has music become polarizing? Gorzelany-Mostak talks about the Freedom Kids, who drew big attention in February when they performed a version of “Over There” at a rally for Donald Trump.

Leak Streak

David Cohen of Variety and Nikki Schwab of Daily Mail talk about the political fallout from the Panama Papers. One reason that few U.S. figures have been implicated in the scandal over setting up offshore tax havens is that it is relatively easy to set one up in this country.

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“PopPolitics,” hosted by Variety’s Ted Johnson, airs Thursdays at 2 p.m. ET/11 a.m. PT on SiriusXM’s political channel POTUS. It also is available on demand.