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tv   Tavis Smiley  PBS  March 16, 2017 6:00am-6:31am PDT

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good evening from los angeles, i'm tavis smiley. tonight first a conversation with dr. elizabeth blackburn about her groundbreaking research that explains the science of aging. then director danny boyle joins us to talk about the sequel to his seminal indy film "trainspotting." it's rolling into u.s. theaters this weekend. we're glad you've joined us. those conversations in a moment. ♪
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>> and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. ♪ dr. elizabeth blackburn is a nobel prize-winning molecular biologist who discovered one of the greatest secrets -- how to slow down the aging process -- now i got your attention, don't i? the new book is called "the telorere effect: a revolutionary approach to living younger, healthier, longer". dr. blackburn, an honor to have you on this program. >> thank you, tavis. >> i did pronounce it correct, telomere? break it down for me.
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>> perfect. look at your shoes. you've got shoelaces. tips at the ends of the shoelaces protect them from fraying away. >> the little plastic things. the tip of my shoelace, i'm looking at it right now. that's not a telomere is it? >> it's like -- if you think of a shoelace as being chromosomes, the chromosome carries lots of genetic information. and the little tips of the chromosomes have to be protected, and that's what the telomere is. and there are literally trillions of cells that we have, lots and lots of little chromosomes. but think of them as all being just lots of little tiny shoelaces whose tips need to be protected. if they're not, the genetic material becomes unprotected. basically your cells won't renew you throughout life properly if the telomeres worn down. a telomere sort of wears down slowly as we get older through our decades of life. when they do, when they've gone too far, when they've worn too
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far, then the cells flow longer can replenish our tissues throughout our bodies. the thing is at that wearing down doesn't just happen at a rate that is the same for everybody. and what the book is about is you who that rate can be slowed, that helps to slow down your aging in this kind of way that relates to not being able to replenish tissues throughout your body. >> how much control -- i know the answer, but i'm asking anyway to advance the conversation. how much control then, i know this from reading your book, what agency do we have in controlling how fast or slow those -- >> yes, we have a surprising amount. and it begins with things that we know really from all sorts of other things are good for helping us stay healthy. and that's, you know, all the things that we've known about exercise and getting good sleep and having, you know, good kind
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of -- fairly nutritious food. what's really interesting is how much your state of mind affects your whole physiology. and we can see that read out in how the telomeres wear down based on how well you cope with chronic stresses and conversely how bad the stresses are. so we can control quite a lot of that. my co-worker, alissa eppel, and i became co-authors. and she is a psychologist in the department of psychiatry at the university of california san francisco, which is where i was before i came to the salk institute a year ago. we realized that there was so much useful information that it come from so many studies in humans, and they weren't in one place. they were in different places where they'd been published and talked about. we thought let's put them
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together and use that information from how much the telomeres wear down which has serious consequences for how much we're going to age and become susceptible to diseases of aging. let's put the information in one place and turn it into something usable because it's not telling people to do ridiculous, impossible things. it's saying, look, we understand what sorts of ways people can change that will stick -- that won't just be five weeks of great resolution to go to the gym and forget -- how do you tweak things so you can do a lasting set of useful changes that we know from the research really does help main your telomere health. >> are there degrees ear gradations to -- or gradations to telomere health based on things like race, gender -- >> there are some biological
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1-800- -- blooj ciological ones. the important ones are not just dealing with personal habits, but things of real consequence of what's happening in society. we found that the worse a person experienced in themselves experienced discrimination, the worse that they experienced bullying, violence, if they were children, the shorter, the more worn down were their telomeres. we could quantify these things, that in a way that, you know, it's not subject -- it's like, yeah, we're actually seeing in -- this is always done with statistics, groups of people, carefully correcting things that might have been confusing the answers. yeah. real experiences of people and, conversely, how they're able to cope. that turns out to be a real thing. and we have controlled not only as individuals but i think society has some decisions that are made that we can say we see
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real effects on telomere maintenance. >> the last comment, you're setting me up for a joke about trump working my telomeres. i'm going to leave it alone, though. there's a joke in there about trump wearing down my telomeres. >> it would be a joke if it wasn't such a serious thing. and we seriously think that that kind of social stressors, the chronic unknowing -- not knowing what's predictable, not having control of the situations, having things where there aren't resources to cope, those are the sorts of things that we have to look seriously at social policies and say, look, these things we know have measurable effects on telomere maintenance. so sadly, we can only joke -- we laugh, not to cry, right? >> sure. >> that's an interesting and very important thing. and that came out of the research in looking at humans and saying how much do the telomeres wear down.
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and this is where telomeres wear down -- the more they wear down, the more people are statistically set up as being at risk for the major things that affect us as we get older. and they're things like cardiovascular, various cancers, cardiovascular disease, cancers, even diabetes. even some of the dementias. we see that the wearing down of telomeres plays into the risks. these are big consequences for the health of our societies as well as individuals and families. >> i am not, nor will i ever be, like you a nobel prize-winning scientist. but i have been black my whole life. >> yes. >> i know a little about that. >> yes. >> and it would seem to me, all jokes aside, that if these telomeres dying off and not replenishing themselves has to do with aging and dying, then black folk, our telomeres must
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really be under a lot of stress. >> when we look at the absolute lengths, the rates are falling. we do see evidence of people who feel they are under -- when i say feel, it's real. you can see this very concrete measure of the telomere wearing down, phenomenon happening. in proportion to people's experiences of such things as, you know, for example, very poor neighborhood quality where people feel unsafe in the long term way. short-term stressors are not a big problem. i'm happy to say, it's the ones where it's long term and people feel -- >> it's important because so often when people of color, when poor people, when people in those neighborhoods you referenced, where they say this, nobody hears them. when they say it, people say, get over it. when they say it, everybody -- everybody has a hard life, you know, nobody's -- pull up by
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your bootstraps. i hear these mantras every day when people say it. when a scientist says it damages your telomeres, it makes the conversation more serious. >> it's very serious. in the book, we try and give people at least sort of empowerment to say, look, here are the things you can do. we can't fix stresses in life, we can't change a lot of things right away. we can't instantly change society and so on. but there are things we can do at least that are giving us the coping tools. and that's particularly my co-author, alesicssa eppel, tha her expertise. we said here are all these effects that we see, and what can you do about it. the book is about what can you do in terms of having some empowerment to make a difference at least for your own maintenance of your health. but that in turn turns out, you know, that can help others, as
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well. >> yeah. there's your new word for the day, telomere. t-e-l-o-m-e-r-e. the book is called, "the tel telomere effect: a revolutionary approach to living younger, healthier, longer." dr. elizabeth blackburn, thank you very much for being on the program. >> thank you very much. >> up next, director danny boyle, "trainspotting 2." stay with us. i'm so pleased to welcome danny boyle back to this program. it's been nearly 20 years since the cult hit, "trainspotting" introducing people to the addiction of heroin and the worst toilet in the world -- consolidate. now back with "-- scotland. now back with "t2," and before we hear more, a clip from "t2." ♪
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[ laughter ] >> thanks. >> ah! >> detox the system. >> detox the system? what does that even mean? >> it doesn't mean anything. it's not getting it out of your body that's the problem. it's getting it out of your mind. you're an addict. >> 100,000 times. you have is12 more steps -- >> so be addicted. be addicted to something else. >> i'll be sick -- >> yes, to something else. you've got to channel it. you've got to control it. people try all sorts. some people do boxing -- >> boxing? >> well, it's just an example. i don't mean you should -- >> what did you channel? >> getting away. >> what is it like to bring a
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team back together again 20 years senator. >> i know it's a bit like -- like a pop group re-forming or a school reunion, you know. those terrible school reunions where you're like -- it has elements of that about it. you kind of -- and it is like that because you're not just looking at -- you're not just looking at the other person. you're looking at yourself, as well. kind of what's changed in you. you set yourself against original time and what you did then and looked like then. and perhaps you tell them we're going to see you, like you looked 20 years ago, we're going to go boom, what you look like now. there will be no hollywood makeover, nothing like that. we're going to see you like you are. >> that's scary for some people. >> yeah, you have to have a bit of courage. that was the nature of the project. that's what it was going to be about. it was about what time had done for them over that period. >> why was the time right to do this now? >> i think we tried -- i know we
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tried about ten years ago. and that was when the actors didn't look very different. i don't know whether our hearts weren't in it then, but we didn't make a very good job of it. we never read the scripts and never sent it to the actors. and then the 20-year anniversary loomed on the horizon. and we saw -- we should have a try now. and i looked at them, and they did look different now. they did look like time had passed. and the moisturizer that they put on every night hadn't worked quite as well as it used to work. and they were beginning to show the signs that we all suffer -- an extraordinary time. i know you're going to do something about aging on the program, about the science of aging. it's something that connects us all, presidents to the homeless. everybody suffers from it. so we got together and wrote something a bit more personal than we had. it was about ourselves really, about fatherhood and -- and kind of like male behavior, especially all the time is what the film kind of became about. and men are very bad at aging. don't you think? women age -- women who get a lot
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of flack from men about age and time -- women age much more sensible than men age. we are danger -- we are terrible at it. we hang on to it. we never want to grow up. it's terrible. in one sense i'm a bloke. actually it's terrible realli. you should be sensible and, you know, mature gracefully. >> yeah. what's also amazing for me which is a bit more serious, to look at what you were talking about 20 years ago, vis-a-vis heroin addiction and how the opioid addiction -- and heroin is back bigger than ever in certain circles, certain cities. it's just -- what do you make of that? >> i think it's always going to be with us. it's something -- it's a drug that has an incredible power, and we use it in hospitals obviously in the form of morphine. >> sure. >> to eradicate terrible pain and suffering. >> sure. >> i think people use it to eradicate an emotional suffering illegally. you know, on the streets.
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and -- it often leads to a terrible absence of people. they can't cope. they just want to erase everything if they can for a while. and its power -- it's effective provided you don't get terrible supply. it's very, very effective. and people are unable to resist wanting to keep using it. and it's always going to be with us in a way. and i think society regardless of your politics has to organize with that in mind. it's not that you're encouraging people to use it or that -- i think there always will be people who will be vulnerable to it. we have to look after them if we can. >> what did you learn or what were your takeaways about yourself 20 years later? >> i worried that i hadn't put enough time into my kids really. you know, the whole career thing, i could talk about that. that's what i have been talking about for 20 years. and you worry have you done that, have you put enough time in for your kids and stuff like
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that. i'm lucky i got three great kids who are grown up now. they would be better to answer than me really, you know, in the way that they are. yeah, i did think -- making the film did make me think a lot about that actually, yeah. and that place we just saw in the clip -- >> a beautiful place where's it is. >> the middle of edinborough. the city is built around the mountain. you can walk up there. i took my son up while we were making the film. we were talking about that. when you make films and do publicity tours like this and you're away from home and not there for them and stuff like that. i did think about that for a while. >> clearly, every parent knows that parenting is not an exact science. >> no. >> your family, i know, had to be as proud of you as the rest of us were two years ago when you were on stage and won eight academy awards in one night. >> yeah. we did okay. >> yeah, yeah. that's an understatement. eight -- eight statues in one night for "slum dogs." that was a huge night. >> i know, like that mickey thing -- what did he say, seven with one blow.
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that cartoon. it was a pretty special evening for us. we were very lucky. we were blessed because we'd all believed in the project from the get-go when nobody else did. and you go all that way. you cannot believe you're going to get there. >> like "moonlight." >> a modest or in, but they'll -- modest origin, but they'll have belief. that's essential to it. in this world when there's so much money, hollywood, belief is really priceless, you know. you can't buy it. you can't manufacture it. you've got to feel it. and when you make films like "moonlight" or "slum dog millionaire," you have that belief. it's what sustains you. >> speaking of "moonlight," we had naomie harris on a few weeks back. she sat in this chair and had something to say about you and the role you played in her career. she, of course was nominated for "moonlight." i want you to see this. play this clip of naomi on our show. >> i love danny boyle. i really do. i credit him -- he is the person
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-- when you're starting your career, you always need that one person who's going to take a risk on you. and i didn't have many credits. you know, i'd been at university, been at drama schools. i hadn't been working for a long time. and you know, he gave me the -- the co-leads in this big movie of his. and he always championed me and believed in me. he did that then and then i think it was ten years later when i did "frankenstein" at the national. and i hadn't done theater since leaving drama school. and he gave me the part of elizabeth in "frankenstein" in front of thousands of people every night. and that's how i got "bond" because he was in the audience. >> amazing. >> you discovered naomi hairis. >> i don't know -- i'd love to take the credit. i'm not alone. >> you were talking how in this business you have to have belief if nothing else. she said you believed in her but nobody else did.
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>> you could tell she's an absolute thoroughbred. she can absolutely do it. she could sort of do anything -- she's one of those actors who could sort of do anything really. we were -- all i remember is she had a terrible haircut when she came in. she doesn't know -- she was drop-dead gorgeous. she had this terrible haircut -- change that haircut. she did, and she was -- she blew it out of the park really. she's been -- she's someone i'd love to work with again actually. i was so proud when she got the nomination for "moonlight." there's weird moments in your career that you're meant to be proud -- i'm proud of "slum dog." her getting the nomination weirdly gives you a pride that is similar really in a way. and yet it has nothing to do with me, not really. it's her and "moonlight." i was very proud. >> i feel your heart every time you come on this program. i say that because i did not realize the last time we talked that you had thought about becoming a priest, wanted to become a priest, and were talked
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out of being a priest by a priest. is that true? >> that's true. my family's all from ireland. my mom was a very devout catholic, very devout. her only wish really was for her son to be a priest. she wanted him to be educated but i was on the transition ecotree to be a priest. i was at a college -- an educational brotherhood who teach young men. and i was marked out for that. and this priest said to me, he said, i think you should wait really. i was like 12 or 13. i didn't really understand -- i didn't understand what he was talking about. he was basically saying wait until girls arrived. give you a while before you go through the whole girl thing. and how right he was. father conway, i owe a great deal to. >> is it also true -- i can ask
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you whether these statements are true or not. that story is true. >> yeah. it is. >> is it also true that turned down knighthood from the queen? >> yes, i did. yes. >> why -- why did you -- >> you guys -- >> no, no. i'm glad you said that because americans do love it. i have a whole different take when i'm not going to get into tonight. my thing about the monarchy would take hours. i would catch all kind of pushback. but it fascinated me that you turned that down. >> well, we did -- we did -- it was based on -- >> amazing. >> yeah, it was -- >> i love it. >> the queen. >> i love it. >> it was based on an inclusiveness about everyone. and everyone was treated the same. whether you were james bond, daniel craig, or a lowly volunteer. the idea was that everybody was treated the same. we were all contributing to it. and to be pulled out and given this award for it, i didn't think was right. i have nothing against awards. like i love an oscar.
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who wouldn't? >> yeah. >> but -- but something like that felt like it would kind of elevate me above all the people who made it work. my role was really important. but also was all theirs -- i didn't think it was right really. it's not my cup of tea anyway. it was a no for me. >> had the girls not shown up, you would have been a good priest. >> yeah. absolutely. but they also say -- everybody says, you turned it down -- you'd of -- i remember alan sorkin saying, you got a knight hood, you would have got so many girls with a knight hood. that's all he was thinking about -- how much it would impress the ladies. >> what are your hopes for "t2"? >> we were proud to make it. it had been a large part of our careers. we kind of all started off on it. it felt wonderful to go back to it. it was worrying to make sure you didn't let people down. the affection was there.
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we wanted to make something that people felt they could stands beside the original film. not outbeat it -- not compete in any way, but sort of complete it really in a way. not in -- and there's a weird thing in the film which you can play them, part one and two, like that. but eventually we hope you'll be able to play part two leading into part one because there's a weird thing -- spuds, the character on the hill with ewan mcgregor there, he becomes the author of the original film. and some -- i don't know whether you felt this. but the only consolation of aging, one of the few consolations of ageing that i can see is that time isn't a straight line. >> yeah. >> it's a loop really. and that sort of happens in the film. a little bit. you get a sense of things looping back on themselves. and i love that about the film. i hope it stands beside the film as a complement. >> if you didn't see one, can you see two? >> you can, no problem at all. there are excerpts of one that are dropped into the film.
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you'll understand where they come from, i think. it won't confuse you at all. i know it's satisfying in its own right. >> there you have it. danny boyle, you're the man. >> tavis, thank you very much. >> always honored to have you here, man. enjoy your conversations immensely. thank you, danny. that's our show for tonight. thanks for watching, and as always, keep the faith. ♪ >> for more information on today's show, visit tavis smiley at pbs.org. hi, i'm tavis smiley. join me next time for a conversation with "moonlight" director now academy award winner barry jenkins. that's next time. we'll see you then. ♪
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>> and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you.
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good evening from los angeles, i'm tavis smiley. tonight a conversation with jane kaczmarek. she made millions laugh as the matriarch lois in "malcolm in the middle," but she's got a serious side when it comes to politics. she joins us to discuss how she's handling trump's first 100 days and to talk about her dramatic role in eugene o'neill's pulitzer prize-winning masterpiece, "long day's journey into night." we're glad you've joined us. jane kaczmarek in a moment. ♪

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