President Barack Obama and Bryan Cranston, who reprises his Tony Award-winning role as President Lyndon B. Johnson in the upcoming HBO Films presentation of All the Way, joined The New York Times‘ Philip Galanes for a Table for Three conversation at the White House on the eve of the 2016 White House Correspondents Dinner.
The candid conversation covered topics from the impact their childhood has had on their roles as parents to the experience of being a celebrity and raising a family in the spotlight.
“It was probably our biggest worry before we came here. And it’s testimony entirely to Michelle and my mother-in-law that they’ve turned out to be such terrific grounded kids,” said Obama about raising children at the country’s most famous residence. “There was a powerful sense that I wanted to get this right. Not that I was going to be perfect, but that I was going to be there, and engage, and try to figure this out.”
Cranston agreed with the need to be present despite the challenges of balancing career and family: “My wife, Robin, was from a stable family, too. There was something so attractive about that. I thought, “This is what I want.” It’s still choppy waters raising kids, but I could never conceive of not being there.”
Galanes pointed out a scene in “All the Way” where LBJ comes out of the Oval Office and bumps into his daughter. Cranston explained that he “pitched that scene. It wasn’t in the play. I wanted you to feel the father’s love and his sense of regret that even though he’s so busy with the world’s problems.”
Obama and Cranston also discussed how the ability to tell a story is important to both of their careers. “When I set out to be an actor, I just wanted to tell stories. The fact that great fortune came and allowed me to become famous is almost a distraction from what I wanted to do,” said Cranston.
On going where people are to get the message out, Obama explained that, “when I want to sign young people up for health care, I’ve got to do ‘Between Two Ferns,’ which ended up being our biggest draw. Now, the flip side of this is the Trump phenomenon, where celebrity itself becomes a credential. If you are famous, then you have merit.”
Does playing a president qualify someone to be president? When Obama told Cranston it was too late for him this cycle, Cranston quickly replied, “It could be a brokered convention. You never know.”
Obama also gave Cranston and Galanes a tour of the White House grounds and Oval Office, a setting that is familiar to Cranston from his role as President Lyndon B. Johnson: “I’ve been in a replica of this room so much I feel like I’ve been here.” Obama noted that President Johnson’s civil rights laws are credited for “ultimately leading to the election of representatives who look like me.”
Read the full article on nytimes.com: Barack Obama and Bryan Cranston on the Roles of a Lifetime