By Momo Chang for CAAM
This interview has been edited for length and clarity by Xfinity.
Award-winning journalist Ann Curry has taken the American public through war and natural disaster zones, shared stories of human resilience and shown us the power of storytelling. The former NBC News anchor has a new show on PBS, “We’ll Meet Again,” which premieres Tuesday, January 23.
The show takes us on a journey to where people whose lives were impacted during historic moments-Japanese-American incarceration during WWII and during 9/11, for example-are reunited with loved ones. The premise makes for emotional storytelling, and the takeaway is that people, often strangers, can impact people's lives for decades. And through these everyday lessons, we also learn about historic moments.
Curry has been caught in the maelstrom of the news cycle herself, from her leaving of the “Today” show to her recent opening up about Matt Lauer and allegations of sexual harassment. Curry has also been outspoken about the disparity between men and women journalists and has called for more women in leadership positions in all fields. To that end, she started her own production company, Ann Curry Inc., and the show is the first project of the company. Curry is co-executive producer and host of “We’ll Meet Again,” a six-part series that focuses on 12 people’s stories. It’s clear that she wants to continue being an investigative journalist who brings out the humanity in every situation.
I chatted with her via phone just a few days before the premiere of “We’ll Meet Again” to talk about her hopes for the new show, her vision for her future in journalism and how her own parents’ story influenced “We’ll Meet Again.”
What is your interest in this type of storytelling, of telling individual stories?
Ann Curry: I have spent my career covering world-changing events, such as wars, humanitarian disasters, and political changes. When we started working on this idea, it was exactly something I could contribute to. It just felt completely like something that could be beneficial to people. So that’s why I decided to be a part of this and be a Co-Executive Producer on the project.
This is a view of these kinds of events through the eyes of, not presidents, generals, and people who write about history, it's through the eyes of common community members who survived these events. You discover not just them and these massive moments in history, but also a reflection on ourselves, about our ability to find resilience and strength and overcoming great odds. I think it's really the story of all of us.
The people you focus on, as you mentioned, are everyday people. They're reunited over a long period of time. What do you hope viewers get out of your show?
AC: I think in those cases they’ll learn about these massive moments in history. I think people will gain an understanding of how much we can mean to each other, as human beings. That even things you may not have remembered you’ve done, an act of kindness that you have contributed, that you can actually have been a part of changing someone else’s life. And that is what we find in these moments. These people are looking for the people who have helped them, physically or emotionally. Sometimes it’s people they barely knew. Sometimes it’s just people who became their friend. In most cases, it’s people who helped them rise again.
[Someone said], this is the type of storytelling we need right now. What I think he meant, what I heard from what he said, is that we're living in a time where we're forgetting how much we mean to each other. How good we really are. About the true greatness that exists in human beings, the true light in addition to all the dark-that this is actually who we really are.
Can you talk about how your own personal background and how it influences your storytelling?
AC: How it influences me is I understand the true power of these stories, being the daughter of a mother and a father who were kept apart in the wake of World War II for two years, who wanted to marry but were prevented from marrying and were forced to be apart for two years. They yearned for each other and finally were able to marry, despite that forced separation and her terminal case of tuberculosis. She would have died had he not saved her life by getting her the medical care that allowed her to live.
I am the oldest of their five children and the legacy they left me was what my mother would say, gombare, which is a Japanese word that means, you never ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever give up. This lesson is deep within me. And the power of their resilience is deep within me. I think my own personal history in my own family has made it very to me how powerful these stories are.
I feel as though I've been shopping for a gift for people, for people I love. And that I've finally found this beautiful gift and I've wrapped it up and now I'm just waiting to see how people will react. I know these stories have value. I know these stories have power and beauty. And now I'm just waiting to see how the public will respond.
Do you have other projects that you’re working on?
AC: Sure. I have a number of projects that are on the burners, and they are all moving forward. This is the first one. The others are in a similar vein of world-changing events and what I can contribute to lifting up in being more aware and better informed about things that may affect our lives. I started a company called Ann Curry, Inc. and I’m working on these projects with others. Much of it is news and documentary, primarily documentary. This one is a fun project and I’m super excited to bring it to the public.
Catch the premiere of “We’ll Meet Again” on PBS Tuesday, January 23, 2018 with Xfinity On Demand.
Momo Chang is the Content Manager at the Center for Asian American Media (CAAM), a nonprofit organization dedicated to presenting stories that convey the richness and diversity of Asian American experiences to the broadest audience possible. CAAM does this by funding, producing, distributing and exhibiting works in film, television and digital media.
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