Michelle Nolden Interview

(A few parts of this are not transcribed fully. In those spots, the gist of the discussion is shown in an abbreviated form.)

METTA: You do like to work with Richard?

MICHELLE: Yes. The stuff that documentaries are made of is, to me, what real life is like. It's that side that most of us don't get a chance to see. The general public may turn away and say they don't want to see that. Whereas, what we do is make them get involved. I think good television puts out the question that makes you - remember the pregnancy scene where everyone was real upset? To me, even though that is really hard to watch, it incenses people and gets them riled up. And you go, wow, that's wonderful; now we've really got something.

METTA: But if I were a regular viewer I would never come back after watching that childbirth scene.

MICHELLE: But I think that what happens is in the end, we end up caring about those people. The truth is, in real life, that would happen. They would have taken Kevin away right then. They would have come barreling in, and they wouldn't have given a rat's ass that I was about to give birth. You're the one who put yourself in that position. Our job is to make the situation, whether it is the parolees, a lot of those stories are based on real situations - make them accessible to people can see that without their guards flying up right away. Make people care about those characters. That's what is interesting. It's not about the formula. They are really saying something that is important, and if you are committing to something for a long period of time, I want to be involved in something that gets people talking about something. You don't want to sway somebody one way or the other. You don't want to say, this is the right way and I have this ulterior motive to let you know that this is the way things should be. You're putting it out there and people can make their own decisions. That to me is good art or good television.

(talks about Dead Man Walking here.)

Nobody in this world thinks that what they are doing is wrong. Everybody feels that they are justified in what they are doing and so, as an actor, if I am playing a character who turns my stomach, I need to know why that character is the way that she is. Nobody is just that way for no reason. And that's where the challenge is - in figuring it out. For me, being an actor is the greatest blessing; it forces me to be open-minded. It forces me to walk a mile in someone else's shoes. If we all did, the world would be a better place.

METTA: I love that way of putting it. There's a book called the Way of the Actor. He calls acting a great therapy. ...

MN: I think the best actors are generally the ones who know themselves the best, although there are people who, in their regular life, aren't quite sure, so they are finding themselves through their acting. And then there are other people who know themselves more. They jump out off their regular life.

MS Do you have any particular person in mind?

MICHELLE: We all know cases. There are people who find themselves through their work and there are people who have a good solid sense of who they are and they jump off into the character. Which is better? I have no idea, but I prefer to have a normal life. I feel I have greater freedom to jump into a character if I have a solid base to come back to. ... If you truly experience something, you don't forget it. It becomes a part of you. You can't separate reality from fantasy. ... Once I've played a drug dealer, and have done my research, I'll never look at somebody who's being busted for drugs in the same way. If you play a character who does a bombing as an antiabortionist, you still have to get into their mind. And you have to believe it when you are performing it. So never again in life will you brush it off. There will be a certain degree of understanding. That's the thing about acting - the blessing it brings.

METTA: Would you ever play a villain?

MICHELLE: Sure, I'd love to play a villain. They are always the most interesting. But the villain has to have some sort of redemption. He's not being bad for the sake of being bad. You can't have that gratuitous violence. If there's an arc to the character where he actually goes somewhere ..., then to me it's worth it. You can't just have Little House on the Prairie all the time.

METTA: How did you get hired and what kind of conversation did you have about the character?

MICHELLE: Richard was the reason why I joined the show. He and Marc have an indie film style. It's not traditional. They want to say something and I felt that what they were experiencing was really --.... He gave me this article that he had written about the "Original Gangster." They were making a documentary about it. He is one of the greatest, most grounded people I've ever known. I love him. He's looking at those things - how we rehabilitate. There's a sense of truth. I wanted to get on board. He was passionate about it. It's so much more than a job. It could take me five years - a big part of my life. I want to make sure that those five years are something that I believe in. Something that matters.

(We talk about back-stories, and why she doesn't like to share. She doesn't like anyone to see what she writes on her scripts.)

We talk about the absent Colombian dental hygienist. Why was it cut?

MICHELLE: There was such a great moment at the end of that script. We had that fight where Kevin had found the condoms. We came together at the end. So he would have looked like a complete asshole if he had had that affair. He would have already lost the audience. Now if we had played it a different way - where I'd said, "It's my life. I can do whatever I want to do." If I'd played it that way, it might have worked. So that's the great thing about Richard and Marc; they don't say, this is the way it has to be. They have respect for the actor. ...

Rachel wants to be equal with Kevin in that life, rather than going out on her own and getting a job and going straight and providing for Sean. She is still intent on going back to that life, as much as he is, and she wants to be part of it.

METTA: How much of this did you anticipate? Did you foresee that she would-

MICHELLE: Liberti says to me: you were part of the life that sent him there and you will be part of the life that sends him back. She loves him to death and doesn't want him to go back.

METTA: I will be very disappointed if at the end they don't grow.

MICHELLE: They will either get the whole deal that they want and find out that it's not so great, or else she'll go on her own. But I trust Richard. I had no idea I was going to be pregnant. But it worked out great.

METTA: Kevin comes out of prison not knowing what he wants to do. There's never any conversation where he talks about what he wants to do with his life.

MICHELLE: We talked about that, actually. When he came out, he thought he would have $5 million. I don't know whether it made it to air or not but we talked about how we wanted to have an island. Anyhow, that's where they need to grow. Right now they have each other and they have money You can live on money for a long time and be very empty. There are so many things these characters have yet to learn. Now he's right back at square one.

METTA: How can they plan the story - how long it's going to take?

MICHELLE: At the end of each season it has to come to some kind of an end so it can be a self-contained season. If he keeps going back to that life - I'm already in the life. I was out of it during the previous time when he was in prison, so he had some kind of a refuge in me and my family.

METTA: What did you do before acting?

MICHELLE: I was a dancer. Then in my early 20s I started training in acting. I did everything that you can do in Toronto. I often feel I am playing catch up. I am always reading plays and books, watching biographies. There is so much that I need to learn. With my dance background I had a good disciplined life. Every day at 8:00 I danced. I am still doing stuff to keep my muscles working.

(On Morale):

It's not so much that we all get along, but that we respect each other. I'm sure some of us rub each other wrong. But I think Rob and I have been really lucky in having a similar sensibility and way of working. You will get personality conflicts, but because the work that we are doing is truthful, good work, most of the time we have real respect...Any temporary conflict that may come up is easily forgotten. The worst thing would be if everybody tiptoed around others because they didn't want to offend anyone. You don't get good meaty stuff that way. If everybody spits out what they feel, then you get the good stuff. You end up building respect for each other. It's like a family. You need to be honest.

METTA: I am interested in the ethics of how to protect the audience. I have one principle that I think should never be violated: writing a story in which a good person turns bad and the audience has to break empathy. People hate such stories. Never do it.

MICHELLE: But I can see that it's beneficial to toy with it because there are people in real lie who are like that.

METTA: Yes, but I don't think it's fair to the audience.

MICHELLE: Yes, but sometimes I want to see life as it really is. It's never always wrong.

METTA: It's okay only if there's a good reason - some value to be gained.

MICHELLE: But look at the holocaust. That story will never have a happy ending.

METTA: I am not talking about happy endings. We can stand unhappy endings. There are lots of people who say that you need to have a fair payoff - that bad guys always must be punished. I don't agree to that. I also think we can stand to lose the people we love. But there are some things that we can't stand. Suppose a character is a good character but everybody thinks he is a bad character, and he is falsely accused. Somebody at least, needs to know in the end that he was not a bad character. We can't take having him not recognized at all. When it comes to holocaust or living and dying, life is that way, and we can take that. But the audience can't take loving somebody and have him become a bad person and stay that way at the end.

MICHELLE: I don't think I can even think of a case. There has to be redemption or otherwise there is no point in putting it on the screen.

METTA: Take the case of The Talented Mr. Ripley. Isn't that what happened in that film?

MICHELLE: Yeah, but sometimes there can be a greater point involved -like the fact that the people around a person have created this monster. It's like when you try to humanize Hitler. I don't think there is anything wrong with liking a character and having him turn bad, if you see through the eyes of another person what this person had lost. ...

METTA: Maybe this is an example of what you mean: Joy Kogawa's novel, The Rain Ascends. The protagonist experiences the disappointment of learning that her father had molested 300 boys. But the readers don't experience that loss of love for the father ourselves. Instead, we look at the experience through her eyes. What I object to is when the audience goes through that disillusionment with love ourselves.

MICHELLE: I think it can be done.

METTA: Give me an example where it was done well and you didn't hate it.

MICHELLE: That's why I think Dead Man Walking is so great. You hate him, but you also love him.

METTA: I think that doesn't happen in The Sopranos, because we in the audience are not being tricked. We know all along what a mixed character we're dealing with. We don't have to break empathy with Tony Soprano because we never formed an intense empathy for him from the beginning.

MICHELLE: Yeah, I should watch Mr. Ripley again.

METTA: I think breaking empathy is a very important phenomenon. Breaking empathy is painful and we should do everything possible to help people stay in empathy. You have expressed it already - what it is like as an actor to put yourself in the shoes of somebody else. That's a morally developmental experience.

MICHELLE: Yeah, that's true. But I think that if we recognize that we have broken empathy with that person, there can still be a lesson to be learned: The fact that we can be disillusioned with society. Does that make sense?

METTA: It may make sense but what happens to people in the audience is so painful that their biochemical balance gets fucked up. (Here I described Gibbons's research. He was afraid someone was going to commit suicide after watching his video.)

MICHELLE: Your audience is so diverse that you can't tailor it for the people who can't cope. I know that sounds harsh.

METTA: No, I think you have to assume -

MICHELLE: Truth is truth. Films have to give us hope sometimes. But sometimes, we have a responsibility to put the most heinous things that we are capable of doing in front of us so we will look inward and go: Could I do that? It is painful but it's worthwhile. If you leave when you don't feel empathy, if you go away from it, then I think the lesson is worthless. I think it builds the moral backbone of society by forcing them to look at the things we do.

METTA: It isn't only strange and screwed-up people who are harmed by drama. Everyone can be affected. The soap opera, Another World, affected people when it went off the air. One woman told me it was one of the most painful days in her whole life.

MICHELLE: I don't know. I have very mixed emotions about that. It's not that I'm suggesting that the people who are affected are bad people, but if something is resonant with me, and I can't cope with it, to me it's something that I should see because it's something that I need to deal with. Face my fears. There is a certain safety in looking at something happening on the screen that doesn't actually happen to us in real life. So, through empathy we're able to deal with what's happening to us - and yes, it is painful. In the same way, I think that on Street Time if we're not afraid of that conflict and we trust it - this is assuming of course that people are responsibly putting stuff-

METTA: But I'm not assuming that. I'm assuming that there can be irresponsible production.

MICHELLE: I think that there can be people who have such extreme violence that young kids are looking it, going : Well that's okay. That is irresponsible television. But I think that if it's a true story of things not turning out right, then it's not necessarily bad. I don't know. It's hard to think of a specific example.

METTA: Can you think of an example of irresponsible programming - an example where the writer did not pay proper attention to the effect he was having on the audience, when you would say that he was wrong? In the whole world, was there ever a wrong story?

MICHELLE: I can find a justification for anything. I am coming from the perspective of someone who legitimately wants to put the truth out there and then looking for why they do what they do. Then I can justify anything. But if I think there is somebody who is doing it for ratings-someone who, if we've got a good chase scene and got guns and it's only because of the ratings and it makes a good trailer and whatever - that, I think, is irresponsible filmmaking.

METTA: That's talking about the motives of the producers, but let's talk about the content. Can you name a story that you think was a mistake - shouldn't have been done that way?

MICHELLE: Yes, I can think of stories where there wasn't equal time given to both sides to really give you the point of discussion. Something that was slanted, which I think is irresponsible. I can even think of a Christian movie. I am a Christian, but I felt that the audience was being manipulated.

I don't think there's anything wrong with nudity if you are invested in a character and it's part of what a character would normally do. But if it's just there for ratings or whatever and you don't care anything at all about the character, it's just random. And if there's violence but no comment on the violence.

METTA: Okay, good. There we're in agreement. One of the arguments I am making in this chapter is that you're going to have an effect on public morals and you have to take account of that. On the other hand, for the sake of the drama you need tension, so you're going to have to have some bad guys. How do you protect the audience from imitating them? Gandolfini almost quit The Sopranos because people were admiring him and intending to emulate him.

MICHELLE: It becomes difficult. Street Time, for example, should not be watched by young teens. I won't let my nephews watch it - not because there's anything wrong with what we are doing but because they don't have the life experience so we can sit down and have a conversation about the show. That's why I think it is good that there are some programs that are adult programs. I think if we had not had Rob arrested at the end of [this season of] Street Time, it would have been irresponsible. Or if we hadn't shown the negative effect of drug dealing on his life, regardless of whether marijuana is right or wrong - say, if it had been cocaine he was selling, if we hadn't shown the negative effect of that on his life, it would be irresponsible filmmaking. If he had just been a drug dealer and we had seen slow-mo shots of him doing drug deals, they could look at it and say, "that's what I want to do." It's like when somebody pulls out five guns and shoots everybody and there are no repercussions or remorse. Then we're getting into irresponsible, sensationalist -

METTA: Okay. We're on the same wave length. There are problems in writing that occur because of the episodic form. Traditionally the way writers handle that is to have the criminal come to a bad end. But in a series, in any one episode he will still be riding high. That creates a problem - not just for children but for all kinds of people. What there needs to be is, within each show, a dialogue about what's going on. There can be the equivalent of a Greek chorus saying, "this is bad." In the Sopranos, Dr. Melfi gets to comment. She is the voice of morality. But there is nobody quite like that as a regular feature of Street Time. It could be a bartender commenting on the plot.

MICHELLE: I think in Street Time, it's Scott.

METTA: Oh, no. Scott is the problem.

MICHELLE: But he is what makes this interesting. Kevin is very aware of what he stands to lose from his actions.

METTA: But we need a comment on Scott as much as we need one on Kevin. Even more, maybe.

MICHELLE: Sure, but what often keeps us in check is not pure. That's why this is for adult television. You look at the doctor in the Sopranos. She also goes home. She has fantasies about him. It's mixed up. If she were perfect, it would be boring. But we've got this great character, Scott, who plays the opposite side of Kevin: "You will go to prison if you continue to do this. I know you are a dealer and will go back into the drug scene. Think about your family." But on the other side we are not always sure whether that's right and whether his own family isn't being harmed too. That's why I think it works so well, because the "Greek chorus" is also flawed. Everybody is flawed. The church is flawed because it's made up of people with power. The government - the institutions that keep us straight - are flawed as well. So I think that's what happens when we come to this disillusionment in our twenties and thirties with the moral fibres of society that are supposed to keep us in check. We get to conspiracy theories about the government, and then we go: "Well, what the hell is this?"

METTA: This is excellent, what you're saying. It is certainly going in the book.

MICHELLE: Well, I feel that the more flawed everybody is, the more we have empathy for it because we say, "Yes, it doesn't mean just that we are throwing the baby out with the bathwater, but that life is very complicated. Everybody feels that what they are doing is right."

METTA: Yes, but at some point, you do break empathy with some people. And you should. But I'm saying that the experience of breaking empathy is extremely painful. You and I have some disagreement about that childbirth episode. I felt that it was way, way over the line. I broke empathy with Scott and there is nothing that guy can do, ever, that will redeem him.

MICHELLE: See, I think that's good.

METTA: It may be good for you, but immediately after breaking empathy I would go away if I were a regular viewer. I would say, "I give up. I am never going to watch this show again."

MICHELLE: Well, that would be unfortunate. But I think that what it does is that it keeps us in tune with our innate sense of right and wrong. When we break empathy, we go: We have followed this guy all along but we know that - despite all the laws and everything - we go: "That's wrong! He should have let him stay to watch the child be born." And because he went over, it puts a sense of responsibility -

METTA: For me, it was more a matter of what Scott was doing while you were in labor - screaming and yelling and carrying on. Do you know what men do when they are in the presence of a woman in labor? They practically drop to their knees and whisper! They are extremely reverential and respectful. That woman in labor takes priority over everything. There is no decent male human being who would treat a woman the way you were treated.

MICHELLE: Right. And he was somebody that we had come to respect, but he made that mistake. At some point in our lives we all make a mistake that we wish we could take back. Or we go, "I don't want to be this person. I don't want to make this decision." It forces the audience to say, "Yes, I have followed this person all along, but I don't agree!"

Or, say, we follow Kevin and Rachel all along but if they did a deal where they use their kid as a mule, putting drugs on Sean to get them across the border, then the audience's empathy would stop because they had crossed the line. And that is putting the responsibility on the audience instead of our teaching them, this is right and this is wrong, we're forcing them to look at what their sense of right and wrong is. When do I break empathy?

Suppose my child is a murderer? At what point do I break empathy? When do I know that I cannot justify what he did? Do you know what I mean?

METTA: Yes! I think you're right on. This is an excellent point of view. It's not one that I have represented adequately, but now I will. You're articulating that point of view very well. It handles a lot. I think that sometimes there is more needed to articulate positions to the audience. It could be Kevin's barber commenting, even in a weak way. He doesn't even have to connect it, doesn't even need to know what Kevin's been doing. He could be talking about somebody else, to articulate alternative perspectives within a show. I think it's needed very often. I do have some research that's the basis for my thinking this. People, their emotional reactions are often that they don't think about what it meant.

MICHELLE: Right, and that's like a church. The film has become, in a way, the church of the twentieth century. As in the church, you can have people who are theological experts, and also people who are middle-of-the-road (they can read the Bible and put it into context and so on) and you can have people who are complete fundamentalists, who take it word-for-word. You can have people who don't have much education and who just sort of take it at face value and believe that, say, Jonah was swallowed by a whale. The trick is, you're performing for such a wide variety of people that some people are going to misinterpret it. (She mentions some film that I don't recognize.) If you're intelligent you realize that the audience is [relying on] stereotypes and laughing at things that they shouldn't laugh at. If you're intelligent you think, "They got me. They caught me doing exactly what I shouldn't do." It forces people to recognize their stereotypes. That is the idea that's the motive of the filmmaker. But there can be people who just show up and don't get the point. So what is your response to those people? I had this issue when I used to dance. I almost did a piece where the dancers were naked. My motive for doing it would be beautiful. Now, what if there's some guy sitting in the back row jerking off? How do I make my decisions as an artist? Whom do I play to? Do I say I'm not going to do it because of the guy in the back row? Or do I say I will do it because these people in the front row understand art. Understand me?

METTA: Oh, this is really important to me. I don't know the answers. I don't think there are any clear answers.

MICHELLE: No, I agree. My nephew can pick up Street Time and go to his buddy's house and watch it - and he can see one scene where I am making out. That's all that he gets. Do I say that I'm not going to do that because it's misinterpreted by somebody, or do I say that I'm going to do my best to bring these characters to life and that the people that it affects, that it resonates to, will find the truth. But some people aren't capable of that. So what is my responsibility to them? You can drive yourself crazy this way.

METTA: I know. You're dealing with exactly the most important part of the problem I'm dealing with - that there are people who get messages that you don't want to send. That they will do things, like kill people. And this is a significant effect. So what do you do?

MICHELLE: You can't not put that stuff on TV.

METTA: But you can put comments. True, I don't think you have to have somebody making comments about sex to straighten out the others. It's violence that I worry about more. I don't have the same reaction to sex.

MICHELLE: But some people do.

METTA: I don't think they need to. I make a big distinction between sex and violence. They are not the same thing.

MICHELLE: I don't think so either but there are some people who think they should just get rid of all the sex, get rid of all the violence on the screen. But I say, that would not be life. If I want to go to be entertained, I'll watch Friends or Seinfeld. But if I want to watch a great movie I want something that's going to make me think.

METTA: But it may not make you think. I had part of this conversation with Rob. He said, "Well, if you get the message out there, it's in the back of their minds anyway." I say, no. It doesn't necessarily sink in unless it's articulated - unless somebody says what the meaning is.

MICHELLE: Think of the movie Adaptation. Most people didn't get that he was actually making a Hollywood movie at the end - that he was actually doing the very thing that he wasn't supposed to. It hits different people at different times. It didn't hit my husband until Meryl Streep said, "Kill him." There were other people who got it right away. They knew, as soon as the brother came into the picture, that there would be the whole Hollywood idea. Then there were people who didn't get it at all.

METTA: I am one of those.

MICHELLE: This whole idea of structure. He was toying with it. And he ended up creating this Hollywood movie, the very thing that he didn't want to create, because that's what sells. He gave us the Hollywood movie. He toyed with what our expectations are between audience and writer - all that sort of stuff. It's the same as Full Frontal. The director is really toying with what our expectations are. So I wouldn't have wanted him to spoon-feed me that information throughout the movie.

METTA: That's a whole other question. How much can you say and not have it lose the whole artistry, the subtlety?

MICHELLE: Right. Because the other thing is, when people feel that they are making a point (that's why I go back to this Christian film) they are preaching to the converted. They say, "I don't want you to bring me around to your point. I don't need that."

METTA: Yes, it needs to be subtle, but it needs to be there very much more often than it is there. Somebody needs to be commenting, off in the background. I see frequently negative effects on lots of people, and I think you take it for granted that because it's done with artistry and subtlety, that it's going to get into the thinking -

MICHELLE: I have this conversation with my mother and father all the time about the roles that I'm going to take. Do I feel that this is responsible? And, do I feel that I am saying what I want to say? How do I make that decision? If I am constantly thinking about the person who is not going to get it, I will be playing Pollyanna my entire career. Picasso couldn't paint for the people who weren't going to get his work. He had to do it for the people who would get it - and just trust that those people would find it. It's very hard because society is so - there are so many different kinds of people, so many different religious beliefs.

METTA: I absolutely understand what you're saying. You can't be preachy. I absolutely see it. But I still think there needs to be more articulation but without preaching or spoon-feeding. There still can be artistry while having the commentary be there, so you have a pluralism of perspectives.

MICHELLE: The trick also is, and this is also what becomes frustrating, that you can (without being expositional and without spoon-feeding) you can have different sides of the story. But your audience, because it is such a diverse audience, they are going to relate to one side. They will gravitate to the people who are most like them and push away the people who are least like them. So the moment they feel that the opposite side is trying to teach them something, they don't want to watch it. The audience may sit there and see both sides and when they leave, go "Oh, yeah, I can see it that way too." If there's too much commentary, they end up in their heads. You need to get them in their gut, so that they are feeling it before they are actually thinking it. Because if they think it, they are going to think along the same paradigm that they have always thought. The paradigm of their life. If they are on the left they are going to think that way, and so on. Christian, Muslim, or whatever. So if there is too much commentary they are going to be thinking and they shouldn't be thinking. They should simply be lost in their feelings. Then afterward, suppose they run into someone who is like the character that they saw, there's an innate empathy. But sometimes people won't feel that. No matter how great a job you do, some people need to be banged over the head. Other people need more subtlety. So you really can't win.

METTA: Well, you can do better!

MICHELLE: Definitely.

METTA: Better or worse. And, for example, in Northern Exposure it's very clear that Chris Stevens plays the Greek chorus. He even gives a little homily on the air. Maybe musing aloud.

MICHELLE: That's fantastic, but you can't do that in every show. Because then everybody will know that on television there is something that we're to be taught. People balk at being taught.

METTA: I don't think that people felt that Chris Stevens was trying to teach them.

MICHELLE: No, they had a great way of doing it. A really responsible way of getting it in there. But it becomes hard to always come up with that. I do agree that a lot of people don't think about it. I think about it. Rob thinks about it. You think about it. People who want to have a career that they feel responsible for. And sometimes it doesn't work. I did this thing with Rudy and not until I was shooting did I realize that I was actually dealing with a real person. That brings a whole other responsibility. What is my job? How much am I accountable for? Most people don't want to think about it. As an actor you can drive yourself crazy.

METTA: I am really impressed with you because you obviously have thought a lot. What you have said is a beautiful articulation of a point of view that I respect. I haven't actually framed it as you do, and I will. I will actually go on the basis of what you say. I think you are unusually thoughtful - probably more so even than some of the other actors on Street Time.

MICHELLE: Yeah, I think so. Rob and I have had a lot of conversations about it because we have a similar sensibility. But I probably could have talked to somebody else if we had hung out and had the opportunity. But I envy people who don't think this way because, as an actor, it can be your worst thing to be in your head. You don't make people feel by thinking how to feel. You make people feel by feeling. The more we think, the less pure those emotions are. It's a great thing that I think so much but it's also a bad thing. I need to discern when to let it go and just go with the character that I'm inhabiting. I can't think of all this stuff when I'm playing. There's just too much going on.... I think that my responsibility as an actor is to bring the truth. I tend to be drawn to low, dark stuff. I always thought I was pretty balanced, but that is what I'm drawn to. Not horror.

MS Are you introverted or extraverted?

MICHELLE: I took the test but I don't remember. I am both. I need my space but also I need people. My journals.

MS There's a lot of research on introversion and extraversion and preferences for drama. Neurotic people are drawn to dark themes. Also introverts. Extraverts cannot watch horror shows. Extraverts empathize a lot and if they empathize with someone in a horrible situation, it's too difficult.

MICHELLE: Yeah, I will watch them because I think it's my responsibility to watch them, but I don't enjoy them. On the one hand I think we are responsible for looking at the things that we do in our society. Such as No Man's Land - a great movie. It's about the Bosnian War. How the UN's hands were tied. I was in Bosnia during the war - an entertainment tour to the front lines. It was a great experience but a painful one.

METTA: I edited a book, The Lessons of Yugoslavia.

MICHELLE: I would like to read it.

METTA: It's an academic book.

MICHELLE: That's okay.

METTA: Then we have to get together again. This has been wonderful

MICHELLE: For me too. I could talk all day about this. These are struggles that we all have. How to we be responsible and not compromise freedom, not have censorship.

METTA: Yes. I'm not going to come up with answers.

MICHELLE: It's like a film. You just put it out there so people can talk about it. And hopefully when they talk, they will say, "I'm going to be more responsible because I am simply loaded with this information."