David Harewood is a British actor and presenter who found global fame playing the CIA director David Estes in the acclaimed TV drama series Homeland. He was the first black actor to play Othello at the National theatre in 1997 and took the role of Martin Luther King in the Olivier award-winning play The Mountaintop in 2009. David was born in Birmingham in 1965. After one of his teachers suggested that he should try his luck at acting, he won a place at RADA where he tackled a number of challenging roles including King Lear. After graduating, he performed in a range of television and theatre productions, but by the time he auditioned for Homeland he says he was down to his last £80. He joined the cast of Homeland in 2011 and the following year he was awarded an MBE for services to drama. In 2019 he presented a BBC documentary called Psychosis and Me which told the story of the mental breakdown he experienced as a young man. The programme was nominated for a BAFTA award and was praised by critics for its honest exploration of a difficult subject and for helping to remove some of the stigma around mental health. He went on to present a range of documentaries which addressed subjects close to his heart including the health inequality exposed by the Covid-19 pandemic and the experience of slavery within the history of his own family. David lives in London with his wife and their two daughters. DISC ONE: Exodus by Bob Marley & The Wailers DISC TWO: Tears on My Pillow by Johnny Nash DISC THREE: One in Ten by UB40 DISC FOUR: $29.00 by Tom Waits DISC FIVE: I Still Haven’t found what I’m Looking For by The Chimes DISC SIX: (Sittin’ on) the Dock of the Bay by Otis Redding DISC SEVEN: Cruisin’ by D’Angelo DISC EIGHT: Ain’t Nobody by Rufus and Chaka Khan BOOK CHOICE: The Sandman by Neil Gaiman LUXURY ITEM: A disco dancefloor CASTAWAY'S FAVOURITE: Ain’t Nobody by Rufus and Chaka Khan Presenter Lauren Laverne Producer Paula McGinley
This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
BBC sounds music. Radio podcasts, hello, I'm Lauren Laverne, and this is the desert island discs podcast. Every week I ask my guests to choose the eight tracks book and luxury they'd want to take with them. If they were cast away to a desert island and for rights reasons, the music is shorter than the original broadcast. I hope you enjoy listening. The the my castaway this week is the actor writer and presenter david harewood. It was in america that he became
in apparent overnight success landing a role in the acclaimed drama series homeland, his big break was and all that it appeared. However, in reality it came after well over twenty years of hard work at home in the uk. He was the first black actor to play othello at the. I shall theatre in ninety. Ninety seven was martin luther king in the elevator award winning play the mountain top and to the world as anthony to vanessa red graves cleopatra, but he struggled to cross auburn weighty television roles, he was between jobs and down to his last eighty pounds when he decided to take a chance and donation for homeland. It turned his career and his life.
I rammed his success, has allowed him the opportunity to explore how and why his own story has played out in the way it has in the award winning bbc documentary psychosis. In me, he talked openly about the mental illness that could have destroyed him at the age of twenty three. He says the only place I feel like I belong is on stage on stage. I felt ten feet tall. If he give me a character, I'm indestructible, I feel invincible. It's when I step off stage that I get my questions. It's when I'm unsure David howard, welcome to desert island discs. Thank you thank you for inviting me it's it's warm in this desert island already. Yes, exactly! You are most welcome to our warm environs. Let's start without feeling an of being on stage, then David such a powerful quote from you, and it sounds very physical that sensation I feel ten feet tall tumbler about it. Will you have surety on stage The certainty so in a revolver has the moves at one of the lines and one's wing agreed cost.
is everything set and that's not like life as if no one knows the lines in life in real life, so I an onstage, I sort of grow. You give me a character. I pour myself into that character. And it gives me a sense of freedom and what do you like when you're you're not working? You know, obviously such a great outlet for all that creative energy? Where does it go between gigs or potter around the house and enjoy walking my dog every morning? And that's my. Bonding with nature and the wilderness in limited has tutankhamun. That gives me a sense of sort of perspective, but I I do try and have some downtime of a creator downturn. When I get tired, Another welcome that when my little long bells ring, I have these mental health alarm bells. Let's not ringing that tell me I'm just doing too much while Letty first disk david. What have you chose in and why you taken it with you today,
I remember as a kid listening to this to bob marley and the wailers exodus and playing. and singing the entire album and just in It was like just imagining myself there and I had this wonderful, two hours in my front room, basically playing a lot concept and pretending to be blah blah. The bob marley and the wailers and exodus so David howard. Let's go back to the beginning.
Born in Birmingham, the youngest for your parents at Joe and mailing, and come to the uk from Barbados airport, the windlass generation. You tat was a lorry driver till we ve heard about him. It was your relationship like when you were little quiet man by that very frequent man, in a wave of putting a dolphin drawing his lorry you'll, miss think of the bread which was his long run down to devon, to deliver bread and as a kid I just remember, sitting in the front of his truck high up in his truck looking at the window, watching the field and the different towns roll by was great and as a kid I had the wonderful imagination. So there was always ideas flying around in my head about fighter jets zooming in too kind of pick me up from the laurel. The thunderbirds would launch a sort of pick. My dad's treasurer of the odd all these great amazing sort of images, James bond type, images of bonn shooting at the back of a trailer.
it's like driving off in a fancy car and stuff. You see your mum was tremendously hard work and you need hardly remember sitting down during the day at least, but she also had a reputation for being wayward and someone who had a little fire in which sounds like a really lovely combination till we bought the wayward side, you have. The bingo should lose out. I know and sort of maybe she wanted kind of evidently the table, but It was also, as I said, she had a bit of a firing up. Then one of my earliest memories was looking for my brother and somebody throwing a stone at my face up five or something that yeah I just got hit in the face with his wroxham lie, thrown thrown his rock and she sort of brought us all in the house and she knew exactly who it was and she walked up to the police station and she sort of calmly said to the police, the neighbors of the stone, the stone I said a biggie come because if you don't you're going to be round my house later, taking them to the morgue and me to prison, because she had this clever turn of phrase which was like you better come now:
I was I'm going to go round and do something which you're going to see someone's going to get in trouble for, but she had it with this kind of beautiful, with indian lilt and pre officer kind of knew exactly what she meant and kind of went round and spoke to the sky, not that it stopped anything. But then she knew she had to stand her corner. She knew she had to protect her children and she was fierce. He was strong. You know, and I I sort of admired her for that gave you can go to the music. It's your second desk today. Why have you chosen? I just remember as a kid you're hearing music. Like this and just a sense of happiness, the warmth in the house in my mom and dad girl, cooking now and with indian food. I think this was actually before they divorced. So there was a sense of togetherness and happiness in the household and baddies, gramophone and and all
put in it and sometimes would sneak into that front room and play some of their music. And this is This truck stays on my pillow johnny NASH. That really is very volatile of family and time. Some, The the loneliness and tears on my pillow David howard? So the incident that you just
Dr Joe, your earliest memory of having a rock thrown at you by a neighbor, very sadly, that was just the beginning of the abuse that you would experience in childhood, which he believes at the root of their mental health problems that you experienced as an adult I knew that there was one formative incident when you were seven years old, think that trace that real kind of fracture back to. Can you tell me about that? I saw these old guy across the street and he kind of those working towards. But I going to cause he old. It wasn't like a skinhead because of the timing, the if he's back in the day, if source you in trouble body sandyseal, moderate and I'm tango go about IRAN here
I bet a scalper. This guy was no threat to me cause I cause he was an old guy, so I didn't really. My spidey senses were low, they weren't tingling and he sort of walked up to me in a calm way and then he leaned in and he said, get that out of my country, you little black bastard and he stayed there. Looking at me glaring at me his big red face, and it really suddenly hit me that because I was black that he didn't think I belonged here and I just always remember that being really discombobulating really confusing, I just didn't and as I understand it from England and I just buried everything, buried discomfort, buried that the pain and just get on with my life and get the satellite
calling home was a haven at this point for you that was a place where, where you felt safe and happy, he described the happiest memories have when the family gathered around the tv laughing together. What was the typical night, like sign with the hair. Would family will be very much in those dreams. Joyous jumping on the sofa beaks would have moment be cooking dinner, dad probably we already home and he's been watching his great lover of british sitcoms. Others do have them benny hill tommy cooper, all those, seventy sitcoms, but is it, comes he would rule. We love him on my mom would rule we laughed that for me, was them affection was hearing the sound of laughter and sort of feelings, safe in amongst the sort of family setting an one monday
we were playing in the playground brothers were playing with. My sister came running to the bottom of the fence, and she said roger Paul David as a black man on the television of here. Running to the living room, it would be sinbad. african film that'd, be the one strong, heroic black dude who'd sort of fight the cyclops Save the day and die heroically, they wouldn't last, but it was good to see them. I guess seeing myself reflected was a sort of yes site. You know there is a way might be difficult, but there is a way of making it. Stamps music David. What are we going to hear next disk number? Three: if you would this sound, and this band very much reflected the multicultural nature of my world? and I remember it being a very pivotal moment in my life thinking. What am I going to do with my life cause? I I wasn't. I didn't thrill in a academically at school.
I didn't really want to go to university and things like the dole of his own factory. One in ten, for me anyway, was about a number of less than just in the sense of hopelessness. Can those early eighties of not having a future? the When do you before see and one in ten so David, her words you
it's happy and safe at home and happily at school as while you're quite positive school experience, even though, as you say, you are earmarked as a academic, high flyer and but you loved performing near high wisdom of mischievous naughty little boy. Little a lot of the teachers were sort of family. Regrettably, very funny, so even with their best intentions, they would love to, they would love to or they would they would throw me out and then they'd come out and go. Can you just? Please stop messing around and literally five weeks away from leaving school. I got this call from one of my teachers, MR reader. And he called me in and he said what are you going to do when you leave howard, and I really had no idea, sir? No sir and Mr Edith said well, look we've been talking in the staff room and we think you should be That was my eureka moment. I am in thought. It was passed.
It's be an act, I didn't even know what acted, how he became an actor, but the fire was lit in me. I just suddenly went ah what a great idea so David. You found a professional path and and pursued it with a passion but life at home. It become more difficult when you're bright, fifteen at youtube became a well how'd. You remember that time when But now I it's a difficult time. I remember one night kind of coming home and all the lights in the house were on downstairs were on my dad. It was just a type of his typewriter and was one sheet of paper in in the typewriter. Was his one word whitner a four piece paper. It said illness. I was kind of shielded from a lot of what was going on in mining, that my dad's suffered a form of psychosis, different, a different type of psychosis, so my dad was sort of taken away and then he used it to sprout and you've taken toss,
and spent a couple weeks and in an institution sectioned? How did life chain when he came home and I remember him among mom arguing lot more raised. Voices in aim is difficult to live with and they split decided to decide to go their separate ways. And we met my me and my two brothers were going to stay with my dad and I happen very quickly. Suddenly my mom was gone and that was painful. I was very painful. I was. I was.
I always remember christmases as a kid lots of food in the house, mom, cooking presence, joy and the first christmas. After this, they split cause an unpleasant, much food in the in the cupboards, and it was just cold and barren. Asteroids see my mom on christmas day, but I just thought weird going to two different houses on christmas day felt very weird, and so that felt like the end of my childhood, I think muscled minute for some music David. What are we going to hear next and I'm going to play tom waits in a once, had kind of decided to tread the path and become an actor going down to roger and just mixing with different, very different people and listening to different music,
and I'm going to be leaving the house with forty five of the people in this district came on, and I just always remember. Just being so astonished by the lyrics Tom waits, twenty nine dollars The album blue valentine evokes the change from the boy that left Birmingham to this young, adult bang and ran ran, ran the broken shoe the tavern, now my stay away far you Tom waits twenty nine dollars David. How would you graduate from rada
one thousand nine hundred and eighty seven and a couple of years later, when he was twenty three you experienced a psychotic episode. Just before you became ill. You were performing in a politically charged play it by, it took me through what happened as you remember it, because I know he don't remember all of it. There was somebody in the company who was really difficult to work with and an elder actress who was being a bit touchy feely and I just do not handle it. So I sort of started drinking quite heavily self medicating, basically to get myself on stage I'll have to be drunk and smoking lot of weed and because I was unstable. I think it was that you do me more harm than good, and then you got the part
I have sloan in the jordan play entertaining MR sloane at the derby playhouse now most of the reviews were very positive, but I think there was one in particular that wasn't very complimentary was it. I read wanted was an ad in the voice newspaper, which is a black newspaper, really having a go at me, saying how dare I play this role? Sexual deviant, who is a. the murderer a killer. So this idea that you were our representation annotation already in the community instead kind of encouraged members of the community to walk out. and throughout the rest of the run it just kept happening. People would just get up and walk out black people that started to nerve me. The sense that I was being rejected. I call the white spaces rejected by the black space as well, though it was just too much just started becoming too much. after the run finished he came back to london and things start
to unravel what was going wrong. That's when I started to sort of have these moments of blackouts. He had suddenly wake up at three o'clock in the morning and I'd be outside euston station and in the middle of the night, and I'd go one anathema doing here, but I go home. I'd start walking home blackout, not wake up in camden at four o'clock in the afternoon. What am I doing here? I'm gonna go start walking home I just was in and out of sort of reality it was bizarre and scary of official and specific a moment of does the voice he started. Speaking to me, my head, martin luther king voice, appeared in my head literally independence of always looking, rather than with a voice come from, and there was big booming american voice inside my head. Explaining what did what I had to do and I will and unknown ever forget.
Many years later, you have the opportunity to read your medical records for the first time. What did you find out about your behavior and enduring beings from reading them before, with section of sky, I have to save the boy, I have to say if the boy screaming at the top of my voice, just as seven policemen sat on me and launched themselves on me, and I was given an emergency tranquilizer to knock me out, He was section twice in quick succession, but eventually came out of hospital and he went to live with your mother. She leaned you a occasion she got you better and a new started working again I'd forgotten.
Looking I'm one of the fifteen percent of people who have psychotic breakdown, who don't need further medication, most people who are who's who suffer breakdowns, will remain on some form of medication, but I've never experienced anything. again like that, let's have some music, it's number five. What are we going to hear David and why I was in the west end doing a show about martin luther king Fallon have happened. Have you heard him speak might at the height of my breakdown and at the first, my party that produces for all these minister, but also some pain and.
It is hardly anybody without it, the one in it with with lots of lots of empty tables at this party, and so me my mates, nicked loads of these just nicked at least fifty bottles. We had pockets full of these little bottles of champagne and the next day we opened the game began at about twelve o'clock in a midday open the fridge to get breakfast and the richest fullest. In pain and we just went champagne for my friend. He literally drank the entire old all day had just the best day and at one point these the sunk. and it was so hot and we were in the garden, it was dancing and we were just beautiful. it just really reminds me of a new beginning and it's the chimes still haven't found what I'm looking for, but every time it starts. I just remember that day The
we the the child and I still haven't found what I'm looking for David howard, white the torment that you went through. He d said experience, has made you a stronger person. How did it change? You have made me stronger and more rounded and more understanding and made me more complete, even with therapist said something very poignant to me
Sometimes he would say to me he said you have to save the boy. What would you do now and in a way, if you saw that boy- and I said well, I'd- give him a hug, not his hand, somewhere in my mixed up confused
and I knew I had to get back to that little black boy that I lost. Did you ever get to talk to your dad about what you went through? What you both went through, unfortunately not know and in in my career, started sort of taking off, and I regret not having the ability to sit down and talk to my dad about what happened to both of us, but by that time, but saw him I kind of got both in states. He was in the early stages of dementia and eventually he passed away. But you said your book is a letter to him in a lot of ways. Yeah why I have respect for that generation, windrush generation who literally sailed halfway around the world to start a new life.
And their experience was anything but a joy rejection racism. So the model was a sort of appreciation that of a love letter, my dad for all he did get through even accustomed to some extent all he did so by its absence, David, he had a very, very good friend of mine when I was at school, Louis, an italian guy. He always said to me he going to make it yeah going to make him the only one who was convinced that I was going to make it. We used to go to italy used to go to ITALY every year,
and one year we were this campaign, eighth, the karaoke contest and the lucid. You got come sing tonight, so I cut up and I sang otis redding sit on the dock at bay and people was sobbing and the next night. They said you let's go and I had to sing it every single night, every single night we were in camp and I always remember it because Louis unfortunately passed away and, as you said, thought this pragma down to my last eighty quid at the day I got homeland and I said to my wife, my god: I've got the job and she said. what day is today it's louie's birthday and I got the job a year after he died on his birthday, and I thought you always said I was going to make it and he was right, but this always reminds me of him. Then no more. So how is it
be calm watching the rolling Then I'll watch way good sip, watching Tat otis wedding and sitting on the deck of the bay David habit in twenty. Let-
The cast is the cia director, David estes in the tv series homeland, alongside Damian Lewis and claire danes, and you described your time in america and the show as life changing for you. Why I found a strength and acknowledgement there my career as a black british actor that I'd never had before a shakespearean black actor. Oh my god! Oh my god! It was they just loved us and were they they were really appreciative of what we could do, and I spent nine years ten years and in the states and I'd been disappointing. Coming back here, the sort of roles I've been coming. way more recently and after all that time ago, I would have done that, maybe ten years ago, but not now, and the roles that I get offered and the roles that I'm at a really exciting come from America is that today, with
color or is that just amounting in the uk think it's strange. It almost feels, like I'm limited by other people's perceptions of. Why can be, whereas in america I'm not, I can be the head of the cia. I can be a president, whereas I think they'd be nervous about costing her, but a black prime minister. They will first, when I played for I talk in robin hood. There was in a baby sitting up ass many ass, but they were known as about it can we do? This is allowed with america bigger yeah silicones, let's make pope. What's an amazing woman. twenty four, whether made the president blacking before there was a black present. Does a solar can do elements to american costing a drama Whereas I was sometimes I feel here is an hesitancy to and when you think about The next generation, who are you know, helping to shape the
stories that we tell you and John boyega is producing mechanical of causes, brilliant wines, as well as an actor really inspired by them? Then they keep me going in a we we've, maybe just pushed the door open. They've kicked it right open! It's it's great to see: okay, David, it's time for your penultimate desk. What's it going to be and why he taken it to the island as in huh, I bought this bike and I had this from patterns night. The sun was setting, and I was riding home on this big cruiser, but really lol, as could be cruiser bikes, really low, rider bikes, and it was said the Angela cruise in realized. That's exactly what I was doing cruising through downtown black america and just feeling one hundred and ten percent just feeling seen acknowledged, supported and align baby
the the the the engineer and cruising so David. How would you ve said that come into town? with your past is an ongoing process for you. How do you feel about where you are with that today? Those moments when I still think or feel
I find it's sad that I've never bought an england shirt. I bought a Brazil shirt about an italy shirt. I never bought an england shirt and worn it with pride or very nearly did before the last the euros very nearly did, but then the reaction afterwards reminded me why? I don't because that's that rejection again will. Let me ask you this, because I am a bite send you away to the island and you've spent a lot of time, particularly over the past few years, and today talking about the idea of belonging where you belong and home. So what going to miss it. Maybe that's the closest thing when you're on your islands, what will you miss what's home always where I, as they say, lay my hair and I've been very comfortable in north america, the last couple years very cold,
and a lot of these anxieties. Only since reason and I should have yearn for to get back over there. and then all you know miss the family and miss my friends and when I get back here so I'm constantly shifting My notion of home, I think I probably would miss family, I am looking forward to going to my island, great music and my memories, while tranquillity and some time alone, with your record collection awaits, but before we get there, one more disc david to introduce water can be all mad this or this the opening moments of this, We are just so evocative of summer in on my desert island. I want to be chilling in the day dancing at night, and this wool is very evocative of fun times, and it's rufus and Chaka khan ain't. Nobody,
and so what I m pretty good at some time upon rufus ensure the car and ain't, no matter how wonderful, while I'm not surprised you looking forward to island and it's time for you to have David David. I I am giving you the books, take with you, of course, as well as your discs, the bible, the complete works of shakespeare and one of the book of your choice.
What would you like? Neil Gaiman's, the sandman, have never actually read it, but I I was voicing one of the characters called destruction and rather than destruction just being about breaking things. Apart, isn't all that creation and changing new things and making things a new, just the wonderful, Embodiment of life- fantastic, it's yours! You can also have a luxury item. What would you like? My luck? the latter is going to be a fold out disco light up dance gas. bang on the shack, a car on the cruise in on which one brew, some sort of coconut rum sipping, a fino of old, leaf colada and there and then sort of dancing. Ah, I mean I'm even going to throw in a smoke machine just because it was so vivid, I feel like I was there with you and finally, which one truck of the aid that you've shared with us today. Would you save from the waves of your how to be a nobody.
The order, because it makes you smile. It makes the just like food for the sole david, how it thank you very much for letting us here, your desert island discs. Thank you. I hope in joint my conversations with David he's, gonna win joy himself, listening to check a con sipping on a leaf kilometer. We ve castaway many actors before him, including Tom hanks, whoopi, Goldberg and Lauren Bacall, david tone
and costa Damien louis's there too, and he can find all of those episodes in a desert, island discs programme, all kinds and three bbc sands. The studio manager for today's programme was John Poland. The assistant producer was christine Pavlovsk II and the producer was poem again me next time my guest will be the writer and broadcaster John munson. I do hope. You'll join us high, our Mandy Oliver and I'd like to
have you all about my radio full series, one dish, it's all about why you love that one day, the wandering you could each other that over again, without ever getting tired of it. Each with a very special cost will bring their favorite food to my table and will be unpacking history of it and feed psychologist. Combating person is on hand to talk is through the science bit. What things reminds you of your child? What's your favorite place to go for dinner, what you have the sunday lot? What's your favorite desire, you say plan ten plants. We did you take me to eat with design. What's your favorite kitty on what you have requisite vessel ones, but one thing so if not, the sort of person is already planning what you're having for lunch. While you eating practice, this programme is gonna, be like I'm your streets. That's blunt is with me Andy. Oliver, listen now on pc sounds.
Transcript generated on 2022-07-11.