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Actor Don Cheadle On Showtime's Newly-Timely 'Black Monday'


"Black Monday" is a comedy about the worst stock market crash in the history of Wall Street. Worst crash until this one, of course...


DON CHEADLE: (As Mo Monroe) Mo is back, baby.

SIMON: Don Cheadle stars as Maurice Monroe, who wants to crash into the blue-blooded old boys' club on Wall Street and who sets off a crash of the world's largest financial system. Andrew Rannells and Regina Hall also star. The second season of "Black Monday" is on Showtime. Don Cheadle, the Academy Award-nominated actor joins us from Los Angeles.

Thanks so much for being with us.

CHEADLE: Thank you for having me.

SIMON: The series is newly timely, isn't it?

CHEADLE: Yeah, it - we weren't attempting to be prescient. We were trying to talk about things that happened in the past.

SIMON: Wow. Well, let's explain it. If I might say this admiringly, a farcical comedy about, of course, an actual event, Black Monday, the stock market crash of October 1987. To this day, we don't really know what happened. Do we?

CHEADLE: No. And that's - was sort of our point of departure. And that was kind of the fun that we had, the writers had for sure. Coming up with the concept that the trade that was made by this group was so toxic that it triggered the crash of '87. And you think that it's not really possible until you meet them, and you go, oh, yeah, these guys could have done it.

SIMON: So I made a note of the line - somebody says to him, you're a brother but not a Lehman brother. Seems to be a theme of the series. And, of course, you wind up thinking, well, he might wind up luckier than they did.


CHEADLE: Exactly. At least one of them for sure when you see season one. That's kind of what's baked into the whole, you know, identity of the pieces. These guys who are not supposed to be in these rooms that they're getting in and really are always having to prove why they deserve to be there, which causes a lot of all their angst and also their toughness but also their duplicitousness and the fact that they'll do anything to win.

SIMON: And is that part of the guilty pleasure of "Black Monday?" I've seen - I mean, seeing the wicked excesses of the time. In these more informed times, of course, we decry them and think that they're pernicious and malevolent and wicked, but they're sure fun to watch, aren't they?

CHEADLE: I think at an arm's length, right? You know, it's like we get to - like you said - vicariously sort of live through what these guys are going through. And there's always a cost. It is, as you said at the beginning, too, a farce. We push everything, and that's the whole point of it - to be a comedy.

SIMON: I gather you moved around a lot in your childhood.

CHEADLE: I did. I - mostly throughout the Midwest, you know, Nebraska I lived in. I lived in - was born in Kansas City, Mo. I lived in Denver, Colo., for a while. And I moved to California to go to college. And I've lived here longer than I've lived any of those places collected by now.

SIMON: Forgive the pop psychology, but I wonder if often being the new kid in class made you interested in acting.

CHEADLE: That's - I never associated the two. Uh-oh. Is this about to - am I going to be crying by the end of this? I mean, how good are you, really?

SIMON: I'm not that good (laughter). I'm usually the one who does the crying on our show.

CHEADLE: No, but it's funny because the reason, incidentally, that we moved around a lot is because my father was pursuing his degree at different colleges as a psychologist. My father's a clinical psychologist, and my mother is a teacher. I didn't have trouble making friends, and it didn't seem to be centered necessarily around because I was acting as a kid - because I was doing it as young as, you know, fifth grade, fourth grade. But it was something that I always enjoyed, for sure.

SIMON: Actors can't work from home, can they?

CHEADLE: Oh, but we can. Absolutely. Nowadays, with technology and everything that we have, I could shoot a whole movie in my house on my iPhone and probably get it sold.

SIMON: You know, I'm sure you could. All right. So what - is that what this period is like for you? What is this period like for you?

CHEADLE: I'm, like everybody, a little shellshocked right now and trying to actually figure out what is going to be normal, and how are we all going to come out of the other side? - which we - most of us will hopefully come out the other side - scarred, for sure, but surviving. At a time like this where it's seemingly fallow, it's a good time to get a lot of work done. You know, it's a good time, obviously, to read a lot. It's a good time to work on any of the projects that we have that are sitting there waiting to figure out if they're going to finish or not. And I try to stay busy. You know, I'm in a relationship with a woman that I love, so it's nice being with each other. It's kind of been cool. Catching up on a lot of TV. I'm bingeing a lot. I'll tell you that.

SIMON: Do the performing arts have a role to play now?

CHEADLE: I think performing arts potentially when we are, again, you know, on the other side of this and performing once again for people - tangentially, that some people that I know online were reading sonnets, like, doing sonnet challenges and throwing and down the gauntlet and say, like, everybody do a sonnet. And I think if the lockdown stays, if we're in this situation for a minute, I think you're going to see more things from actors and performers and musicians - we're already seeing. You know, John Legend doing a concert from his house and all the interviewers figuring out ways to now do their show from their house and Skype. It's not going to stop.

And I think when we come out of the other side, if people have used their time wisely and have used it well, we're going to see really interesting stuff from artists on the other side. I think any moment like this, you kind of are forced in a good way to get back down to the basics of what it is, what you are, what you're doing. And hopefully when you do that, you can come out the other side with real stuff that has some gravitas and has some weight because you've been sitting with it.

SIMON: Mr. Cheadle, I think I'm crying.

CHEADLE: (Laughter) I knew one of us was going to do it. I just didn't know who.

SIMON: (Laughter) Thanks so much, Mr. Cheadle.

CHEADLE: Thank you very much.

SIMON: Don Cheadle, who stars in "Black Monday - the second season now on Showtime.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Scott Simon is one of America's most admired writers and broadcasters. He is the host of Weekend Edition Saturday and is one of the hosts of NPR's morning news podcast Up First. He has reported from all fifty states, five continents, and ten wars, from El Salvador to Sarajevo to Afghanistan and Iraq. His books have chronicled character and characters, in war and peace, sports and art, tragedy and comedy.
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