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Next Avenue

Nov. 18, 2021, 3:06 p.m. EST

Danny Glover on activism, being a citizen, and his path through this world

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By Pete Croatto

This article is reprinted by permission from  .

Very few actors can have their career immortalized in one line. Danny Glover, through his work as Roger Murtaugh in four “Lethal Weapon”movies, will always be associated with — get ready— “I’m too old for this s**t.”  That’s the mixed blessing of starring in a mega-successful franchise that includes the “Citizen Kane” of buddy cop movies.

The irony is Glover should be celebrated for the breadth of his work—“Gone Fishin’” and “Beloved” came out within a year of each other. At 75, he’s still working at a robust pace. His  page on the Internet Movie Database features 201 credits, roles that carry from the art house (“Be Kind Rewind”) to the multiplex (“Dreamgirls,” “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle”) to your den (“Lonesome Dove,” “ER”). Go through the list. Roles jump out like old friends in a photo album.

It’s easy then to overlook Glover’s activism. He’s a UNICEF ambassador and has served as a Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations Development Program, focusing on poverty, disease and economic development in Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean.

On his  website , just one cause Glover embraces isn’t listed.  Four  are. Signs of the humanitarian and activist pop up in his résumé, especially as the co-founder of production company Louverture Films; acclaimed films covering such topics as the Black Power movement and families in the Deep South will be featured in a Film at Lincoln Center retrospective in early December. 

In January 2022, Glover will receive the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award from the Board of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences because “[his] decadeslong advocacy for justice and human rights reflects his dedication to recognizing our shared humanity on and off the screen.”

In his most recent role, the earnest low-budget drama, “The Drummer” (released on demand on Nov. 9), Glover plays Mark Walker, an activist attorney and Vietnam vet based in Watertown, N.Y., who assists two young Iraqi War soldiers hobbled with PTSD and eager to leave their stifling military obligations. It’s an empathetic and humane performance, one that provides a window into the dark side of patriotism.

Glover, who also served as the film’s executive producer, says it “has something valuable to talk about and for us to think about it.”

So does Glover. I was told I had 15 minutes, perhaps 20, to talk. We spoke for more than an hour. Most established actors treat media interviews with a reserved warmth, as if at any moment a journalist will ask for their agent’s email address. They ache to leave; their publicists, forever wary of running tape recorders, more so.

Glover came with an intellectual rigor that was energizing and a bit intimidating. The topics ping-ponged — from Karl Marx and Abraham Lincoln’s correspondence, to China and South Africa’s modernization to Martin Luther King’s approach to social justice in America. The talk was less about “The Drummer” and more about his path through this world. 

The interview has been edited for clarity and length.

Danny Glover: A passion for activism

Next Avenue: I know activism and acting are your passions, but activism is who you are, right?

Danny Glover:  My mom and dad came to the post office in 1948, the same time. They immediately became involved in the postal union. There was a mass employment of African-Americans. My parents became activists in their own way through their union, through organizations. My mother was regionally involved in the National Council of Negro Women, the NAACP.

As a kid, [there was] discourse around my house [in San Francisco] and conversations and meetings around my house, because they were part of the postal union, but also meetings around my house because they were members with the NAACP and they were active in their particular moment.

I’m the oldest child. So I was closest to them becoming politicized, not only with the civil rights movement but as local as the post office. I thought the two were synonymous. I didn’t walk around with union emblems on or a union jacket on, but it was a part of a conversation.

Some of my dad’s best friends and closest friends were also guys who worked with him at the post office. There’s a different generational responsibility that takes on with my father, in this minor way, through being unionized and everything that he probably would not have accrued had it not been for working at the post office.

My grandmother was a midwife for years. It provided my mother with different opportunities that it didn’t provide her first cousin. My grandmother said, ‘None of my kids are going to pick cotton. My kids are going to school in September.’ When the sharecropper came around with the wagon to pick them up to go the field, he addressed my grandfather: ‘Where them kids at? It’s not raining outside.’

My grandmother said, ‘My kids are in school. When there’s school, my kids don’t work in the fields.’ The overseer turned to my grandfather and said, ‘Man, you better teach your woman how to talk to white people.’

That’s why my mother graduated from college. Her brothers and sisters went to college as well. That’s a paradigm shift.

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