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Talk Easy with Sam Fragoso

Arts & Culture Podcasts

Talk Easy with Sam Fragoso is a weekly series of intimate conversations with artists, activists, and politicians. Where people sound like people. Hosted by Sam Fragoso. New episodes every Sunday.


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Talk Easy with Sam Fragoso is a weekly series of intimate conversations with artists, activists, and politicians. Where people sound like people. Hosted by Sam Fragoso. New episodes every Sunday.




Lily Gladstone (‘Killers of the Flower Moon’) is Making History

Actor Lily Gladstone made history last month when she netted a Best Actress nomination for her work in Martin Scorsese’s Killers of the Flower Moon. At the top, we discuss this landmark moment for the film (7:00), her personal approach to the role of Mollie Kyle (9:58), and a revealing scene between Lily and Leonardo DiCaprio (15:40). Then, we walk through Gladstone’s connection to the “trickster” story (19:00), her creative upbringing on the Blackfeet Reservation in Montana (21:55), and her road to acting as a teenager (26:50) and later a touring performer in her twenties (30:40). On the back-half, Gladstone reflects on her early, complicated experiences auditioning in Hollywood (44:15), how she and Martin Scorsese aimed to honor the Osage legacy in this new project (48:30), the life-changing performance that came to be (58:00), and her hope for a true paradigm shift in the entertainment industry (1:03:25). For questions, comments, or to join our mailing list, reach me at See for privacy information.


Quinta Brunson: ‘Abbott Elementary’ is Back in Session

Today, we return to our conversation with “Abbott Elementary” creator and star, Quinta Brunson! On the heels of her historic Emmy wins, we discuss the guiding principles behind the series (6:02), its incomparable cast (9:41), and the show’s personal connection to Quinta’s upbringing in West Philadelphia (14:49). Then, we unpack her earliest comedic influences (19:21), performing in improv in college (26:31), and the solace she found in Second City Chicago (29:09). On the back-half, Quinta reflects on moving to Los Angeles at twenty-three (33:27), the feelings of alienation that followed (35:02), and the Comedy Store performance that irrevocably altered her course (36:55) and brought her to Abbott Elementary (46:56). To close, she shares her hopes for the years to come (51:00). For questions, comments, or to join our mailing list, reach me at See for privacy information.


Filmmaker Lulu Wang Creates In Between Two Worlds

Following the success of her autobiographical 2019 film, The Farewell, Lulu Wang has emerged as one of the most exciting voices in Hollywood. With the arrival of her new series Expats, she joins us to discuss the responsibility she felt creating the Hong Kong-based show (6:55), collaborating with actor Nicole Kidman (12:30), and Wang’s personal connection to the project (13:12). Then, we unpack the contrasting perspectives embedded in the story (19:44), what she witnessed growing up in Miami, as an expat herself (22:55), and how she processes her family history today (24:15). On the back-half, Lulu reflects on her college years (34:45) where she began to find her creative voice (36:46), the road to her debut feature film Posthumous (45:32), and why she wanted to tell a more personal story in The Farewell (50:30), which she first narrated on This American Life (51:25). To close, we talk about her full-circle moment creating Expats (1:04:00) and the importance of community (1:06:30). For questions, comments, or to join our mailing list, reach me at See for privacy information.


Oscar Nominations with Wesley Morris (The New York Times)

Wesley Morris has served as critic at large at The New York Times since 2015, covering film, politics, and pop culture. He joins this week to discuss this year’s Academy Award nominations. At the top, we discuss the omission of Greta Gerwig from the Best Director category (6:07), former Secretary Clinton on Barbie-gate (10:12), the ‘perversely effective’ nature of Killers of the Flower Moon (16:30), and the ways in which Bradley Cooper’s Maestro upends the traditional biopic (21:45). Wesley then reflects on his early adventures in moviegoing (30:43), the indie film boom of the late ‘90s (35:15), the rise of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (36:23) what the Best Picture nominations of 1988 can tell us about 2023’s slate (38:05), and the erosion of the ‘middle’ across film and culture (41:02). On the back-half: Todd Haynes’ beguiling new film May December (44:10), Ava DuVernay’s Origin (45:53), the Academy’s fraught relationship to diversity (53:05), the function of Wesley’s work in 2024 (1:05:58) and a reading of his moving, personal review about Alexander Payne’s The Holdovers (1:10:54). For questions, comments, or to join our mailing list, reach me at This conversation was recorded at Spotify Studios. See for privacy information.


Dan Levy (‘Schitt’s Creek’) Goes His Own Way

Over the past decade, writer and actor Dan Levy rose to prominence for his work on Schitt’s Creek. After co-creating the series with his father, Eugene Levy, he turned to a more personal project. Said project is his heartfelt directorial debut, a film entitled Good Grief (4:40). At the top of our conversation, Dan shares the origin of this story (13:22) and we discuss the importance of friendship (15:18), his experience working as a director (18:30), and a pivotal, full-circle moment from his time in London (20:32). Then, we discuss how he charted his course as a co-host on MTV Canada (28:00), the red carpet experience that clarified his path forward (35:22), and his ultimate arrival at making Schitt’s Creek (37:40). On the back-half, we unpack the pure, timeless nature of the hit series (45:25), Dan’s journey to making Good Grief after the show’s momentous conclusion (49:15), a powerful scene from the film (52:18), the universality of loss (56:40), and the responses that encourage him to continue creating (1:00:00). For questions, comments, or to join our mailing list, reach me at See for privacy information.


Filmmaker Ava DuVernay’s New Hollywood Framework

Over the past 15 years, filmmaker Ava DuVernay (Selma, Queen Sugar) has become something of an institution in Hollywood. As a writer, director, and producer she’s worked to make our industry more just and diverse—creating opportunities for voices that have historically been underrepresented both in front and behind the camera. In many ways her latest film, Origin, examines a hierarchy she’s worked to upend through a bold body of work. And so we begin today’s episode discussing her creative adaptation of Isabel Wilkerson’s best-selling book, Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents (7:30) and the timely questions she hopes to pose as we begin 2024 (11:35). Then, Ava reflects on the influence of her Aunt Denise (17:42), what a typical Saturday looked like in the DuVernay household (21:56), her formative years as an underground emcee at UCLA (28:55), and how working on Michael Mann’s Collateral (34:33) inspired her to direct. On the back-half, we talk about the making of Ava’s first narrative feature I Will Follow (38:46), a life-changing review from Roger Ebert (44:42) and the resulting decade as a director (49:15). We also wade through this past year in Hollywood (56:00), her hopes for ARRAY in the years to come (1:04:06), and the words of Angela Davis that keep her moving forward (1:06:00). For questions, comments, or to join our mailing list, reach me at See for privacy information.


Actor Michelle Williams Works from a ‘Place of Peace’

As we begin the new year, we're returning to our conversation with brilliant actor Michelle Williams. We walk through the making of Showing Up (6:05), Williams’ fifteen-year partnership with director Kelly Reichardt (8:10), and her upbringing in Montana and San Diego (10:42). Then, she describes coming of age on the set of Dawson’s Creek (14:50), her pivotal turn in Tracy Letts’ Killer Joe (20:00), and her path to Ang Lee’s Brokeback Mountain (26:10). On the back-half, we discuss a healing passage from Rebecca Solnit’s A Field Guide to Getting Lost (29:37), Williams’ memorable performances in Blue Valentine (32:12) and My Week with Marilyn (37:47), and her final day shooting The Fabelmans (40:50). To close, she shares how she remains present as a mother (45:40), a formative Walt Whitman quote (47:22), and how—at age 42—she’s begun to create from “a place of peace.” (50:36). For questions, comments, or to join our mailing list, drop me a line at See for privacy information.


Talk Easy’s 2023 Mixtape

As we say goodbye to 2023, a collection of passages from some of our favorite episodes of the year. Featuring journalist and podcast host Sam Sanders on the stories of the summer (4:10), director and actor Natasha Lyonne on being a child actor in New York City (18:42), the Stanley Kubrick film that propelled Tom Hanks into performing (28:55), critic Hilton Als on the late Joan Didion (41:45), novelist Zadie Smith on the politics of writing (52:15), and to close, a tribute to the late Norman Lear (1:15:00). For questions, comments, or to join our mailing list, reach me at See for privacy information.


Bradley Cooper as ‘Maestro’ from The New Yorker Radio Hour

This holiday weekend, we're presenting a special conversation between actor and director Bradley Cooper and David Remnick of The New Yorker Radio Hour. In this episode, they discuss Cooper's ‘fearless’ new film Maestro, his lifelong fascination with music, and how he constructed his intimate portrayal of legendary conductor and composer Leonard Bernstein. To hear David Remnick on Talk Easy, listen here. See for privacy information.


The New Yorker Editor David Remnick: 'There's No Time to Despair'

David Remnick has been the editor of The New Yorker since 1998 and a staff writer since 1992. He joins us this week to discuss his latest dispatch from the Middle East (9:50), reporting on the aftermath of October 7th (18:09) in what has become the Israel-Hamas war. He also shares the personal story of Avichai Brodutch, how he imagines this conflict may resolve (25:10), and our ‘failure to communicate’ in this increasingly polarized moment (29:35). Then, we turn to Remnick’s personal history: from the art that influenced him growing up in New Jersey (35:05) to his pathway to journalism at Princeton University (42:28) and his start at The Washington Post under the tutelage of legendary editor Ben Bradlee (48:00). On the back-half, we talk about Remnick’s early days running The New Yorker (56:45), the state of journalism today (1:00:30), why he cautions against despair as we head into 2024 (1:07:00), and a tribute to the creative longevity of musician Joni Mitchell (1:17:10). For questions, comments, or to join our mailing list, drop me a line at See for privacy information.


The Transformations of Actor Willem Dafoe

Willem Dafoe has built a career out of shapeshifting. His latest role in Yorgos Lanthimos’ Poor Things demonstrates exactly that. Today, he joins us to discuss his compelling performance in the imaginative tale (7:00), the elaborate details he discovered on set (9:20), and the three-hour physical transformation he underwent each day of filming (12:38). Then, Dafoe describes his upbringing in Wisconsin (15:15), his early love of B-movies (20:04), and his formative years in the theater as part of The Wooster Group in New York City (26:45). On the back-half, we dive into his task-based approach to acting (35:55) and how it guided his memorable performances in the late William Friedkin’s To Live and Die in L.A. (41:10), Oliver Stone’s Platoon (43:52), and Sean Baker’s The Florida Project (49:44). To close, Dafoe reflects on the joy of collaboration (53:30), his search for truth as an actor (57:25), and his desire to continue creating in years to come (1:00:50). For questions, comments, or to join our mailing list, drop me a line at See for privacy information.


Nobel Laureate Maria Ressa Fights for the Protection of Journalists

Nobel Peace Prize-winner Maria Ressa has spent the past decade advocating for the protection of journalists. Today, we return to our urgent conversation with the trailblazing author and activist. We begin by unpacking the fragmenting effects of social media (6:08), how the internet gave power to authoritarian regimes around the globe (8:49), and Ressa’s five years uncovering those operations (9:20). Then, we walk through her early years: moving from the Philippines to suburban New Jersey at age ten (14:08), three lessons from childhood (16:52), and her discoveries at Princeton (22:10). On the back-half, we discuss Ressa’s serendipitous entry to the newsroom (32:18), why she founded Rappler in 2012 (35:12), and her critical reportage on President Rodrigo Duterte’s drug war (36:52), which led to her arrest by the Filipino government in 2019 (41:22). Now, she’s charted this fight in her book, How to Stand Up to a Dictator (47:12). To close, we unpack her continuous pursuit of the truth (50:03), her recognition as a 2021 Nobel Laureate (52:37), and an ode to a lifelong friend (56:11). For questions, comments, or to join our mailing list, drop me a line at See for privacy information.


Actor and Director Benny Safdie Does It All

Throughout his fifteen-year moviemaking career, director and actor Benny Safdie has been drawn to naturalism and first-time performers. Fittingly, his recent collaboration with comedian Nathan Fielder (“Nathan for You”) was a perfect match. Benny joins us today to discuss their satirical black comedy series The Curse (9:10), the timely premise that inspired the show (13:35), and Safdie’s history of capturing real-life personalities on film (15:58). Then, he describes his early connection to the 1979 movie Kramer v Kramer (19:00), a New York encounter with photographer Robert Frank (23:18), and how directors Robert Bresson and Frederick Wiseman opened his eyes to the possibilities of street casting (26:05). On the back-half, we dive into Benny’s co-directing work alongside his brother, Josh Safdie (29:55), a heartbreaking scene from their debut feature Daddy Longlegs (34:30), and the projects that followed: Good Time (40:00), Lenny Cooke (42:45), and Uncut Gems (55:00). To close, Safdie talks about why he worked as a boom operator while directing (48:15), his recent pivot to acting (52:35), and his full circle moment of playing an astrophysicist in Oppenheimer (1:00:40). For questions, comments, or to join our mailing list, drop me a line at See for privacy information.


The Futurist Vision of Actor and Filmmaker Brit Marling

For more than a decade, actor and writer Brit Marling has made futuristic work that reveals truths about our disquieting present. Her latest endeavor, A Murder At the End of the World, is no exception. We recently sat with Marling in front of a live audience as part of this year’s On Air Fest LA Annex, where we discussed her excellent new show on FX (8:34), the role artificial intelligence may play in the future of filmmaking (14:26), and where she first fell in love with science fiction (20:35). Then, Brit reflects on her winding path at Goldman Sachs and Georgetown (23:40), where she met longtime collaborators Zal Batmanglij and Mike Cahill (25:25) that would eventually result in films like Another Earth and Sound of My Voice (36:18). On the back-half, we speak on the power of collective action (41:30), the public outcry that followed the cancellation of The OA (45:15), the state of Hollywood (51:12), and why Brit was inspired to direct (57:00) upon finding a passage from the late Polish auteur, Krzysztof Kieślowski (57:35). You can listen to our 2019 conversation with Marling here. For questions, comments, or to join our mailing list, drop me a line at See for privacy information.


The Ziwe Interview

Writer and comedian Ziwe has made a career out of conducting charged and satirical interviews. She joins us this week to discuss her debut essay collection, Black Friend (5:45), the backstory behind her essay WikiFeet (10:19), her early affinity for broadcast news (13:06), the influence of satirists Jonathan Swift and Stephen Colbert (15:10), and her early, formative experiences working in comedy (35:05). On the back-half, Ziwe reflects on the making of her YouTube series Baited (38:06), a memorable episode with Aparna Nancherla (41:30), her pandemic pivot to IG live (43:30), and the Showtime variety show that followed (46:30). To close, a philosophy on art-making from Ira Glass (50:40) and what Ziwe hopes for in her next chapter (56:15). See for privacy information.


Marina Abramović Creates Art from Pain

Marina Abramović is a pioneer in the field of performance art, using her body as both the subject and the medium. Today, we return to our special conversation with the legendary performer from her New York City apartment. To follow along with the works discussed, visit our guided, virtual exhibit at We start with her healing installation in Ukraine (7:45), creating art out of hardship (12:24), a Rainer Rilke poem that shaped her childhood (15:23), and the curiosity that propels her forward (23:42) in the face of sexist attacks from the press (28:59). On the back-half, Marina reflects on her groundbreaking work in Rhythm 0 (33:39), her tolerance for pain (38:39), the deep-seated influence of her mother (39:47), finding happiness at age 75 (45:20), how her seminal piece, The Artist Is Present, lives on (47:56), and what it means to be still, together (52:30). For thoughts, reflections, and guest suggestions, drop me a line at See for privacy information.


The Rise and Fall of Crypto Billionaire Sam Bankman-Fried (with Writer Michael Lewis)

Upon taking a walk with crypto billionaire Sam Bankman-Fried, writer Michael Lewis had a sense that there might be a story here. In the intervening two years, that story has taken a series of twists and turns, resulting in Lewis’ new book Going Infinite: The Rise and Fall of a New Tycoon. At the top, we walk through the latest events in Bankman-Fried’s Manhattan trial (7:27), the subject at the center of this winding story (12:06), and why Lewis was first interested in observing him (17:50). Then, he unpacks Bankman-Fried’s belief in effective altruism (20:00), his probabilistic approach to trading (23:50), and how his Stanford law professor parents shaped his thinking (27:36). On the back-half, we discuss the ten-day period of FTX’s collapse (38:00), the scene in the Bahamas as Bankman-Fried filed for bankruptcy (47:10), and why Lewis felt a kinship with Sam’s parents in that moment (50:32). To close, Michael reflects on his own journalistic tendencies (55:10) and how he managed to write this book in the aftermath of great personal tragedy (1:06:50). For thoughts, reflections, and guest suggestions, drop me a line at See for privacy information.


Singer-Songwriter Weyes Blood Gives Us ‘Something to Believe’

Singer-songwriter Weyes Blood is one of the most inventive musicians working today. One year ago, she released her prescient album And in the Darkness, Hearts Aglow. On the heels of her whirlwind tour (4:00), she joins us this week to talk about her post-pandemic anthem “It’s Not Just Me, It’s Everybody” (10:04), her religious upbringing (13:22), the formative punk shows she attended as a teenager (20:17), and the influence of artists like Nico and Sonic Youth (25:18). On the back-half, Natalie reflects on her nomadic young adulthood (31:00), how she forged her path in the music industry (33:42), the apocalyptic feelings embedded in her album Titanic Rising (42:29), the inspiration of director Stanley Kubrick (49:32), and why she still holds onto hope through these turbulent times (57:50). For thoughts, reflections, and guest suggestions, drop me a line at See for privacy information.


A Human Conversation with Writer George Saunders

Last fall, George Saunders published Liberation Day, his first short-story collection in nine years. This week, we return to our conversation with the beloved author. At the top, we discuss his process creating the book (3:40), the influence of Chekhov and Gogol (4:56), and a timely passage on democracy from “Love Letter” (8:35). Then, we unpack how he builds stories (13:30), a guiding philosophy from our first talk (14:58), and an excerpt from the titular story, “Liberation Day” (21:30). On the back-half, we talk about the power of revision through “Elliott Spencer” (27:40), the seeds of the book’s moving final story, “My House” (36:34), the ‘failures in compassion’ it reveals (40:50), Saunders’ enduring relationship with his wife (45:08), and how he hopes to continue surprising himself as a writer, at 63 (48:40). See for privacy information.


Author and Critic Hua Hsu (The New Yorker) ‘Stays True’

One year ago, The New Yorker staff writer and critic Hua Hsu published his singular memoir entitled Stay True. Earlier this May, the autobiography won a Pulitzer Prize. Upon its paperback release, Hsu joins us to discuss the epigraph that frames the book (5:30) and his nomadic upbringing (9:45) scored by mixtapes (12:23) created by his Taiwanese father (15:14). Hsu then reflects on his arrival at UC Berkeley in the mid-90s (23:09) and how he formed an unexpected bond with a schoolmate named Ken (24:20). On the back-half, Hsu describes the horrific night that Ken’s life was taken (36:58), the aftermath of this tragedy (40:15), his attempts to make sense of the past twenty-four years in Stay True (46:20), his complicated relationship to memory (49:00) and music (58:30), and how he’s held onto hope (1:03:02) through telling this enduring story of friendship. See for privacy information.