Transcript for Aaron Sorkin on how his Broadway show 'To Kill a Mockingbird' is relevant today
Always remember it was a sin to kill a mockingbird. A sin. A crime against god. Only time I ever heard him say that word. Only time I ever heard him that word, and I asked him why, and he said it was because they were innocent. And I became a lawyer. Every night you go out there, and you lead up to that. And then you just hit the mark and throw it to the balcony, and you can feel everyone just receive it. Reporter: It's a show-stopping moment. In the hit Broadway play "To kill a mockingbird", Aaron Sorkin's version of Harper Lee's classic, written in the '60s, set in rural Alabama during the '30s, which charts a path through decency, morality, race and justice. The novel would win a pulitzer and become an academy-award-winning film. Gregory peck, starring as righteous lawyer Atticus finch who famously defends Tom Robinson, a black man accused of rape. In this country, our courts are the great levellers. In our courts, all men are created equal. Let's begin with justice! Reporter: Today Jeff Daniels brings Atticus to Broadway, one written through a modern lens. What is it like for you exploring these themes today? Things that you thought were sort of outdated with Harper Lee but now still resonate. We're going through a wakeup call is to gentle, but a wakeup call for white America. African-Americans watch "To kill a mockingbird" and go yeah, get this is not news. But white America is going, oh, my god, I can't believe it. And the way Aaron has written it, it's a punch in the face. Reporter: The story is told through the eyes of finch's young daughter scout, her innocence serving as his moral campus. It would be sort of like shooting a mockingbird, wouldn't it? Reporter: Mary badham was 10 years old as starring as scout. Today at 66 she says she still carries the weight of that role. It's never left me. These are messages that have become even more critical to talk about right now. Reporter: We were with her as she saw the play for the first time. She is an enduring icon. To me and to young girls for many generations. So you can imagine what it felt like to find out that she is here today. Great job. Great job. You guys are carrying the torch now. Reporter: This is quite a moment. The old scout and the new scout sitting here together. This is really crazy. I can't, you had told me, first of all, when I saw the movie when I was 10 years owed, that one day I would be sitting next to this woman I would not have believed it in my life. Reporter: And when you saw her on stage, what did you think? I am so thrilled with this production. The script is funny. It's powerful. It has all the elements. The best thing I love is that it has given Tom and calpernia voices, which I think is so great. They say that that does not kill you makes you stronger. What dot things that kill you do? Reporter: The finchs' maid now has a stronger voice. Telling those kids to be respectful of Bob yule. Who in the kingdom of Christ are they not supposed to respect? Nobody, calpernia. That's point. Reporter: There's a line with her in the play where Atticus says something like we have to wait, we have to wait, and she says how long are we going to have to wait. How long as we still wait, how long before we continue to allow young black men to be shot and killed without doing something about it. Reporter: How do you feel about "To kill a mockingbird" today for now. Justice should be served with the truth. The truth should bear justice, not your prejudice. That's what I want them to get. This wasn't nostalgic. This wasn't an homage. This wasn't a trip to a museum. This still takes place in rural Alabama in the mid-1930s, but I think it's more about today than it's ever been. Reporter: Many know Sorkin for his hot-button social commentary, there was "The west wing". I'm the president of the United States, not the president of the people who agree with me. Reporter: And that oscar-winning screenplay for "The social network." If you guys were the inventors of Facebook. Reporter: A modern day poet, "Mockingbird" is his latest reflection on American society. Atticus has a speech about where a mob is where you go to give your conscious a break. That also feels, he could have been talking about the internet. Reporter: Or charlottesville, Virginia? Or charlottesville, Virginia. And speaking of charlottesville -- Reporter: Did T in your mind? I was looking for moments of daylight, disagreements between me and Atticus. Suddenly, when he said there's goodness in everyone, it sounded like there are good people on both sides. You also had people who were very fine people on both sides. Now I know that those two men, Atticus and Donald Trump, they're coming from two different places. That Atticus is coming from a place of genuine goodness. Reporter: A place of decency. A place of decency. He wants to be on the side of the angels. The other, I don't think so. It all felt so oddly relevant to me. We can't go on like this. We know that. So let's hasten the change. Don't assume everyone's going to do the right thing. You're going to have to fight for what's right. And it's going to be a battle. In the name of god, just let him go home. Reporter: For "Nightline,"
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