John Lithgow discusses depicting Roger Ailes in new role

The actor explains how he prepared for his portrayal of the former Fox News chairman in the new “Bombshell” movie.
7:08 | 12/06/19

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Transcript for John Lithgow discusses depicting Roger Ailes in new role
So, you know, I saw the movie the other night at a screening and I thought you were just incredibly brilliant as you were as Winston Churchill. You just transform yourself into that character, and I have to say I was somewhat surprised. Look at that. Wow. I was naive that he was that bad, Roger Ailes. The way he's portrayed this that movie shows he was even worse than we would have thought. Did you feel that way? I didn't feel that way. I did everything I could to show you more of Roger Ailes than what you expected. The fact is when I researched him, found out as much as I could about him and talked to people who knew him and worked with him like as you did, I found just as many people loyal to him and -- Yes. Devoted to him as the ones who were terrified of him and hated him. Which just goes to show what an extraordinarily nuanced -- well, how big the challenge was to show that many sides of a man. Yeah. I mean, there's no question I sort of embraced the role of the villain in a story. It's really a movie for the women. It's not about Roger. It's about everyone else's reaction to Roger. Yeah. And I just embraced that role, but I wanted to give a little bit more than just that. As the actor portraying him, you have to find the good part, I guess, right? Yeah. Even when you are playing hitler, you have to justify it. He was actually a very nice man, hitler. That's a joke. He's kidding. That's a joke. You know, Abby -- your legs are in the movie, right? Your legs are in there. I got paid nothing for it. You were in the movie, and I'm wondering what you thought of the portrayal. You're the first one I met who was actually portrayed in Really? Yeah. You were phenomenal. It brought back so many weird emotions because fabulous job. He's a very tough one to get right because he's complicated and he's a mix of genius, but a monster. I think if you hate fox and you're Hollywood and liberal media, it makes fox out to be the monster that people want it to be, and a lot of it is true. A lot of that happened, but I mean, I'll be real. This is a hard -- it was hard to watch. Emotionally it's a roller coaster. I can imagine. There were players that were bad, and there were some of the strongest, hard working women that I have ever worked with and learned from in my life, and they're the ones that keep the lights on in that building. They don't get enough credit for what they do. They are not bimbos and zip up a short skirt, and they work their tail off. That's not a fun story to watch in Hollywood, but it continues. I have to say, Jay roach and Charles Randolph who wrote it, I mean, they did what they could. Yeah. The movie does have a point of view. There's no question about it. I look back on my years there, and I killed myself. I stayed up more nights reporting stories away from my family, trying to do the best job that I could, and those stories aren't portrayed, and because it's not fun to watch, and Roger frankly as bad of a man as he was, he taught me a lot about how to be an anchor, and how to be a reporter. I learned a lot about that. People treated him as their jedi It was horrible to learn after the fact though that a lot -- we're all aware of. There's a performance in the film by Connie Britton who plays Roger's wife, and one of the most poignant and devastating moments is when she herself finds out that it's irrefutably true when he's been denying everything right up until the last moment. Mm-hmm. It's a movie about denial in a lot of ways. The point you were making I think is one of the hardest things about everything we have found out about sexual harassment in the workplace. Yes. In the last couple of years where so many of us are faced with people who we like and who we thought we knew, and who we admired and were mentors who of this other side. Mm-hmm. And it's very hard, you know, I think as people who have been exposed to this, to resist the temptation of not looking the other way and letting it go because it's somebody you like or it's your friend or it's somebody you admire. You have to call them out whether you like them or not. Well, to me it's the first really great movie of the me to era. Yeah. It's the first movie that really confronts it absolutely And it does. And does its best because it's an impossible thing to get entirely right for everybody for sure. Yeah. I loved you so much as Winston Churchill and I have to say it too. He's one of my icons. Thank you. You were just absolutely genius. Thank you so much. If I didn't say that, my mom would kill me because you are really one of the greatest actors of all time, and I cried watching that. I just finished watching the ten episodes of this recent series. It's fantastic. A little appearance. You do. The man is dead, you know? We have to face facts. I had to say that just because again, it's worth saying over and over again. Thank you. But I also worked at Fox News and Roger was also never inappropriate with me, but I was wondering -- he I mean, aside from his sexual assaults which are horrific, he's also a genius in television. I mean, he created the number one cable news channel which is still number one. Yes. Was it interesting for you, because I assume from your book you're not of the Fox News angle, where you come into the head space and you have to see through the lens of Fox News? I'm a character actor and I'm in the empathy business. Every part I play I'm on the side of that character. I just did everything I could to get inside Roger, and understand what drove him, what pained him. The things he was compelled to do and the things he was ashamed to do and remorseful about. I think all of those things are there when you -- when you examine any person. For me also his paranoia was fascinating that I didn't know that he had so many guns in his office, and he had an exit underneath his house to get to a terminal. And he has all these things which we touch on. There's that moment about being afraid that Obama is plotting to kill him which plays like the last line in a scene in a sitcom. Yeah. I mean, Jay had the brilliance to hire a lot of actors with comedy chops. There's Richard kind. There's Allison Janney. Kate Mckinnon. Starring in the twilight zone had to be pretty good practice for Roger Ailes. Did you substitute an anger for somebody? I have a legal note and I want to taung about the book as well. Roger Ailes resigned as CEO of fox in 2016 having denied all allegations of sexual misconduct.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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