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Bryan Cranston’s Tony Award speech: Demagoguery is real ‘enemy of the people’

Cranston won his second Tony Award for portraying Howard Beale in the play Network.

Bryan Cranston’s Tony Award speech: Demagoguery is real ‘enemy of the people’

CBS Photo Archive
/ Contributo
  • Cranston portrayed a news anchor going through a mental breakdown after nearly losing his career.
  • The play Network was an adaptation of the 1976 Oscar-winning film, written by Paddy Chayefsky.
  • President Donald Trump has regularly — and as recently as yesterday (June 9) — called the media the "enemy of the people."

Bryan Cranston won a Tony Award on Sunday for portraying a broadcast journalist in Network, a play adapted from the Oscar-winning 1976 film.

"Finally a straight, old, white man gets a break!" Cranston joked as he accepted the award, for which Adam Driver, Paddy Considine, Jeremy Pope, and Jeff Daniels were also nominated.

Network is a satire about ratings-driven media and, more broadly, corporate-human accountability. In the stage adaptation, Cranston portrayed Howard Beale, a longtime news anchor who learns that network executives plan to replace him due to poor ratings. Beale reacts by telling his live TV audience that he plans to kill himself during an upcoming broadcast. Ratings go up. Executives decide not to fire Beale.

The anchor starts angrily ranting against the ills of society in his regular segments. One of his main targets is the public's apathy and inaction: He challenges viewers to get off the couch, open their windows, and scream, "I'm mad as hell, and I'm not going to take this anymore!"

Cranston described Beale as a man in search of truth:

"Howard Beale is a fictitious TV newsman who found his way into the line of fire because of his pursuit of the truth, and I would like to dedicate this to all the real journalists around the world. . . in the print media and also broadcast media, who actually are in the line of fire with their pursuit of the truth."

The 63-year-old actor — who won his first Tony Award in 2014 for playing Lyndon B. Johnson in the play All the Way also took a swipe at the Trump administration.

"The media is not the enemy of the people. Demagoguery is the enemy of the people," Cranston said, referencing President Donald Trump's frequent assertion that the media is the "enemy of the people."

It's not the first time Cranston has criticized the president.

Paddy Chayefsky wrote Network in the 1970s, but its themes and subtext still resonate with audiences today, as Aaron Sorkin told the New York Times in 2011:

"If you put it in your DVD player today you'll feel like it was written last week," Sorkin said. "The commoditization of the news and the devaluing of truth are just a part of our way of life now. You wish Chayefsky could come back to life long enough to write 'The Internet.'"

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