AARP Eye Center
You thought Barbara Walters was good at making celebrities cry on camera? Wait until you see historian Henry Louis Gates Jr. and his team of genealogical detectives and DNA sleuths on Finding Your Roots, the show that tells the stars the secrets of their own clans. It casts a richly illuminating light on American and global history — and repeatedly reveals that celebs on the show are actually cousins unawares. Paul Rudd found out his parents are second cousins.
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In the Jan. 17 episode (on PBS at 8 p.m. ET, check local listings for rebroadcast times), Carol Burnett, 89, and Niecy Nash, 52, each discovers who her grandparents actually were, plus some eyebrow-raising family scandals. “Dirty pots and pans — this is crazy town!” exclaims Nash, who just won a Critics Choice best actress award for Dahmer – Monster. “I have to laugh or I’d cry,” says Burnett, who finds out the beloved grandma who raised her rivaled Elizabeth Taylor at snagging husbands. Both actresses also discover unknown ancestors dating back to the Civil War and the American Revolution whose astounding achievements would make anyone proud — and presaged their own successes. “Even with the hard parts,” says Nash, “there’s an added value in the knowing.”
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In upcoming episodes, Black Panther Party intellectual Angela Davis discovers she had ancestors who came over on the Mayflower. True Blood star Joe Manganiello finds he had a Black forebear who fought in the American Revolution, plus an ancestor who escaped the Armenian genocide by playing dead. One actor discovers he is a direct descendant of Pocahontas — a family legend he’d pooh-poohed all his life.
The season’s guests also include Brian Cox (Succession), Jamie Chung (Lovecraft Country), Billy Crudup (The Morning Show), Jeff Daniels (American Rust), Viola Davis (The Woman King), David Duchovny (The X-Files), Richard Kind (Inside Out), Tamera Mowry (The Real), Danny Trejo (Machete), pop star Cyndi Lauper, athlete and sportscaster Tony Gonzalez, journalist Jim Acosta and former Department of Homeland Security chief Jeh Johnson.