Ann Curry’s New PBS Show “We’ll Meet Again” Premieres Jan. 23 — Exclusive Q&A

Ann Curry. Photo courtesy of David Turnley
We chat with the award-winning journalist about the impact of telling stories of everyday community members.

Award-winning journalist Ann Curry has taken the American public through war and natural disaster zones, shared stories of human resilience, and shown us the power of storytelling. The former NBC News Network anchor and international correspondent has a new show on PBS, We’ll Meet Again, which premieres next Tuesday, January 23.

The show takes us on a journey where people whose lives were impacted during historic moments—Japanese American incarceration during WWII and during 9/11, for example—who are then reunited. The premise makes for emotional storytelling, and the true lesson and takeaway is that people, and often strangers, can impact peoples’ lives for decades. And through these everyday people, we also learn about these historic moments.

In this particular time in U.S. history, it’s a fitting show that unabashedly displays the essence of our common humanity. When people take the time to see others, to be kind, and to focus more on the positive rather than negative, individual people can make lasting and positive impact.

Curry has been caught in the maelstrom of the news cycle herself, from her leaving of the Today show to her recent opening up about Matt Lauer and allegations of sexual harassment. Curry has also been outspoken about the disparity among men and women journalists and called for more women in leadership positions in all fields; to that end, she started her own production company, Ann Curry Inc., and the show is the first project of the company. Curry is a Co-executive Producer and Reporter of We’ll Meet Again, a six-part series that focuses on 12 peoples’ stories. For Curry though—and not that she shies away from these controversial topics—it’s clear that what she would like is to continue being an investigative journalist who can also bring out the humanity in every situation.

I chatted with her via phone just a few days before the premiere of We’ll Meet Again to talk about her hopes for the new show, her vision for her future in journalism and documentary, and how her own parents’ story influenced We’ll Meet Again.

—Momo Chang

What is your interest in this type of storytelling, of telling individual stories?
I have spent my career covering world-changing events, such as wars and humanitarian disasters and political changes. When we started working on this idea, it just felt so exactly something I could contribute to. It just felt completely like something that could be beneficial to people. So that’s why I decided to be a part of this and be a Co-executive Producer on the project.

This is a view of these kinds of events through the eyes of, not presidents and generals and people who write about history, it’s through the eyes of common community members who survived these events. You discover about not just them, and about these massive moments in history, it’s also a reflection on ourselves, about our ability to find resilience and strength and overcoming great odds. I think it’s really the story of all of us.

The people you focus on, as you mentioned, are everyday people. They’re reunited over a long period of time. What do you hope viewers get out of watching the show as people share their stories?
I think in those cases they’ll learn about these massive moments in history. I think people will gain an understanding about how much we can mean to each other, as human beings. That even things you may not have remembered you’ve done, an act of kindness that you have contributed, that you can actually have been a part of changing someone else’s life. And that is what we find in these moments. These people are looking for the people who have helped them, physically or emotionally. Sometimes it’s people they barely knew. Sometimes it’s just people who became their friend. In most cases, it’s people who helped them rise again.

[Someone said], this is the type of storytelling we need right now. What I think he meant, what I heard from what he said, is that we’re living in a time where we’re forgetting how much we mean to each other. How good we really are. About the true greatness that exists in human beings, the true light in addition to all the dark—that this is actually who we really are.

Can you talk about how your own personal background and how it influences your storytelling [Curry’s parents, Bob Curry and Hiroe Nagase, fell in love when he was stationed in Japan during WWII]?
How it influences me is I understand the true power of these stories, being the daughter of a mother and a father who were kept apart in the wake of World War II for two years, who wanted to marry but were prevented from marrying and were forced to be apart for two years. And they yearned for each other, and finally were able to marry, despite that forced separation. And also her illness, her terminal case of tuberculosis. And she would have died had he not saved her life by getting her the medical care that allowed her to live.

I am the oldest of their five children and the legacy they left me was what my mother would say, ganbaru, which is a Japanese word which means, you never ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever give up. This lesson is deep within me. And the power of their resilience is deep within me. I think my own personal history in my own family has made it very clear to me how powerful these stories are.

I feel as though I’ve been shopping for a gift for people, for people I love. And that I’ve finally found this beautiful gift and I’ve wrapped it up and now I’m just waiting to see how people will react. I know these stories have value. I know these stories have power and beauty. And now I’m just waiting to see how the public will respond.

Do you have other projects that you’re working on—what are your future plans?
Sure. I have a number of projects that are on the burners, and they are all moving forward. This is the first one. The others are in a similar vein of world-changing events and what I can contribute to lifting up in being more aware and better informed about things that may affect our lives. I started a company called Ann Curry, Inc. and I’m working on these projects with others. Much of it is news and documentary, primarily documentary. This one is a fun project and I’m super excited to bring it to the public.

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Catch the premiere of We’ll Meet Again on PBS Tuesday, January 23, 2018 (check local listings).

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.