In the season two finale, The Supporting Cast welcomes former Dodger pitcher Chan Ho Park, who was the first Korean-born player and winningest Asian-born pitcher in the history of Major League Baseball. In this episode, Chan Ho speaks about growing up in Gongju, South Korea, and initially playing third base before an encouraging coach convinced him to be a pitcher if he could build “strong legs, and a brave heart.” Chan Ho rose to the challenge by sprinting the hills of his childhood street and overcoming the fear of a dark cemetery near his childhood home—a street that is now called “Chan Ho Park Road” and the home now a museum in Chan Ho’s honor. Chan Ho also describes first visiting Dodger Stadium in 1992 and despite sitting in the nose bleeds, becoming immediately spellbound by the excitement of the crowd and dreaming he could someday play on that field. Chan Ho had no idea that a little more than two years later, his improbable dream would come true, launching a 17-year Major League career. Chan Ho references childhood coach YoungSae Oh, Dodger owner Peter O’Malley, and Dodger manager Tommy Lasorda as profound life influences.
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Actor Dulé Hill is best known for playing Detective “Gus” Guster on the USA series Psych and Charlie Young, personal aid to President Jed Bartlett, on NBC’s The West Wing. In this episode, Dulé speaks about growing up in Sayreville, NJ, as the son of Jamaican immigrants, and how exposure to ballet and tap by age 3 set Dulé on a path to starring on Broadway in The Tap Dance Kid at age 10 and the Tony Award-winning Bring in ‘da Noise, Bring in ‘da Funk while a college student at Seton Hall. Following a successful Broadway run, Dulé moved to Los Angeles to pursue screen acting, but initially struggled to find consistent work and was subsequently dropped by his talent agency. Drawing on the inspiration of educators and mentors, Dulé recommitted himself to acting and fortuitously landed an audition for The West Wing, which changed his life. Dulé cites educators and mentors Dr. Ibrahim Abdul-Malick, William Esper, Savion Glover, and Martin Sheen as profound life influences.
Juliette Kayyem ’87 is a CNN National Security Analyst, Harvard Kennedy School professor, Atlantic columnist, and expert in the field of emergency preparedness, consequence management, and risk reduction. As it happens, Juliette joins The Supporting Cast on the day the CDC lifted its indoor and outdoor mask mandate for vaccinated people. For this reason, Juliette was both limited in her time, but also focused on the subject at hand—risk reduction and a new path forward from COVID-19. As a former Department of Homeland Security official in the Obama administration, Juliette has been applying the lessons of counterterrorism in advising mayors, governors, and private-sector leaders on their responses to COVID-19 and strategies to increase vaccination. Juliette also describes growing up in Los Angeles and attending Westlake School for Girls, Harvard College, and Harvard Law School, before a career that evolved from law to academia to journalism to public service. Juliette references many Westlake teachers, including Joannie Parker, King Schofield, Leni Wildflower, and Francine ’68 & Walt Werner, as profound educational influences.
In the 2015 film “Woman in Gold,” Ryan Reynolds plays Randy Schoenberg, a 30-something lawyer who takes up the case of a family friend named Maria Altmann, played by Helen Mirren, who is trying to retrieve a painting from Austria that had belonged to her family as a child before it was stolen by Nazis in World War II. While such a matter would not typically receive the attention of Hollywood, this was no ordinary case and no ordinary painting. Authored by the world-famous Gustav Klimt, the painting, known as the “Woman in Gold,” was by the late 1990s regarded as the “Mona Lisa” of Austria. Against all odds, Randy opted to sue the Republic of Austria, citing a little known exception to the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, which earned the case international attention, eventually making its way to the United States Supreme Court, where Randy argued the landmark case and won. In this episode, the real Randy Schoenberg ’84 tells his story. A native of Los Angeles, Randy attended Harvard School, Princeton University, and USC Law, citing the role of various educators in preparing Randy for his moment on the world stage. Randy references Lee Carlson ’50 and James Lander of Harvard School, in addition to Erwin Chemerinsky and Edwin “Rip” Smith of USC Law, as profound educational influences.
Laura Ross is the Associate Head of School at Harvard-Westlake. In this episode, Laura speaks about helping to lead the school through a pandemic, and what it feels like now to watch students and teachers re-enter physical spaces and experience newfound gratitude for the Harvard-Westlake community. Laura also speaks about her upbringing in Santa Barbara, CA, where she attended Crane Country Day, Santa Barbara Middle School, and Santa Barbara High School, all of which greatly influencing how Laura considers schools as families, start-ups, and multifaceted ecosystems where students should be given both the trust and space to find their identities and passions. Laura also describes her long and varied career in schools, from working in college admission at Stanford, Scripps, and Columbia, to her independent school work at Convent of the Sacred Heart in San Francisco, St. Stephens Episcopal in Austin, and Greenhill in Dallas, before arriving at Harvard-Westlake in 2017 to run the upper school. Laura cites Rob Rosenthal of Wesleyan University and Jim Montoya of Stanford University as profound educational influences.
D. B. (Dan) Weiss is co-creator of HBO’s Game of Thrones. In this episode, Dan speaks about how Game of Thrones came to be. First, how he and co-creator David Benioff read “A Song of Ice and Fire” and believed they understood how to adapt this complex narrative to the screen. Second, how they convinced author George R. R. Martin and HBO that he and David, who had never run a television series before, had the vision to helm this massive production. Third, finally shooting the pilot, which famously had to be almost entirely re-shot due to flaws in the narrative. But despite it all—Game of Thrones became a worldwide culture phenomenon, with more than 32 million viewers per episode across all platforms by its seventh season. Dan also talks about growing up outside Chicago, attending Wesleyan University and other writing programs, and the profound impact of teachers in encouraging his writing from a young age. Dan aimed to convey this same approach show-running Game of Thrones, keeping clear channels of communication across multiple countries and production teams, recognizing and nurturing talent, and knowing when to suppress ego for the good of the enterprise—a value that he and David Benioff share. Dan credits Winnie Engerman of Highland Park High School and Kit Reed of Wesleyan University as life-changing educational influences.
Aaron Mieszczanski is Director of Admission at Harvard-Westlake School. In this episode, Aaron speaks about his unique year in admission, both the challenge of not being able to welcome families to campus physically, but also the benefits of creating broader points of access through virtual engagement. In describing Harvard-Westlake’s approach in evaluating applicants, Aaron is quick to point out that there isn’t just one type of student that stands out in a Harvard-Westlake pool. “We seek cultural adds, not cultural fits,” explains Aaron, which this year means welcoming students from 175 zip codes and 250 sending schools across Southern California. Aaron points out how this is made possible by the indispensability of financial aid, which not only enables greater access and diversity, but maximizes the school’s excellence. Aaron also speaks about growing up in The Bronx in a family of educators—attending Fieldston, Williams College, and receiving his Masters at Penn—and progressing through admission roles at The Thacher School in Ojai and University High School in San Francisco, before arriving at Harvard-Westlake in 2018. Aaron cites educators Kelvina Butcher of Ethical Culture Fieldston School and Bill McMahon of The Thacher School as profound life influences.
Gray Davis ’60 was the 37th Governor of the State of California. In this episode, Governor Davis speaks about growing up in Los Angeles, attending Harvard School in the 1950s, and how a chance encounter with Harvard teacher Nat Reynolds ’51 changed the trajectory of his life. Governor Davis also discusses his time at Stanford and Columbia Law before serving in Vietnam, where he earned a Bronze Star. Seeing firsthand how, in his words, low-income minority soldiers bore the brunt of combat in far greater numbers than his white counterparts, Governor Davis was inspired to address this inequality through politics, holding various statewide positions before being elected California Governor in 1998. Lastly, Governor Davis speaks about California’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic, the challenges of running a state in crisis, and his trademark stoicism–a trait which aided him through the many highs and lows of politics, including the 2003 recall. Governor Davis cites Nat Reynolds ’51 of Harvard School and Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley as profound life influences.
Gina Prince-Bythewood is a director and writer whose films include Love & Basketball, The Secret Life of Bees, Beyond The Lights, and most recently, 2020’s The Old Guard starring Charlize Theron and Kiki Layne. In this episode, Gina speaks about her beginnings in Pacific Grove, CA, finding motivation through athletics and inspiration through the encouragement of great teachers, leading her to UCLA film school, writing for television, and then a chance to write and direct her first film, Love & Basketball, at just 28. Gina speaks about her love of filmmaking, the intimacy of directing actors and the joy of building character, but also the systemic challenges that Black women like her face in building careers in Hollywood, particularly behind the camera. Having recently accepted a leadership role with the DGA, Gina now finds herself quite encouraged by the conversations occurring around her and what she sees as real progress being made across the industry. New and meaningful directing opportunities are also making their way to Gina, including two upcoming projects—Women of the Movement, a limited series about Mamie and Emmett Till that Gina recently shot in Mississippi; and the Woman King, a historical epic about an all-female military unit starring Viola Davis. Gina references Ellen Coulter of Pacific Grove High School and Ivan Cury of UCLA Film School as profound educational influences.
In 1987, Thomas C. Hudnut took over as head of Harvard School, then an all-boys former military school in Studio City. 26 years later, Tom retired as President of Harvard-Westlake School, a multigender institution featuring 1,600 students spread over two campuses and commonly regarded as one of the finest independent schools in the country. In this episode, Tom shares his perspective on that journey. When he took over in 1987, was Tom aware of a potential merger between Harvard and Westlake? What were the factors that finally led to the joining of these two proud institutions? Once merged, how did Tom set out to create, in his words, “the independent school equivalent of Stanford,” featuring centers of excellence not just within academics and athletics, but also in areas like journalism and the performing arts? Tom also speaks about his childhood in Rochester, New York, as the son of a Presbyterian minister, attending public schools in Rochester before heading to Choate, Princeton, and the Fletcher School at Tufts. Finally, Tom discusses his long and distinguished career in schools, beginning with St. Albans in Washington D.C., followed by stints running Norwood, Branson, Harvard and Harvard-Westlake, and now as a full-time head of school search consultant. Tom cites Canon Charles S. Martin and John Davis of St. Albans School as a profound educational influences.