"Mockingbird" actress defends "Watchman" over race controversy

Actress Mary Badham, who played Scout in the 1962 film adaptation of Gregory Peck-starrer "To Kill A Mockingbird", has defended author Harper Lee's latest novel "Go Set A Watchman".

PTI| Last Updated: Jul 15, 2015, 19:19 PM IST

New York: Actress Mary Badham, who played Scout in the 1962 film adaptation of Gregory Peck-starrer "To Kill A Mockingbird", has defended author Harper Lee's latest novel "Go Set A Watchman".

Badham, who read from "Mockingbird" and "Watchman" at an event in New York in honor of Watchman's release, told "Harper Lee: American Masters' director Mary Murphy that the passages in the new book that reveal Atticus Finch to be racist are a product of the era in which they were written, according to the Hollywood Reporter.

Many fans are troubled by the revelations about Atticus, who is one of the most loved literary heroes as he defends an innocent black man, accused of raping a white girl, in a racially-charged South Alabama town of 1930s.

"What you have to do is you have to put your mindset in that time period, and you have to understand what we lived through," Badham said.

"When you read the book, you'll get it," she continued. "There is so much much more to (the storyline than just a few lines)."
 

Badham believes that like "Mockingbird", "Watchman", which Lee wrote and then set aside almost 60 years ago, too should be taught in schools "especially now with what we've got going on in this country (race tensions)."

"The root of all evil is ignorance. Education is the key to freedom," she added.

The actress, who was just 10 when the movie released, had fond memories of Peck, who played her on-screen father.

"Gregory Peck was truly Atticus. What we got at home was what you see up on the screen. He didn't ever preach at (me and the other child actors) ? he talked with us, not to us. He always made us feel loved and appreciated."

Badham won an Oscar-nomination for her portrayal of the sassy, tomboyish Scout, who is the voice of "Mockingbird".

Phillip Alford played Scout's older brother Jem while John Megna played Dill in the 1962 classic.