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Sam Waterston talk ocean convervation

Sam Waterston talks ocean conservation and his role on the Netflix comedy ‘Grace and Frankie'

Sam Waterson encourages activism on ocean issues: “You can inform yourself as a consumer and you can lobby as a consumer with your representative.”

Growing up in New England, Sam Waterston would buy fish from the local market as little boats pulled ashore with the daily catch. The nets were full and the partaking plentiful, but technology arrived and fishing fleets grew, destroying ocean ecological systems and decimating fish populations. Waterston, whose many credits include the film “The Killing Fields,” TV’s “Law & Order” and, most recently, the Netflix series “Grace and Frankie,” became a board member of Oceana in 2008. A major ocean advocacy organization, Oceana works to restore and protect the ocean and crack down on fishing abuses. The group’s annual SeaChange summer fundraising party happens in August at The Strand in Dana Point. A cause that attracts big names, this year’s SeaChange supporters and attendees include Waterston and fellow actors Jon Hamm, January Jones and other famous faces.  

Coast: How did you get involved in Oceana?
Sam Waterston: My manager Keith Addis is also Ted Danson’s manager. I knew Ted professionally; and when I became a client of Keith’s, somewhere along the way, I found out that they were founding members of American Oceans Campaign and later, Oceana. They invited me to come find out what it was all about and that’s how it all began.

Coast: Why has Oceana been effective in its mission to preserve ocean eco-systems?
SW: Oceana is working to restore fisheries around the world in order to provide a sustainable food source for millions of people. It turns out that most of those fish spend most of their lives within the national waters of a limited number of countries. So if you can get good fishing practices in those countries, you can go a long way to saving all the fish in the world.

Coast: What are some of the big lessons you’ve learned while working as a board member of Oceana?
SW: The happiest lesson about the ocean and about fish is that properly managed oceans can meet the protein needs of a billion people. The oceans can do that indefinitely if they are properly managed. The big lesson is we have this fantastic renewable resource and we don’t want to throw it away.

Coast: What is one thing you want people to know about ocean conservation?
SW: It’s a problem that really can be fixed and, as ecological problems go, the fixing is readily available. It’s just a matter of will and it could be done and the benefits would be enormous.

Coast: You’ve recently started filming another season of “Grace and Frankie.” What’s it been like on set?
SW: I am so delighted that people like “Grace and Frankie” and it’s a delight in itself to do. Lily Tomlin, Jane Fonda and Martin Sheen, it’s a hard to imagine a group of people that it would be more fun to work with.

Coast: You starred in a “Saturday Night Live” sketch titled “Old Glory Robot Insurance” in 1995, its main gag being that robots were attacking elderly people for their medication and therefore needed insurance. It seems it’s taken 20 years for you to have another comedic role in “Grace and Frankie.”
SW: My finest hour. The skit was so much fun. We did it in about three minutes, and it’s been on the air forever since, and it still cracks me up. It’s true that you are always running away from what you’ve been typecast as. I did an awful lot of comedy in the beginning of my career in the theater; and then, I began to worry that I’d be trapped in that forever and I’d never get do to the great parts in Shakespeare, which I also really wanted to do. So I deliberately went about looking for serious roles to play and that became who people thought I was. It’s nice that at this stage of life to be going back and having fun.

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