What A Producer Learned From One Of LA's Most Polarizing Police Chiefs

Hollywood veteran Brian Grazer says the lesson "completely disrupted" his point of view.

Brian Grazer may be an Oscar-winning Hollywood producer, but first and foremost, he is a man devoted to exploring his curiosity. For the past 30 years, Grazer has tracked down luminaries in various fields -- science, business, politics, art, even espionage -- to learn everything he can about various topics. These conversations have each made an impression on the 64-year-old. But there was one particularly memorable talk that Grazer says taught him a big life lesson, one that later served as inspiration for one of his most popular TV shows.

In an interview with Oprah for "Super Soul Sunday," Grazer opened up about the day he sat down with the late former LA Police Chief Daryl Gates, prior to Gates' resignation after four of his police officers beat Rodney King in 1991.

"He was... one of the more important police chiefs and renowned police chiefs in America, but he was also somewhat polarizing because of his level of power in the city of Los Angeles," Grazer says. "I thought I'd really like to meet him... I was curious about power. How is power integral to his mindset?"

Grazer says he spent about a year trying to coordinate a meeting with Gates until they finally set a lunch date. By sheer coincidence, the verdict that acquitted the police officers in the King case came down that same day.

"I thought, this guy is, of course, going to cancel. There were riots, two thousand buildings caught on fire the night before," Grazer says.

But Gates didn't cancel.

When the two met for lunch, Grazer was struck by Gates' demeanor. "He's calm as could be. Like a movie character, just [looking] straight ahead. Not nervous, just calm," Grazer recalls.

The men chatted for a bit before they were interrupted.

"A high-ranking lieutenant came in, really frightful. Said, 'Chief, you're on TV right now,' and literally pointed to a monitor where the City Council was saying [that they were] voting him out," Grazer says. "He folded his arms like this, rather arrogantly, and said, 'Not a chance. Never leaving this office.'"

Six weeks later, Gates was gone. The conversation, however, stuck with Grazer for decades. "It gave me further evidence that power can further anesthetize you," he says.

As Grazer wrote in his book, A Curious Mind, the entire meeting "completely disrupted" his point of view. It also had an impact on how he produced one his most popular television shows.

"I later produced a TV series called '24,' and that's about a wish-fulfillment character that kind of breaks through red tape," Grazer says. "I used all that information that I got from Daryl Gates to inform my perspective."

"Super Soul Sunday" returns in its new time period on Sunday, Oct. 4, at 7 p.m. ET. Upcoming guests include President Jimmy Carter, Shonda Rhimes and Dr. Brené Brown.

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