Anna Deavere Smith as Ann Richards. (Photo: Michael Lutch)

Anna Deavere Smith is a Tony Award-winning actor, but her job looks a lot like that of a reporter.  She finds her subject, sets up a microphone & recorder, asks questions, and listens to the answers.

The acting part comes next.

When she takes to the stage, she becomes the characters she has interviewed.  Smith's characters have told the story of the Los Angeles riots, of life with HIV, and the role of the American Media.  Her performances are part of her ongoing project that is called "On the Road: The Search for American Character."

Smith's latest chapter in that book is called "Let Me Down Easy."  In it, she investigates the human qualities of compassion, generosity, and grace.

PRI's "The World" is a one-hour, weekday radio news magazine offering a mix of news, features, interviews, and music from around the globe. "The World" is a co-production of the BBC World Service, PRI and WGBH Boston.

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