TIME movies

Ellen Page on Freeheld and Why She Came Out: ‘I Was Just Depressed’

Ellen Page X-Men Premiere
Gilbert Carrasquillo—FilmMagic Ellen Page attends the "X-Men: Days Of Future Past" world premiere on May 10 in New York City.

The star opens up to TIME about her new role as an advocate and her Oscar-hopeful film

Ellen Page is on a new mission—just don’t call her brave.

Some eight years after her breakout role in Juno made her one of the youngest Oscar Best Actress nominees ever, the actress is taking on a role that’s remarkably rare even today. In Freeheld (out in limited release Oct. 2), she’s playing Stacie Andree, one-half of a lesbian couple that achieved real-world repute; when Andree’s partner Laurel Hester (played by Julianne Moore) was diagnosed with terminal cancer, the pair appealed to have Hester’s police pension transferred to Andree, though marriage wasn’t an option for them. The story became a national news story about gay marital rights in the lead-up to the state-by-state battle the Supreme Court recently ended. It was served as material for an Oscar-winning documentary that forms the basis of Freeheld.

Documentaries are one thing; a feature film with two major actresses is quite another. As a film about the inner lives and the challenges of a lesbian couple, Freeheld is a rarity in a Hollywood that still privileges stories about straight characters; it’s no wonder it took six years to make. And it’s all the more rare that it features an out lesbian movie star, one who’s willing to be outspoken on behalf of what she believes. (Her upcoming projects include the Vice series Gaycation, for which she interrogated Presidential candidate Ted Cruz in Iowa after this interview was conducted.) Since coming out last year, Page says she’s moved beyond depression and is now “excited about life, and motivated and inspired.” But asked if taking on a role that’s somewhat outside where Hollywood is willing to place 28-year-old actresses is “brave,” Page bristles, calling the term “borderline offensive.” After all, she notes, this movie shouldn’t even be a risk: “People want diversity. They want it. Whether they consciously know it or not.”

Page spoke to TIME about the film, why she came out, and what she learned at a Buddhist high school in Halifax.

TIME: It took about six years after you first got involved for this film to get made. What has the wait been like?

I initially got involved because Stacey Sher and Michael Shamberg, who are producers on the film, sent me the documentary. I was shooting a film in Detroit at the time, and just watching the trailer for the documentaryI hadn’t even watched the documentary yet, and I was sitting in my hotel room and just weeping. I said yes right away. It takes a while to find your writer and get that deal done, and they write the script. I guess six years is a long wait, but getting financing independently for a movie that stars two women is tricky anyway.

Did you meet with Stacie? What other research went into this role?

I’d lived with the documentary for a long time, and watched it multiple times over the years. It had been a huge part of my life, and the script had been in my life for a while. Emotionally, I felt connected to it; it had entered me on an emotional level. Stacie was so kind to Julie and me. I spent an afternoon with her. Needless to say, it was emotionally intense and hard for her to talk about these things, but her willingness to talk was really beautiful and generous.

The physicality of playing a woman who ably rotates tires must have been a real shift for you.

That’s not something I’ve ever experienced before. I hate using all these words because I feel like it’s so reductive but it’s more boyish; it was basically about embracing all of that and getting to go furthersome part of me, just heightened.

I think, given the effect it might have on your career, yours is the sort of performance people tend to call “brave.” What do you make of that word as relates to actors?

Maybe this is a bad thing to say, but I have a hard time when people call actors brave. I don’t really get that, because our job is to read something on a page.

Unfortunately, though, there really aren’t many movies about LGBTQ people, so it makes it more likely that actors are seemingly taking a career risk by appearing in one.

When people are [called] brave in regards to playing LGBTQ people, that’s borderline offensive. I’m never going to be considered brave for playing a straight person, and nor should I be. It’s hard to say this, because the context of the film is so deeply tragic, but for me there was a deep sense of peace on set that I had not felt in a really long time, potentially since I was a teenager and first having these really beautiful, fortunate moments in films. There was something about being out, getting to play a gay character, and getting to play a woman who is so inspiring to meit was such an amazing experience for me. Honestly, if I played gay characters for the rest of my career, I’d be thrilled. I wish I could, honestly!

Are you going to try to get more involved on the production side?

Yeah, I have beenthere’s one right now that hasn’t been announced yet. I can’t speak to it specifically. And I have two [upcoming projects] that are… “gay.” That’s even a pain to have to call it that, but it’s about two people of the same sex. I’m interested in these stories. Needless to say, I’m thrilled to play a character who’s heterosexual, if it speaks to me. But I’m gay, so when I get to sit in a theater and watch Blue Is the Warmest Color, what an utter joy that is! Because you’re getting to watch something that’s at least close to something you’ve experienced as a gay woman. It’s probably more selfish.

It’s interesting that a lot of people perceive movies like Blue is the Warmest Color or Freeheld as a niche “gay movie,” the way something like Selma is categorized as a “black movie.”

That’s obviously the huge issue, particularly for the LGBT community, but any minority. Native American and Native Canadian people: Where are these stories? I want to see these stories! And I’m hoping the shift is going to come really quick now. It’s evident from what people are watching on television that people want diversity. They want it. Whether they consciously know it or not, I’m not sure, but look at Orange is the New Black. You’re seeing actors that, if that show didn’t exist, we might not have ever seen—that are extraordinary. It makes me excited because the whole reason to go to a film is to disappear into another world, and to have your humanity connect with someone else’s, who you might not ever meet in your life! To be moved and have more compassion, that’s the wonderful thing all art can do, and particularly film! I want to see gay stories, of course, because I’m gay, and I want to connect to a reflection of my life on film. But I also want to see what it’s like to be a young Native person, African-American, African-Canadian. Hopefully that will keep changing.

When you signed onto Freeheld, you were not publicly out

I was very, very, very closeted.

So in 2014, you came out in a speech at a Human Rights Campaign conference. Did Freeheld convince you it was time?

I think it was a bunch of different things. It was my own internal journeyfor the most part it was separate from all of this. But when you read Stacie and Laurel’s story, and you know you’re going to tell it, you think, “There’s no way you cannot be an actively out gay person if you make this film.”

I remember watching the Pussy Riot documentary and thinking, “Oh my God. The courage of these people.” It’s just like, “Dude, come outjust say you’re gay. You’re privileged, you have a family. You have no excuse.” It kind of got to the point of—I felt guilty, to be honest with you, and I believe I absolutely should have. It’s become kind of a moral imperative to speak up. I know there’s been so much progress, but there’s still so much suffering in America, in Canada, and all over the world.

Has coming out put you more in touch with your art?

One hundred percent. And even more than whatever it means to act, whatever it means to know that you’re living an authentic life. For me, the level of sadness and lack of inspiration and joy in generalthat was hurting my work. I didn’t feel motivated. I was just depressed. Going to meetings, or trying to push for things: It was this little flame that was barely flickering anymore. The moment I came out, I felt every cell in my body transform. I was happier than I ever could have imagined. You feel excited about life, and motivated and inspired. You want to do more. You want to go on adventures. For the most part that was gone.

I think, given the level of career success you’ve enjoyed since Juno, people would be surprised to hear that you were depressed.

People are always surprised. The huge machine of Hollywood creates this false image of what success is that causes everyone to strive for this thing that’s just not real. A red carpet is not a real thing. It’s a part ofjust like in any industrygetting something out there and needing to publicize it. That’s what presenting at an awards show is. People are working, it’s a business, you get your hair and makeup done, you go, and you push the project you’re working on, because that’s a huge part of your job which I’m happy to do. But for the most part, people, whether they’re gay and closet and struggling, or trans and struggling, or just human and having a hard time, that’s not going to get reflected.

What do you say to people who would be less inclined to see or emotionally invest in Freeheld, given that many see the gay-rights struggle in America as effectively having ended with the Supreme Court decision making marriage equality the law of the land?

That’s pure silliness, but yes. But in regards to the gay-marriage decision, we’re seeing tons of backlash. The anti-gay rhetoric of the right is turning into, “Gays are actually bigoted against us because we don’t get to express our religious freedom.” Religion has always been used for beautiful things, and also as a way to justify discrimination—whether it’s gender, or race, or the LGBT community, or what have you. Personally, I’m an atheist, so I just have no time for it. So that will be the next challenge.

But with this film, what I love about it, in regards to the personal meeting the political, is that it explores it on a macro level and a micro level. First, just do not treat people like second-class citizens. Please do not devalue our love. Do not make us compromise on how we share our love with another person. Saying that we cannot get married like heterosexual people can, that is what you’re doing. Please don’t give me this religious rhetoric. I don’t actually care. You are completely devaluing who we are as people.

In another way, because Laurel and Stacie are middle-class, it really breaks down these true, deep, logistical things that inequality creates, in terms of them just trying to live their life and get what they deserve as people. I hope those things compounded can help people learn more.

Is it difficult to make a movie that has so much to say politically but still needs to check the boxes of being interesting, engaging, and entertaining?

It’s not something I worry about. That’s not something on my mind. I guess you assume there are some people that just wouldn’t come see the movie. And you hope some people who don’t completely get itthe kind of homophobic people who don’t think they’re homophobic but are, the kind who say “I respect you, but don’t shove it in my face!”you hope that it can help people see something different. Some people probably won’t even walk in the theater, but hopefully at some point in their life they have a moment that helps them see things differently.

This movie feels in many ways like it takes place in the distant past, and audiences may be surprised that this level of disdain and cruelty was common parlance so recently.

It still happens everywhere. There hasn’t been one GOP candidate, I don’t think, who’s outwardly spoken to a gay rights activist. There’s plenty of areas in places we consider gay havens or gay meccas that are not necessarily comfortable places to be existing as who you are or to grow up as who you are. That’s what really breaks my heart: The shame and toxicity that exists in people. Or some of the most homophobic people, the most violently homophobic people, probably just are gay themselves. That’s obviously going to be more of a massive societal consciousness change, which is probably going to take a while.

How does being from Canada affect your perspective? There, same-sex marriage has been legal since 2005, the year much of the legal battle depicted in Freeheld takes place.

Potentially, because when I was 17 it became legal in Canada. Let’s not get it twisted: Canada has a lot of issues, and a lot of similar issues in terms of racism, treatment of native people. My final year of high school was in a Buddhist high school, and everyone was somewhat queer. The joke was it was where all the kids in Halifax go to come out. But for the most part, Halifax has come a long way from when I was in high school. The difference I feel in Canada is religion is way less intense. That’s not to say there’s not lots of religious people in Canada who observe whatever religion they choose to partake in, but the rhetoric influencing politicians, laws, and human rights, is just not the same. For me, that’s what separates it.

Religious objections to gay rights are difficult, because these rights aren’t like opinions on taxation or other issues where a middle ground can be found. Objections to gay rights founded in belief run core-deep.

There’s lots of religious people who have evolved and changed. When you read the Bible, there’s Old and New Testament versesthe stuff that’s said about slavery is crazy! And of course that was used to justify something that was beyond comprehension. There’s been a really intense evolution on these things. And there’s been a lot of religious people who’ve thought gay people were completely sinful, going to go to hell, blah blah blah, who have totally transformed. Some of whom are then championed for it and others are kicked out of the church.

The tricky thing about religion is you can’t even have a conversation. You just cannot have a conversation. It doesn’t affect me: For me it goes in one ear and out the other. But when you think of young people who are potentially being preached to by said person and their parents believe it, and they happen to be gay or trans or what-have-you, they’re going to have a really, really challenging time. And that’s what’s so sad about it. Getting infused with that amount of shame into your body and into your mind. Potentially getting kicked out of your house. Potentially in a place where you’re homeless and every night of your life is life-or-death. That’s when I have no time for this religious argument. I don’t understand being part of a religion where your religious liberty or your religious freedom is based on other people not being treated equally. I don’t understand that—I really don’t.

The thing that’s hard is a lot of the timeand there are lots of religious people who don’t feel this waybut those who do, it’s so hard to even have a conversation. I mean, you can. Everyone’s typically quite polite. But they’re telling you who you are is wrong and at some point you will find God, and I’ll be with a man. And I’m like, “Well, not gonna happen, but you enjoy your time in heaven. I’ll be down in hell.”

TIME Television

What Didn’t Make It Into TIME’s Cover Story on Stephen Colbert

An edited transcript of Colbert's far-reaching, comprehensive interview for his TIME cover

James Poniewozik’s cover story on Stephen Colbert for this week’s issue of TIME paints a portrait of a comedian in transition. Colbert, who wrapped up his tenth and final season of The Colbert Report on Comedy Central last December, has been tirelessly preparing to take the reins of The Late Show on CBS on Sept. 8.

Between meetings about set design and segments for the new show, Colbert talked about his approach to building the late night show from the ground up—not least of all introducing audiences to the man behind the character he played for so many years on Comedy Central. Below is are selections from the transcript of Poniewozik’s interviews with Colbert that didn’t make it into the final story:

How being the youngest of 11 siblings shaped him: Being the youngest of 11 children, [it was] not so much I wanted [my siblings’] attention, but I wanted to be like them. They had my complete attention as a kid, and that was a training ground for what I do because I had a big family, and there was always laughter and attention-grabbing going on. That was my training ground as much as Second City or anything else. My family happens to have an excellent view of itself. We’re big fans of us.

How having older siblings shaped his taste in culture: My music aged up. My books aged up. My interests aged up. I was a 9-year-old kid who knew what was going on in Watergate because [of] my brothers and sisters, who were getting teargased off at college. I was a music kid of the late ‘70s, but my music was—The Big Chill was no discovery for me. I had records from my brothers and sisters like an original 45 of Bill Haley and The Comets’ “Rock Around the Clock” that my brother Ed bought when it came out, because he’s 18 years older than I am. Phil Silvers is like a comedic icon to me. Jimmy Durante is a comedic icon in the ways that [someone] my age absolutely should not [like].

How he got turned on to science fiction: All my allowance was spent on Mad Magazines. Then at a certain point it turned the corner and I spent it all on science fiction. My brothers Jimmy and Ed, my eldest two, had been huge science-fiction fans, so I have boxes and boxes of original 1950s and early ’60s pulp sci-fi that I read. It was so old, like you would turn the page and they would snap off. I still have most of them with rubber bands around them to hold them together, like old copies of Stranger in a Strange Land or Mutant by Henry Kuttner or C.M. Kornbluth, really old like nobody reads that stuff anymore.

How he got into comedy and why he didn’t pursue standup: I wanted to be an actor and discovered improvisation in Chicago through a friend who [invited me] to go see this thing called The Herald Improv. I saw it and I was immediately like, I want to do this. That was performance, scene work, ensemble, character. I’ve done things that are like standup since then. There’s a quality to any of the shows that has a standup component to it, and I admire standups, but I actually like playing with people. I find being onstage with just me and my jokes, the mic and audience is a lonely business. I don’t think I could have lived on the road like that.

Why he was ready to say goodbye to The Colbert Report: I still enjoyed it, but to model behavior, you have to consume that behavior on a regular basis. It became very hard to watch punditry of any kind, of whatever political stripe. I wouldn’t want anybody to mistake my comedy for engagement in punditry itself. And to change that expectation from an audience, or to change that need for me to be steeped in cable news and punditry, I had to actually leave. I had to change.

Toward the end of the last show, it was an act of discipline for me to continue to do the character. The discipline was not even just keeping the character’s point of view in mind or his agenda or a bible of his views, but there was also a need to not let people in, not let people see back stage—not necessarily know who I am so that the character can be the strongest suggestion in their mind when I do the show. If I let them know too much about me or our process, then I would be picking the character’s chicken. I don’t want to put so much light behind that particular stained glass or else he would fade completely.

Why it’s incorrect to think he never broke character in The Colbert Report: We would edit any mistake I ever did. People said, “Oh, you never broke” or “You rarely broke.” That’s because we always took it out, because part of the character was he wasn’t a f—up. He was absolutely always on point. Win. Get over. Stay sharp. That was his attitude all the time, and we had to reflect that in the production of the show. None of that is necessary anymore. Now I can be a comedian.

Whether his new show will resemble his old show in any way: You have to be willing to do everything you know how to do. Carson said it to Jay, who said it to Conan, who said it to me. These shows require everything you know how to do. So the idea that there are things that we did over there that we wouldn’t do at the new space, I think, is an unrealistic approach to the need. And whether it fits is a discovery to be made, not a philosophical exercise to engage in before you do it. It’s athletic, not intellectual.

What he did during his time off: My daughter is in college but I’ve got two boys at home. I helped my son go buy wood for his Eagle Scout project. Pick up the kids from school. Hang out with my wife. Go see some family. Went for an open ocean race, sailed.

What it’s been like preparing to take over The Late Show: Yogi Berra said this great thing—or he didn’t—which I love, but I’ve been thinking about a lot lately, which is, “In theory there’s no difference between theory and practice. In practice there is.” That’s what this is like. This is like, in theory what we’re doing with all these cards on the wall is really getting us ready to do the show in the fall. In practice, only doing the show in the fall gets you ready to do the show in the fall. So why am I doing all of these things? I don’t know, other than that’s what I do for a living, and if I don’t do it I feel like I’m not doing my job. I’m not learning anything if I don’t do it.

Why he hosted a public access TV show in Monroe, Mich. in July: I was like, I don’t want to do the first show on the first night that’s terrible. And one of my writers goes, “Why don’t we just go to a cable access station and do a show?” So we did a lot of research and then were like, we like that show. Let’s do Only in Monroe, and everything on the show has to be about Monroe. Monroe was nice. It’s a pretty little town. Had a great burger at Larson’s Bar. Though there were a lot of people in Monroe [who] thought we chose the wrong bar.

What it was like producing a show in a local TV station: Everybody at the station was just great. I mean, it was a state of the art station from 1999. We ran it live at midnight that night. We fed it out of a laptop over their system, practically with a rubber tube, to get it over their system. Their ratings are normally 12 people. I’m not joking. That’s not a joke. Twelve is their average rating for that show. And so there were 12 of us in the studio when we were feeding it out, and after it was over, I checked Twitter. No one had seen it. No one had said anything.

How he’s planning to introduce his audience to the real Stephen Colbert: We’ve got a series of field pieces, packages that are ways for me to try to figure out who that is, as if I don’t know who I am. The unexamined life can be extremely enjoyable, and who knows if I do know who I am. We’re going to see whether I do. I’ll have my own suppositions as to what these answers might be from people and see if their memory of me is the same or whether the police investigator we hired to investigate me finds out. We’re doing a series called “Who Am Me?”

Who he’s most excited to talk to for “Who Am Me?”: My elementary school teacher, my favorite teacher from elementary school, is just so excited. I had such a crush on her. I’m going to talk to her. I haven’t seen her since 1974 but I can’t believe that they found her. She moved away when I was 10 and then she came back just recently, so they found her down in Charleston.

How he approached set design for The Late Show: The number one thing about a theater is where is your focus: am I performing for the room that the camera is capturing, or am I performing for a camera that the room gets to see? That’s the question. I have an instinct as to which one of those it is, but I won’t know until I do it. How many play spaces will I have? Do I just want one? How do I adjust to the fact that I have a live band there every night, which is something I haven’t had before? How adaptable do I want this space to be, digitally? Do I want physical objects? How am I going to play with the fact that I have a balcony? How does it affect me that I go from three cameras to six cameras? All those sort of things that are kind of boring to talk about, but as the guy who sits at the desk and all this is around him, I care about all of it.

The set can’t be the star, but it still has to be very attractive. In some ways, we want the set to look like look that great new apartment Stephen got—I know why he took that show, I’d love to live there. It’s like we’re inviting you into my new pad without denying the existence of the theater. That’s the challenge: Can you create a set that lives within the reality that you’re in a theater but still has the intimacy? The show is extremely intimate, so you want a guide. How do you maintain that intimacy while acknowledging you’re in a Broadway theater at the same time?

What his plans are for the opening credits to the new show: I can’t tell you anything that’s going to be visual, but I can tell you that it was important to me that the city itself, New York, is part of the character of these shows, the energy of being in the city. We’re trying to capture some of the energy, the energy of a day of New York in the opening credits. And that’s what it’s about. It’s all over New York. We’re shooting all over the city.

How he thinks about what he will cover on the show: You have to basically sift through what you like and what you don’t like about performing, or what you really enjoy about your relationship with an audience. I have to give myself the patience to literally use my imagination and go—when I close my eyes—what would I enjoy seeing as a consumer? I don’t mean that as like market testing consumer, I’m literally a fan of comedy. What do I want to see on TV?

What he admired most about David Letterman: His disregard for status and respectability. That’s it. It reminded me of Mad Magazine that way. I love it. Those wrestling shoes he used to wear. That’s it. That’s the disregard for status, those wrestling shoes.

Whether David Letterman offered any advice before Colbert took the reins: We had a very lovely evening. He met me in his offices. He had a bottle of water and he answered questions. He was very nice about it. He just answered questions for about an hour and a half for me, and it was two guys with similar jobs talking shop. It was entirely pleasant, and he was very gracious to me. At the end of the night he showed me how to run the freight elevator and that was it…it was like being handed the keys to a car and someone just saying, “Let me show you how to use the clutch—it sticks.” It was beautiful.

Why he’s grateful that he was settled in life before getting this job: I feel very lucky that I got this kind of gig as old as I was. I was 41 before anybody stopped me on the street, so I hope I had a sense of who I was. I was married; I had all my kids; I had my house; my little suburban lifestyle with my Volvo and my khakis going to the dry cleaners on a Saturday. That’s me. I’m boring—not boring—I’m common. I don’t mean that pejoratively. I’m very common. I happen to have this job that very few people have but I’m very happy that I like khakis and an oxford cloth shirt. I like being boring to a certain extent. I don’t have to be flashy. I get to put all of that into a show and when it’s over I don’t have to be that.

How he knows whether a joke will work: After a while I don’t actually need to hear the audience to hear the audience. I know kind of what the rhythm is, theoretically, on a maybe 75 percent successful scale—like what might be a joke that would fit in a scene or a sketch or a monologue. But not having an audience is agonizing. I miss the audience so much. That’s the hardest part about right now, not being in front of anybody.

How his relationship to the audience has evolved: I learned from a director early on who said you got to learn to love the bomb, and that meant learning not just to feel like you’re going to get through it, but that you actually kind of like that you’re getting nothing from the audience. That took me a long time. It took many, many years for that to be okay. Then you’re really aware of your relationship with the audience. You’re not constantly asking. That’s a tough thing to do with an audience—go out there and constantly go, “Love me, love me, love me.” It’s much better to be perceiving their needs and giving, giving, giving to them. And then they’ll give you something genuine back.

Read next: Five Things You Learn in TIME’s Cover Story on Stephen Colbert

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TIME Music

The Rise of the Weeknd: ‘I Want to Make Pop Cool Again’

Apple

The "Can't Feel My Face" singer talks about his album Beauty Behind the Madness in the new issue of TIME

A lot has changed for the Weeknd—the intentionally misspelled musical project of 25-year-old Abel Tesfaye—since he dropped a series of mixtapes in 2011. Back then, the Toronto native was releasing nightmarish odes to getting high and getting laid while steering clear of attention. Now, he’s working with some of the biggest hitmakers in the world, he scored a No. 1 single with “Can’t Feel My Face,” and he’s about to release one of the most anticipated albums of the summer, Beauty Behind the Madness.

But as he lets you know on the album’s Kanye West-produced track “Tell Your Friends,” he’s “still that n—a with the hair singing ‘bout popping’ pills, f—ing b-tches.” He’s more comfortable in the spotlight now, but Tesfaye’s rise to stardom may have more to do with the mainstream accommodating him than the other way around. “The game is changing with songs like ‘Earned It’”—his hit from the Fifty Shades of Grey soundtrack—”as opposed to it changing me,” he tells TIME over email for the new issue hitting stands this Friday. Below, some of the highlights from the interview:

On his decision to embrace the spotlight:

“My cult following is so strong already. Thanks to my fans that have been with me from the beginning, I was able to sell out arenas on my own. I just felt like I was selling myself short. The last album [2013’s Kiss Land] was rushed. Even though I’m proud of it, I didn’t get to spend as much time as I wanted, but it was a great learning experience. I took my time with my new album. I learned, I studied and I delivered. I want the world to hear my music and see the movement my fans and I have created.”

On the breakthrough success of “Earned It”:

“I was arousing people’s curiosity. I think the game is changing with songs like ‘Earned It’ as opposed to it changing me because ‘Earned It’ was very important. It was slow, it was sexy and it was smooth—all traits in my music. ‘Earned It’ made people believe that I was my own hit maker, and we’re seeing that again now with ‘The Hills.’ It made me feel confident in myself before I started connecting with the monster hit makers.”

On his relationship with the controversial “alternative R&B” label often applied to him:

“Alternative R&B is in my soul. It’s not going anywhere. When I put out songs from House of Balloons in 2010 people said I made R&B cool again. I’m assuming that’s when the label was created. I feel honored that a good part of today’s music is inspired by it, consciously or subconsciously. The only way I could have done that was to be ambitious and grand. That’s what I want to do with Beauty Behind The Madness. I want to make pop cool again, and the only way I can do that is by being ambitious and grand.”

On preserving his identity in the studio with veteran producer Max Martin:

“At first I had to make it clear that when any producers work on my album, they have to come into my world. Max and I bashed heads, but it only made our relationship stronger. I knew that I was jumping into different waters and he knew he was working with a different kind of artist.”

TIME Television

Five Things You Learn in TIME’s Cover Story on Stephen Colbert

[time brightcove videoid=4441763655001]

Doing doughnuts in the Waffle House parking lot, the origin of his accent and more

This week’s TIME cover story is a profile of Stephen Colbert by James Poniewozik, who met with Colbert at the Ed Sullivan Theater—where CBS’s The Late Show has been filmed since the early ‘90s—to learn more about his plans as he prepares to take the helm of the iconic late night show on Sept. 8. In a far-reaching interview, Colbert spoke about transitioning out of his fictional character on Comedy Central’s The Colbert Report, the conflating of news and comedy and the pronunciation of his last name.

Here are five things we learned:

He was occasionally reckless as a child. For a series of segments for The Late Show, Colbert’s staff visited his hometown to interview friends and acquaintances about what he was like as a young man. The anecdotes they collected include stories about bold moves in the car—fender benders and doughnuts in the Waffle House parking lot, to name a couple—and his accidental destruction of his mother’s crystal chandelier with a football. “I took all the crystals off,” he says, “hundreds of crystals, and rehung them in a new pattern. She never noticed. I told her 30 years later.”

He chose the pronunciation of his last name. When Colbert was younger, his parents allowed him to choose between emphasizing the first or second syllable of his last name. He chose to pronounce it “col-BEAR,” thinking it had a more worldly ring to it. The South Carolina-bred comedian also worked deliberately to shed his Southern accent.

He’s great at trivia. While showing Poniewozik around the theater, Colbert spouted a wealth of knowledge about the building’s history (the original 1950s CBS eye logo, for one thing, was designed by William Golden). He also mentioned, unsolicited, that Abe Lincoln was a wrestler with a penchant for yelling “I’m the big buck of this lick!” and challenging strangers to fight.

He’s a self-described control freak: Colbert weighed in heavily on the set redesign for The Late Show, as production crews worked to replace David Letterman’s style with that of his successor. He had opinions on everything from the upholstery to the exposed brick walls to the layout of mirrors in the guest makeup room. “I’m a complete obsessive-compulsive control freak,” he says. “I like to know where the data cable is coming in from the street.”

He worried that some fans of The Colbert Report saw him as a political figure more than a comedian. Many audience members saw Colbert, as Poniewozik explains, almost as a “political folk hero.” But his primary goal was always comedy. “People had [political] expectations early on in that show following the Correspondents’ Dinner, which is why I almost never spoke about that,” Colbert says, referring to his blistering takedown of President George W. Bush in 2006. “I didn’t want people’s expectations that I was anyone’s champion to overcome our intention, which was comedy. I don’t want to be anybody’s champion. That doesn’t sound funny.”

TIME Television

The Creepy Alternate Ending for Friends That’s Gone Viral

Caution: If you read this, Friends will never quite be the same for you again

On May 6, 2004, millions of hearts broke as Monica, Chandler, Ross, Rachel, Joey and Phoebe said one final goodbye to the apartment, left their keys on the counter and walked out to get one last coffee at Central Perk in the emotional Friends series finale.

But what if the iconic TV show had ended differently?

A Twitter user called @strnks has a theory. And it’s a far cry from the sad but heartwarming final scene of the 10-season sitcom.

In the alternate ending, there are only five friends. Their names wouldn’t be Monica, Chandler, Joey, Ross and Rachel — those identities, as well as the events of the show itself, are the figments of the imagination of a homeless, meth-addict Phoebe as she stares at them through the window of their favorite coffee shop.

There are several references during the show to Phoebe’s character previously having lived on the streets, and this ending — which has since gone viral fits in quite well with that.

Still, we’re glad @strnks (whose Twitter bio says he is a designer) wasn’t one of the show’s writers.

Here’s the entire alternate ending, which will give you chills.

Read next: Joey and Chandler Didn’t Go to Rachel’s Wedding

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TIME celebrities

Ed Sheeran Says That His Huge Lion Tattoo Is in Fact Real

Were you fooled into thinking it was fake?

Halfway and ouch

A photo posted by @teddysphotos on

The joke’s on you, Ed Sheeran fans — the 24-year-old pop singer now says that his massive lion tattoo is, in fact, completely real.

Sheeran first posted a picture of a half-finished lion tattoo emblazoned on his chest, meant to honor England’s soccer-team mascot, on Instagram in early August.

Then, early on Wednesday, he posted another picture showing his bare chest, with no lion in sight. He said that the news of the tattoo had always just been an elaborate prank.

Was only joking about the lion

A photo posted by @teddysphotos on

But, trickster that he is, Sheeran then admitted only a few hours later that his alleged prank was in fact, a prank in and of itself. According to his latest Instagram post, the tattoo is still very much there and was only covered up for a TV show.

Only joking, covered it up for a TV show didn't I

A photo posted by @teddysphotos on

His tattoo artist, Kevin Paul, says there’s much more work to be done in the future on the lion tattoo and on many others.

TIME Books

Terry Pratchett’s Final Novel The Shepherd’s Crown Has Been Published Posthumously

Terry Pratchett Portrait Shoot
SFX Magazine—2013 Future Publishing Portrait of English fantasy author Sir Terry Pratchett, photographed to promote the 40th novel in his Discworld series, Raising Steam, on September 18, 2013.

The Shepherd's Crown is the 41st installation in Pratchett's Discworld series

Bookstores across the U.K. and British Commonwealth released Terry Pratchett’s final novel on Wednesday night, five and a half months after the celebrated fantasy writer died of Alzheimer’s disease.

The Shepherd’s Crown is the 41st book in Pratchett’s Discworld series, a collection of fantasy works that rejuvenated the clichés of the genre by infusing them with comedy and an angle of social commentary. The franchise began with Pratchett’s first novel, The Colour of Magic, published in 1983. The Shepherd’s Crown is his last, written throughout his worsening struggle with Alzheimer’s.

“It was a hard book to complete because Terry’s health was declining in the last year,” Rob Wilkins, a friend of the author’s, told the BBC. “But he was still enjoying the writing.”

Many bookstores across the U.K. held midnight launch parties to celebrate the book’s publication. Within hours of its release, a number of Pratchett’s fans took to the Internet to say they had already finished reading it.

TIME Music

Tyler, the Creator Says He’s Banned From Entering the U.K.

Tyler, The Creator performs live on Day Three of the Osheaga Music and Arts Festival on Aug. 2, 2015 in Montreal.
Emma McIntyre—Getty Images Tyler, the Creator performs live on Day Three of the Osheaga Music and Arts Festival on Aug. 2, 2015, in Montreal

He canceled four performances on Monday

Rapper Tyler, the Creator says he’s been banned from entering the U.K. because of lyrics from his 2009 album, Bastard.

The rapper, born Tyler Gregory Okonma, canceled four performances in the country on Monday, cryptically blaming it at the time on “circumstances” that were “beyond my control.”

Okonma has been criticized for the violent, often homophobic nature of his music, with one writer accusing the artist of “rape and murder fantasies graphic enough to send the vomit rising along with the bile.”

Okonma’s manager, Christian Clancy, posted a statement on his Tumblr, saying the British Home Department had sent a letter banning his client for three to five years based on work that “encourages violence and intolerance of homosexuality.” Clancy accused the British government of censorship and inconsistency, pointing out that Okonma had visited the country several times over the past few years.

Earlier this summer, Okonma tweeted about being banned from Australia, but it turned out a feminist-advocacy group, Collective Shout, had campaigned to keep him out of the country, and that the rapper and his touring company canceled the Australian stop. Australia’s Immigration Department confirmed at the time that his visa application was being examined but said that no final decision had been made.

On Wednesday, Okonma tweeted his confusion about the situation.

TIME Television

Mr. Robot Finale Delayed for a Week Due to TV Shooting Similarities

Mr. Robot Episode 104 --fsociety
Peter Kramer—USA Network/NBCU Photo Bank/Getty Images Mr. Robot Episode 104 --fsociety

The show that was supposed to air Wednesday contains a "graphic scene similar in nature to today's tragic events in Virginia"

Mr. Robot, a drama about a vigilante hacker that airs on the USA Network, will delay Wednesday’s season finale to September 2 due to a “graphic scene similar in nature to today’s tragic events in Virginia.”

“Out of respect to the victims, their families and colleagues, and our viewers, we are postponing tonight’s episode,” the network said in a statement, referring to the live television shooting of WDBJ reporter Alison Parker and cameraman Adam Ward early Wednesday. “Our thoughts go out to all those affected during this difficult time.”

Parker and Ward were shot on air by Vester Lee Flanagan II, known on air at WDBJ as Bryce Williams, who used to work at the station. Flanagan later died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound, authorities said.

 

TIME celebrity

Watch Amy Schumer Rap a Kanye West Song With Talib Kweli

"You mean Talib? Lyrics sticks to your rib"

You probably know Amy Schumer as a writer, actress and a comedian, but the Trainwreck star just proved she’s actually a quadruple threat, because she also raps.

Schumer joined rapper Talib Kweli at a Chicago venue Tuesday night for a joint show, where they teamed up to perform Kanye West’s 2004 hit “Get ‘Em High.” The song was originally a collaboration between Kanye West, Talib Kweli and Common, but Schumer totally held her own. She proudly posted a clip of her performance on Instagram Wednesday:

You mean Talib Lyrics stick to your rib

A video posted by @amyschumer on

And here’s a slightly longer clip:

So THAT happened! @TalibKweli feat. DJ Fudge (aka @amyschumer).

A video posted by Sarah Spain (@spain2323) on

 

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