Skip to main content









Donation Heart Ribbon

AMERICAN MASTERS: Harper Lee: Hey, Boo

Airs Monday, Feb. 29, 2016 at 10 p.m. on KPBS TV

Pulitzer Prize-winning

Credit: Courtesy of Donald Uhrbrock/Time Life Pictures/Getty Images

Above: Pulitzer Prize-winning "To Kill a Mockingbird" author Harper Lee in a local courthouse while visiting her home town.

AMERICAN MASTERS explores the phenomenon behind "To Kill a Mockingbird" and the mysterious life of its Pulitzer Prize-winning author, including why she never published again in "Harper Lee: Hey, Boo."

Offering an unprecedented look into Lee’s mysterious life, Emmy®-winning filmmaker Mary McDonagh Murphy (author of "Scout, Atticus & Boo: A Celebration of To Kill a Mockingbird") interviews Lee’s friends and family, including her centenarian sister Alice, who share intimate recollections, anecdotes and biographical details for the first time: her rise from small-town Alabama girl to famous author, her tumultuous friendship with Truman Capote, and the origin of her most memorable characters: Atticus Finch, his daughter Scout, her friend Dill, and Boo Radley.

The documentary reveals the context and history of the novel’s Deep South setting, and the social changes it inspired after publication. The popular film version, starring Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch, leaves an enduring image for the novel’s message.

Tom Brokaw, Rosanne Cash, Anna Quindlen, Scott Turow, Oprah Winfrey and others reflect on the novel’s power, influence, popularity, and the ways it has shaped their lives.

This film originally aired in 2012.

Past episodes and clips from AMERICAN MASTERS are available for online viewing. AMERICAN MASTERS is on Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr, and you can follow @PBSAmerMasters on Twitter.

AMERICAN MASTERS: Harper Lee: Hey, Boo Preview

Harper Lee: Hey, Boo: Outtakes: James McBride

James McBride, author of the memoir "The Color of Water," discusses how Harper Lee used the voice of her protagonists in "To Kill a Mockingbird" to bravely provide an accessible and radical point of view about racism in 1960. He describes and how today’s authors can expand upon Lee’s views.

Harper Lee: Hey, Boo: Outtakes: Richard Russo

Novelist Richard Russo describes how he reluctantly read "To Kill a Mockingbird" as a student in Catholic school. Russo explains how the relationships described in the book influenced him as a writer and provided inspiration for his own characters in his Pulitzer prize-winning novel, "Empire Falls."

Harper Lee: Hey, Boo: Outtakes: Allan Gurganus

Allan Gurganus, author of "Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All" and "The Practical Heart," discusses the ways that Harper Lee’s novel "To Kill a Mockingbird" influenced him as an adolescent. The novelist’s ability to distill national issues into a local, familiar setting, he says, made him excited about literature.

Harper Lee: Hey, Boo: Outtakes: Mark Childress

Mark Childress, author of "Crazy in Alabama," describes how Harper Lee’s protagonist Scout Finch, the narrator of "To Kill a Mockingbird," was a radical voice of change in the segregated south of his childhood.

Harper Lee: Hey, Boo: Outtakes: Wally Lamb

Wally Lamb, author of the critically acclaimed "She’s Come Undone" and "I Know This Much Is True" and former Director of Creative Writing at University of Connecticut, discusses Scout’s universally sympathetic voice and the ways in which "To Kill a Mockingbird" and all literature can act as an agent of change.

Want more KPBS news?
Find us on Twitter and Facebook, or subscribe to our newsletters.

To view PDF documents, Download Acrobat Reader.