December 31, 2007
Anna Christopher, NPR



“In Character” Includes Choices of Educators, Critics,
Playwrights and Journalists; Listener Choices Sought

December 31, 2007; Washington, D.C. – From Willy Loman to Mudbone…the Lone Ranger to Lassie…Eve Harrington to Holden Caulfield to Bugs Bunny. The great characters that have emerged from American fiction, entertainment and folklore have also defined the country’s moods, fears, frailties, hopes and dreams.

NPR News continues its award-winning tradition of exploring American culture and tradition through in-depth, long-form journalism with a new six-month series examining classic fictional characters and how they both reflected and affected American life. “In Character,” a multimedia series, begins January 2 and will air across all NPR News programs. Virtually all NPR News hosts, correspondents and reporters will provide segments. At, “In Character” will feature additional audio and video material about the characters profiled in the series, archived stories and a series blog:

Each “In Character” profiles a distinct fictional personality from literature, theatre, film, television or popular culture; captures the character’s origins and looks at its impact on American life. Using interviews, extensive audio and archive material, segments will explore a character’s universal qualities, the creator’s experience, the larger social context in which it was developed and how it ultimately captured the political, cultural or social climate – in a particular slice of time or through generations.

“Fictional characters are often the vehicles that reflect something about society at large as well as the individual experience,” said Elizabeth Blair, NPR News Arts and Information Desk senior producer and the series’ lead editor. “Whether we are profiling a hero or villain, a sidekick or a rabbit, we hope each segment will offer insight into each character’s spirit and, in turn, teach us something about ourselves.”

The initial list of characters was created with input from educators, playwrights, critics and journalists, in conjunction with the Arts and Information Desk. Listeners can make suggestions for future “In Character” profiles by submitting 150-word essays to; selected listener essays will also appear on

The first segments are (schedule subject to change):

January 2 – “News & Notes” – Mudbone
The legendary Richard Pryor’s alter ego told high-octane truth masked inside humor – the definitive older relative who’s reached that age where he can say absolutely anything without consequences. Mudbone inimitably relayed the truth of life, love and race relations.

January 6 – “Weekend Edition Sunday” – Bugs Bunny
The wisecracking, occasionally cross-dressing rabbit with a New York accent isn't the kindest of archetypes, but he’s got a comedic cousin in virtually every culture around the world.

January 7 – “Morning Edition” – Lassie
Spanning books, radio, movies and television – and generations – the seemingly-perfect dog demonstrated such intelligence and high standards that real-life pet owners expected their own collies to perform in kind.

January 19 – “Weekend Edition Saturday” – Holden Caulfield
Born in J. D. Salinger's seminal 1951 novel Catcher in the Rye, Caulfield defined the psyche of American adolesence and captured teenaged cynicism, isolation and angst for generations.

Additional upcoming segments profile The Lone Ranger (“All Things Considered,” January 14), Uncle Ben (“Tell Me More,” January 16), Eve Harrington (“Morning Edition,” January 21), Little Miss Sunshine (“The Bryant Park Project,” January 23), Pollyanna (“Weekend Edition Sunday,” January 27), Scarlett O’Hara (“All Things Considered,” January 28) and Jim from The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (“News & Notes,” January 30).

In 2000, NPR received a George Foster Peabody Award for “NPR 100,” a year-long series highlighting the most important American musical works of the 20th century. In 2002, the long-form series format was used again with the series “Present at the Creation,” examining the creative process behind dozens of uniquely American icons, like Monopoly and the Hollywood Sign.

Laura Bertran is Executive Producer of “In Character.”