MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:
Now we might have a little something for the young readers on our holiday shopping list. It's from an A-list Hollywood performer. Taye Diggs has starred on the small screen in series such as "Private Practice" and on the big screen in "The Best Man" and "Best Man Holliday." This summer, he won rave reviews on Broadway starring in "Hedwig And The Angry Inch." But right now, social media is buzzing over his latest project. It's a children's book. It's called "Mixed Me!" And it was inspired by his son Walker, who is biracial. Recently, I spoke with about it, and I asked him why he wanted to write this book now.
TAYE DIGGS: You know, I go to pick up and drop my son off at school, it seems like every other kid I see looks very, very similar to him. And when I was growing up, that wasn't the case. You know, we saw somebody with fair skin and curly hair and perhaps light eyes and we immediately assumed that that kid was mixed. And then, you know, as a child, I would ask the questions, you know, which parent was black? Which parent as white? Which parent did the child relate to more? And then throughout the years, I would cobble up my own explanations as to why this mixed person, you know, preferred to date lighter or darker. But these days, it's all different, and I'm thankful for that. I wrote the book just in case there were questions and to definitely highlight who my son is and how he should feel about himself, regardless of how he's viewed by the outside world.
MARTIN: There's a line in the book where you say, see? My dad's a deep brown and my mom's rich cream and honey. Then people see me and they look at us funny. Has that happened to you?
DIGGS: Has it happened to me? No, no, luckily - at least not...
MARTIN: As a family, I mean.
DIGGS: I mean, you know what? Not as a father, but as husband and as a boyfriend. You know, when I've had a non-African-American on my arm, I've gotten many, many looks and most of them funny. But Walker, you know, I have not witnessed it. He has not reported to me that he's had any issues thus far.
MARTIN: Well, yeah, parents with children whose race differs from their own can get rude questions. And I'm betting in your case, it's probably kind of tricky because you and your former wife, his mom, are both public figures. Of course, his mom is actress Idina Menzel, who's known to most kids in the...
MARTIN: ...World as the voice of...
DIGGS: As Elsa.
MARTIN: ...Elsa in "Frozen."
DIGGS: Yeah, so it's a little easier for us, actually.
MARTIN: Is it easier or harder? I mean, because...
DIGGS: Yeah, just because people...
MARTIN: ...You're not real sure where the energy's coming from, right?
DIGGS: Just because people know us, and I almost feel like people gave us a pass because we were kind of well-known figures, whereas if we were, quote, unquote, "regular folks," maybe we would've gotten treated a little differently. People might've just rolled their eyes and said well, you know, they're artist types so they're allowed.
MARTIN: So where do the experiences come from, the impressions that you give and the feelings? You're saying your son hasn't raised these issues yet - maybe he's still little - but other experiences that you've seen, or is this your kind of creative imagination?
DIGGS: Those are the questions that I grew up with. I mean, I've got a grip of friends that have been called light-skinned, high yellow, mixed, Spanish, the list goes on and on. And just hearing their accounts of what it was like to grow up and having to choose a group to kind of align themselves with - you know, if you were mixed and chose to date outside the black race, you were looked at differently. And then no one - it never seems as if anybody, white or black, really acknowledged the white side of the family. So I've had to deal with all of that through friends and family.
MARTIN: Does your son think it's really cool that his dad wrote a book inspired by him, or does he think everybody's dead writes them a book?
DIGGS: Neither. He thinks it's cool when I read it to him, but it's not like he goes to school and brags, you know? All of this is fairly commonplace, which happens, you know, when you grow up seeing both your parents on billboards on Broadway, and none of this really matters to him.
MARTIN: It doesn't faze him.
DIGGS: I wish it would matter a little bit more.
MARTIN: You want him to be a little bit more impressed, right? I'm busy. I don't have...
DIGGS: I'm Taye Diggs. You better listen to me, boy.
MARTIN: It's me, man.
DIGGS: But that doesn't - that doesn't seem to matter much to him (laughter).
MARTIN: Actor Taye Diggs is the author, most recently of "Mixed Me!" It's his latest children's book. It was illustrated by Shane Evans, and we reached him in California. Thank you so much for speaking with us.
DIGGS: Thank you. It feels good to finally talk about a lot of these issues, and I'm hoping that people will enjoy the book.
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