‘Finding Your Roots’ Dives Into Glenn Close’s & John Waters’ Pasts for Season 7

John Waters in Finding Your Roots
Photo by Greg Gorman, courtesy of McGee Media
(Credit: Photo by Greg Gorman, courtesy of McGee Media)

You never know what skeletons are in someone’s genealogical closet. And few are as adept at melding personal and cultural histories as Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr., now in his seventh fascinating season of exploring celebrity guests’ ancestries on Finding Your Roots.

“Your family tree drips with drama,” Gates tells the delighted cult filmmaker John Waters (Hairspray) as he pages through a “Book of Life” filled with ancient records.

“It sounds like a movie scene I’d write,” Waters remarks upon being treated to a newspaper clipping of a forefather’s bizarrely random death. Both he and actress Glenn Close are dismayed to learn of slaveholders in their families’ privileged pasts.

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“It makes me feel a sense of shame,” says Close, in contrast to feeling “stronger” when told of Quaker and Puritan ancestors who helped found the nation in its Colonial days.

But Close also discovers that Princess Diana and Clint Eastwood are both distant cousins

“It’s like you’re a microcosm of the American experience in all of its complexity,” Gates tells her.

Finding Your Roots, Season 7 Premiere, Tuesday, January 19, 8/7c, PBS (check local listings at pbs.org)