Hundreds gathered at New York City’s 92nd Street Y on Tuesday night to discuss Harper Lee‘s controversial new novel Go Set a Watchman with Mary Badham, the actress who took on the role of Scout in the 1962 film version of the author’s first book.
Badham, now 62, played Jean Louise, a.k.a. Scout, in Lee’s beloved classic To Kill a Mockingbird.
Go Set a Watchman, the follow-up to Mockingbird that was 55 years in the making, centers on Scout, who returns home to Maycomb, Alabama, from New York City to visit her ailing father, Atticus Finch. The novel went on sale Tuesday.
Fans and critics alike have been fairly outspoken about their disappointment with several of the main plot points, including the death of a major character from the first book and the startling revelation that Atticus, Mockingbird‘s beloved, humane lawyer, is now a bigot.
Badham read from Watchman to an audience of 900 at the venue’s Kaufmann Concert Hall, selecting excerpts to share with the crowd, according to The New York Times.
The actress, who received an Oscar nomination for her portrayal, fielded questions about both books, and she spoke candidly about the status of race relations in America today.
Badham told attendees that she found the new characterization of Atticus, who was played by Gregory Peck in the film, fascinating, explaining that many children see their parents differently with age, according to the Times.
“As we all do, we look back on things and see our parents in a new light,” she said. “We see their flaws, sometimes understand their flaws, and still love them.”
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The actress also revealed she hadn’t read Mockingbird until after her daughter was born 32 years ago and that she struggled with her last line in the film because she wasn’t ready to “say goodbye to all these people I had come to love.”
Watchman was discovered in a safe deposit box by Lee’s lawyer in 2014, who sent the text to publisher HarperCollins. The author is now 89 and lives in a nursing home.
When the novel was announced back in February, Lee said in a statement, “I am humbled and amazed that this will now be published after all these years.”