Harvard scholar Henry Louis Gates Jr. has a new genetics-tracking show for PBS. He started with "African American Lives 1 and 2" and "Oprah's Roots" and now is producing and hosting "Faces of America, " a four-episode miniseries.
His guests for DNA detective work this time includes poet Elizabeth Alexander, chef Mario Batali, comedian Stephen Colbert, novelist Louise Erdrich, journalist Malcolm Gladwell, actress Eva Longoria, musician Yo-Yo Ma, director Mike Nichols, Queen Noor of Jordan, Dr. Mehmet Oz, actress Meryl Streep and figure skater Kristi Yamaguchi.
"Basically, I just come up with names, people I want to meet or people I admire," Gates said. "I call it the Noah's Ark approach. 'African American Lives' was so popular, I got thousands of letters from people -- I mean, literally -- who weren't black, saying, 'How about me?'"
Gates' genetic research shows that Eva Longoria, who had family in what is now Texas before the Mayflower landed, and Yo-Yo Ma, whose lineage can be tracked to 1217 because an ancestor hid genealogical records from Chairman Mao, are distant cousins. Others on the celebrity roster are related as well.
"This is a series about America, " Gates said. "All of us, we are a nation of immigrants. It's a series about immigration.
The thing that intrigues me about all this is that it breaks many of our long-held preconceptions about our relatives. The series reportedly shows the relationship of Yo-Yo Ma, a Chinese man, to Eva Longoria. It will also show a number of other "unexpected relationships." Of course, Gates was a well known Black History professor who eventually discovered that he has more white ancestry than black.
We are, indeed, a melting pot nation.