Good People

Good People puts 'a human element' to today's biggest problems

In ‘Good People’ Mark Sakamoto tracks down the people who’ve come up with real ways to fix our biggest problems

In ‘Good People’ Mark Sakamoto talks to the people who’ve come up with new ways to fix our toughest challenges

Host Mark Sakamoto travels across North America looking at the big problems we face as a society, and the people who are helping find innovative solutions. 1:13

On Good People, author Mark Sakamoto travels across North America looking at some of the biggest problems of our age— homelessness, addiction, what we do with the masses of waste we create — and meets people tackling these problems head on. He talks to people who've found innovative solutions, and learns about the path that led them to those solutions. 

He talked to us about the project, why it matters, and how he saw hope in some of the darkest situations. 

CBC: What was the elevator pitch for the Good People? Describe the show in a few sentences.

Mark Sakamoto, creator and host: Good People starts from the premise that the problems we face today are not insurmountable. In fact, more often than not, a solution is closer than we think. Each episode unpacks a significant problem that at its very worst and then travels to a place that has made significant headway in solving the issue. Good People seeks out hope.

CBC: Why did you want to make this show?

MS: I wanted to look at these problems head-on and talk to the folks that were in the midst of them. I wanted to use this platform to elevate their voices. Almost to a person, those suffering gave a uniform message: I don't want to be in this situation. And, with just a little help, I think I can make it out of this. I can lead a better life. And you know what? They were right. Time and time again, I met people recovering from seemingly impossible situations. 

Mark Sakamoto dives deep into Canadian society's biggest challenges in Good People. (CBC/Good People)

CBC: What makes a person "good people?"

That's not quite the lens through which we saw people: good versus not good. We tried our best to find each person where they were. We wanted to understand their journey to date and where they wanted to take their life. The most resilient folks we met were living in the most challenging of circumstances, struggling to put the pieces of their life back together. 

CBC: How did you decide which issues you wanted to tackle?

MS: I suppose I gravitated to issues that were, in some way, close to my own experiences. My mom was tour de force. I mean a real firecracker. Then she got sick and drank herself to death. I can't tell you what I would do to make that sentence untrue. By the time she passed away, she was living a life of abject poverty. So our first episode was on homelessness. It took me back to my hometown of Medicine Hat, Alta. It took me back to my mom in the final stages of her life. It was so hard to unpack all the stuff I had emotionally sealed up and stored away. But even in that episode, I think we came away with tangible solutions to deal with homelessness. I never would have expected my hometown to lead the charge against homelessness.

Some of the brightest lights in the show, in terms of hopefulness, came in the darkest places.- Mark Sakamoto

CBC: What was the most surprising thing you discovered in making this show?

MS: The show put me in places that I'd never really dreamed of being. Being in a tent city in Hamilton as an example, I was scared just to go in, I couldn't imagine that environment as a place to live. But what was surprising about those places and spending time with those folks was the resilience and strength. Some of the brightest lights in the show, in terms of hopefulness, came in the darkest places. It really put a human element to these problems that are so big they get caught up in numbers and stats 'X amount of homeless people, X amount of opioid overdoses." And those numbers whitewash the actual human story. 

CBC: What do you want to do next with this project?

MS: I wanna sit back and see how folks take to it. I'm interested to see if it sparks conversations beyond the airwaves and the Internet, and really amplify solutions that scale. It's a dream project, in a way, right? Unpack some really big, hairy problems that are impacting a lot of people, and try and find really interesting ways that people around the continent have addressed these issues and made some really positive changes. So to be able to amplify that is really an honour. 

Watch Good People on CBC Gem, debuting May 8