“Prohibition” takes viewers from early 19th century efforts at “temperance” to 1920, when prohibition was enacted as a reaction to massive changes in American society, to 1933, when it is repudiated and repealed. Just how America changes over this period is reflected in the titles of the three installments: “A Nation of Drunkards,” “A Nation of Scofflaws,” “A Nation of Hypocrites.”
The series, narrated by Peter Coyote, features music by jazz great Wynton Marsalis, as well as the voices of actors Tom Hanks, Jeremy Irons, Paul Giamatti, Oliver Platt, John Lithgow, Samuel L. Jackson, Patricia Clarkson, Sam Waterston, and others.
Below is more of what Burns had to say, edited and condensed.
How did the project come about?
I bumped into Dan Okrent on the Brooklyn Bridge. You know, [the bridge] was the subject of my first film. I was pushing, then, a newborn baby, my little gal, over the Brooklyn Bridge, and I bumped into Dan and he said, “I know what your next film is going to be....”