Shriver explores world of working poor

Maria Shriver may not be a television news regular these days, but her interest in the world around her hasn’t lessened.

The NBC News special correspondent likely would contend it only has increased, given her role in such initiatives as “The Alzheimer’s Project” — the award-winning HBO documentary largely inspired by the experience of Shriver’s late father, politician and activist Sargent Shriver, with the disease — and her recently issued Shriver Report (available at www.shriverreport.org) subtitled “A Woman’s Nation Pushes Back From the Brink,” about women and children living on the poverty line in modern America.

Related to the report is “Paycheck to Paycheck: The Life &Times of Katrina Gilbert,” a documentary Shriver executive-produced for HBO, where it debuts tonight (and will be offered free the following week at HBO.com, ShriverReport.org and YouTube.com). It follows a single mother of three in Chattanooga, Tenn., as she tries to provide for herself and her young children as a nursing assistant while trying to better her situation.

Shriver recently talked about the effect she wants the program to have not only on viewers, but on legislators who can impact the issues it addresses.

Q: Are you happy with the documentary?

A: First, I’m really happy that HBO wanted to partner on the subject. I think Katrina’s story exemplifies all the issues we talked about in the report, so you see a real life that all the poll numbers and graphs depict. You see what happens when someone is trying to live off the paycheck they’re working hard for, and they can’t make ends meet.

When they want to go back to school, what happens? When they want to have the father involved in their children’s lives, what happens? You also see how hard it is to be economically mature, and I feel good that the film presents a look at an issue as it comes together.

Q: How did you discover Katrina?

A: … We looked at several people, and the filmmakers felt Katrina was the best example of everything the report covered — women who started out in relationships and never thought they’d end up as single mothers do; they’re trying to keep a job, and they’re trying to balance services with a certain amount of the money.

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