BEVERLY HILLS - The first thing to know about Norman Lear is that he's always producing.
As I sat down to interview the All in the Family creator about Norman Lear: Just Another Version of You, the American Masters film that makes its TV debut Tuesday on PBS, he was trying to interest me in a story back home in Pennsylvania, about one of the companies in Lititz, the small Lancaster County town where some of the biggest names in music go for everything from sound to sets.
"They build 70, 80 percent of all those major sets that the U2s and the Madonnas and the Katy Perrys [use in their shows]. They build them right there in Lititz," he said.
"You should know about this company," Tait Towers, the focus of a 2013 docu-series Tait Stages.
I agreed that I should. But I was there in the summer of 2015 to talk with Lear about Lear. He had turned 93 a few days earlier, and the publicists at PBS apparently had decided not to wait to do press for a film whose airdate was then more than a year away.
Maybe they knew how busy he'd be later?
Lear is now 94. He's producing a remake of his One Day at a Time, starring Rita Moreno and Justina Machado, that's scheduled to premiere Jan. 6 on Netflix, and he recently served as both an executive producer and a field correspondent in Epix's documentary miniseries America Divided.
Just Another Version of You, which had a limited theatrical run in August, was directed by Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady.
"They're terrific," Lear said. "I think I'm in good hands."
American Masters had asked him to be one of its subjects long before he began work on his 2014 autobiography, Even This I Get to Experience, he said.
"I had no specific reason that I can remember why I didn't. I was busy. You know, it just wasn't the right time. Perhaps not the right people asking me. But while I was writing the book, before it was published, the right people came along, the right timing," he said. "I could see when I finished the book, this would be perfect."
When I prefaced a question about how the process worked by saying that I'd never have an American Masters done about me, Lear interrupted.
"Who told you that?" he said.
"The process is, occasionally, there'll be a camera following me, and the rest of it is allowing them to dig through everything I've been doing. All my videos, all my interviews. That's the process for me. It's no process," he said, laughing.
"I guess we could call it the process of letting go."
Based on the range of clips in the film, Lear has held on to a lot of evidence of a career that's in its seventh decade.
"I've had a great team for a great many years that have kept everything," he said.
Was it hard for him as a producer to have others producing a show about him?
"Yeah. It's easier now than it was 10 years ago. Easier 10 years ago than it was 10 years before that. But most of the people, I guess, close to me would say they're surprised at how much, and how well, I've let go."
It's something he's trying to practice as a producer, too.
For the new One Day at a Time, which will focus on three generations of a Cuban American family, "I'm not going to produce it the way I used to, which is to say, I was in the trenches. I want to get it started and get it on its feet and look in," he said.
"In my second career, or however that should be put, I'm going to be Brian Grazer," joked Lear, referring to the producer who cofounded Imagine Entertainment with Ron Howard. "You're going to see my name attached to a lot of things."
He certainly wasn't seeing his American Masters moment as any kind of ending.
"I love the image of the grappling hook. You know, you've got a grappling hook ahead of you, and you're pulling yourself toward it, and the minute you get near it, you've got to throw out another hook," he said.
"So there's always something you have to pull your way to. I love that metaphor. So that's the way I feel about life - waking up in the morning. Every week, there's something ahead that I've got to get to. But there'll be three more grappling hooks before I get there."