"Meryl Streep thought she was Dutch," the scholar told a crowd at the W Hotel during a reception honoring him last night, "and I had to break her heart and tell her she wasn't."
The last time Henry Louis Gates Jr. caused a stir in Washington it was because he was having a beer with the President. On Wednesday night, Gates showed off his prowess as a scholar and professor thanks to his PBS documentary "Faces of America."
"What we've done in this series is celebrate our diversity that for centuries America was in denial about," said Gates.
Gates, with the help of scientists from Harvard and MIT, traced the genealogy of 12 famous Americans -- Stephen Colbert, Eva Longoria, Yo Yo Ma and Meryl Streep, to name a few.
"Eva Longoria's ancestors came [to the United States] in 1603, 17 years before the Mayflower. Ain't that bad?" Gates said to the crowd. "We traced her back to Astoria, Spain, in 1526 ... and she had no idea."
As for Streep, Gates said her roots go back to England: "We traced her back to her eighth grand-grandfather born in England in 1620. In 1645, he shows up in Providence, Rhode Island, as one of the founding fathers of Rhode Island."
This documentary will debut Feb. 10 on PBS.