Photo: RODNEY HO/rho@ajc.com. Tamron Hall doing promos for WSB-TV while visiting in Atlanta in June, 2019.
Photo: RODNEY HO/rho@ajc.com. Tamron Hall doing promos for WSB-TV while visiting in Atlanta in June, 2019.

Tamron Hall on her new talk show: ‘We are rebooting daytime television with a modern spin’

She said she’s taking cues from Phil Donahue, Oprah

Originally posted Wednesday, September 4, 2019 by RODNEY HO/rho@ajc.com on his AJC Radio & TV Talk blog

In recent years, the syndicated talk show landscape has been littered with failed efforts by well-known celebrities and journalists ranging from Katie Couric and Anderson Cooper to Harry Connick Jr. and Queen Latifah.

But syndicators aren’t willing to give up finding the next Ellen DeGeneres - or even just somebody who could last a few years.

Tamron Hall, the first black female anchor on “Today,” hopes to break this bad-luck streak with her new chat show debuting Monday, September 9. In Atlanta, it will air on Channel 2 WSB-TV at 3 p.m., replacing “The Dr. Oz Show,” which moves to CBS 46. She is also a newlywed with music executive Steve Greener and a new mom to her son Moses.

In June, she sat down with me to discuss why she chose to do this and address her abrupt departure in 2017 on “Today” precipitated by the ill-fated hiring of Megyn Kelly for her short-lived 9 a.m. show.  

Photo: RODNEY HO/rho@ajc.com. Justin Farmer and Jovita Moore flanking Tamron Hall as she did some promos for WSB-TV in June, 2019.

Here are excerpts of the interview and if you want to hear the entire interview via podcast, it’s here

Ho: You’ve had the wildest three years. You were focused on your career. then Megyn Kelly came along and things didn’t go so great. 

Hall:  It was interesting... She was made an offer she should not refuse. I was given one I could refuse.

Ho: You could have stayed.

Hall: I could have stayed but I chose to leave because the offer I felt did not match what I put into the investment. 

Ho: You put a worth on yourself. And you decided at this point in my life there are other opportunities that might present themselves?

Hall; Yes. I didn’t know what they were, but I knew at 48, I could not retire because my bank account did not match Bill Gates. I knew that I had some value in the world of television as a journalist.

Ho: You proved yourself on NBC and MSNBC, there’s no doubt.

Hall: But before those years, I was in TV since I was 18. My journey started early on. Sometimes you have to bet on yourself. I think we all face that.

Ho: I’m sure it was a scary few months.

Hall: It was a scary two years. But if we succumb to fear, we would never try anything new. We wouldn’t go on a new date. We won’t meet new people. For me, while it was a job, it was a bigger reflection I think of all of us, that ability to believe in yourself or the ability to take that leap of faith.

Ho: You said in previous interviews, some of the offers weren’t so great. Were you expecting more meat on the bones? 

Hall: For me being a woman, being a woman of color, I realized that I occupy rare air in local and national news. I was the first black woman to host the daytime ‘Today’ show in 60 years. I was not there because of my color. I was not here because of my gender. I felt like I was there because I worked hard and proven myself... You figure what you put in, the offers would match that. It wasn’t ego. I didn’t say, ‘This wasn’t enough money or this job was beneath me.’  It’s just I realized that when you look at newsrooms, when you look at the world of journalism, women are in small numbers and even smaller numbers at executive levels. We can ask ourselves why and come up with various answers but I felt like I had more to put in the game than the offers coming my way.

Ho: The magic of a talk show is it leaves such an open slate. How do you want to design it the first year? You’re still introducing yourself in this venue. What are some of the pieces you can see yourself doing the first 100 days?

Hall: It’s limitless. Because we are talking about life. Today in the news here in Georgia a baby was found in a plastic bag on the sides of the street. People are glued every time you see the video. That is not something I can create or plan when I get up in the morning and see it just like you. I am compelled to talk about it and discuss this baby’s journey and how everyone around her is riveted by it.

Ho: Will this be a newsy type show like “The View” or will it be more pre-taped? 

Hall: We’re going live three days a week. We have two taped shows. We want to be current and day of. People know I’m a journalist.

Ho: There will be some episodes that will be evergreen?

Hall: There are some conversations that are so in depth, you to build on them. If  we’re doing a crime story, we want to dig deep for the emotional impact.... There are some celebrities nervous to go on live television. If they come on the criteria is you have to come to play. I don’t want you to come on our show and say, “Here’s my movie: b-bye.” If we can get someone and say, “We can tape my show and I’ll talk to you about your divorce and who you are.” When we talk celebrity interviews, we’re so sick of it. I think it’s because it’s very fast food. 

Ho They’re just playing games. 

Hall: We want to provide a safe and open environment as we’ve seen for many years on daytime television in years past. You’ll have a Lady Gaga talking about being a survivor of assault, what this means for her and why she pours so much into her life. I’ve spoken to her many times. I don’t feel I’ve seen one interview that reflects the person I’ve talked to on the sidelines.

Ho: Are there talks show hosts you admire from the past?

Hall: Absolutely! Mike Douglas, Phil Donahue, Rolanda Watts, Oprah Winfrey. the list goes on and on. I tell people our team, we jokingly say Oprah is the name we shall not say.

Ho: She’s the pantheon, the Mount Rushmore of talk all by herself. 

Hall: Walter Payton was the greatest running back to ever play in my opinion but guess what we watch every Sunday in the fall? Football. Oprah is the best to ever play this game, but talk didn’t end when that show ended. We’ll get on the field and we’ll play even though the greatest has done it. We’ll try our best to resume that conversation of daytime talk that Phil Donahue did. We’re going to be in the audience, we’re going to be live. We’ll bring some of that tradition people fell in love with.

Ho: Are you intimidated that many people have tried this and failed: Meredith Vieira, Kate Couric, Anderson Cooper. Or are you, ‘Okay, there’s always a chance here?’

Hall: No. I don’t see it as a chance. Before you got this job, I’m sure somebody failed at it but you still applied for the job. When I worked at Toys R Us, there was a woman who was head cashier before me. I still went in and applied. This happens to be my occupation. But right now listening to us, pretty much I imagine 90 percent of the people applied for a job because somebody else failed at it. That didn’t stop you from putting in your application. This happens to be my job and some other people didn’t succeed in the way they had wished. I’m still putting in my application to those people who watch daytime.

Photo: Katie Couric on the set of her talk show, which lasted just two seasons.

Ho: What is it about daytime? What do you see in terms of the audience in 2019 especially in a challenging environment where people are streaming and not necessarily watching live television? How do you get people to watch you?

Hall: It’s again meeting people where they are. I’m a TV junkie but keep my phone in my hand as it is now glued to me. It’s bringing in both of those worlds. Nobody carries a pager and I remember my very first pager. I was so modern! It’s bringing in all aspects of life but it’s also I think there’s something good about nostalgia. There’s something good about the reboots of some of the shows we’ve watched. We are rebooting daytime television with a modern spin to it. We have technology we’re going to unveil to allow people who are at home who can’t fly to New York to be part of the show. But in reality, it’s in its simplest form, meeting people where they are and allowing them to talk. I’ve traveled and I hear people and they’re saying over and over again, “Oh, God. I turn on daytime and it’s fun and it’s funny and it’s great but I really want to sink into something.”

Ho: How are you going to design the hour? I presume it’s not going to be the same ever day, something consistent?

Hall: Life is not the same every day. We are life. That’s why I love news and it’s going to be a component of it. You cant make it up.

Ho: Will you have a Hot Topics like Wendy Williams

Hall: I just watched ‘Rocketman.’ EltonJohn said, ‘Show who you are. Don’t tell who you are.’ I’d rather show them our show. We can have a one-hour guest if that guest is big enough. We can have a live town hall.

Ho: Your life has changed quite a bit. You are married and had a kid. How does that change your priorities? Work used to be all-encompassing.

Hall: It’s on-the-job training. I wish I had an eloquent answer. I’m doing the best I can like most people. I felt like I was in a confessional when I said I have a nanny. A lot of celebrities don’t like to admit it. They aren’t holding it down as a mom or somehow you’re living the luxury life. When I was a kid, it was my aunt’s sister and my aunt who would pick me up when my mom was at work. I happen to live in New York. I have no family near me so I had to bring in someone to help me who I adore and my son adores her. And I respect this woman tremendously, for what she’s brought to me, this opportunity to be here in Atlanta promoting my show knowing my son is safe.

Ho: Your husband is not in front of the camera but he’s in the entertainment business. So he understands that his name may come up once in awhile on a talk show.

Hall: He’s okay. He’s not an element in the show. He manages some very high profile entertainers. His energy and his spirit is about lifting up other people. He’s not in my background but he’s shadowing and making sure things are okay.

Ho: Were you drawn to him immediately? 

Hall: I was not drawn to him immediately. He might tell you that I was but that is not the truth. I was on a break from my show. I’d known him for awhile and because work was not all encompassing as it had been...

Ho: Your brain was freed up?

Hall: My brain was freed up. That’s exactly how I’d describe it. I met this man who reached for me. He’s always giving me great advice even if I don’t take it or don’t agree. But in the end, whether it’s a companion, whether it’s a friend, you want someone who is rooting for you... If you have a significant other, you want the same thing. I’ve been single for a very long time meaning the definition of not married. 

Ho: What do you hope people get out of the show?

Hall: I hope they see themselves. I hope they see something they’ve talked about, part of their journey. The exterior of me may not look like you but I am you inside. I was the person that was the underdog. I am the underdog. I left a job because they were willing to bet on someone else and not me. I’m not mad about it. I’m not bitter about it.

TV PREVIEW

“Tamron Hall,” debuts Monday, Sept. 9 at 3 p.m. on Channel 2 WSB-TV

About the Author

Rodney Ho
Rodney Ho
Rodney Ho covers radio and television for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
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