Piers Morgan has scored an interview with Oprah Winfrey to kick off his much hyped new CNN chat show on January 17.
“She is the perfect guest for our show because she is not only the biggest celebrity in the world as far as I am concerned, but she also has an extraordinary brand,” he says.
“We were supposed to get three quarters of an hour, and we got nearly two hours.”
In a press conference for television critics in Los Angeles Thursday, the brassy Brit reiterated that he has no plans to leave the judges table for “America’s Got Talent”.
“I just renewed my contract,” he said.
We caught up with Piers a few minutes later to get even more scoop!
How did you score the Oprah interview?
I wooed Gayle King for six weeks by email. It was literally a love affair. We talk about it on the air. She says “I am only doing this because Gayle told me to.” She says “I only found out this morning that you had never met Gayle.” I went “Nope. It was an email love affair.”
What did you ask Oprah that you don’t think she was asked before?
The key thing I asked her, which really took her by surprise because she had never been asked this before, was “How many times have you properly been in love? Where your heart aches and breaks?” And her answer was fantastic.
How many interviews have you banked so far?
We have done two so far. By the time we go on the air, we will have about six. The reason is simply that the studio is not ready yet. And we knew that from the start. It takes three months to make them right. The first studio one will be the tenth of January in New York.
Can you reveal the second guest?
No. I would have to kill you.
You have been picking a lot of fights on Twitter lately. Is that just a way to generate publicity for your show?
Probably. It’s working, right (laughs) It is almost like the question about “is this a serious program?” I don’t think you need to take these thing too seriously. I want to have fun on CNN. Maybe the one thing CNN has definitely not had a lot of in recent years is fun. What you definitely get on Fox and MSNBC in that time slot is lots of fun. Bill O’Reilly is a laugh. Glenn Beck is quite funny. There will be times when you have to be serious. But in a normal news week, have a little fun.
When your producer says you are not really as annoying, what does he mean?
I don’t know. We have these things in Britain called pantomime, which is where you have these Christmas theatrical performances where there is always a baddy. When the baddy comes out, everyone boos and whistles. It is kind of what Simon (Cowell) and me and Gordon Ramsay do in America on TV. My character on America’s Got Talent is kind of “out you come, boo, hiss, but everyone is laughing.” It is all a bit of a joke. It is all quite funny. Being polarizing is quite funny.
The end of Larry King’s show would have been a great opportunity for him to pass the baton to you. But that didn’t happen. Were you not invited, or did you choose not to go?
We were going to do it, but we couldn’t get it to work with our schedules. Unfortunately I had to go back to Britain during his final week. So I couldn’t do it. But I am hoping to get Larry on. He would be a great interview. Larry has been nothing but gracious to me.
What would you ask him?
Where do you start? 40,000 interviews. Eight wives. (laughs)
Larry always took pride in the fact that he didn’t do much preparation for interviews. How much prep do you do?
Probably too much. (laughs) Because of my journalistic background, I like to immerse myself in their world. For Oprah, I spent a week just reading and watching every interview she has done for the last 15 years. Wherever she goes, I know a) is it fresh and b) is she likely to show some emotion here: laughter, anger… I try to get inside their heads.
Do you feel helped or handicapped by taking over Larry’s time slot?
People say to me “what is it like following Larry King?” I say “it must be like the guy who followed Frank Sinatra in Vegas”. I feel like that guy. We never heard from him again. Somebody wrote to me and said: “You know who it was? Elvis!”
“Piers Morgan Tonight” airs weeknights at 9:00 PM EST on CNN
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