Anderson Cooper thrives on change and challenge.
The silver-haired news fixture will attempt to fill the void left by Oprah Winfrey's departure with the launch of his own syndicated talk show this fall. Already set to air on CTV in Canada, the show, titled Anderson, will cover social issues, trends, pop culture and human-interest stories five days a week. Cooper plans to host the show while maintaining his nightly duties on CNN's Anderson Cooper 360 and filing occasional reports for 60 Minutes.
The son of author Wyatt Emory Cooper and socialite Gloria Vanderbilt, the Yale-educated Cooper began his career in news as a correspondent for the small media outlet Channel One. He took a correspondent job with ABC in 1995 and quickly rose to a co-anchor position on the network's overnight program World News Now. He joined CNN in 2001 and for the next few years became the face of the all-news channel with on-site coverage of Hurricane Katrina, the tsunami in Sri Lanka, the Cedar Revolution in Beirut and other news stories.
Cooper talked to The Globe at last week's CTV upfront presentation in Toronto.
Will you consciously avoid emulating the Oprah template on your new show?
My show certainly won't be about trying to replace Oprah. She can't be replaced and she's still going to be a huge presence on TV. This is about me trying to forge my own path and to figure out what I can bring to the daytime viewer. The challenge isn't me trying to be someone else, it's trying to be myself.
Does daytime television feel like a strange new territory for you?
There's a lot of new elements to it, yeah. It's exciting. It's a whole new challenge. I certainly hope it works. I try not to worry about the business side of it. What interests me is meeting real people and telling their stories.
Was it good practice subbing for Regis Philbin on his talk show?
It was incredibly educational. Obviously that show doesn't delve into very in-depth or serious topics, but it was valuable being part of a show with that much fun and energy.
What daytime shows influenced you most?
Probably Phil Donahue and Oprah. I liked those shows the most. Those were the most influential in terms of creating the format.
Everyone knows Oprah, but what was unique about Donahue?
At the time, a lot of the topics he was doing were groundbreaking and he was giving a voice to people who you didn't normally see on television. The energy of the show and the interaction with the audience was always compelling. There were days when it was pretty tawdry and days it was serious. At one point he had Ayn Rand on for a series of conversations, which was something you didn't see every day on television.
Are celebrities the toughest people to interview?
It's a challenge to talk to celebrities because they've done so many interviews. The key is to simply have a conversation, like this one, with natural ebbs and flows. When people start to think you're actually listening, the interview becomes much more successful. It's nice to have a real conversation, which is something I hope to do on the daytime show. If a celebrity is on, I don't want it to be just them pitching a movie. I'd like it to be an event, something worth the viewers' time. It should be like a conversation between the viewer and that person.
And you're really going to stay on CNN in addition to the daytime show?
I'm definitely not leaving news, I'm just taking on a day job. I love news and I'm staying with CNN and will continue to host 360 each night. But there's a lot of subjects I'm really interested in and it will be nice to be able to do something that will show more of that.
It sounds like you're going to have one long work day.
As of now, I'm usually in the office by noon and I'm there until 11 p.m. My day will probably start at 8 a.m. for the daytime show and go till 3 p.m. Then I'll start at CNN and go from 3 to 11. It will be a lot of work, but as long as the work is invigorating and I'm having fun it should be fine.
Has the role of the TV news anchor changed?
I think it has. In cable news, there's so many opinionated anchors now. As a viewer, that's not something I'll watch. Opinion television doesn't really interest me, though I get why people like it. As a reporter, I try to see things from multiple angles. Viewers are smart and don't need to be told how to think about something.
Will the new daytime show change the Anderson Cooper brand?
I don't really think of myself that way. I know that "brand" is a buzzword these days and maybe I should think about it from a business standpoint, but it just doesn't interest me. To think of oneself as a brand doesn't add to my ability of getting better as an interviewer or being able to tell stories in a better way; it just makes one more self-conscious. I wouldn't want to talk to someone who thinks of themselves as a brand. I just find that kind of weird.
This interview has been condensed and edited.