Piers Morgan is hardly lacking in confidence, but even he admits to a smidge of anxiousness as he prepares to launch his new CNN interview show Piers Morgan Tonight (Jan. 17), which replaces Larry King Live. “It feels like being a NASA astronaut before lift-off, in that there’s a huge welter of expectation,” notes the 45-year-old Brit, who serves as a judge on America’s Got Talent. “The whole world is literally watching because of the countries the show airs in, and no one’s quite sure how this mission is going to end up. There’s a very good chance it will do very well and I’ll fly to the moon and back, and everyone will be delighted. But of course, we all know from the history of space travel that it occasionally it doesn’t quite work out that way, so that’s where the apprehension comes in.” Before Morgan takes to the air, however, he makes several pledges to you about what to expect from his new series.
He’ll be unpredictable. “The enemy for any kind of talk show is where there’s too much familiarity, it’s all too obvious, and there’s no sense of any edginess. I want people to watch this not quite sure how things are going to unravel, not quite sure of the dynamic between a particular guest and me, wanting to watch the whole hour because they’re not sure how it’s all going to wash up. That is the right kind of dynamic for an interesting talk show.”
He’ll try to read your mind. “I’d like to ask the questions everyone in America is thinking. If Paris Hilton came on America’s Got Talent, what would her talent be? And I love Paris, but it’d be a good question. If I have on [John] Boehner, the new speaker of the House, I’d love to look him in the eye and say, ‘Do you think it’s time you got more in touch with your emotional side?’ It’s things like that, where you’re reflecting the view of every American in every bar up and down the country with a little twinkle in your eye and a cheeky smile.”
He plans to show America’s good side to the world. “I want it to have global impact. There’s been a reliance in the past too often of making it all just about America. And what’s really important is that [guests] have a global presence because as someone who’s grown to really love America and the American people, [Americans] do get quite a bad rap around the world. America’s going through a big sea change as a global power, with the emergence of India, China, and Brazil, and other threats to its dominance. America has to reinvent itself, and I’d like to be part of that reinvention process.”
He definitely won’t be wearing suspenders. “I can promise you won’t see me in suspenders. And the real reason is that in Britain, suspenders don’t mean what they mean in America. A suspender is an item of ladies’ lingerie. So when I get asked by Americans, ‘Are you going to be wearing suspenders?’ it feels like quite a perverse question to be asking a Brit. We call [suspenders] braces, which, of course, [Americans] put in your teeth, so the whole thing becomes incredibly complicated and it doesn’t cross the language barrier. I will definitely not be wearing braces.”
He aims to be the Robin Hood of TV. “I want to look after the good guys and take down the bad ones, so I see myself as Robin Hood here. People say, ‘Give me an example,’ and I say, ‘What about that idiot pastor who wanted to burn the Koran at a highly sensitive time for relationships between Muslims and Christians in America?’ I’d like to get him on and maybe tweak his moustache. I could burn his moustache on national TV.”
He will expose the softer side of Simon Cowell. “I made Simon Cowell cry in Britain on TV, so I’d definitely like to revisit that scenario. I’d like to make the man with no heart melt. That’s top of my hit list.”
To read our no-holds-barred Q&A with Morgan, check out the latest issue of Entertainment Weekly.