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Amanda de Cadenet on Becoming the Newest Women in Late-Night TV and How Chelsea Handler Opened Doors for Her

Women and Hollywood By Melissa Silverstein | Women and Hollywood July 24, 2014 at 12:11PM

"Some people would say having a feminist perspective is political, but I don't think it is. I think it's just having a female perspective."
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Undone with Amanda de Cadenet

British personality and renowned photographer Amanda de Cadenet dives into the late-night talk-show field tonight with her live, half-hour, news- and pop culture-themed Undone with @AmandadeCadenet, which will premiere tonight at 10:30 on Lifetime. 

Previously, de Cadenet hosted the women-only interview series The Conversation, also on Lifetime and online, in which she had one-on-one chats with the likes of Gwyneth Paltrow, Jane Fonda, Lady Gaga, Rita Wilson, Zoe Saldana, and Portia de Rossi.

De Cadenet took the time to talk with Women and Hollywood as she prepped the show to discuss the landscape of late-night TV and how her show will be different.


WaH: Talk about what you are doing to get ready for the launch of your show.

ADC: It's an interesting thing building a show from the ground up. Having done that with The Conversation and doing that again now, so much of the work is in the set-up.

WaH: Because you can't just sit in the chair like you did in those awesome interviews for The Conversation? But you worked hard on that, you did a lot of set up.

ADC: So much of the initial work is in creating the structure of the thing. Jimmy Fallon or any of the Jimmies or any of the shows that are on, they've been going on for so long [audiences] know what to expect. They know they've got a system in place. We're setting up a whole system.

WaH: Talk about the evolution from The Conversation to Undone. What should people should expect that is different, and what should people expect that will be similar? 

ADC: This is definitely not The Conversation. The Conversation was a long format and not live. That show took me six months to shoot. It could've been a documentary, but we just put it into a format that would work on television. Long-format interviews, you don't really see them on TV. And there was an audience for The Conversation, a big audience. That show is in eighteen different countries and ten different languages now. And I continue to do interviews and make shows for The Conversation, but it is a very different experience than this show.

First of all, this show is live. Which, the closer I get to it, I'm like, why did I want to do live? [Laughs] But I did grow up on live TV. The first two shows I did were both live, so I'm hoping it's kind of like a bicycle and I'll remember how to do it. It's live, it's half-hour, and it is a combination of interviews and topical news stories through my filter, which is obviously a very female perspective.

We will be coming out of Project Runway, which is a great audience for me to potentially engage because they are mostly women, they are loyal viewers, and they are women who are in the demographic that I speak to. So I'm really happy to have that time slot, coming out of the highest-rated show on Lifetime.

So, coming out of Project Runaway, there'll be some commentary on that episode. But we will go straight into topical news issues and offer a different perspective from that. Every week, we're looking through news now and saying, What are the topics and what are the stories that I would like to cover? Obviously we've had Hobby Lobby going on, we've had Hillary Clinton – why should she still be asked about her husband's infidelity all these years later? So many things in our news either get glossed over or get addressed in a very specific perspective.

WaH: So kind of like Bill Maher but with a feminist perspective? 

ADC: Well, I would say Bill Maher is certainly more political than entertainment. And he does go into entertainment, but I'm less political than he is. Some people would say having a feminist perspective is political, but I don't think it is. I think it's just having a female perspective. But yes, I definitely come from a feminist perspective.

WaH: There's not a lot of women working in late night. What do you think is missing by not having women's voices, and how are you going to add to that? 

ADC: Well, when you say there's not a lot of women working in late night, there's only one woman --

WaH: There will be no other women when Chelsea Handler's show leaves the air in August. Her Netflix series won't premiere until 2016.

ADC: Right. That's diabolical to me. When you say, “what's the evolution from The Conversation to Undone,” the truth is that I was going to make more Conversation shows for Lifetime. But in between us agreeing to do that, and actually a window opening to go into production, this whole shift in late night happened. And I was so appalled, as many of us were, that there was not one woman who had an opportunity to take a seat in late night. 

I went to Nancy Dubuc, who is the president of A&E. She is the woman who took a risk with putting The Conversation on. She's a risk-taker, and thank God for the few women in the entertainment industry who take a risk and who walk the talk. This is the second time she has said, “Yeah, I'll put your show on.” This is a rarity, obviously, because there are no women other than Chelsea in late night, so we know this isn't happening frequently. In fact, it's happening so infrequently that we only have one woman who has her own show in the entertainment field after 3 PM.

WaH: And why do you think that is? 

ADC: That's a good question. I really hate to think that it is purely sexism. But what I will tell you is that, for the year and a half that The Conversation wasn't on a television network, I met with probably every network you could think of – everybody that I could potentially work with who loved The Conversation. And yet nobody would give me the opportunity to create a new show. Nobody. And I even went in with Tobey Maguire, who was my producing partner, because surely if we've got some guys on the team, it will eliminate the sexism issue. And still no one would take the risk.

WaH: Look at what happened with Jon Oliver. 

ADC: We actually went and pitched to HBO a late-night news show that was a very smart, engaged, progressive show, and they were like, “We don't have room, we don't have any more space for a show like that because we have Bill Maher.” But no one would directly come out and say there's no spot for a woman. They can't say that, right? 

WaH: No, of course not. 

ADC: But the one area that is still an old paradigm is the talk space. It is an old paradigm.

However, I have so many women who love The Conversation, and that is proof to me that there are hundreds and thousands of women all over the world that want and need and appreciate smart, engaged media.

WaH: Talk about your relationship with Chelsea Handler.

ADC: Chelsea is a phenomenal supporter of women, and if it weren't for her.... Whitney Cummings is a very dear friend of mine and she is a huge advocate for women. And she said to me, “I want you to meet my friend Chelsea because she is this great supporter of women, you will really like her, you will get on with her, you both do what you do for a job, you should know each other.” 

Chelsea said to me, “I will produce a show with you, you should be on television,” and she's been a phenomenal support to me. But she asked me to host her show one day because she was going away, and I said, “Absolutely not. There's no way, I'm not a stand-up comedian.” 

And she said, “You know what? You can do this show. You've been hosting TV like this since you were a kid. You can do this in your sleep.” And I was like, “No, I really can't, I haven't done it in a long time, this kind of format,” and she's like, “Yes, you can.” And she really pushed me to do it, and thank God she did, because I got to host her show, remind myself how fun it is, remind myself that I can do it, and that if I can do it, I should be doing it. Right, why wouldn't I? 

Honestly, I do believe in the power of women supporting each other, and were it not for Whitney supporting me and introducing me to Chelsea, and Chelsea encouraging me to do my own show, I probably wouldn't be doing this. Not because I'm not capable of it – just because I didn't think this was something I should be doing. 

So I do believe in the power of women supporting each other and inspiring each other, and the only role model that exists in this arena is Chelsea. I hope I can make a show that will inspire a whole other generation of young women and girls to say, “I can do a show like that.”

WaH: You have eight episodes and that's a lot of pressure, because it takes time to find your footing . Why isn't it just like, “You have a show”?

ADC: Well, the reason why is because I have to launch when Project Runaway launches. They launch in mid-July, and Lifetime feels that it is a great audience for me to connect with. So they wanted me after that show. It's also the biggest ratings lead-in on the network that makes sense for my show. So it was really a question of demographics. Hopefully, if we can get enough eyeballs on my show, my show will continue. 

WaH: It's just that guys don't get a late-night show that's specifically eight episodes. They get a late night show. 

ADC: I know. Again, I would love to give you an answer that was different than what it is, but the reality is I backed into this show. I was given a commitment by the network to make a certain amount of Conversation episodes and I basically went back to them and said, “I'm not asking you for more money, I'm asking you for more airtime.” I basically came up with a format and created a whole new format with the budget they gave me to make eight shows instead of two sixty-minute Conversation specials. I turned my commitment of two shows into eight.

WaH: You have a really big social media following, so talk about how you're going to use that for the show.

ADC: Well, here's the thing: I really believe in including the voices of people not just myself. Every episode of The Conversation was created to be a platform for women, to connect women, and to allow women's voices to be heard as much as possible. That's why I launched that show on a television network and online simultaneously. 

What I've done with this show is, I've built social into every single segment. I lead with digital, I lead with social. Every segment has a hashtag, every segment will be integrated with the opinions and thoughts and questions and voices of my social media audience.

It's all integrated with the voices of people who have a voice and want to have a voice and an opinion. I try to make things that are not elitist. There's enough places in the world where we're excluded. I do not ever want to be contributing to that. I want to be contributing to opening the doors and gates for women.

This article is related to: Television, Chelsea Handler, Amanda de Cadenet


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