As part of his deal with WNET in December, Tavis Smiley will occasionally hit the road, and bring his eponymous show to New York. This is one of those weeks.
The collaboration includes the brand new Tisch WNET studios in Lincoln Center.
“Whenever I would come to New York before, we just had to rent out a studio,” Smiley tells FishbowlNY. “But now that WNET is my official public television partner and I have access to my own studios at Lincoln Center, it makes it a little easier to come here… to do shows.”
Despite now having access to the studios, The Los Angeles-based Smiley is uncertain when he’ll return to New York, and how often.
“The studios are mine, whenever I want them,” Smiley admits. “It’s really just a matter of scheduling.”
For now, though. Smiley, in his eighth season on PBS, has lined up an impressive guest list this week in New York. Starting out on Monday, the media heavyweight welcomed Mayor Michael Bloomberg (above).
As for tonight’s show, timing may be perfect for Smiley, potentially landing the first interview with CBS Evening News anchor Katie Couric since her decision to step down. He says her official announcement is imminent.
It’s guests like those that only accentuate Smiley’s partnership with WNET, thus showcasing the Big Apple (His late night show airs on Thirteen early Tuesday through Saturday morning following Charlie Rose).
“It’s a world class city, obviously,” Smiley says. “I have loved New York since I first came here, 30 years ago I guess.”
(The host’s SmileyBooks division is located in New York.)
Other “big-name” guests on the New York visit include famed movie executive Harvey Weinstein and George Soros, a well-known financier and philanthropist.
But for Smiley, a longstanding outspoken advocate for African-Americans, two guests this week especially resonanted–Khalil Gibran Muhammad and Robert Battle, both are black. Muhammed is the new director of the Schomberg Center for Research in Black Culture, while Battle replaced legendary Judith Jamison as head of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre.
“We are so excited later this week to have these two young persons, both in their 30s, who are taking over two iconic New York institutions,” Smiley says. “…It’s important to not just talk about the troubles and travails of black men in New York, the unemployment numbers, etc … Those conversations to me are just as important as the bigger names, so to speak.”
In the end, Smiley is thrilled to start his association with New York in a big way.
“If can line up guests the way we’ve lined them up this week, I may be back here a lot more often,” Smiley laughed.