It has been a busy few months at “Good Morning America.” Since December, Sam Champion and Josh Elliott have departed, Ginger Zee and Amy Robach have joined the team and Robin Roberts and Lara Spencer have extended their contracts with ABC News. Through it all, “GMA” remains steadfast in the ratings, despite the fact that both Champion and Elliott — “our brothers,” as Spencer calls them — have decamped for NBC.
As “GMA” prepares to mark two years as the most-watched morning show, TVNewser caught up with Spencer and Robach over lunch at Bobby Flay‘s Bar Americain Tuesday. They told us about their new roles on the show, how the team is really getting along, and why the “GMA” rumor mill has been in high gear the past few weeks. Before talking shop, we asked Robach, who was diagnosed with breast cancer in October, how she is feeling.
Amy Robach: I am feeling pretty darn good considering where I am in my treatments. I have two more chemotherapy rounds left – my next one is on Thursday. My final one is April 24. And then I have one more surgery in June. I’m going to work every day, and that means a lot to me mentally which I think helps me physically.
My memory is not amazing right now. It’s a little nerve wracking, feeling not mentally sharp all the time, but luckily there’s a teleprompter in front of me, and a good team that picks up any mental malfunctions I may have in the middle of a sentence or a thought.
Lara Spencer: You haven’t missed a beat. You are radiant and smiling – she’s a rock star. She comes in, she brings her A-game. I haven’t noticed the memory at all. She’s remarkable. She’s being very modest.
TVNewser: Do you feel like you’ve processed your promotion yet?
AR: No, I have not. That’s an honest answer. I found out on Sunday night at 7pm and went on the air Monday morning. I found out with everyone else. [Josh Elliott and I are] very close, and we remain very close. Josh actually beeped in while I was talking to [Disney/ABC TV co-president] Ben Sherwood when Ben was telling me congratulations. And Josh was calling to tell me congratulations. Which I thought was a classy move.
TVNewser: Lara, you’re very close with Josh too.
LS: Yes. We started [at “GMA”] two weeks apart. We’re TV brother and sister. We kind of were there finding our way together.
TVNewser: How has the show’s chemistry changed without him and Sam Champion?
LS: Chemistry is chemistry, and each of us brings something very different to the table. Sam and Josh were like our brothers. But I would never compare anybody to anyone else. I think that’s been the really special discovery – that none of us has that kind of ego where we feel like, “we’ve got this all.” We know we don’t. We know we need each other. Josh and Sam certainly played a monster role in our success, and I think I speak on behalf of everybody: we were very sad to see them go, but we understood.
AR: And they both went on to do their dream jobs. Sam focusing on weather in a big way and Josh focusing on sports in a big way. And we were supportive of that. When Josh said congratulations to me, I said, “No, congratulations to you!”
LS: At the end of the day you have to be true to yourself. And I have such respect for both of them. There’s nothing but respect and love and pride for our buds. For our brothers.
TVNewser: Lara, when you re-signed your contract you called it a “simple” decision. Would you ever have, or did you, consider anything else?
LS: My journey is different than Josh’s journey, even though we came in together. For me, it was a very clear decision to see if ABC and I could come to terms that worked for both of us. If that couldn’t happen, well, I’ll cross that bridge when I get to it. That was never even an issue. But that’s my story. I’m speaking only for myself – I don’t want to misconstrue this – but having left “Good Morning America” to go someplace else in the past, I came home. For me, this job is where I belong.
TVNewser: With all the changes at the show, there’s been some rumors floating around that you two don’t get along.
LS (jokingly): What? Were people talking about us?
AR: I don’t know what you’re talking about!
TVNewser: Why do you think that came up? I saw something on “The View” yesterday – they were talking about themselves, but they were basically saying, if theirs was an all-male show it wouldn’t have been an issue. What do you think of that?
LS: So true.
AR: I completely agree. I think that everyone loves a good catfight. They pit women against each other. It sells papers, it makes headlines. I’ll be honest – when I came in on that Monday morning, and I was told, you’re in the paper, I pulled up the cover of the Daily News and – maybe it was inappropriate, but I busted out laughing. Because it was funny to me.
It’s not funny ultimately because my daughter is 11 and she heard about it at school. The headline was “Claws Out.” She was like, “Do you not like Lara, Mommy?” And I had to explain to her, “I love Lara. That’s just what people do. It’s mean, and people love to say that girls don’t like each other and girls are clawing – the whole catfight thing.” And that was the thing that bothered me – it wasn’t funny when I had to explain it to my daughter.
LS: When men are in a similar situation, when they rise to the top, they’re considered successes, and competitive, and why wouldn’t they be getting after it? When it’s women who are ambitious, well then they must be stepping on other women.
AR: They must hate each other.
LS: We know the truth. It should be a time of celebration for Amy and a time for me. I just signed a wonderful new contract. Amy’s the news anchor on our show. And we haven’t been given the opportunity to relish in our personal success at all.
AR: That’s very frustrating. You have 22 years and I have 19 years [in the business]. We have worked really hard and long to get where we are. And for me, on top of it being in the middle of my fight for my life, literally, the perspective is glaring. I’m just like, this is so actually unimportant. I want it not to matter because on a level it doesn’t matter, but then on another level it does because a lot of women have to face this and fight this and deal with this, unfairly so.
LS: I got in first on the morning of the headline and I sent you a note and said, “you’re going to love this.” The minute we got down to the set, I think everyone was like, “Is this going to be uncomfortable?” And we made a joke and we started laughing about it – this is at 6:25 a.m. – and it was such a great icebreaker.
AR: We already had a bond. But it actually strengthened our bond because we were in it together.
TVNewser: Do you think the show needs male voices as a balance?
LS: It needs the right voices. I don’t want to get into stereotyping again, because I think that’s what’s gotten us into this conversation in the first place.
TVNewser: “GMA” has been number one for almost two years now. Do you feel pressure to maintain that top spot? Is it something you actively think about every day?
AR: I do not. I do not think about that at all. And that’s honest. I think about doing our personal best and doing the best show we possibly can.
LS: Yes. I was just going to say that.
AR: And the viewers will decide. But I try not to look at the ratings. It can mess with your mind.
LS: I remember when Josh and I first got to “GMA” and just that hunger, and that competitive spirit – I think that’s what we continue to feel. Nobody ever takes it for granted for a second.
LS: We have a saying – play your game. Every email Ben [Sherwood] sends out to us, he writes PYG – play your game. And that’s what we do. We don’t look at what’s going on, we don’t look at the ratings. I know it’s boring, and I know it’s not the sexiest story. But it’s our philosophy and it has worked. And I hope it will continue to work.
This interview has been edited and condensed.