Piers Morgan Piers Morgan

Piers Morgan says his new job replacing Larry King on CNN is akin to "following Frank Sinatra in Vegas." But the 45-year-old print journalist, America's Got Talent judge and British-TV talk-show fixture isn't hesitant to try to revive CNN's prime-time ratings with the January 17 premiere of Piers Morgan Tonight (9/8c). He gives TV Guide Magazine a preview of his plans.

TV Guide Magazine: If America's got talent, why did CNN have to hire a Brit to replace Larry King?
Morgan: For the same reason that NBC put a Brit on America's Got Talent. There's been a growing appetite for us probably since Simon Cowell arrived on the scene. There is kind of a belief amongst Americans, true or not, that the Brits are perhaps a little more blunt and more to the point, and we have a quirky humor that's grown in popularity in America. In Britain, I've done interviews in all guises for 25 years, so it's less surprising to the Brits that I've been chosen for this.

TV Guide Magazine: Speaking of being blunt, you freely admitted you wanted to win The Celebrity Apprentice in 2008 because you thought it would make you more famous in the States.
Morgan: Every single celebrity who goes [on] that show says they're doing it for charity, and it's complete nonsense. I was proud to raise money for the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund. But one of the reasons I won was that I was honest enough to say, "Look, that's not the only reason I'm doing this show. I actually want to increase my profile in America."

TV Guide Magazine: You've gotten British interview subjects to offer some outrageous admissions. But American celebrities and politicians tend to be more cautious. Are you ready for that?
Morgan: There are certain celebrities and politicians who are going to be very wary. I always say to guests, "Be who you want to be. You don't have to answer any of the questions I throw at you. I'm not trying to trip you up." I want there to be a warm atmosphere, where you can relax and be yourself. I pride myself on good research and being very empathetic.

TV Guide Magazine: You have a good relationship with the royal family. What are the chances you'll have the first U.S. post-engagement TV interview with Kate Middleton?
Morgan: I am working hard on getting that interview. I've known William a long time and I knew his mother, Diana, very well. I had a memorable lunch with William and his mother when he was 13. I spoke with her regularly on the phone. I'm a big monarchist. I think a royal wedding is very exciting.

TV Guide Magazine: You're going to remain as a judge on America's Got Talent. No worries that it will keep you from being taken seriously on CNN?
Morgan: I've never been one who wants people to take me too seriously. I want to be serious when it's appropriate, and I want to be frivolous when it's appropriate. I want to be able to flirt with Julia Roberts if I feel like it without thinking, "I'm a serious journalist, I'm not allowed to do it." Rubbish. I want it to be entertaining — a nice mixture of all sorts of emotions. The enemy to any interview show is pomposity. America's Got Talent is a fantastic show and I'm very proud of it. Nearly 20 million people watched the finale last year. If I can get one in 100 of those people to watch me on CNN, our ratings are going to go up, and that's why I'm there.

TV Guide Magazine: You've seen a lot of the states through your travels on America's Got Talent. What have you learned about the America from that show?
Morgan: Americans are now a more courteous people than the Brits are. The Brits used to pride themselves on being the epitome of politeness. I think there's been a real role reversal. I find it generally Americans are more willing to help you than the average Brit in the main cities in England. I think there's a better camaraderie among the American people to help each other.

TV Guide Magazine: What are people going to learn about you from the new CNN show?
Morgan: I'll be a lot warmer than what people what expect my role on America's Got Talent. I'm positioned as the bad guy. I'm the one to get the real talent through. It can make you come across as the slightly grumpy guy who needs a better sense of humor, which is not really me.

TV Guide Magazine: Has your pal Simon Cowell offered any advice?
Morgan: He said, "Look, it's an amazing country with fantastic people — you just have to be great at what you do. You're the best interviewer who has ever interviewed me and I'm happy to tell that to anyone who asks me."

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