April 26, 2012 1:59pm PT by Gary Baum, Michael O'Connell
Amanda de Cadenet Parlays a Year of Intimate Dialogue Into Lifetime's 'Conversation'
Amanda de Cadenet, the British actress-turned-photographer-turned-television host, does not like to set the course of an interview. She lets her subjects do that.
And on Lifetime's The Conversation With Amanda de Cadenet, premiering at 11 p.m. ET Thursday, those women steering the dialogue include Gwyneth Paltrow, Lady Gaga, Diane von Furstenberg and Kelly Preston.
“It’s topic-based," she tells The Hollywood Reporter, emphasizing it's not a topic of her choosing. "I ask, 'What do you want to talk about?' ”
And it's casual on more levels than that. The show is a passion project for de Cadenet. Most interviews were filmed in her own home, and of the 30 that will air on Lifetime, the original 10 -- including Eva Mendes, Kate Bosworth, Christina Applegate and Minnie Driver -- were done on her own funding, without any promise of a TV deal.
The series is a culmination of a year's worth of interviews between de Cadenet and A-list actresses and women of interest. They discuss sex, aging, addiction and politics -- and even she admits that the juxtaposition of guests does not always seem the most organic.
“In one episode you might have Miley Cyrus, who is 19, and then Jane Fonda, who is 74," she says. "It’s on purpose, because a 19-year-old can have something really valuable to say, as can someone in her 70s.”
It's a far cry from the crop of contemporary late-night talkers -- Andy Cohen, Chelsea Handler, Conan O'Brien, Russell Brand -- and sets a tone more akin to a juicier version of Oprah Winfrey's Next Chapter.
“I couldn’t see media of any kind that was showing women speaking truthfully," she says. "Either people were selling something -- a product -- or they were selling a fantasy about life as a woman. After life with kids, I was struggling with how to juggle a relationship and a career and a family.”
De Cadenet originally thought of putting the interviews online, as it seemed the most feasible outlet while working from home and raising her twin 5-year-olds with her husband, The Strokes' guitarist Nick Valensi. But friend Demi Moore, who recently directed part of Lifetime's breast cancer anthology Five, had been approached by the network for a project. Next thing she knew, de Cadenet's proposed online videos were headed to a weekly series, with Moore serving as EP.
“She was on set for a large part of the interviews," de Cadenet tells THR. "She’s got a great eye. She’s got a really wonderful, full life of experience to draw from. She’s a great sounding board. There were people she reached out, and people I reached out to. We did a kind of collective outreach.”
The series premiere, focusing on stories of love and loss, includes a sit-down with Avatar actress Zoe Saldana. Watch a preview below: