'Justice's' Nancy Grace: I'm no Judge Judy


It's been five years since former Atlanta prosecutor Nancy Grace channeled her anger over her fiance's murder three decades ago into a popular victims rights-themed talk show on HLN. Now Grace is launching CBS-distributed syndicated court series "Swift Justice With Nancy Grace," which premieres Monday as perhaps the fall season's most anticipated new daytime show.

The Hollywood Reporter: This is a judge show, but there's no robe and gavel. Why?

Nancy Grace: I got to tell you, when they first approached me, I really could not understand what they were talking about when they said "the next generation of courtrooms." I grew up in a courtroom kind of like the one you saw in "To Kill a Mockingbird" -- big, big courtroom, sometimes it didn't even have air conditioning. But this is a no-holds-barred thing. I'm not a pretend judge, with a pretend robe and a pretend gavel and a pretend sheriff and a pretend backdrop. That's not what it is.

THR: So what is it?

Grace: We have litigants from all over, and we have these giant monitors that essentially turn into electronic witness stands, where we have witnesses -- experts -- joining us from all over the country. We bring in lie detectors, blood evidence, blood-spatter evidence, body language, voice analysis and shrinks -- every kind you can think of, from gambling addiction to relationships to money management. The other day we had to bring in a shrink for hoarding.

THR: You've said on your HLN show that you never want to judge. But now you're literally judging.

Grace: I'm not a judge. I was a prosecutor for many years, I'm a crime victim myself, and I've tried so many cases I don't even know how many anymore. But when you come on "Swift Justice," you agree to submit to the Jurisdiction of Nancy. It's binding arbitration with no appeal.

THR: So you're the judge.

Grace: I guess you can call it that.

THR: Why is the courtroom format so popular?

Grace: It's really the same reason that people want to be on juries. Believe it or not, there are people who want to be on juries. And why people watch Court TV. You look at the defendant -- I would use Scott Peterson as an example. A lot of people -- not me -- thought he was handsome, well-educated, had a job, golf pro, beautiful wife, baby on the way. The works. It's hard to look at somebody and have the evidence prove them to be something very, very different. It's like your eyes are playing a trick on your mind. Every story that unfolds -- whether it's on the big screen or in a soap opera, thriller, novel -- it's about human nature. And it's intriguing and fascinating. Sometimes it's sad, sometimes it's funny, but it's always riveting.

THR: Critics who say cable news networks use fear and scare tactics to lure viewers often cite your HLN show as one of the worst offenders. Your response?

Grace: I am a victim of violent crime, and I believe that most crime victims would want their case -- unsolved homicides, for example -- to be publicized in order to help. But that's just my point of view.

THR: Do you ever worry that your show might prevent someone from getting a fair trial?

Grace: I have two syllables for you: O.J.! Look at all the analysis of that case, and he still walked on double murder. Believe me, that jury isn't paying any attention to what I or any other talking head has to say about the case. They are hearing the evidence, and they will be the judge of it. That's ridiculous; my show can't try and convict somebody.

THR: Do you watch other judge shows? What do you think of "Judge Judy"?

Grace: I've heard a lot of banter about me "replacing" "Judge Judy." That's not true. No one can replace "Judge Judy." She's the gold standard. I'm not even trying to replace her. I'm doing my own thing.

THR: You're pretty outspoken. What did you think of Dr. Laura's recent N-word flameout?

Grace: Well, here's my take: If you do something wrong, you have to come out and say: "I did it. It was wrong, and I'm sorry."

THR: You've got twins at home and two daily shows. How do you balance?

Grace: Praise the lord, is all I can say. Because God has heard my prayers and answered them 10,000 times over. Everything today is like a miracle because after my fiance was murdered in 1979, I really never thought anything like this could ever happen to me. I did not want to get close to marriage again. Thirty years later, now I've finally married my true love, had children -- I never thought that could happen to me. I came up off a dirt road outside of Macon, Ga. My No. 1 job is "Mommy," and everything falls into place after that.

THR: What's been your toughest moment on your show?

Grace: When I have to report that children we've been looking for have been found dead. I cry and I pray, and I go into a funk. One of the reasons it took me so long to start a family is that I didn't want to go through the chance of losing everything again.

THR: Do you watch crime shows?

Grace: I do not watch crime shows because I've seen it for real. I did love "Monk," and I love "Dexter," and I still love reruns of "Murder, She Wrote" -- laugh if you want. And my favorite show was "Six Feet Under."

THR: And you just wrote your second novel, "Death on the D-List." That has nothing to do with Kathy Griffin, right?

Grace: Ha! Although I love Kathy Griffin, no it has nothing to do with her. But if someday in the future she would like me to kill her in a novel, I would consider it. I only kill very special people.
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