Nick Cannon: Mariah Carey wants to be 'Idol' judge
Mogul in the making says wife would love to join showDon't call him Mr. Mariah. Nick Cannon is one of the busiest men in Hollywood. He just extended his term as chairman of the teens-only TeenNick network through January 2012. He hosts summer's No. 1 show, NBC's "America's Got Talent," as well as his New York-based CBS Radio show, "Rollin' With Nick Cannon." And in his spare time, he produces and manages the pop group School Gyrls, continues to produce his own music and travels on a U.S. comedy tour.
The Hollywood Reporter: At 29, do you find it a struggle to convince older executives to take you seriously?
Nick Cannon: Instantly, people see me as talent. They don't want to see me as a businessman. If I come in here with jeans, tennis shoes, jewelry and a hat to the back, I look like I'm 17. I dress in a suit to make sure you can separate me from the interns. If I dress as an executive, people react to that. And I just switched to a Blackberry. I used to have my Google device, but everybody would ask why I'm carrying a toy around.
THR: You joined the former N network in March 2009 and spearheaded its rebranding as TeenNick. Why the interest in running a network and developing programming for teens?
Cannon: If Oprah can have her own network, why can't I? Seriously, though, Viacom has been my family since I was a kid. I was the youngest staff writer on television at 17. By 19, I was executive producing. I represent that teen tastemaker, that MTV generation. I felt like I could take the network to another level. Ultimately, I told them that they should let me run this channel. They could have said, "Nick, what are you smoking? We're not going to give you a network." But they took the gamble.
THR: Do you feel pressure to create responsible yet relatable television for teens that isn't "Jersey Shore"?
Cannon: I definitely feel that responsibility, and I take this job extremely seriously. We're focusing on the transition period of what kids are watching in between "SpongeBob" and "Jersey Shore." I wouldn't want my 13-year-old watching that show. We share the same demographic as MTV, so we can push the envelope. We'll talk about teenage pregnancy, but in a way where it's educational. We won't exploit it or glamorize it. We just document life as it actually happens. We're the responsible MTV.
THR: What kind of shows are you developing?
Cannon: Meryl Streep's daughter (Grace Gummer) will be in a new scripted series launching this fall, tentatively titled "Gigantic," about being the child of a movie star. It's almost like "Entourage." It asks the question: What if your parents were the most famous actors in the world? We launched "The Nightlife" last week, which fills a void in the marketplace. Shows from "American Bandstand" to "The Grind" were seen as tastemaker destinations. I want to create a place where teens come to find everything from the hottest new dancers to the hottest new fashions. Also, I have a comedy "think tank" I've created. Instead of paying for a bunch of pilots, I found young teens to shoot small comedy presentations for a website. Viewers will get to vote on what they think will become a great show. It allows our audience to be a part of the process.
THR: With all your ventures, how do you find time to be a husband and to occasionally sleep?
Cannon: I don't really sleep. I literally sleep from 7:30 to 9:30 every morning, and then my day has to start. My wife is so understanding and so hard-working herself. It's perfect, because there's never a misunderstanding. She's been the hardest-working woman in the industry for 20 years. She encourages me to keep going. When we have time, we'll shut everything down and have the whole day together. We'll be in the pool for eight hours with the dogs. And every 30th of each month is "I Love You" day, so we do something fun. But Mariah sleeps during the day as well, so when I get home at 7:30 a.m., she's going to bed as well. So we have time for the normal pillow talk and to cuddle and fall asleep together.
THR: Have you spoken to your "Got Talent" colleague Piers Morgan about heading to CNN to replace Larry King?
Cannon: We joke about it all the time. I tell him, "You ain't got the suspenders yet playa, calm down. You ain't got the gig yet, so don't get in here trying to act like you're Mr. Larry King." But in all seriousness, he would be perfect for the job. He's been in journalism for decades. He's extremely intelligent, and he's not afraid to go at anyone.
THR: What do you think about all the "American Idol" shake-ups?
Cannon: Simon Cowell was the anchor of the show. And when he stepped out, it's like, now what? But as long as Ryan Seacrest and Randy Jackson stick around, I'm watching.
THR: Has Mariah been approached to join the panel?
Cannon: You know what? She talks about it. She says, "I would love to do that." She is one of the greatest singers of our time; she would be great. I don't know if she has enough time, though, but if they could work with her schedule, I know she would love to do "Idol." Let's start the campaign!