Andy Cohen Talks 'Love Connection,' 'Watch What Happens Live' Syndicated Run

The longtime Bravo late-night host also discusses the continued strength of the 'Housewives' franchise and his primetime interview series 'Then and Now.'
Courtesy of Bravo

Andy Cohen's TV presence continues to expand. In addition to his lengthy list of hosting duties at longtime home Bravo, which includes late-night entry Watch What Happens Live With Andy Cohen, the primetime interview series Then and Now and the network's many reality series reunions, Cohen makes the move to broadcast Thursday with the premiere of Fox's Love Connection reboot, which hails from well known figures in the reality TV realm, The Bachelor creator Mike Fleiss.

Cohen's broadcast footprint will grow again this summer with the launch of a syndicated version of Watch What Happens Live, which will kick off a six-week test run beginning June 26.

While in Los Angeles for a special week of Watch What Happens Live shows, The Hollywood Reporter spoke with Cohen about what inspired the cross-country road trip, how his experience with the Real Housewives helped him on Love Connection and what viewers can expect from Live's move into syndication.

Late-night shows are traveling more and more. What do you think that adds to the program?

Well, listen, we never travel. We've been to SXSW twice and otherwise over eight years, that's all we've traveled. For us, it really brings energy. It came about because Frances Berwick, who runs Bravo, she came to see Anderson Cooper  we're on tour  and so many people in the audience were like, 'How do we get audience to the show? The clubhouse is 32 people.' We sold out the Beacon very quickly and she was like, 'I think there's a lot of demand for people to come see you.' So it was really not only for viewers, but for consumers to be able to come see the show.

Why did you want to come to Los Angeles specifically?

Well, it just makes sense. It's something different, it opens up different booking opportunities and it's a great energizing thing for the show, for us and for the viewers.

As a host, how does it feel different for you to do the show in front of such a bigger live audience?

It's totally different for me. I have 34 very loud, amazing, passionate fans in the audience every night [in New York]. Here, we have about 500 and it's great.

Now that you're doing this weeklong stint, do you see the show going on the road more in the future?

Who knows? If Bravo would let us, we would love it.

Do you have any cities at the top of your list?

Any place, literally, I would be so happy. We love Texas. Gosh, I love Chicago. It becomes a booking situation because you want to go places you can get guests.

When you're interviewing someone else who interviews people for a living, whether it be Conan O'Brien or Anderson Cooper, how does that impact your interviewing style or your preparation for the sit-down?

I definitely, with other late-night hosts, I get a little more nervous because they're in the same boat. Conan is a role model for me. He went from behind-the-scenes to in front of the camera, which is exactly what I did. You want to get it right; you want to make sure it's a great show.

It was recently announced that WWHL is going into syndication for a test run this summer. How did that come about and what can you say about the format?

It came through NBC, who was just like, 'We want to try this, what do you think?' I just wanted to make sure that they would be airing the shows that we were doing on Bravo. In other words, we're not doing a cleaned-up version for daytime so I'm really excited. For me, any opportunity for more people to have access to the show is a win for us.

How does it work with the syndication of what they're airing versus what's on Bravo?

They're doing six weeks of episodes and some of them will be current and some of them will best of. So we hand-picked a few that we were like, 'Oh my God, this is an amazing J.Lo episode that aired a couple months ago,' and things like that.

How do you think it is about the show that will make it work outside of the late-night space, given the nature of the show and the fact that the guests are drinking cocktails and such?

Well, I think people can handle people drinking cocktails. I think the thing that this show does is it shows celebrities in a really different light from how they're shown on any other talk show and so I'm anxious for people to just see people in a different light.

Before Bravo, you were coming from working on CBS' morning show so have you ever thought about doing a daytime show?

It sounds Pollyanna-ish, but what I really wanted was real estate in primetime hosting some kind of a game or reality show that I was passionate about and now that I've got Love Connection, it feels like my circle is complete.

What do you see as the biggest differences hosting Love Connection versus hosting Watch What Happens Live?

I feel like Love Connection draws into my experience with the [RealHousewives because it's actually really digging for information, mining for comedy and asking people personal questions, all of which I do fairly well.

How has it been working with Bachelor creator Mike Fleiss on Love Connection?

It's funny because I know very little about Bachelor nation and he knows very little about Housewives nation so it was cool for us to come together and work on something totally new that played on both of our strengths.

You're also hosting Then and Now on Bravo…

Yes, which I love and I'm really excited about. I think we really found our groove. They did three test episodes last year and then they picked it up for an eight-episode mini-season and I'm very proud of it. I think it's a quality show that people seem to be loving and its something different for Bravo and it really touches upon my more journalistic side if I can say it.

That show has a mix of Bravo talent but also people like Meghan McCain and Willie Geist. How is it different booking talent for that show and how has that process been?

It's a lot of people who have been on Watch What Happens Live — Kristin Chenoweth, Barney Frank, Melissa Etheridge, Anderson Cooper  we've got a lot of people on the show and they're all really smart and they have very different connections to pop culture.

What made you want to tap into that more journalistic side?

It's just my background and my passion for pop culture. I like to look back, I'm very nostalgic and I think it's fun and the show is very high-low. You hear everything from Dorinda [Medley] from the New York Housewives, where she was when Diana died  she was living in London  to Lisa Vanderpump, who saw Princess Diana getting a credit card declined in a store once, to journalists who covered her for many, many years or people who knew her.

With all these other projects you have going on, do you ever see a point where you would stop hosting the Real Housewives reunions?

No, I don't. What keeps me coming back is I love it. I would never do anything that I don't love and when something gets boring or I don't love it anymore, I'll stop.   

You're also coming off arguably the biggest reunion in franchise history with the four-part Real Housewives of Atlanta finale…

It's incredible, we had four million viewers for the last part of the Atlanta reunion. Next year is going to be season 10 of the Real Housewives of Atlanta and we're 11 years into the Housewives franchise and we've got four million people watching the Atlanta reunion. Considering how bifurcated TV is and how everyone's going to different places to get it, that a basic cable franchise is still pulling in such powerhouse numbers tells you everything you need to know about the strength of this franchise and why I have no interest in not being a part of it.

Why do you think the franchise has remained so strong over the years?

It's great storytelling, we keep it fresh. I think it's like a great soap opera. Soap operas, the good ones, run for a very long time. We bring new people in, we take them out and it's all in the casting and the storytelling.

The franchise expanded last year with the additions of Potomac and Dallas. Do you see the franchise expanded again anytime soon?

I think it's good right now. Potomac happens to be getting record ratings, they had 2.2 million viewers a couple weeks ago, which for a sophomore season of a brand-new Housewives is pretty phenomenal.

Earlier this year, Watch What Happens Live got a new clubhouse in New York. How has that changed things up?

It's been really great. Even just logistically, it's like double the size. It's only 34 people in the studio but the green rooms are in the right place, the control room is big, my dressing room, the choreography of how we serve our audience and then get them in  it just works better.

What are some other things you'd like to experiment with on the show going forward?

We have a terrace in our new studio so we'll be able to go outside now that it's nice weather. We’re working on some names this summer who have never been on the show so that excites me.

How has the process of putting together your list of dream guests changed since the show started?

I begged for favors from friends like Sarah Jessica Parker and Liam Neeson at the beginning of the show and I still beg them to come on, but now we have people who actually want to come on or who might be scared to come on but we can work on it for a couple of years and get them to come on the show.

What's the secret to convincing someone who might be scared of coming on the show?

I think it is that we'll work with talent. Sometimes people get scared because I go there in a way that is intimidating maybe or people think I'm going to "get" them in some way, but the truth is we want to work with everybody. I want everybody leaving very happy and eager to come back.

Watch What Happens Live With Andy Cohen airs Sunday-Thursday at 11 p.m. on Bravo. Love Connection premieres Thursday at 9 p.m. on Fox.