CNN's Fresh Faces Excited About New Opportunities

At the channel's annual Heroes gala, Rachel Nichols and Chris Cuomo discussed adjusting to a new network while "New Day" co-host Kate Bolduan defended the show's sponsored "walk to the couch" segment.
Getty Images
Rachel Nichols at Tuesday's CNN Heroes

On Tuesday night CNN luminaries like Anderson Cooper and Piers Morgan joined stars like Allison Williams, Kelly Ripa, Sarah Silverman, Breaking Bad's Betsy Brandt and Pretty Little Liars' Shay Mitchell to recognize everyday people making a difference at CNN's Heroes gala at New York's American Museum of Natural History.

But some of the CNN anchors walking the red carpet are still making themselves known to the cable news network's viewers, either by having recently joined the Jeff Zucker-led channel or by being given a more prominent role at their longtime home.

PHOTOS: THR's 35 Most Powerful People in Media

All of the anchors The Hollywood Reporter spoke to on the red carpet said they loved being at CNN, even amid all of the changes that have taken place recently.

ABC News alum John Berman echoed the sentiments of many when he said, "There's been a lot of change here over the past year, but I think it's a very exciting place to be. I think there's pretty exciting things coming up in the future."

Former ESPN star Rachel Nichols laughed as she noted that CNN is "very different" from her former employer, but said she was excited by the opportunity to broaden her coverage from the NFL- and NBA-focused reports she did at ESPN.

"I'm getting to really expand the kind of work that I'm doing," she told THR. "I loved being a hard-core sports junkie. I did it for over a decade … but it's pretty cool now to be able to look at some of these sports people in a broader context and to be talking about them more in terms of the big picture, less in terms of X's and O's."

ANALYSIS: Jeff Zucker's CNN Scorecard: The Changes So Far

Longtime CNN reporter Don Lemon was also excited by a new opportunity -- to fill in for Erin Burnett at 11 p.m. during the month of December.

"This little boy from the South who has this platform on CNN, and I'm filling in on primetime for someone like Erin and having an opportunity to at least have a chance at 11 o'clock and be tested in that time period, I'm over the moon about it," he said.

Despite whatever opportunities his work filling in for Burnett might lead to, Lemon says he won't be thinking about that during his test period.

"It's not about ratings. It's not about the critics. And I won't look at that. I just want to do the best job that I can," he said. "I want to ask the questions that the people at home are asking, and I want to inform the viewer. It's not about me, it's about the people who are watching."

STORY: CNN Suffers Worst Ratings Week Under Jeff Zucker

Meanwhile, New Day anchor Chris Cuomo, who joined the network from ABC in February, admitted the change has been "much more of a difficult transition than I thought."

"I didn't give enough respect to the discipline and skill set of being on TV for long amounts of time," he explained. "I have always considered myself a coverage guy. I've covered lots of different things for lots of years, but only for small amounts of time. I didn't respect the idea of being on TV for an hour, two hours, three hours, five hours and what that demands. It's much more involved and difficult than I knew coming into it."

Cuomo and his co-anchors Kate Bolduan and Michaela Pereira seem to be enjoying each other's company, telling a group of reporters as much before they effortlessly bantered about doing a gift exchange for the holidays.

Bolduan said it helped that their show was announced long before it debuted, giving them a chance to get to know each other.

EXCLUSIVE: Anderson Cooper Renews CNN Contract

She also defended the show's sponsored segment, in which the anchors walk to a couch while a commercial airs, which was criticized extensively by Jon Stewart and has generated a great deal of attention, not all of it positive.

"You want the show to get attention. Jon Stewart draws a lot of attention for various things," she said. "I love the ad, we have a lot of fun with it. If you can't have a little bit of fun with three hours of live TV from 6 to 9 in the morning, what are you doing?"

CNN Heroes: An All-Star Tribute, which will be broadcast on CNN on Dec. 1 at 8 p.m. ET, recognized 10 everyday people for their efforts to change the world. The event also revealed who had been selected as the Hero of the Year, determined by a five-week vote on, an award that included an additional $250,000 for his or her cause.

The event also drew past Heroes like Dan Wallrath, whose organization builds homes for wounded veterans. He said that in addition to the publicity helping their organization, they've met celebs like Kid Rock, with whom they'll be building their second home in Detroit after the first of the year, through the Heroes events.