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Amanda de Cadenet — the thoughtful multihyphenate known for her lengthy and diverse discussions with top female talent on The Conversation interview series — has long had a dream shortlist of interview subjects that contains only two names: Beyoncé and Hillary Clinton.
On Dec. 21, 2015, one of those dreams came true when she sat across from the presidential candidate on a sofa in New York City for a Lifetime special, The Conversation With Amanda de Cadenet, which airs Wednesday night at 10 p.m. ET/PT. The hourlong exclusive chat will feature a peek inside Clinton’s personal life as well as a digital media-inspired segment that puts Clinton in front of YouTube stars Glozell Green, Chriselle Lim and Maya Washington.
Cadenet sat for a phone conversation with The Hollywood Reporter to discuss highlights of her time with Clinton, revealing the process behind booking the Democratic frontrunner and what most surprised her about the former First Lady of the United States. De Cadenet is the founder of The Conversation Group, which has produced interviews with such A-list stars as Lady Gaga, Gwyneth Paltrow and Zoe Saldana.
Tell me how this interview came together.
Amanda de Cadenet: I have wanted to interview her for a very long time — probably like 15 years. She’s such a unique woman and she has a life and a life story that is so unusual. I didn’t know who she was. I know about her politics, but I didn’t know about her. I asked to interview her back then, and it didn’t happen. When she announced she was running for president I thought that this was my chance. People around me suggested that I wait until after the primaries, but I didn’t want to wait, so I put a request in. Bizarrely, I was having a meeting with somebody in July and they had just come from a meeting with Hillary’s digital team, and I said, “Oh my God, tell me all about them.” I asked if they could put me in touch because I had an idea for Hillary and for her campaign that would work really well. I wanted to interview her and bring in some other voices to the show, not just mine. I wanted to do a one on one with her for three quarters of the show, and the last piece of the show would be other voices — women — who can ask her questions that they want to know from that audience. So, I put together this idea for a special Conversation episode and I pitched it [to Clinton’s campaign]. About three weeks later my friend emailed me and said, “They are interested in your idea.” I was like, “Oh my God, really?” and that’s when this process started.
Hillary Clinton poses with Amanda de Cadenet. (Photo courtesy of The Conversation)
What surprised you the most about Hillary?
Just how completely down to earth and grounded she is. I mean, there is so much surrounding her having been Secretary of State, First Lady of the United States and now a presidential candidate. That’s a big life to manage and a lot to take care of. But, what I found with her, from the minute we said hello and shook hands and looked at each other, she was so down to earth and she made it easy for me because she was not guarded. I didn’t have to navigate a lot of barriers and defense. I’m not interested in surface fluff, but I also don’t have an agenda to get someone to be someone they’re not, or to reveal something. When she came to do the interview, she knew what she was walking into.
What answers will most surprise viewers?
Most surprising is how relatable she is and how wise she is. She’s very wise. My favorite conversations to have are with people who can talk about and are interested in equality and justice, who are interested in changing the playing fields for women and girls. That’s what I’m very committed to. That’s why I do the show. So, to be able to sit with someone and talk to them about why they became an advocate for women and girls, and how they created a platform for themselves to really help move these issues forward and get attention, and then also a woman who is a grandma. They made an announcement [about Chelsea Clinton’s second pregnancy] literally as she was walking down the hallway to us to come do the interview. This was an area that brings her so much joy. One of the questions was, “What do you think we need more of in the world?” She said, “More love and compassion.” I was like, “You’re walking the fine line of being the emotional woman by saying that.” She said she knows that but she believes it to be true. She is a very compassionate person.
You’ve interviewed some very successful women, from A-list actresses to businesswomen. How did this experience compare in terms of coordinating the interview?
This was its very own special experience. I will say that the [Clinton] team are an exceptionally professional, efficient and mindful group of people. I really enjoyed my experience with them. It taught me about professionalism in whole other way. The way that they operate is so clear. The communication is on point. It is a very special process that political figures, especially a presidential candidate, have in place. One wrong word can send the campaign in a direction they don’t want to go. You know, I’ve really enjoyed the experience with them because I’m fascinated with the whole process. Even talking to Secret Service. I’ve been very supported through the process with them, and I think that has a lot to do with them knowing what I do. I kept thinking for sure I was going to turn on the TV and there’s a sit-down with Diane Sawyer. But the fact that they chose my show and for me to do this interview, that let my team know they were going to be supported in this process. And they were, her whole team. And they continue to be.
Was anything off limits?
There wasn’t anything that was off-limits. No one said to me, “You cannot ask about this, at all.” Specifically, I really find it offensive when high-level achieving women get asked about their husbands. High achieving men do not get asked about their wives — it’s very rare. So I actually find it quite offensive that it happens to women all that time that they get asked about their kids, or their husbands, especially if it’s anything salacious in both of those departments. My only interest was finding out about [Hillary]. What does she like to do on date night? I’m not interested in Bill Clinton. If I’m interviewing Bill Clinton, I’m interviewing Bill Clinton. So, I never went near a subject matter that would be potentially salacious because I don’t care.
Where do you go from here?
Hopefully Beyonce’s next — I’m working on that one. Right now, I’ve also really been focused on building my company, which is a full-time job in itself. I have a production company. I have another show I’m developing that Gwyneth Paltrow and I are doing together. I’m doing The Conversation Girls Club, which is so fun. I’m doing a live tour, The Conversation live tour. We’re going to six different cities around America. And I have a book coming out in October. And I hopefully will get to keep doing these interviews because that’s what I love doing.
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