Laila Ali on CBS' New Saturday Morning Block: It's Important for Kids to Be Inspired

Laila Ali 42 Premiere - P 2013
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Laila Ali 42 Premiere - P 2013

The network is launching a new three-hour programming block this weekend, featuring shows hosted by Ali, Kevin Frazier, Jamie Oliver and others.

Saturday mornings won't look the same on CBS come Sept. 28.

The network, in partnership with Litton Entertainment, is launching a new three-hour programming block this weekend that will feature several familiar faces.

Aimed at kids 13 to 16, the educational/informational-compliant block includes shows hosted by celebrity chef Jamie Oliver, sports personality Laila Ali, omg! Insider co-host Kevin Frazier and others.

Each show in the block -- branded as "The CBS Dream Team, It's Epic!" -- is designed to offer pro-social and uplifting messages, with topics ranging from pet adoption and animal care to healthy eating makeovers to athletes making a difference in their communities to personal interest stories about people who have accomplished something great.

All In With Laila Ali, for example, features the host profiling inspirational people, groundbreaking achievements and extraordinary lifestyles. 

Ahead of the block's premiere (check local listings for airtimes), Ali talks to The Hollywood Reporter about what viewers can expect from her show and why she thinks the new programming is important, not just for kids but also their families.

How did you become involved with this series?

I knew they were trying to do some positive programming, and I got a call to host the show. Of course, I couldn't turn it down; it's something wonderful to be associated with. The CBS block is educational, positive, motivational, compelling and entertaining. I'm a parent, and I know how important it is for kids to have something to inspire them. And the whole family can watch, which I appreciate. My show in particular, All In, I can relate to because anything I do, I put my all into it. The people we are profiling, they reach for the stars and push themselves to the limits. They are compelling, inspiring stories.

Can you talk about some of the people you profile?

For example, one is the story of Pat Farmer, who in the name of charity ran from the North Pole to the South Pole nonstop, with no days off, for a year -- 13,000 miles and a total of 14 different countries, on foot. It was like running two marathons a day. We got to go along with him and see this beautiful scenery and countries and limits he faced and the obstacles he overcame. He found within himself a way to keep going and run all these miles. It shows you can do anything you put your mind to. We're also profiling [skier] Lindsay Vonn, who injured her leg but wanted to go to the Olympics and had to push past this. She went on to win Olympic gold. These are inspiring stories kids can watch with their families.

So it sounds like you'll be profiling both famous and not-so-famous people.

Yeah, there are so many people obviously doing great things, but we don't necessarily know their names and faces. And there are others like Lindsay Vonn, whom we do know, but there is something about them that we don't know, and we'll share that.

Obviously, you and your father [Muhammad Ali] have been inspirations to many people. Will we hear about your stories at some point during the show?

That's up to the network, but I get tired of hearing about myself. And there are always going to be stories about my father and information out there. Who knows, maybe we will -- but there are so many people out there [to profile].

Will you be going out in the field yourself to do some reporting?

I'm an in-studio host. I wouldn't say that might not happen; there might be some things I'm going to want to do. But it hasn't happened yet.

What is it about this programming block that you think will connect with viewers?

Kevin Frazier will be profiling athletes and show what they are doing that's good outside of their sports. Jamie Oliver will be inspiring kids to live healthy. I've always felt a responsibility to be a part of things that represent positivity and inspire children, whether doing it myself as an athlete or profiling other individuals. Anything I'm involved with or associate my name with, I want to make sure it's something that's going to have a positive effect in the world, big or small, doesn’t really matter. I understand how important that is with all the choices children have on TV -- not a lot that's positive.