Lilly Singh is ready to make history.
When her new talk show, A Little Late With Lilly Singh, premieres Monday night on NBC, she will become the first bisexual woman of color in late night. Further, in taking over the 1:35 a.m. time slot previously held by Last Call With Carson Daly, the 30-year-old YouTube creator will be the only woman currently hosting a broadcast late night show.
But there’s more to Singh than the boundaries she’s breaking. The Hollywood Reporter spent extensive time with the multihyphenate for its Aug. 21 cover story on her move into late night, including interviewing her at her home, attending her half-day photo shoot and shadowing her during a meeting with her writers room and a visit with her set designers.
Ahead of the premiere — A Little Late will debut on YouTube at 10 p.m. ET before airing in its usual 1:35 a.m. slot on NBC — here are seven things that didn’t make it into that cover story.
Despite keeping the erratic schedule of a YouTube creator, Singh craves routine. In fact, one of the aspects of late night that was most appealing to her was the strict schedule she’d need to have during filming, which is taking place over a roughly three-month period that began in early September. “I am very excited to get to eat the same breakfast every day,” Singh told THR in July. (Her go-to is scrambled eggs with red and green peppers and a glass of water flavored with strawberry lemonade Crystal Light.) Believe it or not, her work-life balance has improved since she got to work on A Little Late. “The show has put me on a schedule where every day at 10 a.m., I come to the writers room. I know I’m going to have meetings. I know I’m going to go home in the evening,” she explained. “It’s just a very different structure than my YouTube life was because I was just doing everything all the time.”
Vibes are very important to her. Singh (who has said she doesn’t plan to wear heels during filming for the show) wanted to make sure guests are comfortable during interviews and got hands-on in the creation of her set and green rooms. “I want it to be about the stories my guests have to tell,” she said. “I don’t want people fussing about things like how much their feet hurt or how they have to sit all pretty on the sofa.” Her focus on atmosphere extends to all aspects of her life, including photo shoots. Singh showed up to THR’s shoot with a Spotify playlist (Drake, Lizzo and Beyonce hits included) that helped bring up the energy in the room.
She’s a YouTube pro, but that didn’t make creating a new channel for A Little Late any less “psycho and exciting and scary” for Singh. The show’s channel posted its first video on Wednesday and already has 57,000 subscribers, a number that is likely to grow when the first full episode premieres there Monday with guest Mindy Kaling. In addition to hosting clips from A Little Late, the channel will feature sketches produced specifically for YouTube. “There’s so much more than just putting up videos and tweeting funny things,” Singh said of building the channel, pointing to NBC colleague Jimmy Fallon as having led the way for late night on YouTube. “It’s really about having a brand, having a message and having people be a part of something.”
Singh hosts a mean party. The elaborate events she likes to throw, including the first birthday she hosted for dog Scarbro, are her way of letting her creative juices flow. “One of the detrimental parts of my job is that everything I do that is creative somehow turns into work,” Singh said. “I feel like there should be some things where it’s just creative and not on camera. That used to be music but that also turned into work. So now party planning is my thing. I don’t record it. I literally just do it because it’s fun and I love it so much.”
Singh may have left Toronto, but Toronto hasn’t left her. There’s a subtle nod to Toronto’s CN Tower in the city skyline on the Little Late set, and her Hollywood home (which she’s dubbed the Toronto Shelter) hosts a rotating cast of friends visiting her from Canada. “L.A. can be a little bit intimidating,” Singh said. “When I moved here, it was stressful. I know Canada doesn’t seem that far, but it’s still a country change and there are still a lot of cultural differences.” She only has a few rules for those staying with her: “If I have to shoot, be quiet. And if I have to sleep, be quiet.”
Producing has become a passion for Singh. She even started her own shingle, Unicorn Island Productions, last year to begin sourcing projects that she can both produce and star in. Alongside head of development Polly Auritt, Singh has assembled a slate of around 20 scripted projects spanning film and television. “A huge mission of the company is to tell great stories, in particular stories from underrepresented voices,” Auritt told THR. There’s live-action comedy, kids fare, dramas and animated comedy, and Unicorn Island’s creative partners include Larry Wilmore, Kenya Barris, Nisha Ganatra and Paul Feig. Many of the projects feature South Asian characters and one is about an LGBTQ princess, per Singh.
Although Singh built a fanbase on YouTube, she acknowledges that there might come a point in her career when it’s time to call it quits. But the good news for her 15 million subscribers is that time isn’t now. “Truthfully, I haven’t made any conclusions or promises to myself,” she said. “I think when it feels right, I’ll stop — if it ever feels right.” But that doesn’t mean her behavior on social media hasn’t evolved. After her break from YouTube last fall, Singh has being more deliberate about what she posts on the platform, focusing on quality over quantity. And she’s treating platforms like Twitter and Instagram as storytelling tools. “I don’t view it as part of who I am,” she added. “Social media is great, but it just can’t be the story of who I am, you know?”