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Ronan Farrow — the son of Mia Farrow who previously worked as an Obama administration foreign policy official — will host a weekday program on MSNBC beginning early next year. The announcement came Wednesday from MSNBC president Phil Griffin.
The show, which is likely to launch in mid-January, will be closely aligned with Farrow’s activism. And he told The Hollywood Reporter during a phone interview on Wednesday that his desire to join a television network was born of conversations he has had with young people who are frustrated with the vituperative immobility in Washington as well as the current state of TV news.
“I think what people crave is more involvement in the story,” he said. “There has been a democratization of information. But what they still crave, and what I crave as a TV viewer, is a guide on how people can have agency in the story. And this show is all about empowering people to do that. People want a return to real democracy. They want to respond to these events [in Washington] that there is so much frustration about.”
As THR exclusively reported, MSNBC has been in development talks with the 25-year-old Rhodes Scholar for several months. And Griffin first met with Farrow last summer.
“Within 20 minutes I just knew that he had a certain presence and confidence. He knew what he wanted to say. I just had a sense that the guy could do it. Whatever that thing is that enables people to communicate really well, he had it,” explained Griffin. “We’re always trying evolve the message here and how to get ideas across. And he was an original thinker. And that’s the most important thing.”
Still, Farrow’s television experience – and his familiarity to MSNBC viewers – is limited. And Griffin said that he’ll appear across MSNBC’s programs in the interim to build Farrow’s profile. Certainly the MSNBC chief has shown a willingness to groom talent that may lack TV skills. In fact, the network’s entire primetime lineup — Chris Hayes, Rachel Maddow and Lawrence O’Donnell — is made up of personalities who did not come to TV through traditional channels.
Farrow has written for multiple publications including The Wall Street Journal and the International Herald Tribune. He served in the Obama administration’s foreign policy department and also at the State Department, where he founded the Office of Global Youth Issues and was an advisor to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton during the Arab Spring uprising. He has appeared on MSNBC and CNN as an commentator and sources tell THR that he also met with executives at CNN about a role there.
He also recently sold his first book to Penguin Press; Pandora’s Box: How American Military Aid Creates America’s Enemies will examine the circumstances that led to recent international crises and is set to be published in 2015. In a press release announcing the acquisition, Farrow noted: “People are tired of watching the same policies backfire time and time again while being told that this is just the way things are done. We need to understand how we got here — and how to change it. That’s why I’m writing this book. Also it got too long for a tweet.”
Like his mother, Farrow is a human rights activist with AIDS in Africa and the genocide in Darfur among his areas of focus. A graduate of Yale Law School and member of the New York Bar, Farrow worked closely with the late Richard Holbrooke as a special adviser for humanitarian and NGO affairs in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
But he was recently in the headlines for his mother’s equivocation about her son’s paternity. The admission came during an interview with Vanity Fair about her and her family’s continued antipathy toward Woody Allen, who is allegedly Ronan’s father. When asked by writer Maureen Orth if Frank Sinatra could be Ronan’s father, Mia Farrow coyly answered “possibly.” Ronan attempted to diffuse the tabloid onslaught by wryly tweeting: “Listen, we’re all *possibly* Frank Sinatra’s son.”
Asked if the headlines made him uncomfortable, Farrow said he was surprised that it had gained so much traction. “It’s a story that’s been out there for a long time,” he told THR. “If anything I was surprised to see it go so far this time. Of course it is an annoyance to have such a high-profile distraction from the substance of what I’m working on; a very meaningful project like this TV show that I think can actually make a difference to people.”
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