Lifetime's The Conversation breaks every conventional rule we know about celebrity interviews.
On the series, which premieres Thursday at 11/10c, A-listers like Gwyneth Paltrow, Lady Gaga and Eva Longoria open up to host Amanda de Cadenet about issues we rarely see them address elsewhere: death, drugs, body image, relationships and their sex lives.
De Cadenet, a British TV personality and photographer, says her subjects are more open because they volunteered to be part of the project on their own — not because they had something to promote. (Although it probably didn't hurt that Demi Moore serves as executive producer). "Every woman who showed up did so because they are an advocate for women in some way," she says. "They wanted to participate in something that is supportive and inspirational for other women."
Check out clips from The Conversation
Each hour-long episode features interviews with four female celebrities who get candid about topics that range from the light-hearted (Jane Fonda's favorite sex position), to the heavy and emotional (Kelly Preston discussing her son Jett's death for the first time). De Cadenet came up with the concept because she was tired of comparing herself to glamorized celebrities, and she knew countless other women felt the same. She says the goal of the series is to humanize stars in a way audiences have never seen before.
"The media is so jam-packed [with a] certain kind of woman and a certain kind of role model... and nobody can live up to the expectations that are being set for women today," she says. "Everyone is comparing themselves to these role models and saying 'Oh my God, I'm failing miserably.' But it's not real. The [celebrities] themselves are portrayed in a certain way, and even they can't live up to the public perception of themselves. We need to say, 'Look, we're all dealing with some similar stuff here.'"
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The show's rawness becomes evident in the first episode, when Gwyneth Paltrow opens up about her father's death. "I was so in the throws of despair when he died... and it took me a really long time to get my head above water," Paltrow says.
Shortly after, the conversation transitions to post-partum depression — an issue that both de Cadenet and Paltrow struggled with. When asked to describe her symptoms, Paltrow says, "It was an inability to cope. I couldn't connect to my son the way I had connected to my daughter and I couldn't understand why. I couldn't connect to anyone. I felt like a zombie. I felt very detached... My theory is you never totally get rid of it."
It's not surprising that all the women, like Paltrow, seem so at ease throughout the experience. The sit-downs are like a more-comfortable version of a Barbara Walters interview on 20/20 . De Cadenet is (for the most part) the same demographic as her subjects, and she interviews them while sitting cross-legged, often barefoot, on her couch. But the setting wasn't specifically chosen for that reason. The Conversation actually began as a web series that de Cadenet shot from her living room because she didn't have the budget to rent a studio space, and she wanted to be able to keep an eye on her three children. Eventually, the series was picked up by Lifetime for an eight-episode order, but the at-home style shooting remained.
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In total, de Cadenet interviewed 30 female celebrities including Olivia Wilde, Miley Cyrus, Donna Karan and Sarah Silverman. But there's one prominent Hollywood star that is noticeably absent from the series — the show's executive producer, Demi Moore.
"If we do a season 2... she will be the first guest," de Cadenet says.
The Conversation premieres Thursday, April 26 at 11/10c on Lifetime.