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Tamron Hall Talks New Show

Credit: Investigation Discovery

Talk about a rockstar.

Tamron Hall is a top MSNBC host and investigative journalist who made waves in the top media market of Chicago for a decade before joining MSNBC in 2007.  And the gorgeous, famously pixie-cut rocking journalist isn’t done making waves.  Last year, she made jaws drop and YouTube implode when she shut DOWN guest Tim Carney, of the Washington Examiner, who clearly didn’t know whose house he was in when he accused her of a “typical media trick” about five seconds into his appearance.

Click HERE to relive the glorious moment.

But back to the matter, the regular contributor to NBC as guest host for “Today” and “Weekend Today” is about to leverage her no-nonsense news gathering skills into a brand new project, a 13-part series called “Deadline: Crime with Tamron Hall,” which will delve deep into both unsolved and controversial crimes, flanked by an impressive team including Emmy Award-winning journos Michelle Sigona, Angeline Hartman and appearances by Aphrodite Jones.  Hall, who spoke one-on-one with JET about the ID program, tells us why it will be unique and also opened up about how the loss murder of her beloved older sister played a role in her decision to take on this assignment.

JET: Tamron, thank you so much for talking with us.  JET is based in Chicago where you made your meteoric rise, so it’s great to see where you’ve ended up.  Congratulations on your new role with “Deadline: Crime with Tamron Hall.”

Tamron Hall: Oh, thank you!  I appreciate that.  Yes, I am very excited about this new show.

JET: Tell us about it.  There are quite a few behind-the-headline crime programs, so what makes this one unique?  Is there a focus on looking into minorities who go missing and very little is offered, in the way of media coverage, to bring their families closure?

Tamron Hall: Well, one of the things is, we are focused on a number of angles.  We’re not exclusive to cases where someone is missing.  But since you did bring up the point, we do also focus on cases involving African Americans who are missing.  There are statistics that show those cases don’t get the media attention, certainly not in comparison to situations where the victim is white.  One of the episodes is involving a young African American woman who disappeared in Atlanta.  We go behind the headlines and dig deep into what happened.  The hope is that we can bring her mother and family some peace.  It’s an interesting case from a number of angles because we interviewed all parties involved, and I must be honest, I walked away wondering if justice had been served.  I wondered whether an  innocent man is in jail or if we are dealing with a guilty man who is a great liar.  Another one that stands out right now is a mother of two who disappeared in front of her family’s home.   Her father is a  Midwestern truck driver.  This is a tough man and he broke down in front of me to the point where we were both crying.  He was telling me how he heard a dog barking the day his daughter was taken and he thought the dog was just being a nuisance.  But now he thinks the dog was barking because he was witnessing the struggle.  The father feels he didn’t protect his child.  It’s raw and emotional.

JET: You mention that you broke down along with the man.  I’m sure this show hits a certain raw place for you because you lost your own sister in a case that hasn’t been solved.  I have a sister, who is my best friend in this world, so I cannot imagine the horror of that for you and your family.  Did her death play a role in your decision to take on this program?

TH:  Well, you know.  The loss of my sister was part of the conversation.  We were talking about shows in discussions with Discovery and the executives wanted to get to know me. I was so excited because I am a huge fan of ID (Investigation Discovery) and Discover.  I honestly can say I am a fan of Animal Planet.  I’m pretty much a Discovery Channel groupie.  [laughs] So we were talking about a particular platform for me and as part of that, the topic of my sister came up.  When people want to get to know you, they ask about your family.  I shared the story of my sister and my father’s struggle.  My father left this world without ever knowing really what happened to my sister.  It was an organic conversation that just moved forward, but I will tell you that I was getting so much support, and then one person tweeted me and said “way to go exploiting your sister’s murder.”  I never thought of that and this one person just caused me so much pain.  The support for me was overwhelming, but it’s the one thorn that sticks you.

JET: Well, that is a ridiculous and heartless comment and it’s telling that only one person made it.

TH: I try to think of it that way as well.  It’s been a journey taping these 13 episodes.  And I like to point out that it’s not just about the victims.  We have people whose  loved ones have been convicted of a crime that’s unimaginable.  You have this father who says ‘There is no way my son could have done this.  this is the son I’ve known since he breathed air.”  Those are the moments that I really appreciate.  I don’t believe these are just crime stories to the men and women who embrace ID.  It’s about trying to understand: What if this were me?  How would I react? It’s natural to be interested because partly,  people believe they are investigators, especially those who have gravitated toward ID.

JET: That’s true, and with so many shows like “Law & Order” or “CSI,” people are more interested in this kind of crime-solving, period.

TH: Yes, exactly!  And not only that, many of us will serve as jurors.  They will be the ones to determine someone’s guilt or innocence.  That’s deep and a major responsibility. We  learned that from the Trayvon Martin case.  I don’t want people to think this is just a crime show; we are looking at lives and people affected.  There’s a case where there’s a defendant who is a father, he’s married and a jury had to decide his fate.  I would shudder, personally, at shouldering that.  I’ve never served on a jury and when it comes to deciding someone’s fate, I don’t wish that struggle on anybody.

JET: And I imagine your somewhat storied toughness will come into play as well…We all recall how last May you put that wayward guest in his place.  

TH: [laughs] Well, yes, there are situations like that.  I do a prison interview with someone behind bars. I pressed him for unanswered questions and it can get very uncomfortable.  After all, you are talking about someone’s guilt or innocence.  I also interview investigators and prosecutors who I challenge, and we’re all human.  I remember that I interviewed a man in Chicago when I was a  reporter and he spent 25 years behind bars, was on death row in fact, for a crime he didn’t commit.  He had the mental capacity of an 8-year-old.  I interviewed him the day he got out of prison. It makes you ask: How did this happen? When things seem clear cut, sometimes they are not. Prosecutors make the wrong call.  I don’t believe these decisions are always made from malice, but the questions have to be asked.

JET: I know some people who actually avoid the news because of what they call negativity.  They don’t want to hear stories of people being killed or doing the killing.  Is there anything about this program that could get a person with that mindset to give this show a chance?

TH: It’s frustrating to me that there are people out there who avoid this kind of news.  It’s real life.  I wish that candy fell from the sky and gold popped up when we walked, but that isn’t the case.  If it’s not someone’s cup of tea, I wouldn’t know how to begin to have that dialogue.  But in some of these cases, there are triumphs.  There is one woman actually who fought back against her attacker.  These are not all stories of death.  Some victims survive and go on to fight and reclaim their lives.  I interviewed a man from Florida who is reclaiming his life after losing his sight.  And sometimes the survivors are the family members…a family member of a victim.  These are real people.  This is real life.  I know people have a hard time, but this is well-researched and well-handled storytelling.  This isn’t a fast food chain of crime drama that you’re watching.  We really care.

WATCH OUT NOW: Deadline Crime debuts on Sunday, September 1 at 9 p.m. EST.  Tune in and come back to let us know what you thought.