Who is Reza Aslan? He’s changing the talk show focus with “Rough Draft”

Who is Reza Aslan? Barb Oates

Who is Reza Aslan? Learn more about the New York Times best selling author who is hosting a new talk show you’re going to want to check out …

Ovation introduces its first talk show with Rough Draft With Reza Aslan, beginning Feb. 28 at 8:30pmET. The show focuses on the art of writing in all its different forms as Reza Aslan, the best-selling author of a number of books himself (Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth), invites authors, screenwriters and songwriters to discuss their creative process.

Who is Reza Aslan?Sound boring? Far from it. And let’s be clear, this isn’t a show for writers — it’s a show about writers and the writing life.

“It’s really about the creative process, and what the creative process is all about,” Alsan further explained at a recent Television Critics Association (TCA) Press Tour in Pasadena. “It really doesn’t matter what you’re interested in. The creative process has similarities to it, regardless of your field or your discipline, that I think is going to be familiar to a lot of people — no offense to actors — but writers are funnier and more interesting than actors and have more to say usually.”

The show is recorded in the historic Max Sennett Theatre in Silver Lake, Calif., which Alsan says is really the birthplace of Hollywood and “the hippest place in Hollywood.” The theatre, in the round setting, lends intimacy to the overall show and allows for some funny moments. Aslan explained that the idea of the show stemmed from Inside The Actors Studio, a long-running series on Bravo hosted by the legendary James Lipton.

“This whole thing started because my producer and friend David Andreone and I are both real fans of Inside the Actor’s Studio, and we always thought, wouldn’t it be great if there were a version of this, but with writers, and in a nightclub with a live band, and everyone’s drunk?” Alsan explained. “We would love to see that.”

They tested the concept in a nightclub but it became so big and unwieldy, and so many people wanted to attend that they decided to transform the live show into an actual taped show. The first guest of the series is television legend Norman Lear — a very funny Norman Lear. When Lear was asked during the TCA session what made the show and Mr. Aslan distinctive, he said that you needed to know Aslan a full three minutes and you will love him. Adding, “The audience was like family in a few minutes.  And he’s like family in a few minutes.”

Reza Aslan interviewing Norman LearAslan says he grew up watching Norman’s shows, as he came to the U.S. from Iran when he was just 7 years old. He learned how to speak English by watching CHiPs (for real). For Aslan, meeting Lear was meeting someone who actually had a deep impact on his identity. It’s actually hard not to be touched by Lear as he e gave us so many culturally defining TV shows including All in the Family, The Jeffersons, Maude, Good Times, Facts of Life, Sanford and Son and the list goes on. In Aslan’s interview with Lear, which airs Feb. 28, we learn that Lear started out as a press agent. His father called him the dumbest white kid he ever met. When Aslan asked who of his characters he was most emotionally connected to, Lear choose, Maude, believing there was more Maude in him. He further talks about All in the Family and how he got away with the often controversial topics back then, and shares the backstories of famous episodes like the Maude episode on abortion.

Similar to Inside the Actors Studio, there are five questions Aslan asks at the end of each of his interviews:
You will have to watch to know the answers.
What is your favorite book ?
What are you reading now ?
What is your writing process ?
What was the best advice you ever got about writing?
What advice would you give to a young struggling writer?

Rough Draft With Reza Aslan airs on Sundays at 8:30pm beginning Feb. 28
The guest lineup for Rough Draft With Reza Aslan includes:
February 28: Norman Lear with Musical guest Ingrid Michaelson
March 6:  Jill Soloway.  Musical guest:  Local Natives
March 13: Damon Lindelof. Musical guests:  Antonio Sanchez & Daniel Lanois
March 20: Tim Kring & Gideon Raff.  Musical guest: Alison Sudol
March 27:  Mike White. Musical guests: The Bird and The Bee

1 Comment

  1. My granddaughters are amazing writers (14 and 16) and we love Reza Aslan (and his show). Last night we watched the Tim Kring and Mike White episodes and one of them mentioned who they’re reading now and I was so sure I’d remember…but I didn’t. Makimavi or some such thing? Hope that helps, cuz it sounded like we really needed to be reading it as well. Another interesting thought: While watching Mike White I had the distinct feeling the 14-year-old was relating even more to him than any other we have watched so far (all but Lear). So I looked up his birth date and lo and behold, same day! (I was just thinking Cancer, but wow!) Anyway, I realize this show isn’t just for writers, but as a family of writers (my mother, my sister, my great niece, my grandchildren and myself), we are loving it! I am actually grateful for it, as I think it is helping the 14-year-old understand her own process* and that it’s “OK.” Thank you! Plus, Aslan is absolutely adorable! *(She inhabits a character, taking on characteristics or clothing, plays music she feels would be theirs, etc. Unbelievable, actually. She says one day she hopes to be on the show herself! She wants to make people think/feel) ;-D [On another note: Love Phryne! So glad you have her! Yay!]

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