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Andrew Denton says Seven’s new interview program will not rely on the success of Enough Rope

Seven’s new show Interview will not assume its success off the back of ABC’s Enough Rope, but will look to earn audience trust and ‘start from scratch’, host Andrew Denton has said.

Denton, who spoke to media yesterday at a Seven briefing ahead of the show’s launch next week, said while the concept was still the same, it was taking him time to get back up to “full speed” after ten years off air.

Denton last year when he announced his return to television

“It would be an easy equation to go ‘well Enough Rope is a very successful show and therefore this will be a very successful show,’ he said.

“Enough Rope was 10 years ago and like any great athlete which coincidentally I also am, I’m finding that it’s taken me a while to get back up to full speed after 10 years and we don’t assume that because that show was successful 10 years ago, this one will be.

“We figure we have to earn our stripes again, we have to earn the trust of audiences, we have to earn the trust of guests who want to come on the show.

“Obviously if things aren’t working, we are going to do a fair bit of cooking and renovating into episode three and by episode four Pete Evans will be hosting,” he later joked.

The former host of ABC’s Enough Rope and game show Randling announced his return to television late last year at Seven’s upfronts.

Interview will run the same way as Enough Rope, with two people, two chairs and one conversation. He will interview a range of people over the series, including celebrities.

Since finishing up with Enough Rope in 2008, Denton has worked as a producer for a number of television shows including Gruen Transfer,  one the public broadcaster’s most successful entertainment formats of the last decade, however Denton hasn’t been involved with any programs for the last six years.

Jon Casimir, Enough Rope’s former producer and the former ABC head of entertainment, said the new show would aim to fill a “gap” in the market.

“We aren’t going to do anything complicated here, we are going to do something that is actually quite simple and we are going to do it because we feel there is a gap. We could be wrong but we feel there is a gap in the marketplace right now. The world we have moved into is a shouty place,” he said.

Denton speaking to Mumbrella about his greatest challenge

“Maybe it would be nice to see if we can make an oasis of quiet in that noisy world.”

Yesterday, Denton said the negotiations for Interview were some of the shortest he has ever had in his career. Following a two hour meeting with Seven chairman Kerry Stokes and CEO Tim Worner, Denton said a draft contract had been written up.

He added he had not been interested in any other offers – be it television or radio – prior to his new show Interview.

“I really wasn’t interested, my life went in other directions and I spent a lot of that time getting out into the world and learning to do things like scuba diving,” he said.

The host said he would never set up to “go for the jugular”, but rather focus on asking fair questions.

“But fair questions can be tough questions,” he added.

“I would never want to start even without somebody like a known fraud like Alan Bond or Peter Foster, even with somebody like them, the challenge is not just to expose who they are but to expose why they are who they are.

“I admire those people and there are very good journalists that do that, but that’s not my style and motivation. There’s more to be learned about why a person does what they do rather than ‘you did it’.”

He later told Mumbrella his biggest challenge was “surprising” a guest enough so they come off script. For Denton, it’s about asking a question that makes the guest wonder ‘do I know how the answer to that?’

“To us one of the best answers to a question you can get is silence. I remember once asking Matt Damon a really simple question which is ‘are you a good actor?’ and he was silent for about ten seconds,” he said.

“For a lot of people you interview, they’ve been interviewed many many times and they’ve been asked the same questions many many times and they are bored and it’s boring for them. It’s finding that line between necessarily having to go through some of the stuff they have been asked about before but making it fresh for them as well. What I’m always looking for, the greatest stuff on television always, are moments of honesty.”

But getting an “honest moment in a medium that is false” isn’t always easy for Denton, there’s a lot of work that goes into it and sometimes “it doesn’t work at all”.

While research is a massive component of the show, empathy with the guest is also important, Denton said: “Then there’s a chemistry thing that happens or sometimes doesn’t happen between myself and the guest, where I’m trying to send out this telepathic signal which is it’s not you on your own, it’s us out here being scrutinised and I’m not here trying to go for the jugular.

“It’s a trust issue, it’s trying to exude that trust and then the third thing is paying attention to what is actually happening. Sometimes the body language or the words or the emotional response of the guest gives me the cue of ‘oh there’s more there.’

“Sometimes it doesn’t work at all, sometimes there’s no chemistry, sometimes the guest doesn’t like the question, sometimes they are nervous or they can’t get off their script. That’s why it is highly unlikely, for instance, we’ll be talking to politicians in this series, because they are welded to their script,” he added.

When asked whether he thought he was a good interviewer he said “sometimes”.

“Like all people sometimes I miss a cue, sometimes I push too hard or not hard enough. I would say of the pilots we have done so far I don’t think there’s any I would rate at a 10 – I am a fairly hard marker- but there are moments that have been a 10,” he said.

“My guests will give you different answers to that question too and so will the audience.”

Interview commences next Tuesday at 9pm on Seven.

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