A Room with a 'View

This summer, the Drexel InterView, the University’s lively and award-winning television series, joined the Pennoni Honors College as one of its initiatives. The Drexel InterView airs on hundreds of public broadcasting stations across the country, and is hosted by author, critic and Distinguished Professor Paula Marantz Cohen. Professor Cohen recently spoke with the Honor Roll about the program.

The Drexel Interview What is the Drexel InterView?

A half-hour TV show that is intended as a lively conversation between myself and someone of interest in the arts, sciences, business, or political arena. We strive for a balance of fields, viewpoints, and backgrounds in our guests and have no desire to toe a political or cultural party line. Many of our guests are passing through Philadelphia to promote a book, but now that we have a track record, we have been able to get some great guests by virtue of having had others.

What’s the most challenging part of doing a television interview?

Covering the questions that seem relevant within the half-hour time frame. I plan a script in advance but don't keep to it doggedly. Still, one wants to cover a lot of ground and maintain a balance between the formative aspects of a guest's life and his or her present activities. You don't want to talk to John Waters about growing up in Baltimore and never get to Hairspray. We try to film to time, though we have the luxury of doing over questions when necessary. The best interviews are organic and seem to end just at the 26.5-minute mark that we aim for.

Who’s been your most interesting interview to date, and why?

Waters was great fun. The most intellectually compelling guests, I think, were Norman Podhoretz, A.S. Byatt, John Banville and Christopher Hitchens. Banville, a Booker Prize-winner, admitted that he never went to college (and regretted it), but he is enormously well-read and intellectually playful. Christopher Hitchens, whom I interviewed right before his diagnosis of cancer, was the most surprising — more sensitive than I thought he would be, while also opinionated and brimming with anecdote and matter. Also, Craig Venter — scientist, entrepreneur, and competitive sailor. He pioneered the sequencing of the human genome and has an inspiring, tenacious personality.

Who’s someone, living, dead or fictional, that you’d love to interview?

I'd love to interview Henry Kissinger (we're trying) and Hilary Clinton (my mother-in-law would finally be impressed). I would also love to interview Bill Mahr, who I think is enormously clever and has the most inclusive talk show on TV (this, despite his strong political opinions). Dead people aren't worth discussing, since they're dead. And I interview fictional people in my novels.