“Entertainment Tonight” has found its newest co-host, elevating Nischelle Turner to the top job alongside current host Kevin Frazier. With the promotion, Turner makes history as the first Black woman to serve as co-host of “ET.”
“It means everything to me,” Turner tells Variety of the historic moment. “Make no mistake about it: I believe and have always believed that I was the best person for the job, but it was never lost on me that it was also bigger than just me. I would be representing an underserved group of people who are finally getting a moment in the spotlight — and a well-deserved moment.”
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In her new role, announced by executive producer Erin Johnson, Turner joins an elite (and small) group of women who have co-hosted the top-ranked entertainment news show — Mary Hart (who anchored from 1982-2011) and Nancy O’Dell (2011 to 2019).
“I do feel like that’s rarefied air in television, especially news magazines to stand with those women,” Turner says. “I’ve looked at their careers for my whole career; I’ve taken bits and pieces from their style.”
“I had the chance to work with Nancy for many years and consider her a friend. I always looked at the ease that she sat down with people and the ‘girl-next-door’ quality that she had so easily,” she continues. “That was something I always admired. And Mary Hart, she built this house.”
A journalist for more than 20 years, Turner has won four Daytime Emmys as an “ET” correspondent and weekend co-host since joining the show in 2014.
“Nischelle can do it all. She can go from a heartfelt conversation with Oscar winner Viola Davis about the impact of Cicely Tyson to singing karaoke on a balcony with Jimmy Fallon. She is warm, thoughtful and full of energy,” says Johnson. “Celebrities respect her skills as a seasoned journalist, and our audience has taken notice of her fun chemistry with Kevin [Frazier]. There is no one more deserving to lead ‘ET’ in our history-making 40th season and beyond.”
The pairing of Frazier and Turner is also significant; they’ll be the first two Black people to host “ET” in a full-time capacity.
“If I’m being honest,” says Turner, “there was always a thought in the back of my head, ‘Is the audience in America ready for two Black hosts up there together?’ and the answer that America gave us was ‘Yes.’”
Of her dynamic with Frazier, she adds: “We have a genuine chemistry. We both care deeply for each other. We both trust each other, fully and completely to have one another’s back when I’m on that stage. You can’t manufacture that.”
Turner was on location in Philadelphia filming her upcoming CBS reality series “Secret Celebrity Renovation” when she got the call. Almost immediately, the tears began flowing.
“I’ve heard from so many women of color who have aspirations to be in this business and have so many questions, and say how they have followed my career or look up to my career,” says Turner. “In taking this next step, I feel like I’m taking them all with me.”
News of Turner’s promotion comes during a challenging time for the show, where the entire “ET” team has had to make major shifts due to the pandemic.
“We’ve tackled new topics, social justice angles and how this is affecting Hollywood, and expanded our minds and our coverage, and it’s been great to see,” says Turner. “And our audience is expanding with it. I think that puts a great stamp on the 40th season.”
“I think that I’ve done the best interviews I’ve ever done in my life. I’m so proud of everyone because I’ve seen us work harder, work smarter, and lock in more than I ever have,” Turner continues, praising her colleagues, including correspondents Lauren Zima, Rachel Smith and Matt Cohen. “I’m so proud to be stepping into a role where I can be a leader and help put a stamp on this show in a time where change is coming.”
Plus, getting the opportunity to host “ET” means Turner has an even larger platform to spotlight issues that are dear to her heart.
The journalist says that upon learning the news of the promotion, she began the process of launching the James and Margie Turner Memorial scholarship fund to benefit at-risk youth in her hometown of Columbia, Missouri. The proud Mizzou Tiger and her family are active in the Columbia community, creating Buck’s Place, an organization named after Turner’s great-grandfather that has fed the homeless and given back to the local community for over 40 years. Turner also volunteers with the Boys and Girls Club of America and is a mentor of Brown Girls’ Dream.
“My grandparents were blue-collar folks who worked very hard, raised 11 children, and did it through faith, and love, and family, and stewardship. We believe in service,” she says. “We have a hashtag in our family #TurnerStrong and, I always say, I do it for the name on the back of my jersey.”
And what Turner hopes that the audience discovers about her as co-host is simple: “That I care,” she says.
“What you’re thinking at home watching ‘ET,’ and the questions you want to ask, is the same thing I’m thinking,” she adds. “I am your girlfriend, and every night when you watch me, we’re having a kiki session, we’re having a little chat at the end of our day.”
“Entertainment Tonight” is produced and distributed by CBS Media Ventures, with Johnson as executive producer and Whitney Wallace and Leslie Kawaguchi as co-executive producers.
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