tca summer press tour 2013

Meghan McCain on Girls, Being a Liberal Republican, and Her New Talk Show

Photo: Frederick M. Brown/2013 Getty Images

Meghan McCain’s got a talk show launching September 14 on Pivot, a new channel targeted at “passionate millennials.” (Pivot will also be home to Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s HitRECord show, so there’s your reason to care!) Billed as a docu-talk show, Raising McCain will follow the 28-year-old on the road as she and various co-hosts (among them Wilson Cruz and Ana Kasparian) talk to experts and everyday people about topics like bullying and feminism and sex and the death of romance. Vulture sat down with McCain following Pivot’s TCA press tour session Friday to talk about the show, why she still identifies with the Republican party, and of course, the Red Wedding. And even though she’s no fan of Brooklyn, it turns out she mostly loves Lena Dunham.

Hi! How’s it going?
Good. Where do you work? [Notes my badge.] Vulture? No way, I fucking love Vulture. I’m not kidding, I read it all the time. Now I’m a little intimidated.

What? Why? What do you read?
I like the show recaps. The Walking Dead, Game of Thrones. I like the Girls recaps. You know, I have issues with it; I think some of it is inaccurate — there are some girls who live in Manhattan. But I like it, I do. It’s entertaining.

Tell me about your show. How did it come together?
I had this idea to do a talk show that was in the world instead of behind a desk or behind a podium or in a studio. I have a tendency to be more nervous, less authentic, when I’m in a studio structure like that. I was working at MSNBC at the time and I had this crazy idea to do a documentary-style talk show and Pivot was into it. When I first met with them, I was so impressed with their message and obviously a new network is a gamble but I just so believed in them and my idea, and they were crazy enough to buy it.

Had you been shopping it to other networks?
Yeah, I had been. I don’t want to delve into too much of the details, but there were other options. But, I don’t know, I loved Pivot’s message. When I was 14 years old, I met Tabitha Soren who worked for MTV News and she was the coolest chick I’d ever met. She was the first person I ever saw that looked like someone I’d want to hang out with who was talking about politics. That doesn’t sound like a lot, but when you’re 14 and your dad is running for president, you’re around suits all the time, and she was such a breath of fresh air. MTV News doesn’t really exist anymore. Technically, it might, but it’s not the same. So yeah, I always wanted to do something that was political but integrated fun and popular culture. I hope my show does that. I’ve had the best fucking time making it.

Are you still shooting?
We’ve got two more episodes to go, and we’ve shot eight.

Looking at the lineup, you’re doing episodes about privacy, bullying, feminism, sex … It doesn’t seem super political. Was that intentional?
Yeah, I mean there’s some. Politics is obviously in my life naturally in every way. It seeps in and out. But I wanted to talk about more than politics. The last election kind of killed my spirit. I was done. I went through a phase when I was very disillusioned. Politics is so polarizing and so partisan, and also people don’t know what to do with me because I’m the liberal Republican. I got to a place where I was like, “I don’t want to do this with my life. I don’t want to be part of the problem. I want to be a part of the solution” — not that I was a problem working at those places but I didn’t feel like I was making the kind of impact that I wanted to. I kind of had a bit of a personal existential crisis. I was like, “What do I want my life to look like? Do I want to be a conservative pundit, or do I want to be Tabitha Soren modernized?” That’s always what I wanted so I took a gamble and I’ve never been happier. I’ve never felt more like myself on camera. It’s the most authentic version of myself, I get to share so many different sides of myself and … I don’t know. I don’t have to wear suits and I can wear Converse everyday.

You said during the panel that you get to “be crazy” on this show. How so?
When I was working at MSNBC it’s in talking points. MSNBC is fantastic and I’m grateful that I worked there, but I’m not the right personality for there. I wanted to do more than talking points and short segments and being the Republican. I’m very gray. There’s a lot more to it and I wanted more of a dialogue. And I also wanted to talk about things other than politics. [Laughs.]

Why do you still identify as a Republican?
[Laughs.] Part of it is just cultural because I’m not a Democrat at all. I was an Independent when I first registered at 18. It’s fiscal and it’s national defense, honestly. I come from a big military family; I’ve got two brothers in the military. And there are tax reasons. But the Republican party, I struggle with it. I’ve been very open about that. I just don’t know what I’m going to do with the next election. We have a candidate who doesn’t support gay marriage and I don’t know why it’s so hard for Republicans to come around on this issue. It’s so important to me. The best part about working on this show is that it’s accepted for me to say, “I’m a liberal Republican. It’s very gray. My ideas are still evolving.” That’s not something that’s very accepted in cable news.

But, at least judging by the lineup and the sizzle reel, Pivot seems like a very liberal network. Was that a discussion between you and the executives?
Yes, it was! It’s so funny, when I originally had the meeting with [president of Pivot Evan Shapiro], I was worried it was going to be a liberal network like Current. What I know of Current and its former self, I would never work there — although, I came from MSNBC so obviously I’m comfortable working at a liberal place. If you talk to Evan he’s very impressive, and he really understands that this generation doesn’t want to be labeled. I was sold at the initial meeting. He said he would have different voices and lots of different personalities and it was more about being part of something that’s going to try and make a difference and bring substance to young people.

Right. You said on the panel that there needed to be middle ground between the Kardashians and C-SPAN. What about series like The Daily Show — are you thinking of your show as an alternative to that?
I love The Daily Show and The Colbert Report, I mean, who doesn’t? But I don’t see my face on TV. Fuck, politics aside, I just mean a person I feel I could hang out with. I don’t really see that, other than Anderson Cooper’s show, which is now canceled. I just feel like there’s more there, and I know because I had it when I was younger. MTV News influenced my life in so many crazy ways. The first discussion I ever had about AIDS was because of Pedro on The Real World.

Where is the show based?
We have a loft space in New York, which is like the home base. We call it The Saloon. There’s alcohol on my show. We go and we meet there, and that’s where we do the morning meetings, which are filmed, and my testimonials straight to camera. Then we go out in New York and do interviews. We Skype. We’ve done some things outdoors, like kickball. I friggin’ hung from a trapeze a week ago. It was awful. Wait til you see. I can’t wait til that crap hits the Internet. Never hang from a trapeze. I’m not scared of heights and it was horrible. It’s a lot more complicated than people realize. I hated it. So there’s stuff like that we’re doing, too. I hope you’re getting the vibe of the show, it’s hard to explain.

Will your dad watch this show?
Oh yeah, totally. I’m going to send him episodes as soon as I can.

Who’s the show for?
Hopefully high schoolers and college students. That’s my sweet spot. Those are the people who come up to me in airports. I hope there are girls out there especially who’ll see that you don’t have to have it all figured out if you come from a conservative family or a liberal family you don’t have to agree with your parents. It’s okay. You can be crazy and still be smart. That’s the other thing: I feel like you’re not allowed to wear makeup and dress hot and go out with dudes and be smart and intellectual and talk about substantive issues at the same time. I fuckin’ hate that.

I’m being wrapped up here, so, what did you think of the Red Wedding?
It was traumatizing, but I loved it. I was sad that the mom died.

Robb, not so much. I’m with you.
Well, he made his choice. I kind of saw it coming. Our sound guy was like, “Oh, there’s gonna be a really big wedding, just wait til you see it.” Then I saw it and I was like, “Holy shit.” I love Game of Thrones and Walking Dead. I don’t get star-struck hardly ever but I saw Shane [played by actor Jon Bernthal] at the White House Correspondents dinner and I was like, Oh my God. I didn’t talk to him, I was so embarrassed. [Yells] “Bring back Shane! Bring back Shane!” Make him come back to life. I don’t care if the plot is ridiculous. Michonne’s my favorite though. My brother was like, “How can Michonne be your favorite? She’s not evolved enough on the show.” And I’m like, “No. She’s fucking awesome and she’s a badass with a sword. The end.”

Meghan McCain on Girls, Her New Talk Show