PBS talkshow host Tavis Smiley believes that it's his ability to ease guests -- many of them reclusive celebrities and high-profile political figures not easily given over to self-revelation -- into unexpurgated, candid conversation that has propelled him to become a latenight viewing staple.
"I love meeting people," he says. "There's nothing quite like having someone on your show that you admire, revere and adore and then actually getting to excavate a conversation with them on air."
It's Smiley's casual yet insightful hosting approach, to which he refers as "organic conversation," that he credits for the success of his eponymous latenight chatfest as it hits its 1,000th episode.
Where other hosts conduct "structured, scripted interviews," relying on blue cards with questions prepped by show producers to navigate discussions, Smiley conducts his one-on-ones with an open-minded nonchalance, often letting his guests -- an eclectic collection that has included everyone from poet Maya Angelou to Israeli hip-hop artist Miri Ben-Ari -- lead the way.