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Cool Under Pressure

Carlos Watson, 37, wants to be the Barbara Walters of his generation.

Conversations With Carlos Watson debuted on TV stations across the country (and WCVB in Boston) in March, with you interviewing Hillary Clinton, Sean Combs, and Jeff Gordon. Who will you talk to on the show that airs next month?

Joss Stone, Donovan McNabb, John McCain, John Legend, and – we usually do several names you know, one you don’t know yet – Lupe Valdez. She’s the sheriff of Dallas.

Why did you pick Valdez?

Because I always want someone who embodies the notion that anything is possible. When you think, the sheriff of Dallas, you probably think of John Wayne. You don’t think of a woman, you don’t think of a Mexican-American, and you probably don’t think of someone who’s openly gay – you don’t think that person could get elected sheriff.

And what about Legend? Why him?

He’s someone people regularly refer to as the new Marvin Gaye. . . . And he’s also working on some Bono-esque initiatives in Africa.

You worked in politics, went to law school, and then ran and sold a tutoring and test-prep company. When did you decide to go into TV?

I got a call out of the blue from someone who had seen me being interviewed when I was running my company. It literally was a guy from ABC whose job it was to find unusual people to get into television. He said, “Have you ever thought about it?” And I said, “No.” And he said, “If you did, what would you consider doing?” And I said, “I used to love the Barbara Walters things. I used to enjoy watching Charlie Rose.” But I thought it would be great if there was a more modern version.

What do you mean by more modern?

I think from Barbara Walters we learned the value of going to people. You don’t see many shows that go to people. But I think we have a broader array of guests. I think you can see from the breadth of the guests we have that we’re right upfront, recognizing that this is a generation interested in a whole broad range of things. They’re following presidential politics, but also doing online dating and everything in between.

When you started out in TV, you worked a lot for CNN. What was your baptism by fire?

Every time you go on live, whether you’re squaring off against Bill O’Reilly or Catherine Crier or you’re talking to Wolf Blitzer or Dennis Miller, you’ve got to be on your A game.

Any early blunders?

So many that I can’t even tell you one. I’m still always nervous. There’s always sweat.

How many T-shirts do you wear under your button-down?

Just one. And you don’t always have a button-down. Sometimes you’ve got to go light and easy. If you’re driving with Jeff Gordon, you’re not wearing a button-down. You know what I mean?

So I guess the better question is: What kind of deodorant do you use?

Arrid Extra Dry.

– Keith O’Brien

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