Fran Kelly is ready to take on new challenges with ‘Frankly’

Last year after 18 years of hosting ABC Radio National’s flagship Breakfast program Fran Kelly hung up her headphones and turned off her early morning alarms.

Now the respected journalist is taking on a new challenge, a weekly chat show. It’s called Frankly and will be coming to Friday nights on ABC TV.

Speaking to OUTinPerth Kelly outlined that the ideas behind the new show was to create a space where interesting conversations could place between changemakers, whether they be actors, authors, comedians, musicians, sports people, inventors or adventurers.

While Kelly is famous for grilling politicians over policies and decisions, she shared that a big love of her job as an interviewer is the conversations with all the other types of people. As the show is on a Friday night though, she won’t be shining too bright a spotlight on her guests.

“People won’t be coming to this Friday night for a grilling. They’ll be coming for hopefully an engaging, insightful, warm hearted and fun interview. That’s what I have to get going there with each interview, but we’re all going to end up on the couch together, so hopefully, there’ll be some kind of connection between it all by the end of it. That’s the idea.” Kelly said.

The unexpected combination of different guest is something Kelly is looking forward to.

“We’ll have an astrophysicist sitting on the couch with a comedian, next to an entertainer or maybe an artificial intelligence expert, sitting next to a sports person and a famous actor. The challenge and the mission will be to find connections between people, but I think as humans, it’s what we want to do anyway.

“It’s what we’re always trying to do, so we want to have diversity on the couch, reflecting diversity of our lives, and hopefully, we’ll get connection and energy from that.”

Chat show seems to have fallen out of favour with Australian TV audiences, but from Parkinson to Aspel and Company to late night chat shows, they’re an enduring format.

“Someone suggested to me the last one might have been Adam Hills back in 2013, and that was a bit different again. Obviously because Adam is a comedian and he had Hannah Gatsby with his sidekick.

“So, this is different again, I keep reminding everyone I’m not a comedian. Just to sort of hold down expectations here.” Kelly said.

Kelly notes it’s a long time since hosts like Michael Parkinson were sitting down and finding out more about the celebrities of the day, but she says she always admired his warm and engaging style of interviewing. She hopes Frankly will be a place where guests feel at ease, but she also hopes the show is a bit edgy.

While Kelly has hundreds of acclaimed interviews under her belt already, she doesn’t hesitate when asked what her biggest trainwreck interview is. Michael Parkinson had awkward moments with Meg Ryan, but for Kelly her off the rails interview was with Boy George.

“Boy George hung up on me!” Kelly recalls.

“I was quite excited because I’ve always loved Boy George. I think we got two minutes, maybe not even two minutes, into the interview when he just said to me, ‘This is boring me’ and hung up live on air.

“Burned by Boy George, and of course it went global on Twitter. What most annoyed us, is he rang and asked us for the interview, we hadn’t chased the interview. I really don’t understand why he was so perturbed, but that’s one of those moments in my career.”

Left with dead air Kelly threw to an announcement and in a moment of quick thinking threw on the Culture Club hit Do You Really Want to Hurt Me. 

When the ABC first announced Frankly a few months ago they were criticised for building a show around the established interviewer. Critics said the broadcaster had missed an opportunity to invest in new talent and give a younger presenter a big break. Kelly is forthright in her assessment of the criticism.

“I’m always for finding new talent and new presenters,” Kelly said.  “I worked a long time on breakfast radio and a big part of my work here was to bring in new journalists and bring them up, and mentor them, and teach them, and I’ve done a lot of that in my life.

“This is an idea for the show I had, and they bought it and frankly this is me in a different light, and it’s allowing me to try out new things and exercise different bits of me than people are used”

“I feel like, why wouldn’t I be allowed to do that? I’ve worked long and hard to develop the experience and expertise in interviewing, that’s what I do. So, it makes sense to me to be given this chance.

“I understand that we should be developing new talent all the time, of course we should be. I just think this show is a show for someone who’s had a lot of experience in life and interviewing. That’s the whole basis of the show really.

“I also think for a woman be given a chance for a primetime TV show like this is a breakthrough. It’s a long time since we’ve had any show like this on the air, let alone fronted by a woman and frankly, I don’t think we ever had one.” Kelly said.

Find a new way to spend your Friday nights when Frankly premieres on 7th October at 8:30pm on ABCTV.

Graeme Watson


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