Alex Wagner: A Voice for All Things Now
by jill hudson neal
A voice for all things Now: Alex Wagner, at the MSNBC studio.
Alex Wagner, MSNBC’s newest weekday chat-show star and the political world’s latest It girl, talks a good game.
The DC native can wax poetic for hours about all things current: the presidential election, the US Congress and its many personalities, even Kim Kardashian and Kanye West. Luckily for TV viewers, her hour-long midday show, Now with Alex Wagner, gives the brainy, irreverent Woodrow Wilson High School graduate the perfect platform for waving her wonk flag high and proud.
“I feel really privileged to be covering the news and to have lively discussions every day,” says Wagner, the daughter of Carl Wagner, a DC-based political strategist. “I love politics, and Washington was an incredible place to grow up. Because of the work my father did, I was aware of the world in a way that maybe someone growing up in another city might not have been.”
Wagner’s laserlike focus on both political and cultural issues—as well as her multicultural good looks and obvious hip factor—makes her path to television stardom seem predestined. Her jobs along the way, however, were as varied as her daily banter.
Prior to joining MSNBC, she was a reporter for The Huffington Post, White House correspondent for Politics Daily, editor-in-chief of music magazine The Fader, and executive director for George Clooney’s Not On Our Watch, the organization that works to stop genocide and mass atrocities in countries such as Darfur, Zimbabwe, and Burma (Wagner is half-Burmese).
Of her new TV post, the 34-year-old Brown University graduate says she hopes to bring a fresh perspective to the air—one that doesn’t always pair somber with serious. “Our team really cares about important issues, but we approach each discussion with a certain amount of humor and conviviality,” she explains. Wagner selects all of the music for her show, which may explain one of the reasons Now is gathering steam with the coveted 18-to-34 demographic, who can (and do) appreciate her finger-on-the-pulse takes on pop culture and the news, and the intersection of the two. Snippets of songs from Jay-Z to Radiohead have a place on her political talk show, which, for the record, has also garnered its share of detractors. “There is lots of disagreement on Twitter about the show and me, but I don’t take it personally,” Wagner says with a laugh. “Being a critic on Twitter is much easier than someone walking up to me and saying, ‘Your show is terrible,’ or ‘You’re a shill for the GOP!’”
Speaking of the GOP, Wagner admits that Speaker of the House John Boehner tops her list of desired guests. (“Boehner is very fascinating to me.... and whenever he cries, I feel like crying.”) That she wants him to appear on Now, she adds, “is a testament to the fact that we have a broad bipartisan discussion about things every day. I work really hard, and I take all of it really seriously.”
photography by eric ryan anderson
We go behind the scenes with the SNL Weekend Update anchor.