'Rough Draft With Reza Aslan' debuts this Sunday on Ovation

By Ray Rahman
Updated February 23, 2016 at 07:28 PM EST

Rough Draft With Reza Aslan

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Author and scholar Reza Aslan is a regular pundit on the talk show circuit, but now he’s got a show of his own — only here, writers are the celebrities.

Rough Draft With Reza Aslan debuts this Sunday on Ovation, and the host promises to combine a loose, casual vibe with in-depth interviews. “We’re big fans of Inside the Actors Studio, so we thought it would be fun to do a version of that for writers, but with a club atmosphere,” Aslan tells EW. “We’ve got cocktails and a live band!”

The premiere kicks off with none other than Norman Lear, while scribes like Jill Soloway (Transparent) and Damon Lindelof (The Leftovers, Lost) are set to appear later in the season. Aslan will eventually invite non-TV writers, too — just not this season. “Television is going through such a renaissance right now,” Aslan says, “and the writers are finally being celebrated.”

As for why Lear is the first guest, Aslan says the choice was clear.

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“He’s a legend,” Aslan says. “Everybody knows that. He’s whip-smart and funny and political. He’s got a mind like a sieve. But there is a personal quality too. I grew up as an immigrant in America watching television. Everything that I knew about America was from television. I learned how to speak English because of television — and that was the golden age of Norman Lear.

“His shows have a particular spot in my heart,” Aslan continues. “They are an integral part of my childhood, my development, and my self-identity. And so when he said yes, I was just jumping for joy. It was a no-brainer to have him be the first guest because one of the major things about Rough Draft is that writing is not just about words on a page. Writing is about capturing culture, thoughts, identity, and actually forming it. Words have a power, particularly in pop culture, that is unmatched by our religious leaders, our political leaders. It’s the artist and the writer that defines who we are, and there is no better example of that than Norman Lear.”

Above, see an exclusive clip of Aslan giving Lear a very personal introduction in the premiere episode’s opening monologue.

Rough Draft With Reza Aslan premieres this Sunday at 8:30 p.m. ET on Ovation.

Rough Draft With Reza Aslan

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