McCollum Looks For Action As Host Of 'ReMaking America'

by Casey Holdahl
Follow @chold

Trail Blazers guard CJ McCollum is rather adept at masking his intentions when the ball is in his hands. Sure, you know full well what the desired result is, but he does his damnedest to make sure you don’t know how he’s going to get there.

But no such obfuscation exists regarding McCollum’s goals off the court, especially when it comes to his post-playing career. While many athletes, perhaps even most, don’t consider what’s next until the latter stages of their playing careers, McCollum knew well before he even made the NBA that he’d utilize his degree in journalism from Lehigh once the eventual transition from professional to recreational takes place. However, he’s not even waiting for that current chapter in his life to end before starting another.

After years of developing his interviewing chops hosting radio shows and podcasts, McCollum is taking his journalism career to the next level with “ReMaking America, A Conversation With CJ McCollum,” a new show on PlayersTV (of which McCollum is an investor) in which the Canton, OH native “tackles social issues head-on like education reform and facilitates meaningful discussions with star guests such as fellow athletes, politicians, community leaders and activists among others.” While handling hosting duties, McCollum is writing and producing the show along with staff from PlayersTV and assistance from his agency, Excel Sports Management.

McCollum recently took some time out of his schedule -- while he’s not doing much on-court work as he recuperates from fracturing a vertebra in his back during the NBA restart, his various business ventures, including the launching is own wine label, and being a “dog dad” keeps him busy regardless -- to discuss his goals with “ReMaking America” and what you might expect to see once the show debuts in November.

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You’ve obviously got a lot of irons in the fire between playing, launching Heritage 91, your philanthropy work and getting married later this year, so why do the show now? What sparked you to take this on?

CJ McCollum: A few things. I think the first thing is I’ve obviously been involved in journalism since college and have shared an interest in storytelling, sharing information. I’ve done podcasts -- still have a podcast -- I’ve done radio, I’ve done variations of different styles of interviews. But I’ve never done one quite like what I’m going to be doing here shortly that involved societal issues and some of the systemic issues that we have going on and affecting many people, but especially black and brown people in America. It’s something we’ve been talking about for quite some time and it just so happens that once we kind of figured out the layout of the show, potential guests, that the election is also here. This is something that we’ve been working on for a long time and it’s finally in the works and we’re actually curating content, figuring out the storytelling side of it and who we want to be involved, like literally, on a daily basis.

If the show went off exactly as you wanted it to, what would it look and sound like? Do you have an overarching goal for what you want “ReMaking America” to achieve?

McCollum: The first is the conversation starter. Some of the issues that we’re facing and trying to get through as a society right now, I think the first thing we can do is that that conversation, which is important. And then the educational factor of educating people on ways in which they can help impact change, ways in which some of my guests are. And then just brainstorming from there and figuring out ways, as the title says, remaking America. There’s a lot of issues that we have at hand but there’s not a lot of ways to solve it, or at least known ways right now. So just having those conversations, figuring out very influential and powerful people who are maybe activists and politicians, maybe athletes, maybe authors, different walks of life who are not only doing our world a great service but trying to figure out ways to impact the underserved communities.

It sounds like providing the audience with tangible, actionable takeaways is one of the main goals.

McCollum: That’s one of the goals. I’ve listened to a lot of podcasts, I’ve watched a lot of interviews and I haven’t seen too many to where you have actionable items that you can kind of accomplish based on the interview, based on what you’ve seen. So that’s one of the things I’m doing right now in some of the question formats that I’m going to propose to various guests is: What are you doing currently? What had you done in the past that you’re really proud of in terms of affecting and impacting change? And then what would you recommend or suggest for a viewer out there who wants to try to make change? Maybe that’s education, maybe that’s justice, maybe that’s healthcare, maybe that’s food insecurity, climate. There’s a lot of different issues that we have here in America. How can they specifically either partner up with some of the things their organizations are doing or on their own, help spark that change and create more of an educational understanding of what we’re facing? I’m ignorant in a lot of areas and I say it all the time, I don’t know a lot about certain things, but my thirst for knowledge kind of leads me on these different quests and journeys to where I can educate myself, I can learn and I can figure out how to impact?

What is the staffing of the show like? Who are you looking to work with? How does the process of getting a show on television differ from producing a podcast or a radio show?

McCollum: PlayersTV has a great group of women and men who brainstorm ideas, figure out the production side of it, so there’s a large collective based on what the organizational structure is. Obviously I have my agency, I have a lot of people that I trust and surround myself with that can be influential in my decision-making. There’s a good group of people who’ve been working on this a lot and kind of curating everything. The studio is in LA so I’ll be flying there soon to kind of start getting the ball rolling on interviews, knocking out certain guests. I’ll travel to certain guests depending on the level they’re at and their flexibility. I’m relatively free right now, just rehabbing my back and being a dog dad, so I have time to kind of move around.

We’re lining up certain guests based on certain topics -- obviously the election, obviously prison reform, obviously healthcare. For me personally, I’m big on education reform. We’re lining up guests who are well known in certain areas, maybe experts in certain areas, but can also educate me and give us the different side of the ledger.

Do you have an idea in your mind of what you want the show to look like? Are there any shows that you’re using as inspiration?

McCollum: You know me, imitation is the biggest form of flattery, so just stealing good ideas from brilliant minds. It will obviously have interview components, it’ll be conversation where we’ll kind of go back and forth and just free flow and talk from the heart about things that are near and dear to us. And then maybe funnier or interesting, more rapid fire type segments. But I think the moral of the story is education. The moral of the story is to spread awareness about certain issues maybe people aren’t familiar with and then provide a plan on how we can continue to attack it as a society. I don’t know if there’s anything like it -- I’m sure there is somewhere -- but I haven’t actually put it out yet and we’re still working on the flow of it, the storytelling aspect of it, how much video goes into it outside of just the interviews, obviously capturing certain footage that could be essential or important for the message we’re trying to deliver. But it’ll be unique, it’ll be creative and we’re going to take our time with it. I think when you do those things, usually you have success.

How involved are you in off camera elements of the show? Do you want to be involved in the editing process? What are your duties aside from hosting?

McCollum: I’ve very hands-on, so I’m sure I’ll be involved in much of the process. Taking out stuff I don’t like, putting in stuff I do like, but also giving people who are experts at their job the freedom to paint that picture for me. I’m giving people input, I’m receiving input and information and direction and I think we just kind of build that together and curate what we’re looking for collectively. But ultimately, with it being my show, I want to make sure it’s through my eyes and through my vision.

Considering that, is there more of a responsibility to make sure the show reflects who you are because it’s your show?

McCollum: Exactly. I don’t put my name on anything I’m not invested in or a part of and honestly, genuinely caring about. I want this to reflect well on me, I want this to reflect well on society and at times we’ll see that society isn’t always pretty based on what we’ve seen the last year and a half, from protests to the COVID situation to how it’s being handled with our leaders in the White House. There’s a lot of issues that need to be addressed that will continue to be addressed whether I talk about them or not because people are just sick and tired.

I’m looking forward to it, it’ll be fun. It’s been a lot of work but it’s also been fun because there’s just so much that goes into production that you forget about. And now that you have to be hands on, from the prep to the planning to the mock interviews, guests schedules to figuring out what guest is ideal to travel, there’s a lot that goes into this, which is why one of the perks of us being off right now is I have flexibility and freedom.

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