ABC News senior legal correspondent and The View co-host Sunny Hostin was only 7 years old when her uncle was stabbed in front of her. It’s a moment that altered her entire family’s lives, and would play a significant role in shaping her career. (He died a couple years later of complications from the attack.)
Hostin now wants, as she puts it, “to give voice to voiceless people,” and she’s doing exactly that in her new six-part series for Investigation Discovery, Truth About Murder, which debuts Oct 22.
“I realized, because I was a federal prosecutor and I’ve been in the social justice space for so long, that victims and their families for a long time don’t talk about witnessing violence,” Hostin said. “Especially in certain communities, because you don’t have the money for therapy, and sometimes therapy is frowned upon.”
Hostin can relate: When she brought up the stabbing years ago to her father, he expressed surprise that she even remembered it.
Adweek spoke with Hostin about moonlighting at a new network, her unique path from the Bronx to The View, and what makes an effective TV legal analyst.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Why this series for Investigation Discovery (ID)?
Sunny Hostin: I thought because I have this incredible platform on The View and I have experience as a prosecutor, partnering with Investigation Discovery to give voice to voiceless people and communities who have had these experiences would be incredible. ID was receptive to the idea of telling the stories from that perspective.
You often see stories from inside the mind of a serial killer. But I’ve never seen a docuseries like this, and I’m a true crime junkie who has seen a lot of the celebrity murder shows. Those stories are told repeatedly, and I didn’t want to do that. I wanted to do stories no one had heard of before. I found them everywhere, and I knew they existed because it happened to my family, and it happened all over Washington, D.C. when I was a prosecutor.
I wanted to make sure that I was there every step of the way shepherding this, because this was the first time I had been an executive producer, and not just the host.
Why are Americans so enthralled by the true crime genre?
People want to be the armchair detective. “Well, maybe I can figure it out! Maybe I can help!” That’s why John Walsh was so helpful with America’s Most Wanted. Why the same was true when Oprah [Winfrey] had her series, which caught a lot of predators. I also think people want to know what would make someone do something like this [murder]. How could this happen?
I also believe people want to make sure that this isn’t happening next door to them, and how can they prevent it from happening to someone else. People are shocked by some of the depravity, but they’re also intrigued by it.
Talk about your move from federal prosecutor to CNN legal analyst and correspondent. Why television?
I had a journalism degree, so I thought that’s what I was going to do with my life. I freaked out my parents, mostly my mom, when I told them I wanted to be a TV journalist. This was in the 1980s, when Oprah wasn’t really Oprah yet. My mom is from Puerto Rico, and she said, “Listen, no one who looks like you that has these dreams. It’s either doctor or lawyer.” It’s almost an immigrant perspective in a sense, and I don’t say that a disparaging way. I figured this was the American dream: You become a doctor and a lawyer, and you’re self-sufficient and can take care of yourself.