‘Today’s Al Roker Reflects on Studio 1A’s 25th Anniversary
Studio 1A is where many Americans begin their day with the Today Show, which moved to the spot in 1994.
Now, NBC is celebrating the anniversary during the Thursday, June 20 broadcast. During the 8am hour, Today will feature a recreation of the 1994 desk where the anchors will take a seat. Celebrating 25 years as the home of Today, Studio 1A will be on full display as the show looks back at some of the location’s history and highlights from Rockefeller Plaza.
Viewers will also be given a tour of the studio by the anchors, one of which is longtime weather forecaster and reporter Al Roker, who made his Today Show debut in 1996. TV Insider caught up with Roker ahead of the anniversary where he shared what it was like stepping into the now-iconic studio for the first time, meeting fans at Rockefeller Plaza and much more.
Going back to the beginning, what was it like stepping into the studio for the first time?
Al Roker: It wasn’t like anything you’ve been in before. You’re used to TV studios that are enclosed, and here’s this studio that two out of the [four] walls have windows. And you’re like, “Wow, how’s this going to work?”
It’s such an accessible studio to fans and viewers, both at home and in the Plaza. How has that impacted your experience with the show, getting to meet viewers this way?
I think it has given us a touchstone to our viewers… Everybody’s always talked about interactive television — well, this is as interactive as you can get. You actually walk outside, you shake hands. Even before you walk out, when we first start, you can see them through the window, and they’re waving, and you’re waving back to them, and they’re showing you their signs.
And then, I go out usually around 7:40, after my 7:30 weather, and shake hands with everybody, and take pictures. And you form a connection. I really do believe that they’re a cast member of the broadcast.
Is that an invigorating feeling?
Oh sure. In a way, and I am in no means comparing this… [but] I’ve blessed to be able to be on Broadway. And as a performer, as somebody who is presenting a program, whether it’s a newscast or a broadcast, you are just naturally invigorated by an audience — you get an instant reaction. And what’s so amazing about it, and I’m stunned, because I don’t know that I would wait [like our fans do], I wouldn’t come out and see me in all kinds of weather.
And the idea that they come out in heat waves, in snowstorms, in rainstorms, in cold waves… I mean, there are times where we’ve had to say, “Listen, we love you, and we thank you for doing this, but go home. This is not safe. Please go home.” Or sometimes if it’s a small crowd, we’ll actually bring them in, because you worry about that. But you’re really just so thrilled that they’re there. You can’t help but be invigorated by it.
Over the years, the studio has seen some changes. What’s one thing that hasn’t changed since you began on the show?
I think everybody making signs to the folks back home. It always amuses me. I’m almost in a way stunned by it, that in this day and age of FaceTime and all that social media, people can see you somewhere else. But I guess there’s nowhere else where you can wave to the camera and your mom and your aunt and your grandparents and your schoolmates can all see you at the same time.
Yes, and the show provides viewers with posters and markers to make signs, right?
Yeah, you get to be on TV and do an arts and crafts project.
Everyone knows you as Today‘s resident weather forecaster, but as a reporter, you’ve interviewed various guests on the show — has one ever left you starstruck?
We’re so fortunate to have people come onto the show that are just icons in their chosen field. Whether it’s Tiger Woods, whether it’s Angela Lansbury, or whether it’s Cher. I mean, you name the person, they’ve been on the show. It’s an amazing thing to see… It is just mind-boggling to me.
It is wild, but it’s not surprising considering Today is such a TV staple.
It’s the team and that’s what makes our program, I think… The sum is far greater than the individual parts.
It’s like who’s your favorite kid, you know? They’re all special in their way. And the fact is the Today Show was built for change. There’s always been a transition. Nobody’s a permanent host on the Today Show. You just get your time, and just are thankful for the time you had.
You’ve been with Today for nearly 25 years yourself — can we expect another 25?
I have no plans… I remember Willard [Scott]… who was my mentor, and I would not be doing this if it were not for [him]. And he said, “Son, you stay on the train and ride the train to the very end. And you still don’t get off until the conductor comes looking for you.”
But I feel like we all get our turn, and then we move on. I don’t have any plans on moving on. But, I’m focused on right now. And it’s hard to believe that it’s been 25 years that the window’s been there.
Is there something fans should know about the show that they don’t already?
I think what most people — unless they come down to the studio and stand in front of the window — are surprised at how small the studio is.
You know, it’s not huge… it looks immense on TV, but it’s actually a very intimate studio… We have terrific directors, we utilize every inch of that studio, so it looks enormous, but it’s not that big.
When you get on camera, what’s the most important thing you’d like for viewers to take away from the experience?
A, to make sure they get what they need. And that’s the mantra of the show. You know, what’s the most important thing that they need. And to remember, every day, that it’s not about us, it’s about our viewer, you know?
And I would also say that if people are looking for ways to make sure they get on TV, bring food, bring a baby, don’t bring baby food.
Today Show Studio 1A 25th Anniversary Celebration, Thursday, June 20, 8/7am, NBC