For Lilly Singh, authenticity is key.
As fans of her NBC late-night series A Little Late have no doubt noticed since the show's return for season two on Jan. 11, there's not only a whole new look to things, but a new vibe as well. Long gone are the constraints of the host desk and even the studio itself. In its place is something a bit looser, more casual and spontaneous, utilizing a Los Angeles-based house as her new HQ.
And as she told E! News, that's entirely by design.
"During quarantine, like many people, I had a lot of time to reflect, a lot of time to look at myself in the mirror," she said. "And so, one of the things I'm bringing into season two is a level of authenticity and imperfection that allows me to have fun. You know, in season one, I did have fun, but some days I also didn't, admittedly, because I was wearing a tight suit and I would have to go out and hit a mark and If I messed up, I would redo it. I had all this pressure in my mind."
"When I reflect back, I worked really hard but was I always having fun? Not necessarily," she continued. "That's what I'm changing in season two. I think every day I am bringing my full authentic, imperfect self because I want to have fun and I want that to be seen on camera."
And that's meant not only a change of scenery, but upending the format of the show to make room for more sketch comedy and peeks at the process behind the scenes. It's also meant taking more chances when it comes to interview subjects.
"I kind of was yearning for conversations with people who don't get the chance to be on late night, you know? Whether it's my friends or people that are doing work in their community or younger kids that have great initiatives, I want to have conversations with people that are passionate about things, and it doesn't necessarily need to be a celebrity," Singh explained. "And so for season two I'm excited to have some of those real talks with people who otherwise wouldn't have the chance to be on late night."
As one of only two women in late night, the self-described "unicorn"—she's the first bisexual Canadian woman of Indian descent in this job—doesn't take her place in TV history lightly. "I always say not every story has to be about everyone, but there should be stories for everyone," Singh said. "And that's what I like to believe my late night show was—it is giving people a late night show that maybe otherwise they wouldn't be able to relate to someone else's hosting. Now all those people that didn't get to see their childhood or their values reflected reflecting them on my show and really being authentic about my upbringing, my experience of who I am."
That's where being an executive producer on the show has proven to be key. "You know, as a woman of color, it is important to also be involved in the business side of things," she said. "As much as we talk about representation on screen, representation behind screen is equally as important. And when we're talking about my vision coming to life on screen, and it being authentic to me, that doesn't only happen when I'm in front of the camera. It happens when you're talking about how the show gets marketed, it happens when you're talking about which guests to have. All that stuff really does matter when it comes to my vision."
As she explained, even the smallest details matter in moments like these. "I'll give you a prime example," she continued. "In the key art for season two, there's many Easter eggs. There's a plate of samosas on the table...all those little things I've put in because I wanted to make sure I came across in everything that happened. And to do that, you've got to be involved behind the scenes. So being an EP and director, and also being involved in the writers room, is very important, because I think it's important to be involved in the business of making my vision come to life."
Of course, it helps that she's enjoying herself along the way. "I am excited to have fun, first and foremost, because I have learned having fun is very, very important. And I'm excited to create something that I'm really, really proud of, to be honest," Singh said. "I don't only want to make a dope show with dope guests and make it really funny. I want to be really proud of it, and I can say that we're doing that right now."
As Singh tells it, her mission is crystal clear. "Listen, my purpose is very, very simple," she said. "It is to create a path so that two can go to four can go to six or eight. That is my sole purpose, and I have no other goal. These are my goals: having fun, being proud, paving a path."
Mission accomplished, we'd say. And right on time.
A Little Late With Lilly Singh airs Monday-Friday at 1:35 a.m. on NBC.
(E! and NBC are both part of the NBCUniversal family.)