Life Behind the Ring Light
The Morning Show’s Carolyn Mackenzie on hosting a national show while raising tweens…. all from home
By Rachel Naud
Pre-pandemic, minutes before the cameras would start rolling on Global’s The Morning Show, Carolyn Mackenzie would surround herself with her team and her co-host, Jeff McArthur, in an energetic pre-show pick-me-up ritual.
“Have a great show!” the team would sing together, just moments before the spotlight would shine on Mackenzie and McArthur as they would bring entertainment and news to Canadians from coast-to-coast.
Now, most days Mackenzie, 45, broadcasts from her home, alone. There’s no more team to rally behind her, there’s no more makeup artist or hairstylist or pre-show cheer huddle to get those last-minute butterflies stirring. There’s just her, her ring light and a prayer that her two tweens will stay occupied and quiet so she can make it through the one-hour broadcast interruption-free.
“I still do my own chant,” says Mackenzie over a phone interview from her home in Toronto. “I pump myself up. I say, ‘Ok, Carolyn. Have a good show!’”
Life in the Spotlight
More than 20 years ago when Mackenzie started her career as a journalist and a broadcaster, she could never imagine she would end up hosting a national show from her living room. Since graduating with honours from Carleton University and becoming a journalist, she has been awarded accolades for her work as a storyteller and a reporter. In fact, in 2005 she won an Edward R. Murrow Award for excellence in journalism for her coverage on transit inaccessibility.
Today, as co-host of The Morning Show, Mackenzie produces segments, interviews celebrities, authors and lifestyle experts. She shares good news with Canadians nation-wide and has the tough job of bringing bad news to audiences. Before the pandemic, her and McArthur’s chemistry would orchestrate to create fun and informative segments, whether they were sharing fun stories about their personal life, doing a cooking demo with Chef Massimo, or sitting down for a powerful two-on-one interview with a guest tackling tough topics about racism or abuse. They competed with one another in fun quizzes; their work wife/husband rivalry leading to more laughs than questions. On Fridays, she and McArthur celebrated the end-of-week with a well-timed high five.
“There actually is nothing I do not like about being a part of this show,” says Mackenzie. “It is fun. It’s creative. I love the process from beginning to end. In all my years in broadcast, I’m having the most fun I’ve ever had. I’m enjoying myself more than I have ever. It’s really rewarding.”
Now, thanks to Covid-19, co-hosting the show is presenting a whole new set of challenges. Their high fives are now more like poorly timed misses as Mackenzie and McArthur try and meet one another’s hands through a split-screen. Two-minute delays often mean missed opportunities for automatic laughs and jokes. Technology fails can sometimes mean they don’t see one another at all.
“It is such a challenge (hosting the show from home),” says Mackenzie. “When co-hosting a show, it’s a dance (between Jeff and I) and we’ve been working on it for years. And then you put social distancing into the mix and the dance becomes really tough with the two-second delay. The dynamic completely changes. You’re trying to get through a read when you can’t at times see their face because your monitor sometimes is not working or there is a delay. The jokes and the comradery are not as it usually is, so there’s that. It’s very odd. I will never get used to this.”
Life Behind the Ring Light
Like many Canadians, Mackenzie now has the task of working from home. Although most parents can slip away to a quiet space for the odd Zoom or conference call, Mackenzie has to set up a lighting stage in her living room.
What’s even more daunting? Keeping her nine-year-old son and 12-year-old daughter quiet and occupied while she’s on-air. How does she do it? The same way we’re all muddling through these crazy times.
“Fortnite and TikTok,” she says. “That is the hour where it is ‘you get on your screens and do what you gotta do – just stay out of mommy’s way for an hour.’ That is the one hour of the day where they’re not going to hear me say ‘get off of it.’”
Mackenzie admits juggling parenting with work-life is a tough gig. She admits the added pressure of becoming her kids’ teacher was sometimes just too much during those long, cold spring days when the country was still in lockdown.
“I’m not going to lie to anyone. The juggling act is hard. It’s hard when it’s not a pandemic when you’re working full-time and raising a family. Throw this in and add another job to the mix – which is your kids’ teacher – and you finish your day job and then have to put on your teacher hat for the next couple of hours and try not to lose it on your kids because they don’t understand anything you are saying to them. I remember this one chapter I was going over with my son. I thought I did so well explaining it to him until it was time for his online quiz, and we were just going over the last few things and he looked at me as if I had three heads. I had to walk away. I couldn’t do it anymore.”
Still, she says, despite its challenges, the pandemic has also taught her a very valuable lesson — how precious time is.
“I will give the pandemic one thing. It has taught me to slow the hell down. This pandemic taught me I can’t be teacher, mom, and broadcaster all at the same time. I am now picking a lane.”
For Mackenzie this means only being a broadcaster during work hours, weekends are reserved for phone-free mom time and teaching lessons are focused on the task at hand.
She also gives the pandemic credit for helping her better connect with her son.
“Before Covid-19, my husband was the one taking my son to his after-school activities because he is his coach and I would always take my daughter to her programs, and her tournaments, so now with the absence of sports programs, we’ve had so much family time, which has really benefitted my relationship with my son since we’ve been able to catch-up, re-connect and finally spend more time with each other.”
She says taking interest in her children’s interests — whether it’s Fortnite or TikTok or fishing — is a great way to keep her connected with her tweens, as they are about to embark on the teen years, which is often a time when kids start to break away from their parents.
“My son wanted to try fishing last weekend, so I went and got him a rod. We both sat on the dock and fished. I did play a couple of Fortnite rounds over the winter and I know I have to do it again. If I show interest in what he is doing, he’s letting me into his world and I’m going to increase the chances that he will trust me and confide in me if something goes weird in that world. Kate asks me about every post she posts on TikTok and every friend she befriends, and she does that with me right now and I’m happy she does that.”
When asked what she’s most looking forward to as her kids embark on their teen and young adult lives, Mackenzie says it’ll be all about getting to know them all over again.
“I am looking forward to getting to know my kids as adults one day,” she says. “I do look forward to seeing the people that my kids become. The people whom my husband and I have put so much time and effort in. We’ve made them our No. 1 priority since the day they were born. When you invest in something with everything you’ve got, you hope and pray that they’re going to be good people, and when we get past those crazy teenage years, when they’re adults and they’re 18, who will they be? I do look forward to seeing that day and sitting back and getting to know them all over again as adults.”
On a professional level, Mackenzie says she just can’t wait to get back in the studio with McArthur and the whole team. She said she has already talked to McArthur about what that moment will look like.
“We are going to do a slow-mo run into each other’s arms, and then out of pandemic habit, abruptly stop six feet apart,” she laughs. “We are dying to be together again, the idea of us conversing on-air without a two-second delay, is delightful. The day we are back together on the show, will be a great day. If it’s during the pandemic, of course, we will be distanced and it will probably involve a number of props, maybe a couple of foam hands so that we can still do our Friday high five!”