When Angelina Jolie came into the room, just four days after returning from Namibia, she was alone. No handlers, no entourage. True, elaborate precautions had been made to make sure no photographers followed her to the hotel where we met, but there she was, by herself, walking into the hotel suite, smiling, ready to talk.
There are a lot of ridiculous stories circling on the Internet, spread by alleged "insiders" who claim that CNN or its parent company Time Warner somehow paid for the chance to talk to Angelina. These anonymous "sources" claim that People Magazine and CNN had some kind of joint deal to secure rights to photos and the interview.
I have no idea what People Magazine did or did not pay for those photos of the Jolie-Pitt family. It's been reported they paid as much as $4 million, which was donated to a variety of charities in Africa, but I have no way of knowing if that is true or not. What I do know is that CNN did not pay anything -- directly or indirectly -- to get Angelina Jolie to sit down for an interview.
So why did she do it? And why talk to me?
Both are valid questions. I'm sure there were plenty of news programs requesting interviews with Angelina Jolie. The truth is, mine wasn't one of them. They called us. I was told that they were aware of my interest in Africa and knew that as a broadcast we have devoted a lot of time to reporting stories from the continent.
Tuesday is World Refugee Day. Angelina Jolie was interested in discussing the plight of refugees, so we sat down to talk about what she has seen and learned in refugee camps around the world. She had no movie to promote, no product she was pitching. In fact, I have no idea what her next movie is and we did not discuss any upcoming films. There were no ground rules. I was free to ask whatever I wanted.
A lot of celebrities have causes and show up to talk about them when cameras are around, but the truth is that Angelina Jolie knows what she is talking about when the subject is refugees. To use a cliche, she doesn't just talk the talk, she walks the walk. She has traveled to some 20 countries over the years as a goodwill ambassador for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, and she says she donates one-third of her income to charitable causes.
I'm not sure what I expected before I met her, but to say I was impressed would be an understatement. She is smart, funny, self-deprecating, and intensely passionate about her children and her work on behalf of refugees.
Tuesday at 10 p.m. ET, you will hear Angelina Jolie talk about some of the experiences in refugee camps that have changed her life. Yes, you will also learn about Angelina's family -- Maddox and Zahara as well as Shiloh Nouvel -- but the focus of the interview is the plight of refugees. During the two-hour program, we will take you to the frontlines of some of the worst humanitarian crises in the world.
It's going to be an interesting broadcast, and I hope you watch.