• 9.1.15

    Platon Seeks to Answer "Who Is Stephen Colbert?"

    As we know it, Late Show started in 1993 with David Letterman at the helm and has known no other host in its entire history, but Colbert is no stranger to adapting a tried and true approach to match his own voice. After a hugely popular supporting run on The Daily Show, Colbert got his own show of the same ilk and made himself one of the most influential voices in American politics, even when it was meant largely as a joke. But Colbert takes his jokes very seriously, aware of the eyes on him and the impact he is able to shape. His incredible success with The Colbert Report lead to his gig at The Late Show, and the audience sits in the darkened, waiting for the show to begin.

    Not only are expectations high but they're buffeted by authentic curiosity: Colbert is not going to play a character on The Late Show. After years of satirizing his own version of a staunch conservative political pundit (who just happened to share his same name), Stephen will remove the mask for his largest audience. That audience isn't quite sure what to expect and Time Magazine's acute awareness lead them to invite Platon to the newly revamped Ed Sullivan Theatre while Colbert and his team reach the final stages of preparing for the big debut.

    For Platon to truly understand how to capture Colbert and his new version of late night, they met multiple times over three days. They started at Platon's studio to take another one of Platon's iconic photographs including one that would become the cover image (that Colbert would use as a punch line on Twitter for almost a full week). Colbert's last job steeped him deeply in the political world to an extent that he found toxic. He told Time Magazine, "to model behavior, you have to consume that behavior on a regular basis. It became very hard to watch punditry of any kind, of whatever political stripe." As a result of this incredible attention he became familiar with Platon's work, a study that came to a head during a change of set when Colbert caught sight of Platon's Esquire cover of President Bill Clinton. Colbert ecstatically exclaimed, "That was you! It looks like he’s the Lincoln Memorial ready to party!" It was a highlight for many on set, one that had been still for so long. Platon's style is to dig beyond artifice, tuning into the person behind the mask - exactly what Colbert is attempting to calibrate in this transition period before the show starts on September 8.

    They spent the next two days with Colbert and his writing team as they prepared to take over the airways. He took the time for a detailed tour with Platon and his team to show off every change they’ve made to the theater and why they made each and every choice. At one point, Colbert showed off the freight elevator that was previously used only by Letterman to bring him from his dressing room down to the stage every night before going on the air. Colbert will now helm this machine, and he brought in Platon for a trip. Colbert drove and it took a few tries to land it right, a few inches too early or too late the first couple times. Colbert has only just taken the reigns over from David Letterman, who taught him how to operate the elevator during a quite 90 minute mentorship, but it will take some time before his command of this space is as expert as his time on the Report. We'll certainly go along for the ride.

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