Though her exit was a surprise to the TV industry, CBS entertainment chair Nina Tassler says it was a decision years in the making. And the timing of the announcement on the heels of the Jewish New Year, which started Sunday night, couldn’t have been more perfect. “The translation for ‘Shana’ (the Hebrew word for year) can not only mean year but it can also mean change,” says Tassler. “That’s kind of where I am. It felt right.”
Here, Tassler tells Variety about her decision to step down from her post, why Geller was the right choice for the job, and her plans for her life post-CBS.
How long was this transition in the works?
Since July. A couple of years ago, my best friend passed away from cancer. I struggled a bit then and was very introspective. I came to Leslie (Moonves) heart in hand, and said I’m having a tough time with this, and he was unbelievably gracious and kind and supportive. I’ve been ruminating with it for a while, and my friend’s yahrzeit (the anniversary of her death) was two years this July. I thought about a lot of things that were happening both personally and professionally. The Colbert/Corden transition would have been completed by fall. “CSI” will have its finale this fall, which is 15 years after I bought the show. “The Talk” is going into season 6. We transformed a daypart. We have our very own female superhero. Everything seemed to point to this being the right time. So I went to Leslie in July. We had a very deeply, personal emotional lunch. He’s been my rock, my boss, my mentor, and I said I’m done. I feel so great about where we are as a company. We’ve been through so much together. I’m one of the lucky ones. I feel very blessed.
Were you involved in selecting Glenn Geller as your replacement?
Yes. Leslie and I talked about it. He’s a very strong, very smart executive. He’s been involved with returning four successful shows from the previous year. That’s a real testament to Glenn and his department. Once “The Talk” launched, he’s been instrumental in forging the success of that show. He’s been involved with the transition to Corden and Colbert. He’s been in our ranks for years and years and always distinguished himself as very smart. He’s a wonderful manager. That’s something you have to look at as well.
What advice have you given him?
I haven’t given him advice yet. We’ve worked so closely together for many years. We both have learned from each other. He’s going to do great. I’m here to help him in any shape or form.
How did you keep this secret?
Don’t forget that because we air (so) much reality television — “Survivor,” “Amazing Race” — we know who the winners are. I need to forget that I know that information. So I’ve gotten used to keep secrets. I’m very well-trained. Out of respect for the people with whom I work, out of loyalty to my boss and this company, I wanted to handle this in the right way.
What are you proudest of?
The success of “CSI” and the fact that after 15 years it’s enjoying its finale this fall is an extraordinary accomplishment. Launching James Corden and Stephen Colbert has been remarkable. I feel so fortunate to have been a part of that transition. On the personal front, the outpouring and love of support that I have received has humbled me. The kind words rest gently on my heart.
What’s next for you?
I’m here until the end of the year, helping Glenn Geller transition. He’s hit the ground running. He’s a wonderful, talented executive with great creative instincts. I have a book coming out in the spring. I have a couple of theater projects. I’ve optioned some other scripts. I’m on the board of trustees at Boston University. I’m on the board of Jewish Family Services. These are roles and relationships I take very seriously and mean the world to me. I’ve been married for 31 years and worked for Leslie for 25 of them. They’re running neck and neck. I’m going to keep all of my options open.
Will you stay in the business?
I love TV. I love our business. I love the production of TV. One of the things I missed when I left (Warner Bros.) was the production end of it. I never expected I’d have a career outside of the theater. It’s a little mystifying that I ended up here. I’m excited to explore the theater, publishing, public speaking, charitable work and so on.
What lessons have you learned?
To be a little patient. There are times when you need to make a swift, clean decision. And there are times you have to be patient, you have to let things breathe. I have to remember to breath. Patience would be an important lesson for me.
What are your hopes for the fall lineup?
I have such fundamental belief in the quality of these fall shows. “Code Black” is a successful show in the vein of “ER” — Christina Davis brought in an amazing gem of a show. I’d like that show to really take off. I think it really deserves it. “Supergirl” has been a personal accomplishment — wanting a strong female superhero show on the air. But “Code Black” comes full circle. It reminds me of “ER” in the very best sense of the show.