The first season of The Social is memorable to Cynthia Loyst for a couple of reasons. Back when it launched in September 2013, Loyst was, as she describes, “a sleep-deprived new mom pumping my breasts backstage between rehearsals.” And, secondly, there was a chemistry between the hosts at that time—Melissa Grelo, Lainey Lui, Loyst and Traci Melchor—she noticed right away.
With Season 10 of The Social returning this week at 1 p.m. ET on CTV Grelo, Lui and Jess Allen, Loyst looks back on the past nine seasons.
Congratulations on your upcoming 10th season of The Social.
Cynthia Loyst: I cannot believe it’s the 10th season of The Social. I was literally pregnant when we were doing auditions for this show. And then when we launched the show, I was a sleep-deprived new mom who was pumping my breasts backstage in between rehearsals and things. So we’ve come a long way. I have this boy who’s going into Grade 4.
Back when you were doing the auditions and you were pregnant, what were your thoughts at the time? Were you thinking, ‘What were they thinking when they asked me to do this? Or what was I thinking when I agreed to do this?’
CL: Well, it’s interesting because there were rumours of a show being developed that was kind of going to be a Canadian version of The View for a long time prior to this. Even when I was doing the audition, I was like, ‘Well, is this thing even going to happen?’ But then it seemed like it was becoming more of a reality. And I thought, ‘Well, there’s no way they’re going to hire me,’ because the timeline was such that I would’ve been just after giving birth. So I thought, ‘I’m probably out of the running,’ But then I got the call and was told that I was going to be part of the cast. I was shocked. I went through a variety of emotions. I was shocked. I was elated. And then I was terrified.
And was there chemistry between the hosting panel back then? Was it immediate?
CL: There were a bunch of different people who auditioned. The producers threw us in different combinations and configurations and the very, very first test group was the original four of us who were actually hired. There was really good chemistry, but I didn’t think much of it at the time. But looking back, it was clear that there was a kind of electricity with that first initial four. And clearly, other people felt it too, because my understanding is they went through a bunch of different combinations and then they showed them to test audiences to see what people really were resonating towards. And so I think part of that was what was immediately picked up on.
You can’t fake chemistry on television.
CL: We didn’t know each other all that well, but there was a mutual respect right away. And even though we didn’t come from necessarily different political backgrounds, a la The View, we were definitely very different women. We’re not the type of women who would necessarily be thrown together and have come together naturally. For whatever reason though, I think there was just a combination of stage of life, experience level, and I think passion for hot topics and a willingness to speak out that brought out some kind of interesting magic and alchemy.
What were your expectations during that first season?
CL: I think my expectations were just to stay treading water. I couldn’t really think beyond the end of the day. Because I was sleep-deprived and because I was this new mom, everything felt very new and I don’t remember thinking that it would last past the season, but I don’t remember thinking it wouldn’t last past the season. I was just kind of like, ‘Let’s keep this thing as long as we can.’
Can you walk me through the process of how the content of an episode of The Social is decided?
CL: Every evening or afternoon, we get a lineup of pitches. Our producers and us have contributed anything that comes across our feed that we feel passionate about or excited about. And somebody assembles that into a short list. Sometimes it’s as many as 40 pitches and they have links attached to them. We go through them, we pick our topic, like six or seven, and we send that in. Then the producers meet early in the morning before we are part of that and hammer out what they think will be our hot topic topics from segments one, two, and now three. And then we meet all together in person and we kind of hash it out around the table. During the pandemic, it was all on a Zoom call or on a phone call.
Sometimes we’re able to immediately go, ‘OK, yeah. That lineup is amazing. Let’s run with it.’ And other times it’s quite a struggle. It might be that we feel it’s too much of a personal ask to go down a certain road. Or it might be that there’s a topic in the news that we feel like we don’t have enough information about. We don’t feel comfortable, let’s shelve that for tomorrow. Those are the types of discussions that we have at any given point in time.
Segments four and five now are lifestyle segments, so those are planned way in advance. It might be an author, a celebrity, a chef, or a fashion person. The show was conceived as feeling like you’re either going through a magazine or surrounded by a really interesting dinner party. It feels like that’s sort of spirit and energy of the show.
What is it that you particularly look for when all these pitches are brought to you or all these segment ideas? What gets you excited?
CL: My background is in sexual health and I’m a sex educator and that’s what I did first. I was producing for documentary series about sexuality. Relationships and love are big to me and I’m a parent, so I feel like whenever there’s something that kind of comes up in the parenting realm, often ignites something in me and I think a lot of our viewers. But then sometimes there’s unexpected stuff that comes up in the news, where you’re just like, ‘Even if I don’t immediately have an opinion or thought about it, I know it’s an important thing to delve into.’ And so then it becomes this sort of puzzle of doing research quickly to come up with something that’s articulate and thoughtful without just being like news. Because we aren’t the news.
We come after the news. But we aren’t news and that’s not what we’re supposed to be. We’re trying to add to an insight or a personal take or something that maybe people wouldn’t have thought of related to maybe a news topic. So it’s always different things that ignite. And sometimes I’ll read something and think, ‘Oh, I’m not that interested.’ But then in the meeting, someone will say something and they’ll spur on some kind of inspiration towards it.
Is there a standout moment for you or two over the last nine seasons?
CL: We obviously had a really hard time, like everyone else did, during the pandemic. It was hard doing a TV show where you’re used to communicating in real-time and having an audience and a connection. So that was a real challenge, but I think something beautiful came out of it. After the murder of George Floyd, the conversation immediately became, rightly so, about Black lives. And we had Tyrone Edwards from eTalk on the show and it was a moment that went viral.
He was so emotional and spoke from the heart and it was just an unforgettable moment and a really important one, I think, for viewers most of all to see that. I think it helps change a conversation and illuminate things that maybe hadn’t been seen on daytime TV before.
CL: I have this gigantic crush on Jason Momoa from Game of Thrones and Aquaman. He came on the show, and one of the producers, unbeknownst to me, had assembled a little montage of me talking about Jason Momoa. She played it for him on the show, much to my mortification, but he was a great sport about it. I wanted to climb out of my own skin and maybe hide behind the couch.
The Social airs weekdays at 1 p.m. ET on CTV.
Images courtesy of Bell Media.