On My Radar: Emily Maitlis’ Cultural Highlights | Emilie Maitlis


Emily Maitlis was born in Canada and raised in Sheffield. After graduating from Cambridge, she worked as a journalist in Hong Kong, then returned to the UK for a stint at Sky News before joining the BBC in 2001. She started on Newsnight in 2006, became the main anchor in 2018 and the now infamous Prince Andrew interview the following year. In February, Maitlis announced she was leaving the BBC to co-host a daily podcast for Global. His documentary series in eight episodes The people Against J Edgar Hoover begins on BBC Radio 4 on June 13.

1. Theater

At first glance (Harold Pinter TheaterLondon)

Photography: Helen Murray

This is an extraordinarily powerful play about a successful lawyer, played by Jodie Comer, who defends sexual abusers and gets them out, but then finds herself the victim of sexual abuse and realizes that the law cannot help him. I spoke to Comer and playwright Suzie Miller for a Guardian round table before production. Being a lawyer is quite close to the adversarial nature of journalism, so it was fascinating and challenging to think about how we operate in this context. Comer’s performance was incredible.

2. Nope-fiction

The Escape Artist: The Man Who Escaped Auschwitz to Warn the Worldby Jonathan Freeland

Book cover of The Escape Artist: The Man Who Broke Out of Auschwitz to Warn the World by Jonathan Freedland
Photography: John Murray

This book, which has just been published, recounts the escape of two men from Auschwitz during the Second World War. Although he is brutal and unwavering in his description of the camp, the most extraordinary comes after the escape. It shows how little the world wanted to believe what men were trying to say. For me, it resonates so much with our age and people’s resistance to seeing what’s right in front of them. It was very hard to read this and to think, my God, how many lives could have been saved if people had only listened.

3. Novel

The House of Joy by Edith Wharton

Gillian Anderson as Lily Bart in Terence Davies' film version of Edith Wharton's novel The House of Mirth
Gillian Anderson as Lily Bart in Terence Davies’ film version of Edith Wharton’s novel The House of Mirth. Photography: Filmfour/Allstar

I just finished reading The house of joy. This is my son’s A-level text, and my way of getting through parental nerves was to embrace and discuss his work. It’s the story of Lily Bart, who has charm and beauty but not enough money for the society she lives in – New York’s Golden Age. It’s a story of economics, of female vulnerability, of a society that only allows women to be certain things in a certain way. It was a real pleasure to read it again and realize what a very good novel it is.

4. Music

Dinu Lipatti rooms Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1

Dinu Lipatti's hands on the keyboard
Photography: Aliyah

My father passed away last month. One of the things that brought him great joy in the hospital was listening to the music he loved. One day, I thought he was sleeping and he started saying that name, Dinu Lipatti. I couldn’t understand at first. Then I typed it into Google and along came this extraordinary Romanian pianist whose life was tragically cut short at the age of 33. So I played my father his version of Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1. Even as he was dying, my father still introduced me to good music.

5. Film

Olga (Real: Elie Grappe, 2021)

A scene from Olga, directed by Elie Grappe
Photography: Prod DB/Alamy

The last thing I saw at the cinema was Olga, about a young Ukrainian gymnast (Anastasiia Budiashkina) who leaves home for Switzerland to compete for the Swiss team. Her mother is a TV journalist amid the 2014 stalemate and – spoiler alert – Olga ultimately decides her homeland is more important than her career. I went to see him after taking part in a flash mob at Victoria Station with a group of friends to raise money for Ukraine – a very unusual thing for me. It’s a quietly powerful and beautifully told film.

6. TV

Ungovernable (Netflix)

Kate del Castillo in Ungovernable
Photography: Juan Pablo Gutierrez/Netflix

What’s a bit strange is that I like to watch anything in Spanish. I studied Spanish and spent a lot of time working in Spain and Venezuela. I just watched the first season of this Mexican series, which I love. It’s about a woman, played by Kate del Castillo, who is framed for killing her husband (Erik Hayser), who happens to be the president of Mexico, and then goes on the run. Honestly, it’s a bit of a telenovela – voluminous hair, flashy makeup and the people are terribly melodramatic – but it transports me to a whole different world.

The People vs. J Edgar Hoover is on BBC Radio 4 and BBC Sounds


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