CBS Specials Head Jack Sussman On Grammys 2022: ‘You Go Into Every Live Show With The Understanding That Anything Can Happen’

MGM Grand Garden
MGM Grand Garden

Just because the Grammys is a far different show than the Oscars doesn’t mean the producers and suits behind it think they’re immune to the kind of incident that happened Sunday with Will Smith. So says Jack Sussman, CBS’ head of specials who’s preparing for the 64th Annual Grammys this Sunday in Las Vegas.

“I think you go into every live show with the understanding that anything could happen, and it usually does,” says Sussman, who quips that he still has PTSD from working the infamous Super Bowl XXXVIII halftime show with Janet Jackson. “If you surround yourself with really talented people behind the scenes, you’re in a position to handle it, knowing that it might not be a perfect outcome, but it’s gonna be an okay outcome, at least as far as making television is concerned.”

The Grammys have had their share of surprises on camera, like when Michael Portnoy unexpectedly joined Bob Dylan on stage in 1998 with the phrase “Soy Bomb” painted on his chest. (No, that wasn’t planned, but Dylan kept playing like a pro). That same year, Ol’ Dirty Bastard also stormed the stage when Shawn Colvin was accepting the Grammy for Song of the Year. Wacky stuff, but nothing compared to when Smith took a swing at Chris Rock at Sunday’s Oscars.

“I mean, trust me, we talk about this stuff all the time,” says Sussman. “Like, what are we gonna do if [so and so happens].”

And speaking of expecting the unexpected, Kanye West may still attend the show in Las Vegas even though he was pulled from a planned live performance due to “concerning online behavior.” West, who targeted Trevor Noah with a racial slur for defending West’s ex-wife, Kim Kardashian on social media, is up for five Grammys.

“If he chooses to come, okay,” insists Sussman about West. “There’s no one keeping him from coming.”

The pandemic forced the Recording Academy and CBS to postpone the Grammys, which meant finding another venue since the Arena (formerly Staples Center) was all booked up. The MGM Grand Garden Arena in Sin City is ideal, Sussman says, because “the size of the stage is literally the exact same size as what was had at Staples.” CBS has previously staged the Academy of Country Music Awards there, too.

CBS and the Recording Academy just added more performers for this weekend’s awards, including J Balvin with Maria Becerra, John Legend, Silk Sonic and Carrie Underwood. Maverick City Music, Aymée Nuviola and Billy Strings will also perform in special segments that showcase Las Vegas and spotlight genres not historically represented on the Grammys.

Previously announced performers include Jon Batiste, Brothers Osborne, BTS, Brandi Carlile, Billie Eilish, Cynthia Erivo, H.E.R., Lil Nas X with Jack Harlow, Leslie Odom Jr., Nas, Ben Platt, Olivia Rodrigo, Chris Stapleton and Rachel Zegler. Trevor Noah will host the show that will air live from 8-11:30 PM ET.

The 64th Annual Grammy Awards is produced by Fulwell 73 Productions for the Recording Academy. Raj Kapoor serves as showrunner and executive producer alongside Ben Winston and Jesse Collins as executive producers and Jeannae Rouzan-Clay as co-executive producer. Hamish Hamilton returns as director, and Eric Cook returns as supervising producer, with Tabitha D’umo, Patrick Menton, Fatima Robinson and David Wild as producers.


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