Introducing Weekends with Yankee | Interview with Executive Producer Laurie Donnelly

By Aimee Tucker

Mar 25 2017

wgbh-qaYankee Magazine is teaming up with public television producer WGBH to create Weekends with Yankee, a New England-based travel and lifestyle series. The documentary series will take viewers on an insider’s exploration from city to countryside and far-flung places in New England. Filming will take place in all six New England states; 13 weekly half-hour episodes are slated to premiere nationally on public television stations in April 2017. Viewers will be guided through New England by Emmy® Award-winning TV travel host, explorer and author Richard Wiese. The series will tap into Yankee’s behind-the-scenes access to the unique attractions that define the region, and the hidden New England that only locals know. Wiese will be joined in his travels by Yankee’s very own Senior Food Editor, Amy Traverso, who will share the recipes, local flavors, and sense of community that make up the fabric of the region’s food and dining scene. We recently talked to Laurie Donnelly, the series Senior Executive Producer about this new collaboration with Yankee. What inspired you to collaborate with Yankee?Yankee is a New England institution which has been telling the New England story for decades. There is no better partner to capture the people, places and stories that make up New England. Yankee goes behind the scenes where other people have not been able to go and they capture the spirit of New England in a quiet and powerful way. Their stories resonate not only with New Englanders but with people across the country.What are some of the things you love most about New England and are excited to share as part of the Weekends with Yankee series? Born in New York and raised in California I came back to New England for college and never left. From the beaches of Wellfleet and Cape Cod, to Mt. Katahdin, New England is a place that has always captivated me. The four seasons are unmatched for diversity and beauty and as a foodie there is nothing better. Nowhere else in the country can you have so many diverse experiences in such a compact area – from the highest mountains to the dunes of Cape Cod. What does being a New Englander mean to you? New Englanders are straight-forward, honest, and resilient and they are all, in my experience, proud to be from New England. People who live here tend to not leave and if they do they are drawn back again at some point in their lives. It’s a place that really feels like home. We often hear from readers that they have always dreamed of visiting New England or retiring in New England. Why do you think so many people dream about a place they may have never even been to?  New England is exceptional for its beauty. The people are warm and it has something for everyone. Whether you want to take a long walk on the beach, or hike to the top of Mt. Washington, sail off the beautiful coast of Maine or go antiquing through the six New England States, it offers an exceptional variety of experiences for all ages. Also, some of our oldest states are in New England. They’re brimming with a rich cultural heritage. I think New England makes people across the country feel connected to our American roots. Weekends with Yankee is a celebration of the many wonderful things to do, see, eat, and experience in New England. What are some of your personal New England favorites (destinations, restaurants, activities, views, etc.) Duxbury Oysters, taking the cog railway up to the top of Mt. Washington, and there is nothing like having tea on Mt. Desert Island. I also grew up sailing and there is no better experience than a Windjammer cruise through the Maine Islands to take you away from it all. I am also a tremendous foodie but with so many great favorites it is hard to pick among my children – New England is loaded with great restaurants but give me a lobster roll anytime and I’m a happy camper. You’ve spent 30 years delving into subjects that range from gourmet cooking to gardening to the challenges of caring for an aging parent. What changes have you seen in the kinds of content viewers care about? How have our interests changed? And what does it say about our changing world?  In challenging financial times our viewers are burning the candles at both ends – they are trying to balance their home and work lives. But at the same time they care about learning new things while being entertained. Our programming stays on the cutting edge, responding to where people’s interests are, which continue to evolve, year after year. Our goal is to help viewers be inspired – whether cooking a nice dinner at home or creating a simple container garden or having a weekend adventure that they look forward to after a long work week. What is it about lifestyle programming that has such broad appeal? It’s armchair traveling and cooking – we can take them to places they might never go, we inspire them. It’s aspirational and inspirational and takes them away from the grind of their daily lives. We always try to push the envelope introducing them to content, people, and ideas they may never have seen before. Where are some of the most interesting or surprising places your journeys with WGBH have taken you? Through our programs we are given access to worlds that we might otherwise never see – whether it is a front row seat at Carnegie Hall (with From the Top) or following in the footsteps of people on spiritual journeys guided by Bruce Feiler (Sacred Journeys), or traveling alongside a National Geographic photographer around the world as he tries to save one endangered species at a time in our new series RARE with Joel Sartore. Through these journeys, I have had unique access to some of the most breath-taking, engaging and inspirational journeys and places around the globe. We hope you’ll tune in this spring for Weekends with Yankee!