Seven years after leaving her KTLA anchor chair for a high-profile CNN gig, Michaela Pereira has returned to the local news morning shift.
But instead of coming back to her old stomping grounds at "KTLA Morning News," which she cohosted for nine years, Pereira has jumped to crosstown rival Fox 11, where she will lead a revamped "Good Day L.A." broadcast starting Monday.
"It's surreal and incredible," Pereira said of her new job during an interview last week at her home. "It's an honor and a privilege and thrilling. I have all the feels."
Her obvious enthusiasm comes with just a little touch of anxiety about competing against the station that was so instrumental in her success.
Said Pereira: "I remember commenting to a friend, 'Dang, is this going to be seen like a defection? A lack of loyalty?' I even had someone on social media accuse me of not being loyal. But you go where the opportunity is. We all have to make choices in our lives. I choose to continue to grow both personally and professionally."
While she remembers her KTLA days with fondness, her fresh start is fueled by her mission to engage with viewers about the difficulties of coping during a pandemic.
"You wake up with your shoulders tense and trying to figure out what is going to face you today," she said. "We hope to give you the tools to navigate that.”
The arrival of Pereira also marks a relaunch of "Good Day L.A.," which has undergone constant upheaval and turnover since the 2017 departure of veteran host Steve Edwards amid allegations of sexual harassment. (Station executives never officially addressed the reason behind Edwards' abrupt departure.)
News director Erica Hill-Rodriguez said the station has spent the last several months "reworking the entire show — from format to content to the look, graphics and sound signatures. We're doing a full relaunch that will tie in to the introduction of Michaela."
She added, "We're looking at this show as being relentlessly relevant as we can for our audience. Times have changed and the expectations of viewers have changed, and our mission and goal is to meet our audience where they're at. Right now that's a place of all of us seeking a connection, news and information to help you navigate this world around you, and doing that from a place of real purpose."
Pereira will join current anchors Tony McEwing and Araksya Karapetyan to host the 7 to 10 a.m block of the six-hour show, which also will feature Rita Garcia as solo anchor from 4 to 5 a.m. and live segment host throughout.
Making a connection with viewers will be a key theme of "Good Day L.A.," said Pereira. "The stuff we're going through is really hard, but I also know we have to keep talking to each other. We can't hole up in our silos and just cross our arms. Everything with COVID feels a little overwhelming, and I'm definitely in that space along with people at home."
Although the intensity at times "takes my breath away," she said, "I feel driven and a sense of duty." She added with a chuckle, "So you can imagine, I'm probably not sleeping a lot."
Pereira's upbeat personality and optimism helped draw viewers to "KTLA Morning News," and the loose, easy chemistry on the team, which included co-anchor Carlos Amezcua, weatherman Mark Kriski and entertainment anchor Sam Rubin, was key to the newscast's high ratings. Kriski and Rubin are still on the broadcast.
The team was broken up in 2013 when CNN Worldwide President Jeff Zucker recruited Pereira to launch the network's morning show "New Day" along with Chris Cuomo and Kate Bolduan. Pereira was nervous about leaving family and friends in her beloved Los Angeles home to move to Manhattan.
"I remember thinking, 'This is big,'" she recalled about getting the offer. "When Jeff Zucker comes knocking, you answer. To go to Manhattan to be on a big stage was huge and I really had to consider it. ... It seemed like a crazy time to move across the country but I knew if I didn't do it, I would regret it for the rest of my life. It was a leap of faith."
Calling the transition her “Mt. Everest,” Pereira found the experience rewarding. But when she got the chance to return to Los Angeles in 2016 to host her own show at sister channel HLN, she jumped.
Said Pereira, "I had the time of my life in New York but boy, was I ready to come home! That city will wring it out of you."
On her return, she headlined "MichaeLA," a three-hour daytime news program. The show was one of three live programs focused on human-interest stories, consumer news, weather and sports, programmed as part of an effort to reset HLN as an alternative to the politics-heavy CNN.
But when HLN decided two years later to showcase true-crime series and other taped programming, "MichaeLA," and the other live shows, “Across America With Carol Costello” and “Crime & Justice With Ashleigh Banfield,” were yanked.
Pereira is philosophical about the cancellation: "It was really sad things went that way, but I understand the business. You get that magic in a bottle for a little but then it's time for someone else to do it."
She had been contemplating her next move when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, soon followed by the killing of George Floyd by police in Minneapolis. Increasingly concerned about the growing divisiveness in the country, she eased her mind by working more with her hands: "I took an indoor dining room table and converted it into an outdoor dining room table.
"Keeping my hands busy helped the part of my brain that was starting to panic." She paused, choking up a bit. "It's difficult to know that I can't get on a plane and visit my parents in Canada. It hurts that I can't spend Christmas with them. But that's what we all are feeling."
She also realized that her new venture is its own leap of faith.
"We're launching a new show in the middle of a pandemic,” Pereira said. “That’s a different direction from a lot of shows that are laying off people or putting them on furlough. So it feels like a privilege that we're getting to do this. I'm really looking forward to it, giving people a little bit of hope."
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.