Piers Morgan: "I like the fact that I divide opinion - I stick to my mind"
Piers Morgan is used to interviewing celebrities, but his latest TV project sees him tackling much darker material. He tells Gemma Dunn about meeting America's notorious female killers.
Piers Morgan is celebrity Marmite - but the TV personality wouldn't have it any other way. "I prefer being slightly polarising," the 51-year-old admits. "I couldn't stand the pressure of being a saint; it would be unbearable, I don't know how people do that.
"I like sticking to my mind and giving opinions, and if you do that, not everyone is going to agree with you," he adds. "If they agree with you, they're going to like you, and if they don't, they're going to think you're incredibly annoying."
Today, the chirpy, casually dressed presenter is far from irritating. Sinking a coffee, he talks of his ongoing tiredness after having been made a Good Morning Britain host last year.
"It doesn't get any easier. In fact, it gets marginally worse. Everyone warned me about it," he confides.
"My alarm goes at 3.15am, with a second one at 3.20am. Sometimes I just lie there for another 15 minutes, contemplating hell."
Unapologetic for his candid views, the former News of the World editor turned small-screen pantomime villain is no stranger to controversy, passing comment on anyone from politicians and celebrities to the royals.
Recently, he hit the headlines when he clashed with Evan Harris, the chief executive of press regulation campaign group Hacked Off, who was on Good Morning Britain to discuss the current "celebrity threesome" injunction saga.
The spat later continued on Twitter, attracting the attention of Morgan's 4.9 million followers, and news outlets UK-wide. But he's far from fazed by the furore, last week wading into another debate surrounding Beyonce's new album Lemonade, accusing her of "playing the race card".
But the Sussex-born father-of-four is happy to be divisive, crediting his Good Morning Britain co-host Susanna Reid for keeping him in check. Almost.
"She tries," he says, chuckling. "You can't overdo it, you don't want to be shouting at everyone that comes on. But it's light and shade. You have some fun with some people, you have empathy with others - and then you have people like Harris!
"Hacked Off just hacks me off, to be honest with you."
For his latest TV venture, however, Morgan is hoping viewers' boos and hisses will be directed elsewhere.
Fronting a brand new two-part ITV series, Killer Women With Piers Morgan, he treads new ground as he travels through the southern states of Texas and Florida, meeting some of America's most notorious female murderers along the way.
Three complex cases are at the centre of the programme.
"It's almost like that Netflix series Making A Murderer, which got everyone gripped," Morgan muses. "It's trying to journalistically unravel it yourself."
It was the focus on women, in particular, that proved a fascinating draw for him.
"Women don't tend to do pre-planned killings. That's what the detectives told me," he explains.
"Most of the crimes are crimes of passion, committed in spontaneity, where something has upset them and they do something silly.
"To get women who have pre-planned killings of a barbaric nature is very unusual. That's what appealed to me: it's a very unusual genre of murder."
One case that left Morgan astounded was that of Erin Caffey, a 24-year-old who was convicted of having her family savagely murdered when she was just 16.
"When you hear her sing like a little angel and look like a little angel at 4ft 11in, you can't believe she masterminded the mass murder. But she did. She looked so innocent. What would drive a girl like that with no record of bad behaviour, no trouble at school, to do that?
"We spoke to defence and prosecution lawyers, family members, friends, the victims' families and so on, to try and build a picture around what these people were actually like," Morgan adds.
He confesses he had to "have a couple of coffees and really calm down" after spending time with Caffey's father Terry, who not only survived the attack, but has forgiven his daughter.
"I really felt for him," Morgan sympathises.
"When he got emotional, I thought, 'could I forgive in the way that he has, if it was my daughter who had done that to my sons, to my wife?'
"I don't think you know until it happens to you. There's unconditional love, and there's unconditional love. He exudes the real power of it."
This new venture is not a show format that he believes could translate to the UK, however.
"The US is so much bigger, so it has many more stories like this, plus you don't get the access to the prisons in the UK."
As for prison sentences, he exclaims: "If any of the people I met had done what they've done here, they'd probably have got 20 years, 25 maximum.
"As it is, they're all serving 45 to 50 years or life tariffs in the US, which for those young women, it's their whole life."
Beyond the prison bars, Morgan's set for an exciting 2016, with another run of his hit talk show Life Stories, for which he promises an array of exciting celebs, and a newly announced one-off interview with Charlie Sheen this June.
He reveals he'd also love to do more documentaries on the back of Killer Women. "I think it will do well, because it's such a fascinating subject."
- Killer Women With Piers Morgan, ITV, Wednesday, 9pm