Meet the man at the forefront of the world’s biggest podcast
We meet Emmanuel Dzotsi, 25, Sarah Koenig’s co-reporter on Serial
‘hang on to your hats America, Emmanuel went to school and college in Ohio, but he sounds like an Englishman… long story.’ That’s how podcast superstar Sarah Koenig introduced her co-reporter, Emmanuel Dzotsi, to the world. But it wasn’t just the British accent that got us intrigued – Emmanuel is the first reporter to co-present Serial, the world’s biggest podcast. For its third outing, the show has taken on investigating the entire justice system, by telling the stories from a Cleveland court house – and has proved as popular as ever, topping the charts and winning critical acclaim.
It must be daunting. ‘ The morning of the launch was a bit like walking into the high school cafeteria – like I know somewhere out there people are talking about us, but I’m not sure what, or whether it’s good – and do I even want to know?’ he told Grazia from New York, where the series is still being edited.
Born to parents of Dominican and Ghanaian descent in England, Emmanuel’s family moved to Belgium when he was seven, then five years later ended up in Toledo, Ohio – just a couple of hours from Cleveland where he reports for Serial.
The series is instantly shocking – in the second episode, Emmanuel spends months in the court of Judge Daniel Gaul, who likes to include prohibitions on defendants having children when he sets their bail conditions. ‘I’d spent some time in court, but I’d never sat down and watched the day-to-day and I think if you’ve not done that, it’s shocking. I remember the first time I watched a trial and, at the conclusion, the defendant was found guilty on a couple of charges that meant she’d be serving anywhere from 20 to life – she was a 55-year-old woman. Watching somebody lose their liberty when you’ve not seen that before, it’s sobering.’
But what of working with the now internationally-lauded Koenig? Surely that’s an added layer of daunting for, essentially, a first permanent job? ‘I think one of the great things about Sarah is that the intelligent, curious person you hear is the person that she is,’ he says. ‘She’s down to earth, she’s a great boss. She’d travel four hours by car each way to Cleveland, away from her kids for days at a time, back and forth – I’d always be struck by how much energy she’d bring to what we were doing. It’s so nice when someone brings enthusiasm to things. She makes all of us a lot better.’
His British accent is conspicuous in the quintessentially American show and, he says, has been a mixed blessing. ‘I think sometimes it’s a weird one for people; especially in Ohio, there aren’t exactly a load of black British people walking around. But it solidifies you as an outsider and sometimes people are more willing to be honest with outsiders. Sometimes, if anything, it can lead to confusion. But one of the things that’s always surprised me [ is that] Americans think a British accent gives you a level of credibility I wonder if I deserve!’
Emmanuel, the new voice of Serial, with co-presenter Sarah Koenig