Nanette van der Laan, a producer, waited by a rental car parked near a bike path in Maywood last month as her co-worker, camerawoman Clementine Malpas, shot B-roll footage of Proviso East graduate Kelauni Cook jogging with her mother Charmene Cook.
This wasn’t Hollywood enough to draw people out of their homes, but the curiosity prompted stares. During the scene, several cars whizzed by, with some drivers peering to see what was happening.
Van der Laan and Malpas work for Channel 4 News — Britain’s equivalent of ABC or CBS. The scene they were working on aired in that country in the days leading up to America’s Nov. 8 election.
“We’re the only hour-long, primetime news program on British TV,” said van der Laan. “Jon Snow is our main anchor.”
Snow is Britain’s Tom Brokaw. He’s sort of a big deal.
“Whenever I’m filming with Jon in England, it’s a real problem,” said van der Laan. “We were filming in a cafe in London once and there was a line with like 20 people waiting for selfies.”
Kelauni, however, didn’t have to wait in line and she did more than just take a selfie with the news legend, described on his station’s website as the face of Channel 4 News since 1989.
Last month the Proviso East alumna, who now works as a software engineer in Pittsburgh, was interviewed by Snow in her parents’ living room — eight years after he first spoke to her on election night in 2008, when she was a student at Howard University in Washington, D.C.
“We were watching the returns on CNN during a viewing party inside of this big room,” Cook, who currently lives in Pittsburgh and works in computer coding, recalled of the historic night in 2008.
“Twenty seconds after they called the race for Obama, I jumped on a chair and was heaving crying,” she said. “I couldn’t catch my breath and the next thing I know, this bright light and a camera were in my face and this guy was asking me how I felt and what it was like.”
Cook said she was in such a state of euphoria that the moment barely registered with her, until she saw the video eight years later, when Snow and his producers decided to follow-up with her and another Howard student who was interviewed that night; however, Channel 4 encountered one problem.
“Nobody wrote down you guys’ names,” said van der Laan. “Jon went there and had to rush back to the hotel quickly and put a piece together that went out that night.”
Van der Laan said trying to identify Cook was “like searching for a needle in a haystack.” They called Howard University, but in vain. They searched the university’s website for clues, scouring thousands of faces in online yearbooks.
“About two months ago, one of my really good friends, who lives in New York and is part of a Howard email group, said [Channel 4] was looking for me,” Cook said. “Somebody recognized me and sent a message to my best friend, who told me. After that, I reached out to the producer looking for me and worked out a time they could come.”
Snow interviewed Cook at her family’s Maywood home and even took in lunch with the Howard alum in Chicago, where he got his first taste of Chicago Chicken and Waffles.
Eight years later, Snow asked Cook in her parents’ living room, whether her feelings about Obama have changed.
“I think everyone put so much pressure on one man. He couldn’t be black people’s president. He had to be everyone’s president,” Cook said. “And I think a lot of people kind of lost sight of that.”
“So what,” Snow asked, a month before the Nov. 8 election, “has Obama’s presidency done to race?”
“I think it shed a light on the people who weren’t ready for that to happen,” Cook said. “And his election opened up Pandora’s box of these sub-communities who just absolutely weren’t for it.
“Trump would not be where he is had Obama not been president. Period. Because Trump is catering to those people who — the night of the election, you saw me scream and yell and cry — those people were doing the same thing but for a different reason.”