Mike Hill’s name is relatively new to many fans of “The Real Housewives of Atlanta” after he and the show’s star Cynthia Bailey went public with their romance. But there’s a lot more to the sportscaster than being Bailey’s betrothed.
Hill has been a studio host for Fox Sports 1 since 2013 after spending nine years at ESPN, where he made a name for himself on a variety of sports programming covering the NFL and basketball, along with hosting the flagship show “SportsCenter.”
Now, Hill is expanding his range of hosting duties as he follows the likes of Steve Harvey and takes on a talk show for streaming service Fox Noire, which focuses on telling stories pertaining to the Black audience.
“I’m in development, in contract negotiations to actually host a show called ‘Fox B,'” he tells Atlanta Black Star exclusively on Sept. 18. “We did a test run of four days, went well. … It’s a new streaming show on Fox and it’s a talk show basically talking about the things that are happening — whether it’s good or bad — whatever is affecting the Black community right now. … So I’m going to be a talk show host going outside the realm of sports, which is something I’ve always actually wanted to do so I’m looking forward to doing that.”
But something he hasn’t always wanted to do is write a book. And yet he began writing “Open Mike” in 2014 after he was told he’s “got a fascinating story.” By 2017, Hill got the feeling he definitely needed to write it.
“It was something deep down inside. It was like God telling me, ‘If you don’t write this book, you gon’ die,” he says. “Once I started writing the book, I couldn’t stop. It was almost like I was regurgitating. I had all this stuff on my mind and on my chest and I needed to get it off my mind, my chest because I wasn’t moving forward. I was stuck in a rut. I would not be in the position I am today without writing ‘Open Mike,’ because I needed that therapy and I didn’t realize that.”
And the book also made it possible for him to meet Bailey, to whom he proposed marriage in July.
“I wouldn’t be engaged right now to Cynthia Bailey,” Hill admits. “We would not be together if it wasn’t for that book because it helped me realize there were so many things that was going on in my life that I didn’t realize. … Now I know why I did certain things in my life and now I’m able to move forward.”
The sports broadcaster even disclosed that he read his book to Bailey while they were dating, which drew them closer.
“We probably wouldn’t be in the position that we are today if it wasn’t for me writing that book,” he says.
Hill admits the hardest chapter he had to write was one of his earliest memories about his mother “getting her ass whipped by a man that’s supposed to love her.”
“My mom was abused her entire life by my biological father, by my stepfather,” he says. “I’ve seen domestic violence pretty much my entire childhood. So reliving some of those memories and reliving a chapter when my mom almost got killed by my stepfather when I was a kid … When my stepdad actually stabbed my mom in her back and left her for dead and we came home — my cousin was taking care of me — and she saw her on the bathroom floor.”
Hill said his mother, who still had effects from her attack, ultimately got a divorce. Still, the revelations for Hill continued. He learned his stepfather, who gave the sportscaster his last name, was a hit man.
“He was a violent person,” Hill says. “You see this guy, he was a really nice, lovable guy to a lot of people. But to my mom he was violent, he was an alcoholic. Then, finally, he was a hit man and spent the last nine years of his life in prison for murder for hire because he had his next wife actually murdered on the steps of a church that his brother-in-law was actually the pastor of.”
The book will also see Hill own up to his own issues and he hopes the title will show people “I have a past too and I wasn’t always a good guy but I think people can evolve.”
But it’s not just a book and a new talk show that Hill has in the works. Viewers can catch him hosting the new Netflix series “Hyperdrive,” which Hill filmed in Rochester, New York, in August 2018.
“It’s just the most wonderful experience of my broadcasting career,” he explains. “I’ve been doing it for 24 years and it’s been the most fascinating thing I’ve done in my entire life. It’s like ‘Fast and the Furious’ meets ‘American Ninja Warrior.'”
The series, which is executive produced by actress Charlize Theron and dropped on the famed streaming service in August, sees 28 street racers from around the world using their vehicles to speed around what Hill describes as “an obstacle course from hell.”
“When I first met the producer of the show and he came up and he told me about some of these obstacles I’m like, ‘Man, what kind of weed you been smoking?’ Hill recalled. “It’s just that crazy. But it’s been phenomenal, it’s been a great experience and the feedback has been tremendous.”
The 10-episode set took Hill two weeks to shoot but a year to edit, with the host estimating Netflix spent almost $30 million on the series. As for what fans can expect from the show, which Hill said includes “excitement” and “adrenaline” is no brainer.
“People have talked about it, they say they feel the anxiety of actually being there with these drivers because they’re like real people. They are not like drivers that got big sponsorships, a lot of money or whatnot. These are that you can actually relate to.”
One driver is a 20-year-old woman from South Africa whose father sold his tow truck company for her to compete in the competition where no prize money is involved.
“It’s a trophy,” Hill says, “but they just want the prestige of being a ‘Hyperdrive’ champion.”
Hill’s show “Hyperdrive” is now streaming, and fans will have to stay tuned for a release date on “Open Mike” and “Fox B.”