Emmy-winning host and investigative filmmaker Tony Harris needed a challenge.
After spending several years working as an anchor for CNN and Al Jazeera America, Harris decided it was time to get back to his reporting roots and teamed up with Investigation Discovery for a new six-part series produced by Part2 Pictures dubbed Scene of the Crime with Tony Harris.
New episodes air Sunday nights at 10 p.m. ET on Investigation Discovery.
“For me, it’s great to be off the set,” Harris tells PEOPLE. “I’m not anchoring a newscast, I’m not sitting there ready to blow my brains out because I’m talking to another pundit who’s just working off talking points. With this show, I get to talk to real people and I’m loving it.”
Talks between the seasoned journalist and Investigation Discovery executives began more than three years ago — soon after Harris’ contract with CNN expired.
“I knew my deal was ending at CNN and that they weren’t renewing and I didn’t want to stay because … I was bored,” Harris confides. “I had to go. I was pushing to get off the news desk and do some original reporting. I feel like the luckiest cat. I feel really fortunate because the show is terrific.”
Scene of the Crime takes viewers deep into small-town America to uncover the truth behind some of the heartland’s most notorious crimes. It is the second time Harris has joined forced with the channel, having previously hosted the network’s Hate In America series.
PEOPLE is streaming an exclusive clip from “Deadly Breakup,” the next episode in the series, airing Sunday May 7 at 10 p.m. ET.
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Sunday’s episode delves into the 2007 stabbing murder of 18-year-old cheerleader Demi Cuccia, who was killed by her boyfriend, John Mullarkey Jr., who then tried committing suicide, slashing his own throat as officers were arriving at the scene.
“The challenge from Investigation Discovery was to expand the range of crime stories we tell,” Harris explains. “They also wanted us to make it as immersive as possible, so I do every interview. The other benefit of that is, I get to talk to these people about some of the worst moments of their lives and that almost always spins off into all kinds of conversations.”
Harris says that with Scene of the Crime, he has been able to do what he does best: make connections with people.
“I think one of the things that sets the show apart is the connection I am able to establish with people,” Harris tells PEOPLE. “It’s as simple as that. You talk to these people about these horrible things that have happened, and you end up getting a window to their entire life. What has really pleased me about some of the feedback we’ve gotten is, people are appreciating the connections that they can see being made. They can see it, and that’s the real joy of doing this show.”
Harris says the stories featured on the show are “captivating,” and that working on the series has been “exhausting” for him.
“That’s because, at moments, I have been unprepared for the wave of emotion that comes forward,” he explains. “You ask a question and it can open up a wellspring of emotion in people. You have to be ready for that and there were times when I wasn’t ready for it and people are pouring their hearts out. By the third episode, I was exhausted. After filming, I found the nearest beach.”
Harris says that the stories themselves make the show compelling.
“We’re having a good time with it,” he says. “I think it is a really good show, and I want as many people to see it as possible. The conversations I’ve had have been wonderful and … the show is just a really good show. Take my involvement in it out of it, and the stories are just compelling and the people are wonderful. You will be intrigued by this series because the stories are so gripping.”