I’ll never forget the day I got to interview Patrick Dempsey. I’ve always been a fan, and seeing him soar to fandom thanks to “Grey’s Anatomy” was the icing on the cake. I couldn’t believe I was going to get to speak to him!
I knew I had to curb my inner fangirl. After all, professionalism first.
Since then, I’ve had more opportunities to interview celebs; some I’ve been huge fans of, others I didn’t know of until I got the assignment.
I’m getting better at it, and have put together some wisdom from my experiences.
- Ask ahead about what not to ask. Sometimes I am covering one aspect of the celebrity’s life, but the publication I’m writing for wants me to ask about other things. Be sure to ask the PR person about any topics to stay away from–they’re likely to tell you what to avoid off the bat anyway.
- It’s okay to mention you’re a fan. But you don’t have to do it directly. If you are a fan, it can be helpful to let the celebrity know you’ve followed their work on a show. I feel this puts them at ease when referencing a character because they already know that you “know” that character. I don’t always mention this in the beginning of the interview, but I don’t think it makes a difference unless you’re on a tight timeline. Be short and sweet if you feel it necessary to mention your devotion, but don’t overdo it. They want to know they’re talking with an objective source, not just another person hanging on their every word.
- You’ll probably be on the clock, and overheard. Most celeb interviews I’ve done over the phone have at least one other press person on the line. They’re also extremely brief; as in, the PR person tells me I’ll only have about 10 minutes. In that case, you have to get down to the details ASAP, so don’t waste your time buttering the person up. I think they respect us and our publications more when we’re strictly professional.
- You can break the ice, but you don’t have to. Even if you don’t mention you’re a fan, or don’t have that to use to break the ice, there are other ways. But don’t waste half your time trying to warm up; chances are the celebrity has done dozens of interviews just like yours. They’re used to reciting the same answers (especially when talking about some sort of press campaign) so they’ll want to dive right in. On the plus side, when you do that, you may have more time to establish trust and dig deeper. Remember, you’re probably not doing anything investigative here, so you likely can’t go that deep anyway.
- Write things down. In addition to recording your interview, be sure to write down your questions. Nothing sucks more than clamming up if you’re nervous in general or anxious to be in the presence of someone you admire. Your questions will remind you to stay professional, and keep you on point.
Once you start nailing celebrity interviews, it does get easier. I’m not at the point where I’m doing sit-down exclusives–I probably still couldn’t, especially with “McDreamy”–but I’m certainly more adjusted to it.