Star Struck: Prepping for a Celebrity Interview

Gina Roberts-Grey

I admit it; I’m a sucker for some good celebrity scoop. So when I stumbled into writing celebrity profiles and Q&As in early 2008 I was thrilled that my passion for reality TV, not to mention Grey’s Anatomy, the occasional soap opera and even all things sports, might finally become a viable tax write-off! But once the wow factor wore off, that first assignment, a profile of country music legend, Trace Adkins, left me wondering how to approach the interview and how covering celebrities differs from health, finance and other writing genres.

Here are some key pointers I’ve picked up along the way since I (nervously) sat down with Trace Adkins.

Getting started.

In most instances (but not every single one) you need to have an assignment in hand before trying to land the interview. To score that interview you have to develop a rapport with publicists and managers. Just be patient because that rapport takes time. Publicists and agents are your ticket to access to celebrities so you have to schmooze them with all the vigor and panache that you would the editor of your dreams. The publicists and managers hold all the cards. Rub them the wrong way and you’re not getting the interview.

Celebrities are people, too.

If a case of the nerves has you feeling tongue-tied or unable to formulate a sentence, remember talking to a celebrity about their latest movie isn’t any different than talking to a cardiologist about the latest blood pressure management option. Their dogs bark when they’re on the phone, their kids get sick, they have to reschedule and celebrities get a case of the nerves now and then, too. So approach the interview no different than you would one with a doctor, author or architect. Be prepared but remember they really are a lot like you and me.

Have a conversation.

In general, celebs are used to delivering sound bites. Trouble is it’s easy for them to fall into a rut and deliver the same sounds bites over and over. So instead of peppering a celebrity with oodles of questions, I’ve found a looser approach often yields original sound bites. I take my cues from the celeb and if they’re all business, that’s how I approach the interview. If they seem relaxed, or ask me a question (like do I have kids) as some have, I take more of a friendly professional approach.

Be flexible.

Because they’re in between taping scenes, doing press junkets, etc., celebrities’ schedules are in flux. So you have to be available when they are. If you were working with a doctor, lawyer, business executive, etc. you may be able to negotiate a time that’s convenient for both of you. When you’re dealing with a celebrity, you’re often at the mercy of when their schedule has a hole that you can fill.

Set realistic goals

I’m often asked how receptive are celebrities, in general, to being contacted. You’ve got to be persistent and prepared to go through layers of representatives. It’s rare that you ever make direct contact with a celebrity. And there’s no rhyme or real reason to the number of layers in place. It’s surprising because there are times when a celeb you’d expect to have to jump through hoops to contact is very easy and then there are others who require jumping through several hoops while twirling a flaming baton.

That’s not to say you can’t get through to those toughies, but it’s going to take persistence.