Journalists will try everything they can to avoid the awful celebrity interview. From Meg Ryan, Katherine Heigl and Robert Downey Jr. to Quentin Tarantino and Tom Cruise, there are some interviews that quickly spiral out of control. Sometimes it is the fault of the reporter. Other times it is the cause of the celebrity to disrespect the setting and treat their hosts with contempt.
The problem is that no one really remembers who is at fault or the conditions that led up to the moment, only that it was caught on video, on audio or in print for the entire world to see. The last thing that reporters want to become is the story or part of the story.
The top practitioners in this field will follow all of the top advice that has been passed onto them from up high.
The first piece of advice that will be passed onto emerging talent is to travel to the location of the celebrity if possible. Sometimes this will be at a neutral venue like a press junket or a red carpet event where the press and the public figures have a chance to interact. If there is an opportunity to undertake the interview at their home or on set during production, that will allow them to relax and be themselves, giving better quality responses as a result.
It never goes astray to study the subject to the absolute degree. Celebrities will respect the journalist when they know they have done their homework. From their place of origin to side projects, past quotes and other identities they have worked with in the past, the inclusion of information will help to add substance to the discussion without making it another generic back-and-forth.
That level of education with celebrities should also explore past interviews that they have done. Have all of the best questions been asked before? They might have appeared on press junkets, red carpet events, newspaper and magazine features, late night shows, podcasts and other mediums for media coverage. If there is territory that has not been explored and their agent has not closed off any barriers for those questions, that will be a unique opportunity.
Above all, journalists are advised to be authentic with celebrities when they are sitting down with them. If they are fascinated by a certain style or event, then that should be explored. The same applies to any degree of cynicism or critique about a controversy. If that opinion is quashed purely for the sake of access, then the quality of the interview will suffer as a result. Reporters need to decide if they work best in a semi-casual style or in formal conditions where the conversation is strictly about the subject material. It becomes quite clear when the interviewer is attempting to be something they are not.
In order to be authentic with celebrity interviews, reporters need to know that they have the connections and networks to return back to the entertainment world. The risk of experiencing a bad interview and not being allowed to have another opportunity could create a cautious approach that doesn’t help anyone’s cause.
Dressing for success is one of the techniques that professionals will advise when speaking with celebrities. Looking the part will demonstrate that the reporter takes their role seriously and that they have a professional responsibility to explore the subject in detail.
Those professionals who do manage to score interviews with celebrities will be able to perfect this art form the longer they engage with the exercise. Initial nerves can soon become business as usual, yet every discussion is still an opportunity to explore new territory and encourage them to open up and be honest with their opinions.