“Hey, Jae. We’ll call you right back, OK?”
Sure, I said, knowing full well that I wouldn’t be hearing from them.
The other morning, I got a call from an actor I was supposed to interview for my travel column, “Go Away With…” He was supposed to chat with me to promote his new film. They had changed the time to talk half a dozen times. I went with the flow. His people knew that it was a travel column, because I had stressed it many times, since I ask different types of questions than they’re used to (“Where is your favorite place in the world?” vs. “How is the character you portrayed unique from your previous roles?”).
Sometimes, the information gets lost in translation. The publicist may have told his client, but the client forgot. Then, too, there’s always the chance that the celebrity never was told about the thrust of the interview, so he has no idea why I’m asking questions about travel. Chris Rock, for instance, said, “These are some crazy questions. I like them, though!” and just rolled with it. And then when the interview was over, Rock thanked me and said it was fun talking about different kinds of things.
Other times, the publicists had outright lied to me, telling me about how the celebs they rep LOVE to travel. Then, when I interview the actress, she’ll tell me, “Oh, I’d love to travel, but I’ve never really been anywhere.” After a few more questions, I can usually draw out that they have traveled more than they think they did. But, there are times when I just have to end the interview because there is nothing I can do with what they don’t have to say.
To be on either side of the interview — as the subject or the interviewer — you have to have the ability to go with the flow.
A long time ago, I wrote a book about the TV sitcom “Friends.” My publisher sent me on a mini book tour to promote it and arranged for me to do interviews with various radio and television stations. Because I’m not a celebrity and therefore not famous, my publisher didn’t devote a whole heck of a lot of promotional money into my book (which still did great, thank you very much). So when I did the interviews, about 90 percent of the reporters asking me questions hadn’t been overnighted a press kit or a copy of my book yet. Those usually arrived a day or two after they had talked to me.
Some of them thought I was a scriptwriter for “Friends.” Others assumed I had written a book about friendship and romance. So, when they interviewed me, they asked me questions that had nothing to do with the book. When callers phoned in to chat with me, they often wanted relationship advice. My reply to them tended to start with, “Well, my book is about the TV show ‘Friends.’ But if you’re asking me if you should remain friends with your cheating boyfriend, my answer is no. There’s no need to remain in touch, especially since you don’t have children together.”
I thought I actually gave some pretty good advice there.
The point is, I was there to sell a product (my book), so even though I was thrown a bit, I went with the flow. Even when Eartha Kitt wouldn’t leave the couch when her segment was over and it was time for my little segment. And when she kept asking why anyone would buy such a book, much less write one. I think I mumbled something like, “I don’t know, Eartha. For the same reason people still want to hear you purr. Because it’s fun.”
Anyhow, back to my actor. I could tell that he was uncomfortable with my first question. By the time I asked my second question, he basically said this:
And then he passed the phone to his publicist, so that he didn’t have to be the bad guy who ended the interview. The publicist said they’d call me right back. He may as well have said, “It’s not you, it’s me!”
Clearly, neither of them called me right back, though the publicist did email me later that evening to apologize and say that they were thrown by the out-of-nowhere travel questions and that they would like to complete the interview. Which was a nice gesture. So, I said, sure, let’s do it. And then…wait for it…It never happened.
Wait a minute? Didn’t I date this guy in the ’90s? Ha ha.
Anyhow, I was surprised that an actor with such a strong improv background couldn’t just wing it and go with the flow. But mostly, I was saddened that a grown man with the privilege of wealth and fame couldn’t think of one place in this vast world that he had enjoyed visiting.
© 2013 JAE-HA KIM
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