Reason to Write: It Knocks Celebrities Off Their Pedestal

Jane Boursaw

Happily, Alisa’s post on her reason to write was so well-received that the pitches just started rolling in! I’m excited to present you with the next installment, from Jane Boursaw. Jane is a family entertainment writer specializing in movies, TV and celebrities. You can visit her at Film Gecko and Reel Life With Jane, and learn how to syndicate her family movie and TV columns in your own publication. Follow her on Twitter; become a friend on Facebook; or email her at And if you want to write something for my Reason To Write series, contact me!

When Stephanie mentioned that she was starting a new column on Freelancedom called Reason to Write, a few things immediately sprang to mind for me. Sure, one of the main reasons I write is to get the scoop on what’s new and cool in the entertainment world and pass that along to my readers. But another reason I write involves knocking celebrities off their pedestals.

I don’t mean that in a bad way. Most of the celebrities I interview don’t even want to be put on a pedestal. They just want to do a great job with whatever project they’re working on. It’s our culture that puts them up on a pedestal, and I’ve not been immune to that way of thinking, especially living in the Midwest where I don’t encounter celebrities on a regular basis. You’d never see one shopping for toothpaste at Rite-Aid or sitting in the car next to you at the bank drive-through.

Years ago, when I first started interviewing celebrities, I’ll admit that it was weird and intimidating. These were people I either saw on my TV every week or up on the big screen in movie theaters. Not only that, but I was a huge fan of many of them, so I’d sweat it out for days beforehand, figuring out exactly what to ask and say, and mapping out my strategy so I didn’t come off looking like a starstruck fan.

But you know what? Celebrities are people, too. They’re no different from the rest of us; they simply have high profile jobs that put them on the red carpet and late night talk shows. And truth be told, most of them don’t even like that part of the job. I can guarantee that most celebrities look at conference calls, press junkets, and publicity as a pain-in-the-butt part of their job — and none of them appreciate the paparazzi.

Now I’m no fool. I realize that these people are highly trained media professionals. They’ve been trained up the ying-yang to put on a good show during interviews and turn me into their best friend for 20 minutes. Neither they nor their publicists want them screwing up or saying something stupid. You have to think that the advent of Twitter is making publicists clutch their heart in terror. Who knows what dumb or inappropriate thing their client might tweet about today? Still, it’s fun to talk with celebrities and realize that they’re doing the same stuff we do every day.

Jane has a fancy-schmancy logo. Jealous!

When we talked in the summer of 2009, Stephen Moyer (Bill Compton on True Blood) was driving home and had me say hi to his child, sitting in the back seat of the car. When he got home, he took the dog for a walk, all the while still talking to me on the phone. Angie Harmon was recovering from a cold when we talked this summer about her new show, Rizzoli & Isles. Hayden Panettiere was headed for the gym when we talked in the fall of 2007, but noted that she really couldn’t go anywhere without being hounded by paparazzi. This was during her heyday as the cheerleader on Heroes. Scott Porter was washing dishes at his Austin home when we talked during the first season of Friday Night Lights. And Tim Roth was between scenes while filming Lie To Me earlier this summer.

These folks probably do a lot of interviews. If they put everything else on hold during the calls, they’d never get anything done. Then again, sometimes they just do a string of interviews one after the other, and you get the feeling they’re holed up in an office with a publicist hovering close by.

Such was the case when I talked with Tom Hanks earlier this year about Toy Story 3, and  Ryan Seacrest last year about his New Year’s Eve gig. Michael Moore is known for doing interviews any and everywhere, often standing outside the restored downtown State Theatre in my hometown of Traverse City, Michigan –- home of Moore’s Traverse City Film Festival –- while he talks to Larry King on the air. For a story for Variety this summer, however, I talked with Moore both on the phone and later while standing in line for film festival tickets.

I was standing in line, that is. He was making his way down the line talking to people. He really is a nice guy, despite his public persona.

I generally don’t think of these gigs as interviews, but rather two people having a fun conversation. And if I’m a big fan, I have no trouble telling celebrities I’m a big fan. I think they appreciate it, and I’d rather just be myself than try to put on some fake front just because I’m talking to a high-profile person. So the moral of this story is that celebrities are just regular people who do normal stuff like the rest of us, and writing about them has opened my eyes to that fact. In fact, talking with celebrities is now just a normal part of my job.


  1. What a fun job you have, Jane. I know it’s a job, and not always exactly FUN…but what better way to do one than interview interesting people AND get over the intimidation factor?

  2. What a fascinating look at the type of writing you do, Jane.

  3. I love Jane’s approach to all of this – very real and down to earth!

  4. I’m intrigued by this. You have such a great attitude about your work and the people you interview. No wonder I enjoy your blog so much, Jane.

  5. You know, celebrities put their pants on one leg at a time, too. There are some people that I’d probably be tongue tied around, but I’ve had the opportunity to spend some time with some musical celebrities and have learned just what you have. They’re not interested in being put up on a pedestal. They are just like you and I, except for the recording part. And some of them eat cake for breakfast. 😉

  6. I share your perspective, Jane, as I’ve had the chance to speak with many musicians over the years. Giving interviews is part of their work, sure, just as doing them is part of mine. When it goes well — or even if it doesn’t — we’re still two people having a conversation about something we both care about: the music. Crying babies, dishwasher repair people, dinner preparations — always nice when a person is relaxed enough to speak whilst taking care of those things.

  7. Your job is very cool, Jane. But, I think you’re right. I’m just as interested in the non-famous people I interview. Everyone has a story.

  8. Great insider insights. My quibble about interviewing high-profile folks is they often “perform” during an interview and don’t really let you see their real selves.

    Sounds like in your line of work you run into that all the time, Jane. Good for you for not getting jaded.

  9. As a former publicist, I’m SO happy I don’t have to deal with managing clients on Twitter. Your perspectives are spot-on – and your empathy for all aspects of your interview subjects’ lives really makes your writing shine.

  10. I’ve never known very much about celebrities or celebrity writing. But I feel that way about big name scientists and other famous people. It’s good to know them as people, not just as high-profile divas, y’know?

  11. I did my first celebrity interview a couple of weeks ago, and it was ME who was in the middle of everyday life while doing it.

    The interview was with Niecy Nash. Thanks to a babysitting glitch, I was home with my just-turned-4-year-old. Now, this would have bothered me no matter who I was set to interview, celebrity or not, because it meant there was a threat throughout the entire interview (despite my best preparations – i.e., starting an episode of favorite-show-du-jour 5 minutes before interview time) of him turning up outside my locked bedroom door (don’t judge me) banging and yelling.

    That didn’t happen.

    What did happen, though, was that said 4-year-old demanded a glass of milk as soon as I’d started his show. I pleaded with him to wait until after Mommy’s work phone call, but one look at his face made it clear a tantrum was coming. So I dashed down the stairs, phone in hand, grabbed his milk and dashed back upstairs. The phone rang while I was in mid-stride (3 minutes early, I might add). I handed off the milk cup, ran into my room, locked the door and plopped down in front of my laptop, all the while trying NOT to sound out-of-breath to the publicist on the line. All that meant was that when Niecy got on the line a few seconds later, THAT’S when I sounded out of breath. (Note to self: Exercise has previously unrecognized fringe benefits.)

    The result? I sounded like a starstruck fan. I was gasping for air. I stuttered. And I was on pins and needles the entire time expecting my son to bang on the locked door. I rushed through my questions and was barely able to apply logical thought to her responses. All in all, the whole maddening experience lasted less than 10 minutes. I got what I needed. All wasn’t lost.

    And my son didn’t bang on the door. At least not until 5 seconds after I’d hung up the phone.

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