An Anonymous Publicist/Manager
One of the
wonderful things about what I (Katrina Rasbold here, by the way) do is
have the opportunity to meet some of the people behind the scenes of shows
who are actively involved with the actors. This is an interview with a
friend of mine who is a publicist and manager with 10 years of experience
representing actors in movies, prime time and soaps including Dynasty, The
Colbys, Knots Landing, One Life to Live, Bold and the Beautiful, General
Hospital and Days of Our Lives.
My goal in
interviewing this person was to find out how actors really feel about fan
interaction and more importantly, how we, as the fans, can avoid the pit
fall of committing a faux pas that we don't even know exists!
patiently answered all of my digging questions, provided I allow the
responses to be given anonymously so as not to be specific to the clients
she represents or sound like they are coming directly from them.
These are the actual thoughts and impressions of my friend, the
publicist/manager, as well as a bit of advice to fans who want to make the
best impression in their star encounters.
are some of the questions actors dread hearing a fan ask and why?
"What is it like working with so and so?" Basically the fan is saying, "I
don't care about you, I just want to hear about so and so." I once
had a client who would respond to this question with, "Hey, ask so and so
what it is like to work with me!"
"How do you
feel about [insert co-star's name] really?" The actor
is NOT going to tell you if they don't particularly care for another actor
on the show and will rarely give anything other than a very brief and
placating comment about how wonderful the other actor is. It's not
good business to bad mouth co-stars or over-emote on the actors they
particularly enjoy. They'll keep it very simple and concise,
regardless of their own personal feelings. It is uncomfortable for
them to be asked about their co-stars in about any capacity. They
also are NOT going to risk their jobs by bad mouthing the Head Writers or
Producer of the show, so please, don't put them in that position.
"Do you wear boxers or briefs?" Embarrassing questions that do not merit
an answer are seldom welcome. Picture yourself in front of a group
of 500 people, with the press taking notes and watching your every move.
Now imagine being asked the most embarrassing and personal questions
possible and think of how you would feel. It's important to remember
that the stars are people too and that these appearances are an aspect of
their jobs, not just something they do because they don't have any plans
on a Saturday afternoon.
"Why are you not on the show
more?" "Why do we never see you on screen?" "Are you mad that you never
get any air time?" Actors normally do not enjoy being asked these
questions, no matter how kind the intention is behind the asking. They
will likely respond with a polite suggestion that you write the show with
your thoughts. Of course, they all want to have more screen time when
that isn't happening, but to publicly complain about it could mean losing
their jobs. They do not have any control over how much or how little they
are featured by the writing staff and there is no "right" way for an actor
to address those kinds of questions from a fan. Most actors appreciate
hearing, "I love watching you as [insert character's name] and wish you
could have more scenes. I have written to you in care of the show to
voice my opinion." This allows them to simply say "Thank you" and still
know that they have your support.
KR: What questions do you feel the actors most enjoy
"What is your favorite thing to do when you are not working?" "Do you have
a favorite charity?" Basically, any thoughtful, insightful question that
is not related to the show on which they work. They like to talk
about themselves and their own interests, like anyone else does, not just
the job they do.
KR: If a fan wants to have their encounter with an actor be a
positive experience for all concerned, what is their best approach to
Be respectful, be complimentary and keep it brief!
KR: Many fans send gifts to actors on the set or bring gifts
to them at appearances. How do the actors really feel about this?
The actors I work with appreciate receiving gifts from their fans;
however, for security reasons, these gifts are taken to the Police Dept
and x-rayed. The ones that are cleared as safe are usually donated to
children's hospitals. It's rare that actors keep the gifts that are sent
since they receive so many. Gifts of food and drinks are almost
invariably thrown away.
Over the years, I have seen it all: razor blades in stuffed animals,
brownies baked with Ex-Lax, bleach in water bottles...you name it. It is
from experience that we work so hard to protect our clients. The
"fan-a-tics" have ruined it for the true fan and necessitate a high degree
The very best gift you can give is a donation to the actor's favorite
charity in their name. It is a thoughtful gift and very much appreciated.
KR: What do you feel is the most positive way that a fan can
show an actor their appreciation for the work they do, both in a
face-to-face encounter and otherwise?
Compliment their work in a particular scene. Show them that you understand
that they are playing a character. Don't confuse the character with the
actor. I also can't mention often enough, be brief in your encounter!
In your experience, do fan campaigns, such as sending items to the studio,
submitting petitions or organized boycotting the show actually work?
Every letter to the show, whether negative or positive, is considered a
letter from a viewer and therefore, a vote of interest. "There is no
negative publicity" and even an angry letter tells the powers that be that
the writer is still watching. If you want to help a particular
actor, write directly to the actor c/o the show rather than to "the powers
that be." Boycotting a show does not work unless you
have a Neilson box. If you don't have a Neilson box, no one knows that you
turned off your TV. Fan campaigns can work, if they are original.
KR: When a fan encounters a star in the hallway, by the pool
or otherwise out in public "off the clock," under what circumstances is it
considered OK to approach or ask for an autograph and when should they
just keep to themselves?
It depends on the circumstances. If the actor just spent 3 hours in
an autograph line, then by all means don't approach them for one more
autograph. If the actor is not engaged in conversation, or at a meal, they
will usually be receptive. In other words, be respectful.
KR: Are there any behaviors or typical encounters with fans
that tend to make actors uncomfortable or are basically considered
"Can I sit on your lap?" "Can I get a hug?" "Please talk to
_______ on my cell phone!" "Will you sign a body part?" Also,
please do not touch them in places where you would not touch a person you
have just met. Shake hands,
lean in for a picture if it's an appropriate time and treat them as you
would a person to whom you have just been introduced, even if you have met
them at a previous fan event.
KR: How do the actors that you personally know feel about the
radical fans who are deeply, and sometimes, aggressively passionate in
their devotion to specific couples, actors or characters?
The general consensus is, "Be afraid, be very afraid!" It scares the hell
out of all of us!
Most actors who play characters that are adversarial on screen are
actually friends off set. When a fan slams the adversary, it does
not make points with the actor. Telling one actor how much
you hate another one is not going to be very appreciated.
KR: How do the actors feel about comments made specifically
about them as actors or their characters in general on the internet?
None of the actors I have worked with or currently work with go on the
internet. They are far too busy. Most people who are representatives of
different stars do police the internet for fan comments. From what I have
seen, I would never recommend any message boards to a client for reading.
The negative far outweighs the positive and no one, even a star who is
acclimated to negative reviews, needs to be subjected to that. The rumor
mill bothers me the most as it tends to create a great deal of drama and
false information around stars whose careers could be negatively impacted
by untruths that are being spread by careless or malicious people.
KR: Do you have any other advice for the fans in regard to the
way they interact with the actors, whether it be in person, by e-mail or
by snail mail?
It's important to keep in mind that playing this character is a job for
the actor, not a way of life. They are NOT their character and
acting is just a job for them. It pays the bills and feeds
their children. Also remember that they are human beings and are
subject to the same feelings and impressions as anyone else.
Understanding these very simple precepts will make your contact with the
actors a much more positive one for everyone concerned.
Think about it.
When you are not at work, do you think about your job all the time? Do you
always want to talk about your job all the time? Would you like someone
publicly demanding that you be fired from your job? Do you want to
receive death threats because you went to work and did your job (acted
what was in the script?) The same thought processes apply to actors!
Again, they are people doing a job. Because their job takes them
into the living room (and sometimes bedrooms!) of millions of people,
there is often a sense of familiarity implied that isn't really there.
Sure, you know their face, but more often than not, the actor is judged by
the behavior of a fictional character they play who does not exist!
It's very seldom that what a fan knows or thinks they know about an actor
is actually true. For very good reasons, most actors are very
private about their personal life, which often has little reflection on
their public persona. You are a stranger who is approaching them,
even if you have seen their face five days a week for years of your life.
Mostly, be respectful, remember that they are people too, be gracious and
keep it brief.
KR: Thank you for taking the time to coach our readers
in ways to make their fan encounters more enjoyable for both the fans and
the actors concerned.