Coming in Spring 2009:  The Newly Updated GHFCW For Dummies!

Interviews, cont.

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! 

My friend 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.

KR:  What 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 answering?

"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 take?

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 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 of precaution.

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!

KR:  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 groan-worthy?

"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.

Table of Contents