Interviewing an actor can be a fun, interesting and rewarding experience. It can also be stressful because the actor may want to turn the interview into simply hype for an upcoming film or event. Getting in-depth answers out of someone who is likely a complete stranger takes persistence. Research your subject thoroughly,choose good questions and begin with a friendly, open-ended question for the best results.
Preparing for the Interview
Research your subject. Read the press kit and any articles you find online or at the library. Know the actor's biography, and discover his interview style. This will prepare you for what to expect, and know what questions have already been asked a million times.
View the actor's work. If she's promoting a new film or show, you'll possibly get a sneak preview tape or passes. Also view the artist's past performances. The more you know about your subject, the more detailed questions you can ask.
Craft questions from your research. Come up with 10 to 20 questions, depending on how much time you're allowed with your subject.
Choose questions about both new and old material.
Ask at least one question about the actor's favorite work or pet project. He'll open up more about subjects that are important to him.
Limit personal questions. Tell the publicist if you plan to do an interview with a highly personal slant. If it's a piece geared toward promoting her latest project, don't add any extraneous personal questions.
Focus your questions to the slant of your publication. A magazine for industry professionals will be more interested in the actor's thoughts on craft and the technical aspects of making a movie, rather than on the actor's sex appeal or charity work.
Do your best to ask a question the actor might not have heard before. You're more likely to get an engaged response if it's something the person hasn't previously thought about.
Choose the top five questions you most want to ask. Write these first on your legal pad, leaving a line or two of space in between for possible notes. Add your remaining questions after. Don't discard any good questions; you never know what will come up in the interview.
Arrange questions so that there will be a natural progression from one topic to the next. You want the interview to progress like a normal conversation rather than a history exam.
Interviewing the Actor
Announce the start of the interview, so the subject knows his comments are now on the record. Start the tape player and ask the first question.
Listen to the answers. It's a difficult balance, listening while still preparing what question to say next but it's important. Listening and responding appropriately to your subject creates rapport.
Ask any unscripted question that arises naturally from a response. Questions that flow out of the conversation will get better answers than queries that seem canned or come out of nowhere.
Use your scripted question order only as a guideline. Skip around if one of your questions seems more appropriate when asked earlier or later in the interview.
Announce drastic changes in the subject. Sometimes it's unavoidable that further questions require a 180-degree-turn from what you've already been discussing. Letting the actor know that you're shifting focus makes it less awkward when you present your new query.
Mention a personal fact or experience if it's pertinent. An interview can feel like an interrogation if the interviewer never offers any personal information, such as discussing a film you both liked.
Listen for cues and watch the actor's body language. If the subject's answers turn shorter, or if he's continually looking at his watch, it's time to change the topic or end the interview.
Announce the final question. Knowing it's the end of the interview will usually relax the subject, and the actor might add some thoughts to sum up the topic.
Thank the actor for his time, and let him know that you'll pass on a copy of the interview or a link to the online site to the publicist.
Sometimes an assignment may not allow a lot of research time. If there's no time to acquire full films or shows, check out entertainment sites and video sites like YouTube for clips, trailers and interviews.
Some publicists may ask you for questions that the actor will look at before the interview. Send your five or six best questions. They will give the actor an idea of the tone the interview will take.
Take notes only if necessary. If the actor mentions a specific charity he works for, spells out a difficult movie title or gives a date, jot the information down. Listening is the most important aspect of an interview, and it's hard to listen if you're writing everything down. Let the tape do its job.
Don't ask bizarre or obscure questions in an effort to be original unless you think the actor will respond well. Offending or confusing your subject will not produce a positive interview experience.
Test your recording equipment before an interview to make sure it is working properly. Have spare batteries and blank tapes on hand. Bring a backup recorder to in-person interviews.