(This has got to be the fussiest blog post I had to do. Editing audio is really mafan!)
To paraphrase Forrest Gump, journalism is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re gonna get.
Sometimes you get an assignment to interview someone and it happens to be a celebrity. Sometimes also the interview ends up as an eye-opener. Interviews can either make or break the way you look at a celebrity. If it’s someone you like, there is always that possibility that you’d end up being turned off in the end. Or it can also be an affirmation that the person is worth the admiration.
Below are the celebrity interviews I have done this year (I mistakenly thought the 11-minute interview with Blue Lan happened in 2011 but it took place in December last year). I have included short clips from the interviews (except for Janet), just click on the player. The interviews with Ken and Van Ness serve more like teasers because the articles are not out yet.
Wu Chun, Bandar Seri Begawan (April 29, 2011)
Chun on being like a product:
We had the interview at the coffee shop below his gym, Fitness Zone. I came a few minutes early so I selected a secluded spot so we won’t be disturbed. The cafe was empty and quiet that afternoon. I knew when he arrived because I heard his sportscar outside and a few seconds later, he came into view. He was wearing his FZ kit, in other words, the perfect walking advertisement of his gym business. The interview took one hour and a half. He was relaxed and was very articulate and open. He shared several anecdotes about his brush-up with the paps, his audition for Tokyo Juliet etc. In short, he makes good copy for any journalist and he made the job easy for me. A longer and more complete account of the interview here.
“Showbiz is really a complicated business and I don’t belong there. Work is OK because we all need to be professional but off work, I prefer life in Brunei.”
Janet Hsieh, Taipei (Nov 29, 2011)
Janet Hsieh is a dream interview. You don’t have to prompt her, you don’t have to ask follow-up questions because she says everything in one go. Of course it’s no surprise because she’s a seasoned host, but her story is very interesting. She grew up in Texas to ethnic Taiwanese parents but she never visited Taiwan until seven years ago when she went for a medical internship. A door opened to hosting and now, she has become the country’s darling. I saw her endorsements on TV and on billboards when I was in Taipei, outnumbering pop stars. I wasn’t really planning to interview her but my photojournalist-friend took me along to a coverage where she and Tiffany Hsu were the guests. He pulled her aside afterwards and she was really approachable and agreed to be interviewed. But when she heard my question (about Taiwanese identity), she was the one who suggested we sit down for a proper interview. She’s very professional, arriving a few minutes early she caught me setting up the camera. And she is not fussy. Ah, but she’s not one of those pop stars. Figures.
Ken Zhu, Taipei (Nov 30, 2011)
Ken on being the happiest among F4:
I thought I had enough preparation for an interview with Ken Zhu, who has the reputation of being philosophical and snobbish. It turns out one can never be prepared enough. The interview took place in the posh salon of his hairstylist along a leafy avenue near Sun Yat Sen Memorial Hall. He was having his hair done when I arrived and when I finally came face to face with him, I was surprised that he was tall. We sat on a couch while his manager took a video of him during the interview, perhaps for personal record since they didn’t allow me to do a video interview (they wanted me to pay for his make-up and I’m like… O>.<o). Interviewing Ken was like walking on eggshells, I was careful with my questions not wanting him to give me a black face in case he didn’t like what he’d hear. Don’t get me wrong, he was very nice and polite. But he had that air of weariness and I couldn’t really blame him. The guy must have done a gazillion of interviews and answered the same questions from journalists like me it could be tiring. I had an hour but I opted to cut it after 30 minutes. As we were chatting afterwards, I told him bluntly that he really looks so serious and scary I was timid to ask him questions. It was then he said:
“Scary? I’m scary? (Looking at the two lady staff in the salon who I suppose did not dare agree.) Actually, I treat interviews like this as like talking to a shrink.”
I should have charged him a professional fee. I asked why so, doesn’t he have friends he can shoot the breeze with and discuss certain things that may be bothering him?
“I don’t have friends.”
I rest my case.
Van Ness Wu, Taipei (Nov 30, 2011)
Van Ness on being Christian first:
It was just mere coincidence that the interview with Ken and Van Ness Wu happened on the same day and one after the other. The intern who was assisting me and I got lost in looking for the studio where the interview with Van would take place. The office was right on the first floor with glass walls so it was easy to see the people inside. Some of the cast of Road Less Traveled were there and it was Jimmy Hung who pressed the button to open the door for us. We had the interview in the basement and Van also had that air of weariness about him as he answered questions. Not really as worse as Ken but he wasn’t as animated as I expected him to be. Maybe he was tired or under stress since his film was opening the following day. But he was game to do a wacky pose at the end although why is it that when pop stars do that, they still manage to look movie-starrish and not foolish? Of course since this is Van, he talked about his faith and it almost felt like talking to a pastor. When I asked if he realised the impact that F4 has done to Asian pop culture, he said:
“You know it’s just there… like… oh wow, we did something great. You know… it just happened so fast, that was a cool, full run… OK, that was great but it still doesn’t define who I am. And I feel that the best is yet to come.”
Ariel Lin, Taipei (Dec 1, 2011)
Ariel on being an idol:
I was expecting Ariel Lin or her manager to say no to my request for an interview considering that she was in the news due to her break-up with a non-showbiz guy. But her manager, despite initial hitches, turned out to be easy to talk to (it really helped that she speaks English). The interview was done in their management office after a Christmas lighting event at Mitsukoshi that Ariel attended. When I arrived, Ariel was already there… I have blogged the rest of the account here, the story on The China Post here. When asked where she expresses herself better, in acting or singing, she said:
“Definitely acting. I can hide behind the camera. If it’s singing, I just have to show the total meaning… I can’t hide. But I’m not that kind of person who wants to show myself. I have to hide behind the character.”
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