Interviewing celebrities is not usually the most comfortable of processes for anyone involved: either you’re doing it remotely via phone or Skype, or you’re sitting in a room in a hotel trying to make the most of the 15 minutes you’ve got. And in either case, the celebrity in question is often either already tired from doing a dozen interviews before you, or is a bit apprehensive because he or she knows there are a dozen more interviews to follow, or both. So it was a hugely refreshing change of pace on the Los Angeles blogger trip I was on a month ago to have the chance to sit down and really chat with a group of ABC TV actresses on a sunny balcony in Burbank.
The event was called “Moms of ABC,” set up because most of the blogger group I was with were “mommy bloggers,” and so named because all of the actresses who were there are in fact moms in real life. While I expected to (and did) have fun talking with quite a few of them – there wasn’t time for me to talk with all of them – I have to admit that there were two in particular that I was excited to meet: Jami Gertz of The Neighbors, because she’s been in so many things I’ve seen going back to Sixteen Candles; and Ming-Na Wen, because she was the voice of Mulan, was on the dear, departed Eureka and the undeservedly short-lived Stargate: Universe, and is currently on Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. as the awesome Agent Melinda May.
I’ll admit that I’ve never watched The Neighbors, but not because its cast doesn’t appeal to me. In particular, Jami Gertz stands out – she’s one of those actors/actresses who’s been in so many TV shows and movies over the years you wonder how they ever had time to do anything else. She’s extremely nice in person, and we had a good chat about our kids – hers are quite a bit older than mine – 21, 19, and 16, whereas mine are 13 and 11 – but that makes sense as she’s nearly eight years older than me. It was pretty cool to talk about teenagers with someone whom I remember seeing as a teenage actress back in the early ’80s. But because of the relaxed setting – balcony, open bar, passed hors d’oeuvres, only about 40 people present – I managed (I think) not to be star-struck. Gertz was a regular person, and a fellow parent, and the fact that she’s also a very well-known actress really didn’t matter.
I was surprised to find myself not being tongue-tied talking with Ming-Na Wen. I’ve admired her work since The Joy Luck Club – and I think she’s extremely talented – and of all the actresses there she was definitely the one with the most geek-oriented resume. I told her how much I’d enjoyed her work on Stargate: Universe, and how I thought it was such a shame it was cancelled after two seasons. And of course we talked about Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.. The group of bloggers, myself included, had been to a preview screening of Captain America: The Winter Soldier a couple of days previous, so I really wanted to know what was going to happen to the TV show as a consequence of the events of the movie, as they’ve maintained since the show’s premiere that it was happening at the same time as the new movies. She hadn’t seen the movie yet – so was a bit jealous that we had – but she said that everyone on the cast had seen an early treatment of it, and that the show’s producers and writers had been aware of what was going to happen in the movie since before they started shooting the first episode. Obviously, she couldn’t tell me any more detail than that. It was interesting, though, to talk with her about some of the show’s past episodes, and about how much fun it is to film (she does almost all of her own stunts, which is pretty awesome considering the sorts of things May does and that Wen is older than I am.
Wen mentioned two things of particular interest: She said that, when the plot surrounding Skye’s parents was being put together, she went to the writers and suggested that possibly May could turn out to be Skye’s mother – which gave me the golden opportunity to tell her that she was obviously far too young to have a daughter Skye’s age; we both knew it wasn’t true, but she seemed happy with the comment. Much more entertainingly, she divulged to me that she has a huge crush on “Thor” actor Chris Hemsworth, and said that at the Avengers premiere she was following him from a distance like a “fan girl.” After the event, I decided this was too good not to share with the world, so I tweeted about it. Wen replied, pretending to tell me to be quiet while replying in such a way that all her followers would see it:
Shh!! RT@cerebus19: Had a great time chatting with @MingNa. Fun, down-to-earth, and obsessed with Chris Hemsworth. 🙂 #ABCTVEvent”
— Ming-Na Wen (@MingNa) March 13, 2014
I also had a chance to chat with Malin Akerman of Trophy Wife. I wasn’t familiar with the show before the event, but the combination of chatting with her and seeing two episodes later that evening convinced me I was missing out, and I’ve seen every episode since. I had only been familiar with Ackerman from Zack Snyder’s Watchmen adaptation, in which I had frankly been underwhelmed by her, but having now seen her in Trophy Wife I’m convinced that was mostly because she’s more of a comic actress and Watchmen was anything but comedy. On the flip side from Gertz, Ackerman’s is the single mom of a then-11-month-old baby. Obviously as a sitcom star her salary is such that she can afford more help than the average single mom, but it was very clear from talking with her how much she loves her son, and tries to spend as much time with him as she can.
In short, it was a heck of a lot of fun overall, and probably the nicest atmosphere for “interviews” that I’ve ever encountered. All journalist-celebrity interactions should be that nice.
The Neighbors just aired its second season finale (and is widely believed to be “on the bubble” for renewal).
Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. airs Tuesdays at 8:00pm ET/PT on ABC.
Trophy Wife airs Tuesdays at 9:30pm ET/PT on ABC.
Photo of Malin Akerman: ©(ABC/Bob D’Amico). Other photos: Matt Blum.
Note: Meeting Jamie Gertz, Ming-Na Wen, and Malin Akerman was part of a press junket I attended that was paid for by Disney. All opinions expressed are my own.