By Michael Aaron Gallagher of StayFamous.Net
In the fast-paced world of entertainment news, some television hosts aren’t just reporting the action, they’re part of it. From the red carpet to the big screen, Carly Steel is proving she’s one of the best in the business. Whether she’s interviewing big stars like George Clooney or hosting the opening night ceremonies at the Hollyshorts Film Festival, she’s making her mark in Hollywood as an actress, TV host, writer and producer, and having fun doing it.
In one of the most in-depth interviews of the year, StayFamous.Net took some time to get to know one of Hollywood’s top entertainment reporters and share her story of life behind-the-scenes and what it’s really like on the red carpet.
Michael Aaron Gallagher: “Tell me a little bit about yourself and where you’re from.”
Carly Steel: “I’m from Scotland, originally. I grew up in the UK and was educated there. I went to the University of Durham. I was really young when I graduated – I was 20. I had studied law, so I had to go on to do my LPC [Legal Practice Course], but the law firm I was set to work for said you should take a gap year, which is a popular thing in the UK to do. Most people in gap years go and do something quite noble… but I ended up – my father’s an architect, and he was designing a building in Leesburg, Virginia – so I ended up in Georgetown, living there. My friend was working at Vogue at the time and there was a job opening as an assistant. I went and interviewed and I ended up getting the job. So I moved to New York and I worked at Vogue magazine for a year in the features department and really enjoyed interviewing people for the View section, for the Closet Cases (it’s what they call the little fashion files), the Contributors page, just small little interviews, but I really liked it. So I started watching entertainment news shows and I thought it was essentially interviewing all the time, but it was really fast-paced and it really appealed to me. So the day of the MET Ball (which is the Costume Institute Ball which Vogue hosts), I met Giuliana Rancic in the Starbucks across from Vogue. I started chatting with her and she organized for me to interview with E! for a producer position. I ended up moving to Los Angeles and doing that and then I transitioned to on-air.”
Michael Aaron Gallagher: “Did you do any special training or take any classes to learn how to do hosting?”
Carly Steel: “No, not then. I have since, but at that point I learned in a very ad hoc basis. I was more of a good writer and I enjoyed interviewing. I had honed that skill at University, because part of law, of course, is cross examination…. So when I started at E! as a producer, I really learned by experience, going out on shoots, field producing, and then they sent me on a couple of shoots for E! Online to interview people at junkets. My first ever interview was Richard Gere. It was quite nerve-racking. They ended up really liking it and they put it up on E! Online, so I started getting sent out on more and more junkets and then I started covering movie premieres. It kind of went from there. I really just watched the other hosts, watched their technique. I’ve been trained in what questions to write and the research to do as a producer. So I think that is invaluable experience for anyone who wants to host. I think it’s really important to start off as a producer so that you know the needs of the segment and the piece and have an idea of the overall goal of the shoot, not just what you’re doing. And you learn little things. When you have to edit pieces, you learn what’s annoying in the edit bay, you learn not to talk over the talent, you learn to be quite still. There’s lots of little things that you learn like that and it kind of lifts the curtain up over the whole thing and makes it less scary when you’ve been behind the scenes.
Michael Aaron Gallagher: “What’s the biggest challenge for you working in the entertainment industry?”
Carly Steel: “Oh gosh, there’s so many challenges on a daily basis. It’s a roller coaster. You have to weather the downs with the ups and I think that those are the times that people find really tough. Every day is different and you have to deal with lots of really interesting characters, shall we say, and that can be challenging in and of itself. When you go to interview someone on a red carpet, you don’t just simply show up and stick a microphone in front of them and it’s fine, and it’s no problem. There’s an army of publicists you have to deal with and you have to fight to try and get good access, you have to fight to get time in to fit the questions, and you have to fight to get the best [sound] bites out of the person, while also creating a relaxed atmosphere in amongst all of the craziness, so they can feel comfortable to talk about things. You definitely have to deal with a multitude of personalities and adjust very quickly to the moment… You have to be prepared for everything to go wrong, I would say, and everything inevitably does go wrong at some point. So you just have to be able to deal with that and keep going.”
Michael Aaron Gallagher: “What kinds of things do people usually ask you when you tell them what you do for a living?”
Carly Steel: “The sort of resounding response is, ‘Oh my gosh, that’s such a cool job. I’d love to do that.’ And then you have to explain to them that it is still a job. Yes, it’s wonderful in so many ways. I mean it really, really is and I love it. But again, with every job there’s aspects you love about it and then there’s aspects that make it difficult. I mean I think in our industry, we love it because it’s creative and we deal with creative people, it makes it exciting. But on the other side that’s also what makes it difficult, because you are dealing with highly strong personalities and you have to weather that. I always try to give that advice – it’s wonderful and if it’s something you’re really passionate about you should absolutely go for it and then you’ll never regret having not tried, but just know that it’s really, really tough…. At junkets you’re sitting in the room and it’s like a one-on-one and there’s a million people in the room. There’s the pressure of the studios’ publicists, who are under pressure to get people moving through, but your producers are under the pressure to get the most time with them and there’s certain questions you cannot ask and then it depends on the mood that the talent’s in. Then it’s your job as the interviewer to kind of take whatever mood they’re in and turn it around to get a great interview, which can be quite tricky.”
Michael Aaron Gallagher: “So who are some of the people you have had the most fun interviewing?”
Carly Steel: “Recently, I covered the premiere of The Dictator in London. I had so much fun with Sasha Baron Cohen. He was hilarious. I just love him. I love his audacity. I love that he comes in, in full character and really commits to it that much for that length of time. He had all his soldierettes with him and he did this grand entrance and a big stand-up comedy routine…. He was hilarious. With an interview like that it’s interesting because again there’s a booby trap you can fall into where you can kinda get carried away with – you know he steers the interview. So you have to try and also banter back with him at the same time because you don’t want to not have those moments, but also try and steer him. So that was quite challenging. But everyone was really happy with it, so that was definitely one of the more fun ones.”
Michael Aaron Gallagher: “I saw you’ve had a couple of movie roles where you’ve played a reporter. Did you go for those roles or were you asked to play the part because people knew what you did?”
Carly Steel: “A couple of them were offers and a couple of them I auditioned for and I had to go through that whole process. Honestly, hats off to actors. Auditioning is not for the faint-hearted. It’s really not. It’s terrifying. I mean you go for the initial audition and then you have a callback and then you have to go to producer/director session, when there’s tons of people in the room and create an artificial reality… how actors do that on a daily basis is beyond comprehension. But it was fun. It worked out and I’m really glad I did it. Unstoppable [starring Denzel Washington] was definitely my favorite because I was up in a helicopter. So I felt like an action reporter. Very different from my day job of being in a ball gown on a red carpet.”
Michael Aaron Gallagher: “So is acting something that you would like to continue doing?”
Carly Steel: “I do love it. It’s a different kind of outlet and I think it’s nice to have more than one thing going on. I think that the Ryan Seacrest model, where you have many different irons in the fire is a good one. Because it takes the pressure off everything else and it’s a nice release and you learn something new from every kind of new undertaking that you do and it can apply to even the normal job. I’ve actually learned things about hosting and reporting from playing a reporter or a host in a film, which is quite funny. I think it’s good to have an experience of what it’s like to do that as well, when you’re interviewing an actor, because then you can kind of relate to them and I think it helps the interview to be honest.”
Carly Steel: “Well, I had a scene recently where I had to be an interviewer who seemed really perky and really sweet but was really digging and asking really, really tough questions and it was more hard news…. Katie Couric in particular I think has that art. It was the first time I really started investigating what it would be like to do a hard news sit-down. I’ve done long sit-downs before for films, like 30 minutes, but it’s very light. I mean, yes we can go in sort of different directions because we need to get certain bites but it’s not really that art of manipulation that is one of these really hard core 20/20 type sit-downs. They’re the ones that Barbara Walters does or Diane Sawyer. It really made me appreciate that art form…. I think the art of a good interview is really fascinating, especially when you’re a girl or woman… Men can be a little harder and it’s more acceptable. If a woman does it, it’s perceived as bitchy. So you have to go about it in a more cunning way and I think that’s what Katie Couric does masterfully… She’s so sweet on the outside and then the little scorpion’s tale comes around and stings the interview subject and they don’t even quite realize it. I mean they realize something’s going on or something just happened but they don’t quite know what happened. She’s still sitting there with a smile on her face. The best example is with the Sarah Palin interview, which I watched to prepare for that scene. I started really learning about that technique and I quite like it.”
Michael Aaron Gallagher: “Do you have your eye on any shows that you would like to host for?”
Carly Steel: “I love hosting with TV Guide Network and I love hosting with Epix News…. Piers Morgan’s job really is my ideal. I would just love to do a one-hour show every night interviewing a different person. I love researching people. I’m a bit of a geek. I love spending hours and hours reading about their lives and watching all of their information and trying to figure out what makes them tick and what to get out of them that no one else has. That’s such an exciting challenge. I would definitely love that kind of position. That would be amazing.”
Carly Steel is unstoppable (Exclusive Interview)
Copyright 2012 by Michael Aaron Gallagher
Photographs by Britni Jaffee.
To request permission to use excerpts from StayFamous.Net on television or in print please contact:
Media Contact: Michael Aaron Gallagher