It had been awhile since I had interviewed Jennifer Love Hewitt. But on this day, I'm invited to the set of her TV show "Ghost Whisperer" to get reacquainted. The occasion: the filming of their season finale, and more importantly, Love was inviting a couple of young women from a group called "Step Up" -- an organization which helps disadvantaged young people find their way. These young girls on-set this day were interested in film and television, and had, in fact, made their own "movie."
I drive to Universal Studios where the show is filmed, and as I walk to Stage 19 from the parking garage, I run into Marg Helgenberger from "CSI." It had been awhile since I had seen her, as well. She greets me warmly, and we have a brief chat about the upcoming writer "crossover" between her show and "Two and a Half Men" (see previous 'The Power of Relationships' blog for more on that). She was worried about it at first, but after getting into the first day of shooting the script, she and the rest of the cast had a blast.
Ok, so I arrive on the set of Love's show, (and by the way that's what people call her, if you hadn't figured that out already) and she gives me a big hug and kiss (off camera) and runs off to shoot a scene. We only wait another 20 minutes or so (which is rare on one of these set-visits, as they're called -- sometimes you have to wait hours for an actor, not because they're purposely keeping you waiting, but because of production demands, rehearsals, what-not). A CBS publicist runs into the part of the set where we had our two cameras ready to go, and says we have 15 minutes with Love, and here she comes! My crew jumps into action, finalizing lighting, sound, etc. In she comes looking fresh and ready to go.
Remember, I haven't seen her in a few years, and a lot has transpired in her life: she's engaged, she had those photos taken of her in a bathing suit (which were less than flattering, and she had to go on the defensive about body image, speaking out about and for women who don't have a size 0, and don't have to), which caused quite a flap (not quite a Miley flap, but a flap nonetheless). Anyway, there were no restrictions put on our interview that I knew of ahead of time.
She's in a good mood. She's just been named one of People Magazine's 100 most beautiful, and TV Guide's Sexiest TV star. What's not to be in a good mood about, right? I congratulate her on all of that, we talk about the People category she's put it (natural beauties) and she jokes that when she's out with her fiance without makeup, she gets carded. We talk about the young women on the set with her, and how she's a role model for them. She rather likes being a role model, thank you. Some celebs don't and make no bones about it. But Love loves it.
Perfect entree: I ask her, in light of the photos that caused all the flap, but in a very respectful way, and in the context of how she used the flap to speak out about how women shouldn't have to succumb to the pressures of what the media dictates is beautiful, but to respect yourself and be who you are. Well, I saw her personal publicist out of the corner of my eye having a meltdown. She pulled my producer, Terry, aside and, with arms flailing, was apparently expressing her anger about me bringing up thee photos.
Love, for her part, was simply lovely about it. She was unphased by the question, and, in fact, seemed to appreciate the connection that I made with self-image, and being a role model, considering she was a role model, and had exhibited being a very good one, in responding to the flap over those photos!
Whenever something like this happens, I always go straight to the person who is upset, in this case Love's personal publicist (after Love left the room). I essentially said, what are you worried about? We aren't going to throw Love under a bus, we love Love, and we think she answered the question in a thought-provoking manner. The publicist calmed down, somewhat disarmed that I spoke directly to her about this.
I can't tell you how many times just speaking directly to the publicist's face (while it's still red with anger) calms them right down. It's not about trying to pull a fast one. These are legitimate questions to ask a star, particularly, if, in the end, the star is going to look good. In Jennifer Love Hewitt's case, it's hard to look bad, from any angle.