Monday, August 20, 2007

Holby blues

So I'm thinking that I gave you the impression I'm rubbish at interviews, is that right? Given that you know the truth is always going to be somewhere in between, may I offer some anecdote about when I've been good at the job?

Because I actually am - or at least I am enough times that I can vividly see when I am not. Obviously I'm thinking primarily about work but something I'm also proud of in everyday life is that I am often able to see and to ask that certain right question. The question that nobody else has thought of and yet which the moment I've asked it, becomes the question everybody should've asked. That's an amazing feeling.

I get it a lot with my family, too. It's terribly gratifying to derail an entire conversation with one innocent little question that re-paints the whole topic. As you can imagine, it's only me who finds it fun, but there you go, you have to take what you fun you can.

And there is one situation I want to tell you about where I believe I did this but practically nobody else in the room did.

I say room, it was really a ward: I was at a press event once for the start of Holby City and we were in the fictional hospital's wards. (It's filmed in Elstree in a tower block that still holds EastEnders production offices and once housed the Top of the Pops ones. In fact, I'm almost certain it was the TOTP floor that was given over to Holby City. Gutted out, reworked with hospital gear, it's vastly more substantial than any studio set might be and because it's all around you, you start believing you're in a ward. It's many years since I was there but I was talking to an actor doing a regular guest spot recently and she said it's still precisely as odd when you get in the lift in a BBC reception and get out in hospital.)

So anyway, I think I was there representing BBC News Online, maybe BBC Ceefax, and there may have been a dozen more journalists with me. All or most from newspapers. And after a presentation of an episode or various clips, we got an en masse interview with some of the main cast. They'd sit in front of us, we'd sit in a semi-circle and ask our questions one by one.

George Irving was playing Anton Meyer at the time; he played him well and I have a lot of time for the guy but the quickest way to remind you who the character was is to say he's the typical gruff, unpleasant but brilliant surgeon.

You've heard actors say that interviews are just another performance, I'm sure, but with my position somewhere in the middle of the row of journalists, I had plenty of time to watch him act. And he did. Because he played a surgeon, he was asked if he'd ever wanted to be one. Had he learnt any medicine working on the show. Did he see any real operations. There was doubtlessly one about his love life but I can't even make one of those up.

He answered everything graciously, smoothly, giving every appearance of being full engaged with the journalist. But from where I sat, way over here, I believed I could see he wasn't. Don't misunderstand: he wasn't any inch less than professional, friendly, serious, but these were truly trivial questions that you or I could've made up answers to, let alone an actor who'd already gone through similar press events there earlier that same day.

And then it came to me.

I asked him about the way his character was always the scowling, sullen, brooding type: would it be difficult to keep that rigid persona interesting over a long run?

You can guess the answer and all I can really remember is that he gave a good one but what was great was seeing this man's mind switch back on: he was snapped out of the routine answer and into actually thinking about what I'd asked, it was tremendous. And then snapped back into routine by the fella next to me.

That's it. I just remembered that today and wanted to share. Incidentally, Angela Griffin was interviewed at that time and every question was about some boyfriend or romance or something. I talked to her afterwards and said that I hoped she has a happy lovelife but that I'd manage to make it through another day without knowing anything about it. I remember her nodding vigorously and appearing to look forward to what intelligent questions I would have for her.

I can't win 'em all.


1 comment:

martin said...

Consider yourself tagged!!