Reporter's Notebook

The art and science of the interview

Mad Skills

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This is about interviewing.

I just listened to Jian Gomeshi of Q talk with Jessica Pare, the actress portraying Megan on Mad Men.  Great interview for a couple of reasons.  One, Jian playfully tries to get her to reveal details of the new season, down to what she’s wearing on set, which she cleverly declines.  Next, he tries to get her to confirm publicity photos on the MM website showing her and her fictitious husband, Don, in Hawaii.  She politely declines to do that too.

Next, he gets her to talk about her character, and here, he is absolutely successful for one major reason.  Ms. Pare is Megan.  Megan is her life for as long as she is on Mad Men.  And, as Jian pointed out, she’s already been acting for 15 years.  So, she’s invested in her craft.  When interviewing, the best thing to do is focus on what the interviewee is focused on and you’re guaranteed to get full response.

That was Jian’s next good move, getting Jessica to talk about herself and her own feelings about her acting career.  He tied Megan and Jessica together in how they both worked hard to get to where they were and how neither of them may see themselves as neophytes anymore.  Ms. Pare elaborated on the necessity of the hard work and the breaks and the opportunities or how, just as easily, you can be dismissed, but how that can’t stop you.

Finally, he returns to the Megan character and asks how her change, and the changes in the people she affects on the show have affected Don.  Again, she goes deep into the character and the interactions because, to repeat, this is her life.  She is Megan.

And though she’s said nothing specific, the job of a good interviewer is to triangulate a reveal.   To use good intelligence, i.e., good research, to help the listener draw a picture of what the interviewee does and doesn’t want you to know.  It’s being playful w/o being familiar.  It’s pushing w/o poking.  It’s hitting the right button and listening.  It’s delivering good stuff for the listener and letting the talker feel like they’ve been really heard.

She’s good.  He’s good.

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Written by Interviewer

April 6, 2013 at 04:39

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