Art/Culture / Books / Boston 2022 / Story Behind the Story

Chris Evans, Yo-Yo Ma, and the art of the interview

It’s week three of my time at the Boston Globe, and I wrote five stories in five days. Late last Friday, I interviewed Chris Evans about Lightyear. On Monday, I talked to Mandy Moore about her tour coming to Boston this weekend and caught up with author, Kirstin Chen, about her new book, Counterfeit (which I loved by the way.) On Thursday, I met Yo-Yo Ma as he toured the Community Music Center of Boston. I’m humbled to be working with such talented individuals and learning a lot. 

Bantering with Chris Evans

This week, I’ve been perfecting the art of the celebrity Q&A. It’s not my first time doing Q&As—shout out to everyone who has talked to me for Forthcoming—or my first time talking to high profile people about their work, but the celebrity Q&A feels like a different beast. 

You often only have twenty minutes (or less) with the person. It feels more similar to the way I imagine you’d have to interview someone for audio/video because the way that people say stuff and how you drive the conversation afterwards really matters. You can’t just read some pre-written questions, you have to be ready to go wherever the conversation goes organically, but at the same time, the conversation is inherently not organic. 

Before you can even talk to the people, you have to go through PR people who handle scheduling. Sometimes, it’s multiple layers of PR people, and it’s a big game of telephone. I tell my contact when I’m available and they check in with the PR who checks in with someone who checks in with someone until you finally get to the person’s personal publicist who will confirm a time and send it back through the winding telephone chain.

They tell you how much time you’re getting, and they usually pick the time slot. With Chris, my time slot was 6:30 p.m. while he was in a car, and half way through the interview, he went through a tunnel and dropped off the call. One of these days, I’ll write that story.

But you just roll with the punches, do research before and afterwards, and try your best. After the first one, the other ones were much better. I really enjoyed speaking with Mandy Moore and Kirstin Chen. As much as I try to prepare, the conversation goes both ways, and Mandy and Kirstin both gave really thoughtful answers to my questions. 

Kirstin’s new book, “Counterfeit,” is great, and I particularly enjoyed getting to ask her about different racial dynamics I picked up on while reading the book. Her book interrogates the model minority myth and explores different “layers” of Asian Americans. These are things I’ve noticed within my reporting on Asian Americans, and it’s fascinating to see her grapple with those same big questions within fiction. 

Yo-Yo Ma is low-key my new hero

Which brings me to the real MVP of the week, Yo-Yo Ma. He went to visit the Community Music Center of Boston and played a pop-up concert with their executive director, Lecolion Washington. I’ve heard from other journalists that Yo-Yo is a joyful and kind person. But I wasn’t expecting the way that he came in and hosted an intimate conversation with faculty/staff/student workers at the CMCB before the concert. He was genuinely curious about their work and every day experiences. I felt like I was watching a masterclass on how to really interview and banter with people. I have major respect for that. 

On two days this week, I wrote almost all of the printed daily arts coverage for the Globe. Here are those stories: 

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