Laura Saltman can dish it out. Whether she’s interviewing the stars for Access Hollywood, posting celebrity news on her blog A Dish of Salt, or discovering the next big thing in entertainment, Laura Saltman isn’t afraid to ask the juicy questions. And she does it all with a smile on her face and a light in her eyes. She’s bright, she’s funny, she’s passionate, and she really cares about the people she interviews.
Blast recently chatted with Access Hollywood’s celebrity reporter about rising stars, Glee, American Idol and her beloved dogs (a black lab and a beagle/spaniel mix). What do you ask someone who asks really cool people questions for a living? Well, you start with the really cool people.
BLAST: What is your favorite interview you’ve ever done?
LAURA SALTMAN: My favorite was with Hugh Jackman on the day it was announced he was People’s Sexiest Man Alive. I love Hugh Jackman. He gave a fantastic interview, and I think he’s drop dead gorgeous. But there was this controversy, with people at work saying "Hugh Jackman’s not the sexiest man alive!" So I came up with the 10 reasons why I love Hugh Jackman and why he should be the sexiest man alive. I had it framed, printed on nice paper, and I brought it to him at the interview. He absolutely went nuts for it, he thought it was the greatest thing ever. He was reading the whole thing and he couldn’t believe that I went through all this trouble! He told me he was going to put it in his man room, which is his version of the man cave in the basement. And I really believe that that is hanging on his wall in Australia right now.
BLAST: What were some of the things you put on the list?
LS: He man-scapes. The fact that he is still married and loves his wife. His masculinity, even though he’s played a gay man on Broadway. And I think one of the reasons was his chest. And because he’s a great interview and he always knows the right answer to give. He’s the best, such a sweetheart.
BLAST: What was your worst interview?
LS: My worst interview was Daniel Craig, which is ironic, since they’re currently starring on Broadway together. It was for the movie "Defiance." But he’s Bond, right? You’re going in, thinking he’s going to be suave, charismatic, sophisticated, so cool. I’d never interviewed him before and never met him, and I was expecting him to be Bond, and he was not Bond. He was just charmless. He was very matter-of-fact, and I could not get him to warm up to me. Of course I thought it was me! But then I asked other people about it, and they all said the same thing, that he’s just not the person you expect him to be. He’s a very serious actor, and he doesn’t play into all the Hollywood stuff. He just wants to be an actor, and that’s all. But he’s Bond! It surprised me.
BLAST: What’s it like interviewing someone who’s on a reality show, as opposed to someone who’s born and bred famous?
LS: To me it’s better because people who are on reality shows don’t have the agents, the managers, the publicists breathing down their neck, telling them every single word to say. It changes to much, they’re just being real. I would so much rather interview somebody who’s just being who they are than someone who’s already calculated what they’re going to say to me. I don’t like stuff like that. I would rather interview someone from American Idol, or one of the Bachelors, or even the celebrities from Dancing with the Stars, who have been knocked down a few pegs and are now doing the show trying to come back. I’d rather interview them because they’re less guarded than celebrities.
BLAST: Do publicists get in your way a lot? Are there a lot of canned responses?
LS: It’s become a bigger problem in our industry as the tabloids have taken over. You have to walk a fine line. I have to think, "If I were a celeb, would I want someone asking me that? What would I say back?" Some take it better than others. I’d rather have someone say to me "No comment" than just walk away. With Twitter, people are now getting ahead of the story. Like Jessica Simpson. There was a story about when she broke up with Tony Romo, and she went on Twitter and said "I’m doing ok, don’t worry about me, I’ll be fine." So instead of the paparazzi hounding her to get the first response from her, she just went on Twitter and said how she was feeling. It took the paparazzi out of the picture.
BLAST: What’s it like to interview a rising star? I noticed you interviewed Lea Michele from Glee recently. What’s it like to interview someone like that, where you know that this is their first big break?
LS: It’s cool because you can see it in their eyes. You can see how excited they are for the interview. I was one of the first people on the set of Glee, and I could just see itâ€”they had this glint in their eyes, they were so excited for Access Hollywood to be there. The great thing about Lea is that now that the show is so successfulâ€”I’ve seen her seven or eight times since the first interviewâ€”she still has that gleam in her eye. Lea, to me, is still excited, and I think she’s going to be a huge star.
BLAST: Any other young celebrities we should keep our eyes on?
LS: Today I interviewed Victoria Justice. She has a Nickelodeon show coming out called Victorious. It’s kind of like Fame, High School Musical, Gleeâ€¦ and she is drop-dead gorgeous. She was on Zoey 101, but she wasn’t the lead. Nickelodeon is really pushing her to be their next big star. She looks just like Nina Dobrev from The Vampire Diaries, so we actually talked about how people mistake them for each other. If the show does well, I think she’ll actually end up being a pretty big star.
BLAST: What’s your absolute favorite thing to report on?
LS: American Idol. I love it. I’ve been covering it since the very first season. I was interviewing some of the contestants from last season and Alexis Grace said to me that all the people from the last eight seasons of American Idol all know each other, and they all hang out. And I said it was so nice that they all stayed together, and she said, "Yeah we’re like a family, but we feel that you’re part of our Idol family too, because you’ve always been around and everybody knows you." She just made my day! I feel like I’m part of the American Idol family, and I would be devastated to not be a part of it anymore.
BLAST: Speaking of things we love, you interviewing Katee Sackhoff from Battlestar Galactica. What’s she like?
LS: She’s awesome! She’s one of my most favorite interviews. She is like a ball of energy, and she’s funny! You don’t expect that, because she’s Starbuck, right? You expect drama. I told her when she walked in, "I feel like you could totally kick my ass." I told her she could do a sitcom she’s so funny. Every time I asked a question she came up with this hilarious joke about it. I absolutely loved her. I surprised her by bringing in some of our fanboys who work at Access Hollywood, and she could not have been nicer to them. You can tell that she really loves the attention, and all these guys adore her. She’s great. Absolutely loved her.
BLAST: What first made you want to be an entertainment reporter?
LS: I was obsessed with celebrities. I just wanted to know everything about them. I was such a huge fan of movies and TV, and I was fascinated by the process of making TV shows. I’ve always said that I don’t want to be a star, I just want to interview them. It started when I was a little girl, because my parents put a TV in my room since the age of 7. My parents would make me go to bed at 9 o’clock, and there were certain shows that I wanted to watch, so I’d take the TV and I’d put it under my bed and watch it upside down, so they wouldn’t see the light. I’d hang over the edge of my bed and watch "Dallas" upside down! I’ve always wanted to do this.
BLAST: And now you have a great reputation as a no-holds-barred interviewer, and everyone takes you very seriously.
LS: It does get me in trouble though. (laughs)
BLAST: Do you have any words of advice for young people who want to do your job?
LS: Everyone told me I was never going to be what I wanted to be, it was too difficult, but I was still determined. If someone tells me no, I do the opposite, I prove them wrong. Now it seems like it’s a lot easier to get into because there’s so much media involved with celebrities and entertainment. Obviously you’ve got to go to school, but as soon as you’re out of school, you’ve got to get on these internet sites and become a writer. You don’t even have to live in LA now, as you know, to do this. You just have to meet the right people, get out there, start writing stuff, and learn as much as you can, meet as many people as you can. A lot of people that I’ve met have helped me meet someone else. So never say no to any job in entertainment, because you never know who can be your first stepping stone.
This Access Hollywood reporter knows how to do a good interview, no matter what side of the table she’s on. You can follow Laura Saltman on Twitter, or check out her blog.