Celebrity interviews are an art form. There’s a lot that goes on behind the scenes that we, as viewers, never really get to see or hear about. And while I’d like to think that the pre-interview process is completely low-key and relaxed—filled with Diet Coke breaks, personal anecdote exchanges, and Drew Barrymore-esque intimacy—in reality, it’s far more formal than that.
Liv Marks is a profesh celebrity interviewer, who has chatted with dozens of A-listers from around the world. Capturing a number of these moments for her own TikTok channel, Marks has made a name for herself online as an interviewer who creates a warm and inviting environment for her guests. She’s also Olivia Colman’s favourite, so that helps.
It turns out that getting to talk to Timothée Chalamet about chocolate for a living is not a twisted dream, it’s an actual reality—for Marks at least.
I was lucky enough to sit down with Marks and chat about how one actually gets into this industry, the ins and outs of what goes on once you’re inside the interview room, and of course, find out which celebrity took Marks by surprise. All I’ll just say right now is that if you’re a Bridget Jones’s Diary fan, you might want to stick around…
The first thing I like to ask people is about their childhood aspirations, specifically, what they wanted to be when they grew up. For Marks, the answer was always a veterinarian. “I love animals, so I wanted to be a vet or zookeeper.”
It wasn’t until high school that she fell in love with journalism: “When I was at high school, I thought ‘journalism sounds interesting’ and so I kind of went down the route of journalism, which is what I studied at University. I didn’t even know that jobs within entertainment existed if that makes sense. I always watched E! News when I was younger, that was the dream job. But I didn’t see it as a possibility, it felt unattainable. So, I went down the route to ITN and realised I felt like I wasn’t very good at it, it was almost a bit too serious for me.”
“I was always a huge pop culture fan and as I was growing up, I’ve always had obsessions. My first was Kylie Minogue, then it was Britney Spears, then Christina Aguilera. I’ve always been a stan,” Marks continued.
Obviously, as a kid, you never expect that one day you might be getting paid to work in the entertainment industry. This was certainly true for Marks. Reflecting on her own path, she shared: “I mean in all honesty, I didn’t even know that it was a possibility and it just so happens that I was looking for jobs when I was kind of miserable working in news and this one came up. I thought, ‘entertainment journalism’, that sounds interesting and then I looked more into it and thought, ‘my gosh, this is a bit of me’.”
Marks continued: “The thing is, I genuinely thought these things can only be done in America or you have to be a big TV personality like Alison Hammond or Lorraine Kelly to be able to do that here.” Girl, same.
Something I was keen to speak to Marks about was what took her by surprise when she began interviewing celebrities. It might seem like a semi-simple format on the surface but that’s just not the case. As our interview expert says, “there are so many nuances to it.”
Marks gave us the low-down: “It’s so challenging. You’re put in a room with one of the most famous people in the world for a space of five minutes and you’re forced to basically have a connection with that person in such a short amount of time. So, when I first started doing it, I shadowed someone who was already doing the job. You’ve got to come across as being really charming and you don’t want to piss that person off, there’s so much that can go wrong.”
“So, in terms of what has surprised me, I didn’t realise how quick and fast-paced it is. And I’d say that’s the most surprising thing about it—just how little time you’re actually given. There are so many factors in place. If you want to do a game, that has to be approved. It’s so controlled, especially now with social media.”
There’s also a million and one people watching in the background. For most of Marks’ interviews she’s had to try and block out all of the celebrities’ “people” sat behind the cameras in the room plus the extra individuals watching the chat go down in the monitor room. Talk about pressure.
What about before the interview? What’s the mind process of someone who is preparing to step into a room with an A-list star? “Usually, I’ll go and watch the film or the TV series and I’ll write notes. Often when I write notes I try and think of how I can maybe relate this to their lives to try and get something a bit more personal,” Marks explained.
The creator went on to say: “I try to think outside the box as well. What do you think people wouldn’t be picking up from this film or TV series that I can ask about? I’ll also watch interviews that they’ve already done for the project so I can filter out what’s already been asked.”
Finally, there’s the extra special touch: “I’ll also discuss with my team what we want to get out of that person as well. If it’s Kate Winslet, for example, I’d think about how amazing it would be to get her talking about Titanic. It doesn’t need to be for the whole interview, but just a snippet on that one thing, people love that. So, we always have an idea of what we want out of a person.”
Something that is both evident from our conversation and from the snippets we get to see on Marks’ personal TikTok page is that she cares so deeply about her job. Speaking with celebrities is nerve-wracking at the best of times, but coming up with new ways to excite and intrigue your interviewee after they’ve already completed an entire day of press junkets must be exhausting.
I always think that if I were to be a celebrity interviewer, I’d find it hardest to chat with actors or actresses that I really idolise. Say, if I were put in a room with Meryl Streep, I’d definitely struggle. I don’t think I’d be able to get through two sentences before falling into a blubbery mess. For Marks, she considers that a strength: “I think if anything, it helps with the interview because I know that person so well and I know their projects so well. Plus, as a fan, I know what I want to get out of this and likewise for what other people would want from that person. At the same time I’ll think ‘Please, please don’t let me down’.”
For example, Marks was privileged with the task of interviewing icon and superstar Barbra Streisand—a woman whose performance of ‘My Man’ in Funny Girl single-handedly changed my brain chemistry. Marks, being a superfan, was thrilled to find out that Streisand was as incredible as she’d imagined. Moreover, the iconic singer and actress even noted during the interview how perceptive the content creator was, clearly reflective of how well Marks knew the singer’s life and career.
There are always people who you know you’re going to click with. Then, some take you by surprise. For Marks, it was none other than Bridget Jones herself, Miss Renée Zellweger: “She really surprised me because I didn’t know what she’d be like. I thought she was going to be quite reserved, but she was probably one of the nicest people I’ve ever interviewed—beyond lovely, even to the point that when I sat outside the room before I went into the interview, she stopped in the corridor, took my hand and said: ‘I’m Renée. It’s lovely to meet you. What’s your name?’ And then, when I walked in for the interview, she screamed ‘Olivia! It’s good to see you again’.”
Marks also shared some love for Miss Congeniality star Sandra Bullock: “Sandra Bullock was ridiculously lovely, so gracious, she even thanked me at the end for asking really good questions. You don’t hear that from people very often.”
One of the last things I wanted to speak to Marks about was her thoughts on some of the new emerging interview styles out there—notably, the more awkward and sarcastic ones. Creators like Bobbi Althoff and even Chicken Shop Date host Amelia Dimoldenberg have bagged some of the biggest celebrities in the world for their shows, and their apathetic approach to the interview format has definitely ruffled some entertainment feathers.
That being said, as far as Marks is concerned, it’s not a style we should even be placing in the same realm as an actual celebrity interview: “I think they’re entertaining and there is room for it. Especially now with social media. There’s so many platforms [that] there is room and space for that content and it’s different as well. Overall, I don’t feel too strongly about it. To me, I don’t know if I’d categorise it as a proper interview. [These interviewers] aren’t going in hoping to get answers in the sense of the questions that I’d be asking for.”
Finally, I pried over one last question: who would be Marks’ dream interviewee? Her answer? Cate Blanchett every day of the week.