Pop culture purveyor Ross Mathews celebrates new book and TV pilot
By Michael W. Sasser
Since his television debut as a correspondent for The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, comedic pop culture maven Ross Mathews has been one of the hardest working men in entertainment. For more than a decade, Mathews has traveled the world and established himself as one of the most in-demand TV correspondents and hosts in the pop culture arena.
Mathews’ impressive resume of programs he has appeared on over the past decade include: NBC’s 1 vs. 100 and Phenomenon, ABC’s The View as a guest co-host, and he was a contestant on the fifth season of VH1’s hit series Celebrity Fit Club. He has appeared as a celebrity correspondent on Extra and The Insider, has recurred as ‘Chris’ on Days of our Lives, co-hosted the Game Show Network’s “Big Saturday Night,” appeared on the OWN Network’s Ask Oprah’s All-Stars, starred as himself in ABC Family’s holiday movie Christmas Cupid, and has made appearances on Bravo’s Interior Therapy, ABC Family’s Beverly Hills Nannies Reunion, E!‘s Studio E! and After Lately, and HGTV’s House Hunters.
In 2009, Mathews hosted and executive produced a daily web talk show for The Insider and CBS.com called “Inside Dish with Ross Mathews,” a show about covering Hollywood from the outside in. “Inside Dish” eventually became the official web show for CBS hits Big Brother and the Emmy Award-winning series The Amazing Race. It was announced in 2011 that Mathews had signed a talent deal with the E! Network, to increase his presence at the network. Leading up to the 2012 Presidential Election, Mathews was the official political reporter for E! News. He covered both the Democratic and Republican National Conventions, where he interviewed politicians including First Lady Michelle Obama, former Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, and former Republican Presidential nominee John McCain.
Mathews can be seen as a regular panelist and occasional guest host on E!’s late-night talk show Chelsea Lately, and is a fixture on E! News and E! Network’s live red carpet awards show coverage.
But the mercurial Mathews isn’t resting on his laurels. Just recently he shot his first talk show pilot, produced by Chelsea Handler’s Borderline Amazing Productions, that he will host, write and co-produce. The show will be a celebration of all things pop culture and will include celebrity guests, audience interaction and field pieces. Mathews’ first book, MAN UP!: Tales of My Delusional Self-Confidence (Grand Central Publishing; May 7, 2013; $25 hardcover) is set to take readers inside his unique world. With an introduction written by Gwyneth Paltrow, and afterword from Chelsea Handler, Man Up takes readers inside Mathews’ personal journey as a super fan, revealing the most embarrassing and hilarious moments of his small town life and big city adventures, and how he managed to turn an obsession with pop culture into one-on-one interactions with celebrities like Paltrow, Tiffani-Amber Theissen, Madonna, and Michelle Kwan [to name a few] without ever having a single restraining order issued against him.
While working on his many projects, Mathews will also continue his duties as one of The Tonight Show’s regular correspondents.
Mathews currently lives in Los Angeles with his partner Salvador, and their two rescue dogs Louise and Mijo. When not working on his many projects, Mathews is a strong supporter of the Human Rights Campaign, speaking at many of the group’s nationwide events, and he received their Visibility Award in 2011.
Wire Magazine chatted with Ross about his new book, TV pilot and all things pop culture.
Michael W. Sasser: Where do you think your obsession with pop culture comes from?
Ross Mathews: I think it comes from growing up in a place that was about as far away from the glitz and glamour of pop culture as possible. Mount Vernon, Washington – my home town – felt like it was basically Mars. As a kid, I yearned so badly to climb inside the magazines I constantly flipped through and into the shows I watched on TV. To me, Hollywood has always seemed like the pinnacle of pop culture. It was no mistake, then, that I left Mount Vernon about 30 seconds after I graduated high school and hightailed it for LA.
MWS: Did you ever imagine you would make a career out of that obsession?
RM: I always knew I’d work in conjunction with showbiz, but I never really knew how or how to get there.
MWS: Many of our readers might recognize you best from TV’s The Tonight Show, etc., but did you work your way up through the comedy club circuit?
RM: I dabbled in comedy clubs, but they just weren’t for me. Comedy clubs are hard – drunk people fold their arms and look at you like, “You think you can make me laugh, a-hole? I’d like to see you try.”
I never felt the need to prove anything to anyone and I don’t have that innate need that most comics have to get that laugh at the end of the punchline. I like to tell stories and be spontaneous. It’s a different art.
MWS: Assuming it has happened already, what do you think your “big break” was?
RM: I’ve had two big breaks: Meeting Jay Leno and meeting Chelsea Handler.
MWS: Given the comedic work for which you are known, how did you keep a straight face when appearing as “Chris” on Days of our Lives? RM: OMG, that was fun. Luckily, my character never had that many dramatic scenes. I was more the comic relief. But there would be times when I’d be saying things like, “Remember… you and Ashley both love Paul” and I’d have no idea who Ashley or Paul were. Truthfully, the story lines are complicated and you have to watch every day to keep up, so I never really knew what I was talking about. I’m not exactly Meryl Streep.
MWS: You’ve done so many diverse things in your career; what was the strangest gig you ever had?
RM: I onetime opened for a crocodile wrestler in Florida who walked onstage with five women on leashes crawling in front of him as the song “Welcome To The Jungle” played. It was both mortifying and kind of awesome.
MWS: What should readers expect from your new book, MAN UP!: Tales of My Delusional Self-Confidence?
RM: This is such a funny book, filled with stories of growing up in a small farm town as a young oddity and stories of pop culture obsessions and celebrity interactions. But it’s also a very positive book. I define ‘man up’ as embracing what makes you different rather than hating what makes you different. Man Up! is filled with tales of when I did that and when I didn’t.
MWS: And speaking of the book, what kind of photos do you have stashed away that helped you get Gwyneth Paltrow to write the introduction?
RM: No photos needed. Gwyneth and I really are best friends. When you read the book, you’ll learn how it all happened.
MWS: Three words to describe Chelsea Handler (that we can print)? RM: Funny. Tough. Generous.
MWS: Of celebrities you’ve met, who would surprise our readers to know is very funny?
RM: Gwyneth. And Jackie Collins. She’s f’ing hilarious.
MWS: What is it like working with Jay Leno?
RM: Jay changed my life. He is so humble and so good at what he does. The best advice he ever gave me was to treat the crew and staff right. I’m always nice to everyone but, because of Jay, I’m constantly aware and grateful of everyone’s hard work.
MWS: What was your craziest assignment on The Tonight Show?
RM: Oh, after 12 years traveling the world as a Tonight Show correspondent, there are too many to mention – from jumping out of a plane to sailing a ship through the Gulf of Mexico to hosting a Christmas party with a drag queen dressed as Cher. I’ve pretty much done it all.
MWS: What is your most memorable Tonight Show moment? Why?
RM: Nothing will ever top the thrill of the first time I walked onto that stage. I write about it in the book and every time I read it again, I get that same nervous, excited feeling. It was a dream come true (and it still is).
MWS: Tell us about your new talk show and what the audience should expect?
RM: There are so many shows that tear down pop culture. I wanted to create a show for super fans who love pop culture as much as I do. That’s why, when I have a guest, the audience will be able to ask the celebrity questions. Also, we’ll have fans Skype in so they can be involved, too. Think of my talk show as the ultimate fan forum where pop culture and the fans meet.
MWS: How long have you been “out” in your professional life and do you think it has affected your career?
RM: I’ve been out for forever and, perhaps I’m naive, but I don’t think it’s had an effect on my career one way or another. Funny is funny.
MWS: Is there anything else you would like to share with Wire Magazine readers?
RM: I’m touring the country
This article was originally published in Wire Magazine Issue #19, 2013
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The slamming of lockers, the smell of wet carpet, unflattering iridescent lighting.. It’s not just another grueling day at the gym; it’s worse—high school. While the rest of us spent our glory years drooling over the questionable chemistry teacher or the captain of the football team, Daniela Brooker was busy writing her first pop hit. The 18-year-old singer/songwriter has been performing for as long as she can remember. After her first track, ‘Turn It Up’, was picked up by a London radio show, Daniela finally got to bring her real talents to the head of the class.
While still in high school Daniela managed to juggle her studies and a relentless schedule of song writing, recording, and performing live. She’s worked with some heavy hitting producers, including Louis Read (Mary J Blige, The Noisettes), Paul Garred from The Kooks, and Rob Harris of Jamiroquai while earning positive reviews for her music. Although her tracks have mainstream pop appeal, her personal music taste has a much wider range. “I’m a big rock ‘n’ roll fan” Daniela explains, “but I also love old singers like Etta James, as well as pop icons like Beyoncé. My dream would be to duet with Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler.” It’s that eclectic love of music that makes her live sets just as interesting, infusing pop, rock, and Latin influences. When describing her shows, Daniela says, “I give everything and just hope people have a good time.” Now a high school graduate, Daniela Brooker will be schooling us this Thursday at Score with a few of her hits, including her single ‘Summer Love’, which recently debuted on LOGO and HERE TV.
Tell us about where you’re from and how you started singing?
I am from London, England but I am also half Venezuelan. I have always had the desire to sing for as long as I can remember. Any excuse to put on a glittery outfit and sing and I’d be there.
When did you realize you wanted to be a recording artist?
When I was 12 I was given a session at a recording studio to cover three songs for my birthday. Ever since then, I have been completely in love with recording music.
Where can we buy your current singles?
You can get my single ‘Summer Love’ on iTunes or watch the music video on YouTube!
Was ‘Summer Love’ written from experience? What’s the dish?
Haha! It is about a summer boyfriend/fling I had when I was younger with a Venezuelan boy. Remembering it makes me laugh because I was so dramatic! I cried the whole way home, which is a 10-hour flight.
Is there an album in the works for you?
I’m writing as much as possible so that when I come to completing an album I’ll have the best songs possible. I do however have an EP coming out early next year, which I’m really excited about!
If you had your way, what would you want your album to sound like?
My dream album would have a song for everyone on it, whether that’s a dance track or a stripped acoustic number. I believe an album should have something for everyone.
Living in the UK, how in touch are you still with your Venezuelan heritage?
We all speak Spanish at home. My mum always plays salsa and my brother is always blasting reggaeton, so I am around the language constantly. Being Latin, my mother has brought me up in that way and culture.
Do you ever infuse Latin flavor into your music?
I always try and use a few lines in Spanish. I love artists who cross Latin influences with pop such as Pitbull and Shakira.
Now that you’ve graduated high school do you plan on going on to college or is it full-on singing/songwriting for a while?
At the moment I don’t have plans to continue school because I want to completely focus on music. I can’t do things halfway, so doing school and music at the same time wouldn’t be good for me.
Will this be your first time in South Beach?
I was there when I was really young, so I don’t remember it too well, but I am SO looking forward to being there. It is the destination I am most excited about going to!
What excites you the most about being here?
To perform to all the Miami people whom I have heard love to party!!!
What do you have planned for us on October 20th?
I plan to entertain all different sorts of audiences! If you’re into pop, rock, or even dance I hope to have everyone enjoying the show.
Will you be bringing any of the hotties from your ‘Summer Love’ video with you?
Haha! One of the extras is my brother, so he’ll be coming. My whole band is coming as well. So if you’re into the rugged look, they will be an option too.
You’re going to have a lot of your fellow Venezuelans at your performance on Thursday. Is there anything you’d like to say to them?
I’m so excited to have a Latin audience as it will be a different crowd than what I am used to, so I hope you enjoy yourselves and look forward to seeing you dancing!!!