NEW YORK – With his high-pitch voice, infectious giggle and encyclopedic knowledge of pop culture and entertainment, TV personality Ross Mathews has broken into the in-crowd of Hollywood.
After starting out as “Ross the Intern” on “The Tonight Show,” he now counts Gwyneth Paltrow and comedian Chelsea Handler as friends.
Handler is also his boss. She frequently uses him on her roundtable of commentators on E!’s “Chelsea Lately.” Now she’s executive producing Mathews’ own talk show called “Hello Ross,” airing Fridays on E!
“This really is the show that I always wish existed as a superfan myself,” the 33-year-old said in a recent interview.
“Hello Ross” is different from “Chelsea Lately.” Handler’s show specializes in snark, taking swipes at the latest celebrity gossip. Her interviews tend to knock stars down a few pegs, but Mathews is looking to build them back up on “Hello Ross.” It’s an interactive experience where he both conducts interviews and also helps connect fans with their favorite entertainers.
Q. Celebrities can be tough interviews because they’re so rehearsed. And here you come and you’re so happy and excited. Has that helped or hurt you?
A. Being a superfan in a town where a lot of times these interviews are mapped out with talking points, I think it’s worked in my favor in terms of you catch people off guard with the energy and the knowledge that I have. It’s led to some spontaneous moments. We’ve found it’s helping us book the shows. Celebrities know I’m not looking for a `gotcha’ moment. I don’t want to be Barbara Walters who you come to when you first check out of rehab. I want to be the person who brings a superfan from Iowa to meet you because we love you.
Q. You love celebrities but you’ve become one in your own right. What’s that like?
A. I get to go into the parties and I pretend like I’m not freaking out and then I get into my car and I scream and I call my mom and say, ‘O-M-G, guess who was at the party and guess what they ate and how many chicken fingers they had? Because I was counting (laughter) ...
Q. You grew up in a small town, Mount Vernon, Wash., loving showbiz from afar. Did people then think you were destined for fame?
A. Growing up, you know, wanting to do this and being what I am, which is like this cartoon version of like a gay person with a big voice and a high pitch, there were a lot of people who told me, ‘It’s probably not gonna happen for you. Broadcasting? It’s probably not the way you should go.’ (Laughter.) I’m lucky. My parents and my family were like, ‘Whatever you want to do, go do it.’ To be honest, I’m not really good at anything else (laughter) so there was kind of no other option. What was I gonna do? Be a cop? There was like this laser focus to get here.