Ben Mulroney Is On The Top of His Game
Ben Mulroney is a familiar face in the entertainment world, usually seen interviewing celebrities on the red carpet or on the television screen hosting eTalk. It’s sometimes easy to forget that underneath all the glamour, he enjoys many of the same things that his fellow Canadians enjoy! Post City Magazines interviewed Ben for their August 2013 issue, and got his thoughts on TIFF, settling down, and why he’ll never dabble in the world of politics:
For most Torontonians, August is a time to laze around at the cottage or find some way to dodge the heat in the city. For Ben Mulroney, anchor of CTV’s entertainment show eTalk, it’s the calm before the storm.
Lurking on just the next page of the calendar (on Sept. 5, to be precise) is the Toronto International Film Festival, the most insane time of the year for anyone in this town who makes a living putting a mic in the faces of movie stars.
“The film festival marks the unofficial start of our season,” says Mulroney, who recently marked his 11th anniversary as host of the top-rated entertainment news show.
“Because it happens here, we try to give it a lot of oomph. Our colleagues who work on the American shows, like Extra and Access Hollywood, they’ll come for two or three days.
“We’ll do the entire festival and the lead up to it and every night and — because Bell [the parent company of CTV] is a major sponsor of the Roy Thomson Hall galas that we do live shows from — every single red carpet.
“When Hollywood comes to Toronto, you have to take full advantage.”
Like many Torontonians, who may love the buzz of the fest but hate the traffic and chaos that comes with it, Mulroney admits to mixed feelings about his annual two-week frenzy of red carpets, junket interviews and celeb spotting.
“When it’s going well, it’s great, and when it’s a little too hot and muggy outside, it can get the better of you,” he says.
It’s actually hard to imagine much getting the better of Mulroney. He seems like one of those perennially cheerful people. When we meet, in a conference room at BellMedia’s surprisingly cramped headquarters on Queen Street West, he has just finished filming that day’s instalment of etalk. He’s dressed in a dark suit with a yellow pocket square poking out, and his famously immaculate hair is looking, well, suitably immaculate. A veteran of red-carpet reporting, Mulroney has chewed the fat with celebs on their way into many of the world’s biggest showbiz events, and he says each is different.
For instance, TIFF is something of an endurance test because etalk covers everything, whereas the Golden Globes are easier because CTV ponied up the cash for a prime spot with a big stage, which Mulroney says gives them a bit more “heft” in the eyes of their celebrity quarry.
But it’s the Oscars where things get real. Broadcasting live for anywhere from one to nearly three hours, forced to stay in one position and surrounded by other reporters all trying to get the same interview, Mulroney says it’s the most difficult of all the red carpets.
“You have no set interview times; you don’t know who’s coming; you don’t know who you’re going to get; and, when you do get them, you don’t know how long you’re going to have them for. And you’ve got people screaming and the sun is beating down and you’ve got a producer and director in your ear,” he says.
As for the stars he looks out for, Mulroney is not alone among celeb interviewers in being a fan of George Clooney. (“He’s fun, he’s irreverent, and he knows it’s not rocket science, so he doesn’t expect you to bow at the altar of George Clooney.”). But he also likes talking to Tom Hanks. “He’s one of those actors who’s very interesting,” says Mulroney. “He’s a history buff, that’s why he’s done so many of those HBO specials.”
The son of a former Canadian prime minister, Mulroney admits to intentionally dropping his family name the first time he interviewed Hanks in order to strike up a conversation. These days, however, his face is more familiar in American households, having joined iconic news show Good Morning America as a weekend contributor last year.
It was an exciting break for Mulroney, who practised saying, “Good Morning America” in the mirror beforehand because, “You’ve got to get it right.” Mulroney, however, wasn’t always destined for TV. He studied law at Laval and history at Duke before he was approached to become the Quebec City correspondent for The Chatroom on TalkTV in 2000. He joined etalk after a stint as entertainment reporter on CTV’s Canada AM, and he was also host of Canadian Idol for six seasons.
When asked what his law-studying, uni-age self would make of him now, Mulroney says he’d be psyched.
“I remember being in college once and saying to my friend, ‘Wouldn’t it be really great if there was a job out there where all you had to do was watch TV.’ And this is as close to that job as you can get.”
When he’s not asking famous people which designer they’re wearing, Mulroney spends most of his time with his growing family in their home just west of Yonge and north of St. Clair. He and his wife, Jessica Brownstein, a fashion industry veteran and distributor of a high-end lingerie line, have twin boys and in June added a baby daughter to their family.
Living a few minutes’ drive away from the homes of his sister and two brothers, Mulroney says he lucked out with the neighbourhood. He and his wife moved there in a rush three years ago after learning she was expecting twins and realizing their downtown condo wouldn’t cut it.
“We found out, when we moved in, that our boys were going to be the third set of twins on our street. It’s a safe street, it’s a quiet street where everybody looks out for everybody.”
Like most people in this town, Mulroney loves eating out and tweets often about new restaurants. But with a new baby at home, he says finding time to go out is difficult. In fact, he’s more likely to be found in a park with his boys.
“One of our greatest discoveries was Oriole Park, just north of us. They had just finished refurbishing it when we moved in, and they’ve got that splash pad,” he says. “If I were to move, that would be one of the top five things I would miss about the neighbourhood.”
There are, however, a number of things he wouldn’t miss. With a little prompting, Mulroney launches into a passionate critique of the City of Toronto’s failings in the area, including its enthusiasm for digging up Avenue Road and erratic parking enforcement that tickets delivery vehicles on quiet roads but seemingly ignores people doubled-parked and blocking Yonge Street during rush hour. Calling for “simple solutions to problems that annoy everybody,” he sounds a bit like a politician. But, despite his pedigree, he doesn’t fancy his chances at elected office.
“I would never go into politics,” he says. “If I were ever to go into politics, it would be municipal politics and, seeing as how I’m a Montreal Canadiens fan to my heart and I actually have a terrible loathing of the Maple Leafs, I could never run for anything in this city. Can you imagine a Toronto mayor or city councillor wearing a Habs jersey? They’d force him to sit there and watch people double-park on Yonge Street.”