Monday, September 17, 2012

Interview: Trisha Goddard, Ready for the Challenge

Trisha Goddard is a (mostly) new voice entering the daytime-television arena; although she has served as a guest host and conflict-resolution expert for “The Maury Povich Show,” beginning today, Trisha has a show all her own. While hosting her own show isn’t a new thing for her — she’s hosted and won awards for several talk shows in Australia and the U.K. — for American audiences, it will be a new thing for us. I had the pleasure of speaking with this quick-witted, humble and lovely lady about her new show (which airs in syndication, so check your local listings), and she can’t wait for you to welcome her into your living room each weekday.

Celebrity Extra: For those not familiar with your work, how did you get started in the business?

Trisha Goddard: Well, I actually started in news and current events. I’ve done a lot of other jobs, too — I was in a band; I was an air stewardess based in the Middle East; I worked in public relations. But as I worked other jobs, I took journalism courses, and I started in television in Australia. I started in news and current affairs, and quickly realized that health and social welfare areas — which were kind of new in those days — were where I wanted to be.

My first presenting job came about when the presenter of a show I reported for went on maternity leave, and they asked me to fill in. Apparently the viewers took to me, so I was offered my own show by another network. The press was very quick to point out that I was Australia’s first person of color ever to become an anchorwoman, which shocked me. I said, “Oh, it didn’t say that on the form when I was applying for the job.” But that was back in 1987.

CE: I know you also had your own talk shows in England, and then you came to the U.S. and started working with Maury Povich. What was that experience like?

TG: It was great. It was a really easy fit. Maury was very gracious. It was very lovely of him to have me on the show and hand over segments. That’s what I’ve been doing on and off for the past two years. Time flies when you’re having fun.

CE: And now you have your own daytime talk show, “Trisha Goddard.” Tell me about it.

TG: The topics will cover all of life’s dramas — happy, sad, humor — the whole gamut of relationships. It can be parent and child, relatives, what have you. What we did on my show in England was there are a lot of older people who want to know, as an adult: “Is this my sister; is this my cousin?” or “Is this really my parent?” Obviously, there’s a lot invested in that, if you’ve been brought up one way or to believe that somebody was your parent and isn’t. They’re more complex. A lot of these stories have layer upon layer, but they are the universal issues that everyone has: trust, betrayal, happiness, joy and identity. I’ll deal with all of those things, but in my very own way.

CE: Will you host celebrity guests, too?

TG: Yes, absolutely. A celebrity will be there for what they’re going through and what experience they can bring to the show rather than “I have a new book” or “I have a new movie” to promote for the celebrity’s sake. These celebrities will absolutely hold their own, and be willing to be honest and talk about whatever issue it is they went through that they have in common with the guest. It catches on with the celebrities who are interested in being real. We give them the opportunity to talk about something other than their new movie or their new book or what have you. But the focus of our show is on ordinary, everyday people.

CE: Since “Trisha Goddard” is a five-days-a-week show, covering most of the year, do you ever worry you’ll run out of topics to discuss?

TG: Oh no, no. That’s never a worry. You could do a show on divorce 300 times, and every single situation will be different. The ages, the people, different situations — you can never exhaust a subject, because there are different nuances in every single case. You never think, “Oh, I’ve done this story before.” You might have up until a point, and then it goes off on a completely different track.

CE: That’s true; you just read any newspaper, magazine or website, and there are human-interest stories galore out there.

TG: Oh, yes. And I read the newspapers all the time. Back home in England, I probably read four newspapers a day. Here I’m reading the websites and what have you. I’m always looking for ideas; I’m going to start getting local newspapers in different areas, because you start asking, what are the concerns on the ground? I want to get a feel for the issues at the local level and how I can bring that to the screen. It’s always exciting. There’s always a challenge.

CE: I know you are very involved in mental well-being issues and treatment — will you bring those topics to your show?

TG: Oh, yes. Collectively, mental health, mental well-being and mental illness is the entire spectrum. You’ll very rarely talk to people or about people without some part of that spectrum coming into it. It’s not always mental illness. It can be a lack of mental wellness, if you see what I mean. I can’t divorce myself from that; it’s what I’m passionate about. There are always people thinking that mad equals bad, and all those sorts of things. It’s one area that really needs to be de-stigmatized.

CE: I read that you’ve done your share of acting as well … I bet the “Doctor Who” fans are the most rabid.

TG: “Doctor Who” fans are very … everywhere I go, there’s some “Doctor Who” fan who jumps out and tells me exactly what episode I was in. That was fun. I did “Little Britain” as well, which is an English show. There was another show called “Fat Friends,” which was about a whole group of friends in a slimming club, and I filmed about three or four episodes with them. I was really, really flattered to be included. My one show that I’d like to be included in here in the U.S. — I will have died and gone to heaven if I did a cameo on “Modern Family.”

CE: How do you fit it all in: hosting your show here, your advocacy and charity work, maintaining a home here and across the Pond?

TG: When I was coming over to tape “Maury,” I would do the show and work intensely for a week, and then go home and do unpaid work as a mother, dog walker, wife, etc., so that was OK. At the moment people ask how it’s going to work out, and the answer is, I don’t know. It’ll be tough, but I don’t want to prescribe how things are going to work out, because part of life is just going with the flow and muddling through, and then when people ask you in hindsight, it sounds like you had this marvelous plan to make it all work. But it’s not like that. It’s interesting, but it’s scary.