Interview with Paul Henry
What do you think it is that has made This Is Your Life such an iconic programme in NZ?
This Is Your Life is a successful format because it's a
programme about our icons. It's also exciting because nobody knows
who the guest is going to be. It is one of the country's best
kept secrets and only a handful of people know who it will be ahead
of time. Keeping the guest's identity secret makes the whole
show special and generates great public expectation.
What is it like following the footsteps of Bob Parker and Paul Holmes as the host?
There is a certain pressure that comes from the programme's format and history. Being the host feels like being passed a baton. Very few programmes can disappear for seven years and come back and still be as popular as ever.
With your previous This Is Your Life show, when did you find out it was Jonah Lomu?
I found out about a week and a half before the show. We had to pre-record the surprise just before the show before going on stage to broadcast the 'live-live' programme. Reveals are so important to the show, because each one has to be different and there are lots of logistics around that.
What was it like surprising him - and all of us?
There are two fun things: the surprise and the apprehension. Although the person can be surprised their reaction could also be fear! After all, they are about to go on live television with the whole country watching them revisit their past. It was amazing to see Jonah's expression when blasts from his past walked onto the stage.
What was the most unexpected or surprising thing that happened on the night?
Jonah's reaction. He was quite apprehensive and nervous for the first half of the programme but ended up really enjoying himself. The nature of the show means that there is a huge amount of trust placed in me and the people who put the programme together.
Do you have much time to prepare for the programme?
Most of the preparation is done during the week before the show with the key crew and guests. Even though the broadcast date is set months in advance we try to leave things as late as possible so we can keep everything secret.
What is your most memorable interview as a journalist?
There have been so many! One of them would have to be legendary actor Sir Peter Ustinov. When talking about his life and who he worked with, he was just Peter Ustinov with no bravado. A huge star joking about other huge stars. He told a story that he once played a joke on Humphrey Bogart and the director from 'The African Queen' and as he was explaining it he impersonated the voices of all the people he was with at the time. He was a true talent and a true A-lister.