TODAY USA, TOMORROW THE WORLD…
USA NETWORK Welcomes Its Newest Character: TALK STOOP’s CAT GREENLEAF
By Tyler Malone
USA Network‘s slogan has for years been “Characters Welcome,” and this Summer they’re welcoming a new character to their daytime line-up: Talk Stoop‘s Cat Greenleaf. Cat Greenleaf certainly is a character, she’s one of the funniest and most interesting people I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing.
Almost two full years ago, I turned the tables on her, interviewing her on her own stoop for PMc Magazine. She’s a sweetheart and so we’d kept in touch over the past two years. When I heard that she’d be joining USA, I decided to come back on by the stoop and catch up with her again. This time, unlike the last, I came on a day when she was working, so I was lucky enough to witness her in action, first sitting down with Michael Shannon and then with Heather Graham. It’s always exciting for an interviewer, like myself, to watch someone else conduct an interview, to see how and where they make their moves. Watching Cat in person was astonishing, she’s an absolute pro.
She’s been doing this for years now, and while most New Yorkers know her as that lady who is on the TVs in their taxis, my fellow night owls have also likely seen Talk Stoop on NBC late nights. Well, soon, her face will be a bit more prominent when she takes on the role of host of USA’s daytime line-up, conducting her classic mini-interviews on her stoop between shows at the commercial breaks. And who knows where she’ll be going after that? Today USA, but tomorrow it may be the world…
Tyler Malone: So how did your new gig at USA come about?
Cat Greenleaf: A very savvy marketing move by their marketing department–a woman named Alexandra Shapiro in particular, and Chris McCumber. They liked what we were doing on Talk Stoop, and I worked with them last year at their upfronts to interview their talent at Lincoln Center, and love was born between us.
It’s such a good fit, because their whole thing is blue sky. They do blue sky shows, shows that end on a high note. We actually have a blue sky here on the stoop, so there’s that! They also only have scripted shows, so it’s exciting that they’re moving into nonscripted. And we only have nonscriptedness in our lives here on the stoop.
This is going to sound like I’m just saying it, but honestly to a person at USA, they’ve been kind, they’ve been fair, they’ve been creative, they’ve been fun, they’ve been professional. So far it’s a thrill, a real thrill. We are part of the same Comcast family, USA and NBC, but I’d never really met any of my Comcast cousins before, so it’s really cool for me to meet other branches of the company. I just really like them. I couldn’t be happier with the whole situation.
TM: So will Talk Stoop continue on NBC too?
CG: Yes, but it’s odd. Okay, so the USA daytime version of the show will sort of live on its own. Talk Stoop on NBC affiliates will continue, and it continues to grow all the time, we keep adding more affiliates. We’re not only in NYC, we’ve recently added Miami and Dallas. We’ve got DC, San Francisco, and San Diego, I think–I’d need to double check those cities. NBC is no longer in the business of telling affiliates what they have to run, so we’re working little by little that all of the affiliates understand that this is not solely a New York show. Just because the set is New York, so is Sesame Street and Friends, etc.
Talk Stoop will continue to live where it lives, and continue to grow. Then the USA thing, it will be a lot of the same guests, with crossover, and what not.
TM: Will all the USA stuff be on this stoop or will there be other places?
CG: So base camp will always be the stoop. We’d like to keep as much of it here as possible, but we’re also ready to travel. We’re taking the Stoop on the road. We already have plans to travel and do a pre-Olympics show, and we’re going out to LA at the end of the Summer. We’re ready to roll. It’d be great if we got some nice automotive sponsor to come along and help us do that.
But it will always be on a staircase, I think. I’m just always more comfortable sitting on stairs than I am on actual chairs.
TM: So it’ll basically be little segments between the shows, right?
CG: For those who know me from taxi TV, picture five taxi rides a day, starting from 11am to 3pm. We’ll be interstitials between Law & Order, NCIS, Modern Family, whatever it is, you name it. We’ll start the day, “Welcome to USA Daytime! Here’s who we’re talking to today…” Then that person will show up throughout the day with five different one minute segments. Each day will be a different person.
TM: And when will this be happening?
CG: I think around August is when you’ll start to see me on USA.
TM: Are you worried that it will become harder to film on the stoop when it becomes a bigger thing now that it’ll be on USA? I mean, I love that it’s so open, that people walking by sort of get involved with the shoot–sometimes inadvertently, sometimes on purpose. But do you fear that it will be harder to do what you do out on the street when it’s on a big cable network and even more people are watching?
CG: Well, that’ll be a problem I guess we’ll deal with when we get there. So far there have been really good vibes. People stop by all the time, and everyone’s always really nice. So as long as my neighbors continue to be cool with it, then we’re cool with it.
TM: You’ve literally turned your house into a talk show set and studio. You record on your stoop, you’ve got hair and make-up going on in your kitchen, and catered food there. What’s it like to not just work from home, which a lot of people do, but to have work sort of take over your home on certain days?
CG: It takes a lot of pressure off of my social life, because I feel like I’m already having a party at my house during work hours. By the time the work day is over, then I can indulge my first love, which is eating my children.
TM: What do you do on a day like today when you’re interviewing two completely different people? Michael Shannon and Heather Graham are both actors, so I guess they’re not totally different, but they just seem like such different interviewees, with different vibes. How do you prepare mentally for two sort of disparate interviews?
CG: You want to know the secret? I don’t prepare. That’s how.
TM: What do you do beforehand? You have to do some sort of research or preparation. I can’t imagine you just stumble into what you end up with, because your interviews always turn out great. And as a fellow interviewer, I know it’s never as easy as it looks.
CG: I wish I did everything to prepare. But I don’t have that time. If my interviews work, I think they work because the questions seem fresh and genuine. And the questions seem fresh and genuine because they are. I actually don’t know that much about pop culture, not nearly as much as I’d like to. So to prepare, I usually ask everyone that I know. I read wikipedia obviously, but I don’t like just basing my questions off whatever it says on wikipedia. I like to have my friends and my husband tell me about people that I don’t know much about that they know about, and then where the holes are, that’s where my questions come from.
TM: Do you always approach people in the same way? Or do have a different style when you interview someone like Heather Graham and someone like Michael Shannon?
CG: It’s pretty much the same approach. Because of the way it works here on the Stoop, there’s so much hanging out inside here at my home before the interview starts that we really never have a “now we’re starting the interview” moment. The conversation just rolls, from where it begins in the kitchen to the foyer and then out to the stoop. So even when it’s someone as big of an icon as Isabella Rosellini, who will be coming by tomorrow, it’s still just conversational and the same as anyone else, with me asking questions that I just really want to know. I want to know about her life, I want to know what it’s like to wake up in the morning and be her. And that’s what I want to know about everyone I interview, I think.
TM: What do you do if someone says something in the kitchen or the foyer before you’re rolling and it’s really interesting? Do you ever try to recreate the moment out there?
CG: No, I just can’t do that. So I end up saying something like, “When we were speaking earlier…” It’s something I hate, it sounds so exclusive, but it feels better than being forced or faked.
That said, the people who come here are generally performers, so they usually know how to rephrase what we’re talking about and to give me what they sense I’m looking for. Even when they’re being genuine, there’s always a bit of a performance aspect to it too.
TM: Well, everything in life is a bit of a performance, right?
CG: Yes. In fact, that was what I was talking about with Michael [Shannon] a little bit about his character in The Iceman, and was he acting more as the family man or acting more as the cold killer, which was the real him? Is one more of a performance than the other?
But yes, everything is a bit of a performance. I think we all have that. That reminds me, the other night my son woke me up in the middle of the night because he needed me. I sat by his bed, and I thought, “Oh my god, I am acting.” Why does this little person think I know what I am doing? Doesn’t he know that I’m an imposter? Doesn’t he know that I’m just a kid too? Doesn’t he know that I also want to curl up in my firetruck bed?
TM: What is your biggest pet peeve when you’re interviewing someone?
CG: I don’t like people who just won’t go there, and won’t answer the questions. Like politicians. When you ask them something and they just answer a completely different question. That’s always been annoying to me. I just think what am I doing here? Do you want to just give me your talking points and then we can call it a day?
TM: Last time I was on the stoop talking with you it was almost two years ago. Time flies, right? What has changed since last time I was here and what has stayed the same (besides obviously the whole USA thing coming soon)?
CG: So you were here in Summer 2011? Okay, so after that at some point, Talk Stoop started being filmed with two cameras, which I was initially against because I didn’t want to lose the intimate feeling of it all. It turn out our shooters are so low key that it doesn’t feel overbearing at all. We have two cameras, and a whole new team, a dedicated Talk Stoop team. Before that I was sort of beg, borrowing, and stealing whomever I could to come help us, but now we have a team, which is great. Stinky Bklyn now sends us food all the time. The recognition of the show has grown a lot. It’s not that the caliber of stars has changed much, because we’ve always had pretty great guests, but their knowledge of the show has evolved. Rarely now do they walk in wondering if this is public access, which was a big thing we got in the beginning.
TM: Who is the one person you really want to interview but you haven’t yet?
CG: My go-tos are usually Bono, Oprah, and Obama.
TM: But if you do Obama, you get into the pet peeve you were talking about, of politicians just saying their talking points. I can’t imagine you’d be able to coax anything genuine out of him, especially while he’s in office.
CG: I want Obama on a hit of ecstasy. That’s what I want.
TM: Ha! That just might do it. So, lastly, what’s your big goal–besides getting Obama on a hit of ecstasy–where do you see all this going if all goes well?
CG: I would love to do Talk Stoop After Dark. USA does not have a live nighttime show, or a live anytime show for that matter. I find people are a lot looser after dark. And you never know what I might be spiking their drinks with. I find the conversation gets spicier, and could be even more entertaining in the evening. So I would love to do Talk Stoop After Dark every night of the week.
TM: So like a full half an hour or hour talk show? Not just in short segments?
CG: Yup. A real daily talk show. Talk Stoop After Dark. That’s the goal. And it could go anywhere, any of the NBC stations, but I just really feel it could fit nicely at USA.
So that’s the big goal. The little goal is to just have an awesome launch with USA, and a great rest of the year.
Cat Greenleaf is the host of NBC’s Emmy Award-winning series Talk Stoop with Cat Greenleaf. Soon she’ll be appearing as the host of USA Network’s daytime line-up.
Written by Tyler Malone
Photography and Design by Marie Havens
Pages 1, 2, 4-7, 9-11:
Cat Greenleaf with family & her English Bulldog Gracie, Brooklyn, New York, May 29, 2013, Photography by Marie Havens
Pages 3 & 8:
Cat Greenleaf & Tyler Malone, Brooklyn, New York, May 29, 2013, Photography by Marie Havens