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BY Matthew Archbold
I write for the National Catholic Register so sometimes I'll get an email or a call from public relations people to interview a writer or a celebrity. It's kinda' cool. I know some writers and reporters get it all the time so it's kinda' boring for them but for me it's still pretty cool.
Last year, I interviewed Martin Sheen and Emilio Estevez and another time I interviewed Teresa Tomeo over the phone. She's the easiest interview ever because you ask her one question and she's so passionate and knowledgeable that she'll talk for the whole interview.
But all in all I think I'm a pretty terrible interviewer because I always do a lot of research and then I completely get thrown off and just end up having a conversation that's of very little to use for a story. But even knowing that I'm the world's worst interviewer didn't prepare me for the disaster of my interview on Friday with the great Catholic actor Eduardo Verástegui.
Survivors of the Titanic would be like "duuude."
I got the call on Wednesday to interview him about the DVD release of "For Greater Glory" and was pretty excited. The p.r. guy gave me a bunch of times and I agreed to do it on Friday at 1:30. I figured the kids would be in school so it'd be perfect.
I did research for this interview. I know that Eduardo was once on Charmed. I know that his next movie is with Sean Astin and Kevin James. I watched the short film "Circus of Butterflies" which is absolutely beautiful. And I rewatched "For Greater Glory" which is astoundingly good and moving.
I was ready for this interview.
I had my tape recorder next to the phone three hours early. This was the most prepared I've ever been. I even wrote out questions on a piece of paper and put it right next to the keyboard. This is preparation at its finest folks.
Insert problems here.
It turned out that the kids had a half day and I'm still not even sure why. So they'd be home for the interview. Uh-oh. Five kids and Eduardo. What could go wrong?
My plan was to sit them down to do their homework but when they got into the van they all said they had no homework other than covering books. "It's the second day of school!" they squealed.
OK. There goes that plan. So I sit them down with books. "I can't read," the five year old reminds me. Darn it. I probably should've gotten to that at some point over these past few years.
OK. I tell them that the five year old should draw quietly while everyone else reads. So she toddles off, grabs some crayons, some paper and sets herself up at the dining room table. OK? Good. The kids don't seem happy about this as it's starting to feel like a punishment so I blame Eduardo. I tell the kids that as soon as I'm done with the interview we can all play around like crazy people, OK?
The phone rings. It's a p.r. person saying I have Eduardo on the line. Perfect. I sit down at the keyboard.
Yeah, I call him Eduardo.
"Hello," he says. "How are you?"
I tell him I'm great. And then I look down at my first question and I'm looking at a stapler and a receipt from a sporting goods store. Uhm. My eyes dart around my desk. Checkbook, router, empty Diet Coke, pen, full Diet Coke, and a crayon. A crayon!?
I'm no Hardy boy but this is a clue.
I'm dying to find my interview questions so I fill the time with this brilliant question: "Uhm," I say to Eduardo. "Uhm. Soooooooooooooooooooo....your movies's coming out on DVD, huh?"
Not seeming to mind that this is the worst opening question in an interview ever, Eduardo tells me that it's not just a DVD release it's so much more. He tells me there's "more scenes" and included in it is "a history of what happened" leading up to the Cristero movement.
As he's telling me this I dart over to the five year old who is drawing fastidiously in bold colors like Leroy Niemann without the subtlety and I look under her crazy drawing and I see my questions.
"I want this film to inspire people, touch them, educate them and transform them," says Eduardo as I'm pull the paper out from under my five year old's crayon like a magician pulling the tablecloth from under candlesticks and silverware. This shocks the five year old who yelps and then she looks up at me and I give her my look of intense pleading for quiet.
But something gets lost in the translation and she takes my look of intense pleading for quiet as my mad face and then...tears. She starts crying. Now I'm thinking about treating my daughter like a grenade and just darting out of her blast range as fast as I can but my parenting instincts kick in and then I give her my "I'm sorry" face. But she can't see that because her face is pressed against my belly.
And that's when I realize that Eduardo has stopped talking. "Hello?" I hear him say.
And then I throw in this brilliant question. "Uhm. Uh. I gotta' tell you I didn't know anything about Mexico before this movie?"
Yeah, that's what I said. Word for word. I know. Believe me I know. "I mean, I didn't know anything of the religious persecution."
Eduardo says he didn't either. And that's much worse for him as a Mexican. He says the danger in not knowing the history is we "keep repeating the same mistakes."
Eduardo is telling me about the history while the five year old is still whimpering into my shirt and I tell her that I'll go get her more paper and crayons while holding the phone up above my head so Eduardo can't hear me talking about crayons while he's telling me about the a horrible religious persecution.
Now, the 12 year old has come around to save me. Thank goodness. She picks up the five year old, gives me her "you're the worst father in the world" look which I absolutely deserve, and she sits her down to draw again. I go into the corner of the room next to the printer to get paper and crayons.
Now there's something you should know about that corner of my house. It's a dead spot in cell phone coverage. This doesn't come up often because quite frankly I don't go rooting around the crayon bin very often. But it came up today. Oh yeah. As I'm reaching in for some paper and a few more crayons while Eduardo is talking about the importance of knowing history and taking inspiration from the martyrs...Eduardo goes bye bye.
Eduardo Versategui fell right down the dead spot in my house. Oh noooooo.
Oh my. I plop the crayons and the paper down and the kids are all looking at me as I turn the tape recorder off.
"Is it over?" they ask.
"Uhm. Yeah," it's over.
They cheer, unaware of my complete embarrassment. Right away the kids break into their Lord of the Flies playtime. You see, I made them sit still for four minutes. They felt like veal.
The nine year old takes the basketball out and starts bouncing. This is not something she's allowed to do when Mom's home but I allow it because ...well ...because she has to work on her dribbling. The five year old and the boy start tumblesaulting on one of the pillows on the floor. The ten year old and the twelve year old each continued reading. God bless them. Well, wait. Actually the twelve year old reads and the ten year old asks me to notice that she's reading while all these other terrible kids put down their books while she, a good kid, is reading and...
The phone rings.
It's Eduardo!!! Yay!
And he and the p.r. person are apologizing to me for getting disconnected. To be fair, the connection is really pretty poor for some reason. And I'm not about to use my quickly diminishing time with Eduardo to explain to him about the dead spot near the crayon bin. So I just press on.
I asked him about the important role the sacrament of confession played in the movie and then I can't really tell you what he said because if you'll remember I turned off my tape recorder after I lost the call the first time. But it was beautiful. Truly. I can't believe I turned the recorder off but take my word for it, it was a beautiful defense of the sacrament. He spoke of healing and God's love and admitting who we truly are. But I didn't record it because I'm the world's worst interviewer.
The p.r. person came on and said time was up and I hastily asked one more question about confession but the line disconnected. I'm thinking she was glad to get rid of me.
But I'll tell you Eduardo was awesome. I truly felt like I was talking to someone who was in love with God, the faith and movies. I wish I'd taped it. But it's probably a good thing the interview ended because the boy tumblesaulted and kicked the basketball into the five year old who wasn't hurt but felt wronged. And yelped appropriately.
This kind of has me thinking that I might be the world's worst parent on top of being the world's worst interviewer. Excelling at two things! Yes!
My apologies to the p.r. people (who I'll probably never hear from again), Eduardo (who I'll definitely never hear from again), my five year old for scaring her, and to you the reader for blowing a great interview. So even though I'm the worst interviewer, please check out "For Greater Glory." It's incredibly moving.
I asked my five year old what she drew on top of my questions. "It's a picture of you," she said. "Do you like it?"
I do, I said. I like my purple eyes. Let's put it on the refrigerator.