Media, Darling: Richard Ouzounian

Richard Ouzounian is currently the theatre critic at the Toronto Star, Canada’s largest daily newspaper, as well as the Canadian theatre reporter and critic for Variety, “the bible of show business”.

Richard has worked in the arts professionally for 39 years. In that time, he has written, directed, or acted in more than 250 productions, served as artistic director of five major Canadian theatres, been an associate director of the Stratford Festival of Canada for four seasons, and was Harold Prince’s assistant on the original Toronto production of The Phantom of the Opera.

From 1990 through 2004, he hosted CBC’s weekly radio program on musical theatre called Say It With Music and from 1995 to 2000, served as creative head of arts programming at TVOntario.

Ouzounian has published six books, including a collection of his celebrity interviews, titled Are You Trying To Seduce Me, Miss Turner?. He has been married for 34 years and has two children, Kat and Michael.

Twitter: @TorontoStar

Did you always want to be in the media? If not, what other careers were on the horizon?

I was always fascinated by the thought of being a theatre critic/celebrity interviewer from an early age, but not a lot of jobs for teenagers in those ranks, so I went into theatre and worked successfully as an actor, writer, director and artistic director for 20 years before shifting into media.

Where would you like to be five years from now?
Exactly where I am now. Okay, 10 pounds lighter.

Any advice for people getting started in your industry?
Learn as much as you can about the art form you’re interested in covering. Don’t just soak up media reports about it. Get out and meet as many people in the business as you can and don’t just live behind a computer screen. Network, network, network.

What are your favourite media outlets, not including your own?
The New York Times,, Variety, The Daily Show, Q (big Jian Ghomeshi fan).

Best interview you’ve ever had? Worst?
The best: Richard Harris, shortly before he died. I interviewed him on a day when he just felt like letting his hair down and discussing everything he’d been through. Kind of a “let’s clear the slate” sort of thing.

The worst: Katie Holmes, after Dawson’s Creek, before Tom Cruise. She was very sweet and polite but she answered every question I asked her about Pieces of April (the movie she was promoting) or Dawson’s Creek (which had just ended its run) with monosyllables.

Best advice you’ve ever been given?
Do TONS of research, and then don’t bring your research notes into the interview. Memorize them. Make the subjects think it’s a conversation.

What rule(s) do you live your life by?
Don’t do anything in print (or on the air) that you wouldn’t want done to you by someone else.

What’s the most important tip you can give PR pros?
No means no. Once I’ve told them I can’t or won’t do a piece, I hate being nudged.

Best experience you’ve had with a PR pro? We love to hear about #wins.
Matt Polk at Boneau Bryan-Brown (major New York theatre PR company) has worked miracles for me time and time again getting me lengthy 1:1 interviews with the likes of Antonio Banderas, Kristin Chenoweth and Kiefer Sutherland when all others were being denied. He just asks me to be patient and keep as many avenues of time open for him as possible and he then makes magic happen. It’s a great example of a collaborative relationship.

I hate?
Rain. Duplicity. Negativity.

I love?
Great food, Stephen Sondheim’s musicals. My family.

Historical biographies. Just finished Edmund Morris’s trilogy on Theodore Roosevelt.

Best place on earth?
Perth, Australia.

Dinner guest?
William Shakespeare.

Walter Kerr (New York theatre critic from 1951 to 1983).

Favourite app (or whatever you are downloading these days)?
Rocket Radar.

Pool or ocean?
Ocean (Atlantic preferred).

Voicemail or email?
Email, email, email. Or texts.