Recently I was lucky enough to snag some time with Brea Grant who plays the speedster Daphne on the super stellar NBC series Heroes (which airs tonight). Brea and her college friend and online presence facilitator, Laura Roeder (who I predict will be a VERY busy person in Hollywood over the coming year, due to her skills in helping celebs navigate tech.), sat down to talk with me about Brea’s use of Twitter and Facebook (yes it’s her; no, she doesn’t tell you where she’ll be next), and I didn’t ask her a single question about the show! Not one. Know why? You’ll find out when you hear what she says about podcasts.
This interview is HUGE, so I’ve hidden it behind a “more” tag. Sorry to make RSS readers click through, but I couldn’t do it any other way. So, swing by.
My parts will be bolded. Brea will be plain text. Laura will be italics. Make sense?
Chris: Can celebrity and transparency be compatible?
Brea: There is a lot of transparency. Regardless of what I’m doing, people watch. It doesn’t matter. I can be having lunch with my friend and people will come up and want a photograph. I feel like I’m being somewhat transparent, but I definitely keep some things to myself. You’ll never read my twitter and know exactly where I am.
My only fear is that the paparazzi is going to show up where I am, or that someone is going to mistake something I write.
Twitter is one of the tools of the hour right now. How much of this is something to get relationships built vs. tools you might have discovered and used, give or take your career?
It very much started that way, as a means to talk with my friends. You’ll notice that I basically follow my friends, people that I know, or people that I’m a fan of. But it was very much Laura making sure people know that this is you tweeting, you blogging. I think it was a helpful way to get my name out there as a starting actress. My website started off as a place for producers or directors to see a reel, or photos, or very different looks, but then I realized that the people coming to the site were fans.
And then Laura changed the whole site for me, and I started blogging more and doing things that were more fan-centric.
What about you being you versus having your “team” tweet. You do your own tweets. What do you think of celebrities who want to use teams to do it?
I think that it’s a big difference.
We’re actors, but it’s important for me to show off that I’m a real person. I think was where I needed the help. I’m not as tech savvy as I may come across, but it’s with Laura’s help that I can do all this. I’m like an old man sometimes, saying things like, “What? What’s that? What’s this Twitter?” She had to show me how it’s a way to keep up with my friends, and keep up with my fans, and share information directly.
Laura adds that she thinks it’s unreasonable to expect that Britney Spears (or other celebs) do everything herself. Brea doesn’t do the technical back end stuff, like manage WordPress and all the YouTube stuff. But Brea writes the content and everything. Laura says that it takes people to run the website and the social program, but as the support, not the “talent.”
Brea: I think that people get that to a certain extent. There are days when I wake up, I have to be on set at 5AM and on site, and I can’t look at a computer all day. I have my iPhone, but yeah. Overall, I don’t have the time to build a website like I have now.
It’s great that you talk about your frantic work schedule, not to mention your running efforts, and still maintain a social presence.
I appreciate that you acknowledge my gym time. It takes up a lot of time. People can learn that for their lives, they don’t have to do everything themselves. There are people can help you with this type of stuff.
People can help you promote yourself online, whcih I think is the very best type of promotion. I’m busy, and there are days I don’t look at a computer.
From Geekmommy: How does she find celebrity changes her internet experience? Do people believe she is genuine?
No. People don’t. I get a lot of emails that are like, “I’m sure you really don’t answer your email, and I get Facebooks that say ‘this isn’t really Brea,’ and the fact that people can’t believe that I’m reading my emails and answering my facebook.
The only major difference is that I don’t tell people where I am any more.
I also don’t reply to emails that ask me to fly to Illinois for dates. There are limits, and when people write me creepy emails, this happens, I have to be a little bit careful about that. Celebrity changes the whole thing.
Does celebrity REALLY change that, or is this the same for any attractive young lady using social media?
Probably not me. Not the creepy email message part, but meeting up with people in Twitter, yes. I would say like, “hey, I’m eating in Los Angeles right now. Come hang out!” But I can’t do that any more. A lot more strangers follow me now, related to the show.
Do you have to say what people expect of you? Can you unplug?
It’s a good quesiton. To be frank, it’s something I am sort of dealing with right now. Even in regular interviews, they want to know if you’re dating someone, who you’re going to vote for in the election. It feels very weird to talk about. I’m willing to talk about musical choices, but my boyfriend is kind of a different story. I have talked about it, and I’m getting more willing, because I feel like it’s important for people to see that I’m a real person. You have to be a certain amount guarded. It’s a good question.
But I don’t know the level to take it to. If someone writes a really bad email , can I post it on my blog?
You get a lot of flack for doing things the average person may do. For instance, if I talk about the election, I hear about it.
Is Mainstream vs Online Better?
That question comes at a very good time, because I did three podcasts this morning, and the interview proces for mainstream and online is basically the same. I actually think the podcasts, those people are bigger fans. They do their research, and they contact me specifically because they like me as a person, and not because I was pitched to them by publicist.
I think they sometimes ask me more interesting questions, and they actually know me and like me, always ask me about my blog, and they always ask me about my Twitter. On Access Hollywood, they don’t ask that kind of stuff. (Not that I don’t love them, too.) I’m sure I’m reaching a different audience that way.
I think it’s important to do all of them, and I think a lot of celebrities don’t realize that. I’m sure that the die hard fans of the Company Podcast, which is based out of Alabama – it’s not in LA – I’m sure they listen to the podcast every week, and they don’t necessarily read Access Hollywood online. So that way, they get that side of me, without having to go to a major website. (Which again, I love Access Hollywood and a lot of the major sites, too.)
Is tweeting (or other use of social media) like playing another character in a different theater?
It’s definitely me talking. There’s no one checking to make sure what I twitter is appropriate for the Brea image. It’s definitely me. There are certain things I limit. You might know I’m having a bad day, but you might not know why. Stuff like that I try to limit. That’s also how I limit talking to my dad. I think it’s important for you to know me as a person, via twitter or via my blog, you actually get to talk to me.
Wired magazine talked about “forget your blog; it’s twitter nowadays. More people are spending more active time on Twitter. Are you finding one better than the other?
It’s SO much easier to twitter. I think people on the media forefront are twitterers. It’s hard to keep up with the blog, especially since starting with Heroes, and then Laura showed me that I could future posting, so I can spend a day writing several future posts, and then they will come up and people can read them.I think a lot of people aren’t on twitter yet. I think the blog is important for people who don’t read twitter. Both outlets are very important.
Laura: Brea blogged before Twitter, and I really encouraged her to start using twitter because she updates it more frequently. And Twitter is a great broadcast medium. I tell her when you post a blog entry, make sure you tweet about it. And we’ve seen a great response on Facebook with Twitter. People will respond on Facebook.
What’s the difference between Twitter and Facebook from a fan perspective?
Although it’s all online, everything is a very different medium. People who write me on Facebook, it’s very impersonal. People say things like, “I’m on Facebook, too! We’re friends! I love you.” It’s very very different.
People who follow me on Twitter seem to be people really big fans, and they read my blog, and it’s the next step of fandom, and it’s almost like friendship. You’re less connected on Facebook and people I talk to on Twitter, it’s almost every day.
In Facebook, I have to skim, because I get sooo many messages on Facebook.
Emails are more specific. Someone had to go out of their way to find my email address and write an email. A lot of actors and directors write me, and people who want to know how to become an actor, and it’s fun, though I’m not an expert by any means.
I don’t get many haters. I get the occasional “you’re fat and ugly. Go to hell!” I get the occasional person who says, “I think your hair’s cool, but my friend hates it.”
Sci fi is forever. You’re going to be 64 in a mall talking about Heroes or something, did you think about that? Sci Fi is forever!
(Side note: Brea threw out some really obscure sci fi references that gave me a brief geek appreciate point)
There’s a girl I know and her boyfriend was some kid on some Star Wars movie or Star Trek. He made his living signing autographs at conventions. I don’t know if that’s what I wanna do forever. I love Sci Fi. I love the genre. I read solely sci fi books when they’re not nonfiction. I watch sci fi movies. I do want to branch out, because I don’t want to be penned in as a sci fi actor forever. I can’t play a nemesis forever.
Laura: You’re right. Sci fi fans are THE most loyal fans. That’s why it’s important to harness people with a twitter, with a blog. Those people are going to stick with you forever. No matter what you do, they’re going to keep reading your blog. As an actor, it’s a great opportunity to build relationships. You get fans, blog subscribers, followers. They’re going to follow you from project to project. Other actors don’t always make good use of this, so they’re left with Star Trek Fans instead of Wil Wheaton fans. (Meaning that Wil did it right.)
I think that actors don’t take this as truth: an actor has to treat themselves as a business. I am my own business. I’m marketing myself all the time. I have enough pull to star in your movie. I have overseas pull.
These are things they always tell you to do. I think actors treat marketing as a hobby, as an art- which it is – but in the end, you have to look at it as a career. You have to take all these fans create a relationship so they will follow me to the next project.
Everone loves the gushiness. I love the feedback. But I also want them to like the next movie I do.
As you’re coming up the ladder, it feels like this paradox where your fans think you’re on the top of the game and you’re still coming up. Once you’re Angelina Jolie, can you keep up the social media?
I hope so. I think the world is changing. I would much rather someone go to my blog than them picking up a tabloid seeing Brea, and she’s walking out of a bar, and she’s drunk. I’d much rather them read about me on my blog than in a tabloid.
I’m still at the beginning of my career, and all this feedback is amazing.
I still cringe to watch myself on tv some times. The acting world is a different world. I think a lot of Hollywood has caught on that you should be blogging. I think people in Britneys camp finally did. But people haven’t caught on that things are all going to the Internet. People don’t watch TV the way they used to. People don’t read newspapers the way they used to.
I actually watched the Heroes series so far on the web. I’ve never watched it on TV. It’s the TiVo nation.
Even the producers on Heroes will talk about that. We got huge DVR ratings for last week, but there weren’t that many real time viewers. They realized that everybody had DVR’d it. Scary because of advertising, but they’ll have to figure out new ways. I mean Hulu is obviously a great example of that.
How do you want people to interact with you (or celebs in general)?
I think a person has to find the medium that works for them. I think it’s important for people to stay in touch. For actors, I think a lot of time, they spend a lot of their time working on a monolog, which is very important, but not updating their IMDB profile. It’s important that people find information about you, and as much information as you can.. You need to have a Wikipedia page. Everything needs to be cross-referenced.
I think it helps to hire someone. People may frown on that, but if it’s your passion, you may not have a business mind about that, and that is a problem with actors. I feel like if I’m brilliant than everyone’s going to love me, but that’s not the best business mind. I feel like I can be the best actor in the world, but if no one sees me, then who cares?
I think having Laura — we were friends before, she’s really shaped my online persona.
Laura: we’re friends from college. I do this for a living, but when she was starting out I made her a website for free, and she started getting response from people looking at the site for photos, to figure out how to work with her. It’s interesting to see the parallels with what I tell small businesses and actors. It’s important to have a presence on the web, and I tell small biz this all the time, and the same is true for actors.
Brea has been incredibly successful and incredibly quickly all because of me. : )
Brea: In January, I was waiting tables. Now, I get invited to all the parties in Hollywood. I’m meeting with big directors. I think a lot of it comes from the work I do on TV, but there’s been a lot of push because I’m getting such a following on the internet. I think it’s important to not to SPEAK to communities, but to be part of people’s communities. I think it’s important to read other people’s stuff.
Felicia Day great actor utilized it to that advantage. She has a web series. She’s huge online. She has such a following. People are going to start to recognize as actors. You can’t just go and do Letterman and expect to be famous tomorrow. I think you have to work at it, and treat it like a career.
Tell me who’s the unexpectedly fun person on set:
Greg Grunberg, who plays officer Matt Parkman. [Note: also on Twitter, so tell him I said hi.) So there’s this thing about being on set, when you walk on, and you know if someone is nice, based on how the crew is acting. If the crew is excited to be there, you know the actor is cool. And they love him.
He’s the guy, and we’ll do a serious scene, and everyone’s crying, and when they say cut, he immediately makes a fart joke, and that is the kind of guy I want to be working with.
He has 3 young boys, and he has an endless amount of energy. He’s an endless amount of fun, and he jokes all the time. And he doesn’t get these funny roles, and he doesn’t get these funny roles. He doesn’t get to be funny very often, which is too bad, because he’s a hilarious guy.
I don’t want to talk about what they throw him for a script, because they seem to put him in this ‘dumb guy’ territory all the time.
I think he’s one of the best actors on TV right now. He goes from getting a script that’s written to making sound like it’s coming out of his mouth. Not only that, but he can go from really funny to really sad. It’s a really hard thing to do, but he does it constantly.
Brea was really personable, friendly, intelligent, motivated, and several other things one appreciates in a rising Hollywood celebrity. What mattered most to me, and you can see it in her twitter feed is that Brea is human, and willing to be one of us (a trust agent move, if ever there was one). With the help of Laura Roeder for technical and strategy assistance, I’d say Brea has quite a headstart on those in Hollywood who haven’t yet entered our world.
So, an interview like this is tricky, and I asked Twitter for support. What else should I have asked Brea that you would want to know? Any follow-up questions to what I asked her above?
I’m grateful for the opportunity.