David Frost, preparing for the interview with President and Mrs. Bush that airs tonight on PBS, was delighted to share his knowledge on the art of the interview.
Tonight's hourlong " ... Talking with David Frost" (7 p.m., Ch. 7) is the first in a series of six by Frost, 50, a two-time Emmy Award winner known here since the weekly satire "That Was The Week That Was" aired on U.S. TV in 1964.It was Frost who, in 1977, won worldwide attention with his series of interviews with former President Richard Nixon.
Future "Talking" episodes will feature Margaret Thatcher and entertainer Robin Williams.
Here, then, is the David Frost Short Course on the Interview:
I. Preparation Is Important: "Some people think the more preparation you do, the more it shackles you to a prepared plan," he said. "The truth of good homework or good research, is it liberates you to go with the flow of the interview. ...
II. Know When to Shut Up: "There are silences in interviews, and in television interviews, silence is an eternity," he said. "There are two sorts of silences. One is where you just sense that if you shut up, the person will go on and say perhaps more than they were going to say.
"And then there's another sort of silence where you realize the person has forgotten completely what they were going to say. And that silence is one that you'd better fill as fast as possible."
III. The Importance of Listening: "Obviously, the most important thing is listening. That is so transparently obvious that it seems unnecessary to say it. But so many times people have said to me `It's so good that you really listen.' So I guess not everybody does."
IV. Turn an Interview into a Conversation as Soon as Possible: "That's so there's interplay, so that both people become absorbed in the conversation," he said. "I don't mean they become absorbed in the conversation to the point where they forget themselves, but where they forget the cameras, the the principal," he said.
VI. On the Roles of the Interviewer: "You do, sometimes, have to adopt varying roles," Frost said. He cited the first day of the Nixon interviews, in which Nixon stonewalled questions about Watergate.
"It was prosecution and defense," Frost said. "When he came back on the second day, having realized the total stonewall did not work, he was prepared to volunteer something - not enough, as it turned out - and then suddenly the atmosphere became more of the confessional."