As the year winds down, the TV/film industry heats up with lavish ceremonies celebrating the best shows and movies of 2016. Emmy-winning producer and movie lover Greg Russell has a say in which of these productions will leave with a trophy.
Hour Detroit: How did you become a movie reviewer?
Greg Russell: It’s 2001, on September the 6th, and my father passed away. Also at that time I wasn’t feeling well. I told my wife one night, “Take me to the hospital.” And she’s a nurse, so she took me to Receiving Hospital and they checked me over. The next thing you know, I see my wife and the doctor walk into the room. The doctor told me, “Somebody up there must really like you … you’ve had a massive pulmonary embolism and you should’ve been dead a week ago.” And I just said, you know what? The next minute isn’t guaranteed to you. So you need to enjoy what you want to in life. I’ve always loved movies, and I’ve always worked in television. I was working at Channel 20 at the time. And so, while I was recuperating, I came up with the idea for the show.
Tell me about the projects you’re involved with.
I’m on Live in the D on Local 4 here in Detroit, which I’m very happy about. I do their movie reviews and previews, and also whenever a movie celebrity comes to town, they call me up to do the interview. As far as my show, it’s a half-hour show, it’s called Movie Show Plus and it’s been on the air for the past 14 years. And someone told me that that makes it one of the longest-running non-news shows in Detroit television history. It’s myself, and I’ve got a film critic, Tom Santilli.
What’s it like actually being at an awards show?
They’re a lot of fun! Especially when you get put at a table with celebrities. The greatest time for me was a couple years back. We knew that Paul McCartney was going to be there, because he had been nominated. So, my friends were going, “You gotta go take a picture with him, you gotta go meet him.” So, finally a commercial break came, I got up and started walking over there, and I turned into a 16-year-old again because in my mind it’s like, you’re 20 feet from Paul McCartney! So, I went over and I said, “Hello? Mr. McCartney?” And he turned around and said “Yeah, hi!” I said, “My name’s Greg Russell, I’m from Detroit, and he’s going, “Motown! Oh, my God I love Motown!” He was the nicest, most cordial person I had ever met.
You get to vote for some awards shows. What is the process like?
Well, I’m a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association, and we do the Critics’ Choice Awards, which you see on A&E. I’m also a member of the Screen Actors Guild, so I vote on the SAG awards, as well. And also the Detroit Film Critics Society. I get to vote on that. And so what happens is, we’ve been seeing most of the movies all year long. Usually starting up right after Thanksgiving all the way through the end of the year, it’s kind of like your special movie Christmas present where they send you all the screeners of every movie that came out to your house. Needless to say, I’m very popular during that time of the year with friends.
The perks and challenges of interviewing celebrities?
The perks are that you get to meet these people who you’ve watched for years in movies, and it’s just really cool. I think I could be doing a lot harder or worse things. Another perk is that you get to travel around the world. Depending on where they want to do the movie junket is where you go. The harder things are, sometimes there’s some actors who are more precise with the questions. You can’t give them fluff and you can’t mess around. You need to be prepared. And you’re always flying. And it sounds really cool, and every once in a while I tell friends of mine, “Yeah I’m in L.A., but now I’ve gotta fly to New York,” and they say, “Wow, that just sounds so cool,” and I say, “Yeah if you’re James Bond on a private jet. But not if you’re stuck in the middle seat.” But all in all, it’s great.
Do you have a favorite movie?
I’ve got several, but I think what really makes a movie somebody’s favorite is the circumstances at the time they saw it. Because one of my all-time favorite movies is The Wizard of Oz. Now, it’s on TV every week. Back when I was growing up, it came on once a year, usually around Easter time. Normally on Sunday, we did whatever the grown-ups wanted to do. But the Wizard of Oz Sunday was the one Sunday a year where, no matter what we were doing, we were home by six so I could change out of my church clothes and get in my comfy clothes.
Your favorite celebrity interview?
Denzel Washington. The first time I knew I was going to interview him, I’m (wondering) if this guy’s gonna be snotty … I could understand. You’ve got two Academy Awards, you’re truly one of the top actors in movies; women adore you; men want to be you. So, when I walked into the room … he treated me from that moment as if he had known me for 15, 20 years.
Name: Greg Russell
Job Titles: Show host/producer, Movie Show Plus Contributor, Live in the D on Local 4
Education: Courville Elementary, Farwell Junior High, University of Detroit Jesuit High School and Academy, University of Detroit Mercy
Awards: Emmy, Silver Circle, President of National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences in Michigan
Memberships: Broadcast Film Critics Association, Screen Actors Guild, Detroit Film Critics Society
Favorite Actor: Robert Downey Jr.
Favorite Actress: Teresa Palmer or Jennifer Lawrence
Favorite Director: Steven Spielberg
Favorite Genre: Comedies or sci-fi