In this first part of “Hosts Tell All” I had a chance to sit down with Jeannie Mai, Brian Corsetti and Lance Smith, three hosts that I greatly admire. I had the pleasure of meeting Jeannie several years ago when I was casting for E! and Style. Jeannie recently told me she was living up in the Bay Area, yet drove down to LA whenever we called her in for an audition – which back then, was often. Who knew she ever drove so far… yet she always bounced into the room, full of personality and positivity. Her personality was infectious. I completely understand why Jeannie is so successful today.
I also met Brian Corsetti when he came in to audition at E! He’s like Jeannie – full of personality, had a great attitude and was a very solid host. And Lance Smith and I became friends first before I had ever had a chance to see him host. We immediately formed a connection and I found him to be really “down to earth.” A few months ago, I brought him in to audition for the CBS Primetime Gameshow that I was casting, “Secret Fortune”, and he really impressed me at how good he was. What these three hosts have in common is that they’re relatable, authentic and of course, great hosts. But they didn’t alway start off that way! Today they want to share their journey with you.
Jeannie has hosted for Extra, Character Fantasy and is currently the host of Emmy- nominated “How Do I Look?” on Style. She found her calling early in life, coming from a large Vietnamese family, and quickly made sure that not only her voice be heard, but also the voices of others in the family and then later – others in the world. Brian (Garage Mahal, Hollyscoop, The Great Ride) started out in radio and later became an account executive. He, by chance, got into hosting when he was describing to a client the type of host they needed for their project. Instead, the client decided to hire Brian. Lance started out acting (as many hosts do) and made the leap into hosting to expand his skillset. He later became the face of the CMT network for several years and is currently the host of TWC’s “Weathering Disaster.”
When I asked them what skills they needed for hosting, Jeannie’s immediate response was “an attitude of gratitude.” She acknowledges that you cannot make it in this industry by yourself and that you have to acknowledge every “moving part” that makes it all come to fruition. “Expect nothing and appreciate everything.” Jeannie also points out that you have to know how to be selfless and that it’s not about you. Lance said he quickly learned that he needed more than just acting skills and that hosting is about conveying an idea to an audience, making a connection, and keeping the audience with you the whole time. Brian realized that he not only needed to practice hosting skills (especially with the teleprompter!) but mostly that you must have confidence and not sweat the small stuff. I highly agree with all three of them.
What do they do when they have a bad audition? Brian’s advice is never to apologize but if you do have a bad audition, just gather up your dignity and leave the room. But learn from your mistakes and be sure not to make those mistakes again (because casting directors will remember!). Lance assures us that bad auditions happen to everyone — no matter where you are in the game. He says that he has probably had more bad auditions than good auditions and it should only make you want to keep trying. I’ve seen some very well-known hosts do poorly in auditions and then make excuses. I think they may have been overly confident in their skills, not have practiced and just think they could “wing it.” Lance also agrees that you have to learn from it, roll with it, but most importantly, don’t think it wasn’t you because it probably was.
Before they had agents, they all agree that they hustled to find jobs. They often found jobs through the regular channels — Actors Access and Craigslist as this was before the days of social media. Jeannie describes herself as being “hardcore” and would often hand deliver her submissions to make contacts. She believes that networking and building “real” connections with people landed her jobs. Brian went on blogs of subjects he had interest in and would often comment and start a conversation – another form of networking – which led to jobs. And when Lance first started hosting, he said jobs were pretty much word of mouth. But he also says that even when he secured an agent, he still had to be proactive in looking for jobs.
Make sure you come back next month when we feature Part Two of our three part series of “Hosts Tell All.”