After a chance meeting at a dinner party in Los Angeles, this week Burnley actress Caroline O’Hara is interviewing Sandro Monetti.
From Lancashire to Los Angeles was the journey for Sandro Monetti, a TV host and writer regularly seen on CNN as a Hollywood expert.
He came from a journalism background – going from his hometown newspaper the Blackpool Gazette to London with music magazine Smash Hits and then becoming a showbiz editor on national newspapers before relocating to America, reporting on Hollywood events and stars for Sky and the BBC, writing books (including biographies of movie stars Colin Firth and Mickey Rourke) then acclaimed plays and award-winning short films.
As well as being a contributor to CNN he also talks about the celebrity world on a string of TV and radio shows.
How did your love of the entertainment industry begin?
“As an only child whose parents worked so hard I spent a lot of time in front of the TV set, which became a kind of friend and teacher. I was especially drawn to the escapism and adventure of the American shows and my imaginary friends became the likes of The A-Team and Knight Rider.
"Growing up in a theatre town such as Blackpool, I was lucky enough to see the top entertainers of the day live. That gave me a thirst for more theatre and often on weekends I would take the train down to London, head straight to the discount ticket booth in Leicester Square and watch a matinee of West End shows. I was drawn to showbiz from the start.”
What was your first job?
“A reporter on the Blackpool Evening Gazette. I loved it. There I got to cover everything from church fetes to fires, football matches to court trials and some celebrity interviews too. But I could have started on the Burnley Express instead, if only they’d have had me. I was one of three applicants for a junior reporter’s position there and instead of interviewing us we were all tasked with writing a report of a wedding based on the same set of facts. I was proud of what I wrote but it never got read as the job went to the fastest one of us to finish. I’ve always written quickly ever since.”
How did Lancashire contribute to your career?
“I studied journalism at the University of Central Lancashire in Preston, learning everything from shorthand to media law, making some great friends along the way and acquiring a set of skills which have helped me a lot over the years.
"But what I think has helped me even more is the Lancashire sense of humour and way of looking at the world which has kept me grounded and smiling in the often eccentric showbiz world of Hollywood.”
Have you ever used your accent to get you somewhere?
“I never had a Lancashire accent even when I lived in Lancashire.
"That’s probably because I’d lived all over the place in my early years before settling there, including in Italy, and, through listening to so much radio and TV I kind of developed a BBC broadcaster’s type English accent. Few people who meet me can place it and hardly anyone guesses I’m from Lancashire. But in America I’m very conscious of my English accent as the "Americans really seem to like it, which is nice, and I’ve always felt welcomed there.
"When I got into Webber Douglas Academy, there are three people from the college I went to in Rossendale in the class of 12. The school auditions thousands of people from all over the world for the 12 places."
Have you had any similar experiences of meeting the talent from the area in far flung places?
“All the time and it never ceases to amaze me just how many creative, talented and terrific people come from the North-West and plant that Lancashire flag all over the world.”
How did you find yourself living in Los Angeles?
"I’d always wanted to live there; it became about getting the opportunity. Sky TV gave me that chance and I’ve never looked back."
Who is your hero?
“Sylvester Stallone was someone I always admired for his inspiring personal story of determination and effort as well as for his hugely entertaining Rocky and Rambo movies.
"One of the highlights of my career was to take him to the North-West, hosting an interview show with him on stage in front of thousands of fellow fans at Manchester Arena.”
Are you still connected to your home town?
“Very much so. I’m in Blackpool, where my mum still lives, twice a year, and it remains a magical place with great entertainment and where I still have great friends.
"I perform a one-man stage show about my life with the stars, called Clooney, Cruise, Pitt and Me, and earlier this year performed it in Blackpool for the first time and was thrilled it went so well.
"It was like bringing my life full circle and we should all be so lucky to feel embraced by our home town.”
What’s the future look like for Sandro Monetti?
“Exciting times ahead. I’ve always been a storyteller and have now decided the stories I want to tell most are inspiring true-life stories from history, often involving the empowerment of women.
"So I’ve written a number of scripts that are in various stages of development for TV shows and movies.
"The past was just the beginning. I can’t wait for the next chapter.
"Thanks to Lancashire for getting me here.”