What’s more dangerous: a tempest or a temper? Rob Marciano—CNN meteorologist-turned-co-host of Entertainment Tonight—is about to find out. But if anyone knows how to weather extreme conditions, it’s the 44-year-old Marciano, who won a Peabody Award for his coverage of Hurricane Katrina and the BP oil spill and has already survived a baptism-by-red-carpet during his first awards season. On a rare break from only his second week on the job alongside Nancy O’Dell—before even his wife and 1-year-old daughter had relocated from Atlanta to Santa Monica—Marciano sat down for beers with Watch! and opened up about why he decided to trade his rain jacket for a tux jacket.
Watch!: Was Michael Lohan really one of your first interviews? Uh, welcome to Hollywood.
Rob Marciano: When I took this job and was telling my friends, I joked about Lindsay Lohan constantly. My running joke was, “Well, I cover natural disasters—hurricanes, floods, fires, earthquakes—so going to Lindsay Lohan, you’re just covering another disaster.” My friends were like, “Well, don’t say that in front of her!” Sure enough, on my first day it’s the lead story and I’m interviewing her dad. Classic.
Watch!: That’s one way to pop the cherry.
Rob: My very first interview was actually Arnold Schwarzenegger. By the time we got midway through I was grilling him on politics and gun control and he was like, [deep voice] “I’m heah to talk ah-bout mah movie.”
Watch!: What’s been the craziest thing so far?
Rob: Seeing the whole machine work from the inside. Seeing the winners come backstage at an awards ceremony and some of them talk to us, some of them don’t. And some of the publicists precede them, and some of them are cool and seasoned and some of them are bitchy. But as far as the people I’ve been fans of all my life, I have yet to be disappointed.
Watch!: No fallen heroes yet?
Rob: So far so good. But I’m sure that party will come to a screeching halt soon.
Watch!: How’s your feedback been so far?
Rob: I’ve told one or two producers—because God knows what kind of egos they’ve dealt with out here—“Look, I want the product to be the best it can be, and the only way to do that is for you to tell me, ‘Hey, that sucked.’ ”
Watch!: The clips I saw didn’t seem like it was your first week on the job.
Rob: Well, I’m faking it, so thank you! But honestly, my audition—at least the beginning part of it—was not good.
Watch!: What happened?
Rob: I got up onstage and I’m reading this stuff and I’m thinking: I come from CNN, I’ve had to rattle off Middle Eastern names, and yet I can’t properly pronounce “Patrick Swayze.” I threw a schwa in there, I’m saying “Kristie” Alley instead of Kirstie and just flatly embarrassing myself. I’m thinking, “This was a mistake.” And we took a break and I came back onstage with Nancy [O’Dell] and we did some interaction and other reads, which ended up feeling better. They told me I got the job that night. And I’ve been studying my ass off ever since.
Watch!: What does that entail?
Rob: First, I engage the females in my life on subjects I never used to talk about. Anytime we’re watching TV and there’s a celebrity I don’t know, I ask my wife—she knows. I was texting my sister before the Golden Globes, “Any question to ask Tommy Lee Jones? I hear he’s … ” [Laughs.] My goal is to not do or say anything embarrassing or stupid enough to be a career killer.
Watch!: What’s a career killer? An F-bomb on live TV?
Rob: Certainly for live TV that would be the case. But 90 percent of what ET does is taped. I’m such a newbie and outsider that what I fear is saying something that’s completely stupid and shows I’m an outsider. I know I’ll have a little forgiveness in the honeymoon phase, but I think come September and the Emmys, I’d better know my stuff.
Watch!: What’s the best advice you got about the transition?
Rob: The people I respect say stay true to yourself. Now, whether they’re saying that because they think that’ll work in the gig or if they think I’m going to go all Hollywood, I don’t know! I didn’t take the job because I want to be Hollywood. Maybe I’d think differently if I were in my 20s and single, but generally speaking I don’t want to be friends with these people. And I think that’s one of the reasons they offered me the job.
Watch!: It probably helped.
Rob: Nancy and I recently dipped into a party and she was introducing me to some heavy hitters like Quentin [Tarantino] and Jamie Foxx and it was interesting but I wasn’t like, “Oh, this is great, yes!” How the stars respond to Nancy told me that they respond to people who are real and it reinforced that, “OK, just be yourself, you don’t have to be a douchebag and you’ll get the job done.”
Watch!: If it goes well, take all the credit, and if not, take none of the blame.
Rob: It’s like weather. If it’s a good forecast and people like you, take credit. If it’s bad, “Hey, I’m just the messenger here!”
Watch!: You always wanted to be a weatherman as a kid. What would you tell your 8-year-old self now that you’ve left that dream job?
Rob: I’d say you’ll never be perfect at anything and it’s important to evolve as a person. So I’m evolving now. You know in your heart when it’s worth the risk. And if there’s anything I will tell my kids, it’s never close the door on anything in your life. The other thing is, don’t set your goals too high because you’ll always be disappointed. [Laughs.]
Watch!: Now that you’re reporting on showbiz do you worry you’ll be more scrutinized yourself?
Rob: It is a higher profile job. ET has more than 5 million viewers a night, which is 10 times more than CNN. So right there, it’s a higher probability of being scrutinized.
Watch!: Was that a conversation you had to have with your wife? Like, “Our life will be a little less private”?
Rob: Yeah. And she’s very private and she doesn’t like the spotlight. But the people I’m reporting on are so much bigger than I am that it totally balances everything out.
Watch!: Have you guys found a place to live yet?
Rob: Yeah, it’s a house near Main Street in Ocean Park. We’re half a mile from the beach up on a hill, so if you climb up on a roof and you crane your neck a certain way, you get yourself a peekaboo at the ocean.
Watch!: Do you surf when you’re not working?
Rob: I’ve got the basics down. I’m proud to say I rode the tube of an 18-inch wave all the way in. [Laughs.] I also love to ski—Tahoe, Mammoth, Colorado—and love to golf. I like to mountain bike too. I’m telling you though, we covered hurricanes and tornadoes and the BP oil spill at CNN and you go days and days with only three hours’ sleep, and by the end of my first week at Entertainment Tonight, I felt more banged up than in any storm coverage I’ve ever done.
Watch!: That’s nuts.
Rob: It’s still all very surreal to me. But even as crazy and chaotic and polluted as L.A. is, I’m hoping I’m here a long time!