Throughout his career, Willie Geist has had the opportunity to interview some big-time celebrities, but one A-lister in particular left him “impressed” after their chat.
The Sunday Today host reveals to PEOPLE that of all the celebrities he has interviewed, it was Jennifer Lopez that left the biggest impression on him.
“She is a pro and I mean that in the best way,” Geist says. “She comes in, she knows what she wants, she’s there to do a job. And I saw sitting across from her, before we had started the interview, someone who cares about every single detail.”
Geist, 43, previously co-hosted Morning Joe and served as a correspondent for Today before Sunday Today. So while he’s done countless interviews with well-known names throughout his years as a journalist, it was his sit-down chat with J. Lo that he thoroughly enjoyed.
“The minute we started the interview, she was totally dialed in and she gave me a great interview for 45 minutes,” he explains. “[She] was like happy to go wherever we wanted to go with it.”
He adds, “It was just fun to watch that as just an observer, really. And I was not surprised because I heard she was that way, but just impressed by it, I guess, when I walked out.”
While Geist is now widely recognized in the broadcast journalism world, he didn’t anticipate the success that Sunday Today would bring when he first landed the hosting role in 2016. But now, he feels it’s clear what sets his show apart from others.
“I think we try to have real conversations,” he explains. “I try to strip away everything that’s artificial about an interview. I want it to just be, if you were actually going to sit down and talk with one of these actors or actresses or singers or CEOs, what would that look like? I’m trying to approximate as closely as I can within the constraints of TV, of having a real conversation.”
He also shares that the guests he interviews are “interesting people to me genuinely.”
“I don’t have to force myself to be interested in them. I either like their movies or their sense of humor or their music or their product or whatever,” says Geist. “I am curious about it.”
With a wake up time of 4:30 a.m. every day, the TV host has had to learn how to adjust to early mornings. “People are like, ‘You probably get used to it.’ And you don’t. What you do is you learn how to cope with it.”
And cheering him along each step of the way is his wife Christina Geist, who he wed in 2003.
“And my wife is the best,” he adds. “I’ve known her since sixth grade and she knows everything about me and she was immediately supportive of the idea of the Sunday show, which I sort of tip toed around when I produced it.”
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In addition to his wife, Geist’s children, Lucie, 11, and George, 9, are his biggest supporters — and also two of his toughest critics.
“If my show’s on at 8 a.m. on a Sunday, they might drag themselves out of their rooms at 8:45 and watch the end of it,” says Geist.
“They’re not interested in what I do when I leave the house. It’s just what I do when I get home from the house,” he adds. “You want brutal honesty when you come home at night and then they provide it.”
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