What it’s like behind the scenes of a national talk show

You wouldn't believe what it's like behind the scenes of a national talk show
I still can’t believe I went on a national talk show!

These past few weeks have been bananas. Ever since my book: 25 Places in Canada Every Family Should Visit came out, I’ve been doing a makeshift media tour, hopping from one channel to the next. The highlight so far was sharing a few of my favourite travel destinations on The Marilyn Denis Show. Let me tell you, Marilyn is a class act. But being behind the scenes on a national talk show wasn’t what I expected. Here’s the reality of what it’s really like being back stage.

Up and at ‘em

When I go on Global Calgary, I arrive 20 minutes before my segment. With Marilyn, I was asked to show up two hours before taping. For me that meant waking up at 7 a.m. Toronto time, which felt like 5 a.m., since I never adjusted to the time difference. I was so panicked I didn’t set my alarm correctly, I woke up three times throughout the night to check. Good morning, eye bags!

What it’s like behind the scenes of a national tv talk show
A rare shot of me sans make up.

Fantastically, the producers scheduled me in for make up. I only had to do my hair that morning. I gave myself plenty of time to prep and pack up before regretfully saying goodbye to The Four Seasons. And no, CTV didn’t set me up at The Four Season, I was there for other biz, and managed to squeak this TV spot in.

Guest room Four Seasons Toronto
This what a guest room looks like at the Four Seasons Toronto. But when you visit, the beds will be made.

Behind the scenes at CTV

I meet the guest coordinator and Kalista, the segment producer at 8:30 on the dot. They’re both very lovely, and walk me through the different sets. They explain what’s going to happen when and patiently answer all my annoying questions.

TV talk show set
That’s either The Social or Your Morning’s set. Sorry. Can’t remember!

The sets are way smaller in real life than they look on TV. On one side of this big open studio is Your Morning (rebranded Canada AM) and directly across is The Social set. When the hosts are at their anchor desks, they’re looking right at the other set! There’s about a two hour window between taping the shows though, so it’s not like they’re waving at each other or anything. It’s actually the old MTV set – like where Speaker’s Corner used to be. Remember? Marylyn has her own set. She is a big deal.

waiting room
This was the “green room” I hung out in before going on set.

Backstage is this mini green that’s not private. It’s like a glass walled waiting room with two black leather couches and two armchairs. Also it’s not green. There’s no awesome catering. There’s no snacks whatsoever, just water and tea. I feel letdown. Then Serena Rider breezes in after taping her segment on Your Morning. I try to stop staring.

woman getting TV make up done
Totally kicking myself for not asking what MAC eyeshadow she used on me

Then I’m off to make-up. Shaby (I know I’m spelling her wrong), is the sweetest make-up artist. I guess I expected show biz people to have attitude, but that certainly wasn’t the case. She and Kalista totally helped take my mind off things. Blessedly, they assured me my girl crush, Jess Allen, is indeed as awesome in person as she is on The Social.

woman and make up artist
Viola! The finished product

My make-up application takes only about 15-minutes. Interesting, Shaby didn’t put mascara or eyeliner on my lower lashes. I wanted to ask if that was a new trend or a TV thing, but I forgot. On the way back to proletarian green room, we pass the REAL green room. I knew there was one! I couldn’t peek in because Serena Ryder and her band were occupying it. Likely shielding themselves from people like me.

TV hair
God bless Aaron and his magical flat iron!

I’m back in the coach-class green room and Aaron, Marilyn’s hairdresser walks by. My new best friend Kalista (she’s from Calgary!), asks him if my hair needs touching up. Dude takes one look at me and is like, oh girl, you need your hair done – stat! He squeezes me in, and gives me the best wavy curls with the flatiron. I find out Aaron is Irish and runs The Cellar Salon in Yorkville. I checked the prices, and they’re cheaper than Calgary! Making a mental note to swing by the next time I’m in Toronto.

Then I have a good half hour to sit and get more nervous. There are models flitting about. They are super skinny and all have great hair. A tray appears in the plebeian green room – two sad muffins, one apple and a donut. I am not tempted.

muffin plate
What’s with the lettuce?

Finally it’s time to do a run through on the set. Kalista subs in for Marilyn. (Marilyn is still doing her morning radio show. She holds two jobs!) Doing that dry run is so helpful. I realize I need a better intro, so back in the second-class green room, I hastily jot down some notes and think about what the key messages are.

Jody meets celebrities!

Serena Ryder walks by me again, makes eye contact and that’s all the invitation I need to pounce. (Now I know why celebrities put clauses in their contracts for chauffeurs not to look them in the eye.) I ask Serena for a picture and she doesn’t hesitate.

I tell her my favourite Christmas song of all time is Calling to Say and she sings a few lines! I tag her on Twitter and am ignored, but not surprised.

serena ryder and fan
Serena Ryder was so cool and casual. No diva here!

Right after my celebrity encounter, I’m called to the set. I have a quick minute to meet Marilyn before the cameras start rolling. She is lovely, gracious and has this luminous skin. Marilyn’s also sharp as a tack, as I suspected she would be. Still, she’s very approachable and I feel like I’m talking to a friend.

woman on set of Marilyn Denis Show
It finally sunk in while I was on The Marilyn Denis Show – I wrote a book!

And then blink! It’s done. You’ve got about 5 to 7 minutes total, but it feels like 30 seconds. The audience had this lively, positive energy that buoys me through. There’s some professional photographer on the set, so we take a few shots with Marilyn before I leave. Within five minutes, I’ve changed into jeans and am headed for the airport.

Being backstage wasn’t as glamorous as you might expect. But it was equally as exciting as I imagined. Even being stuck in the D-list green room.

Have you ever been on a TV set? What was your experience like?

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