Questions & Answers

  • asked in Media 5th Jan '14:

    The late Sir David Frost, was the only broadcaster to have interviewed, a combined total of thirteen British Prime Minsters and American Presidents. In your opinion, what traits did Sir Frost posses, in order to become a successful broadcaster?

    Alastair Greener replied 1st Feb '14:

    The Legacy of Sir David Frost

    I was fortunately enough to interview Sir David in 2010 and spent some time with him talking about his life and career

    When I first met Sir David Frost in October 2010 he was accompanied by his wife Lady Carina as they boarded the Cunard liner Queen Elizabeth on her maiden voyage from Southampton.  

    He was due to be interviewed by me on the ship's television and then present a talk to the passengers on board. Sadly this was the same ship that he was on three years later in 2013 when he passed away. 

    When we spoke he had a tremendous air about him that exuded charm and professionalism. When he walked in to our studio he took everything in from the set to the film crew and you could see his years of experience come to the fore. He spoke, as you would expect, extremely eloquently but admitted that he was more comfortable asking the questions than answering them!  He was a very easy and generous interviewee; doing everything he could to put me at ease. This was his incredible quality and was probably responsible for much of his success as an interviewer. His clear understanding of human nature made him the charming yet determined interviewer. We spoke about his many interviews and he was considered, yet very open with his answers. He told me he felt the mark of a great interviewer was the intensity and art of the listening.

    When you look back at the way he worked you could see how he had mastered this craft and of course his iconic interview with President Nixon illustrated this perfectly. What really made the difference as well was the fact he loved people and found them fascinating. He had a genuine interest in them and relished their stories as he hung on to every word looking for a clue beneath the surface that could lead to a more in depth and searching question.

    He also allowed himself to be flexible in his structure. He would prepare meticulously and this meant that with his background knowledge he could allow the interview to go in directions both he and the interviewee weren’t necessarily anticipating. This is how I believe he got the most out of the people he spoke to.

    In a world today when so many chat shows and interviews are about the interviewer, he mastered the art of making his interviewees realize it was about them and his lack of ego led to brilliant results on screen.

    He set the bar for a truly great interview and over the years there are few who have come anywhere close to his ability. It’s also worth remembering that he was a pioneer in his field and his accomplishments were amazing, especially considering the ground breaking era when this all happened.

    He also spoke about his life more generally, and I was in awe of the schedule he undertook between his filming in London, New York and often Germany as well.  He said there were numerous performers making the regular trip across “The Pond” and the atmosphere on Concord resembled a large family. He admitted though that looking back he didn’t even know where he got his energy from.

    You could tell he absolutely loved what he did and he was quite humble about his achievements, saying he considered himself a very fortunate and blessed man.

    I think his legacy will be his contribution to journalism, television and the media generally, and he left a truly indelible print on the industry. The fact that he made it in to a Monty Python sketch shows his versatility and shows how impactful he was on our daily lives than, now and in to the future.

    I will always remember, and remain inspired by, our meeting and like to think I have incorporated some of his tips in my work. To get just closer to his remarkable talent and ability would be great and I know there are so many presenters, hosts and performers who look to Sir David Frost as an icon in television.

    For me it was a humbling experience to interview a man who had achieved so much, but one I’ll never forget. 

    Alastair Greener - January 2014

    View all replies to this question
Reset my details