Mr. Big Stuff
BY Jeremy Kinser
November 14 2011 8:00 AM ET
Describing Ross Mathews as having a personality big enough to fill a room is fitting. Heads turn as the 32-year-old television personality enters the airy lobby of the stylish W Hotel in Hollywood, and even the seen-it-all servers smile and nod in his direction. Mathews smiles and nods back at them. Is Mathews always so effusive? “I try to create special moments with people,” Mathews admits.
Mathews has parlayed a recurring bit on NBC’s The Tonight Show With Jay Leno as the effervescent on-air celebrity-interviewing intern with the helium voice into an admirable career. Besides appearing frequently as a panelist on E!’s Chelsea Lately, for which he is also an occasional guest host, Mathews has guest-hosted ABC’s female-driven talk show The View, competed on Celebrity Fit Club, had a recurring role on Days of Our Lives, and spoken on college campuses around the country. It’s probably his spontaneous red carpet interviews (he says he never does research), where he’s had “moments” with everyone ranging from royalty to Oprah, that have made the biggest impression on fans.
Mathews says he owes some of his success to daytime host Kathie Lee Gifford. Earlier this year, when Mathews secured a deal with cable channel E! to develop his own talk show, he immediately thought back to one certain summer as a 9-year-old watching TV with his mother in Mount Vernon, Wash.
“I remember watching Regis and Kathie Lee interview celebrities, and my mom looked so happy,” he says. “I just did the math. I wanted to make my mom happy, and I wanted to talk to celebrities. Basically, I wanted Kathie Lee’s job!”
Mathews grew up in a small town as a self-described “flamboyant, chubby kid with a Care Bear voice,” but interestingly says he never felt like the object of ridicule. It’s even more unexpected to hear that he’s been a lifelong sports buff. “I played football in eighth grade, and even though I had a passion for it, it turned out I’m no good at playing it,” Mathews recalls. He was also disarmingly gregarious, which he says helped him escape the wrath of school-yard bullies. “I felt like in every group of friends I had, someone had my back,” Mathews says. “So I was really lucky that [although] I was this high-pitched then, this flamboyant then, and this unapologetic then, I never really got shit for it.”