And why Mariska Hargitay thinks she's a stalker

By Isabella Biedenharn
Updated June 18, 2016 at 12:00 PM EDT
Credit: James Westman/Hachette Books

What’s it like to be a celebrity journalist? I’m Your Biggest Fan, People executive editor Kate Coyne’s memoir, brims with stories about her funny, surreal, and occasionally bungled encounters with stars.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Who’s the biggest star you ever interviewed?

KATE COYNE: Tom Cruise. He is laser-focused on you the minute he walks into the room — you feel like you’re the only person on the planet he has eyes for. He would have made an excellent politician. There’s only one other person I’ve ever met who has that same kind of focus, and it’s Bill Clinton.

Is there an interview you’d like to do over?

Mariska Hargitay. She said she was going to invite me over to play charades. I fell for it, and then when I saw her again, I demanded to know why she hadn’t. And she looked terrified. She was like, “Oh my God, you crazy stalker.”

The quickest answer to “What would I do over?” is “Who are the celebrities I go out of my way to avoid?” Mariska Hargitay and Neil Patrick Harris are probably top of the list. When I met Neil Patrick Harris, there was a part of me that thought, “Well, he’ll be my new gay best friend. He’ll be the Will to my Grace, because I love him, and therefore he shall love me, and we’ll be fast friends.” When it didn’t go down that way, I wound up making a little bit of an a– out of myself, because I was so desperately trying to engage him that I asked a bunch of questions about his kids, and then said something incredibly stupid about them when I said that his daughter would play with dolls and his son would play with trucks.

Which celebrity surprised you the most?

Patrick Dempsey. It’s not unusual for a male actor who’s a heartthrob… to really turn it on in an interview. Dempsey was a cool customer. He was not on a charm offensive. He was very direct, borderline blunt with some of his answers about having more kids, or how he didn’t want to make indie movies, or how he didn’t care, on some level, about critical acclaim. He wanted to make money — he was like, “No, I have bills to pay.” At one point he even referenced his first marriage… he was like, ‘You know, and in my first marriage — that was some crazy Oedipal thing I had going on.”

Who do people ask you about most often?

Kate Gosselin. During the heyday of Kate Gosselin, I got very, very, very lucky. That story was a huge deal. [It was the] right place, right time, right instinct, I guess, if I want to give myself any credit. I think she has contended with a level of misogyny that is so under-appreciated. I think feminists should be furious at the way Kate Gosselin’s been treated. She’s a mother of eight — and make no mistake, she’s a single mother of eight.

My position on her, generally, is the minute you have twins and then sextuplets, and marry a man-child who you go through an absolutely hellish divorce from — the minute you’ve walked in all of those pairs of shoes, you can judge her all day, every day. But if that’s not your life, be quiet, because she has been through a hell of a lot.

A version of this story originally appeared in the June 17 issue of Entertainment Weekly.