Ghostbusters: Pat Kiernan talks cameo with Bill Murray
[Warning: Spoilers for the new Ghostbusters ahead]
NY1 anchor Pat Kiernan has been the go-to guy for delivering “news” on the big screen for more than a decade. For proof, just look at how many times he pops up in this supercut or scroll through his IMDb. But while most of his work involves sitting at his desk and reciting fake news of disaster and mayhem, Ghostbusters put him opposite one of the original ‘busters themselves: Bill Murray, who appears in the reboot as a skeptic wary of the paranormal-fighting team. Below, EW spoke with the longtime morning news anchor about filming the cameo of a lifetime:
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: How did your cameo come about?
PAT KIERNAN: So relatively early in the production, I went up to Boston where they were filming, and did the scene with Andy Garcia [on the street, when Kiernan asks Garcia’s mayor character to confirm the paranormal events], which had been written into the movie early on. I got to know the crew then and worked with Paul [Feig, the director] and we had a good day of filming there, and then I went back to New York and continued about my day job. [Laughs] About a month later, there was an urgent phone call saying, “We have another scene for you. It’s not the same scene, and we’re pretty sure you’ll want to clear your schedule for this one. Could you be in Boston on these days?” It was right in the middle of summer vacation, and they were very mysterious about it, but I said okay. It was long after I agreed to do that, that I learned the significance of who I would be speaking to, and that it would be his reveal in the movie.
How did you feel when you found out who your scene partner would be?
Well then there was pressure, you know? [Laughs] I mean on one hand, the character I play in every movie is myself, and it’s not a big stretch as far as acting goes, but here we are with an iconic movie and on top of that, it’s a comedy legend and I have to hold my own opposite him.
What was running through your head while filming?
I just wanted to stay out of his way and allow him to be funny. There were a couple of scripted lines, and Paul Feig, as he is with everything on his movies, just let the actors try to do their things and build on those lines. He just had us do the scene several times with the core of the lines that they’d written, but we’d bounce back in and out of what Bill could come up with on the spot. He succeeded at being the difficult interviewee, and he enjoyed the fact that he was making me squirm a little bit while trying to keep up as the straight man anchor. [Laughs]
What did he do to make you squirm?
He would turn the question around on me. I would be asking him about whether he believed this turn of events, and he would flip it around on me and just fall silent. [Laughs] Like, “What do you think?” Every time we did the scene, he came up with another way to make it funnier, to make it more difficult for me, so [my reaction] you see on camera is fresh, because it was almost as if we were doing a new version of the scene each time.
What was the vibe on set like?
The actual time on set with Bill was about 40 minutes, and, as you know from reports back at the time, he was not the first of the alumni to sign up. But at some point, he came to an agreement with them, and said he’d be available for one day, so they created a shooting schedule that could get as much out of Bill in that day as possible. Paul briefed me before Bill was there, so he and I walked through set and he told me how he wanted to play the scene, and he got me in position so when Bill walked into the sound stage they would be ready to go, and his attention could be on Bill once Bill was in the building.
Everybody on set was nervous. This was the first interaction they had with Bill so the whole set was making sure everything was right for Bill. As he walked into this huge old converted warehouse they made into a sound stage, he recognized one of the technicians who I think he worked with on SNL, and he goes, “How the hell are you, man?” [Laughs] The two of them just had this warm exchange, and I think it put everyone at ease, because I think there had been some tension over the fact that it was just a one-day shoot and he hadn’t been initially eager to do the movie. But as soon as he walked onto the set, all of that vanished. He just had such great rapport with a colleague he worked with decades ago, so everybody was like, “Okay, he’s here to play.”
How big of a fan are you of the original Ghostbusters?
I was in my geekiest high school days then, so I loved the movie, loved the Ray Parker Jr. song on the radio. [Laughs] I mean, I was old enough that I wasn’t buying a toy Ghostbusters Ecto car, but young enough to be a very enthusiastic teenage fan, so when we got the call at NY1 asking if I would come up to Boston for the movie, there was no doubt that we were going to make some effort for me to make it.
You’ve appeared in dozens of films and TV shows as yourself. Where does this cameo rank among them all?
So there are two categories to doing these cameos. One involves sitting on the set of NY1, recording a segment with no one from the cast around, and often just one or two people from the production. Those are a little bit lonely. [Laughs] Everybody says afterwards, like, “What was it like to work with Ben Stiller?” And I’m like, “Well, I wasn’t anywhere near Ben Stiller until the night of the premiere, and I didn’t really even get close to him then!”
And then there are a few that get me out of the studio. Obviously, those things are more fun. I had great fun on the set of Annie with Jamie Foxx because that was a long shooting day. There were a lot of moving parts in that shot. I have to say, if we’re predicting how these things rank years from now, this is probably in the top two, because of the chance to work with Bill Murray and to ad lib back and forth with him. The only one that rivals this is when Sydney Pollack personally came to the U.N. building to direct me for The Interpreter. There was no script, and he had scribbled thoughts on the scene on a sheet of yellow lined paper, and so he sat down with me for 20 minutes and we rewrote it before we went up and shot it. That was a special time, to work with a legendary director and get to know what made him tick.