It’s Ron Eldard’s Birthday: the first famous person I interviewed

Here’s the story of the first famous person I interviewed – an actor I had admired for a long time: Mr. Ron Eldard.

I saw the excellent Roadie at the Tribeca Film Festival. Eldard plays a roadie fired from his long-time gig with the Blue Oyster Cult. With supporting cast of Lois Smith, Bobby Cannavale and Jill Hennessey, Roadie is an excellent character-study with a great sense of place. I wrote a favorable review of it for what was then Capital New York (now rebuilt on my own site). The film hadn’t been released yet, so for a time, there, mine was the only review that came up when you searched the film. This is how the producer of Roadie, Mike Downey, found me. He reached out through email to thank me.

8 or so months later, Roadie was about to be released, and I suddenly got the idea that I should maybe ask for an interview with Eldard, sort of to point people towards the upcoming release of this little indie film. I decided to take a risk (or, it felt like a risk at the time) and reached out to Mike to see if he could set up an interview with Ron. (I had no PR contacts at the time, like I do now.)

This was all new for me. I had never done it before. I had no idea how things were supposed to work. I didn’t realize the “power” I had, as someone who loved this small film, who had reviewed it, who was championing it. Of COURSE they would want me to interview Ron – of COURSE they would say Yes, etc. But I didn’t really know this at the time. I almost felt shy asking for the interview. Mike, though, of course, was enthusiastic, and hooked up the two of us via text message.

I was not accustomed to any of this, and I tried to contain my nervousness and adolescent-type shyness. I texted Ron Eldard, saying “Thank you for agreeing to be interviewed. Could we set up a time in the next couple of days?”

I had a slight sense of urgency about this because:

1. I wanted to interview him before the film opened – which was like 6 days away and
2. I was headed on a road trip to Memphis, and I wanted to get this in the bag before I left and
3. I now know that I was in a full-blown undiagnosed-mania. I had been sleeping 3 hours a night for months.

So I text Eldard, being so careful with my words – very shy – not really “getting” that I wasn’t bothering him at ALL. I wasn’t a fan, I was a writer who was looking to highlight his work in the film. All of that being said:

5 days go by. Ron Eldard does not respond to my text. I’m not sure what to do. It was my worst fear. I’m bothering him. I’m some rando weirdo texting him. He’s busy. But I wasn’t sure what to do. Should I text him AGAIN? But that put me into stalker mode. Mike had assured me “Ron” wanted to be interviewed. I was slightly in a panic.

Meanwhile, I head out to Memphis. I text Mike from the road on my first day of driving, saying – “Hi – I haven’t heard back from Ron and I’m not sure what to do …”

He texts me instantly, “I’ll text him. Hang on.”

Within seconds – SECONDS – I get a phone call from Ron Eldard. I am on a lonely road in West Virginia when the phone rings. I pull over. I answer.


Ron’s voice, in a panic: “Sheila?”

“Yes, it’s me.”

“It’s Ron Eldard.”

“Oh! HI!”

He says, frantic, “Did you text me?”

I said, “Yes, about 5 days ago.” (I said this with zero “attitude”. Totally chipper, trying to project “no big deal” to him through the phone.)

Eldard moans in dismay, “I must have missed it –”

“Oh, that’s okay –”

“Oh my God, you must have thought I was such a DICK.”


I said, “No! No I just figured you were busy – no problem – ”

“I am SO sorry.”

Meanwhile, I was frantically fumbling through my purse for my voice recorder – which I had brought along with me – JUST IN CASE this moment occurred.

His horror at his own inadvertent rudeness was genuine. He was imagining me walking around seething, bad-mouthing him in my mind. Why am I so charmed by this? Meanwhile, though, I had been having an anxiety attack like I was stalking him, or like I was working up my courage to ask him to the Sadie Hawkins dance. I could tell he was a good egg by his response. He has integrity.

I am literally pulled off onto the grassy side of a country road, and I do the interview with him then and there. We talked for 45 minutes, way more than could ever be included in the interview. He was funny, forthcoming, smart, loved talking about the movie, loved answering my questions, he was awesome.

As it winds down, I thank him for his time and I don’t know why I told him this next thing – chalk it up to my single-minded mania which led me to drive to Memphis in the first place – I said, “I’m on my way to Graceland for Elvis’ birthday.”

He said, “Wait. What?”

“I am driving to Memphis right now for Elvis’ birthday.”

He exploded, “Holy shit you are gonna have so much fun!!”

“Have you been?”

“I’ve never been – but – I wrote a whole monologue from the perspective of the biggest Elvis fan in the world.”

Now it was my turn to say, “Wait. What?” He then told me the story of this monologue he wrote, from the perspective of an Elvis fan who had Elvis all worked out astrologically and numerically – how Elvis’ birthday aligned w/the planetary systems and how when you add it all up, it means this this and this. Wait. WHAT?

He was laughing as he told me all this – “So, Elvis was born on January 8, 1935, right?” (I was like, “Holy shit, yes, fanboy!”) “–and so if you add up all those numbers – 1 for January and then 8, 1, 9, 3, 5 … you get the same equation that adds up to blah blah blah…”

We talked for 20 more minutes about Elvis. He was not only “kind” about me blurting out this random information, he was INTO it, and had a LOT to say about Elvis!

Later that night, in my isolated motel on the edge of a thick forest, I drank whiskey out of a plastic cup and transcribed the interview. I had to write it all up that night and send it off to the editors, so it could go up before the movie opened.

As I listened to our voices coming out of the little recorder, I had a couple of moments hearing our laughter, our guffaws about Elvis-obsessions – and thought, “Wow. I pulled my shit together on this one.” I had been so nervous. There was no need to be nervous. None at all.

So that’s the story of my interview with Ron Eldard, on a bumpy lonely road in West Virginia.

It’s still the most fun I’ve ever had doing an interview I’ve ever done. Since Capital New York vanished from the internet, I rebuilt the interview here on my own site. Here it is!

And see Roadie!

Thank you so much for stopping by. If you like what I do, and if you feel inclined to support my work, here’s a link to my Venmo account. And I’ve launched a Substack, Sheila Variations 2.0, if you’d like to subscribe.

This entry was posted in Actors, Movies, On This Day, Personal and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to It’s Ron Eldard’s Birthday: the first famous person I interviewed

  1. Melissa Sutherland says:

    LOVE him!

    Love you for this. Too funny. And the interview is great.

    • sheila says:

      Melissa – thanks!! He was so awesome and humble and … the Elvis part was the cherry on top. I want to read the monologue but I was too shy to ask. lol

  2. Susan says:

    I have been a fan of Ron for years, ever since I first saw him in ER. I own all of his films, and will always continue to follow his career. Just came across this amazing interview. Loved Roadie! Thank you for this.

  3. Mike downey says:

    Sheila! We had no idea you were a celebrity “virgin”.

    You were a true champion of our little movie – I still remember your excitement at discovering “Advertisement in the Voice” by the Good Rats.

    Ron hung up the phone with you and called me immediately; “what a pro!, what a sweetheart – NOW THAT is someone who knows how to do an interview!”

    You fooled us all! :) Mania is underrated! Continued success and thanks again.

    Mike Downey
    Roadie Producer

    Ps Peppe from the Good Rats passed away a few years back :(, and NOBODY can find sweet Ronnie. Life is strange!

    • sheila says:

      Mike – hello!! I added your name to the piece – so sorry, I had forgotten it – but you are the reason why all this took place in the first place! That makes me feel good to hear that my nervousness didn’t show – and thanks for telling me about Ron’s call to you! That’s awesome!

      Mania is definitely underrated.

      Yes – I heard about Peppe! It was Roadie that turned me onto Good Rats – no time like the present – what a VOICE he had.

      Good to be back in touch!

  4. Downey says:

    Ps a lost classic I produced – I think you would LOVE – 12 and Holding – we kinda discovered a sweet fellow named Jeremy Renner – check it on a slow movie night


    • sheila says:

      Mike – I remember 12 and Holding!! I wrote a piece on Jeremy Renner’s career for a site that no longer exists, so I did a deep dive back into everything – and saw that movie – it’s really good!

      Hope you are well!

  5. Claire says:

    Oh my…. We never got to See Roadie over here in Old Blighty… So. Disappointed as I think I am actually Ron’s biggest fan!! 😂😂 Feel free to send me a dvd if you’ve one lying around.. 😉
    But fab interview, so witty and makes me love him all the more!
    Can’t see any work coming up for him though and obviously over here we don’t get to see as much advertised…. Can someone help with what he’s planning… Any more Broadway etc… I will fly to New York again for that!

    • sheila says:

      Claire – Hi! I don’t have a DVD of Roadie – see if you can find it streaming somewhere? I definitely wish the movie – and his performance – had gotten more chatter. I did what I could! and he was so awesome “in person” and I appreciate him giving me that time to discuss the film.

      I’m not sure what he’s up to now – I haven’t heard of anything. He’ll always be on my radar, though!

  6. Claire Roberts says:

    Thanks for replying….
    Oh, believe me, I’ve looked EVERYWHERE to try and fine it. It seems over here in England, we just can’t get the same things as you guys. Sucks.
    But thanks for the tip!
    And please bear me in mind when you hear what he’s up to next…. Would love to know!

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