Terry Gross has been the host and co-executive producer of NPR‘s “Fresh Air” for decades, and while she’s interviewed thousands of celebrities on her long running radio show, after news emerged that actors Adam Driver, who’s currently starring in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker and receiving Oscar for buzz for his role in Netflix’s, Marriage Story, her name was trending online for all the wrong reasons.
In an interview with The New York Times last year, the perennial radio host said she does a tremendous amount of research before every interview. “I read, watch or listen to as much of the person’s work as possible, so I have an understanding of what makes them, or their story, important,” Gross said. “I try to clarify in my own mind why this person matters, and why it’s worthy of our listeners’ time.”
However, she never lets the interviewee take over the show, or make suggested adjustment once the interview has been taped. Gross, who won a Peabody Award in 1994, has an Honorary Doctorate of Humanities from Princeton University, and was inducted into the Radio Hall of Fame in 2012 explained, “When the interview is over, you don’t have a chance to call back and say, ‘Well I like my answer to this, I don’t like my answer to that, can you edit that out.”
Gross is also an award-winning writer. She penned her biography, All I Did Was Ask: Conversations with Writers, Actors, Musicians & Artists, in 2004. The book included interviews with novelist John Updike, Samuel L. Jackson, Johnny Cash, Jodie Foster, and Conan O’Brien.
Here’s what you need to know about Terry Gross…
1. She’s Been Married To Husband Francis Davis For 25 Years, But They Never Had Children
The radio veteran has been married to husband Francis Davis since 1994. Davis is also a writer. He 73-year-old was previously the jazz critic for The Village Voice, and continues to be a contributor for The Atlantic Monthly.
In an interview with parenting podcast, The Longest Shortest Time, Gross opened up about her decision to never have children, in which she described the choice being a conscious decision, She the countered her interviewer, Hillary Frank, by asking, “Do you regret being a mother?”
2. Gross Received The National Humanities Medal in 2016
On September 22, 2016, President Barack Obama presented the National Humanities Medal to Gross during an East Room ceremony at the White House in Washington, DC. This particular honor is an American award the recognizes those whose work has “deepened the nation’s understanding of the humanities, broadened out citizen’s engagement with the humanities, or helped preserve and expand American’s access to important resources in the field.”
That year Gross accepted her medal alongside other honorees which included chef Jose Andres, composer Wynton Marsalis, and authors Ron Chernow, Elaine Pagels, Isabel Wilkerson, and James McBride.
3. Gross Has An Estimated Net Worth of $15 million
“Fresh Air,” which airs on more than 500 stations and attracts nearly 5 million listeners each week, has made Gross a wealthy woman. In 2017, NPR’s biggest star received a 10 percent pay bump, making her annual salary jump from $320K to $331K.
Her estimated net worth, as reported by Idol Net Worth, is $15 million.
4. What Exactly Made Adam Driver Walk Out Of The Interview?
Gross, 68, has said that the key to good interview is setting boundaries. “It’s helpful to think through where your boundaries are, so that you’re not paralyzed agonizing over whether you’re willing to confide something or not.” Therefore, it’s all the more perplexing how the veteran host’s interview with Driver went south.
As first reported by The Daily Beast, Gross was aware that Driver hates listening to recordings of himself or watching his own performances, for which the actor expressed to the NPR host in an interview four years prior.
During that exchange in 2015, Driver joked, “I don’t want to hear the bad acting that probably was happening during that clip,” Driver joked in response at the time.
“Does it throw you off to hear yourself?” Gross asked.
“Yeah, no, I’ve watched myself or listened to myself before, then always hate it,” Driver said. “And then wish I could change it, but you can’t. And I think I have, like, a tendency to try to make things better or drive myself and the other people around me crazy with the things I wanted to change or I wish I could change.”
Flash forward to 2019, Gross insisted on playing a clip from Noah Baumbach’s Marriage Story, in which Driver sings “Being Alive” from the musical Company, which made the actor leave the studio. While Gross’ show is based at WHYY-FM in Philadelphia, Driver finished recording the end of the interview from NPR’s New York studios, but it never aired.
Danny Miller, executive producer of Fresh Air said in an email to the Daily Beast, “We don’t really understand why he left. We were looking forward to the interview—Terry thinks he’s a terrific actor, he was a great guest when he was on [Fresh Air] in 2015—so we were disappointed that we didn’t have a new interview to share with our listeners about Marriage Story.”
5. Her Controversial Interview With Gene Simmons In 2002 Was A Famous Disaster
Almost 10 years after KISS frontman Gene Simmons sat down to speak with Gross on “Fresh Air,” the singer still holds a grudge. He told host Huffington Post‘s Ricky Camilleri in 2012, “I don’t think she was sweet. I think she was practicing holier-than-thou. I found her arrogant and insulting. I told her she should get out, see the real world and not count the dust particles settling on her apartment where she was doing [the interview].”
Simmons was still pissed that Gross mistakenly called his band “the KISS.” — “What’s NPR? A venereal disease?” Simmons said. “I hope I don’t catch NPR.”
In 2017, Gross said her interview with Simmons received the most comments. “It’s the interviews in which something went wrong or the guest was obnoxious, like Gene Simmons,” she said.
Simmons said to her in 2002, “If you want to welcome me with open arms, I’m afraid you’re also going to have to welcome me with open legs,” for which Gross responded, “That’s a really obnoxious thing to say,” and the conversation progressed to only got more combative.