Interviews can be tricky for celebrities. Oftentimes, they are boring and monotonous, but they can also be sneaky and emotional. For many interviewers, the goal is to ask questions that make the star get off-script. If you can avoid the canned answers, you might get a surprising or genuine answer from the subject. One surefire way to spice up an interview is to introduce an emotional topic. This can get the interviewee in their feelings. Now, this can backfire, too, as few people want to be seen crying during an interview. Guests could shut down, or they could just deny they cried all together.
Tears can be used as a defense mechanism, or they can tell us more than words ever could. As an audience, we like to see celebrities show emotion. It shows off the raw and honest side of these stars that we rarely, if ever, get to see. The following is not an exercise in shaming. This is a celebration of some of the most emotional interviews we’ve seen. Here are the interviews that left celebrities in tears.
Mind the gap
During a Net-A-Porter panel, actress Gina Rodriguez spoke about the gender wage gap. “I get so petrified in this space talking about equal pay especially when you look at the intersectional aspect of it,” she said. “White women get paid more than black women, black women get paid more than Asian women, Asian women get paid more than Latina women, and it’s like a very scary space to step into.”
Though her assertion was mostly correct — Asian women do not make more than Black women, as per the AAUW — it led to a backlash from some fans, specifically because Latina actress Sofia Vergara topped female earners that year. This was also not the first time Rodriguez waded into controversial territory. Earlier that year, she interrupted an interviewer that said Yara Shahidi was a role model for Black women. “For so many women,” she corrected.
Rodriguez addressed the controversy while chatting on Sway’s Universe, finding herself emotional in the process. “I never said actresses. I wasn’t speaking about my industry,” she said. “The backlash was devastating, to say the least, because the black community was the only community I looked towards growing up. We didn’t have many Latino shows, and the black community made me feel like I was seen. So to get anti-black is to say I’m anti-family.” She added, “If I have hurt you, I am sorry, and I will always be sorry.”
A family reunion
In a 2019 interview with Piers Morgan, soccer star Cristiano Ronaldo touched on a number of topics, but he got emotional when surprised by a video of his late father. In the clip that Ronaldo had apparently never seen, his dad, Jose Dinis Aveiro, spoke with pride about his son. According to the Express, Aveiro passed away from liver failure less than one year after the interview. “I never saw that video,” Ronaldo said as he wiped tears away from his eyes. “But I didn’t really know my father 100%. He was a drunk person. I never spoke with him in normal conversations. It was hard.”
When asked if the star athlete had ever heard his father speak about those things before, specifically about being proud of his son. “Yes, he treated me unbelievable,” Ronaldo said. “I was like the diamond of the family. He knew. He knew that I would be a football player. And for me, it makes me sad because everything [my success] … my father, he didn’t see nothing, and he died young.” Crying once again, Ronaldo added, “Maybe I get everything in football because he’s in the sky and looking down on me.”
Tyson looking back
In the past, Mike Tyson would resist crying, likely because he saw it as a sign of weakness. As he’s gotten older, he has become more emotional, particularly on his podcast, Hotboxin’ with Mike Tyson. Maybe he’s just fighting his feelings less. During his chat with Sugar Ray Leonard, Tyson struggled to explain what the boxing legend meant to him. “I saw you fight Wilfred Benitez when I was locked up, what was that, in ’79?” Tyson asked, choking back tears. “I can’t even talk.” After Leonard tells Tyson that he supports him, the former heavyweight champion interrupted him. “I saw you fight Duran, and it changed my life. I said, ‘this is what I’m going to be.'”
Tyson then explained how everything he got in life was because of Leonard. At that point, he pivoted and started talking about being a student of the sport. “I read about them all. I studied them all. I know the art of fighting, I know the art of war, that’s all I ever studied. That’s why I’m so feared, that’s why they feared me when I was in the ring,” he said. “I was an annihilator. It’s all I was born for. Now those days are gone. I’m nothing. I’m working on the art of humbleness. That’s the reason why I’m crying, ’cause I’m not that person no more, and I miss him.”
New dad fear
Will Smith found himself the inspiration behind countless memes after he fought back tears hearing about his wife’s extra-marital “entanglement” on Red Table Talk. Yet, this wasn’t the first time he got emotional on the show. In fact, when Will and Jada Pinkett Smith discussed parenting earlier in the year (via ET Canada), specifically the birth of his first son, Trey, the actor was unable to control the waterworks.
“I brought him home, and I remember we put him in the bassinet, and Sheree [Zampino] went to sleep, and it was like stark terror,” he said. “It was like, ‘I’m totally responsible for this life.’ And I just couldn’t stop going and checking, … and I gotta make sure he’s breathing, you know, all of that new parenting stuff, but I just cried so hard. It makes me teary right now.” Will then explains how ill-equipped he felt to care for a son. “I’m not the guy,” he said. “I just knew I didn’t know nothing.”
It’s at this point that Will starts wiping tears from his eyes, stopping to laugh with Jada, presumably about the fact that he’s crying on the show. After trying to compose himself, he explains that, at that moment, he felt that his father was better than him. “It’s on me now,” he said, crying even more.
Bill Hader fans may have known that he was bound for huge success in Hollywood, but it would have been hard to predict him doing it with Barry, a role that has him shining with dramatics. As Variety writes, this show “redefined Hader professionally.” It saw him star, write, and direct. It also had him earn numerous awards and recognition from around the industry.
For Hader, however, his career boom has led to many sacrifices. After his second child was born, Hader left SNL because he couldn’t handle the time commitment anymore. With directing and filming Barry, shooting his parts in It: Chapter 2, and writing season two of Barry, the star found it more challenging than ever to make time for his family. “I think I saw my kids a total of five days all summer,” he said. “It was terrible. So I’m going, ‘Next summer I’m taking off. And I’m going to spend every day with them.'”
It was at this point that it dawned on Hader just how much of a trade-off there is between fame and fatherhood. “It’s this weird thing where when you’re in this industry,” he said. “You don’t have time to be with them, and it’s really, really difficult. I’m getting emotional right now talking about it.” Before wrapping up the conversation, the actor commended Variety. “Congrats,” he said. “It’s the first interview I’ve ever cried in.”
The weight of scars
To create her heartbreaking and Academy Award-winning performance in 12 Years a Slave, Lupita Nyong’o combined talent and the weight of responsibility in dealing with such a sensitive and important topic. According to her interview with Arise Entertainment 360, the most memorable and shocking scene in the film, the violent whipping of her character, Patsey, was made all the more real for her by the scars she wore.
“The evening before I shot that scene, we had done another scene in which I need the rips, the scars, from before Patsey … that epic whipping, and it had taken four hours to do those scars,” she explained. Seeing that she had another long day in the makeup chair the following day, the actress suggested that she keep the scars on overnight to save some time. That night, Nyong’o had an epiphany of sorts.
“I could only sleep on my belly because I didn’t want to mess them up, and they just haunted me,” she explained. “They were so present, and I was so uncomfortable. … But it occurred to me as I was weeping in the night that my discomfort was temporary and Patsey’s wasn’t, and it still makes me cry.” Fighting through tears in the interview, however, Nyong’o explained how she was able to settle. “I had been given this privilege to bring her back to life,” she said. “And it just quieted my soul and prepared me for the next day’s work.”
The hidden motivation
Knowing what we know now — that the late Chadwick Boseman had been diagnosed with colon cancer four years prior to his untimely death — his actions in the last few years of his life take on a different shape. His strength looks more remarkable, his perseverance more incredible, and his compassion more personal. Perhaps no clip highlights this better than the town hall special on SiriusXM in which Boseman spoke about two young cancer patients who inspired him during the making of Black Panther.
“There are two little kids, Ian and Taylor, who recently passed from cancer,” he explained, taking deep breaths. “Throughout our filming, I was communicating with them knowing that they were both terminal. What they said to me and their parents said they’re trying to hold on ’til this movie comes.” Boseman explained how hearing that was both motivating and humbling. It made him want to do better and be better in the film. It also helped illustrate how meaningful the film was for these young boys.
He thought back to his own childhood and how he, too, lived for little moments like that. “It put me back in the mind of being a kid just to experience what those two little boys’ anticipation of this movie, and when I found out that they,” he said, breaking down and taking time to compose himself. “Yeah, it means a lot.”
Hardcore music fans and casual observers all likely heard about the legal battles between Kesha and producer Dr. Luke (Lukasz Gottwald). According to The New York Times, the singer cited “emotional distress, gender-based hate crimes and employment discrimination” in her lawsuit against her former producer, but the case was dismissed for lack of evidence. She was also unable to free herself from her contract with Sony or Dr. Luke, leaving her without an avenue to create and release music independently.
For Kesha, discussing the harsh realities of her situation was difficult. “When you work really hard at something, then to have it taken away from you is pretty devastating,” she said in an interview with Noisey. “I worked my a** off for a lot of years to be able to do it: I sang backup vocals, and the first couple songs I was on I didn’t get credited, but I didn’t give a f**k ’cause I just had this one vision. Once you earn that and make that happen, then to have it taken away from you is pretty devastating. It is definitely a mind f**k.”
As the interviewer, Zack Goldbaum, prepped his next question, Kesha began waving her hand in front of her face. “You have a sneeze coming in?” he asked. “No, I’m gonna cry and I don’t want to,” she said. “Sorry, just thinking about it makes me cry.”
For love of your president
Jon Voight has shown himself to be a great supporter of Donald Trump. He’s spoken out against left-leaning Hollywood in the past, after he was awarded the National Medal of the Arts in 2019, the first such award given during Trump’s presidency, a result of the president’s “uneasy relationship with the arts,” as per The New York Times. During a talk with Mark Levin on Fox News in 2018, however, Voight’s love and admiration for Trump bubbled over the brim and he discussed his feelings toward the man.
On Life, Liberty & Levin, Voight recalled a conversation he had with a conservative actress that brought him incredible joy. “What do you think about our man?” he recalled asking her. He then explained how the woman simply placed her hand on her chest. As he imitated this action, he began to cry. “That’s me crying,” he explained through a cracking voice. Perhaps surprised by the show of emotion, Levin asked him why he was crying.
“Because, first of all, the gesture was so beautiful,” Voight said. “She couldn’t even speak. She was just saying, ‘thank God.’ And, I say, ‘thank God.’ And one of the reasons why I can say ‘thank God’ is because I know he’s there, you know, for us all. That’s one of the things that we’ve lost is this compass of God.”
Fans often have a hard time saying goodbye to a great television series, but they’re not alone. Actors, too, can struggle moving on from a beloved project. During a Breaking Bad reunion, Jonathan Banks, the actor who played Mike Ehrmantraut in the show, discussed how hard it was moving on to the spin-off, Better Call Saul, without the majority of Breaking Bad stars.
“For Bob [Odenkirk] and I, it continues,” he said in the Entertainment Weekly “Cast Reunion” special. “It’s hitting the lottery. It’s whatever cliche you want to use. And it is painful, by the time you get to the end of this f**king couch, to be with you guys.” Saying this, Banks started crying and swearing, clearly not expecting to do this during the reunion. “When we started Better Call Saul, I thought there was a ghost on the lot,” he said. “Bobby was nervous as s**t. Bobby couldn’t talk. Bobby was this. He was going into the show. But I was walking around the lot going, ‘Where is everybody? Aren’t they going to come from around the corner?”
Laughing off his public show of emotion, Banks blamed it on not getting enough sleep the night before. He ended his turn by saying, “How good? How Lucky? And I love Mike.” At this point, Breaking Bad star Bryan Cranston interjected and quipped, “My favorite scene was killing Mike Ehrmantraut.”
In an Extra Butter interview discussing his role in Guardians of the Galaxy II, Chris Pratt was asked to field questions from random viewers. When he was shown the recorded question, the actor was surprised to see it was from his brother. “How do you do it?” his brother asked. “How do you stay so motivated, so humble, so grounded, so inspirational, and so nice?” The sweetness in the questions clearly got to Pratt, as he began tearing up watching it.
Still, Pratt wasn’t about to let a chance to rib his brother slip by. When asked if there was any one person who impacted his life more than any other, he quipped, “My sister. She just showed me what it means to be tough and to trust your emotions.” He also recognized his mom and his gym teacher. Pratt’s brother would get him back, though. In a later Extra Butter interview, this time promoting Onward with his co-star, Tom Holland, Pratt was shown another clip from his brother.
“Oh my gosh. This is so exciting,” his brother said. “Tom Holland, you are like my favorite Avenger. I’m just freaking out right now.” When the interviewer asks Pratt’s brother what the best thing about his brother is, he answered, “The best thing about Chris Pratt is that he is in Onward with Tom Holland.”
Another star is born
Those who have seen A Star is Born know that it’s an emotional movie, but it’s not just the viewers who get choked up by the film. Just watching interviews with the cast makes it clear that they, too, were part of an emotional roller coaster while making and promoting the film. In a talk with ABC News‘ Adrienne Bankert, Anthony Ramos, perhaps best known for his parts in Hamilton, reminisced about his humble beginnings in drama and got himself and everyone else in the interview crying, including Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga.
He spoke about how he had a single lifeline when he was young, and it was his theater teacher, the woman who helped get him where he is today. “[She] changed my life,” he said as he wiped his eyes. “I grew up in the projects, yo. Virtually, I had no chance. And I had this woman that said, ‘I’m not giving up on you, ever.'”
The next year, Ramos went and visited Sara Steinweiss at his old high school and told her how much she meant to him. “I’m grateful to God for you because you changed my life,” he said. In return, she said, “I love you. You changed mine, too.”
A new development
In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, actor Jeffrey Tambor spoke about the sexual harassment allegations against him for the first time. In that chat, the veteran actor also mentioned something that happened on the set of Arrested Development. He claimed that he had a confrontation with his co-star, Jessica Walter, which he called a “blowup.” Though he claimed he “profusely apologized” for the incident, it was brought up in a later interview with The New York Times, this time with the entire cast present.
As the rest of the cast discussed the incident, some seemingly writing it off as a minor thing, Walter sat silently and cried. “I have to let go of being angry at him,” she said through tears. “He never crossed the line on our show, with any, you know, sexual whatever. Verbally, yes, he harassed me, but he did apologize.” Walter did make sure to emphasize how hurt she was by the encounter and that it wasn’t something to be brushed aside. “In like almost 60 years of working, I’ve never had anybody yell at me like that on a set,” she said. “Not like that, not like that. That was bad.”
A blast from the past
When interviewers use video clips to draw out a little something extra from their interviewees, the older and more surprising the clip is, the better the reactions they can elicit. In 2009, while sitting down with Dolly Parton, 60 Minutes host Morley Safer pulled out an old video of the singer with her parents on Dolly. As Parton watched the clip of her singing and dancing with her mom and dad, she squealed and laughed. Those giggles soon turned into tears, though, because, as she explained, Parton’s parents had since passed away.
“Well now, what am I gonna do now? You can’t get me back in line here,” she said. That’s very touching to me ’cause Mama and Daddy are both gone now. I haven’t seen that in so long. You just pulled at my heart there.” She then jokingly asked if Safer had any whiskey or moonshine with a laugh. In 2000, Parton’s father passed away, followed by her mother in 2003. The singer’s mom was the inspiration behind her mega-hit, “Coat of Many Colors.”
Schoolboy Q unedited
In 2018, the Hip-Hop world was dealt a brutal blow with the sudden death of Mac Miller. Fans and peers were impacted by his passing, but rapper Schoolboy Q was one of his closer friends in the industry. In an interview with Charlamagne tha God, he spoke on it for the first time. “To this day, I don’t understand how I can’t call my n****a anymore, like, an innocent soul,” he said. “Losing a friend to gang-banging is way different than losing a friend that’s like an innocent little kid that’s just super pure.”
Schoolboy Q explained how the last time he spoke to Miller, the young rapper acted “weird,” but he laughed it off. “Man, that’s my n***a, bro, I got memories with that n***a, bro. I could never write a song,” he said, shaking his head and wiping away a tear. After walking away to compose himself, he considered editing that portion out of the interview. “Man, I don’t even know if I want to put that in the thing now, man,” he said. “I don’t want to look like I’m, like, exploiting the situation.” Charlamagne then rightly reassured him that no one will think that of him and that his show of emotion was justified.
Remembering Paul Walker
After Paul Walker’s death in the midst of the Fast & Furious franchise, his long-time castmates were asked plenty of times about his impact and how his loss affected them. Over the course of the many films they did together, Vin Diesel and Walker and their families grew quite close, so he fielded the bulk of the questions. During the promotional stage of Furious 7, the film they were shooting when Walker died, Diesel found himself struggling to find the right words for his late friend. In one interview, in particular, his emotions got the best of him.
As the interviewer, Bonnie Laufer Krebs shifted the discussion to Walker, Diesel became noticeably still, his glasses hiding his eyes. “I have to say, you know, it was an undeniable friendship and chemistry that the two of you had, and it was very, very special. How are you hoping this is going to honor his legacy? Because I think he’s looking down on this thinking, ‘This is a damn amazing film.'” In response, Diesel took a deep breath and said that he will “wait to hear it.” Krebs then asks what Walker meant to him. “He was my last resort,” Diesel said, with the glasses now unable to hide his tears. “If I ever had any kind of problem in life, the last person I would call would be him, and somehow he would help me. Somehow, he’d say something poignant.”
Touched by hot wings
On Hot Ones, guests are asked to eat hot wings while answering “even hotter questions.” Though the celebrities are constantly impressed by the host, Sean Evans, none of the interviewees have ever cried straight out of their emotions. Several have, however, cried from the hot sauce. When Shia LaBeouf was on the show, he handled the hot sauce exceptionally well, but it did bring him to tears at one point.
“I’m about to have tears stream down my face, for real,” he said. “Can you see that? Maybe zoom in. I’m about to start crying. I feel like I’m on Touched by an Angel right now. Look,” he said as a single tear streamed down his face, and the camera zoomed in. “I feel like Della Reese. I look so sad right now. Don’t I? I look so sad.” While LaBeouf made good use of the spice-induced tears, his interviewer and the people behind the camera could be heard laughing hysterically at the actor’s performance.
When the Even Stevens actor asked Evans if anyone had ever cried before on the show, the host said it had happened, but not with “that kind of depth,” a phrase his guest helped him choose. “Yeah, I look like I really just went through something,” LaBeouf said, with Evans chiming in, “I was really moved.”
They say that time heals all wounds, but how much time really depends on each individual mourner. Tony Danza, for example, got teary-eyed when discussing a skiing accident that almost cost him his life in 1993. “The reason I fell,” he said, taking an emotional breath, while on The Dr. Oz Show in 2015 (via US Weekly), “is because I lost my mother.” He then said with a laugh, “I better be careful here,” clearly trying to hold back tears. When he tried to start again and got tripped up, he asked with a smile, “Why do I come here?”
After apologizing, the Who’s the Boss star began again. “The reason I fell is because I lost my mother in June, it was the first Christmas and I had her in my mind,” he said as quickly as he could get the words out of his mouth. “So I was thinking about her and I fell and hurt myself. … Every Christmas you go through this thing where you miss the people who aren’t there anymore … I’m sorry folks, I didn’t mean for this to [happen]. I’m just a bit of a crybaby.”
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