Laverne Cox Hosts Red Carpet Coverage for E!

The actress Laverne Cox, who is known for her roles on “Orange Is the New Black” and “Inventing Anna,” has become a familiar face on Hollywood red carpets. But this season, she found herself on the other side of the mic, ushering television audiences onto the red carpet as the host of preshow specials for the Oscars and Grammys on E! Her presence on the carpet and interactions with guests, where she mixes her natural charisma with a personal warmth, have made her stand out, despite having limited experience as the interviewer, not the interviewee.

Ms. Cox, 49, got restarted hosting on E! during the 2020 Emmy Awards preshow special, and the following spring, the network named her host of its 2022 red carpet award show coverage.

To prepare for these roles, Ms. Cox, with the help of her producers, does a deep dive to get to know the celebrities before those big nights.

“I’ll try to look for other interviews they’ve done if it’s applicable so I can maybe ask them something that they haven’t been asked,” Ms. Cox said. “And you have to be in the moment because there’s so many things happening.”

Ms. Cox, who is also an Emmy Award-winning producer, said one of her favorite moments was her interview with the rapper Saweetie at the Grammys, who became emotional after Ms. Cox summarized her accomplishments in detail. “She realized that she was at the Grammys not for the first time, but the first time as a nominee and how much that meant to her.”

“Those kinds of moments are special for me because I’ve been nominated,” Ms. Cox said. “I remember my first time at award shows as a nominee and how beautiful and special it was and being able to just slow down and take it in. It’s what I would like to offer them as a colleague.”

Indeed, the stars that approach her on the red carpet are often as excited to meet her as she is to meet them, many expressing their fandom before she’s had a chance to ask them what they are wearing.

In a phone interview, she discussed the unpredictability of live TV, interviews that stand out and her future plans. These are edited excerpts from the conversation.

What was the experience like of doing red carpets two Sundays in a row?

Exhausting (laughs). It’s just a lot of preparation.

What made you want to do red carpet interviews? And what about it do you most enjoy?

I have to say, I never really wanted to. I think the biggest thing for me is I’m an actor first, and even though I’ve always done a lot of things, I always prioritize acting. So we wanted to just make sure that I am still seen as an actor and not like a red carpet person, right? And I am enjoying it way more than I thought I would.

What were some of your favorite interactions on the carpet?

Denzel Washington was a highlight, and Andrew Garfield is just incredible. We’ve hung out socially before, so that helps. There’s moments, like with Lady Gaga, where I’m just a total fan. There’s a moment with Jared Leto, he gave a shout out to my brother on Sunday at the Grammys and then he got to talk a bit about his process and what he learned.

I love that stuff. For example, I didn’t know Jon Batiste’s work at all. I was prepping and saw he was the most nominated person for a Grammy [this year]. And so I really listened to his music and I was like, Oh my God, this guy’s a genius. So that’s thrilling as well, to learn about new artists and learn about new musical styles or films.

You’ve been on the other side of red carpet interviews many times. How does that influence the way you approach these interviews?

I’m trying to have a meaningful connection, and, whatever they want to say about their work or about the world, giving them that space and platform to do it while connecting as authentically as possible. When I’ve been on the other side, when I feel a chemistry and connection with the person who’s interviewing me, I feel like the interview goes so much better.

Any awkward moments on the carpet that you can share or things that you didn’t expect and learned along the way?

At one point I thought the prompter was wrong and it wasn’t. And this is literally live on TV on Sunday with Finneas and the prompter just threw me off.

I might not get every fact right, so that’s unfortunate and awkward. That’s why I try to over-prepare, so that doesn’t happen. But there’s been a lot of love. Things aren’t going to be perfect and my prayer, especially for these events, is “God give me permission to do this imperfectly and allow me to be of service.” I still struggle with perfectionism, but it is really impossible, you’re not going to be perfect on live TV. You have to roll with it and you have to keep going. And be able to laugh at yourself.

Do you imagine you’ll be doing more of this next awards season?

I think we have one more, one or two more carpets in my contract. I think E! is going to assess at the end of the year, and I’m going to assess and look at my calendar for next year. A lot of it is going to be about what I have pending. The biggest thing in my life is scheduling. But I am having more fun than I thought I would.

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