From Humboldt to Hollywood

Feb 23, 2008

He’s on a first name basis with John Travolta, he’s acted alongside Mel Gibson, and Bono (you know, the lead singer of U2) says he smells like rain.

HSU alumn Tony Potts' jet-set lifestyle includes acting, running his own production company and the occasional interview with internationally-known mega stars like Johnny Depp. Photo Credit: Tony Potts


“Yeah, well, Bono may have been drinking when he said that,” admits Tony Potts, Humboldt State journalism grad (’87) and Access Hollywood weekend co-anchor.

For the past 20 years Tony Potts has earned his keep as a broadcast journalist — starting as a college intern at KVIQ Channel 6 in Eureka (“It was one of the best jobs of my life. I got to do everything there. I learned so much,” says Potts) and working his way up to his current position at Access Hollywood. Along the way, he’s won an Emmy Award for feature reporting, two Associated Press Awards and one Society of Professional Journalists Award.

Potts’ newsbeat runs the gamut—he’s done the red carpet deal at the Academy Awards, Golden Globes and Emmys. He’s covered the Sundance, Venice and Cannes Film Festivals. He’s performed the play-by-play for the Super Bowl, World Series and the NBA Finals. He’s also a regular contributor to NBC’s Today show.

A single week in Potts’ life can find him covering the Grammy’s in Los Angeles, appearing on Larry King Live in Miami, chasing down a story in the Bahamas and playing in the NBA All Star Celebrity game in Las Vegas (where he, incidentally, earned Most Valuable Player honors).

Potts leads life at breakneck speed and yet somewhere between all the red-eye flights and interviews, he also finds the time to run his own production company, act (his credits include CSI Miami and the Mel Gibson movie Ransom), and balance the hectic Hollywood schedule with the daily rigors of being a husband and father—diaper changes, soccer games, parent-teacher conferences… the whole paternal enchilada.

How does he manage it all?

“I have two things working for me: I have a wonderful wife who’s also a senior producer in this business, so she understands the demands of the job; and I have a boss who has kids, so he understands my need for family time. That helps me balance things. I also try to un-plug from work every day, otherwise it’s just all-consuming. We have a five-minute rule at home—you can talk about work for five minutes and that’s it. That rule, right there, could save a lot of marriages.”

Though Potts’ Hollywood life seems far removed from his beginnings at Humboldt State, he remembers his time at HSU fondly. “The thing I remember best about Humboldt State is the professors. Their doors were always open: that’s one of the reasons I went to Humboldt. I’d been looking at the University of Washington, but there were something like 45,000 kids there. Classes with 300 other kids? How do you connect with your professors in that kind of environment?”

The learning curve, Potts admits, was steep. “The professors were very good. Mark Larson, Pete Wilson and Maclyn McClary? Those guys were tough, old bastards—and it was exactly what I needed. I remember my first paper came back and it looked like Jason from Friday the 13th had stabbed it to death, there were so many red marks on it. I thought, ‘‘Oh lord, I need to go into some other field because I suck as a writer. But through my professors’ guidance and their understanding of how a writer needs to evolve, I learned to get to the core of me—to really express what I was thinking.”