Sunday Star-Times - Sunday Magazine - - FRONT PAGE - In­ter­view/ Britt Mann Pho­to­graph/ David White

The ra­dio star and his multi-tal­ented pro­ducer

Jesse Mul­li­gan, 42, presents RNZ’s af­ter­noon week­day show; Caitlin Cherry, 45, is the ex­ec­u­tive pro­ducer. Though they work to­gether ev­ery day, Jesse is based in Auck­land and Caitlin is based in Welling­ton, so they rarely meet in per­son. JESSE/ I was vis­it­ing Welling­ton, do­ing my job down there, and a bright and clearly ex­tremely com­pe­tent pro­ducer from the Nine To Noon show came in, waved at me, and said: “Hi I’m Caitlin, nice to meet you.” Some time later, when they were ad­ver­tis­ing for the job run­ning my show, I got a whiff that she’d thrown her name in the hat. I thought: “Hmm! That would be good.”

She’s def­i­nitely one for con­tin­u­ous im­prove­ment. Each day, we’ll catch up on the phone and say what do you think worked, what do you think didn’t work… I’ve worked for all sorts of ra­dio and TV sta­tions and it’s so rare to find some­body who’s in tune with you. One of the best things she does is turn a 10-minute in­ter­view into an amaz­ing six-minute in­ter­view. That’s an amaz­ing thing to be able to lean on as a pre­sen­ter.

I talk to her on email prob­a­bly 10 times a day and on the phone, usu­ally a cou­ple of times. There’s also a pro­gram called Top Line where you can send mes­sages of 140 char­ac­ters – I’d get a half dozen of those from her each day, and texts. Some­times it’s tiny things, some­times it’s re­ally im­por­tant. I feel like she’s right there in my ear, all day long. It’s the most in­ti­mate work­ing re­la­tion­ship be­tween two peo­ple who al­most never see each other.

Once I had to talk to Caitlin about us­ing our ur­gent mes­sag­ing system for LOLs dur­ing the show. I’ll be com­ing out of a Rolling Stones track and get a flash­ing light that in­di­cates I have a mes­sage and it will be Caitlin say­ing: “I sing this one in my band!” I’m like: “That’s great, Caitlin, but I’m in­ter­view­ing the Min­is­ter of Fi­nance at the mo­ment, was there any­thing else?”

She’s a very re­as­sur­ing pres­ence. She has re­ally high stan­dards and yet you never feel like this show is life or death stuff. I played a re­ally, re­ally ter­ri­ble al­bum on the show the other day. Half­way through the first song, she sent me a Top Line [mes­sage] that said: “I hate this mu­sic.” I was like: “I’m re­ally sorry. We’ve got an­other few min­utes of it...”

She’s one of those “su­per women”. There have been times when I lit­er­ally don’t un­der­stand how she’s do­ing as many things as she’s do­ing. She got two kids, she’s a singer in a band, she’s the sta­tion’s go-to per­son for break­ing news... If there’s an earth­quake, she’s the first call they make. She comes in and runs rolling cov­er­age, gets pre­sen­ters on air, de­cides who to go to next... For her to be that first choice says a lot about her qual­i­ties.

I’m prob­a­bly a bit more re­served and care­ful and, I dare say, qui­eter than her. She is a very loud sneezer. I’m not say­ing I can hear her from Auck­land. But there have been times where she’s sneezed and it’s stopped the whole of­fice. CAITLIN/ I sup­pose I knew of him the way ev­ery­one else knew of him – he was on Seven Sharp. And hear­ing him on af­ter­noons when I was work­ing as a pro­ducer on Nine To Noon. I thought he was a re­ally good broad­caster and I ac­tu­ally en­joyed lis­ten­ing to the show. I prop­erly met him when I got this job. We im­me­di­ately got on; we’re both pretty pro­fes­sional, but not in a for­mal sense. We get on with the work, throw ideas around, and don’t take any­thing per­son­ally. We value the strong re­la­tion­ship we have with the au­di­ence – they’re al­ways email­ing and tex­ting, in­ter­act­ing and sug­gest­ing ideas. Jesse makes a real ef­fort to an­swer.

He’s re­ally good at talk­ing to “real” peo­ple. We played a Neil Di­a­mond al­bum last year and a quite el­derly woman emailed in to say she’d per­formed with him years ago. Jesse said: “Let’s talk to her.” She was ner­vous and he to­tally put her at ease. Then he got her to sing. She sounded fan­tas­tic.

How he is on ra­dio is ac­tu­ally how he is. Some peo­ple might think he’s a bit of an Auck­land celebrity, but he’s not. He’s got his slightly dorky bike hel­met and he rides his bike and parks it in the garage downstairs. I like that.

He knows a hell of a lot about how to trap rats. He had to write an FAQ for the RNZ web­site be­cause he gets so many ques­tions from peo­ple ev­ery time he talks about rat trap­ping. He reg­u­larly traps rats in his back gar­den and thinks that we should all do our bit.

We’ve of­ten pre-booked a lot of the longer form ma­te­rial. When Jacinda Ardern was made leader of the Labour party, we im­me­di­ately called her press sec­re­tary and got her on the show. I said to Jesse: “Don’t ask her about chil­dren.” And he said: “OK.” And he didn’t. Then he did it on The Project that night. He got ab­so­lutely vil­i­fied. He had asked her ahead of the in­ter­view whether he could ask her about it, and she said it was fine. We were get­ting emails from peo­ple who were re­ally mad with him. I did feel quite pro­tec­tive of him. But when he came into work the next day I said: “I’m re­ally cross with you.”

We’re both par­ents, first and fore­most – we share that un­der­stand­ing of what’s re­ally im­por­tant in life. We both like hav­ing a laugh and just en­joy­ing the ab­sur­dity of life. We re­ally strive to do a va­ri­ety of sto­ries and we don’t ac­tu­ally have an agenda of any kind, but we do re­ally like do­ing sto­ries that are prob­a­bly not so de­press­ing – a bit more hopeful, a bit more in­spi­ra­tional, a bit more cel­e­bra­tory. Jesse Mul­li­gan’s 1-4pm show re­turns to RNZ to­mor­row.

“How he is on ra­dio is ac­tu­ally how he is. Some peo­ple might think he’s a bit of an Auck­land celebrity, but he’s not.”

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