Enjoying a rare break from the 2018 Awards season (due to the Winter Olympics), Nelson Aspen travelled to Sydney to celebrate his TV milestone and make even rarer appearances live in the Sunrise studio.
Oscars rights holder Nine and Seven were feuding over red carpet access for Seven prior to the Oscars. Nine tried to ban Seven from the Oscars red carpet. Although he regularly spends Oscars week in LA, Aspen wasn’t rostered on this year. Edwina Bartholomew had that gig, working on Oscars day from the building next door to the Dolby Theatre after being refused accreditation at the event. For crosses to the red carpet, Seven was using a reporter from Los Angeles station KTLA.
Speaking to Mediaweek the day before he jetted back to New York for two days before crossing the US again bound for the Oscars, Aspen explained how he came to Australian breakfast TV via a “happy accident”.
At his Sydney harbourside hotel, Aspen said: “I had been working for Britain’s GMTV breakfast show back when Seven’s breakfast EP Adam Boland was checking other breakfast TV shows.”
Boland gave Aspen a call and it turned out Aspen knew Seven’s LA bureau chief Mike Amor, who was married to one of Aspen’s former students.
“I did one report and they asked me back again and something just clicked and I eventually started reporting daily.”
Aspen was living in Los Angeles when he started with Sunrise. Later he moved to New York. “I am originally from New York and I lived there from 1980 to 1990. I worked as an actor in TV soap operas and there wasn’t much TV work in New York.
“I went west for the TV, but I had been an aerobics instructor to pay the bills. I was a popular teacher and I was asked to go to England and train Princess Diana. During my trip I appeared on the TV show This Morning [with Judy Finnigan and Richard Madeley] while I was there, later making the move to GMTV.”
Aspen found that Sunrise was sending him to New York often for press junkets and he started to realise how much he missed his friends and family.
“I have now been back in New York for six years. I visit Los Angeles regularly though and I am there twice in March for the Oscars and another trip for a set visit.”
The number of Australians that have had substantial career success in the US has kept Australia upper-mind in the entertainment world, which has been good for Aspen.
Most of Aspen’s reports are on-assignment, which means he has a very busy first three months because of the Awards season.
“The entertainment industry never slows down, but the first quarter is crazy busy. The end of the year slows as the holidays start, but it is very busy leading into that.”
He understands that Sunrise is continually refreshing the format, and is thankful he has remained part of the team.
“My obligations have expanded and contracted over the years. There was a time when I was on air four times a day, five days a week, and then did Weekend Sunrise too. There have been months when I wasn’t on at all regularly and I did breaking news reports.
“The New York time difference is very agreeable for me. I can film a story in the morning, go for a run and then do a cross in the afternoon.”
Aspen has tried his hand at many things and seems to thrive on diversity. He’s an actor, singer, entertainment reporter/editor, runner and a fitness instructor.
“I don’t suffer from a short attention span. [Laughs] I actually have a good attention span. Because I dropped out of college I have always had a desire to work hard. I am impatient and want to do everything. I would never have been booked to sing at the Sydney Opera House were it not for Sunrise.
“I wouldn’t have written five books if it wasn’t for Sunrise. I value the added credibility the platform gives me. They allow me to do other things and in fact encourage me.
“I have many great friendships from this job. Melissa Doyle, David Koch and Michael Pell have been my friends for 15 years.
“People might be sceptical of a Sunrise family, but it has become that for me.”
Aspen explained he works closely with Sunrise’s Sydney-based entertainment producer Mark Whitmore-Beirne and Sunrise presenter and entertainment reporter Edwina Bartholomew. “Mark and I work together on writing and editing my packages. He is like my brother from another mother. We work well together and I trust him and we collaborate very well.”
Aspen is represented in Australia by Chris Giannopoulos’s Bravo Talent Management.
Later in 2018 Aspen has a new live show he will be performing in New York and he likes the idea of travelling outside of the east coast capital with the show. “It is something extra that I just love to do.”
Aspen’s most recent book was called “My Prime Time” and he doesn’t have any plans at present for a sixth book.