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The Journal Gazette

Tuesday, June 04, 2019 1:00 am

Celebs use podcasts to share lives, push causes

ALICIA RANCILIO | Associated Press

NEW YORK – Topher Grace has added a lot of skills to his portfolio over the last few weeks.

He learned to beatbox. He officiated a wedding with “Shazam!” star Zachary Levi, and even tried telemarketing.

He's doing it all for a new role, but it has nothing to do with acting: Instead, he's trying different things in his recently launched podcast called “Minor Adventures with Topher Grace.”

“It really is more fun for me than anyone else,” said Grace.

“Tig Notaro came on and we did livestock auctioneering,” he recalled. “I was so bad at it. But, upon listening back I realized, 'It really doesn't matter if I'm good or not. In fact, it's kind of better if (the adventure) is outside of everyone's comfort zone.'”

Grace is among the growing number of celebrities who are branching out to host their own podcasts. Notables including Lena Dunham, Chelsea Handler, Alyssa Milano, “Power's” Omari Hardwick and “Queer Eye” star Karamo Brown are among those who've launched their own approximately hour-long, weekly shows this year.

And Katharine Schwarzenegger hosts a podcast about rescuing pets.

For some, it's a way to be creative outside of the medium where they are traditionally known.

Hardwick's podcast, on the subscription-based Luminary Network, is called “Poetics.” It's dedicated to poetry, which is one of his passions. At the end of each episode, Hardwick's guests must create original prose inspired by their conversation. It requires guests to dig below the surface and come up with prose based on their emotions and experiences.

“We just kind of talk about their journey, their life and when they found a pen ... and where they see themselves going from that point on,” said Hardwick. Guests have included Method Man, Big Daddy Kane, producer Rodney Jerkins and Dave East.

Others are using podcasts to call attention to things they care about.

Milano was looking for a way to bring attention to people who dedicate their lives to making change, but who aren't famous.

“There are so many people on the ground that fight every single day ... and the only reason why I get (media) interested is because I'm an actress, and that's great,” said Milano.

Grace appreciates how a podcast allows for a space to share more of himself, but still in a controlled environment. He's rarely appeared in tabloids and was never a paparazzi favorite.

“I started to realize, 'Oh this is a way that I can share something that I love doing in my free time, but still I don't have to talk about anything I don't want to talk about, like family stuff.” (For the record, Grace does mention his wife and baby on the show, but everything is on his terms.) Others like to use podcasts as a way to share their talent of getting others to open up.

Karamo Brown of “Queer Eye,” says the success of the show has made people reach out to him for advice. His expertise on the series is culture, where he specializes in making people feel better about themselves. With his new podcast , Brown, who used to work as a social worker and psychotherapist, takes questions from real people looking for advice.

Brown says helping people find closure or to feel better, helps him: “I literally feel better about myself, it's contagious.”

He believes people feel comfortable opening up to him because he's honest about his own past struggles.

“I live my live very honestly and I talk about own challenges with drugs, alcohol, depression, relationship problems, parenting and dating. I've been through so many issues and so when I talk to people I can relate to them.”

“Doctor Who” star David Tennant uses his podcast, “David Tennant Does a Podcast ,” to interview celebrity pals including Olivia Colman, Jennifer Garner and Michael Sheen.

“I love being in a room and just talking to people and seeing where it goes and then that's the finished product,” said Tennant.