By M. Scott Morris
TUPELO – One of Chris Beachum’s friends was standing on stage after winning an Emmy Award, when he gave a shout-out toward Mississippi.
That friend was Neil Patrick Harris, formerly of “Doogie Howser, M.D.,” currently of “How I Met Your Mother” and just about every awards show known to man. In fact, that year, Harris won his Emmy for hosting the Tony Awards.
“He almost didn’t win. It was a rule change,” 47-year-old Beachum said.
The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences changed the way nominations were handled for Harris’ category, and people at CBS forgot to include his name on the nomination forms.
“He was supposed to be on there,” Beachum said. “It was an oversight that I caught.”
A Tupelo native, Beachum has been a fan of TV and the movies since he was a kid, and he remembers watching the Emmy Awards at age 7 or 8.
With a head full of entertainment industry knowledge, he was ready more than a decade ago when the technology came on line that allowed him to take his interests to another level.
He started as a member of GoldDerby.com, a site dedicated to awards shows. He was a fan of David Morse’s character on the TV show “St. Elsewhere,” and chose the pseudonym of “Boomer.”
His insights into Hollywood’s comings and goings impressed the website’s founder, and Beachum’s responsibilities grew until he became a senior editor for Gold Derby.
Now, when he writes about a subject from his home office in Tupelo, people in Hollywood listen.
“It’s a big operation,” he said. “It’s small compared to Variety and Hollywood Reporter and the L.A. Times, but it’s very influential.”
Beachum noticed the oversight that could’ve denied Harris an Emmy Award, but the nominations were already in. The academy’s hands were tied.
But public pressure kicked off by Beachum convinced the academy to allow Harris’ name to be added to the ballot.
And that’s why three years ago in his moment of professional triumph before his Hollywood peers, Harris remembered his friend in Tupelo.
“When Neil thanked me at the Emmys, he said, ‘Boomer,’” Beachum said. “I kind of wish he’d said my name.”
Video chat show
The relationship has continued to be mutually beneficial over the years.
For one thing, Harris is one of more than 100 celebrities Beachum has interviewed over the years. Others include William H. Macy, Julianna Margulies, Tom Selleck, Carrie Fisher, Octavia Spencer, Jimmy Kimmel, Jim Parsons and Betty White.
High-speed Internet allows him to video chat with Skype or Google Hangout, and Gold Derby interviews are available on youtube.com.
Four people at Gold Derby do the interviews, but Beachum is the point person. He contacts P.R. people and lines up celebrities for himself and his co-workers.
It’s a paid job, but it doesn’t pay all the bills. Beachum also sells ads for the Northeast Mississippi edition of Parents and Kids Magazine, which is based in Jackson.
During the day, he meets with clients, and on nights and weekends, he’s Hollywood’s man in Tupelo.
“It’s kind of weird. I’ll finish an interview and edit it and post it and go outside to get the mail, and I’ll think, Was that celebrity really in my house?” he said. “Not in my house, but on my computer in my house, and none of my neighbors know it.”
His location might be more of a help than a hindrance. If he were in L.A. or New York, Beachum would get to attend premiers and meet celebrities in person, but he might not stand out as much as he does now.
“I think some of them know me because I’m that guy in Mississippi,” he said.
Most of the celebrities he talks with are in L.A. or New York, but he’s spoken with Matt LeBlanc from “Friends” in London and Kunal Nayyar from “The Big Bang Theory” in India.
“I never know what I’m going to see when the screen pops up,” he said. “I was interviewing Jim Carter, who plays the butler in ‘Downton Abbey,’ and he was in his butler costume in the basement of the mansion where they shoot ‘Downton Abbey.’”
Bill Hader, who left “Saturday Night Live” at the end of last season, appeared as though he’d just gotten out of bed when Beachum connected with him at lunchtime.
“His hair was everywhere and he had a white shirt on,” Beachum said. “He asked, ‘Do I have time to get coffee?’ I said, ‘Sure.’ He gets up and he’s in his pajamas.”
Beachum didn’t mind the informal feel because Hader proved to be a great interview. Hader and castmate Fred Armisen left “SNL” on the same night.
“At the end of the show, they held hands and jumped off the stage together,” Beachum said. “I love that story. I hadn’t seen anything about it anywhere else.”
Tina Fey, another “SNL” alum and the creative force behind “30 Rock,” said she only wanted to do her interview with Beachum. Apparently, she’s a fan.
“Before we started recording, she said, ‘It’s so good to see you. I’ve watched so many of your videos,’” he said. “I remember what I said to her. I said, ‘Well, I’ve seen a lot of your stuff, too.’”
Beachum prides himself on being professional, but that compliment threw him off his game at the beginning of the interview.
He said part of Gold Derby’s appeal is the fact that he and his cohorts don’t care about who married who or which actor had a meltdown on which set. Their focus is on the work.
“I think they do the interviews with us for the inside business people to watch,” Beachum said. “The public can watch, too, but they’re concerned with voters watching it.”
All the networks and studios make sure Beachum can watch their shows and movies. They give him access to their internal websites and send DVDs.
In the spring, he works with actors and their representatives to help them select the best episodes to submit for Emmy nominations. Once nominations come out, he watches every show nominated in every category.
“There’s no way to count how many hours I watch,” he said.
Helping a friend
Beachum stays on top of today’s entertainment industry, and this year’s Emmy host knows it. By the way, that’s Neil Patrick Harris.
“We’ve had a good relationship. He’s the reason I got asked to work on a piece for this year’s Emmys,” Beachum said. “A producer called and said, ‘Neil’s your No. 1 fan and he wanted you to be involved in the opening.’”
Beachum was asked for the 100 best moments of the 2012-13 TV season from prestige shows, fan favorites and reality shows. With help from GoldDerby.com members, Beachum delivered 250 to fit categories like “screaming matches,” “surprise endings” and “breakup scenes.”
He’s not exactly sure how the suggestions will be used, and wants to be surprised along with everyone else when the show starts at 7 p.m. today on CBS.
The spotlight won’t be on Beachum during the Emmys. He won’t win an award, and he won’t meet with the winners backstage. He’ll be in Tupelo watching events unfold that he helped shape in his own small way.
It’s a cool position to be in, made more so by how it came about.
“It was never my plan. All of this evolved and grew out of something I loved doing anyway,” he said. “The things that happen naturally and organically tend to work out better than the things you plan for. Who could’ve planned this? I couldn’t.”