While many Westport residents who work in New York City ride the 7:17 a.m. train to Grand Central, Brian Chapman is reading over the script for “Live with Regis and Kelly” show and directing the set up of the show’s stage. Chapman is the director of “Live with Regis and Kelly” and has been awake since 4:30 a.m. Father of Colby Chapman ’11, Brian relies on several cups of coffee to become mentally prepared to lead a live broadcast at 9 a.m.
“You never do get used to waking up so early each morning, even when you do it five times a week,” Chapman said.
Chapman has been the director of the show since its syndication in the mid 1990’s and won a Day Time Emmy in 2003. He has been nominated for an Emmy every year since 1999, except once. The journey to “Regis and Kelly” was a long one for Chapman who started in the television industry working as a pay clerk for NBC. Although he was just a pay clerk, the access Chapman had to NBC’s major productions curbed his interest in the television industry.
“My job at NBC gave me the opportunity to sit and watch how shows like ‘Saturday Night Live’ and ‘The Cosby Show’ were being made,” Chapman said. “I loved it and knew that this was what I wanted to do with my life.”
After working at NBC, he took a position at ABC in 1989. He was then named director of the show in 1993 when Regis Philbin was still working with his former co-host Kathie Lee. Now alongside the spunky Kelly Rippa each morning, the veteran talk show host credits Chapman for his strengths as a leader in steering the program each morning.
“He never gets too excited,” Philbin said. “He is the guy calling the shots and it is great to have someone who is as steady as he is. Brian is truly a terrific guy.”
Philbin certainly has a lot to be thankful for, as Chapman is the one leading the show each morning in front of millions of viewers. During the broadcast, Chapman is responsible for several tasks as he calls for camera angles, communicates with the camera operators and cues the announcer to send it to commercial break. The stress of execution is eliminated with Chapman’s jocular nature and occasional Regis impersonations.
“In the midst of chaos he is always there to lighten the mood. He is the conductor of the orchestra and it is always a pleasure to work with Brian,” said fill-in stage manager Dan Morgan.
Morgan is a veteran in the television industry and said that Chapman is one of the best directors he has ever worked for. Chapman proved Morgan’s point during the March 2 episode of the show as he directed the broadcast and orchestrated the connecting of a video chat with runner Dean Karnazes in the middle of an Arizona desert. But even after completing the broadcast, Chapman’s day is not over yet as Executive Producer Michael Gelman calls him and the rest of the staff for a production meeting to reflect on the show and look ahead to the future. The long workday does not bother Chapman since he works in a business he is passionate about.
“This is the most fun job I could have. I never thought that I would end up being a director, but I am loving every minute of it,” said Chapman.
The Westport resident’s work at “Live with Regis and Kelly” has allowed him to see some of the nation’s most beautiful locations; he has directed shows in Hawaii, Miami, Chicago, Disney World, and even a week of shows on a cruise ship. In fact, the show’s stop at the base of Mount Rushmore gave Chapman the rare opportunity to walk on the top of the presidents’ heads.
“Not too many people can say they have walked on Abraham Lincoln’s head,” Chapman said. “It has been a good run here at ‘Regis and Kelly.’”
At one time, Brian Chapman’s claim to fame was that he played football and basketball with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell at Bronxville High School in Westchester, NY during the late 1970’s. Today, the director and father has defined his own path in becoming an Emmy Award winner and major success at one of television’s most popular morning talk shows in “Live with Regis and Kelly.”