After 11 years of parading his weekly talk show around Portland and Los Angeles nightclub stages under both his own moniker and past nom de chat Ed Forman, Aaron Ross wasn't about to let a global pandemic kill his momentum. The day after COVID-19 shuttered Southern California, Ross recorded his St. Patrick's Day romp alone inside a hotel room before boarding a plane back to Portland, where he intended to webcast some solo version of Who's the Ross? from the safe confines of the family homestead.
But a funny thing happened en route to his first livestream.
When limited options for guests forced Ross to interview his mom, Aleta Ross, those first few shows, his rapport with the English-born, Hollywood-bred former actress worked so well she became his co-host and arguably the breakout star of their burgeoning Facebook hit.
So far, the quarantine version of the program has attracted thousands of fans and a star-studded array of virtual pop-ins from the worlds of music (Seattle hip-hop duo Shabazz Palaces), sports (UCLA basketball legend and former Blazer Tracy Murray) and entertainment (Reno 911!'s Carlos Alazraqui).
As the mother-son duo began preparing their Fourth of July Spectacular, WW sat down with Portland's first family of talk.
WW: How did this all start?
Aaron Ross: As soon as L.A. shut down, I decided the best move was to be with family and do my weekly talk show from home. So, I'm shooting from the living room, but Mom wouldn't leave the couch. The first two webisodes we did, Mom was my guest by pure necessity, but we immediately recognized this was a real kick. Then we started to dive into the Zoom world and see who we could get on. Mom shines because I think it's so disarming to the guests that they feel really comfortable and gravitate toward talking to her. Luckily, she has a Hollywood background.
What would we have seen her in?
Aleta Ross: I'm dating myself now. I'll be 75 this August, can you believe it? The first was My Three Sons. I played the girlfriend of the middle boy. I also played a mail-order bride in ['60s TV series] Laredo. There were Chrysler Theatre movies with Dina Merrill and Cliff Robertson. Lots of ditzy parts. I was an ingenue.
And I understand you had a role in the original Batman series?
Aaron: Everyone loves British henchwoman Daisy.
Aleta: There were three episodes called "The Londinium Larcenies." I'm the girl with long red hair who says, "Oh, Robin. You do bend my mind." Now you know why I gave up acting.
What's the house like nowadays?
Aaron: The living room's basically been turned into a full-time studio. We're stepping around cameras and lights in order to watch television, but it's been our lifeblood. Instead of going crazy with cabin fever, we've got comedy fever!
Is anyone else there?
Aleta: My husband does all the tech. We really couldn't do the show without him.
Aaron: The real truth is that it's a three-person operation. Her husband's running the cameras, the sound, the lights. He has a background in live venue sound and learned the other parts, from live editing to putting in graphics, all trial by fire over the past few months. It's been a learning curve for the whole family. Like we say, funny business is our family business, and it's booming!
Families have talked about how quarantine has brought them closer together. Not all of them started talk shows…
Aaron: That's sort of the brilliance of running into a global pandemic that forces people to go home. It's all kinda built off the fact that we sheltered in place and just wanted something to do—like everyone else, right? You continue your passion, your mother becomes your co-host, and the meaning of your title sorta multiplies.
Mom and I have always had a wonderful relationship. She's a best friend and sort of mirror to me. I've had so very much in common with her, and I just feel blessed. Getting to do something professional with her now, we both feel such a sense of joy and truly forget what's essentially going on when we're writing, rehearsing and performing the show. At the same time, we also know that we're giving so much back to the audience because they get to escape into that same sort of pleasure.
SEE IT: Who's the Ross? streams at 8:30 pm Tuesday, June 16, and Sundays starting June 21 at Facebook.com/AaronRossBoss.