Josh Duhamel interview: 'It just makes me so proud to be a native North Dakotan'
BISMARCK - He may be a world famous actor in huge movies such as the "Transformers" series, but Josh Duhamel says the role he's most humbled to have is helping his hometown of Minot recover from this summer's devastating flood.
Duhamel will be in Minot the next few days to promote the Black Eyed Peas benefit concert to help flood victims. His wife, Fergie, is a singer in the band.
All proceeds from ticket and merchandise sales will benefit flood victims, said Brekka Kramer of Odney, a public relations firm in Minot. Between 15,000 and 16,000 people are expected to attend the concert, which has already raised $800,000 in corporate sponsorships, she said.
The Black Eyed Peas plan to be on stage for more than two hours Saturday night at the North Dakota State Fair Grandstand, she said.
About 11,000 people, or one-fourth of the city's residents, were evacuated earlier this summer due to the Souris (Mouse) River flood. Duhamel was named honorary chairman of the Minot Area Recovery Fund and is scheduled to give a speech before the concert.
"It's a little bit hard to grasp," he said. "I don't really feel like I deserve it in a lot of ways, but I'm humbled and honored to have been named chairman ... it's the kind of stuff you dream about."
Duhamel, whose sisters were affected by the flooding, said nowhere else do people come together like they did in Minot, where friends, family and even strangers helped each other.
"It just makes me so proud to be a native North Dakotan because that's the kind of people that live there," he said.
In a phone interview from Los Angeles not long before he flew into Minot on Thursday, Duhamel discussed his efforts to help his hometown. (This interview was edited for length. Listen to the audio clip at the bottom of the article.)
Q. Talk about why you wanted to go all out and get the Black Eyed Peas to come and help your city.
A. I knew that I wanted to do something. I couldn't get back to do the things that really needed to be done, which so many of the people of Minot did. You know, whether it's moving, helping neighbors move out, getting things out of their house before the waters came or taking people in or sandbagging or whatever it was that they could do. And I guess I wanted to do something, whether it was raise money, doing a benefit.
I got a call from the (Minot) fairground saying that they would be willing to offer up the facilities if I happened to know anybody in the music industry (laughs). And so, I thought what a good idea that would be if I could maybe put on some kind of a benefit concert because that would be fun: everybody could come, get some local bands and maybe have my wife come and sing a few songs.
And so I talked to her about it. I mean, I have no skills for entertaining other than maybe learning a few lines. I could maybe recite a line from Shakespeare or something, and nobody wants to see that.
She (Fergie) was just as worried about everybody as I was and so I asked her, I said, "What do you think? Do you think that if I put a concert on would you be willing to come and sing a couple songs?" She was the one that came up with the idea to bring the whole group in. And so I have to give her credit for that. I mean, I didn't think that we'd ever be able to do that.
But when she went to them and asked them, they immediately said yes. They wanted to come and do it. I just thought, "Wow. Those are real friends."
I can't take the credit for it. It's my wife that really sort of rallied the whole band to come out and do the show.
Did they have to get out a map and figure out where Minot and North Dakota even are?
(laughs) (Fergie) goes, "OK. I need to give them a package of what is actually going on there," because they were traveling, I think they were over in Europe or something at the time. So they really didn't know the full extent.
So I sent a bunch of photos and video and stuff like that so they could see what the actual devastation looked like.
How long is the band planning to be in town?
Unfortunately they're coming and going almost immediately. Will (Will.I.Am) is doing something in Las Vegas. They're going to pick him up: flying from LA, go pick Will up in Vegas, fly to Minot that night to do the show and then they're flying out that same night. So, unfortunately, they won't be able to stick around. But they're doing the concert, and that's the main thing.
Talk about your schedule in Minot. Obviously you want to see your family, but are you doing any other appearances?
Mostly just stuff to promote the concert. I've got, you know, interviews. I'm going up to the Red Cross shelter.
I'm going to do a PSA for FEMA while I'm there. I think I'm going to go do a coin toss at the Minot State University football game, which will be pretty cool.
I'm there to work this weekend. So, I'll do whatever I can to get as many people out to the show as we can.
What are your goals for the show? How much money would you like to see raised?
I'd like to see us raise $1.5 million, $2 million. You know, that would be great. I think that we'll probably get there. But more than that, I think it's just an opportunity to let loose and have some fun.
If you've never seen a Black Eyed Peas show, it is a blast. I mean, they are high energy. People will be dancing in the street, I promise you. It just turned out to be the perfect scenario for something like this to raise the spirits of the people and to raise a lot of money.
And even though we're not going to raise enough to get people whole again, at least if we can finish a few rooms in their house, if we can get Sheetrock and insulation and maybe a heating unit, these people that have been displaced, that's a great start.
We want people to stay in Minot. We want the community to stay strong.
What are you working on right now with your job?
I just finished a movie called "Fire with Fire" in New Orleans, and I have a movie coming out later this year called "New Year's Eve." So things have been good. You know, I've been very fortunate and blessed.
Teri Finneman is a multimedia reporter for Forum Communications Co.