ESPN The Magazine

Drehs’ 36-hour search ends with rare interview with ‘King of YouTube’

YouTube phenom PewDiePie (L) initially declined ESPN The Magazine's interview request, but senior writer Wayne Drehs tracked PewDiePie down outside of London, knocked on his door and landed an exclusive. (Photo courtesy Wayne Drehs)
YouTube phenom PewDiePie (L) initially declined ESPN The Magazine’s interview request, but senior writer Wayne Drehs tracked PewDiePie down outside of London, knocked on his door and landed an interview. (Photo courtesy Wayne Drehs)

In ESPN The Magazine’s new “eSports Issue” (on newsstands now), senior writer Wayne Drehs secured a rare interview with the elusive and reclusive PewDiePie, one of the most popular performers on YouTube.

I’m not sure how I would have responded if an overseas reporter showed up unannounced on my doorstep asking for an interview, but Kjellberg couldn’t have been more welcoming. – Wayne Drehs on securing an interview with YouTube star PewDiePie, aka Felix Kjellberg

PewDiePie, the Swedish producer of Let’s Play videos (whose name is actually Felix Kjellberg), boasts more than 37 million YouTube subscribers. That’s more than popular artists Taylor Swift, One Direction and Sam Smith …COMBINED. Given PewDiePie’s enormous social following and with streaming being a huge element of the eSports economy, The Mag’s editors felt compelled to have him in the issue.

Though PewDiePie is famously reclusive and had declined an initial request for an interview, Drehs had a hunch that if he flew to Brighton, England, where PewDiePie lives, he might snag an interview.

Sure enough, he was right.

Drehs discusses with Front Row the search that led to his story, How PewDiePie became King of YouTube:

“It was a chance meeting at a Brighton, England pub called ‘The Basketmaker’s Arms’ that led to my interview with Felix Kjellberg, aka PewDiePie. For 36 hours I had crisscrossed the town that sits nestled along the English coastline, in hopes of learning something, anything about the most famous gamer in the world.

“But in the coffee shops, bakeries, hotels, restaurants and video game stores I visited, the most common response to questions about PewDiePie were blank stares. Running out of leads, on my second-to-last night in town I visited the Basketmaker’s for a pint. It was there where I struck up a conversation with a man who claimed he lived in Kjellberg’s neighborhood.

Marshawn Lynch's eSports cover.
ESPN The Magazine’s eSports Issue features Wayne Drehs’ profile of PewDiePie.

“He was an avid gamer and said he had never met Kjellberg but had seen him and his girlfriend, fellow YouTube star Marzia Bisognin, occasionally. He gave me a general idea of where he thought Kjellberg lived and when I went back the next day, I happened to show up just as Bisognin was taking the couple’s pugs outside. I had read that Bisognin was not always comfortable with being recognized on the streets so I elected to come back to the apartment later that day, when I figured it was more likely Kjellberg would be home.”

“Sure enough, when I returned and rang the bell to the apartment I believed to be his, he answered the intercom and buzzed me in. I’m not sure how I would have responded if an overseas reporter showed up unannounced on my doorstep asking for an interview but Kjellberg couldn’t have been more welcoming.

“Through his publicist, he had rejected my original interview request. But while I was standing in a doorway outside his apartment and, as he put it, ‘seemed pretty normal and cool,’ he agreed to talk with me. We walked his pug Edgar for about 40 minutes, along the path that lines the English Channel and through a series of small parks and busy streets as I tried to peel back the layers to better understand the man behind the most popular YouTube channel of all-time.”

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