Rosie O’Donnell Starts ‘Inspiring’ Next Chapter at OWN

by | October 6, 2011 at 9:23 AM | Interviews, The Rosie Show

It’s a big few days for Rosie O’Donnell. On Thursday — after living in a hotel for months — O’Donnell moves into her new Chicago house.

Four days later? She’s back on TV, with her daily “The Rosie Show” on OWN, the Oprah Winfrey Network (7 p.m. ET/PT).

No wonder O’Donnell, speaking on a conference call with reporters Wednesday, dubbed this the “next chapter” in her life.

Helping write it: Her children, of course. Russell Brand, too, as the variety/talk show’s first guest. And there’s definitely been a little Oprah Winfrey influence for the forceful-but-thoughtful O’Donnell, who spent considerable time on “The Rosie O’Donnell Show” in the 1990s and “The View” in the mid-2000s.

Watch A Trailer For “The Rosie Show”:

“It’s a whole different world and a whole different game,” O’Donnell said. “And to be back in the game with an Oprah Winfrey jersey on is inspiring for me.”

Naturally, she had a lot more to say leading up to the open of the show — which will open with comedy, move to an interview, and end with a “Price is Right”-inspired game.

On her guests, and those interviews:
O’Donnell made it clear: This is not meant to be a breezy chat show. Among those featured in her first week, she said, will be Salma Hayek, Lisa Kudrow, Gloria Estefan, Roseanne Barr, Sharon and Kelly Osbourne, Ricki Lake, Gloria Steinem, Wanda Sykes, the cast of Broadway’s “Priscilla: Queen of the Desert,” Kevin Bacon and Fran Drescher. And many of those guests will be interviewed in a style that goes beyond a quick segment-slash plug.

“We’re going to have a real, lengthy, sit-down, insightful interview,” O’Donnell said, citing Dick Cavett and Charlie Rose as inspirations. “We’re oversaturated … with image, and we really want some more of the gritty underbelly as opposed to the polished veneer. And that’s what’s we’re going for on this show.”

On the other elements:
Not that it’ll be all-intense, all the time. There also will be a hanging-out quality to some of the interviews, she said (as with Brand). And then there’s that comedy open — a free-flowing written monologue the standup veteran says is more reminiscent of Craig Ferguson’s tangent style than the traditional setup-punchline formula.

Then there’s the game, which is something of a dream of hers (O’Donnell fought hard for the “Price is Right” host job when Bob Barker stepped away) — and, she said, “which has turned out to be more fun than anyone imagined.”

And…

“I cheat so that everybody wins,” O’Donnell said.

On her guest wish list:
O’Donnell’s first talk show allowed her to interview a long list of luminiaries. But that doesn’t mean she’s out of ideas. Asked for some names, she quickly rattled off Adele, Melissa McCarthy, Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling.

“There are so many new, young talents that I think are astounding,” O’Donnell said. “I have a huge wish list.”

On Tom Selleck:
O’Donnell’s fiery interview with Selleck (held soon after the 1999 Columbine massacre, and featuring much gun talk) still resonates, and is something O’Donnell long has regretted. So would Selleck appear on the new show?

“We have asked him, but I don’t know that he’s interested — and I truly don’t blame him,” O’Donnell said. “He’s a nice man, he really is, and before we had that altercation he had been on the show many times.

“It was just a very, very bad time in my life. … And I do feel bad for the way that all played out.”

On tackling social issues:
These are often part of “The View,” and — as seen above — haven’t been avoided by O’Donnell on her own watch. But they likely won’t necessarily drive “The Rosie Show,” at least not in a “news segment” kind of way.”

“We’re going to do social issues by telling human stories one at a time,” O’Donnell said. “If you tell people the economy’s horrible and everyone’s suffering and unemployment is this high and the housing crisis is scary, you kind of gloss over it.

“[But] if you tell human stories, then you can relate to the overall, general, huge issue that is often too big a bite for most people to take.”

On “the” Oprah:
Even O’Donnell succumbed to calling her her “the” Oprah — with tongue only partially in cheek — and referred to the relatively new network’s driving force as “magical.” Winfrey also had some encouraging words for her new TV star:

“She said, ‘Be yourself and don’t resist anything,’” O’Donnell said, adding: “She’s been unbelievably supportive. The fact that she asked me to do [the show] was the biggest vote of confidence that I could ever have received in my life.”

On the young network, which has seen its share of ratings struggles early:
Patience. That’s what O’Donnell is preaching; “If you look at the launch of any cable channel, no matter who it is, it takes three years minimum to build up,” she said.

“I think that we’re in the right direction and we’re moving forward and it’s going to be a huge hit like everything else [Oprah] touches,” O’Donnell added. “For me it’s the perfect playground, and I’m thrilled to be a part of it. And I will stick around as long as they want me.”

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