TCA Summer Press Tour: Oprah welcomes Rosie to Own

By Barb Oates
Follow @ChannelGuide

Rosie O’Donnell couldn’t have got a better endorsement than Oprah Winfrey making a surprise appearance and her formal introduction at the TCA Press Tour for Rosie’s new talk on OWN. While Oprah reaffirmed her commitment to building and leading the vision of OWN, she quickly handed the stage over to a relaxed Rosie who laid it all out for critics.
The 50 year old was an open book sharing her reasons for returning to TV, fears and trademark humor. Here’s the best of Rosie:

Rosie had her own daytime talk show that ran from 1996 to 2002 (remember how obsessed she was with Tom Cruise?), so what’s going to be different this time around?

“It’s going to be different from the old show in that when I was 33 I think the appeal of my program was there was an authentic, genuine appreciation of pop culture. I loved these people, like Streisand and Tom Cruise, the concept that I could meet them was really beyond my belief, and now I’m 50, and both of those people have stayed in my house, right? So the enthusiasm that I had for celebrities is changed.  I have evolved and grown, and the show is going to be reflective of that. So it’s not going to be your average show where three celebrities come on promoting something and you’ll see them on Letterman and Regis and all those other shows. It’s gonna be one celebrity per show, and they’re going to have something to talk about and want to come and play and have a fun kind of 60 minutes together, and there will be an upfront part, like your standard late night fare where I’ll do my kind of comedy. We’ll have some audience segments, and we’re gonna end with a fun, refillable different game every time.
Rosie’s never been shy on opinion, she’s had many very verbal spats – think The View, Elizabeth Hasselbeck, Donald Trump – and via her online editorials. This is entertainment so Rosie’s going to keep the controversy out, right?

“Were not going to look for controversy, but should it be germane to what’s happening in the world, I’m sure we will bring up current events. Not in a way like attacking Tom Selleck or anything, because once you’ve done that once, really…”

Telling critics she’s sad to see All My Children come to an end, Rosie explains her roots in soap operas.
“I hope they bring back ‘Ryan’s Hope.’ That’s still my goal of life. I used to write them when I was 16.  I swear to God, I could play Mary Ryan’s runaway daughter — and Jack Fenelli, remember, he proposed? It took a whole week. I cut from school.  I pretended I had mono. It was before VCRs.”

Just how bad did Rosie work her agent to get the job with OWN over network TV…
“At the end of the day, they’re agents, and their job is to make the most money. They don’t care so much about your mental health or well‑being or your spiritual knowledge that you should, in fact, partner with the most powerful woman in the universe. Doesn’t mean anything. And it was also right at the time when NBC had thrown Conan under the bus, so my desire to attach to a major corporation that had just taken 15 years of service and treated it as if it was nothing was also a huge factor in me not signing, and I kept saying, as I put my pen to the paper, ‘Could you please call the Oprah people again'”

Surprisingly, talking to her boss (Oprah) still makes her nervous…
“Listen, I have to tell you, I’m still nervous when she calls.  Okay.  Like backstage, they’re like ‘Oprah’s backstage. She’s come in from Hawaii to introduce you in this.’  There’s a moment when I walk in and go ‘Get your shit together, O’Donnell. It’s Winfrey. Come on.  Kick it up a notch.'”

Just a general tip – don’t assume you know who the “Unknown” caller on your caller ID is:
“My friend who usually calls me with [where BLOCKED shows up on the phone]  is Ruby from the Style network, right?  She calls me a lot at night, so it was late at night, and the phone rang, and I’m like, ‘Ruby, you asshole. Why are you calling me so late?’  ‘No, Rosie.  It’s Oprah.’  I’m like, ‘Well, that’s pretty funny.  Anyway, your boyfriend is an asshole in that last episode,’ and I, like, went on and on.  Finally, she was like ‘Rosie, it is Oprah Winfrey.’  And I stood up in my bedroom.  “Oh.  I’m sorry, Oprah.  I guess you’re really used to that, people not knowing it’s you, although why would you be calling people who didn’t know it was you. It was like junior high school humiliation, and I have gotten better.”