Rosie O'Donnell says Irish roots trip changed her life forever
Irish visit explained her family's past to her for first time
On Monday, after an absence of almost 10 years, O’Donnell returned to television with her own show on the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN), and critics are expecting another massive ratings hit for the 12 time Emmy winner.
“When I started as a talk show host I was 33 years old,” O’Donnell confesses. “I was fascinated by celebrity and pop culture. Just to casually know and befriend people like Barbra Streisand or Tom Cruise was intoxicating.
“But now at 50 I’ve lived in show business for more than half my life and I have a different take on it. I have a different perspective on what’s important and what I value and what I’d like to show to the American public, and also what the American public is hungry for.”
With the advent of the Internet, O’Donnell thinks we’re oversaturated with celebrities now. She still enjoys interviewing them, but she wants to offer alternatives too.
“I think we want some more of the gritty underbelly rather than the polished veneer, and that’s what we’re going for with this show. It’ll be in the style of Dick Cavett or Charlie Rose with humor rather than just slapstick. I did that once and I’m ready for something else,” she says.
The timing was fortuitous because just as O’Donnell was getting ready jump back into broadcasting, the woman whose career rewrote the book on chat show hosting was concluding hers -- Oprah Winfrey.
When Winfrey heard that O’Donnell was contemplating a return to television she did what any smart CEO would do -- she made a pitch herself.
“She flew to my house and we had a four hour conversation, and at the end of it she asked, ‘Why is it you would rather do The Rosie Show for me?’ than for the network I was about to sign on with.
“And I replied, ‘Because you’re you.’ I think she doesn’t quite get the effect she had on most of the country.
“I’m about to turn 50 in March, and for half my life I’ve watched her on television. I was one of those crazy super fans that used to VCR her in the old days and watch it every night.
“The truth is, when I was about to sign with NBC I questioned whether I would be able to do it and withstand the network pressure.”
After the famous Jay Leno and Conan O’Brien scraps over broadcast times -- a fiasco that ended with O’Brien walking -- O’Donnell admits she was not feeling very safe or secure about the network’s investment in their talent.
“When Oprah Winfrey said, ‘Would you do it for me?’ I called my agent. You make a lot more on the networks than you do on cable,” O’Donnell said.
“But no part of my career was ever about money, it was about trying to do the best job in the best place that would be most congruent with my life and my values. And that’s where I ended up. For me it’s like winning the lottery and I couldn’t be more thrilled.
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