Julie Chen on The Talk, its Motherhood Angle, and Why Men Should Watch, Too

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Julie Chen, the host of Big Brother and co-anchor of The Early Show, is adding another item to her lengthy resume. Today marks the premiere of The Talk, CBS' new daytime talk show featuring Chen and a panel of other famous females (Sara Gilbert, Leah Remini, Holly Robinson Peete, and Marissa Jaret Winokur). I spoke to Chen about her new show, why it's different from The View, and why even men might be interested in a gal-filled gab-fest.

TV.com: How would you describe The Talk?
Julie Chen: If you were to take [Live! with Regis and Kelly], The View, and Oprah and put them in a pot and stir it up... it'll be like our version of the types of things you see on those three shows. I see it as a show that will speak to women who are at home in the afternoon, whether they’re stay-at-home moms, or even stay-at-home dads. For men, it’s a way to see how women think. For women, it’s a show that they hopefully can relate to, because we’re going to talk about everything from being a mom, to being a woman in a relationship, to just being a woman. There are a lot of female issues that I speak to my girlfriends about, but not to my husband about. So we’ll be speaking about those issues.

Sara [Gilbert] had this idea for a show when she joined a support group while she was breastfeeding... and she really found herself bonding with these women and loving that time. And she wished there were a program on television that consisted of what she got out of these meetings.

And then when you start putting other people in the mix, me, Sharon Osbourne, Leah Remini, Holly Robinson Peete, it became a panel of women who are all mothers and who all have a spouse at home. I think this show can be anything that we want it to be. One day, this whole Ashton Kutcher thing is happening with Demi Moore and allegations of a third party. I could see us having all the gossip rags out on the table and talking about what we think of it. Someone in the group, probably Sara, maybe knows Demi and Ashton, and will speak to what everyone is talking about.

Another day we might talk about how Marissa Jaret Winokur is trying to find the perfect pre-school for her two-year-old son and she can’t believe the interviews that they make the kids sit through at that age. Things like that. Everyday life problems and issues that every woman can relate to and understand.

How will The Talk distinguish itself from The View?
The women. The women who are on The View are very different personalities than the women who are on The Talk. And I also think The View has gotten very political in the last couple of years, and right now I don’t see The Talk being like that.

What will each host bring to the show individually?
Sara is very an old soul. I think she’s going to be the voice of reason. She might be the youngest, but in many ways she’s the most grounded. Leah Remini is going to bring a lot of laughter and comedy. She is one of the most naturally funny people I know. She’ll cut through all the BS and tell you the real deal, whether it’s going to the gynecologist's office or dealing with the husband who, as she says, "wants sex all the time." Sharon Osbourne has seen it all and done it all, partly because of being married to a rock-and-roll icon. Part of it is her age, part of it is that her children are all grown and out of the house and they live their lives in the public eye. I think she is going to be the woman who’s, like, “Oh, honey, that’s nothing, let me tell you about this." A lot of life experience and realness and being very candid. She’s not going to sugar-coat anything. The same goes for Holly Robinson Peete. She’s a mother of four children, one of whom is 13 and autistic. She can talk to the mothers of autistic children, but also any mother who has a child with special needs.

And Marissa is going to be the most relatable to the moms out there because of, number one, her age group. Number two, she described the first ten months of her son’s life as, “Oh, my God, I made the hugest mistake because I’m in over my head. I’m a horrible mother and I don’t know what I’m doing.” I think there are a lot of women out there who feel that way, but feel ashamed to admit it. Marissa’s very open and candid about how she was locking herself in the bathroom and crying [for those ten months]. Even though it wasn’t diagnosed as postpartum depression, it was life. She’s going to tell these real-life horror stories about being a brand-new mom and feeling overwhelmed, but in a funny way to make women watching realize, "I am not crazy and I am not alone."

And what about you? What will you bring to the show?
Well, I’m definitely the traffic cop. I am the one who keeps the ball moving in the conversation. And I am the newest mom of all because my child is the youngest. I’m also the news person out of the group. Any time we’re covering something that is considered more newsy rather than conversational, I bring my experience of being a journalist for the last 20 years.

Do you think will the show will be able to find an audience with fathers or with people who don't have children?
I think guys watching it will get a kick out of hearing what we think about things, specifically relationships. I think it boils down to [the fact that] most men don’t understand how women think, but women know exactly how we think and why we think and react the way we do to certain situations. Any guy who’s watching us gets to be a fly on the wall during, like, a girl’s weekend. It’s like, "Oh, that’s why my wife was so pissed off at me when I did X, Y, or Z. Now I see I’m not married to a complaining shrew." All women feel this way because of whatever reason. It’s just the way we’re wired.

Are there any topics in particular that you're excited to talk about?
I wouldn’t say there’s anything... because I don’t know what the producer has stacked up yet. I’m just excited to have a gab-fest with these women and hopefully open the show [by] talking about our lives. I want to hear what the kids did for Ozzy Osbourne on Father’s Day. I want to hear how Leah Remini celebrated her daughter’s sixth birthday. I want to hear how Holly struggles finding the right school for her son.

There are going to be certain mornings where we’re just going to wing it and have ideas of what we could talk about, look at what’s on the cover of everything from People magazine to the New York Times and just chat about it. And hearing how these women think and what their ideas are on how to deal with certain issues in the world. Or how to explain certain topics to your child, who’s only four but has a million questions.

Will the show have any regular segments?
Yeah, they want us to take a Flip video camera into any aspect of our life that we feel comfortable doing. I could see Sara having her camera on as she’s trying to explain to her daughter how to be potty trained. Or Leah at home trying to explain to her daughter why it’s important to clean up after herself in her own room. With Sharon—we saw her version of that, it was called The Osbournes!

Are there any dream guests you'd love to have on the show?
I think Jennifer Lopez would be great, because she’s a woman who really has it all. She has a husband and two beautiful children and a career and just talent. [Lopez will appear as a guest during the show's first week.] Angelina Jolie would be another one, but I think after we go through the celebrity moms, we could figure out a way to celebrate real-life moms. Just because they’re not in the pages of People magazine [doesn't mean] they’re not a celebrity in their own way.

I think a lot of those people are going to also be in our live audience—do you remember Phil Donahue? When he used to have his own talk show, he would go in the audience with his microphone and hear people weigh in on a topic. [That's who] I want to hear from. I think our live audience will kind of be our daily guests.


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