Sara Gilbert became a household name in 1988, when she appeared as the cynical and sarcastic, ripped-jeans-clad, alterna-teen Darlene on Roseanne. After her days in the Connor household, Gilbert graduated with honors from Yale. And since then, she's played a Fanilow on Will & Grace and Leonard's love interest on The Big Bang Theory, in a role that Roseanne fans immediately recognized as a sweet reunion between two of TV's coolest high school sweethearts (TBBT's Johnny Galecki played Darlene's boyfriend David). On Monday, Gilbert debuts her newest role... as herself, on CBS' new daytime talk show The Talk (she's both a co-creator of the show and one its five hosts). Gilbert took my call at home while also trying to deal with getting her computer fixed—and despite some technological difficulties, spoke candidly (not at all in Darlene's signature deadpan delivery!) about her experience hosting the new show, why it's not quite like The View, and her analytical mind.
TV.com: Most of your television fans know you for your portrayal of Darlene on Roseanne. Now that you’re doing a news-inspired daytime talk show, can you can tell me about the transition from actor to a sort of... journalist? Are they related?
Sara: Well, I would definitely say I’m not a journalist. (Laughs) I would just say that I don’t really know yet how it’s going to be. We’re just starting. We did our first test show. I’m really loving it. There’s an element of showing yourself in this format that’s similar to acting. In that, when you act, you bring a piece of yourself, so that’s similar. But I don’t really know yet how it’s going to be and how different it’s going to be.
My understanding of The Talk is that it aims to have a balanced discussion about current topics as seen through the eyes of mothers. Why do you think this kind of show is necessary? Is it filling some sort of void in the television or media landscape?
I felt like it was necessary because I felt like when I had my kids that I needed a support system... Sorry, my phone’s doing something weird... So I joined a mom group and I feel that people across the country didn’t have that. So I felt that this could be kind of a group of friends that they could tune in and watch and get that same sort of thing. Oh, can you hold for a sec? [At this point Gilbert excused herself to speak to a repairman at her home.] Sorry, I just had to tell the computer guy something really fast. My computer crashes over here!
No problem! You and your partner are raising a son and daughter. How has being a mother changed the way you approach work?
Well I think when it comes to acting, being a mom really opens your heart more. It’s helped my work and has helped me access more of myself, probably more of my heart for me. And in other ways, it makes work less important on some level. I mean, I love work and I’m very passionate about it, but then there’s this other thing in your life, that nothing is ever going to be as important as the well-being of your children.
It seems to me that you’ve chosen a path in which you’ve picked very distinct roles, perhaps ones that you relate to personally. Can you talk a bit about your career philosophy and your role in the media?
I think that when I choose things for acting it’s because it’s something that resonates for me and it can be a different thing at a different time. Sometimes it might be that I’m dying to play the character, or it might be I love the show. But there’s always some reason that I want to do it. I don’t know that there’s anything so complicated about my philosophy. It’s just sort of being drawn to things. And then my role in the media, tell me exactly what you mean.
Well, you've always struck me as someone who is very vocal about personal causes, which is kind of unique in the industry.
I guess I just do things from the inside out. Whatever I respond to, I do. I’m never trying to design anything for the media, really. I get involved in causes I care about and do parts that I like. And that’s probably how people get a sense of me. But it’s never from a calculated place in terms of how I should shape my choices to come off a certain way.
How would you compare The Talk to The View? What makes it different?
Well I think that it comes from a different place. It started from a need that I had in my own life. It started because I had kids and wanted this kind of group on television. And I think this show will probably be a little bit more personal, a little bit less political. I’ve said to people, just because Jay Leno sits behind a desk and David Letterman sits behind a desk and interviews people doesn’t mean it’s the same show. There are only so many talk show formats, and this is one of them. That said, I think The View is great. I totally have respect for that show.
Often with shows like this, producers are trying to create a debate, casting 'types' of people, sometimes with token perspectives. Do you fill a particular role?
I think it’s sort of the same thing. Nobody is trying to represent anything. With my style of thinking and living, I’m pretty analytical. I think a lot. And I’m kind of like that with parenting. I think about the choices, and weigh things out, and try to get information, so that’s how I am with parenting. Another thing I bring is that I don’t have talk show host experience and I’m just sort of bringing myself. That might be interesting for people to see somebody get up there and talk, while not claiming to have some kind of experience being a host.
[Gilbert had to correct my pronunciation of Leah's last name, which I pronounced as Remeany.] Re-mi-ni, yeah Holly Robinson, Julie Chen, Sharon Osbourne, Leah Remini, and Marissa Jaret Winokur does stuff in the field.
How does group get along?
I love hanging out with them. It’s a great group. I feel that that’s part of what’s going to make it work, is how much everybody likes talking to each other.
For someone who grew up in the world of television, how did you stay so seemingly well-adjusted?
Oh, hold on one second. [Mumbling to computer guy in background.] Oh, okay, sorry. How I wound up being so well adjusted? [laughs] Oh, I don’t know. I think I had a great mom. [laughs] I don’t know if I’m so well-adjusted or not. I feel just that I’ve had a great mom and a great group of friends around me that have made my life be what it is.
The Talk premieres Monday, October 18 on CBS.