Oprah talked me into work today. She’s on this week’s episode of The Hollywood Reporter’s Awards Chatter podcast, “the first podcast to which she has ever granted a wide-ranging interview”. The exclusive is described so specifically because of course she was interviewed last year on the Making Oprah podcast, during which she spoke about the years she spent making her talk show and the work she put into it.
Oprah’s work now, of course, is running OWN. And acting. Which is why she’s here – it’s Emmy season, nominations come out in less than a month, and Oprah’s repping both Queen Sugar (she produced) and The Immortal Life Of Henrietta Lacks, her first lead role in 19 years. This is Oprah at work on the campaign, working on a possible nomination for Best Actress in a Limited Series.
At the risk of getting struck by lightning, I was never big on The Oprah Winfrey Show. The content just never appealed to me, except when there was a celebrity on. That’s really the only time I ever watched. The reason why I was into the Making Oprah podcast – and its predecessor, Behind The Scenes: Oprah’s 25th Season – was because it was work porn: Oprah and her producers giving us access into how the show was put together, a show about showing their work; which, as Duana has always pointed out, Oprah never did in front of the camera. That is, on The Oprah Winfrey Show, Oprah was big on how to live your best life, and featured books, people, and techniques that would help you do so, but she totally avoided stories about how to do your best work. Maybe that was implied – if you’re living well, presumably you are in a better position to work well, because, ostensibly, finding fulfillment in life includes being able to be fulfilled at work. But WORK was never a main character on Oprah. Even though, of course, this is a woman who is constantly working, whose work has made her one of the most successful women in the world.
On the Making Oprah and the Awards Chatter podcasts though (and I’m only a third of the way through Awards Chatter), this is Oprah talking about work. She gets into her childhood, certainly, and how she persevered through adversity, how she Became Oprah, but she also breaks down her work process – the mistakes she made when creating her own network and how her fame and success can be barriers to her work now. Like the time John Patrick Shanley wasn’t interested in having her read for a part in the film adaptation of Doubt (Viola Davis’s role) – because he didn’t think people would be able to get past Oprah and see the character. That was in 2008. She was already a billionaire. She had long been OPRAH by then. And those were specifically the reasons she was told she couldn’t play the part. Obviously Oprah getting rejected doesn’t carry the same consequence as someone else being denied. But remember, Oprah was acting before the talk show was a landmark thing. And after the talk show, part of her work has been trying to find ways to work as an actor while being Oprah. That note from John Patrick Shanley has stuck with her. She bought into it. And that’s amazing too. That you can be Oprah, come from nothing, and literally have everything, and a director points out that you have a limitation and that ends up being a concern that informs your work decisions. So that now, every time Oprah takes on an acting role, she’s asking herself, “Are people going to believe me?” But isn’t that why Oprah is Oprah? Because people believed her? Perhaps that part of it is not as fascinating to you as it is to me. There’s a lot more here on this hour though about Oprah, specifically the work of Oprah. On your way home from work later, if you have time? The second season of Queen Sugar premieres on June 20th.
Yours in gossip,