Sherri Shepherd loves everything about her new daytime talk show, “Sherri.”
She loves the long hours, the guests, her crew and the audience, Shepherd told CNN in a recent interview, because she’s dreamed of hosting her own talk show since she was a child.
As “Sherri” joins a busy daytime TV landscape that includes shows from Jennifer Hudson, Drew Barrymore, Kelly Clarkson, and Karamo Brown, Shepherd, an actress and veteran of “The View,” explains how she’s working to make her show stand out.
The interview that follows has been lightly edited for length and clarity.
CNN: You were on “30 Rock,” a comedy, and obviously “The View,” how are you finding having your own talk show?
“It is a bigger responsibility. …The things that I have to do now were not on us, Barbara Walters did all of that. Meeting with affiliates, going over ratings, trying to figure out segments. We just came in and did it and went home. We did the fun stuff, were going to the plays, reading the books, and watching the movies of the guests.”
So what’s in those 15 pages of notes from Oprah Winfrey?
“Oprah said this when she talked to me, she said, it’s very sacred ground doing a talk show, because you are responsible for everything that happens on that show because there’s your name. And so it’s a lot of responsibility. It is definitely more responsibility when you’re a single talk-show host. Every week I fly in to meet affiliates because you have to create goodwill and thank them for supporting the show. And then every week I’m flying out, and it’s always a phone call going this guest dropped out. What about this segment? Are you okay with this? We gotta track the wardrobe. But I love it.”
Why did you decide to take all of that on?
“It’s just something that since I was five years old, with the little toilet paper roll in front of my Barbie’s mouth, I dreamed about it. When I did my first talk show pilot in 2018, I’ve never stopped dreaming about it. And so when it gets too much, I sit and I thank God for everything, and it brings me back to that place of peace. This is what I know I wanted to do.
And I hear people say, ‘I was having a bad day, or I’m going through depression, but I look at your show every day to lift me out of it.’ I go, this is what I was supposed to be doing.”
Speaking of depression, you’ve taken on some topics that are heavy, like depression and infertility. How do you prepare for those days and know you’re gonna be equipped for that?
“We have our expert health segment and we had a mental wellness doctor on, and I say I know that there are people trying to figure out how do they come up out of this darkness, and we’re the conduit to let them know this is the way you do it. I mean, it’s just the listening and giving people space to say it because there’s somebody else going through it.”
What’s the daily goal of the show?
“My mission is I want you to feel better than when you came.”
Do you have any pre or post show rituals?
“My executive producer, Jawn Murray, who also happens to be my best friend, we pray. He has known this dream for as long as I’ve had it. That door opens. We’re praying for the audience who’s sitting in the studio with me, and we pray for the folks watching us that they will feel better than when they came. And the other one is I just gotta sit by myself and just kind of get in the space of, Sherri drop everything. Because what you’re supposed to do is make people laugh. You’re supposed to give them a good time.”
How are you balancing work and life?
“You have to find balance. There was a moment it was getting a little lopsided because I was flying out every week to meet affiliates. Everything that I had to do with my son, Jeffrey, was at nine in the morning and I wasn’t making it. And I did call Oprah and I said, ‘I’m losing myself as a mother. What do I need to do?’ And she really talked to me about balance, work balance, mother balance. And she said Jeffrey had to be number one.”
How do you take that and actually apply it? Does that require saying no to some things?
“That’s what I do. I say ‘I can’t do it because I got a parent teacher conference I gotta do. So that’s a no.’ It’s amazing when you start saying no, people kind of fall in to where they’re supposed to be. Going to meet affiliates is very, very important to thank them for the support because they air my show, but then I need a four or five week break and then can start it up again. But that four and five week break allows me to be a volunteer at Jeffrey’s book fair. Drop him off at school in the morning.”
Has Oprah seen the show?
Yes, and she has told me she loved certain segments. And then for Oprah to text me and say, your numbers are great in a space where it’s hard to get eyes on daytime, your numbers are great and I’m watching it and I’m keeping track of you. It’s so wonderful. And I use it to keep the morale of the staff and the producers. I read them parts of Oprah’s texts in Oprah’s voice.”
You’ve had some good guests from the get-go.
“I have to give it up to my talent bookers for how hard they have worked. They literally decided to throw a party in LA and New York for me to meet the top publicists to let them know who I am. The meet and greets let me just talk with everybody personally and to share my goals.”
Do you have a dream guest?
“I would love to talk to Meryl Streep. John Lithgow came on and when I tell you, you could peel me off the floor with a fork. I would love to have Michelle Obama. I asked Oprah and she was quiet and she said … [a friend advised her] Don’t go on a show unless you have something to say.”
What’s your ultimate vision with the show?
“I want to do this for as long as people want to laugh. As long as people want to feel good, then I’m there to give it to you. I want an Emmy for my show. I want an Emmy. I got it written in red lipstick on every mirror at home.”