Queen Latifah knows a reliable stress reliever to cope with the pressures of launching a daytime show.
“I have a drum set in my dressing room and I go in there and play for a few minutes to relax. They can forget about it being quiet around here — I’m going to bang my drums,” said the singer-songwriter and actress, who’s adding the job of host to her resume.
With Monday’s debut of the syndicated The Queen Latifah Show, she intends to make noise in the competitive realm of daytime TV.
“I’m naturally a bit edgier than typical daytime, but I kind of want to push things a little bit further, as far as I can respectfully, within the daytime space,” said Latifah. “I want more out of daytime TV. I want more choices, I want more heart, more humour.”
She also wants more music, befitting someone who broke ground as a female rapper before expanding into other genres. Her wish list is varied and includes Coldplay and Kings of Leon, and she’s already got Alicia Keys and Plain White T’s lead singer Tom Higgenson booked for her first week.
Other inaugural guests include John Travolta, Sharon Stone, Jamie Foxx, Jake Gyllenhaal and Lisa Kudrow. Also invited are “regular people who do amazing things” that are inspirational and who deserve to share the stage with celebrities, Latifah said.
“As much bad news as we see every day, it’s good to see people out there doing positive things that give you hope. I’m an optimist,” she said.
Monday’s show will feature a performance by preteen actress-singer Willow Smith, with dad Will Smith dropping in Tuesday. If the schedule seems a tad Smith family heavy, it’s with good reason: Latifah and Smith go way back, and he and wife Jada Pinkett Smith are among the producers of Latifah’s new venture.
“She’s just fantastic,” Pinkett Smith told reporters in August. “I just feel like every [day], you have the opportunity to kick it with your girlfriend, Queen Latifah.”
Latifah, 43, would have liked such a team for her first try as a talk-show host. The programme had an abbreviated run from 1999-2001 but pointed her in the right direction for her new effort from Sony Pictures Television.
“I learned I really have to be true to myself... I want to go out there and do something that feels like me every day and is something I’m comfortable with and excited about,” said Latifah.
Oprah Winfrey’s 2011 departure from daytime opened the floodgates for new shows, but Latifah said she was glad to hold off on joining the fray and isn’t presenting herself as a successor: She wants to have Winfrey on as a guest to demonstrate “that I am the current Latifah and she is the current Oprah,” she said, wryly.
She’s hopeful fans of her music and her films, including Chicago and The Secret Life of Bees, will be part of her audience. But they have many choices, whether celebrity-driven talk shows or alternatives including Dr. Phil and Dr. Oz.
“She’s coming on at a time when it’s very competitive, but she brings the name recognition and the support of a major studio to launch her show,” said Bill Carroll, a daytime TV expert for Katz Media.
Whether her show can topple reigning queen Ellen DeGeneres or best successful newcomers Katie Couric and Steve Harvey isn’t the point: What’s key is if it betters the ratings of the programme it replaced in each market and at least matches the numbers of the one that precedes it, Carroll said.
The Queen Latifah Show will air on CBS owned-and-operated stations in major markets and on different channels elsewhere in the country” timing also will vary. In New York, for instance, it comes on in the morning against a formidable field that includes Today and Live with Kelly and Michael.
While Latifah is eager to connect with viewers, she doesn’t think that necessarily includes putting her personal life on display - nearly heretical, since it’s common for daytime talk-show hosts to use their off-camera world for fodder.
“I’m not trying to throw myself out there to get ratings. I’m really more interested in building something that’s entertaining to people,” she said. “I’ve never had to just share everything about my personal life to entertain people.”
Whatever she might discuss on-air “will be a natural thing and depends on how I build the rapport with my audience,” Latifah added.