LOS ANGELES — When Queen Latifah makes an entrance she does it with style.
Addressing reporters visiting the set of her new talk show recently, Latifah swanned onstage and did a song and dance routine complete with feather boa and backup dancers. Playing off her signature number in “Chicago,” “When You’re Good to Mama,” Latifah sang, “Got a little motto, always sees me through/ When you’re good to ’Tifah, ’Tifah’s good to you/ Welcome TV critics, I brought you to my stage/ Because you’re my favorite demo, hot, smart, and middle-aged.”
Then, Latifah got down to business.
The Queen Latifah Show
“The one thing that defines my career is variety,” she said, ticking off the many hats she has worn, among them Grammy Award-winning rapper-singer, Oscar-nominated actress (“Chicago”), and Cover Girl spokesmodel.
Starting Monday, the woman born Dana Owens throws one hat back into the talk show ring with her second stab at daytime with “The Queen Latifah Show,” airing weekdays at 2 p.m. on WBZ (Channel 4). (Her previous show ran from 1999-2001.) The multi-topic show will include celebrity guests and everyday people, musical segments, and bits with Latifah out in the field.
“There are great things [Oprah] accomplished and I’d love to be able to accomplish some of those things, but I think what I bring to television is me.” — Queen Latifah
Flanked by her fellow producers Jada Pinkett-Smith — her “Set It Off” costar — and Corin Nelson on her sumptuous Lenny Kravitz-designed set, Latifah fielded questions about vying for the daytime crown and connecting with her audience like her heroes did.
“I mean, when I think about some of the shows I loved growing up like ‘Carol Burnett,’ I think of the connection that we had. I’d love to be able to create something like that.”
Pinkett-Smith said she signed on to work with her friend for obvious reasons. “As you can see, she’s a lot of fun. She’s just fantastic. I just feel like every afternoon, you have the opportunity to kick it with your girlfriend, Queen Latifah.”
Q. In the clips from the show we saw you hang gliding. How fearless will you be?
A. I’m pretty much an adventure girl, when I’m fearful about things, I tend to want to push through my fears. I’m going to push it as far as I possibly can, because I think the reason we are all sitting here today is that we are all women who pushed through our fears. We like the next challenge. It helps us remember who we are or shows us who we can become. There are a lot of people out there who are pushing through those things everyday, and just boldly going into it. I’m inspired by those kinds of people, so yeah, I’ll be scared to do certain things, but yes I’ll feel the fear and do it anyway.
Q. How much did you learn from the previous Queen of Daytime TV, Oprah Winfrey? And will there be any similarities between your show and hers?
A. People have often asked me, “Do I want to be the next Oprah?” There is no such thing. Oprah is Oprah, and she’s still being Oprah in case anyone hadn’t noticed. Obviously, there are great things she accomplished and I’d love to be able to accomplish some of those things, but I think what I bring to television is me. I’m Queen Latifah. I’ve had a different life story and a different path that I’ve traveled. We’ve crossed paths, of course, because I’ve been a fan of the show as well. One of the cool things that Oprah did was take people on a journey with her, so I’m hoping that we can, as we get to know our audience, we’ll get to take them on a journey with us.
Q. You’ve been a guest many times, how does that inform what kind of host you’ll be?
A. When I was a guest on anyone’s talk show, I think what they wanted was to have fun and have good TV and really be able to entertain the viewers. I’m hoping that some of the celebrities that come through here, because I have been on the other side of the couch, will be able to relax, and know that they won’t be blindsided by some of the crazy stuff they may get hit with on another show. They can be themselves and just have fun. If you want to come here and set the record straight about something that happened in your life as a celebrity, here’s a comfortable and safe place to do it. If you don’t want to talk about that, I’m not going to make you talk about it, because guess what, I wouldn’t want to talk about it either. And I can’t become just a talk show host and act like I’m not Queen Latifah, the entertainer, the singer, the actress, the person who’s been on that couch. So I’m going to have to really find a way to make it interesting, make it exciting, but really allow people to be themselves.
Q. Are you going to find time to still act and make music?
A. I think I will have to. Luckily I’ll get to do a lot of it through this show. I think I’ll still be able to make music and perform. I will definitely still want to make movies . . . but I’m really excited about this and I think those things will be second.