Oprah's Next Chapter, Oprah Winfrey's long-anticipated weekly interview show, will finally debut on OWN on January 1, the first anniversary of the fledgling network. Winfrey shares her plans for the cable channel and what she'd "do over."
TV Guide Magazine: How does Oprah's Next Chapter differ from the fabulously successful Oprah Winfrey Show?
Oprah Winfrey: I am out of the chair. I've been longing not to be tethered to the studio and constricted by who would come to see me but to be moving through the world exploring new ideas and meeting new people. I love that no one is promoting a new CD, a movie or a book, just having a conversation we hope will elevate viewer consciousness.
TV Guide Magazine: Who are some of the people you visit and why them?
Winfrey: I'm picking those who interest me and I think will interest other people, like Steven Tyler, George Lucas and [pastor] Joel Osteen. I'm going to Haiti with Sean Penn and to India with Deepak Chopra.
TV Guide Magazine: You also talk to a Hasidic Jewish family. Spirituality seems to connect a lot of your choices. Why Steven Tyler as your first guest?
Winfrey: I was drawn to him because he brought an unexpected freshness to American Idol after Simon Cowell left. For me, to be spiritual is living with an open heart. What's fascinating to me about Steven Tyler is he spoke the truth. We had a conversation about how hard it is when you're a rock star not to live in the space of your ego.
TV Guide Magazine: How hard a year has this been for you, trying to launch a 24/7 cable network? It must have been more difficult than you expected, no?
Winfrey: It's been challenging and eye opening. I walked in thinking, 'Oh, it's going to be about programming.' But there's so many more layers to building this business, including trying to get affiliates and advertisers. I am focusing on my strength, which is my connection to the audience. This show is my way of building outreach in that way, as was Life Class, which I'll be taking to colleges around the country. If anyone needs direction in their life, it's a college kid!
TV Guide Magazine: Obviously, many people respond to you on a deep level. Isn't the challenge to get viewers to respond that way to shows that you're not on?
Winfrey: Not every show is meant to do that. Some shows should just make you smile. We are building one show at a time. I know you're going to ask, what I would do over if I could. From day one, I said, let's not blow our horns too loud. So if I had it to do over, I would do is exactly what I am attempting to do now: build one night, one show at a time. I would have said, 'Give me a couple of years to launch an entire network, but right now what I'm doing is Saturday night or Sunday night. Then when I'm ready, watch me Tuesday and Wednesday nights.' That's part of the learning curve.
TV Guide Magazine: What do you miss most about no longer doing The Oprah Show?
Winfrey: Interaction with the audience. I didn't realize how connected I was to that relationship. Taking Life Class on the road will restore some of that.
TV Guide Magazine: Are you working on any projects besides OWN?
Winfrey: I'm also thinking seriously about movies again and looking at scripts. I have some upcoming projects at HBO that I'm really excited about acting in.
TV Guide Magazine: Would you say you're optimistic about the future of OWN?
Winfrey: I refuse to be discouraged. This is the thing about being well-known and trying to do anything. When I did The Color Purple, Steven Spielberg taught me you can't believe the good [press] unless you're also willing to believe the bad. That's a powerful lesson for not getting distracted by praise — or criticism. You can't allow either of them to affect your vision of what you know is true for you. That's exactly how I feel right now. My thing is stay on course so you can stay the course.
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