Jenny McCarthy is a gal who knows how to play the hand she was dealt. After breaking into show business in 1993 with a Playboy pictorial, she has managed to build a career out of being a bombshell who just happens to sound like a truck driver. Now, at 40, she's the latest cohost to pull up a chair on daytime gabfest The View — alongside Barbara Walters, Whoopi Goldberg and Sherri Shepherd — where she's getting a daily platform for her brand of unfiltered honesty. We met up with McCarthy at Manhattan's School of Cards for an afternoon of poker to see how she's faring.
TV Guide Magazine: Today's poker outing is no gimmick — you're really into the game, right?
Jenny McCarthy: I love poker more than anything! I've played in a few tournaments — I placed sixth out of about a thousand — and I have home games. I love reading behavior and trying to figure out what people are thinking. I get underestimated a lot, for sure. When I go into a tournament, people think I'm going to be the first one to go, and usually I clear them off the table.
TV Guide Magazine: Speaking of high stakes: When you were auditioning for The View, did you have to do a Godfather-style sit-down with Barbara?
McCarthy: It wasn't a sit-down — with Barbara, it's more, "Show me what you can do." There was no doubt, during the test shows I did, that I felt her eyes on me. She's the Holy Grail, and that's how I treat her. Behind the scenes, I will lay down my coat so she can walk over it.
TV Guide Magazine: You've become a dual replacement for Joy Behar and Elisabeth Hasselbeck. Do you think the show was due for some fresh blood?
McCarthy: I do. It was time to change it up a bit. We haven't really gotten into politics so much this season. I think viewers were possibly a little bit turned off by how polarizing it got. Our approach has been lighter and more fun — we're not staying on a point too long just to prove our righteousness.
TV Guide Magazine: For your premiere episode on Sept. 9, you brought on your new boyfriend, actor Donnie Wahlberg, as a guest. Why?
McCarthy: He was booked to come on a few weeks later, when his series Blue Bloods was starting. I said [to him], "I would love for you to move it to my first show, because when I talk to you, it brings out the best in me. I don't know if I will be nervous, but in case, I feel really comfortable with you." And he did, which I thought was really sweet.
TV Guide Magazine: Does that mean your personal life will be part of the ongoing conversation?
McCarthy: I've always been willing to go there — it's just a matter of who I'm dating, because I have to respect what they want. I don't have that line that a lot of people do — if I'm really up-front and open, I'll never have to worry about what I say.
TV Guide Magazine: Have you had to increase your news consumption to keep up during the Hot Topics segment?
McCarthy: Absolutely. I've had to get more into pop culture and also really keep up with current affairs—the latest in Syria, all that. At 9:05 every morning, they hand us packets of 85 potential topics straight from the printer — the Hot Topics are literally hot! — and then 15 minutes before the show, they tell you which six made the cut. You really don't have time to form an opinion until you are out on live TV, which makes it exciting.
TV Guide Magazine: There's been controversy over your stance on the link between childhood vaccines and autism, based on your own experience with your 11-year-old son, Evan. Will you be sharing those opinions?
McCarthy: It's been three years now since I've even talked about autism or vaccines — I was taken aback when people freaked out that I was going to come on The View and preach. I don't feel the need to talk about it. I wrote three books — how much more can I say? If I'm asked — Barbara could very well be like, "Hey!" — I will clarify my stance, which is still the same: That parents are in charge. Space it out, slow it down and do your homework. But I am not at all against vaccines.
TV Guide Magazine: You mentioned being underestimated as a poker player. Is that a recurring theme with you? Will people be surprised by you on The View?
McCarthy: I hope so. I've always thought that you can be smart and badass and still wear a push-up bra. I know that sometimes you see the hair extensions and big boobs and — snap! — put me in a certain category, but I do hope that people will see that I also have a brain under the bleach.