For Nancy O'Dell, the New Year's ball drop is just the beginning of what is promising to be a banner year for her. After a decade of tucking in before midnight to cover the Tournament of Roses Parade bright and early on New Year's Day, this year the entertainment news host will extend her curfew past the strike of 12 to host Fox's New Year's Eve Live special.
"If you see a super-excited host on Fox on New Year's Eve, you'll know why," O'Dell says. "It's nice at the 10-year mark to be able to have a different experience and to bring in New Year's in a completely different way."
After manning the countdown to 2011, O'Dell will host a new competition series, Your OWN Show: Oprah's Search for the Next TV Star, on Oprah Winfrey's soon-to-launch cable network. "If there's anybody that I ever have aspired to be, it's Oprah," she says. "So to be able to do a show with her where she actually hosts a few episodes with me? That's the first time I've been nervous about hosting a show in a really long time." The reality series premieres on Jan. 7th at 9/8c.
Also starting in January, O'Dell will join Entertainment Tonight as a special correspondent before taking over full-time for retiring host Mary Hart in the spring. "It's been crazy. I feel like the female Ryan Seacrest these days," O'Dell says with a laugh. "It feels really busy, but it feels great. At this point in my career, it's so wonderful to be able to take boxes on my career goal checklist and check them off."
Nancy O'Dell to replace Mary Hart on Entertainment Tonight
O'Dell's packed calendar comes just a year after she left her position as host of Access Hollywood, an exit that surprised many. She had been with the program since its launch in 1996 and had two years left on her contract at the time of her exit.
"I had been there for so long, so there are near and dear friends there," O'Dell says. "But I think you reach a point in your career where there are certain things you want to accomplish and certain things you want to do and you really want to feel like you're in the right place ... It kind of feels like a new chapter in my life."
Brandy named special correspondent for New Year's Eve Live
In the meantime, O'Dell's focus is on New Year's Eve Live, which will broadcast live from Las Vegas and feature special correspondent Brandy and performances from Travis McCoy, David Archuleta and Plain White T's. She says she's had plenty of practice with one of her most important New Year's duties, with help from her 3-year-old daughter, Ashby Grace.
"We've been practicing the countdown, because it's my way of teaching her how to count backwards," O'Dell says. "She wants to do the 'Happy New Year's' by herself, so she may get upset when I actually do it. She may be like, 'Wait, that's my line.'"
New Year's Eve Live airs at 11/10c on Fox.