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Queen Latifah eyes the daytime throne

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Updated: October 12, 2013 6:25AM



CULVER CITY, Calif. — “Do you want to be the next Oprah?”

It’s a question asked a lot lately of Queen Latifah, who jumps into the competitive daytime talk-show circuit Monday with her eponymous chatfest.

Latifah’s answer: “There’s no such thing. Oprah is Oprah, and she’s still being Oprah in case anyone hadn’t noticed.”

That’s not to say the hip-hop star, entrepreneur and actress, best known for her role as Mama Morton in the 2002 movie musical “Chicago,” wants her show to be completely different from the Queen of Talk’s.

“One of the cool things that Oprah did was take people on a journey with her. I’m hoping that we can — as we get to know our audience — take them on a journey with us,” Latifah said. “There’s some space in daytime television for, No. 1, a whole bunch of fun, some amazing music, but really some heart. She was able to tap into that when the ‘Oprah’ show was on. I feel like it’s kind of missing.”

Sitting on a couch at the center of her luxury home-like, earth-toned set designed by rocker Lenny Kravitz, Latifah said she’s striving for a feel-good, “safe place” vibe with her syndicated program, airing in Chicago at 2 p.m. on WBBM-Channel 2 and 7 p.m. on WCIU-Channel 26. The talk-variety show will mix it up with musical performances and comedy — both in Latifah’s wheelhouse — as well as taped segments that get her out in the field with regular folks.

Celebrity interviews are a big part of the equation, too. “The Queen Latifah Show’s” premiere week guest list includes John Travolta, Jamie Foxx, Sharon Stone, Jake Gyllenhaal and Will Smith.

The latter has some skin in the game; Smith and his wife, Jada Pinkett Smith, are executive producers of Latifah’s talker, shot in front of a live studio audience at Sony Pictures Studios.

“For us, it was just a win,” said Pinkett Smith, a close friend of Latifah. “When we did the research on her, she is across the board — from 3 to 80, women, men, kids — she is extremely likable.”

She’ll need to be that and more to survive in the daytime talk arena, which chewed up and spat out Ricki Lake and Jeff Probst after they joined the fray around this time last year.

Hosting a talk show isn’t entirely new to Latifah. She helmed her own program from 1999 to 2001.

“Did I expect to be doing this two years ago? No, I really didn’t,” Latifah said.

“We know people can watch anything they want, so we really want to make something that makes you want to come here every day.”

Email: lrackl@suntimes.com

Twitter: @lorirackl



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