Diane Haithman contributes to Deadline’s TCA coverage.
At today’s TCA conference on the Sony lot introducing her new daytme talk show, Queen Latifah said she had “already invited the Prez and Mrs.” to be guests on the show during a visit to the White House. Latifah did not say whether POTUS and the first lady had agreed or declined to make an appearance on The Queen Latifah Show, which makes its debut September 16. The new talk host added bluntly when asked if she could see herself tapping her friends in show biz as guests: “Yes, I can picture myself doing that. I just know this is going to be the place where they want to come.”
Appearing on the panel with executive producers Jada Pinkett Smith (Will Smith is a producer) and Corin Nelson, Latifah et al also fielded a few cracks about whether the ubiquitous Willow Smith would show up as a guest. Jada Pinkett Smith confirmed that her daughter has said: “I want to go on Auntie Latifah’s show.” The program, Nelson said, will be a one hour live-to-tape program including some footage of Latifah out in the field doing segments with real people.
Easy to say why they were talking about Willow Smith, but what led to the discussion of America’s First Couple? Earlier, when asked whether health and politics would play a role in the new talker, producer Nelson had said: “We probably won’t get too heavy into politics.” Latifah ragged on the comment, adding: “Barack is welcome.” Following suit, Nelson joked: “Michelle Obama, come on down.”
The reference to politics was made as part of a larger point about the tone of the show: Even if the guest is a politician, the tone will not be political. Or snarky. Or not nice in any way. Latifah will not tear anyone down, she declared. Her guests will not be “blindsided by crazy stuff” or asked to “set the record straight.”
“If you don’t what to talk about that, I’m not going to make you talk about it, because, guess what — I don’t want to talk about it either,”Latifah said.
Latifah wants the critics to like her, too. She opened the conference with a loopy, Chicago-style musical number—with Latifah in red-feather boa trying to “buy” TV critics by tossing fake money into the audience. Afterward Latifah settled down on the Lenny Kravitz-designed set (think earth tones, lots of wood).
Latifah and producers said the show will be heavy on music but music will not be part of every installment. In response to questions about it, Latifah also brushed off any comparisons between herself and the other queen of daytime, Oprah. “People have often asked me, do I want to be the next Oprah – there is no such thing,” Latifah insisted. “Oprah is Oprah, and she’s still being Oprah if anybody hasn’t noticed…what I bring to TV is myself… I really think there’s space in daytime TV for a whole bunch of fun, some amazing music, and some heart.”