Sherri Shepherd is on a winning streak. Not only is she one of the cohosts of “The View,” she has a recurring role on the Emmy award-winning “30 Rock,” a new book and self-titled Lifetime show. ESSENCE.com caught up with the diminutive powerhouse to talk about finally becoming a TV headliner, surviving depression and the near-death experience of her son and why she’s learned not use herself as a punching bag.
ESSENCE.COM: So Miss Sherri, how does it feel to finally helm your own show?
SHERRI SHEPHERD: Can I say that this is a dream come true? Since I started doing standup In 1991, I’ve wanted this my entire life. Yes, I’ve been on sitcoms, but having my own sitcom? Every comedian and actor has that narcissistic thing because we all want our name on the show. Even when I found out that I had the show I begged, Please call it Sherri!” (Laughs.) it’s a great show that I believe will help heal a lot of people about how you get through infidelity and start anew as a single woman and mom. Also, how you come through tragedy and how your girlfriends get you through.
ESSENCE.COM: Niecy Nash is one of your BFFs and you credit her in your book on helping you through your darkest period. Will she appear on the show?
SHEPHERD: (Laughs.) If you don’t book Niecy two years in advance you’re out of luck. She wasn’t available because she’s doing her two shows, “Reno,” and “Clean House,” and she’s a correspondent for “The Insider.” However, I have a character on the show that pays homage to her and our friendship. Niecy and I have been through thick and thin. There were days that I didn’t want to get out of the bed, didn’t comb my hair and she’d come by and say put your wig on, put some makeup on, you want to borrow one of my flowers for your hair and get up because we’re going out! (Laughs.) She’s that kind of girlfriend who will be there and pray for you, hold your hand when you want to scream and when you’re ready to pray. She prayed my son into life because my husband and I were going to pull the plug on him when he was born prematurely at 5.5 months and they said he had internal bleeding of the brain, a hole in his heart and intestine and that he would suffer from cerebal palsy and mental retardation. Niecy prayed over my son and we had a miracle, his intestines healed and the bleeding stop. Now he’s running around like he’s invincible! (Laughs.)
ESSENCE.COM: What a blessing! Your show addresses your real-life ex-husband’s infidelity with a White woman. Some believe that there are no varying degrees of deceit whether it’s race or gender-based. Do you agree?
SHEPHERD: No, I don’t because there is a difference. There’s a line in the pilot where I say, “If you screw me once, okay, but you screw a White girl, I’m done.” I’ve gotten some flack on Twitter and accused of being a racist and I simply tell them to try to live my life. Even when you think you’ve evolved and say things like, “as long as two people love each other that’s all that matters,” it’s a whole different story when your husband walks around with a White girl. You can’t help but think, “How could you do this to me?” The feeling of wanting to kill your husband never changes, but it’s almost like a foreign object because you’ve never dealt with that before.
ESSENCE.COM: So will his infidelity be a primary issue on the show?
SHEPHERD: Lifetime really wanted to show the ex-husband played by Malcolm-Jamal Warner as a wonderful father and positive African-American male who made a mistake but has an incredible relationship with his son, so we won’t harp on his infidelity every week. Although he’ll continue to apologize from time to time and say let’s try it again, but I’m dating our son’s pediatrician (Michael Boaten).
ESSENCE.COM: Do your son and your ex-husband’s second child know each other?
SHEPHERD: Yes, they love, adore and protect each other and call each other boo-boo head. Out of the ugliness came a lot of beautiful things. At the end of the day, it’s neither one of the kids’ faults so why put that on them. I never want to be one of these women who does that because he is my son’s brother and I hope when they grow up they are as thick as thieves. I respect my son’s brother and I do my best not to talk about his mama (now, I ain’t no saint).
ESSENCE.COM: Is there any topic that you won’t tackle on your show?
SHEPHERD: (Laughs.) I don’t know anything that’s too taboo after having a bikini wax on national television for seven minutes and parading around in a bathing suit on the cover of a magazine. Nothing’s sacred! As far as my weight, you have setbacks and I have given myself permission not to beat myself up. The other day I had cornbread dripping with butter, but then I went to the gym. I’m happy where I am and I’m not trying to lose anymore. I just want women to watch this show and say If Sherri can make it through a painful experience so can I.
Tune in to Lifetime’s “Sherri” Mondays at 7 P.M. ET.