After a year of appearances as a guest host on ABC’s popular daytime talk show The View, actress-comedian Sherri Shepherd finally made her official grand entrance as a “permanent co-host.” The big announcment, which was made last Monday by the show’s creator Barbara Walters, not only hushed the industry whisperings about who would fill the fifth co-host chair but marked a turning point in Shepherd’s career.
Donning a crimson wrap dress and a beaming smile, Shepherd sashayed to her new seat as the audience wildly cheered and gave her a standing ovation. Her energy was at an all-time high and her excitement permeated the studio.
“Being on this show is beyond my wildest dreams,” Shepherd told Essence.com after her first official co-host show wrapped. “I’ve been trying to get on this show for three years—just to sit on the couch—and now I’m the one interviewing people. That’s why you’ve gotta believe in God because He can do things more abundantly than what you can even (imagine]…God just has an amazing sense of humor because now I’m at the table.”
The move to daytime TV is a big one for the former legal secretary who hails from Chicago. After ditching her 9-to-5 for a chance to tickle some funny bones at Los Angeles hot spots such as The Improv and Laugh Factory, Shepherd was often cast as the plump funny girl on the big and small screens. However, her new gig on The View is sure to position her for a broader range of roles.
Shepherd, who has banked screen time on shows such as Everybody Loves Raymond and Kim Possible and films such as Beauty Shop and Cellular, joins comedian Whoopi Goldberg as the second African-American co-host on the show. Star Jones Reynolds, an original co-host who departed the show in June 2006, is also African-American.
Filling both of the show’s empty seats with Black women (Whoopi joined as a co-host one month ago) is unprecedented for the daytime favorite. However, ABC Daytime President Brian Frons insists that the decision wasn’t about race but rather who was the best lady for the job.
“There were people considered that were not African American,” Frons told Essence.com. “The cool thing is the two people that won the battle were African-American women. We didn’t think twice to say, ‘Oh gee, it’s two African Americans. Is that a bad thing?’ Instead it was just, ‘They’re the two best people, let’s do it!’ ”
Indeed, it’s all about new beginnings and synergy. A year ago, Reynolds left the show abruptly after an alleged riff with Walters. The show’s public internal strife continued when actress Rosie O’Donnell joined the roundtable before vacating her seat presumably because of her on-air sparring with fellow co-host Elisabeth Hasselbeck and ongoing war-of -he-words with business mogul Donald Trump.
For now, the chemistry between Shepherd and her co-hosts has begun on a positive note. However, she admits to being nervous about working with the legendary journalist.
“I was so intimidated being next to Barbara,” Shepherd says. “Then Barbara said, ‘You be who you are, do what you do’ and I’m grateful for that. That’s what I’ve always been doing and that’s what I will continue to do because that’s how I got the job.”
As Shepherd spoke with reporters, her longtime girlfriends of 15 years—Angelina, Yosepha, Bernice and Earline—witnessed their friend shine just as she did at her first comedy show many years ago. Though they loved seeing The Color Purple on Broadway the night before and meeting Fantasia backstage, the ladies agreed nothing could top seeing their friend achieve so much and Sherri was just as happy to have them by her side.
“You need your sisters in your life,” says the separated mother of one. “They are always so supportive and came to my very first comedy show. When stuff was going on in my marriage, I called my very good friend Earline and said, ‘My husband is going to jail, you gotta pray with me.’ She prayed with me and we’re now at The View.”
Want to catch Sherri and the other ladies of The View in action? Catch her on ABC weekdays at 11 a.m.