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Ricki Lake is back on daytime with a 'relatable' talk show
Ricki Lake was a fixture of daytime television in the '90s when her talk show featured fun and outrageous topics. Starting Sept. 10, Lake is back with a brand new talk show called “The Ricki Lake Show,” one that she says is more fully a reflection of who she is. And who Lake is, is a newlywed -- she and husband Christian Evans eloped in April -- and the mother of two sons from a previous marriage.
The former Hastings-on-Hudson resident began her career as an actress, making a name for herself in the 1988 movie musical “Hairspray” as well as participating in other film and TV projects, before transitioning to the talk show arena in 1993.
When “Ricki Lake” ended in 2004 after an 11-year run, the star went on to have a varied entertainment career, including producing the documentary “The Business of Being Born” in 2008, hosting the VH-1 reality show “Charm School” in 2009 and winning second place on “Dancing with the Stars” last year.
Lake spoke with Newsday Westchester last week about her new talk show, the famous “Go Ricki” chant and how growing up in Westchester inspired her showbiz dreams.
What’s it been like to return to daytime television after so many years?
I’m wishing my honeymoon is closer than it was (laughs). It feels like a long, long memory -- like it was someone else’s life. I’ve been working really hard but it’s going really well. It’s nice to come back to a genre that I’m familiar with, but also be more familiar with myself.
What would you say are the main differences between your current talk show and your previous one?
I’m different. These talk shows are personality-driven, and who I was at 24 when I started my old show is pretty different from who I am now at 43.
You’ve done television and film. What appeals to you about hosting a talk show compared to the other kinds of work you’ve done?
I prefer being myself. I’m better at being myself than pretending to be something I’m not. And I really have a natural curiosity about people and relationships. I never get sick of hearing about a personal story or some incredible relationship that inspires me in my own life. I like the platform, I like this vantage point.
What kind of topics are you going to cover on your show?
Obviously topics I can relate to. Stuff about family, stuff about love and marriage and weight and aging and learning how to reverse that process. I think that the types of things that we’re doing are going to be really relatable to people, and that’s really the key. Every kind of topic that a woman cares about and relates to is going to be covered on our show.
You began taping episodes six weeks ago. Are there any episodes that stand out in particular, or that you’re really proud of?
I’m proud of a lot of them. There were ones I really had to fight to do, ones that the executives weren’t necessarily keen on. One in particular is we did a show on surviving suicide, which sounds pretty depressing based on the title, but was actually very uplifting and hopeful. And I think that hour of television will absolutely make a difference in many people’s lives.
We also did an amazing show on hormones that was so thought-provoking and smart and had differences of opinion among authors and experts and authors. A lot of the shows that we’ve been doing, there has been conflict in terms of difference of opinion. But it’s all been elevated content and it’s really smart.
The election is on everyone's minds at the moment, particularly right now with Michelle Obama’s well-received Democratic National Convention speech. Will you cover any topics that related to the election or politics in general?
I’m not very political, it’s not my forte, even though I’m a liberal and certainly vote and want to do everything I possibly can to get out the word for young people to vote. Her speech ... was absolutely so inspiring and it made me want to do more and be better. I hope to cover it in a way that’s not choosing a party line on the show. I want to be very respectful of everyone’s views while being candid about my own.
Who is your dream guest? Who would you personally love to appear on your show?
I’ve always said Chelsea Clinton was someone I wanted to have on with my old show. This time on my show I just want a compelling story and I want high-profile people on when it makes sense with the topic we’re covering. For example, we had Mark Ballas from “Dancing with the Stars” on with his mom when we did the “Surviving Suicide” show, because he had been personally affected. All this was unbeknownst to me, having worked with him for four months, that he had started a foundation to raise awareness and try to take on that issue.
There definitely seems to be a lot of differences between your previous show and this one. How about the “Go Ricki!” chant -- has that happened yet on the new show?
It’s happened a couple of times. It was never planted with the old show; it came out organically. It’s happened a couple times [on the new show] but it’s not something we’re asking people to do or suggesting. If it happens, it happens. But we also want it to be authentic. Whoever comes into the audience, we want it to be an authentic, positive experience. So if it entails the “Ricki” chant, then I’m all for it.
You grew up in Hastings-on-Hudson. How did living in Westchester influence your aspirations to have a career in entertainment?
I would go to Broadway shows every weekend. My grandmother would take me to see all kinds of shows, from “Pirates of Penzance” to “Annie” to “Grease,” and that was what made me want to be a singer and actor. I started singing lessons in Bronxville. I look back upon all of those years as ones where I wanted to be a star. I was lucky to be exposed to Broadway at such a young age.
The daytime landscape is filled with a lot of new and returning talk shows. How do you think your show will stand out in such a crowded field?
All I know is that I’ve been doing it as long as I have, I certainly have a track record with the genre. People are certainly familiar with me, and they know that what you see is what you get.
“The Ricki Lake Show” airs weekdays at 4 p.m. on WPIX.