Upon her return to TV after ''The View,'' the controversial talk-show host withstands our cross-examination

By Margeaux Watson
August 17, 2007 at 04:00 AM EDT
Matthew Jordan Smith

A little more than a year after she was fired from her cohost slot on The View, Star Jones is making a small-screen comeback with her eponymous new Court TV show, premiering Aug. 20. For the former prosecutor, the move represents a return to her roots — and an opportunity to overcome her reputation for being a self-absorbed daytime-TV diva. Jones, 45, recently sat down with EW to talk about life since The View, her relationship with her former colleagues, and finally coming clean about her 2003 gastric bypass surgery.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Did you have any trepidation about returning to TV?
STAR JONES: I did. It worried me because being in the public eye can be both intoxicating and toxic. It takes a level of maturity to be able to balance both of those and I needed to make sure I had matured enough that I could and that I wanted to.

Why is your new program called Star Jones instead of Star Jones Reynolds?
My husband [Al Reynolds] and I talked about it. We wanted to separate the two specifically because it will telegraph that there’s a professional part of me and then there’s a personal part.

What’s the difference?
The professional part is subject to all the scrutiny in the world because I can defend what I say and think. But I don’t ever want to put myself in the position of having to defend my life and the people I love. You won’t hear interviews about [my husband and me] personally, you won’t see what our bedroom looks like, what my closet looks like — we’re not doing that anymore.

Were you surprised by the vitriolic response to your weight loss before you admitted having gastric bypass surgery?
I was shocked in the beginning that people attacked me, but I think that had more to do with arrogance and naïveté — thinking I could pick and choose what to make public about myself. I was very public about other things and I think the audience rightly said, ”But wait, you’ve told us all of this, why are you gonna leave this out?!”

NEXT PAGE: Jones on Whoopi Goldberg, her contact with her former cohosts since leaving The View, and Rosie

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: How do you feel about Whoopi Goldberg joining The View?
STAR JONES: I’m excited for her. I spoke to her the day before they announced it and we talked for a long time. I consider her one of my dear friends. I think she brings intelligent diversity because she will put things in perspective as it relates to a community other than the majority community, and by that I mean not just race, but religion and wealth. And that’s a big deal.

Have you talked to Barbara Walters since you left the show?
No, I have not spoken to Barbara, but I got a congratulatory note from her after [Court TV] announced my show. I wouldn’t expect anything less. I’ve spoken to Elisabeth [Hasselbeck] and we e-mail back and forth. But I have not spoken to anybody else.

Did you watch The View during the Rosie O’Donnell era?
I haven’t watched the show since the day I left. I kept up with it because you can’t turn on the Internet and not keep up with it. I wish them the best with the direction that they wanted to go in and I hope they got what they wanted.

How do you feel about the way Rosie’s reign ended?
From what I understand, Rosie used to go after Elisabeth all the time. I disagree with almost everything Elisabeth says, but I’d die for her right to say it. She has every right to believe what she believes. And you should be able to do television and disagree and walk away as colleagues.

What’s your take on the difference between your departure from The View and Rosie’s?
I made good choices is the best way to put it. I made very good choices. But I made good choices for the long run.

For more of Star’s views, and her defense of Britney’s mothering skills, see our online-only continuation of this Star Jones Q&A.