The savvy, snarky new panelist on ''The View'' checks in with following her selection as one of Entertainment Weekly's breakout stars of the year

By Jennifer Armstrong
December 31, 2007 at 05:00 AM EST
Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images

With regular-gal élan, comic Sherri Shepherd became the newest star on The View in 2007. Charged with keeping viewers interested in the show after the departure of resident lightning rod Rosie O’Donnell, the 40-year-old former legal secretary succeeded simply by being her unvarnished self, offering blunt remarks about her failed marriage, and other frank, fresh observations. And while she may chalk up that notorious comment about the Earth possibly being flat to a ”brain fart,” Shepherd is making no excuses for keeping it real.

One of EW’s breakout stars of the year, the entertainer chats here about sticking her foot in her mouth, talking politics with Barbara Walters, and still walking to work when she doesn’t have enough money for a cab.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: How did it feel stepping into this job as a full-time, permanent member of the panel?
SHERRI SHEPHERD: Well, I was really scared but I know that I’m in the right place. It feels right because I’ve never laughed as much at a job every day. I was in the elevator this morning, and I was like, Damn, I’m a co-host on The View. I was like, Wow, that’s pretty awesome. I don’t think I’m ever going to be over it. I don’t think having fun gets old. And now we have our rhythm.

What’s been the biggest surprise?
I think that I put my foot in my mouth a lot. I never knew I could inspire so many jokes. One time I Googled my name and all this stuff that I say came up. I was like, I cannot believe my words affect so many people. ”Sherri wore this hair…. What was she thinking when she wore this….” I had no idea people were gonna care so much. I say something, I’m a comic. I come from a quirky kind of place.

What’s the biggest gaffe you’ve made this year, from your perspective?
Probably when I said I didn’t know if the Earth was round or flat. It was truly a brain fart moment. It angered or shocked so many people that it crashed my website, Best Week Ever did a spoof on me. I never was a good debater. Whoopi [Goldberg] is a good debater. Barbara is. If you ask me now, is the Earth round or flat? I’d go, ”No, it’s round!” But look how much time I have to think here.

What’s the difference between guest hosting and being permanent?
There’s not as much pressure to be funny. As a guest host, you have to find a way to get in. It’s like double-dutch. You never know when to jump in. You think it’s time, and then it already passed you by. I always tell the people who guest host now, don’t be afraid to jump in. You come on The View and go, ”I don’t want to be rude.” Now I can sit back and go, Joy [Behar] and Whoopi are being funny. I can sit back and let that happen. Now I’m chained to Barbara at the hip. I’m not going anywhere. So it’s a little less pressure. Somebody asked me the other day, ”How does it feel to be a star?” I don’t feel it. I walk to work. I walked to work the other day. It was raining, and I had no money for a cab. I walked in the rain, then I forgot my ID and the security guard didn’t know me. I was going, When is this celebrity thing going to kick in? It’s not like L.A., where people are like, ”Oh my gosh, can I get your autograph?” I ride the train. I go home and get in my pajamas and go on MySpace. I feel it more if I’m out with Joy or Barbara. I feel like I’m still at my law firm doing my job. I did this charity event for [New York] Gov. [Eliot] Spitzer last night, and the car they sent for me was a 16-passenger cargo van. I’m with freaking Gov. Spitzer, I emceed the whole night and raised $1.1 million. I go out and go where’s my car? I went, This mess will keep you humble.

NEXT PAGE: ”Just as a woman I’m growing. I used to think women couldn’t work together. Because some bitches will work your nerves.”

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Do you have any other upcoming projects?
SHERRI SHEPHERD: I’m doing two movies now. And both of them I auditioned for. I remember I was in there with other girls who were like, ”What are you doing here?” And I was like, ”I got to audition, too.” The movie is called Push, directed and written by Lee Daniels. I play a girl called Cornrow because my hair’s all in Cornrows and my love interest is Lenny Kravitz. Then, in Madagascar 2, I’m Ben Stiller’s mother and Bernie Mac’s wife. I’m a Mama Lion.

Do you feel like you are starting to learn more about politics and world events by doing Hot Topics every day?
I am growing and learning. I love being around Whoopi and Joy and Barbara. I love being in the Hot Topics room because I just listen. I open my mouth more around that table than [in the room]. Just as a woman I’m growing. I used to think women couldn’t work together. Because some bitches will work your nerves. But these women, I like coming to work every day. Sometimes we come back from break and we’re still giggling. I like that. If you had told me I’d be up every night reading The New York Times and the Washington Post and watching CNN, I would’ve laughed. Now I am learning more about politics and world events. I’m taking an interest in more things outside of myself.

Any topics in particular?
Children and health issues. Because I found out I’m diabetic just before I came out here. People are like, ”Oh, Sherri’s losing weight, she’s giving into the Hollywood thing.” It’s like, No, it’s because I stopped eating carbs and rice and drinking Pepsi all the time. I don’t have to do insulin medication because I’m eating right and exercising. And I didn’t know I was as passionate about people speaking English in this country. This is an amazing country we live in, and we can’t take advantage of all it has to offer if we don’t speak the language.

Is it tough to keep up with the other ladies?
I have a lot of life experience. I feel like what I have to say matters. Somebody said to me that you’re never at the mercy of somebody in an argument if you have life experience.

What advice would you give to someone just starting out on The View like you did this year?
I would say if there’s a desire in your heart, you should go for it. Even if you’re scared. I go out there every day scared. Do it anyway. You look back and go, it wasn’t that bad. What’s the worst that could happen? It was this big old fear: I’m going to fall flat on my face, my career’s over. But every day I’m like, I’m back on the show again. Barbara’s here smiling and hugging me.