Five years after the last episode of The Oprah Winfrey Show, the host has found herself wishing she could explore national conversations on her iconic program.
“The first time that happened was with [Jerry] Sandusky,” says Winfrey, referring to the Penn State football coach who was convicted in 2012 of multiple counts of sexual abuse of children. “I thought, ‘If only I had a show, I would be able to [talk] about it.’ Many times during this election, I thought, ‘If only I had this show, I could explain what is happening.'”
However, in a lengthy interview with Ava DuVernay — the creator of the new fall drama Queen Sugar, which debuts on Winfrey’s OWN network on Sept. 6 — Winfrey says she’s found a new outlet in producing shows for her network.
“I care about what happens to incarcerated men,” she says. “Rather than do a show where you have former inmates sitting there talking about what it’s like, we can use the entire story line of [Queen Sugar character and former inmate] Ralph Angel and tell the story. Rather then tell the story of older women dating younger men, you can use [Queen Sugar character] Aunt Vi, and tell that story and show affection and tenderness. So it’s a different way to share the same stories and themes.”
Winfrey adds: “You want to tell stories that mean something to people so that at the end of the day they come away feeling it was worth their time and their engagement. That’s what’s going to happen with Sugar.”
As she moves forward, Winfrey is proud of her talk show’s history — but she doesn’t necessarily “miss” the program that was at once all-consuming and life-changing for both the 62-year-old multi-hyphenate and her dedicated audience.
“It holds a space with me that is me and will forever be me until my last breath and beyond. But ‘miss’ is not the word. I cherish everything it represented,” she tells DuVernay. “There is not a place I can go that people don’t say what that show meant to them and what my being on that show did for them and how it made them who they are. I raised them. They came home after school and watched. They watched it with their mothers. They left their husbands because of it. They found their husbands because of it. They don’t beat their kids because of it. I cherish it.”
For more from Oprah Winfrey and Ava DuVernay, pick up the new issue of Entertainment Weekly, on newsstands Friday, or buy it now – and don’t forget to subscribe for more exclusive interviews and photos, only in EW.