Oprah Winfrey sat down with The Hollywood Reporter for a sprawling cover story that discusses her plans with Apple, her 60 Minutes exit and the backlash she received for Leaving Neverland.
The selfmade billionaire, with an estimated net worth of $2.8 billion, says she is hoping to use her megapowers for good. “I want to leave this planet being able to say, 'Caused no harm, did a lot of good,' ” she says.
On her projects for Apple, one of which includes a project on sexual abuse, she tells THR: “My mission is always about letting other people know, “You're not alone.” Obviously, we're going to do the women in Hollywood and in the music business, but what was important to me was to be inclusive of waitresses and factory workers and nurses and nuns and people who you'd never imagine, so that the world can see themselves in their stories. I've been adamant that if you only tell the Hollywood story, you can only be partially heard.”
Winfrey received serious blowback for appearing in Leaving Neverland on HBO. Regrets?
Winfrey says: No, I don't regret it. It wasn't really regret, it was just … actually, I was having dinner with friends and they were saying, “We saw you were in that.” Like, “Why did you do that?” This is what happened. I saw it, and I was shaken by it. I wasn't even shaken by the fact that it was Michael Jackson, I was shaken by the fact that filmmaker Dan Reed had done a really good job of showing the pattern, and for years, I had been trying to show people the pattern. I'd been trying to say it's not about the moment, it's about the seduction. The first thing I said to Gayle King when we watched it was, ‘Gayle, you've got to get those guys on CBS This Morning.’ She Instagrammed about it, and I go, ‘No, you shouldn't Instagram, you should just get those guys.’”
On the hate: “Honeeeeey, I haven't had that much hateration since ‘The Puppy Episode’ with Ellen Winfrey guested as the therapist on the 1997 Ellen sitcom episode in which Ellen DeGeneres' character comes out, and it made me think, ‘Thank goodness Ellen's coming out was before social media because can you imagine?’ During “The Puppy Episode,” I had to take the people who were on my switchboard at Harpo off the switchboard because of the vitriol. They were scared.”
CBS is going through its own cultural reckoning after the ouster of CEO Les Moonves of sex harassment allegations, but she decided to leave before the scandal even occurred, she says.
Winfrey explains: “I'm no longer doing that. I've removed myself from that, so I have only 85 jobs now. I'd actually gone to former 60 Minutes executive producer Jeff Fager prior to the whole CBS (pantomimes an explosion) and said I was going to be working with Apple and that it didn't mean I would never do something with 60 Minutes but I would probably be taking all of my energies and putting them into whatever I wanted to do at Apple. It was an interesting experience for me. I enjoyed working with the teams, and I'm probably going to work with some of the freelance people on my Apple stuff, but it was not the best format for me.”
She continues: “I think I did seven takes on just my name because it was ‘too emotional.’ I go, ‘Is the too much emotion in the 'Oprah' part or the 'Winfrey' part?’ I had a deja vu moment because I've actually lived through this once before when I covered a story as a young reporter where the family had lost their home and my boss told me that I reported it with too much emotion. I had too much emotion in the story. I thought, “OK, so you're not supposed to be involved in the story, I get that. You're a journalist.” But the same thing is true even with a read at 60 Minutes. They would say, ‘All right, you need to flatten out your voice, there's too much emotion in your voice.’ So I was working on pulling myself down and flattening out my personality — which, for me, is actually not such a good thing.”
No, she’s not running for president. But she’s still going to get active in the 2020 election.
She tells THR: “Right now, I'm studying the field. I'm reading Shortest Way Home by Pete Buttigieg, I call him Buttabeep, Buttaboop. (Laughs.) The name's either going to really hurt or really help — I think it's going to help, actually. Just the other day, I was at Apple with Spielberg and we were in the hallway talking about, (employing a dramatic voice) ‘What are we going to do?’ And I said, ‘Have you heard of this Butta guy?’ He goes, ‘No, Butta-who?’ I go, ‘Buttabeep, Buttaboop. Look him up.’ … I have Kamala's book. I just got the Vanity Fair piece on Beto O'Rourke. I'd done some research background stuff on him before. I already know Cory Booker. So I'm quietly figuring out where I'm going to use my voice in support.”