Scott D. Pierce: It’s easy to fall in love with Queen Latifah

First Published      Last Updated Oct 31 2013 04:52 pm

I've been a big fan of Queen Latifah for 20 years. For reasons that have nothing to do with her considerable talents but have everything to do with her new daytime talk show.

Shortly before the debut of her Fox sitcom "Living Single" in 1993, a friend of mine and I ran into Queen Latifah in the hotel where we all were staying. She approached us and began chatting amiably. She was friendly. Warm. She asked about us and genuinely seemed interested.

That's stuck with me for 20 years. And those are the qualities that make her the best new daytime talk-show host to come along in years.

"This is an opportunity of a lifetime," said Queen Latifah on the enormous set of her show on the Sony lot in Culver City, Calif. "I get to meet cool people, and then I get to have my friends here — aka celebrities — and play games and have fun. So I'm really, really excited to do this. This is where I see the home of all the experiences I've gathered throughout the years, all the things I've learned, all the talents that I have, I can have fun with right here."

In Utah, "The Queen Latifah Show" airs weekdays at 2 p.m. on KTVX-Ch. 4.

The success of any talk show rests almost entirely on the person who hosts it. There are plenty of other things that can go right or go wrong, but if viewers don't like the host, everything else doesn't matter.

And it's tough not to like Queen Latifah. Her personality shines through. She's good at this hosting thing and getting better.

According to her executive producer, Corin Nelson, none of this is an act. She recalled a trip she and Queen Latifah took to promote the show when "she did not stop working from 8 o'clock in the morning until 10 o'clock at night. We get to the airport, I'm so exhausted, I can't even see straight, and she's still smiling and happy."

Some people work all their lives to get their own talk show. David Letterman. Jay Leno. Arsenio Hall.

Queen Latifah, on the other hand, has been a successful rapper, singer, songwriter, actress, TV producer and music producer.

She's been nominated for an Oscar and an Emmy; she's won a Grammy (with six more nominations), a Golden Globe and two SAG Awards.

"No, I didn't grow up wanting to be a talk-show host," she said, "but I really don't look at it as just being a talk-show host, I look at it as bringing all my life experiences to this house and sharing that."

The toughest part of talking to Queen Latifah is figuring out what to call the woman born Dana Owens. She said most of her friends call her "La"; some people call her "Dana"; some people call her "Queen."

"I really don't mind what you call me," she said with a laugh. "I'm so used to being called everything."

Scott D. Pierce covers television for The Salt Lake Tribune. Email him at spierce@sltrib.com; follow him on Twitter @ScottDPierce.