Actress Bonnie Hunt had been pursued for 15 years to host a talk show before she agreed to enter the daytime arena with “The Bonnie Hunt Show,” which debuts Sept. 8.
Among the offers she received was one from David Letterman’s Worldwide Pants for “Late Late Show” after Craig Kilborn exited. But Hunt hadn’t felt the timing was right until now. The Hollywood Reporter caught up with Hunt to find out why she finally decided to say yes and whether her two-time co-star and notorious Oprah couch-jumper Tom Cruise might make an appearance.
THR: Why did you say no to a talk show for so long, and why did you decide that now was the right time?
Hunt: Since I was a little girl, it’s been something I was always fascinated with; I just couldn’t wait to get home from school and watch “The Dinah Shore Show.” I loved when my folks would watch “The Dean Martin Show.” Johnny Carson especially, when you would see famous people in a spontaneous, natural way that you didn’t normally see them in, it was so exciting to me and fun.
Jim (Paratore, executive producer of “The Bonnie Hunt Show” and a former executive with Warner Bros.) was the first person to formally come to me and ask, and all these years later it felt like the right time, and daytime felt like the right place for me. It gave me time off in the summer to do a film if I wanted, where late-night didn’t have that advantage.
I think I feel more confident going into it now because I have lived a little bit more. I think 15 years ago, I didn’t know if I had enough maturity to listen in the best way.
THR: Describe the format of your show.
Hunt: That’s going to evolve and find itself, but definitely the tone will be established right off the top, which I think will be at the top of our intelligence, full of humor and definitely accessibility, curiosity and spontaneity.
THR: What do you want to bring to your show that’s different from other talk shows?
Hunt: I think I’m a storyteller; that’s always been what drew me to this business. Just the value, the entertainment, the relief, just the commonality that it brings together when somebody tells a story and we all listen and we all learn from it or see ourselves in it and how we connect with it.
I think there’s something really genuine about that that’s kind of lost, and it’s not so much celebrating other people’s bad moments in daytime television, which has been a trend for a long time, but almost celebrating what really makes us laugh, what makes us feel very human and normal at the top of who we are, not necessarily at the bottom of who we are.
THR: You’ve already experienced your own struggles in primetime, and the failure rate in daytime is especially high. Does that scare you?
Hunt: This is a challenge, and the challenge doesn’t scare me. Because I’ve been so blessed with a background in nursing and spent so much time with patients at a really intimate, vulnerable time in their lives, the one lesson I’ve learned is that you never turn down a challenge where you can keep your creative integrity and your heart and soul and your sense of self. Go for it and see what happens, but it is a gamble. Daytime television is a gamble, but not in the really big scheme of life.
THR: You’ve worked with Tom Cruise in “Jerry Maguire” and ”Rain Man.” Will we see him jumping on your couch anytime soon?
Hunt: I would love to have Tom on; I’m sure he’ll be around. He’s a very nice, fun, smart guy — and a bobcat in the sack, I might add. We had a lot of downtime on the set, and I didn’t smoke, and neither did he, so what are we going to do? We made love.
THR: On that note, I think I got what I needed.
Hunt: So did I.