When The Talk returns today on CBS for its third season, Sara Gilbert is going to look a little less made up than usual. The show’s creator and one of its five co-hosts is going without make-up for the season premiere. And that’s just one fun thing the five women — Sara, Julie Chen, Sheryl Underwood, Aisha Tyler and Sharon Osborne — have prepared for this fall.
Prior to The Talk, Sara was known largely for her role as Darlene Connor on the hit 1990s sitcom Roseanne. While continuing to take roles in films and on shows like The Big Bang Theory and HawthoRNE, she never shared too much about her personal life. So when she created a show where she’d have to talk about her feelings, her thoughts and her family, we tuned in, hoping to know more about one of Hollywood’s hippest gay moms.
It took some time before the show found its footing, with a shift in co-hosts between Seasons 1 and 2, but now that its decidedly successful and featuring women who have an effortless witty rapport, Sara can breathe a little easier, and that means she’s also opening up more, even if it’s just referencing her partner, her sexuality or joking about her lack of knowledge when it comes to a topic revolving around men. Alongside co-hosts who are not only pro-gay but outspoken allies, Sara has created a table we’d all want to be sitting at.
We spoke with Sara about the evolution The Talk, how she balances her work and home lives and if she’ll ever return to acting.
AfterEllen.com: How did you spend your vacation time between seasons? Time with the kids?
Sara Gilbert: Yes, time with the kids. I’m working on a book so I’m kind of finishing putting that together. Sort of like a green encyclopedia kind of thing. It’s like one page per topic, basically, on many topics. Let’s say you wanted to paint your house or something. Instead of having to read a whole chapter or a whole book on it, I kind of break it down so you literally have one sentence and if you want a little more, you can learn more if you want more on that. It’s user-friendly and funny, a little bit sarcastic, tongue-in-cheek.
AE: Seasons 1 and 2 were very different from each other. What did you learn that you are taking into the third season?
SG: I think we just really hit our stride in the second season. It became almost like we had wordless communication with each other. We know when everybody else is going to talk, just like when you have a really good group of friends and there’s an ease. So that happened and I think everybody got more comfortable and people are sharing more and showing more of their personalities. I think we’re crazier, not being afraid to show our crazy sides. I think the show is more personal and will continue to get more personal and more fun. We put an emphasis on social media and we really want to feel connected to our audience even more and we’ll be doing more of that.
AE: When I was at TCA, Julie Chen mentioned that you are hoping to keep things edgy, including having on some more controversial guests. Is that something you wanted to have happen?
SG: I think as a group the thing that we all share, one of them anyway, is we love having a good conversation. Things that are more controversial just make it more fun for us. They’re more fun to talk about.
AE: Is there anyone that you wouldn’t want to have on and have to sit at a table with?
SG: Not really. For me it would be more like I’m not going to sit at a table with that person if I can’t bring up X, Y and Z. Luckily at our show we’re allowed to bring up pretty much whatever we want. And that’s what’s interesting about the show is the producers do a great job of getting us topics and prepping us and telling us things about the guests but it’s really in our hands when we’re out there what we want to say.
AE: Who is a guest you’d love to have on?
SG: I always love when we have musical guests. Like when we had Stevie Nicks. I love classic rock so. Sharon’s friends with Elton John so I think it’d be awesome if he came on, or if David Bowie came on. Something that’s sort of more in our wheelhouse, maybe, I’d love to get Michelle Obama. I just love to talk to people but not about the usual things. More about, like, family and girlfriend topics — things that relate to their lives. Just get a different angle on those kinds of people.
AE: As an out woman, do you feel like you’ve had an impact on people who might not know a gay person in real life, but see you on television every day?
SG: I think so because I get Tweets about stuff like that sometimes. Somebody just Tweeted me that they came out to their parents and it was OK and their parents loved them anyway. It was really sweet. I don’t know if I have any effect on that but hopefully. Hopefully the more people that are in the media that aren’t living the lifestyle that has long been held as the only way to live helps those people feel more brave and more safe.
AE: As a viewer, it feels like you’ve been more open about yourself and that aspect of your life, even making jokes about it at the table. Do you agree?
SG: I just feel more comfortable in general on the show. I think that at the beginning you’re on live TV and you’re scared and you don’t what to say and how much attention you’re going to get for what you say, and I’ve always been a really private person. So I guess I realized nothing — the sky isn’t falling if I say stuff. It just gives me more courage to talk about everything. It’s not just that topic. I just feel more free to be who I am on the show.
AE: One guest that I found interesting last season was Adam Carolla. When I saw you were having him on, I started thinking “Oh, I hope they ask him about this and this and that!” Do you ever pay attention to what viewers might want you to ask or do you come up with your own questions?
SG: The producers do a really good job of figuring out what people might want to hear so I look at that and then I think all of us, what we’re interested in hearing. And I think if an interviewer has a genuine interest in somebody, they’re going to probably hit on a lot of things that other people are interested in. It’s about finding the thing in the guest that I’m interested in and i think there’s passion there.
AE: Are you hoping to bring more green and vegan issues up in the third season?
SG: We do these segments — Redo You — where we give people tips and stuff, so I think it would be great to bring some of more of those into those segments. I think people are more and more aware and more interested.
AE: Is there anything that didn’t work that you’re going to get rid of?
SG: I think it’s just about growing and pushing forward. I think Season 2 worked really well for us and it’s about building on those strengths.
AE: Were you invited to be part of the Roast of Roseanne on Comedy Central recently?
SG: Yeah, I was asked to roast her and I had to take my daughter to Disneyland for her birthday and we’d planned it before I got the invitation so kids win! I really wanted to be there and I was trying to do both and there was no way to make it there on time.
AE: How are you able to balance the show, the book, any other projects you’re working on and spending time with your kids?
SG: It kind of makes me be all over the place but I think that in some ways, I end up spending less time with them because I’m working and it makes you feel bad when you’re a mom. There’s no way around it. And in other ways I hope I’m setting a good example for my daughter of how women can be strong. For my son too. I want them to see women can do well in the workplace, you can have a family and a career. but unfortunately you do give up some of the time you have with them and there’s no way to sugarcoat that. When you make choices in life there always tradeoffs, so I spend as much time as I can with them and make it as good as I can. And the great thing about the show is that a lot of days I’m done at noon or one so I end up picking them up from school and it doesn’t cost me any time on those days.
AE: Are you going to be taking on any acting projects in the near future?
SG: I think I will be. It’s a little bit tricky right now because the schedule of the show. So if something perfect — if I found the perfect little thing that I could fit in, obviously I couldn’t do a drama series for another network. I just can’t do it. If there’s something little, I think that could be fun. But the first couple seasons I’ve really been focused on the show, but I would think about it now if the right thing came along.
AE: Do people recognize you more for The Talk or as Darlene?
SG: I don’t really know because sometimes people say “I love your show” and I don’t know what they’re talking about. But people do, more and more, some people specify and more and more people say The Talk and that kind of takes me by surprise just because I’m so used to being known for one thing. And then people say Big Bang sometimes. It’s kind of funny because my whole life, I’ve been known for one thing and lately I hear other shows and The Talk more. It’s interesting.
AE: I really like your style on the show. Do you dress the same on TV as you do in real life?
SG: I look better on The Talk than I do in my everyday life. I actually try to get it together to be on television! I have a stylist I work with sometimes, I have the wardrobe people on the show. But it’s really a team effort where I’ll go out and shop, they’ll go out and shop. They’ve gotten good at knowing what I like and so we really work together. One of the wardrobe people was saying I’m spending more time on picking stuff out and being more specific and they like that because they feel like it makes it more personal, like you’re wearing your own clothes.
AE: Where do they shop for you?
SG: Basically they go get my favorite brands. ALC is one of them, Rag & Bone is another one I love.
AE: Do all of you dress similarly in person as you do on the show?
SG: Well I think you pay more attention when you’re going on TV in front of a couple million people. We all look better a couple hours after we get to work! But everybody works with the same wardrobe people, but we all look different. I’d say it’s really personal the way we influence what we want to wear.
AE: Now that you’re on the third season, have comparisons to The View continued? I feel like I don’t hear them much anymore, but it was non-stop before the first season.
SG: I don’t really pay attention to that stuff so much. I guess I did hear that more the first season. I was just flattered to be compared to a successful show. I think the show is really different. I feel it’s a more girlfriendy, sit around the table and talk. And we do talk about serious things, but I think it’s a way less political show. But you’re right — it’s been on long enough that people know it’s different.
AE: Do you ever have to compete with shows like that for guests?
SG: I think we’ve been really lucky in terms of getting guests. I think people just like the show and do it so I don’t really think of it as a competition. I think we do the best show we can and make people want to be on it.