It couldn't be more fitting that Wendy Williams named one of her rescue cats "MYWAY" — "one word" and all caps, as she's quick to clarify over the phone. The talk show host has lived her whole life and built a successful career doing things exactly as she likes them, without making concessions to anyone else.
The upcoming 12th season of The Wendy Williams Show — which premieres Monday, Sept. 21, on Fox — is no exception, of course. While some of her talk show host peers have been tinkering with the logistical nightmare of doing remote shows, Wendy will absolutely not be. "Home is too intrusive," she explains in an exclusive interview with BuzzFeed.
She is staunchly anti-Zoom, although she has used it before. (Please don't bother inviting her to your Zoom wedding or baby shower, though — she will not be attending.) Instead, she and her crew will be taking precautionary measures — which include forgoing a live audience, having celebrity guests call in remotely, and doing daily coronavirus testing — amid the pandemic.
Below, the host explains how The Wendy Williams Show will work this season, her hopes to write a book about cats, and what her off-time looks like. (Spoiler alert: It includes watching reruns of her show.)
As she says of her show, and especially the new season, "It will be laughter for one hour. You can laugh with me or laugh at me. Either way, I’m only Wendy."
Are you excited to get back to work?
Yes! I can’t wait to get back. I can’t wait to get back to my studio, my staff and crew and people. We can’t hug. We can’t spend time the way we used to. But I can’t wait to get back.
How will this season feel different compared with past ones?
Well, we’re going to start off with no audience, which does not make me feel weird because I come from radio. In radio, you sit with a microphone and no audience — everything is in your head and then you talk a story. We do have a few different new things on my set that I’m very excited about that I won’t talk about.
Will you be working in the studio or filming from home?
Never from home — how dare you [laughs]! No, you know what? Home is too intrusive. We’ll be in the studio and have a portion of staff there and a portion of staff at home, but we’re all back together. We’ve got tests for everyone to take every day. That’s what you have to do.
As far as guests go, will they still be coming into the studio?
I would certainly like to have some of my tabletop guests in the studio, but regarding my celebrity guests, if they’re not already in New York, if they don’t want to take the test, then no. They’ll be on the thing and I’ll talk to them through the thing, and it will be a thing-thing.
Have you had to use “the thing” — aka Zoom — a lot during quarantine?
I used it while we were filming for a few weeks from my apartment, but I don’t like the thing. I like to touch and hug and see and feel and hold. I’m not of the generation that enjoys texting for emotions — breaking up over text — you know what I’m saying. So for me, it’s weird, but the people at my show will make it work.
Have you had any weird experiences with Zoom etiquette?
No, because I only Zoom when my show is involved. When my show isn’t involved, I don’t Zoom. I don’t do any of that. I’ve missed two weddings and one baby shower because I’m not Zooming. I’m not pushing those buttons with my phone. I don’t know you people who are on the other blocks of the Zoom. No, I’m not doing that. No, I’ll send a gift. Goodbye.
It is pretty awkward being thrown into an online room with a bunch of people.
Well, you do it.
Yeah, everyone is usually talking over one another.
Exactly. Then you have to also do your hair, put on makeup, only to sit in the same house, to do this.
Yeah. So have you discovered any new TV shows that you like since the pandemic started?
Yes! I never liked that Mediterranean boat show on Bravo [Below Deck Mediterranean], but I actually like it! I’ve watched hours of hours of shows that I already like, and now I like them more, including Mike & Molly, Martin, Living Single, Seinfeld — I know every word of every episode of Seinfeld. [That’s] besides my reruns, which I watch incessantly because I miss the show, too. I watch like a fan.
Is it relaxing for you to watch your show, or do you find yourself thinking about things you would have done differently?
I watch with a critical eye, but during quarantine I watch with laughter. Once we go into commercial, I switch to other shows and I’m saying to myself, Nope, I don’t want to be depressed. I would like to laugh. Hurry up, commercials for Wendy. Come back. I’m always doing something humorous. That’s our show. That’s what it was when it started. It’s what it is 12 years later. We’re going into our 12th season, and I still feel like the same person that started 12 years ago. I lead with laughter. It’s my personality. It’s how I grew up. It’s who I am. Seriousness is made for after I get off the show. Everybody goes back to their regular lives, ugh, and we all do. But at 10 o’clock in the morning, I can assure you some laughter and “ha ha ha” and a good outfit.
There’s such a need for that laughter right now too.
I know, and that’s why I watch my sitcoms. They’re good.
When you were watching your show, were there any episodes that stuck out as favorites?
Nope, nope, and nope. I don’t have a favorite guest. I don’t have a least favorite guest. I don’t have a favorite episode. I love them all. Our show is the best. That’s now because it’s just me as the host. It’s because my crew knows how to swing the cameras great and the producers know how to produce great. It’s a great show. I dare anyone to defy me — and they do, by the way, and I tell them, “How dare you!” [laughs].
That’s great. Are there any books you’re reading at the moment that you’re into?
No. I hate them all! I’m an author. I’ve written seven books, but I’m so tired of looking at books and I’m really tired of TV, actually. But it’s there, so I turn it on for background. I would like to write a book about cats, maybe, one day.
That sounds interesting.
Chit Chat and MYWAY — one word — have been my absolute companions. I’ve had them for about a year and a half, and they are sisters from the same mother. They were born with a litter of eight, and the other six ran away. They stayed with their mother in an alley and then they got rescued, and when they got rescued, the mom didn’t want to go, so they went with the rescuers. They’re rescue cats. They’re all online. I take pictures of them when they stay still.
What would the book about cats be like?
I’ve always liked animals, and I’ve been stuck in the house. They look at me like, “We love you, Mom, but could you leave? We thought you had a job. We see you on TV. You leave the TV on. We see you when you’re there. Why aren’t you leaving?” Yeah, it’s a whole thing. I’ve taught them certain things, like now what the word "no" means. They also know their names individually. They know how to come together as the two of them and also come together as the three of us but also separate. We separate — different parts of our home. That’s the way it is.
Are these your first cats?
I had a cat many years ago, in another life, but these are my first having two, which is different. Having two is different, and I wanted two and I wanted them to be sisters. So when I’m away, they love each other. I can put them in the cat hotel, and then they’ll make friends with the other animals around them. They’re so good together, and they’re so good with me. They understand that I’m the mother, they’re the daughters, and so figure it out [laughs].
So do you mostly unwind with your cats? How else do you relax?
I don’t do anything else. I come home and spend time with my cats, [but] I’m not a cat lady. I happen to have two cats, but I resent when people think of women who have cats as cat ladies. Some are, but some aren’t. I’ve got a whole life going on.
What does your average evening look like after you get home from work?
Eating and watching TV.
Are you more of a takeout person or a home cook?
I don’t cook. I used to cook, and I’m a really good cook, actually, but my stove is very beautiful and I choose not to dirty it [laughs]. I mean, I’ll boil water on it, or make an egg — something clean. But I take out. Sometimes I like spaghetti with red sauce, sometimes I like spaghetti with white sauce, sometimes I only like meatballs. I like tuna fish from the can — but I don’t want to make it myself because I don’t want to dirty my place. I’ve become a total takeout person, and I take out from the high to the low. I’ll take out a $55 steak or a $3 peanut butter and jelly [sandwich]. When I get home, I’m exhausted and I just want to sit down. My son is in college and I’m divorced, so I have nobody here but me and the cats.
Congrats on the Lifetime biopic that’s coming out. What can people expect from it?
Drama! And excitement, and never-before-seen stuff.