She's been a creative powerhouse behind The Oprah Winfrey Show for more than 20 years. Now, Ellen Rakieten, executive vice president of creative development at Harpo Productions, joins Gayle with the inside scoop on two exciting new endeavors: The Oprah Winfrey Oscar® Special and The Big Give.
To celebrate the 79th Academy Awards, Ellen says Oprah will be hosting her first-ever primetime Oscar special, airing February 22 on ABC. Ellen says that The Oprah Winfrey Oscar Special isn't a typical celebrity interview program—instead, past Oscar winners will be interviewing each other!
Ellen says they picked fascinating celebrities with great chemistry, like George Clooney and Julia Roberts. For the interview, Ellen says she was lucky enough to spend the day at George's home. "He is dreamy and charismatic and kind and nice and fun—I did not want to leave," she says.
Another dynamic duo featured on the show is Russell Crowe and Nicole Kidman. Ellen says the actors have been friends since 1989, but have never appeared on camera together—until now. Ellen says their interview is "fantastic" because Nicole came up with her own questions, and asks Russell about everything from his favorite on-screen kiss to his rumored bad temper.
Also in the works is a new primetime series called The Big Give, which Ellen says turns the whole world of reality television "upside down." Each week in the five-week series, contestants will be given a different amount of cash and a different assignment that involves helping others, Ellen says. Contestants won't be eliminated, she says, but they will be judged based on the amount of good they're able to do. "Instead of, 'It's all about me and what can I get for me,' let's see what you can do for other people," Ellen says.