When The Oprah Winfrey Show first started, Oprah says she figured out there are some parts of producing a talk show that she's not cut out for. "I'm the worst booker there is," Oprah says. "When we first started this show and there were just four of us and not 464, I was a booker. I lost every guest I tried to book. Because at that point when the person is saying, 'I don't think...' I go, 'Okay.'"
Now, there's a whole department at The Oprah Show that does nothing but try to get people to do what Oprah couldn't: say yes to an interview. For the 25th season, The Oprah Show's booking department has already secured exclusive interviews with Ricky Martin, Marie Osmond and Michael Jackson's family—and there are more on the way. "The booking department has been in overdrive this season," Oprah says.
Booking and talent relations director Cindy Mori says the most surprising element of booking guests for The Oprah Show is that some people decline the invitation. "Sometimes people that you might think would say yes end up saying no," she says.
Booking and talent relations manager Erin Sermeus says getting the Jackson family—including Michael's children—to agree to talk was especially difficult. "It was a process for sure," she says. "There are some things you can just never do again."
For 10 years, there has been one interview Oprah's wanted but hasn't been able to get: Susan Smith, the South Carolina woman who murdered her two sons, but claimed that a black man had stolen her car and kidnapped her children. The interview has been shelved because the prison where Susan is serving her sentence won't allow an interview. "But there's a new governor in South Carolina," Erin says. "So you never know."