Sarah Shourd

Photo: Getty Images

While supervising senior producer Andrea and her team are securing the first interview with Michael Jackson's mother and children since his death, another big interview is taking shape back at Harpo. "My team and I are producing the exclusive interview with Sarah Shourd," says senior supervising producer Katy. "She was living in Damascus teaching English there when she and her fiancé and another friend decided to go hiking in Iraq. They ended up being arrested supposedly for crossing the border into Iran."

Sarah, her fiancé Shane Bauer and their friend Josh Fattal were taken into Iranian custody on July 31, 2009. Sarah was held in solitary confinement for 23 hours a day. In August 2010, Sarah was allowed to call home for only the second time since her ordeal began with alarming news—she said she had a lump in her breast. Iranian leaders allowed Sarah to leave the country to receive treatment for the heavy price of $500,000. Finally, after 14 months in captivity, Sarah was flown to Oman and reunited with her mother.

While Sarah was freed, Shane and Josh remain in custody. With help from the booking department, Katy's team locks in Sarah's first interview and also books Shane and Josh's mothers. "My favorite are ordinary people having overcome extraordinary things in their lives," Oprah says. "When I do a newsmaker, it's different because I am trying to get to a level of earthiness, realness, something that's not just on the surface." 

Oprah and her producers meet


During the pre-show meeting, Oprah and the team run through the biggest questions surrounding the story, including why she thinks she was released. "We don't know the answer to that, but she said it's not for health reasons, which is what's been printed in the press," Katy says.

"I think the interesting thing is for people who think, 'What the hell are you doing hiking in Iran?'" executive producer Sheri says. "She'll have interesting things to say about that."

Oprah and Sarah Shourd

The morning of the interview arrives, and Sarah watches her own story unfold in a taped piece just before taking Oprah's stage. When Oprah says, "Welcome home, Sarah," the freed hiker faces the cameras for the first time.

See what happened on the show 

After the taping, Oprah stops by Sarah's green room. "You did so well," she says.

"Really?" Sarah says.

"No really, if you didn't I wouldn't say anything," Oprah says. "You were willing to talk to us. I'm so happy about that. Thank you." 

Inside the Jackson family shoot