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Courtesy 20th Television

Ricki Lake returns in a bid to become daytime’s new queen of talk.

The last time Ricki Lake had a talk show, it was 2004, she’d just separated from husband Rob Sussman and her on-air topics tended to center on cheating spouses and paternity drama. Eight years later, she’s returned with a newly svelte figure (thanks in part to her appearance on Dancing With the Stars), a new husband (Christian Evans, whom she married in April) and a more mature vehicle (The Ricki Lake Show, which premiered in September). We caught up with the approachable 44-year-old to talk about the evolution of the daytime talk format and how her second time around will be different.

American Way: Back in the Phil Donahue days, talk shows were really thought-provoking. Do you see an opening today for a more substantial show?
Ricki Lake: It’s funny that you mention Phil Donahue because he’s one of the prototypes for my show. I want to go back to an issue-oriented focus, like a town-hall meeting where the audience can get involved. I can’t pretend to be like Phil, Oprah or Rachel Maddow. I’m more the everywoman. But I feel like I could do a show that’s informational and accessible, to get people thinking in a ?different way or just learning from each other.

AW: What sorts of topics are you covering on your show?
RL: Times are so hard these days, and the economy, education and health care are all huge issues we’re forced to think long and hard about.

AW: Do you think it’s possible to discuss these issues without it becoming a political circus?
RL: I’m not going to be political because I’m not very political. You have to break it down and talk about issues in a personal way that’s not going to polarize everybody. I’m going to try to be as unbiased as possible. I think the climate is right.

AW: You’ve done so many different things, from films and Dancing With the Stars to launching the birthing-resource website MyBestBirth.com. What are your other plans?
RL: This show is my priority, along with my new husband and my children. I want to have balance. I love reinventing myself, and I want to keep changing it up. Doing Dancing With the Stars was a huge example. Who knew I could do that? I certainly didn’t. But this show is really my passion right now, and I’m excited to be back at work.