Rosie O'Donnell: I Had to Pass Oprah Winfrey's 'Crazy Check' Before Landing New Show (Video)
Even Rosie O'Donnell has to muster approval from the potential boss.
The comedian -- who launches her new talk show, The Rosie Show, on OWN: The Oprah Winfrey Network on Monday night -- is known for sometimes generating controversy, including during her nine-month stint as a co-host on ABC's The View. She abruptly left the show in 2007, a month before her contract expired, after getting into an on-air argument with co-host Elisabeth Hasselback over statements O'Donnell had made about the war in Iraq.
When Winfrey heard that O'Donnell was thinking about hosting a show for OWN, Oprah Winfrey flew out to meet with her personally.
"When I heard that Rosie actually might be interested in signing on with me and with OWN, I really couldn't believe it," Winfrey told ABC News' Nightline in an interview airing Monday night. "I was like, 'Really? She would do that?' And you know, got on a plane to see her face to face to hear from her from her own lips that this is true because I didn't want agents speaking to lawyers and all of that stuff."
But O'Donnell believes the meeting was set up for a different reason.
"When I hugged her after I said I was all in, I said, 'so did you come here to see if I was insane?'" O'Donnell said. "She said, 'a little bit.' I said, 'I don't blame you.'...I passed the crazy check. I'm not sure how but I did."
She added: "I feel like was knighted by the queen. ... I will serve."
O'Donnell's new show -- which is taped Harpo Studios in Chicago, the former home of The Oprah Winfrey Show -- will feature Russell Brand as its first guest.
For her part, Winfrey, who departed her own daytime show this year after 25 years on the air, said she wasn't looking for someone to replace her but an original personality. She believes she's found that person in O'Donnell, who also hosted her own show, The Rosie O'Donnell Show, from 1996-2002.
"She is the only person in my 25-year reign as the No. 1 talk show, the only person who came close to beating me was Rosie," Winfrey said. "But it's not something I ever worried about. I am myself. Rosie is herself. I knew she had the goods. She had the goods." [It should be noted that The Jerry Springer Show outperformed Oprah in the ratings for about 50 weeks in 1998.]
For her part, O'Donnell said she won't follow notes on her show.
"I read the books, and I have a conversation," she said. "It's different than other talk shows. So it takes getting used to."
As for her time on The View, O'Donnell said she learned that she shouldn't take a job on another talker unless she can be the boss.
Meanwhile, she still stands by her actions that prompted the falling-out with Hasselback but admits she felt uncomfortable with her behavior that day. She recently watched the clip on YouTube, saying she was "not OK with the level of anger."
"When I watched it back, I felt the betrayal and the sadness," she said. "I had worked very hard to sort of befriend Elizabeth."
The Rosie Show airs at 7 weeknights.