Inside 'The View' Season Premiere: Off-Camera Moments and How the Panel Came Together

The View Still Sept 15 - H 2014
ABC/Fred Lee

The View Still Sept 15 - H 2014

"You ever see those shows … where you have like 11 seconds to make something from the refrigerator? That’s what it felt like."

The first episode of the revamped new season of The View seemed to go smoothly when it aired live on ABC at 11 a.m. ET on Monday, but behind the scenes, there were plenty of jokes about rushed preparations to get to the first show.

“You ever see those shows … where you have like 11 seconds to make something from the refrigerator? That’s what it felt like,” Rosie O’Donnell told The Hollywood Reporter after Monday’s show aired. “But we made the meal and everyone ate it and no one had food poisoning.”

In all seriousness, there were some last-minute maneuvers, including, according to O’Donnell, changing the video montage at 9:40 a.m. ET and calling guest Kristin Chenoweth two days ago.

And co-host Rosie Perez was just asked to join the show a few weeks ago, at the end of August.

After O’Donnell and Whoopi Goldberg did chemistry tests with other potential co-hosts, including Nicolle Wallace, the show’s new executive producer Bill Wolff brought Perez in and convinced her that the mood would be collaborative enough for her to sign on.

“Bill Wolff said we’re picking a team of women that respect each other that will have differences of opinion but they’re still a team," Perez recalled. "And I turned to him and I said, you said the magic word: team. We can fight; we can argue, but don’t disrespect me. That’s where I draw the line, and at this point in my life when I go to work and to have to endure that on a daily basis, it just wouldn’t be worth it."

She noted that her deal was done a week later and the four women had worked together only once before taking the stage on Monday.

As for The View’s new studio, while there was a joke that the finishing touches were just added to the set 15 minutes ago, the former home of Katie Couric’s eponymous talk show was polished but homey.

The studio is just a stone’s throw from Central Park, much further east than The View’s old digs, and the set has been designed with a gray and turquoise color scheme, matching the show’s new logo, with white and orange accents. The new arrangement puts the show almost in the round, with the audience sitting in plush white leather chairs around three-quarters of the stage. The large table from the old set has been replaced with a small coffee table, with the hosts sitting in armchairs around it.

A large video screen adorns the wall at the back of the set, with a curved gray couch in the left-hand corner, presumably where the hosts will retire to when they’re interviewing guests. (Chenoweth, who performed a song for Joan Rivers, was Monday’s only celebrity guest.) The back wall also includes several small opaque orange and turquoise windows with a few shelves of vases, books and other items, giving the set a homey touch.

The hosts also seemed well-prepared.

The only noticeable hiccups involved the hosts wondering whether they should sit or stand at the beginning of certain segments, including at the top of the show, when O’Donnell could be seen trying to ask whether she and her fellow co-hosts should sit down. After they took their seats, there was a bit of settling in with the throw pillows in their chairs, with Goldberg removing hers.

O’Donnell quickly took the microphone during commercial breaks, walking around the set and talking to the audience, inviting them to ask her and the other co-hosts questions. Although she said it was the stand-up comic in her that made her unable to resist a microphone, she also predicted she’d stop doing that after two weeks, when the novelty wore off.

She quickly addressed one of the lingering questions about the lineup for the show when someone asked if there would be a fifth co-host; she swiftly said no.

“This isn’t enough for you?” O’Donnell joked to the audience member. “Get the f— out. Four is more than enough.”

She also answered questions about her kids (son Parker is 19 and going to Hofstra), Madonna (she’s working on a new album) and the show’s former executive producer Bill Geddie, explaining that he left over the summer and the show’s new producer is former MSNBC executive Wolff.

Wolff, who joined from The Rachel Maddow Show, said the biggest adjustment was the schedule, going from a 9 p.m. show to an 11 a.m. show.

“It’s much earlier,” he said of the differences between the two shows. “No joke, the hour is just a different thing.”

While he added that he dressed a bit fancier for the ABC daytime show, donning a suit and tie in addition to a headset, and that preparing for The View involved consulting a different group of news sources than he examined for Maddow, he said that his goal was the same: to produce compelling television.

Wolff explained that in finding the two remaining co-hosts for the panel, he was looking for accomplished women with “diversity of life experience” and that he and his team tried to put together the most interesting group of women who met that criteria.

Over the summer, while rumors of who might be joining the show ran rampant, the announcements and news about show changes were relatively low-key, with O’Donnell’s hire simply confirmed in a tweet the day the 2014 Emmy nominations were announced.

But Wolff said he was confident that if they produce quality television, they’ll receive the promotion they deserve.

“I have a lot of confidence of how our performance is going to be and what our show’s going to be, and I think, in time, people will know what we’re doing here because what we’re doing will be excellent,” Wolff said. “It all begins with the same thing, which is making the show as great as it can be. But if you keep your eye on that ball, and if you make that your number one priority every day in everything that you do, a lot of the stuff that you want — promotion, publicity, buzz and all of that — comes as a result of your work.”

ABC News executives Ben Sherwood and James Goldston were on hand for Monday's big premiere as well as show creator Barbara Walters, but she remained out of sight during the live taping, apart from appearing in a taped intro.

Before the show, Walters was backstage talking to invited guests, including several journalists, saying of the new hosts, “It’s about the chemistry.” She called the quartet “a good group,” recalling that she’s worked with everyone except Perez.

After the show was over, Walters finally stepped onto the set, sharing a few moments with the co-hosts as the audience and crew milled about.

6:56 a.m. An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that Bill Wolff's wife Alison Stewart was at Monday's taping. THR regrets the error.