By Zach Johnson
No one gets people to open up quite like Disney Legend Robin Roberts.
That skill has served Roberts well during her 33-year career with The Walt Disney Company, especially as co-anchor of ABC News’ Good Morning America. It’s also a skill that makes Season 2 of the Disney+ Original series Turning the Tables with Robin Roberts so compelling. In the four-episode season—premiering Wednesday, March 15, in celebration of Women’s History Month—Roberts invites famous women of varied ages, backgrounds, and experiences to come together for candid conversations. The four topics the groups explore are “grace,” “fulfillment,” “certainty,” and “community.”
Roberts, who both hosts and executive produces the series, says she was excited to engage in new dialogues with her guests—and, ultimately, connect with viewers. “We wanted to build upon what we did in Season 1 by finding some attribute that people are grappling with, that they’re having a tough time with,” she says. “We wanted to find those things that many viewers watching are having issues with, so they can see that these iconic women—many of whom they look up to—have had their struggles in reaching grace, or they’ve had their struggles in finding fulfillment. To see these examples they set forth, it makes a person who’s watching go, ‘OK, I can do this, too.’”
This season’s guests include Yaya DaCosta, Chloe Kim, Hayley Kiyoko, Loni Love, Marsai Martin, Chrissy Metz, Kelly Osbourne, Kyla Pratt, Sheryl Lee Ralph, Brooke Shields, Dionne Warwick, and Rita Wilson. Roberts thinks carefully about creating the perfect mix of women, as if she were creating a guest list for an intimate dinner party. “That’s a really good example,” she says. “It’s really tough. Well, it’s tough and it’s easy at the same time, because it’s kind of like a chess game, trying to see who would be better with whom and how they can play off of each other.” A few hit it off so well, Roberts says, that they even “exchanged contact information after we stopped rolling.”
Roberts adds that she was impressed by each of her guest’s “openness,” as well as “their willingness to pull back the curtain and be vulnerable, to know they were not only helping themselves, but they could be helping others.” Sometimes, the things they said would catch Roberts by surprise—despite knowing at the outset that they each had a story to tell. Citing one example, Roberts says she was astounded when Kim, a decorated snowboarder, revealed to the group that she’d thrown away her first gold medal. “I was a frustrated athlete growing up,” Roberts says. “I wanted to be an Olympian!” But to sit across from Kim and hear the story behind it “really spoke to me,” she continues. “And when Chrissy talked about how before she was on a hit TV show, no one wanted to sit next to her on a plane? Ooh. For her to be so open about how she’s in therapy, I was so grateful. That’s something we don’t talk about enough.”
Roberts, of course, is happy to talk about that (and more). The key to getting guests to open up, as Metz did, is trust. “They trust me to know that I’m not a ‘gotcha!’ journalist. I’m not trying to get them,” she says. “I’m just trying to provide a safe haven for them to share and to know that they’re not going to be judged. I will follow up and I will probe, but it comes from a place of genuine compassion and empathy. Many of the things they’re talking about are things that that I’ve gone through after being on this Earth all these decades. My mama taught me never to try to make myself look good at the expense of somebody else. The people I’m interviewing, they know that—and they trust me. That makes them feel more able to open up and share their stories. And I’m so grateful. It’s a privilege to be a messenger, and I think that’s what I do. I’m just relaying the messages of the people that I’m blessed to be sitting across from.”