BY Matthew Breen
August 13 2010 5:00 AM ET
Berkus adds, “I didn’t realize how much goodwill there was out there in middle America. I got letters from people of all different walks of life—gay, straight, rich, poor, black, white, Asian. It was a moment where everybody just felt all the same pain—that this guy is going through something enormously painful, and we’ve gotten to know him over the years, so this is something we feel for him.”
He is doubtlessly hoping to carry some of that audience goodwill to his daytime program, set to premier September 13. “The lens of the show is multifaceted,” he says, “but it focuses on really helping people live better, and also it’s going to be a tremendous amount of fun. It’s an opportunity to bring real stories in a way that’s sensitive, compelling, and humorous when it can be, because humor has gotten me through a lot in my own life.
“I had always wanted to do a show. Doing makeovers on Oprah, I found myself really taken with the stories of the people I’d meet. It was never just about design but about understanding who these people were and what challenges they face. I was a sociology major in college and have always been fascinated with what makes people tick, what motivates them, what gives them joy. Traveling the country with the Oprah producers was a really interesting period of growth for me.”
Though he can’t yet say much about the format of the show, coproduced by Sony and Harpo Productions, Berkus promises segments on the home and design solutions. There will also be celebrities, he says, “but in a way that’s different. You’ll see different sides of people you may know very well.” He’s already taped an interview with Elizabeth Edwards.
A new show brings new scrutiny for it’s star, but Berkus is nonchalant: “I haven’t ever been a particularly private person. I’ve always been very outgoing and love meeting people. My concern hasn’t been for myself but for my boyfriend, because he’s not a particularly public person.” And to that end, Berkus won’t say who he’s dating, other than to say that he’s an architect who lives in New York City, where Berkus’s new show is produced.
And the paparazzi attention? “It depends if I’m fat or not. If I’ve been to the gym and I’m photographed on the beach, that’s great. There are some bad pictures of me in Hawaii a few years ago, and I was really mad. In fact, I went back to the same place this past year with my family and went searching for the paparazzi because I’m in much better shape, but they weren’t there unfortunately.”