Photo Credit: THE OPRAH WINFREY NETWORK
You know your TV show is in good shape when Oprah Winfrey drops you an email just to let you know that it made her cry. That's exactly what happened to Lisa Ling when Winfrey checked out her new original series, Our America with Lisa Ling (premiering Feb. 15 at 10 p.m. on the Oprah Winfrey Network, a.k.a. OWN).
At a press event to promote the show, Ling told reporters that the queen of talk emailed her to say that she was "bawling" after watching the debut episode about faith healers. Since the series is on OWN, Oprah is technically Ling's boss, a situation that is not without its downsides: Ling says that Winfrey "emails at 2 in the morning with time code" edits.
The first season of Our America features six episodes: "Faith Healers," "Transgender Lives," "State of Sex Offenders," "Pray the Gay Away?," "Heroin in the Heartland" and "Online Brides." In each episode, Ling gives viewers an in-depth look at some of the most controversial issues in the United States. The result is an hour-long special that Ling hopes will make people "feel differently and think differently."
Though Ling travels abroad frequently, she says that during filming she felt like she "was in a foreign country, because the worlds were so different from my own." In "State of Sex Offenders," Ling visits with sex offenders in Miami who are forced to live in the woods due to a law that states they must reside 1500 to 2500 feet from where children congregate. "There are over 700,000 registered sex offenders in the United States," Ling says. "We have to take ownership of the fact that these people are Americans in order to best deal with the situation."
However, unlike many TV hosts today, Ling doesn't want to impose her feelings and beliefs on her viewers. "I'm not going to tell you what to think," Ling says of the topics discussed on Our America. "I'm just here to provide you with an experience. It's up to you to come to your own conclusion."
Ling does, however, admit that she went into each situation with some amount of judgement. "I went into 'Faith Healers' very critically and skeptically," Ling confesses of the premiere episode, about people who claim to cure ailments through faith. "But I walked away feeling so moved," she says.
"It's the proudest I've ever been at anything I've ever done," Ling explains, adding that she has Oprah to thank for that achievement. The Our America host says it's the power of the Oprah Winfrey Network that allows her to do this kind of intelligent, investigative programming. In television today, "it's never about what's the intention, but how it's going to rate," Ling says. "I've never worked for an organization that asks what is the intention first, and Oprah's always been that way."
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