“It was like WWOD: What Would Oprah Do?” recalls Ricki Lake of hosting her first talk show at 24. Now 43 and a mother of two, the Dancing With the Stars alum has her own vision for The Ricki Lake Show (syndicated, premiering Sept. 10)—and it’s a far cry from the wacky drama she perfected in the ‘90s.
TIME: You’ve called this show Ricki Lake 2.0. What does that mean?
Ricki Lake: I think the audience that grew up watching me—the things that matter to us have changed. I want to do something that’s more thought-provoking, more substance than fluff. It’s kind of the upgraded, evolved, more mature Ricki Lake show.
So, no more wig-snatching and paternity tests.
It’s safe to say I’m leaving paternity tests to Maury Povich.
Which kinds of topics will you tackle?
I still want to be talking mostly with real people. I’m not doing the Ellen show and having celebrities on, talking about their latest movie. We could talk about any of the topics that my old show covered; we’re just doing it a different way. So relationship stuff, body image stuff, aging, family, children, finding love, dating—all of it. It’ll just have a different tone.
Any specific examples?
We have one show—I think we call it Virginity 2.0. We talk about this phenomenon with women, predominantly women, who, after being sexually active, are deciding to abstain, and kind of be like a born-again virgin. So we had a 41-year-old virgin on, and we also went a little bit deeper, talking about Muslims and how, culturally, there are a lot of women who are having surgical procedures to basically sew together their hymen so that they are virgins when they get married. I feel like any topic can be done. I just want to have a reason behind it.
Are there any episodes of old Ricki Lake that you look back on like, “Oh my God, I can’t believe we put that on television”?
Probably every single one of them. But think about it: we went on the air in 1993. Now, with all that’s transpired on reality TV—the Kardashians, the Housewives—it feels like we were tame in retrospect. We had crazy hoochie mamas and drag queens, which I loved. But they were always real stories, real people talking about real issues. I have no regrets.
I assume, working with real people, that it’s hard to predict what exactly will happen on set.
Oh, yeah. I thought of myself as an amateur anthropologist. I’d read in the pre-interviews what their story was, but still, the way they would react to something or the way they would come out or the way they were emotional about something that I didn’t even think would affect them—that would always surprise me. It’s fascinating.
What’s the craziest thing you’ve witnessed on set? The wig-snatch?
Oh my God. That was like, season one or two, and it was frickin’ great. I love that. I’m sure that will happen on my new show—not on that scale and in that way, but there will still be moments where it’s like, something strikes a chord. And when it’s real and when it’s spontaneous and when it’s not produced, that’s when magic happens.
How often are you approached by fans?
All the time. And they say my name like it’s one word.
Yeah, it’s a certain level of fame. I describe myself as like, the unfamous famous person. People think of me as their neighbor or their relative, not some unapproachable star. So they all want to touch me and hug me.
That doesn’t sound creepy at all.
I like it. It’s very flattering!