How Producers Kept Oprah's Celebrity-Packed Finale a Surprise

How Producers Kept Oprah's Celebrity-Packed Finale a Surprise

It wasn't easy.

Published July 16, 2011

How do you hide something from Oprah? Sheri Salata, the executive producer of The Oprah Winfrey Show, may be the only one who knows. Salata was responsible for putting together the show's star-packed farewell extravaganza this past May at Chicago's United Center, and for keeping the whole thing a secret from her boss. Hiding the dozens of A-list celebrities who descended on Chicago from Oprah's view for two days proved to be a logistical nightmare, and Salata shares some of the juicier near-misses with TV Line:

Tom Hanks: "Oprah was going to go with friends to a restaurant near her house. The maître d’, who’s a good friend, called us right away and let us know that Tom Hanks had booked a table at that restaurant and [asked] if he should cancel Tom! We’re like, 'Yes! Cancel Tom because she’ll see right through that!'"

Beyonce: "Beyonce’s dancers were rehearsing in the studio. We thought that Oprah was going to stay at home all day, but she decided to put on her sweats and come into the office. They just missed each other by a matter of minutes."

Maya Angelou: "The day we were rehearsing, [Oprah] called Maya [Angelou] and asked her where she was. Dr. Angelou said, 'Somewhere. But I’ll be home tomorrow.' I know how she operates. She’s looking for a tone, a look, the slightest bit of information where she can put things together."

According to Salata, her plotting was successful and the finale was a complete surprise to Oprah. She says, "I will honestly tell you this – and I don’t know if I’ve ever had this experience – but miraculously, there was not one problem. Not one thing that went wrong. Not one thing." That sounds hard to believe, but Salata definitely deserves props for holding it together during what sounds like the most intense live event since the Olympics.

For more behind-the-scenes madness of Oprah's tearful farewell, watch Season 25: Oprah Behind the Scenes on OWN this Sunday night.

Written by Smriti Mundhra


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