It's not uncommon that after people date for a while and decide they’ve got a good thing, they want to tie the knot.
It’s less common in television, where stars often want to keep their options open.
But for Wendy Williams, star of Debmar-Mercury’s The Wendy Williams Show, a new seven-year commitment wasn’t hard to make. She recently inked a deal with the Lionsgate-owned company that runs through 2022. Asked if she felt uncomfortable with signing such a long contract, she said in her typical quippy fashion, “I’m uncomfortable selling mascara at a department store.”
For Debmar-Mercury copresidents Mort Marcus and Ira Bernstein, the deal was a no-brainer. “The show has gotten better every single year,” says Marcus. “We want to be in business with her for a really long time, and Lionsgate feels the same way.”
Debmar-Mercury is currently in progress on renewing and upgrading the talk show on TV stations across the country.
Williams’ quick wit and rare ability to shine on live television are what have kept her at the center of the New York—and now national—media scene for 26 years.
Williams got her start in radio in New York in 1989. Prior to launching her TV show, she had been afternoon drive-time DJ at New York’s WBLS since 2001 and was syndicated in many markets.
The Wendy Williams Show has been a hit in New York City since the moment it debuted as a six-week sneak peek—or test—in summer 2008.
That success in the country’s biggest market allowed the Fox Television Stations and Debmar-Mercury to keep it on the air in the belief that it would grow. That belief panned out, but it took several years. Today, Wendy is a top-six talk show in households, and tied with NBCUniversal’s Steve Wilkos for fifth in the key daytime demographic of women 25-54 at a 1.0 season-to-date in the week ended Nov. 8.
The talk show remains the center of Williams’ dreams, but under her new deal, she plans to expand into other areas of programming.
In February 2013, Williams and her husband, Kevin Hunter, launched Wendy Williams Productions. Two other key players are Jill Ramsey and Lisa Knapp. Together, the team is always on the lookout for new projects to produce and new talent to work with.
Williams already stars in and produces limited docu-series Death By Gossip for Investigation Discovery. In a couple of weeks, Williams and Debmar-Mercury plan to announce another limited series. And next Christmas, Williams will producing and star in a TV movie, Ebeneeza.
“We’ve got reality in the wheelhouse, and I would like to do scripted TV, not for me to act in but to provide work for other actors,” she says. “I also would like to do TV movies. But it’s not about me being in these shows. My favorite place to be is on stage at the talk show.”
Williams already has some ideas for a scripted show. She has written a series of novels around the character Ritz Harper, a New York DJ who’s “at the top of her game and who people love to hate.” Williams admits it’s a story that’s close to home, except that “I wouldn’t be friends with a girl like Ritz.”
She also enjoys reality TV but doesn’t want to produce shows such as Bravo’s popular The Real Housewives franchise. “No wig-pulling,” she says. “I like lighthearted reality. You learn something, you giggle and then you move on.”
And another of her dreams is to host a game show, something that Debmar-Mercury—distributors of FremantleMedia North America’s Family Feud and Celebrity Name Game—would likely love to facilitate. If Steve Harvey can do it, why can’t Williams?
Williams also has other businesses and activities in play. She has her own clothing line on HSN, and she occasionally steps out to do stand-up. Next up is a show at the State Theater in New Brunswick, N.J., on Dec. 12.
“When I get on stage to do my comedy, I just feel free,” she says. “I’m myself—I wear skimpy clothes and I curse like a sailor.”
Even with all of that on her plate, Williams is adamant that, “I’m not one of these women who wants to work all day. I have a personal life.” But her life in its entirety is about to get fuller. Security can do that.