In April 2010, Oprah interviewed octuplet mom Nadya Suleman—dubbed
"Octomom" by the press—over satellite for the first time. "I have
questions about anyone in the news who I feel has been exploited and not
handled well," Oprah says. "What I was curious about is what is really
going on with her."
During the interview, Nadya and Oprah discussed whether she is addicted to having children. "My role is to help us all understand the human connection we all hold. And so you think you're not like Nadya Suleman but Nadya's using babies in the same way people use drugs, use gambling, use shopping, use work," Oprah says. "I do with potato chips what Nadya Suleman does with babies. That's the only difference."
After that interview, Nadya sent Oprah a letter reflecting on their conversation. "Your words began haunting me: 'Baby addiction.' Although denying this for years, you compel me to face reality," Nadya wrote. "I feel trapped, and the only help I pray for is guidance down the right path."
Nadya also asked for help. "What most people don't realize is Nadya Suleman made money after her octuplets were born," producer Dana says. "She did interviews; she sold pictures. And now she sent Oprah a letter asking for help because she was broke."
Dana's team has decided to bring Nadya face-to-face with financial
expert Suze Orman. "We all agreed that the only way to help Nadya is to
put her in touch with Suze Orman," Dana says. "We knew that Suze would
know exactly how to talk to her."
During her preshow meeting with Oprah, Dana reveals Nadya is worried about what Oprah will think of her. "She said, 'I'm really worried about what women think of me,'" Dana says. "I said to her, 'Are you coming here because you want Oprah's approval?' and she said yeah."
Oprah says Nadya won't get her approval, but she will get her respect. "This girl is very smart. She's really a person who has the ability to have a great deal of awareness about themselves," Oprah says. "I have respect for the fact that she's not the ninny that she's been portrayed as being. I have respect for that. But I just think this is one of the most irresponsible things I've ever seen."
Still, not everyone is so sure the show should go on—including senior supervising producer Katy Davis. "I have a lot of reservations about booking Nadya because there's so much controversy surrounding her," Katy says. "There's a lot of talk about her just having eight children because she wants to be in the press. And so, we need to make sure that it doesn't look like we're exploiting her and her situation."
Before taping, Dana has a preparation call with Suze. "I guess what's so
sad [is] she made enough money that she could have taken care of her
kids for the rest of their lives," Suze says. "If we get her to admit
the biggest admission in life, that she was addicted to babies and she
made a mistake, this could be a very interesting moment."
Sheri says Suze always digs deep with the people she helps. "She spends time with people. Years later, she's still following up with guests," Sheri says. "She is the person we go to when we have somebody who needs financial help that's going to then become a lesson for all of us."
Oprah knows Suze will keep Nadya in check. "I think she put in about 40 hours going through all of Nadya Suleman's financial records. Suze knows how much money Nadya Suleman had made and how much she had squandered," Oprah says. "So if Nadya says, 'Oh I didn't have any money,' Suze will know that she's not telling the truth."
After talking with Suze, Dana and co-producer Scott call Nadya. "Last
year I spent a couple days with Nadya Suleman in her house and really
got to know her and her kids pretty well," he says.
Still, Scott says Nadya can be unpredictable. "Nadya is real stream of consciousness," Scott says. "You never know what's going to come out of her mouth."
After their phone call, Dana and Scott strategize about how to prepare Nadya for taping when she arrives. "Nadya does talk fast, and I'm concerned that when she goes off on a tangent, it's going to be a challenge to reel her back," Dana says. "We don't want her to talk in circles, because people aren't going to connect with her. They're going to feel like she's avoiding answering the question. If this happens in the studio, it's going to be a real challenge."
On taping day, Scott preps Nadya,
and Dana preps Suze. Back in the control room, executive producer Sheri
is making her final preparations for the show. "I love a Suze smackdown
more than anyone," Sheri says. "Our intention is that Nadya can really
take Suze's information in, and that direct talk in, and really make
some substantive changes."
As the show starts, Suze doesn't waste any time getting to Nadya's underlying problems. "Right toward the top of the show, Suze started to really lay into Nadya," Katy says. "We weren't expecting it to unfold like that."
As the show continues, Suze accuses Nadya of lying. "I got that feeling like, 'Ugh, this is too much. It feels too harsh'," Sheri says. "I'm a little worried that Nadya feels attacked."
At one point, Nadya says she hates herself. "That was a breakthrough moment, and it was very real," Katy says. "I think you don't actually see somebody changing right before your eyes, but I'm worried that this show is a little uncomfortable."
See what else Nadya said during the show
"That was not the right tone for this interview," Sheri says. "That was a fragile person."
After the show, the producers aren't sure how Oprah will react to the
interview. "I was a little afraid to say what I thought of the show
because I didn't want to put it out into the universe that this might
have been a failure," Dana says. "I thought it was good because Suze was
really tough on Nadya and we wanted her to be tough, but it felt a
little bloody to me."
In Oprah's office, Katy says Suze might have been too hard on Nadya. Dana agrees. "It was a challenge because I know some people probably are going to watch because they want to see that, but it was a little much for me," Dana says.
Oprah disagrees. "I have been there when Suze has given a smackdown to somebody, and it was uncomfortable for me. I wasn't uncomfortable today," Oprah says. "I did not think she was too hard. I don't think anything's too hard if it's the truth."