Lisa Ling on ‘Our America,’ Her Sister, & Oprah’s 2am Emails

By Molly Stark Dean 

Lisa Ling, who has made the rounds on ABC, CNN and MSNBC in recent years, has a new show debuting tonight on OWN. “Our America” is a single-subject, weekly documentary hosted by Ling. TVNewser talked with her this morning about her Alma Mater “The View,” her sister Laura Ling’s recovery after five months in North Korean custody, and her new boss Oprah Winfrey.

TVNewser: Your new show debuts tonight. What topics are you most excited about?

Lisa Ling: The first episode is about faith healing. We profiled this well-known faith healer who’s covered in tattoos and he lays hands on a man who has been wheelchair bound for years. And really, it’s about the phenomenon of faith healing, because over 80% of Americans believe that God can heal them of their ailments. This guy in a wheelchair had heard this voice of God telling him that he would walk on the last day during the last hour of this faith healing conference. I can’t tell you what happened, but I will say it was a completely shocking experience for me and really changed my notion of faith completely.

TVNewser: Do you talk with Oprah Winfrey often about the direction of the show?

Lisa Ling: I wouldn’t say often, but she definitely watches almost everything and will send emails late at night — sometimes even giving notes. This morning for example, there was an article in The Washington Post about my series. So I emailed it to her at probably about 5 in the morning. I’m in New York and no less than a half an hour did I get an email response from her. I heard that she was in Los Angeles today. So I don’t know what time that was when she got it. She said that she was grilled about the article. So, if in fact she was in Los Angeles, then it was about 2 o’clock in the morning.

TVNewser: You were with “The View” form 1999-2002. Are you surprised by the rise of shows such as “The Talk,” clearly of the same format?

Lisa Ling: I’m not surprised, because “The View” really is a great format and a great concept. I think that it definitely became a force in the presidential election, because I think people were just really hungry and eager to hear different perspectives. “The View” has really strong characters and opinions. I’m not surprised that it’s done really well and I’m not surprised that there are shows that try to replicate its format.

TVNewser: Are you enjoying the freedom of doing projects for different networks such as OWN and CNN?

Lisa Ling: Right now I’m pretty much focused on what I’m doing at OWN. Every now and then I’ll contribute to “Nightline,” which is a show I love. I feel really lucky that I’ve been able to do substantive work for different outlets. I feel fortunate that they’ve allowed me to keep doing this kind of work. But the workload at “Our America” and OWN have been quite heavy so I’ve had fewer opportunities to work for other outlets.

TVNewser: In 2009, your sister Laura was detained in North Korea, and she’s now back at Current TV. You wrote a book together on the experience. Do you plan on working with her on any projects in the future? Any TV plans?

Lisa Ling: Laura and I are best friends on earth and we definitely plan on working on some things together. We have some ideas for TV and for print. I respect her tremendously for her intelligence, but also her journalistic abilities. I look forward to being able to work with her more. Working on the book was such a pleasure, because we’ve got to spend so much time together after she had been held captive for five months. I just couldn’t get enough of her. I’m in New York right now and she’s in LA. I long for her and her daughter, because it’s been a week and a half since I’ve been away from them. The fact that I’m away from my sister has been magnified now, because of everything that happened.