When longtime standup comedian Sheryl Underwood landed her cohosting gig on the hit CBS show The Talk in 2011, it was an honest-to-goodness dream come true.

“I don’t think people really know how happy I feel to be me, because I never thought I was going to get this,” Sheryl, 55, exclusively tells Closer Weekly in the magazine’s latest issue, on newsstands now. “I’m a Def Comedy Jam/BET street comic, so for people to relate to me and trust me … I’m about to cry. I’m praying that we can stay on for 20 years.”

Sheryl still wants to spread her wings, though, and has guest-starred on everything from Jane the Virgin to The Odd Couple. “I want to stop [each day] at 12:15, go shoot my sitcom and then, during hiatus, do some big-time action film where Tom Cruise and I fall in love … and then he and Keanu Reeves fight over me. Sorry, is that too much?” she says with a laugh.

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After overcoming several personal tragedies, from an abusive childhood to her husband’s 1990 suicide, she deserves all that and more. We caught up with this funny lady to talk The Talk — and find out how she’s made her dreams come true.

Scroll below to read our exclusive Q&A with Sheryl!

How would you describe this time in your life?

I have so many great things going on in my career, and I love that people can see changes in me. Patti LaBelle — we’ve known each other for years. She came on the show and hugged me and said, “Girl, you look good!” I thought it was really great.

Have you had any starstruck moments while co hosting The Talk?

When Judith Light came on to promote The Nellie Bly Story, I kind of lost it. [Laughs] I asked the show to forgive me because I watched her forever on One Life to Live. Keanu Reeves is very charming and dashing. During the break I asked him, “Where do you find the humanity of your character, John Wick?” You would’ve thought I asked him to tell me the Declaration of Independence! He lit up and started to break it all down.

The Talk’s been through a lot of changes. How do you feel about Carrie Ann Inaba joining? And have you been in touch with Julie Chen?

Julie Chen’s really busy because she’s got Celebrity Big Brother, but we still see each other because we’re on the lot together. She really was a great mentor to me. I’ve learned things from her, like how to read the teleprompter and being able to focus on doing a two-minute segment. She’d set me up with a joke and I’d hit it out of the park. I hope people saw the love and connection we had with each other. Now Carrie Ann Inaba is as much of a jokester. And I love her — she’s going to teach me how to walk in heels!

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When a cohost is going through a tough time, what is it like on the set?

You look at what Sharon Osbourne and Ozzy [Osbourne] went through — we cried about that. When [former cohost] Aisha Tyler admitted she was going through in vitro, I was like, “That’s why you’d be cussing me out in the morning — hormones!” [Laughs] When Sara [Gilbert] told us she was pregnant, when Eve said she wants to have a baby, that’s when we come together. That sisterhood is real. None of us fake it.

What else are you up to?

I have a radio show [with stations listed at sherylunderwoodradio.com]. I was able to host the Daytime Emmys twice [in 2017 and 2019] with Mario Lopez. And another thing with doing The Talk: I really like when shows come to us to play ourselves. We had so much fun when Gina Rodriguez directed us on Jane the Virgin last year, and we were on Happy Together and Madam Secretary

You’ve also had roles on The Young and the Restless and The Bold and the Beautiful. How did that come about?

Being part of the CBS family, they weave you into everything! I got a call: “They need you on Y&R.” I said, “I need time to prepare!” Christian LeBlanc taught me how they do so many pages of dialogue, and they kept bringing me back. I love Eric Braeden and thought he was going to be like, “Know your lines!” so I was trying to get ready, but he said, “Put that script down and be yourself.”

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What do you enjoy the most?

I like it all, and the fact that you often get to see the same crew. When we did the 25-year anniversary of Def Comedy Jam on Netflix, to get to see Chris Rock, Steve Harvey and Dave Chappelle again and remember when we were younger… For Chris Rock to say, “I can’t follow Sheryl Underwood” in an interview, and my phone starts blowing up ’cause I didn’t see it. I mean, it’s amazing. We all get goosebumps.

You’ve been candid about your past, from surviving rape to your husband’s suicide. How have experiences in your earlier life shaped who you are today?

Well, for one thing, the [Air Force] Reserve helped me and gave me a discipline that I really needed. So did joining a sorority [at University of Illinois at Chicago], which helped me with my service, and I brought all of that here to The Talk. It gives me a safe haven to open up.

Are you close with your family now?

My mother, father and stepmother are deceased. I take care of my disabled sister. When something goes on with her, [my cohosts] can tell from the look on my face and they come to my aid, recommend doctors.

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Who is your biggest support now?

When you’re talking about sisters, that’s Sara, Eve and Carrie Ann. A mother figure, that’s Sharon. When Whoopi Goldberg told me, “You’re telling one of the best jokes I’ve seen written by a woman in this generation,” that’s a motherly figure to me. I have a lot of love around me.

Anything new with your dating life?

Ooh, child, if I ever have something juicy to tell you, I will let you know.

What’s your secret to happiness?

For me, spirituality is first, health is second. I recently did Metamucil’s Two-Week Challenge because I was a little sluggish and couldn’t understand why. I probably wasn’t getting enough fiber. Once I took the challenge, I felt lighter, and now I’m moving even faster. Also, a good old charming man to take you out to dinner and make you feel good about yourself helps!

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