'The Talk' Announces Akbar Gbajabiamila as New Co-Host
By Rachel McRady
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The Talk has a new co-host! On Thursday, it was announced that Akbar Gbajabiamila will be joining Sheryl Underwood, Amanda Kloots, and Jerry O'Connell as the show's second male panelist.
The 42-year-old former professional football player is a co-host of American Ninja Warrior. He's also an analyst for the NFL Network. He retired from the NFL in 2008 after playing for the Oakland Raiders, San Diego Chargers and Miami Dolphins. Gbajabiamila and his wife, Chrystal, share four kids.
After the news broke, ET's Nischelle Turner spoke with Gbajabiamila about his exciting role, with The Talk's newest co-host admitting that he was "kind of blown away" when he got the job offer.
"It was one of those life-changing things for me, because it's something I've been working hard [for]. When you get that realization, 'Oh, this is happening,' it's one of those things that's kind of an out-of-body experience," he said. "It reminds me of the time that I got the notification that I was going to be a Raider. It's that same feeling [of], 'Oh my goodness, it's happening!'"
Gbajabiamila's family was likewise thrilled with his new gig.
"They say, 'Dad, you talk too much and this is great,'" Gbajabiamila told ET of his kids. "Now I can honestly say I can justify me talking a lot and say, 'This is what Dad does for a living. I'm on The Talk. You see? I talk.'"
Meanwhile, Gbajabiamila believes that his more than decade-long marriage will help him on the show.
"Being married for 12 years, I think it gives me a lot of comfort in knowing that I can honestly sit in a room of women and hear their opinions, hear their thoughts, hear their side of how they see something, and be able to be comfortable in my own skin to be able to give my perspective," he said. "Because again, it all comes down to not a right or wrong thing... but it's being able to listen and being able to engage."
As for what he plans to bring to the table, Gbajabiamila said that his life experiences will provide a unique perspective going forward.
"I've been to 40 countries. I'm a father of four, played in the NFL, college graduate. There's so many things that I believe I bring to the table in being able to add to the national conversation," he said. "I've always been a person that wants to bring and promote conversation over confrontation. Especially now so much because people are so easily offended, and I think with a platform like The Talk, it allows me to bring that balance in a very diverse cast."
"We've got a bunch of great hosts on the show. I think my voice is just going to help supplement some of the ideas and bring balance, really," Gbajabiamila added. "... I think that's what it's about. It's about appreciating the diversity in experience. I think The Talk is setting the trend. They are really at the forefront of this, being able to just value those diverse opinions."
When it comes to his co-hosts, Gbajabiamila only had kind things to say.
"I've known Jerry for quite a while now. Sheryl has been such an amazing force, just checking in with me, even as I was going through the trial period. Really just being there as a mentor. Amanda has just been absolutely amazing, just a beautiful heart," he said. "I think it's a great team... This is a very cool team at The Talk and I'm super excited about it."
While Gbajabiamila plans to keep his American Ninja Warrior gig, he can't wait for his fans to see a new side of him on The Talk.
"What I bring over to The Talk is going to be a different side. My fans and people who know me, they'll see a different side. They'll see the side of me that I have insightful thoughts on how I see the world, how I see entertainment, all things sports. I'm doing it in a loving and funny way," he told ET. "I think they'll appreciate this side of me. This is the platform for it for sure."
In a press release, Gbajabiamila called joining the show "an absolute honor."
"I am so excited for this new generation of such a long-standing establishment," Gbajabiamila said. "To be a part of this diverse group is truly a dream and a new statement for The Talk. In a world as divided as ours, I look forward to showing up as my fun and authentic self every day and advocating for conversation over confrontation."
Heather Gray, the show's executive producer and showrunner, said, "It’s a new day in daytime for season 12 of The Talk, and we are thrilled to welcome Akbar to the family. His engaging personality, openness and quick wit really impressed us when he appeared as a guest co-host last season."
"Akbar’s candor and humor come with ease and are great additions to the conversation," Kristin Matthews, executive producer and showrunner, added. "Also, his relatability as a husband and father creates a special connection with the viewers that is invaluable."
The news comes just days after it was announced that Elaine Welteroth was leaving the CBS talk show after one season. Carrie Ann Inaba exited the show last month after three seasons.
In July, O'Connell joined the panel as the first male co-host. In addition to Gbaja-Biamila, it is believed that there are also still plans for another female co-host to be added to the group.
"It's an exciting time. It's something new," O'Connell said at the time of being the show's first full-time male co-host. "It's new and it's a change. Change is good. Change is good. You have to do things that scare you and shake it up a little bit."
He added that his co-hosts were "so welcoming."
The Talk's 12th season will kick off Monday, Sept. 13 on CBS.