Debbie Matenopoulos shares what she learned as the youngest co-host on 'The View'

She joins fellow "View" original Joy Behar in the podcast "Behind The Table."

October 19, 2021, 6:33 AM

Debbie Matenopoulos and Joy Behar joined "The View” together on day one of show and they reconnected again to discuss being a part of the show from the start in the "Behind The Table" podcast.

Matenopoulos was 22 years old and finishing up her journalism degree at New York University when she was "plucked out of nowhere" after working as a production assistant at MTV. "I graduated when ... we were doing the run throughs," Matenopoulos told Behar on the podcast.

It all began when Matenopoulos went to a friend's going away party and a casting agent working with Barbara Walters approached her about being on a new show, then called "The View From Here."

Meredith Vieira, Star Jones, Walters, Behar and Matenopoulos met up at Essex House for an audition and went on to become the original co-hosts of "The View."

PHOTO: Debbie Matenopoulos co-hosts "The View" in 1997.
Debbie Matenopoulos co-hosts "The View" in 1997.
ABC Photo Archives

"You were a baby," Behar said to Matenopoulos. "It must have been scary for you."

"What in the hell were they doing thinking about putting a 22-year-old on live daytime television?" Matenopoulos responded. "I was not ready to do anything except be working at MTV and going to clubs and concerts."

"Let's be honest. I was a kid," she continued. "The truth is ... you need to know about life to do a show like 'The View.'"

"I wasn't prepared to sit down next to the most world-renowned journalist. I was not ready to sit down next to a lawyer or a comedian who been doing it for … years or Meredith," she said. "Not to mention the other stuff that came on top of it."

PHOTO: "The View" co-hosts Debbie Matenopoulos, Star Jones, Barbara Walters, Joy Behar and Meredith Vieira on June 19, 1997.
"The View" co-hosts Debbie Matenopoulos, Star Jones, Barbara Walters, Joy Behar and Meredith Vieira on June 19, 1997.
ABC Photo Archives

In her two years on the panel, Matenopoulos had the honor to learn "quite a few things" from legendary journalist and show creator Barbara Walters, but one of the hardest lessons she learned was the "importance of listening."

Matenopoulos said she was "always so nervous" before shows because she wanted to "make Barbara proud" and "keep up" with the panel. "I was constantly studying those cards and, 'Oh my god, I'm so scared.'"

Leading up to an interview with Billy Bob Thornton on the show was no exception to her pre-show jitters.

"I'm backstage reading the cards incessantly, Billy Bob Thornton's beside me, and Barbara ... she comes in and sees me reading the cards and takes them out of my hand, and rips them up, and says to me, 'You don't need the cards today, baby,'" Matenopoulos recounted.

While her "entire life" flashed before her eyes, she said Walters told her to simply listen to the interview because she's better in her responses. "It was probably the best show I ever did on 'The View'" and one of the "best lessons" she said she learned from Walters.

PHOTO: Co-hosts Meredith Vieira, Star Jones, Joy Behar and Debbie Matenopoulos (l-r) on "The View."
Co-hosts Meredith Vieira, Star Jones, Joy Behar and Debbie Matenopoulos (l-r) on "The View."
ABC Photo Archives

Aside from being two co-hosts from the original panel, Matenopoulos and Behar also have being fired from the show in common. In January 1999, Matenopoulos' contract wasn't renewed.

"I was the first one voted off the island," Matenopoulos said. "I was the original survivor."

"Being the first one to be fired from the show, it really hit me hard," she said. "Not to mention I was a kid still. I was still only 24 years-old."

"My career was over in my mind, right as it had begun," Matenopoulos continued. She blamed herself for losing the opportunity until she "realized" it wasn't about her.

"It had nothing to do with me. It had to do exactly with what they wanted," she said. "That's just television."

In the sixth episode of "Behind The Table," Matenopoulos and Behar discuss the early days of co-hosting, reminisce about working with show creator Barbara Walters and Matenopoulos' surprise guest appearance on “Saturday Night Live” after leaving “The View.”

Listen to Debbie Matenopoulos and Joy Behar's "Behind The Table" podcast episode:

"Behind the Table" is available for free on major listening platforms, including Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Amazon Music, Google Podcasts, iHeartRadio, Stitcher, TuneIn, Audacy and the ABC News app.