Meredith Vieira Says Former Boss Barbara Walters Was 'Very Kind and Generous' and 'Tough as Nails' 

"Once you work with Barbara, she's a very complicated person," says former View moderator Meredith Vieira

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Photo: Taylor Hill/Filmmagic

When Barbara Walters created The View more than 20 years ago, it was Meredith Vieira who landed the job as the daytime talk show's first moderator.

"Just the privilege alone is tremendous," Vieira, 67, who knew Walters, 91, through her background in news, tells PEOPLE for this week's issue.

"To have the opportunity to work with her was somewhat of a dream come true. I think that she hesitated with me in terms of hiring me because she didn't know I was funny. But Barbara took a chance on me. It wasn't a job that I was looking for and particularly interested in until I auditioned," she adds. "And then I realized, 'I don't know why I'd really enjoy this, but I do.'"

For more from Meredith Vieira, pick up the latest issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday, or subscribe here.

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Season 1 of The View. Steve Fenn/ABC

Vieira worked on the show from its inception in 1997 until her departure in 2006.

"Once you work with Barbara, she's a very complicated person," says Vieira of her former boss. "On one hand, she's very kind and generous, and on the other, a real taskmaster and tough as nails,which is why she succeeded in this business at a time when there were so few women. She had not only brains, but real tenacity."

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The View cast. Robert Ascroft/ABC

Premiering Sept. 7, the new season of the show — which features Joy Behar, 78, Whoopi Goldberg, 65, Sunny Hostin, 52, and Sara Haines, 43 (Meghan McCain, 36, left on Aug. 6 after four years) — marks The View's 25th, a milestone that Vieira is proud to have been a part of.

"I was honored to be selected and to be the moderator, which was a real treat," recalls Vieira. "I was given a great opportunity to sort of recreate myself, to add some dimension to my television experience. And that ended up being fabulous for me."

Season 25 of The View is set to premiere Tuesday, Sept. 7 at 11 a.m. ET on ABC.

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