Tonight Total Blackout returns to Syfy for it’s second season. Recently the host of this hilarious game show, Jaleel White, participated in a press Q&A to talk about the upcoming season and some of the changes and challenges we can expect to see.
Now that people have seen the first season, they would obviously know when they audition that some of the things aren’t what they think. Does that make people less scared? How are you doing things different this season to mix it up?
Jaleel White: Well, definitely, I mean you’re actually really smart for picking up on that. It’s just kind of like Survivor, you know, like the first season, you know, people didn’t know what to expect and then they started playing the game. And, you know, obviously we had a few contestants this year that really kind of outsmarted us, like oh we know what’s coming. But, you know, I got to be honest with you, the greatest neutralizer is really the dark itself, because you think you know what’s going to happen, and the second it doesn’t go exactly the way you thought it might. You know, we were actually going to preserve a lot of the game from the past still because fear is just this great neutralizer.
But we did also have six new games, I think total. We had more than that actually. But that’s how many we were able to put in for the season. And they’re all great. They’re gory. And mousetraps is my favorite.
Do people tend to be more scared when they’re on their own or with a partner?
Jaleel White: Well, for the benefit of our show, they’re better when they have a partner.
Can you talk a bit about how the season will be bigger and better in terms of the challenges?
Jaleel White: Well we have bigger animals. That’s for sure. I mean we got everything from camels to crocodiles. And so last year we just, you know, we had little doggies and stuff like that. So they automatically up the ante just with the, you know, with the people they come in contact with.
And what else? I know we have new challenges. So I know anybody that’s coming in expecting to play the exact same games, that’s not going to happen. You know, they definitely get a surprise.
We maintain tanks. We feel like tanks. We feel like tanks is our staple flagship game with four tanks and identifying the contents. But beyond that, we’re flipping them.
What surprised you the most last season about how people handle the fear of the unknown?
Jaleel White: Just, you know, people talk a lot of snag, man, until those lights go out. It’s a level of darkness that most people just never experience before. And, you know, it’s really funny to just watch that bravery just disappear in an absolute nanosec.
If you were to bring back one of the TV characters you played to be in Total Blackout, who would it be and what kind of challenge would you give them?
Jaleel White: Oh God. That’s such a complicated question. I wouldn’t even know how to answer.
You know, as it pertains to Total Blackout, another cool thing is that we actually do bring back people that have lost in the past. And we have kind of like an all-star episode of losers. So I think people are going to enjoy that.
But as it pertains to me, can you give me a second? Maybe I have an answer by the end of this interview.
What challenge would you never want to do?
Jaleel White: Me? Oh let’s see. I would not want to do the Find the Eggs challenge. We have a challenge where we put people in Plexiglass tunnels. And they have to collect eggs or collect cheese wheel amidst different creatures from hens through mice. So just being in a tight, confined area of tunnels, you know, in complete darkness, looking for cheese wheels and those mice, no, no, I’m sorry. That’s not – that would be like I imagine worse would be doing the same thing in an American Disney (unintelligible) the lights out.
What was your funniest moment while filming?
Jaleel White: Man, we got a lot of funny moments then. The couples are always great. I mean they just give us more material than we can actually put into the show.
But my funniest, funniest moment – gosh, hold on one second. Yes, there was a couple this past year that, you know, we kind of tricked them into believing they’re higher off the ground and – than they are. And when one of them fell off onto the ground, they realized they were really only about yea high from the ground. But for profanity tirade that came out of this woman’s mouth was just less scary. And I’m sorry; I wish I could repeat it for you now, but I can’t.
Who would you most like to get onto the show and why?
Jaleel White: Oh wow. How about Harvey Levin. You know, just for karmic reasons only.
Can you talk a little bit about how you’ve got interested in Syfy and how you came to the show?
Jaleel White: You know, it’s (unintelligible) sometimes.. And I had actually just done a movie that aired on Syfy. And I guess that put me on their radar’s talent. And I was called in to screen test for being a host, which is something I’ve never done before. And, you know, I – literally I went in and I read from a teleprompter and they made me pull the tarantula. And I managed to walk in through them at the same time. And I got the job.
And the thing that at least attracted me to the job was I knew it would still be (unintelligible) to watch. And ultimately, we are – there’s so much television out there. There’s just too much crap for people to watch that if I can ever be associated with TV that people will genuinely get a kick out of and (unintelligible). And I haven’t had one single bad comment on the show. On the premiere night of the show when I was still dancing on Dancing with the Stars, I was sitting on my computer and I watched. I watched Total Blackout start trending on Twitter.
And that’s what we do this for. We do this for water cooler, you know. I saw the numbers just start rolling in, 80 tweets, 100 tweets, 240 something. And it’s like that’s what we do this for, to be water cooler.
So what are your favorite Syfy movies?
Jaleel White: Well I actually did – I don’t have a much favorite Syfy movies. Actually I just happen to star on one that was on there. It was Mega Shark versus Crocosaurus. And I remember looking at my manager cross-eyed when he asked me to even do the movie. And I was – he was just, “Jaleel, do it.” (Unintelligible). “Jaleel, feel it.” And so I did it. And he’s like, “People need to see you in uniform.” So I did the darn movie and it got great ratings. And, you know, the rest is history.
Do people still recognize you as Urkel? And do you think that was a good career move or do you think it’s worked against you for your career as an adult actor?
Jaleel White: I think at the end of the day, it’s important to be known by people and then just be good at what you do. And in this day and age, there are people who will strive for my level of recognition and they’ll never get it, simply because it’s just hard to be known by a lot of people in this day and age. You just – you got the internet. I mean now we have Web stars. We have TV stars. We have burgeoning movie stars. You know, everybody has their own department. So to be known by everybody across the board wherever I go – you know, my job is to – is just to simply, you know, shock people. So, you know, I want that to be a roundabout question.
You know, when I did Dancing with the Stars, people were amazed that I could dance. And now I have a million different women coming to me in the streets every day, telling me that they really enjoyed me on the show and wondering if I’ll be back. And they wouldn’t even be curious or care if I had not been – for what I’ve done in my past.
Have you considered a celebrity episode? And if you would, who would be doing it?
Jaleel White: Well, I can tell you that we may have a surprise in store for you regarding celebrities in Total Blackout. I can’t really divulge too much there. But I know I would love to have Harvey Levin on the show. And, yes, he would be my dream person just from a karmic standpoint.
Do you ever plan to be a contestant yourself on the show?
Jaleel White: You know, I’m going to have lunch with Joe Rogan and ask him how he feels with that question. And I’m going to get back with you.
How has it been for you going from a competitor on the Dancing with the Stars to hosting Total Blackout?
Jaleel White: Man, it’s been a while, you know. I’m doing things right now in entertainment that I’d never imagined that I would do (unintelligible) I have still sense to do. So, you know, I didn’t know I can dance. I didn’t – I’ve never – you know, I didn’t grow up as a kid thinking that, you know, I would be a game show host or some form of Johnny Carson. You know, you just got to go with the flow right now. And, you know, the good news is God gave me some skill sets that I still have to tap into. And hopefully – it seems like people are enjoying the stuff I’m doing.
Dancing with the Stars is in the middle of their all-star season. If they decide to bring you back for Round 2, would you be interested?
Jaleel White: You know, I never say never. Because until you say never, that means you’re definitely going back. So I just – I’ll keep that open-ended. It’s a hell of a challenge right now. And If I had to pick a frontrunner, I’d say Shawn Johnson will probably win the darn thing. But it’s – that’s still to bear. (It’s to bear about to it).
Are there any strategies to Total Blackout?
Jaleel White: No, you know what, the contestants get smarter and the producers get smarter, you know. So, you know, obviously these contestants have seen the first season of the show. And sometimes they think they can outsmart us. And, you know, it’s our job to stay one step ahead of them. So like an example last year when we had couple’s episodes, we never specified that, you know, both individuals in a couple had to participate in the challenge. So we had a couple last year that got little smart. And if there was one person that was significantly more scared than the other, one person would do everything while the other person basically just held their hand.
So we kind of knocked that out this year. And now, you know, you know, we’re keeping them on this. So, you know, that’s what it is, this whole thing where it’s like everybody is getting smarter. And that’s the entertainment of it.
In a clip that I saw, there was a clipboard showing one had to guess the weight of an animal? And it’s not just about guessing what the object is. Are there any other twists like that where they have to guess something besides what the object is?
Jaleel White: Yes. Yes. We have to guess the weight. We have to guess the height. There’s some really good maze stuff that we have with mousetraps this year. You know, we’ve had some really interesting food challenges, you know, guessing the inside filling of donuts, a conveyor belt. You know, the show is growing. I didn’t really think we would be able to evolve as much as we are. But, you know, it’s amazing that you put a bunch of producers in the room that the number of ideas that will come out just stay one step ahead of the contestants. And you realize we can stay three steps ahead of them. It’s just how much time do we have or how much money will the network give.
Do you know what the audition process is like for the show?
Jaleel White: The auditioning process is very real. And, you know, it’s like I walk in there and they have all these people’s pictures up. All I do is I tell people to tweet @Syfy if they have interest in auditioning. And from what I’ve seen, Syfy really takes all of those inquiries serious. And they forward them to the people who – to the people that are in charge of casting.
Do you know what they do in the audition process?
Jaleel White: Yes. In the – yes, in the audition, they have a small room version of the things that they do on the show. And I don’t even know what those challenges are entirely. But, you know, it just happens in a small room.
The thing is the dark that you experience in that small room is not nearly the same as the dark that you experience on the show. So invariably, people who were once one way in the auditioning process, they become another way once, you know, the real lights go off.
Are you ever surprised by how confused people are?
Jaleel White: No, not at all because I have been in the dark world and I just I know, I know exactly how dark it is in there. And you have to understand that this is a level of darkness that you just don’t experience. There’s always a crack under a door or, you know, light (unintelligible) into a room somewhere. And if there’s not that, then you understand the spatial awareness of a room. So when I say that, I’m saying like if you turn off the lights in a room that you’ve already been in, you know the spatial awareness of that room. And so that adds the level of comfort.
When you go into a room and you don’t know whether this room is 12×12 or if this room is 50×50 and there’s no light coming near at all, your imagination would really begin to play tricks for you. It really, really does.
So of course it’s just – that’s the entertainment.
It’s easy for us to see at home, but they don’t know. They really are just – they have – you know, they’re being totally blind for a challenge.
And like if you turn off the light in your bedroom it’s sort of like that you know where everything is already. So it’s not the same.
Have any contestants ever backed out and refused to go into the room?
Jaleel White: No. You know, we – generally, those people would be no shows. And we definitely have no shows, people that just will not show up. You know, they were scheduled to arrive. And we have alternates because of that. But, you know, if we’re just in the room and we shut the lights off, you know, hey, you’re on TV. You’re on TV.
How deep are the holes?
Jaleel White: You know, there’re certain mysteries that you need to keep. And it’s a safe fall. But, you know, it’s a fall.