Total Blackout – An Interview with Jaleel White

Jaleel White
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Total Blackout premieres tonight,
Wednesday, April 25th at 10/9c

Last week, KMP Blog got the pleasure to interview Jaleel White, host of the new and exciting tv show on SyFy, Total Blackout. We asked him some really interesting questions about the show and about his participation in Dancing With the Stars this season. So sit back and relax and enjoy this interview.

Q. Did you expect the outcome of the people when they went through it, did you expect it to be so comical when you first started?

Jaleel White:​

Yes, we knew it was going to be funny. It was trying to capture the comedy though in edited form is a challenge. The same time we experienced – when we did it live and when we filmed the episode. So we knew it was going to be funny but you still got to make that translate to the viewer at home in the final post production stages.

Q. Can you talk about, for the people that haven’t seen it, how this show is different from other similar shows that are on television?

Jaleel White:

Yes, well a lot of people are immediately going to say oh it’s Fear Factor in the dark. And it’s not that. In Total Blackout your imagination becomes your own worst enemy. And that’s where the comedy comes from.

So it’s putting people in a familiar environment in the dark, your spatial awareness. You know where things are in the room. In this particular case you don’t know anything about the room that you’re in. You just have to complete these challenges and you have to basically use all four of your senses apart from sight.

And people just – they freak out. It’s guinea pig TV at its best. You just kind of sit there. You keep watching different versions of the same reaction and watching who can overcome their fears quicker than others. And it’s hysterical.

So one person might get freaked out by the fact they just touched a snake, but the next person is freaking out over a pineapple because they think it’s something worse.

Q. Can you tell us a little bit about what attracted you to this product in the first place? It’s quite a departure from stuff you’ve done in the past.

Jaleel White:

Yes, well, I mean that was largely one of the things that attracted me to the project is that it is a departure from what people expect from me. They asked me to be a host was definitely a new skill set that I had to pick up, being able to relate to contestants and all.

And the other thing that really was a huge component in me coming aboard the show is I think people will watch the show. Just naturally. You get tired as a celebrity or as a performer or whatever you want to call it, a public figure, of always trying to push something down peoples’ throats that they don’t want to watch.

But this is guinea pig TV, man. You turn this thing on at the end of your day and you just crack up because people are going to make you laugh in the most natural way.

Q. What is your biggest fear?

Jaleel White:​

Wendy Williams just goosed me real good. I don’t like possums. So I was doing the show and she brought a possum on at the end of our interview. My mom used to make me take out the trash late at night if I had forgotten to do so during the day and you run into these suckers and they hiss at you. It’s just a memory you will never forget when you’re a kid.

Q. What are some of your favorite moments as a host? Is it watching them, try to figure out exactly what the items are, or is it more seeing their faces when they’re freaking out?

Jaleel White:​

My favorite moments on the show really so far have been, the couples episodes, that is just hysterical. Because the interaction between the couples is just like – yes. Those are my favorite moments hands down on the show.
And then to just be surprised by who will display unbelievable bravery while some muscle-y character is freaking out.

Q. Were you expecting people to maybe be more scared than laughing? Were you expecting it to be that intense?

Jaleel White:​

I was expecting people always to pick up on the comedy of the show. And the challenge is then to try and make that comedy translate to the viewer. Because when you see the Total Blackout game played live or you see it filmed on stage, there’s nothing but laughter everywhere.

And you got to make sure that you’re at a job, your post production attitude that translates. I think we’ve finally gotten it that point.

Q. Did you think there was going to be such a big difference what you can’t see and what your mind sees when you touch something?

Jaleel White:​

Huge, huge. I mean, really, I can’t say it enough but I will say it again, your imagination becomes your own worst enemy in Total Blackout. And so people always ask me do you know, how would I fare in the game. I think I would definitely be affected by the game. But I also know how television works. So that would give me an unfair advantage.

But people who don’t know how television works they have no visual understanding of the spatial awareness of the room that they’ll be entering, you know, it’s just – it’s a freak-fest, man.

Q. After doing scripted comedy most of your life, what do you like about the comedy in a show like this one?

Jaleel White:​

What I like about it is I got to think on my feet. I got to think a little more like a standup comedian. But at the same time be respectful of what the contestants are actually going through. So I don’t want them at all to become the brunt of any cheap jokes.

But at the same time if they do something funny that we all can’t help but remember forever then I got to comment on it appropriately.

Q. How do you maintain your composure with spiders and snakes?

Jaleel White:​

It’s funny because that was part of my screen test to become the host. They made me hold a tarantula and talk directly to a teleprompter. The damn thing was just so freaking big I just imagined in my mind it was a gerbil.

Q. Of all the people that you’ve had on so far and all the reactions that you’ve had, which one surprised you?

Jaleel White:

Well there’s a black couple from L.A., they don’t surprise me, but boy did they overwhelm me. I just loved them. They are hysterical, hysterical, hysterical. You know, really, it’s different versions of the same reaction. And also surprise bravery shown by certain people that you wouldn’t think.

You might get some muscle-y guy that’s freaking out and then you get an older woman or whatnot that is just breezing through certain challenges. And it’s like, damn, that chick is brave.

Q. Of all the challenges that you’ve seen, which one would be the one that you would least want to do?

Jaleel White:

The one that I would least want to do is Find the Cheese Wheels. Because you’re in a Plexiglas maze. And you’re looking for these cheese wheels and there are mice in the maze, too. They are also looking for the same wheels.

Q. ​Have any contestants freaked out to the point of needing medical attention, like oxygen or an ambulance, etc…

Jaleel White:​

That’s a really good question there. None of the contestants have freaked out to the point of needing medical attention. But there is a psychiatrist on set and thank God for editing. Because some of the contestants have stalled for long amounts of time and we needed to be patient for them to eventually complete the challenges.

Q. Like a mental breakdown or something?

Jaleel White:​

Just, once they were finally told to enter the room, it took us 20 minutes to get them in the room.

Q. How does it feels to be this far in the Dancing with the Stars competition and how are you feeling about making it to the finale?

Jaleel White:​

You know what, I’m nervous. I definitely will tell you that after being in the dance (school) it’s like that was the most surreal moment I’ve ever had in my entire career. I mean, I honestly felt like Russell Crowe in Gladiator. And then you step in that spotlight and that’s what I love about Kym Johnson is that we were both born to perform.

We were both born to perform and that’s impressive. But it’s nice to be tied to a gamer because when that music started and that dance (school), it was like we were the only two people there.

Q. Are you surprised you made it this far? When you started off the season did you think you – because you’re doing so well, you’ve gone so far.

Jaleel White:​

Well, it’s kind of tough, you know. I don’t know how comfortable it feels because the scores aren’t reflecting the comfort level that I’m feeling with my dances. So, I’m feeling really comfortable with dances and pretty much happy with four out of the five dances that I’ve presented and the scores aren’t reflecting that.

So, I’m happy to still be here. I’m happy – I didn’t feel like my samba was bottom two, but it was bottom two. And, we had to get in that dance spot and do our thing.

Q. What made you want to participate in Dancing with the Stars this season? What was it about the show that made you want to try it? Because it’s such a hard show to be on.

Jaleel White:

​My mom’s a big fan of the show and she told me that if I did it I wouldn’t regret it. And I’m still believing that. I’m still believing that.

Q. What do you attribute to being able to make that transition from child star to adult actor?

Jaleel White:

I got a great family. My mom and dad have always felt like teammates more than anything. They have always put me first. They weren’t running out buying fur coats and Rolls-Royces.

And they really always taught me to respect work. So at the end of the day I don’t think what people were really realizing is that I’m working seven days a week right now and I’m actually happier for doing it. When I’m done with these interviews I got to go dance for six hours. And I’ve been at it since 8:00 this morning.

And we do that every day until Monday and hopefully you’ll get the steps that you need to pull off your routine that you need to pull off.

Q. If you could pick any of the stars – any of your co-stars or co-dancers to participate in Total Blackout who would they be and why?

Jaleel White:​

Oh my God, you said I can pick any of my co-stars or co-dancers and put them in Total Blackout. I’d have to put Kym in there. I’d have to. She makes me do everything she wants me to do in rehearsal every day. So it’s only right that I would put her in a dark room and get some ratings off of her.

Q. What would your fans that watched you grow up be surprised to know about you?

Jaleel White:​

Surprised to know about me? That I’m really competitive. And I like to win and if you really look back at my childhood and what my life has been about, it’s been about winning.

There’s so many other metrics now that matter. But even right now with Dancing with the Stars or whether it’s Total Blackout, I want the shows to do well. I like to be at the top of my game.

Q. What game shows are you a big fan of? Like old time, traditional times game shows…

Jaleel White:

Traditional game shows growing up as a kid, I loved the game show called Press Your Luck. It was with the whammies. And then I also liked Family Feud, stuff like that. Modern stuff, Wipe Out I’m probably a huge fan of. And I think Total Blackout definitely has an element of that.

Q. Were there any game show hosts that you’re particularly fond of?

Jaleel White:​

No, I wasn’t a particular fan of any game show hosts. I mean, I thought Richard Dawson was really funny because he was kissing all those women.

Q. Did you actually get to go through the game experience of Blackout?

Jaleel White:​

Well, the cool thing is that we did the game live in Orlando, Florida. So when we did it live I really got the chance to see the game in the full with people who knew nothing about the game. That was early on in the process. So we still hadn’t even filmed all of our episodes yet when we did that. That was very helpful. It helped me out in preparing for host.

Q. How is the game laid out as far as rounds go that get the players, you know, up to the final round where they win the $5000.

Jaleel White:​

There’s either four players or four teams. And three rounds. And generally the challenges are all timed. And the person who completes the challenges in the shortest amount of time they move on to the next.

Q. Did the mother hens give you an advice about hosting?

Jaleel White:

​I don’t know. They actually were talking about bringing me back in May for maybe some co-hosting so we’ll see what happens. I really enjoyed going on The View. I loved all the different perspectives. I’m not scared by anybody’s perspective. Elizabeth is really fun. Whoopi and Sherry generally treat me like a little brother.

Q. Do you feel like going on Dancing with the Stars, did that give you a new understanding of fear that might have been helpful for Total Blackout?

Jaleel White:​

Baby, you aren’t saying nothing but the truth right there. The thing about DWTS is it puts fear in a whole other context. And I think I’m most qualified to talk about it because I’m the only one who’s in the dance duels out of the remaining contestants.

And let me tell you something, I felt like Russell Crowe in Gladiator being ushered into that spotlight. So you don’t know how your body’s going to completely respond, but the thing I love about myself and Kym Johnson is that she’s a gamer and I guess so am I. I can honestly say that.

When the music starts up I tend to bring out one of my better performances and not one of my worst. And I’m really proud to have discovered that about myself.

Q. Were you a fan of the original hit show of Total Blackout? Did you watch the other version? And how does it differ?

Jaleel White:​

Well, we have some probably wittier remarks because we’re American so we’re a little snarkier than the rest of the world. Maybe the bridge might have something on us in that room but we hold our own. So we have a little more to say in our Total Blackout.

But the game really holds true to the other version. And we do a lot of the same challenges to be quite honest. So I’ve seen some of the older – other versions. And it’s amazing how the game translates from country to country effectively.

Q. Is there ever going to be any other themed episodes, would you ever consider doing maybe a celebrity episode?

Jaleel White:

​Right. You know, you never know. We got to get past this season and we have to see how people take to the show. Everything is week to week when it comes to television these days. But trust me, the themed episodes whether it was athletes or reality stars or what, I think people would absolutely go over the moon for that.

2 thoughts on “Total Blackout – An Interview with Jaleel White

  1. Nosgoth1979

    That was a good interview. SyFy’s one of my favorite channels and Total Blackout is an interesting addition to their lineup. I’m glad I have high definition for it though. Darks look way better in HD than they do in standard definition and that show is VERY dark. I also got a new HD TV last week. It’s a full 1080p Sony Bravia that really makes the most of the wide variety of high definition channels I watch. I’ve actually gotten kind of spoiled since I got signed up with HD Free for Life last year when my employer, Dish released it, and now I rarely watch anything in SD anymore. In fact, the money I saved with the HD Free for Life promotion, is part of what helped me buy my new TV, and I was certainly happy to have it for Total Blackout last night.

    1. kmp22 Post author

      That\’s awesome. I agree, shows in the dark like Total Blackout do need an HD TV for better viewing. I’m glad you enjoyed the interview with Jaleel White.