While fans of World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) know Chris Jericho for his long career as one of the top wrestlers in the field, Jericho has definitely taken advantage of the opportunities that have come his way. While being a part of the wrestling world off and on over the years, the Long Island-born Jericho has also been an actor in film, stage and television, a published author, reality show contestant (on Simon Cowell's "Celebrity Duets") and fronted his heavy metal group, Fozzy. The latest addition to his resume is game show host as Jericho kicks off his latest stint tonight by hosting the new ABC prime time game show, "Downfall."
During Jericho's recent chat with our Jim Halterman, he talked about the crazy concept of having a game show atop a 100-foot Los Angeles skyscraper, the items that end up smashed to bits on the ground below and how his wrestling career has enabled him to take on just about any area of entertainment.
Jim Halterman: 'Downfall' is definitely one of the craziest concepts out there. Can you tell me how the game is played?
Chris Jericho: It actually is a crazy concept but it's actually a lot more than that. There's a set on top of the building in open air with the LA skyline behind it. The set is this monstrosity that you might see in a giant stadium with this big conveyer belt. What happens is you put prizes on the belt and money at the end of it. You start the conveyer belt and you have to answer the first round of four questions in the category that you choose. If you do that quick enough you get all the prizes on the belt. If you don't make it in time, those prizes go over the edge and smash to the ground below. If you do the first round correctly, you go to the second round where you have to answer five questions correctly. This goes on until you win a million dollars but if the money goes over the edge, then you go over the edge.
JH: What's the panic button?
CJ: If the money is about to go you get two chances with a panic button but it's going to cost you. The first time you can put a personal item that you brought from home. People brought CD collections or little figurines that had been in the family for years, family photos and stuff like that. If that goes over the edge, you can hit the panic button again but this time you get a supporter to help - your brother, sister, wife, husband - and they're put on the harness as well and can help you answer the question but if you don't get the answer then they go over the edge as well. It's very exciting and crazy but there's also a cool human element with a lot of suspense and drama.
JH: What was the process in landing the hosting duties?
CJ: I heard about it through my agent in LA and it was quite an extensive process for the audition. They had about 150 people and they tested about 20 people on camera. It was a pretty coveted position and I guess I had what they were looking for and it worked out. They spent a lot of time and budget. It's a big show and it's a big deal for me, as well.
JH: So I'm guessing you don't have a fear of heights if you're job is to hang out on skyscrapers?
CJ: You can't have a fear of heights doing this gig, that's for sure. I'm right on the edge of the belt where the host stands and where the contestants stand. It's very exciting and also very nerve-wracking as you see stuff inching towards the edge. We're talking cars, jet-skis, saunas, a year's supply of ice cream, a year supply of water, a giant gumball machine... anything you can think of can have a spectacular demise at the end. I'm also hooked up to a harness so there's no risk there. It really is 100 feet up and it has gotten windy up there a few times. You're really up there swaying in the wind.
JH: Is it difficult as host to refrain from helping the contestants?
CJ: Absolutely! You have to detach yourself when you're there as a representative of the game. It's funny because a lot of the questions are sports trivia, which is kind of what I'm into and I'll think in my head 'You gotta get this one!' In truth, you might be able to answer these questions if you and I are just talking but when you're hooked up to this harness, there's stuff going over the end, your sister is trying to shout off answers and she goes over the edge so it can be very nerve wracking.
JH: How would you do if you were a contestant and not the host? Could you keep your cool?
CJ: We've filmed six episodes so I think I have an advantage because I know how it works. But when you first show up for that thing and you don't know what you're seeing... especially for those people in these first six episodes because they've never seen the show before. Once the show is on more, people might understand the strategy of the game and be better at staying calm under pressure. It's easier said than done. Most games you lose, you go home. Like Deal Or No Deal, you just go home and you don't get the vacation. In this one, if you lose, you go over the edge so there's a little bit more at stake.
JH: Did your wrestling background prepare you for the other things you've done in your career?
CJ: Working in the WWE is show business boot camp! You learn a little about everything! Behind the scenes, in front of a crowd, live, taped, improv, action, drama, dramedy and everything in between. In that way, it prepared me for everything including being a lead singer for a rock band, being a New York Times best selling author, having my own radio show for two years on XM radio and I worked at The Groundlings improv comedy troupe in LA. There are a lot of things you can do because of the foundation of the WWE. To host 'Downfall' it is really a natural progression because you have to be quick on your feet, run the show, you have to dictate the pace of what's going on. That's kind of what I do in the ring or on the stage. You're the one in charge and you're the one bringing things to the people. It took a lot of work to get this gig but once I got it I really wanted to make sure I nailed it. I'm excited to see how people take to it. It really is something that I enjoy doing and I hope to do more of it.
JH: You've definitely done a wide variety of things. Has there been a master plan to your career?
CJ: The master plan for me from the time I was 18 was to entertain and just do the best I could. When I started wrestling I was small at the time. In the 1990s, it was all about the Hulk Hogans of the world but I could never be 6 feet, 8 inches and 200 lbs so what could I do? I could have the biggest personality, biggest charisma and just showcase it on the show, which is what I did throughout my career. I never put myself in a box or put any chains on myself creatively. People would say 'You're too small to wrestle' and you can never do this or that but I'd say 'Why can't I do it?' One thing leads to another and it all comes to same thing and it's all about entertaining people and being a showman.
"Downfall" premieres tonight at 9:00/8:00c on ABC.