BWWTV Interview: Jaleel White on TOTAL BLACKOUT, Urkel, and a Potential Return to DANCING
Jaleel White is currently settling into the role of host for season two of Syfy's runaway reality-terror show, "Total Blackout." He's arguably best known for playing the suspenders-donning, slightly abrasive, yet annoyingly lovable Steve Urkel on "Family Matters." White was featured as a contestant on "Dancing with the Stars" last spring, coming in 7th place. White also has numerous television credits to his name, aside from "Family Matters," including the hit shows "Psych," and "House." He has also appeared in the film adaptation of "Dreamgirls," and "Judy Moody and the Not Bummer Summer."
White recently spoke with reporters about the fear-inducing tactics Total Blackout has prepared for contestants - as well as his time on the "Dancing with the Stars'" stage.
Thanks so much for talking to us today. How are you doing things different for season two, in order to mix it up?
It's kind of like Survivor, you know, like the first season, people didn't know what to expect and then they started playing the game. And obviously we had a few contestants this year that really kind of outsmarted us, like 'oh we know what's coming.' But, I've got to be honest with you, the greatest neutralizer is really the dark itself. You think you know what's going to happen, and the next second it doesn't go exactly the way you thought it might. You know, it's our job to stay one step ahead of them.
How will the season will be bigger and better in terms of the challenges?
Well we have bigger animals. That's for sure. I mean we've got everything from camels to crocodiles. And so last year we just had little doggies and stuff like that. So they automatically up the ante just with [what] the people come in contact with. And 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 is our staple flagship game with four tanks and identifying the contents. But beyond that, we're flipping them.
What surprised you most the last season about how people handle the fear of the unknown?
People talk a lot of smack, 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 nano-sec.
There are some crazy challenges on Total Black - which would you never want to do?
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.
Have you considered a celebrity episode? And if you would, who would you be interested in having on?
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?
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.
Do people still recognize you as Urkel? 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?
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. 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. I mean, now we have Web stars. We have TV stars. We have burgeoning movie stars. You know, everybody has their own department.
What's it been like going from a competitor on the Dancing with the Stars to hosting Total Blackout? What it's been like being on both sides of two very much watched competition shows?
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. So, you know, I didn't know I can dance. 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 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.
As you probably know, Dancing with the Stars is in the middle of their all-star season. If they were to ask you back for Round 2, would you ever be interested in switching back to the role of competitor?
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 that's all still to bear.
Thanks for taking the time to talk with us today - we're looking forward to season two!
All right, thank you. No problem!
Total Blackout is a half-hour, extreme game show in which contestants battle each other and their own fears in a series of challenges played in complete darkness. There are no lights, no blindfolds, and no-holds-barred as players face their anxieties in a series of nerve-wracking games. Total Blackout returns for season two on October 30 at 10:00PM ET/PT only on Syfy.
For more info on Total Blackout, check out www.syfy.com/totalblackout