American actor Jaleel White says starring in the 2010 TV movie "Mega Shark Versus Crocosaurus" helped him get the job of host on Syfy's new game show "Total Blackout."
"I'm very candid. I'm pretty sure that I ended up on Syfy's radar because I starred in a movie that I didn't even want to star in called 'Mega Shark Versus Crocosaurus.' But my manager was very adamant that people needed to see me in [a U.S. Navy officer's] uniform," the former "Family Matters" star laughed with reporters in a recent teleconference.
"So, I went out there for three weeks and busted my tail filming this movie. And I think it performed very well on Syfy. And I was asked to come in and screen-test to be the host for their new show. And after that is history."
Based on a hit Danish reality competition series, "Total Blackout" challenges people to complete tasks -- some involving cockroaches, rodents, snakes or other humans -- in complete darkness. Each contestant comes to the game with his or her own individual anxieties, which can sabotage them with hilarious results as they play the game. Syfy said the U.S. version of "Total Blackout" was seen by about 1.33 million total viewers during its 10 p.m. time slot.
Asked if competing on "Dancing with the Stars" this season has prepared him to be the host of "Total Blackout" because he now better understands the psychology of fear, the 35-year-old California native told United Press International, "Lady, you ain't saying nothing but the truth!"
"The thing about 'DWTS' is it puts fear in a whole other context," he said, adding he feels even more qualified to talk about fright after he and his professional dance partner, Kym Johnson, successfully won a high-pressure "dance duel" against Gavin DeGraw and Karina Smirnoff a few weeks ago.
"And let me tell you something, I felt like Russell Crowe in 'Gladiator' being ushered into that spotlight," he said. "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."
So, how does the U.S. edition of "Total Blackout" compare with the international versions of the show?
"Well, we have some probably wittier remarks because we're American, so we're a little snarkier than the rest of the world," he said. "Maybe the Brits might have something on us in that realm, 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 other versions. And it's amazing how the game translates from country to country effectively."
White said a highlight of his recent promotional duties for "Dancing with the Stars" and "Total Blackout" was appearing on the daytime chat show "The View" last week.
"They're talking about bringing me back in May to do some co-hosting, so we'll see what happens," White said. "I really enjoy going on 'The View.' I love all the different perspectives. I'm not scared by anybody's perspective. Elisabeth [Hasselbeck] is really fun. Whoopi [Goldberg] and Sherri [Shepherd] generally treat me like a little brother."
"Dancing with the Stars" airs Monday and Tuesday nights. "Total Blackout" is on Wednesday evenings.