Alfonso Ribeiro is a modern day Jack of all Trades. He's probably best known for his role as Carlton Banks on the sitcom The Fresh Prince of Bel Air, but he's done so much more with his career. He's an accomplished singer and dancer, has worked on Broadway as well as television and film, and has even produced and directed several programs.
Most recently though, Ribeiro is a game show host. Tapped to host GSN's new game show Catch 21, Ribeiro channels old style classic game show hosts with his obvious enthusiasm and genuine interactions with contestants. Ribeiro has been busy with a whirlwind of press this week, but I was able to catch up with him as he was leaving the E! Entertainment studios.
Question: Hi Alfonso! Thanks for speaking with me today! How did this whole game host gig come about for you?
Alfonso Ribeiro: Well you know, they just called my agent and asked if I'd be interested in doing something like this. I went and got info on Merrill Heatter, the creator and producer of the show, and you know, he's done Hollywood Squares and some great shows. It sounded like a cool game, so I went in a few times and gave it a shot. I liked it, and they liked me, so I started working on being a game show host.
Q: What did you do to prepare for the job?
Ribeiro: I played the game a few hundred times! I was on a cruise with Joey Fatone – a Disney cruise where we were entertaining – and we sat down, Joey and his wife, and a friend and myself, and played a bunch of times with a deck of cards and the questions from a Trivial Pursuit game.
Q: That sounds like a lot of fun! Did you have passengers coming by and watching you play?
Ribeiro: No no, we were in a lounge, in the game room. It was just us.
Q: I've seen an episode of Catch 21, and it reminded me of some of the classic game shows. Your hosting style seemed to fit that as well, and I had flashes of early Bob Eubanks or Wink Martindale clips. Was that intentional?
Ribeiro: (laughs) No, that's just me being me. I mean I've watched game shows all my life, so maybe I picked some of that up. But my feeling is that they hired me to be me, so I was just myself. I tried to keep it light and fun.
Q: You seemed to be having a good time with it; did you enjoy hosting?
Ribeiro: It was a blast. The contestants were great, there was lots of energy, it was a lot of fun. We got to the point where we could film six episodes in a day too. We ended up completing forty of them in eight days.
Q: Besides Catch 21, what are you working on these days?
Ribeiro: Well I've got a couple of things in development. I'm developing a show with Overbrook Entertainment, which is Will Smith's company, but that's still a little way's away. One of the things I'm working on is a talk show, which is exciting.
Q: That would be fun! And I heard that you've been hitting the celebrity golf circuit too – how was the tournament last weekend?
Ribeiro: It was great – I almost won the longest drive competition! Yeah, I've been playing a lot of golf. There's another tournament next weekend in Connecticut.
Q: You've done acting, singing, dancing, producing, directing, hosting – are there other avenues in the entertainment world that you still want to explore?
Ribeiro: Well I don't know what's left, but I'm always open to new ideas. If it comes to my table I'll consider it, but I'm not actively seeking anything at the moment.
Q: I remember you were on The Weakest Link, and you did so well on Celebrity Duets. Is there any chance of seeing you appear on something like Celebrity Family Feud or Million Dollar Password in the future?
Ribeiro: It really depends on which show, and when. If it fits into my schedule and it's something I'm interested in doing, then maybe. Honestly though I'd rather be hosting.
Q: I heard rumours that you were tapped to be on Dancing With the Stars.
Ribeiro: Well, we were talking, but that's not gonna happen. Apparently they see me as a professional dancer, even though I've only ever had like sixteen lessons. But it is what it is, and that's fine. I'm not concerned about it.
Q: Just for fun, if you were President of the United States for a day, what would you do with your power?
Ribeiro: I'd lower gas prices to what they should be in this country. I'd allow drilling for oil here so we're not dependent on imports.
Q: That's a great answer! Switching topics a bit, how old is your daughter now?
Ribeiro: She's five. She'll be six in October.
Q: How does she feel about seeing Daddy on TV?
Ribeiro: Oh, she won't watch me.
Q: Really? Why not?
Ribeiro: Well she might watch this show. But my ex-wife puts on The Fresh Prince of Bel Air and says, "Look, there's Daddy!" and she just gets up and turns the TV off. They've moved to Nashville though, so she might watch Catch 21 now just to see me, because I can't see her every day now.
Alfonso, thank you so much for speaking with me! The show is great and I wish you a lot of success with it.
Ribeiro: Thanks Carrie, I hope it's successful too!
You can watch Catch 21 on GSN every weeknight at 7:30pm Eastern, starting Monday, July 21st.