In 2011, Julia was the celebrity team member on the ‘Generation X’ team of Talkin’ Bout Your Generation. This was a popular Australian light entertainment celebrity game show, and Julia appeared in the first episode of its third series. TBYG was a panel show with three 2-person teams representing the Baby Boomers, Gen Y and Gen X, and they had to play all sorts of games pertaining to those generations but also more parlour games, silly games and physical stunts and things.
SH: Talkin’ ‘Bout Your Generation. This is a show (and again, in the interest of disclosure, I should point out that I worked on that show, writing for it) that ran for 4 seasons. And at the end of each show there was usually a big set-piece, where you had to jump through a lot of hoops – which were not always metaphorical, sometimes they were literal hoops! Julia, how did you find preparing for that? Was everything in it a total surprise to you? Because I wasn’t privy to how much the players are worded up beforehand…
JZ: I was so looking forward to it because I was a big fan of the show. I loved every single minute of it until the final set-piece when you are genuinely not told what you are doing. It was the first show back of the series, so I think they wanted to kick it off with a bang. Basically they dressed us up in army fatigues with hard hats – real hard hats from 1917. They were so heavy, but the microphones were in them so you had to wear them. And we went out and it was the full-on obstacle course in the car park that involved crawling through mud, going through very claustrophobic tunnels and then explosions at the end.
Now I’d had some medical procedures done, I won’t tell you what they were but they were a bit delicate. They didn’t know that, and I didn’t think I had to tell them that, because I didn’t think it would be that physical. I mean, as you say, sometimes they would just paint people; sometimes they would put smocks on them and do something, but I’d never seen anything that physical before.
Then I found out that they did tell one of the other contestants, Liesel Jones, who was a swimmer, obviously because it’s her career but I felt like saying “but she’s fitter than me! You should be telling me – who’s not fit – to get ready for that kind of thing”. That was a real surprise to me, that’s not what I expected. You don’t know if I am going through something, I am in my forties… I think you should warn people about that. But afterwards Shaun (Micallef, the show’s host) heard about it and said “I’m sorry about that” and that was quite good and then the producer – to give her her due – rang my agent first thing the next morning, and then my agent rang me and said “they’ve taken responsibility, they’ve been terrific. And is everything fine?” I said “well, if in the next two days my neck doesn’t hurt, my back doesn’t hurt, sure”. But this notion that you’ll do anything because the camera is on got me a little bit cross. I just wasn’t very confident doing it. I guess physically I mightn’t have as much bravado I might do mentally or something.
SH: When they are asking extreme things of you it would be helpful I think to know a bit about it. Of course, on the other side of the coin, they want to see people in at the deep end, and freaking out, and all that stuff…
JZ: We would have been freaking out anyway! That is my point.
JZ: We would have been still having to go through a very claustrophobic… I mean, I ran around one at one point. I said, “I’m not doing that. I can’t.” I find it strange that when you go and sign up for any other TV show you have to do a full medical and you have to fill out all these forms to say what you’ve got, any pre-existing conditions… Then all of a sudden they go “do this obstacle course!” Now, if someone had really hurt themselves, I’d love to see what the outcome of that would have been.
SH: I wouldn’t.
JZ: Right. (LAUGHS)
SH: There was one episode of Talkin’ ‘Bout Your Generation where Josh Thomas was on with his grandmother and the physical challenge thing was “The Human Nachos” and she was strapped into a chair. And Josh was meant to be strapped into the chair and get sour cream and guacamole dumped on him. His grandmother volunteered to go in instead. Josh didn’t say “No, I’ll do it”, and she got hit with all this stuff! My heart stopped. I just thought “No, you can’t do that!” I was just watching from the side and I thought “we are going to give this old lady a heart attack and she is going to die”. I mean, it’s beyond a joke.
JZ: I’m all for pushing the boundaries sometimes, and maybe for all I know she’s like the amazing dancer on Britain’s Got Talent – that old lady that everybody thought “oh my god she is 104, she won’t be able to do anything”. She was incredibly physical and really agile. If Josh’s grandma is someone who has been an acrobat and is used to having stuff thrown over maybe she is quite resilient… but I could just see how grumpy I was. When I watched it back, my mood turned from having had so much fun in these parlour games. And I’m not very physically confident I think, so that was the other thing for me but I still would have done it. I would have been shitty, but it would’ve been nice to have been told. Especially since other people had been told. Leisel Jones had been told. I was like “Really? Well, why didn’t you tell us?”
SH: Yes, that seems a bit inconsistent.
Next week, as our discussion comes to a close, I quiz Julia on her all-important top tips, and Pearls of Wisdom from her perspective as someone who has been a game show host, a game show competitor… and a game show winner. And she’s got some really great hints and advice, so do make sure you drop by next week!