Well, it’s a really big chunk of my chat with Marty this week, so we’ll get right into it. But if you’d like to familiarise yourself with the MASTER first, there’s an episode you can watch (in two parts) right here and here.
And now, on we go!
SH: Watching the early part of the MASTER (in particular, from the 01:27 mark to the 02:05 mark), I notice that there’s a montage of you winning Who Wants To Be A Millionaire...
… Except that it’s not, because the Seven network doesn’t hold the rights. (I don’t think the host’s even allowed to mention the name of that show!) So that scene’s obviously a re-enactment. How did you find the experience of shooting that?
MF: Yes, you’re right. They couldn’t use the original footage, so I acted out
winning the million in a really big dark empty studio at Seven. It was the
same big empty studio you see me walking out of in the opening sequence of
the show. I found that difficult and a bit weird. At times I’m sure it
looked like the “Would that it were so simple” scene in Hail Caesar!, but when I just imagined I was really thinking through a quiz question, the producer was happy with how it came across. At least he didn’t scream at me, and for that producer (and you know who I’m talking about) that must have meant he was happy with how I performed.
SH: Your role as the Master required you to observe, interact with,
and compete against the contestants… did this give you any new insights on
the game show contestant experience, “from the other side of the podium”, as
MF: Like I mentioned before, in all but one round, contestants did not lose points
if they answered incorrectly. They could only be locked out of the next
question. What surprised me is how very few contestants picked up on how
important that distinction was… and nearly all were quite shy to buzz in
unless they really knew the answer. One contestant, Andrew, however seemed
to pick up on this straight away and was almost always buzzing in, regardless
of whether he knew the answer. He went on to beat the other four easily and
This is one of the challenges of going on a new show that is yet to air. The
MASTER was brand new. As the first episode was aired after the last one was
recorded, none of the contestants had the benefit of seeing it play out on TV
before they arrived at the studio. Such contestants must assess the format
and playing strategies very quickly. In my opinion, few contestants ever
understand the best game play for any show, let alone before they’ve even
seen it on TV. If you can do this well, you can have a huge advantage over
One of the interesting ideas of The MASTER was that when two contestants
were tied for last place I had to decide who stayed on and who had to leave.
On one episode Ivan and Joe were tied last. I had no particular reason to
keep one or the other. The producer then told me that they had stuffed Joe
around a number of times when they were trying to arrange which episode he
should appear on. Apparently Joe was gracious and didn’t complain. The
producer was appreciative and asked if it was okay if I kept him on and not
Ivan. So I did… and I doubt Joe ever knew why. Sometimes a television network
might reschedule your flights at the last minute. You might have to wait all
day to find out you’re not being selected for that episode. Just be grateful
that they even know who you are. If you’re gracious with them they are more
likely to be gracious with you.
On a different episode, I had to decide between letting go of Arri or Sue.
Again I had no particular reason to favour one over the other, neither did
the producer. After we pondered aimlessly on the decision, he said “Well, Sue
has a story about …”. I don’t think he remembered too much about whatever
the story was, but at the time he didn’t recall that Arri had one, so Sue got
to play the next round and Arri didn’t. Have a story! If you don’t have one
make one up or borrow one. It doesn’t have to be as good as Tim Roth’s story
in Reservoir Dogs, (and certainly not as long)… but just have something interesting or funny that they’ll remember.
A septuagenarian friend of mine was preparing to audition for Millionaire Hot Seat not so long ago. He couldn’t think of anything to say, but he wanted to run with the
idea that he was elderly. So I suggested he tell them he was saddened by how
many funerals he had been going to in recent years and that he was
particularly worried because at the most recent one he caught the wreath.
They put him on the show within weeks.
After I announced that Sue would be staying on for the next round, (host) Mark
Beretta threw to an ad break. The mood was somewhat awkward in the studio, as I’d just told Arri she was leaving. She then called out to me “How am I going to feed my kids?!” We all laughed and she had broken the uncomfortable silence. I immediately thought if I had known she had that much wit and personality, I would have chosen her to stay on and if she had said that before the ad break I might have changed my mind.
They’re a couple of points that have been made a number of times here on the blog – by me and by various interview guests – but Marty’s repeating them here just goes to show how important they are….
BE COURTEOUS and BE INTERESTING!
As you can see, nice guys don’t always finish last. In fact, being the most interesting, courteous, entertaining version of yourself can even mean the difference between getting on the show or not!