This week, I’m delighted to bring you the first part of my interview with the one and only Julia Zemiro! Actor, presenter, game show host, game show contestant, game show winner, and Eurovision broadcast host, Julia’s been a firm favourite on Australian TV screens – and stages – for years. It was fantastic to get a chance to chat to Julia about her many and varied experiences with radio, music, Shakespeare, reality TV… and of course game shows!
SH: Julia Zemiro, woman of many talents! Thank you so much for speaking to me to today for HowToWinGameShows.com
JZ: I thought it was my duty!
SH: There are so many aspects to your experience with game shows, on both sides of the podium. I’d like to start with your hosting of RockWiz, which is a home-grown music quiz show that’s been running since 2005. On each episode of the show there are 2 contestants…?
JZ: There are 4 real contestants that come from the room, and there are 2 celebrity contestants. A lot of people ask us how we got those contestants. They’re not pre-chosen. We assume that out of the 250 or so people who turn up on a night have a lot of info in them and we do the same thing for our live shows. Basically we hand out 20 cards with about 10 questions on them and we say “if you think you can answer 10 of those questions, come up on stage and try and compete. It will be 24 of you to get to be the final 4 that actually do the show. ” We say “And make sure you can answer those 10 questions, because if you can’t, and you get up here, Brian (Nankervis, Julia’s co-host) will embarrass you.”
SH: (LAUGHING) Good, good.
JZ: By the time those 24 get up there – and crash and burn maybe under the headlights – 98% of time we get the four strongest people, who have delightful personalities. And 170 shows in, I am still blown away and relieved and delighted that my job is so easy because I just get such material from these people because they have been waiting their whole lives to come on a show like this with this information to impart.
SH: Do you notice anything in common that the good contestants have, other than obviously their knowledge? Are there any other traits that you can point to that make a good contestant on RockWiz?
JZ: I have been astounded by how different everybody’s been. The main trait I suppose is that they are mostly men. We do get some fabulous women but it’s a male-dominated area and honestly they can be the geeky guy with the glasses, they can be the young 20-year-old who seems to know so much about music from the 60s and the 70s. My favourites are the 20-year-olds who just love music and bring a real enthusiasm to it. My second favourites are those older, wiser guys who are in their 50s. Quiet achievers. They might be a plumber, might be a carpenter, might be in IT, and they just know stuff.
The hard ones are the ones that show off. We say to them beforehand “the only thing you can do wrong is to answer 6 questions in a row”. And we discovered that by accident. We had been doing this show for a couple of series and we got this guy who just kept buzzing in all the time and being a bit greedy and he was right and he knew the answers… but what happened was the audience turned on him. It’s really only happened twice actually, but we just say to people “just be careful. If you are dominating, hold back a bit, because then it becomes no fun”. If, all of a sudden, that first team has 30 points and the other team has nothing, it is like; ‘be generous with your own team’. Let them also shine. That’s the kind of premise. I try and give a moment for all the contestants to shine when I ask them their first album and their first concert and hopefully they get a chance at talking for the first time. Being heard, using the microphone. They will hopefully get a little laugh and a clap so they relax.
JZ: So then the least the contestants can do is also maybe not over-dominate, and work as a team.
SH: We should point out, for people who are not familiar with the show, that in this game we are not playing for huge amounts of cash or huge prizes…
JZ: (LAUGHING) Yes! We really should ’cause there ARE some game shows where you play for nothing. The heart of it – that is a very sweet thing I love – is that people play for the honour. Sometimes we go “oh, can’t we give them a t-shirt or something?”, but No! They are genuinely going “I am here to play”. It’s hard therefore if you lose, because there are only two teams, and you wanted to win. I often joke that there is a car to be won… but there isn’t. So I am delighted that people still care.
And that’s where we’ll leave it today. Next time, I ask Julia what she would do if she were a contestant on RocKwiz, and what she DID do when she was a contestant on Australia’s Brainiest TV Star. That’s next week, in Part II !