Welcome to the penultimate instalment of my exclusive interview with Issa Schultz.
So far, we’ve discussed Issa’s early life, his first quiz show appearances, and his competitive – and successful – quizzing career with Quizzing Australia.
But, as a fan of superhero movies, I was also very curious to know about the Supernerd’s ORIGIN STORY…
SH: Before The Chase Australia came along, you were working in the IT department
of a bank. How did your role on the show originate? Did you approach the production, or did the production approach you?
IS: Incredibly, ITV Studios rang me at work! This was back in March 2014, it was from a private number so I didn’t answer. I listened to the voicemail and was very confused. It sounded a bit nonsensical, especially as they didn’t actually name the show (They weren’t allowed to, at that point). But I rang the lovely lady back and we got chatting. She said “I can’t name the show…” but then proceeded to describe the exact format of The Chase. At the end of the conversation she said “I get the feeling you know where this is going…” and I said “yes I do too!”
SH: What was the selection / audition process like?
IS: Every couple of weeks I was flown down to Fox Studios at Moore Park, Sydney for a camera test in a dark room and some quizzing. The room size slowly increased over the weeks – it began with a tiny office space with black sheets over the windows! We eventually moved to one of their studios where there was a dummy game board and we played some ‘Chase’ rounds and did some ‘Final Chases’. During all this time I was reminded that I wasn’t guaranteed to be on the show, to my knowledge they were training perhaps 6-10 people. Eventually a Chaser Producer – at the time the marvellous Anthony Watt – was assigned to “us”, and he visited and quizzed me here in Brisbane for many weeks. Finally – after many months, I received THAT phone call, again at work, saying congratulations, I was officially in. It was meant to be top secret, but I was so excited I think everyone in the office figured it out.
SH: What sort of learning and ‘training up’ does it take to become a Chaser?
IS: I thank the stars that I had many, many years of preparation leading up to this role – even though I obviously didn’t know it was going to happen. To be a Chaser, you really need to have your quiz basics down. Geography, history, science, literature… if you don’t know the capital of Portugal or who wrote Jane Eyre you may not get to sit in the Chaser seat! So in the early days, I just bought and read every quiz book I could find, cover to cover. That, coupled with going to as many quiz nights as physically possible (I was up to 7 per week at one point!), meant that in just a few years I had built up a really good foundation of quiz knowledge. A crucial element of being a Chaser is obviously being quick, particularly with the Final Chase. I’ve always been lucky there; on most days can think quickly. A strong coffee helps, I find! If anyone wants to practice their speed, try getting a friend / partner to read you questions and see how fast you can answer.
SH: In what ways has becoming The Supernerd on The Chase Australia changed your
IS: It has been a life changer, that’s for sure, my goodness! But all for the positive. I see myself as certainly not an extrovert, but perhaps not a full introvert either. Still, when the first batch of strangers stopped me on the street I really didn’t know what to do. But over the years, my self-confidence has definitely grown. It helps that absolutely everybody I’ve met has been SO lovely. The comments are all upbeat, and I find it so heartening to know that I’m bringing joy to so many people. A few months ago, I spoke to a lovely man who runs a special needs school, and he said they all stop at 5 PM to watch The Chase Australia, and if I come out, they all applaud and say “my friend!”. Stories like that just grip me and make me so happy.
There are the more unusual encounters, which give me a giggle. One chap said I was fantastic in Criminal Minds! I’ve had awkward/unexpected kisses, and even the odd cheek pinch (I didn’t know people still did that).
I assume he’s talking about the cheeks on his face.
Moving swiftly on, be sure to join us next week, for the conclusion of my interview with the one and only SUPERNERD….the eminently pinchable Issa Schultz!