Alfonso Ribeiro of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air fame is headed to ABC Family. Alfonso is set to host ABC Family’s new series Spell-Mageddon. The series is set to premiere on July 24th as part of ABC Family’s Comedy Wednesdays. The show is described as a one hour game show where contestants battle distractions while trying to spell increasingly difficult words.
We recently had the chance to chat with Alfonso about Spell-Mageddon.
Check out our interview with Alfonso here:
Q) Could you talk a little bit about how you got involved with the show?
Alfonso Ribeiro: I went in and they had called my management and my agents and wanted to see if I’d come in and be interested in reading or doing a screen test for the show. I felt like the idea was something that was really kind of interesting and intriguing to me. I definitely went in. I met with them. I did a little screen test to see how it all worked.
ABC Family and the producers decided, I guess, that I was the right one for it. We just jumped right in and we started filming, literally, like ten days later. It was a quick jump in, but something that seemed really exciting and fun to do.
Q) What do you feel is going to set this game show apart from other game shows?
Alfonso: I think that we’ve obviously spent, at least for me, a lifetime of watching game shows, and ultimately it’s all about the competition. We’ve watched these spelling bees forever. The difference here is that it’s still a spelling bee but the distractions really kind of set it apart. It’s really a comedy show whereas most game shows is really simply about the game and how do you play it and who’s going to win. All of that still exists, but with the comedy aspect in terms of the distractions, the things that we are doing to these contestants are amazing.
We’ve got one game called Zapped where they’re trying to spell these words [while] we’re zapping them. Then we also have water that we’re shooting in their face and we’ve got a fire extinguisher going off on their back. We have blue icy slushes dumped on their head all while trying to spell; never knowing which one is coming next. The reactions of the contestants are priceless.
For me, what I really find that’s going to set it apart is the comedy of all of this. Obviously, this is on ABC Family’s comedy Wednesdays following Melissa and Joey and Baby Daddy. I think that the comedy aspect of this show is what’s really going to drive people to the show and keep people coming back week after week. It is really, really funny. Every episode that we’ve shot I’m laughing in the episode because I can’t do anything other than laugh. It really is just that funny. I think that’s what will set it apart.
Q) What’s it like working with ABC Family compared to some of these other studios that you’ve been associated with?
Alfonso: It’s always about the individuals. A channel, in general, is made up of a group of people. The people that I’ve work with at ABC Family have been wonderful.
Obviously this is a short run so far. Hopefully this show goes on for many, many, many years and I have a long running relationship with them. The talent typically doesn’t really spend a lot of time with the network people. You spend a lot of time with the producers of the show and that’s who you really spend your day-to-day with.
Everybody at ABC Family has been wonderful, obviously under the Disney brand. I’ve worked with Disney as a director. A little bit of an actor but mostly as a director on Shake It Up, which has been a lot of fun. They’re a great company and there are a lot of great people. I have a lot of friends that work for the company and in my everyday life. It’s been really fun.
I’m actually really proud to be part of the ABC Family because one of the things that I’ve noticed looking back on my entire career is that most of the things that I’ve done have been shows that are designed for families to watch. Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, even though it was in a different network, was a show that you could sit with your grandma, your grandchild, and everybody in between could sit there and watch an episode and enjoy it together. Most of the shows that I’ve done have really been that.
ABC Family is a network that is designed around that idea. It’s an adult network that kids can watch and adults can watch together. I think the family aspect is super important. I think we’ve lost a little bit of that in the last couple of decades. I think the idea of families sitting down together to watch television is a wonderful thing.
Q) Could you talk about game shows you watched when you were a kid?
Alfonso: Even as a kid I sat down with my parents and we watched game shows when I was a kid. Every night at dinner we would watch game shows and then sometimes we’d turn it off and do our own game shows sitting at the dinner table. Family entertainment has always been important to me.
Q) Is there anything [acting, directing, hosting] that you prefer over the other?
Alfonso: I love doing a little bit of everything. Growing up my dad was my manager and the thing that we always worked on in my career was the idea that if you had a basket of eggs you never knew which one was going to hatch and when they were going to hatch, but if you were capable of doing everything that was in that basket you were going to have the opportunity and a long career. That’s kind of what has happened for me in my career, obviously, dancing, singing and acting.
I’ve learned to direct so I’m directing mostly now. I’ve learned to host. I’m writing. I’m creating. I just believe that when you give yourself the opportunity to do many things you’ll be around a while. I’ve been fortunate enough to be good enough to work in all of those different arenas. It was a goal from the beginning to learn how to do it all.
There are very few, as they say, triple threats anymore, but back when I was a kid and before I was born that’s kind of what everybody needed to be. Now we have actors that just act. We’ve got singers who just sing. I grew up in a time when you kind of learned to do it all and I’m fortunate to be able to have worked in all of those arenas.
Q) Did you have a chance to try out some of those obstacles before the show started?
Alfonso: I was smart enough to know that you don’t have to actually experience something to act like you know what’s going on. You see, that’s the whole acting thing. You don’t have to be a killer to play a killer, right. To be on a game show where they’re doing all these things to the contestants I’ve learned that it’s better to not do it but to experience it through their involvement. The only unfortunate thing was in one episode we’re shooting these kick balls at the contestants.
This one kickball had a wonderful curve and it hit me dead in the face. So I’ve experienced it; not by choice [laughs].
Q) Did you have a favorite game show that you liked to watch growing up? If so, who was your favorite host and what was your favorite game show growing up?
Alfonso: My favorite game show was Family Feud as a kid. Richard Dawson was my favorite host growing up because we watched that basically every night. That was the last show we watched before going to bed as a kid. I certainly loved him on that show. As a kid we just watched them all. I loved Dick Clark. He was awesome in Pyramid. I just loved them all. This is my second “game show” and I’ve enjoyed the role of host in this genre.
Q) What is your favorite distraction game that you’ve had on the show?
Alfonso: My favorite is the Zapped. I absolutely love that one because the idea of zapping them as they’re trying to spell, it really does create the most comedy, I find, in every episode.
The next favorite is the game that we call Shower Power. It’s pretty cool. We put them in a shower and there are all kinds of things happening to them while they’re trying to spell; getting soaked, getting icy blue slush dumped on their head.
We have like a sprinkler system that’s just literally hitting them in the face the entire time. The reactions are awesome. It’s just brilliant. Those are really like two of my favorite.
My third would obviously be the dunk tank. When I tell you it’s ice cold water it is super cold. You put your hand in and within a few seconds you’re like okay, I can’t take that anymore. We’re dunking them fully up to their necks in this water. The screams that our contestants make while trying to spell is awesome.
Q) What are some of the obstacles that they have to do?
Alfonso: We’ve got “Head Banger,” which is basically when we get down to three contestants we put them in a machine that basically has a big hammer that comes down and whacks them on the top of their head. Do you remember that game where you had the frogs and they’d come up and you’d have to take the hammer and you bop it back down to get points? Well it’s kind of inspired by that. It’s hitting them in the head as it’s shooting up.
We’ve got pies in the face. We’ve got water shooting at them at the same time, we’ve got people off on the side shooting them with hoses of water. We’ve got fake fire extinguisher coming up right up from underneath them which is pretty crazy.
We’ve got a game where we put them on a board where we spin them around upside down and we’ve got these cannons that basically shoot food at them. It’s food hitting them in the face and in the body as they’re being spun around. That one is pretty good. That one is kind of where they go upside down. We’ve got one where they’re just going around and around in circles. We’re dumping honey on them.
It’s very physical. There’s a lot of physical stuff that we’re doing to the contestants as they’re trying to spell. In some of the rounds we put one contestant up there and they have to try to spell as many words in 60 seconds as possible while all of this is happening to them. There are many different games. Each episode doesn’t have the same games in them. There’s some that we do every time and some that we do differently in each show. We kind of mix it up a little bit.
Our final game is not a physical game, it’s just all mental. It’s sounds. It’s letters. It’s all going off in their face where they’re trying to spell the words thinking of the letters but the letters are being shown to them right in their face and sounds and all kinds of craziness going on. We’re coming at them in every different way possible.
Q) Do you still stay in touch with the cast members from Fresh Prince?
Alfonso: Absolutely. It’s very funny because you’ll read in the magazines or whatever Fresh Prince reunion and I’m always like, “What reunion?” It’s not a reunion if you get together with your friends. It’s a reunion if the network picks up the show and does another episode or we do a movie. That’s a reunion; not us getting together, having dinner, and someone taking a picture and going, “Oh look, it’s a reunion.”
I spend time with Will, with Karen, with Tatiana. I see James Avery every once in a while. I was fortunate enough to actually direct Daphne Maxwell Reid on an episode of Let’s Stay Together, which is a show that I direct. So I get to see people all the time and it’s wonderful to see them.
We’d like to thank Alfonso for taking the time to answer some questions for us all on the conference call. We really appreciate it!
You can follow Alfonso on Twitter here.
Don’t forget to tune in to Spell-Mageddon July 24th on ABC Family.