Mayim Bialik talks response to 'Jeopardy!' hosting: 'We're all learning as we go here'

Followers of Mayim Bialik know she's had a long career, from her child actor roles in "Beaches" and "Blossom " all the way to her "Big Bang Theory" run. She's also an author and a neuroscientist.But nothing could have prepared her for the last few months, when the "Jeopardy!" spotlight turned on her full blast.
Mayim Bialik on "Jeopardy!"JEOPARDY! / SONY
"I didn't realize how much people had such strong and passionate opinions about 'Jeopardy!' and what happened to it," she told TODAY. "The Twitter audience isn't the typical 'Jeopardy!' viewing audience. So there's been some interesting overlap here with how much (the) court of public opinion should weigh in on 'Jeopardy!' We're all learning as we go here."

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Bialik, 45, first stepped onto the "Jeopardy!" stage in late May for a few weeks as one of a rotating group of guest hosts trying to fill in the show's need for a leader in the wake of legendary Alex Trebek's death in 2020. She got high marks from fans, and when she was announced as prime-time and spinoff permanent host of the show, that seemed like a good decision on the part of the series.Alas, the permanent regular host of the show, former executive producer Mike Richards flamed out spectacularly , leaving Bialik alone standing — and now, with Ken Jennings, back to her guest-hosting the regular weeknight show.

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"I'm pretty surprised, still adjusting to all the changes," she says. "It's been happening in real time, so I'm trying to keep up as best as I can. Obviously, as someone who was a child actor and then trained as a scientist and then a science communicator it's not utterly astounding that I might be thought of for something like this, but the turnout of the last month has been exciting to say the least."

Ken Jennings and Bialik will continue hosting "Jeopardy!" until the end of 2021.Jeopardy

As for doing the show, she loves being part of a series with "such a legacy" and is working hard to be both herself, but also blend into the background. "I'm doing a job that was done specifically by a very beloved person, so finding a way to make my own mark without being noticeable, because nobody should be thinking that much about the host," she explains.

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While Trebek could get away with a snazzy suit and tie, Bialik has had to think about her outfits, and employs Beth Morgan, the costume designer from the first season of her series "Call Me Kat" who works with "Jeopardy's" expert to put her in comfortable, stylish pieces that allow her to show off her flair."(Morgan) loves and appreciates all my curves and thinks I'm perfect the way I am," says Bialik. "That's an important advocate to have in a stylist... We're trying to definitely bring some of my personality."

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On "Call Me Kat" and in a new cat food promotion, Bialik is fine with the felines.Lisa Rose / FOX
And if that wasn't enough, there's the new season of "Kat" coming up in 2022, in which Bialik plays a cat café owner at loose ends. As the owner of three rescue cats, she's delighted to be immersed in felines, which has also led to a partnership with Purina Pro Plan's LiveClear, a cat food marketed toward minimizing sensitivity humans have with cats.

"We have noticed a marked difference in our lives (since her cats began eating the food)," Bialik, a spokesperson for the brand, says. "There's this protein that's in (cats') saliva, so when they groom themselves — which is all the time — it gets over them. That's why there are no hypoallergenic cats, per se."

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She's not so much into dogs , she admits. "I have children; I don't want dogs. I have something that looks at me like the world revolves around me and also everything horrible that happens I have to fix. Cats are a different creature."

She doesn't need dogs, jokes Bialik, because she has children.Courtesy PurinaPro Plan
On top of all that, she's written and directed her first feature, starring Candice Bergen and Dustin Hoffman, with a title she says is likely to change, "As Sick as They Made Us."

It's a lot on her plate right now, but as far as a lot of the public is concerned, it's really all about "Jeopardy!" — no matter how many projects she has in her past. As she notes, the game show is all anyone asks her about these days.

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"Up until a month ago, it was 'Beaches' or 'Blossom,'" she says. "Right now, the role of being myself on 'Jeopardy' seems to get the most attention. So it's a new world."

Mayim Bialik and Ken Jennings will split ‘Jeopardy!’ hosting for rest of year

Sept. 17, 202102:39