Mayim Bialik is used to wearing several hats. She is a neuroscientist, four-time author and four-time Emmy nominee for her supporting role in “The Big Bang Theory.”
Bialik adds another line to his resume Monday night with the premiere of a new batch of “Jeopardy!” episodes that put her behind the desk. She and former champion Ken Jennings will share hosting duties for the remainder of the year, Sony Pictures Television announced last week.
“Danger!” Producers are still looking for a permanent replacement for the late Alex Trebek. In the meantime, longtime fans are hoping Bialik, 45, and Jennings, 47, can help stabilize the proverbial ship after the drama surrounding Mike Richards, the producer-turned-emcee who left the show last month. under consideration of his past commentaries on Women, The Jews and the Poor.
In a brief conversation on Zoom on Monday, Bialik laid out his goals for “Jeopardy!” following a grueling news cycle, responded to criticism of his past vaccine remarks and discussed the origins of his Fox sitcom, “Call Me Kat,” which has been renewed for a second season.
This conversation has been edited slightly for length and clarity.
You and Ken Jennings part ways with “Jeopardy!” hospitality functions until the end of the year. What is your mandate at the show, and how closely do you plan to work with Ken?
If you want to do the math I think I’m technically doing more than half [of the episodes], so my mandate is to do as many episodes as possible given my schedule.
To be fair, a lot has happened in the past month, a lot of which is known to the public, and the public doesn’t necessarily need to know. What I can say is that when Mike [Richards] resigned as host, what I said was, “How can I help?” because I had already been welcomed into the “Jeopardy!” family as someone who was going to do stuff in prime time and college “Jeopardy!” specials.
We’re kind of in that kind of fashion: trying to find some stability and consistency for our wonderful staff and team, many of whom have been around for decades without any sort of drama or turmoil. That’s what I think Ken and I are both focusing on right now.
I only just met him [Jennings] once. Covid is truly a bummer in many ways. It’s devastating on a global level, but when you think about interpersonal things, he and I really haven’t been able to meet and spend time together. I met him at the press conference, [but] otherwise, I don’t have the opportunity to spend a lot of one-on-one time with him. But I hope to get there, especially now that we are tested so regularly.
Do you think the backlash to hiring Mike Richards was valid? What’s the thing you would say to longtime “Jeopardy!” on the future of the show following the controversies of this summer?
I think the concerns are well founded. I think we’re all facing how much [does] the court of public opinion plays a role in decision-making, and again, I think that’s something we all try to understand as an industry.
Like I said, my interest right now is that viewers don’t think much about what’s going on in terms of accommodation, which means I would like to be such a neutral as well as a pleasant presence as a host of what are going to be a lot of episodes within a few months. I really don’t want to talk about myself, because I don’t. I don’t think anyone who hosted guests was trying to do that about them, per se.
Truly, [I’m] I’m just trying to cut down on any drama and kind of get back to this amazing, iconic show, which also has a really, really long streak with Mike Amodio.
Over the summer, your vaccine comments received renewed scrutiny. I wanted to give you the opportunity to respond to this review. Do you feel that your opinions have been misinterpreted?
Again, this is a sort of court of public opinion. I made a very public video on my YouTube channel [uploaded on Oct. 1], which has over a million subscribers, saying my children are vaccinated. At that time, we were all going to get vaccinated against Covid; we are all [now] vaccinated against covid. When I was writing a book [the 2012 parenting guide “Beyond the Sling”], when my children were young, they had not received all of their vaccines. This is absolutely true.
It doesn’t feel good to be a liberal accused by the liberals of not being liberal enough or to be a feminist accused by other feminists of not being feminist enough because I support breastfeeding.
I think there is a lot of drama going around, but I was pretty clear, like I said, especially very recently, about us and vaccines. I don’t think there is much confusion among people doing the proper and timely research.
“Call Me Kat” soon begins filming its second season. What attracted you to this project?
We are going back next week. The project was introduced to me by Jim Parsons from “The Big Bang Theory”. Her company had the rights to “Miranda”, and it was a British show about a very unusual woman. And what Jim said was “If anyone can be boring but also adorable, it’s probably you.” That’s how we started working together on an American version of “Miranda”, so to speak.