Mayim Bialik has been through it this year — as have the viewers of Jeopardy! — as the show scrambled to replace the late, longtime host, Alex Trebek, following his death last November, and then to replace his replacement, Mike Richards, after he left in scandal. Still, the former Big Bang Theory star, who had been selected to host the game show's primetime specials and has stepped in alongside Ken Jennings while a permanent host is chosen yet again, remains unquestionably interested in the position.
"I think it's very clear," Bialik told Glamour in an interview published Tuesday. "There's no other job I would rather have. I love my sitcom work, I do. I love all the other things I do. I love the podcast. But I absolutely have never had a better job."
Bialik, a trained neuroscientist as well as a veteran actor, currently starring on Fox's Call Me Kat, spoke highly about what happened during her initial guest-hosting stint. It was, she said, "a dream job for anyone, but especially for someone who is trained first as a performer and then as a science communicator."
Even though the schedule was incredibly hectic, Bialik quickly fell in love.
"Having a full-time job didn't stop me from wanting it. But it really was after those two days [during which she taped five shows a day, per the regular Jeopardy! schedule] that I realized I had never wanted anything more than that job," Bialik said. "I'm not a person who leans deeply into intuition. I wish that I was. But this was a case where I intuitively felt something very special had happened for me in my life. From just those two days. I said to the crew, 'I don't want to leave. I really don't want to leave.'" And these are long days. These are not easy days. These are long days with someone, constantly, literally, in your ear. You need to think on your feet; you need to pronounce words in the Navajo language, which is not something I had ever done before. Learning to name the lakes of Africa. I'm literally being asked to squeeze my brain. It's not easy work. But there was something really special that I felt there, and I can't explain it."
So, despite reports that Bialik wasn't offered the weekday job because she was unavailable, she said that she would have taken it if she had been given that option. Instead, of course, Richards, who was the show's executive producer at the time, was selected. But the show backtracked on the decision within a week, after offensive comments that Richards had made about women, Jewish people and others emerged online. He was fired from the show altogether 11 days later.
Bialik, who fits both of the slandered categories, said that, while she still had to work with Richards in the time between when his comments came out and when he left the show, she simply stayed focused on the task at hand. She declined to address Richards's words or what she said to him the one time that she spoke with him after his departure.
"I think not commenting is the safest thing to do," she said.
During all of this, Bialik — though she didn't want to dwell on it — has dealt with stress in her personal life, as she batted away false reports about her vaccination status and as her partner, Jonathan Cohen, underwent hip replacement surgery. In fact, she was at the hospital when she heard that Richards would no longer be the Jeopardy! host. She called to offer the show her help.
"A lot of us didn't realize how much and with what intensity people would be invested in these conversations about Jeopardy!," she said. "It is a brand, but it has been devoid of anything interesting besides being the fantastic cultural phenomenon that it is. This is not a world that has had drama. It's been a pretty wild ride."