How ‘Quiz Lady’ Became a Love Letter to Alex Trebek and Classic Game Shows

“Quiz Lady” scribe Jen D’Angelo said she was inspired by the game shows she watched growing up — particularly “Jeopardy!” and its charismatic host, the late Alex Trebek.

In the new comedy feature, Awkwafina plays Anne, a young woman obsessed with the long-running game show “Can’t Stop the Quiz.” She enlists the help of Jenny (Sandra Oh) — her estranged, wannabe actress sister — to help cover their mother’s gambling debts. When Anne’s beloved dog is kidnapped by debt collectors, they hatch a plan to have Anne get on “Can’t Stop the Quiz” and win the cash prize, if she can get over her social anxiety and adoration for host Terry McTeer (Will Ferrell).

TheWrap caught up with writer Jen D’Angelo before “Quiz Lady’s” Nov. 3 premiere on Hulu, where she shared her love of game shows and how Ferrell’s character was an homage to late “Jeopardy” host Alex Trebek, who passed away in November 2020.

What is your history with game shows and why did you decide to center this film around one?

D’Angelo: I just grew up watching them, and I’ve always loved them. And my older brother is very much an Anne type, where he is just a genius. He can recall everything he’s ever read, just on a dime. And he has always wanted to be on “Jeopardy.” He’s tried out so many times, always made it into the contestant pool, but never gotten the call. And so I’ve just been so invested in “Jeopardy!”

When I was an assistant — one of my first jobs in L.A. — I would drive past the the “Jeopardy” stage on the Sony lot all the time. And I was like, “‘It’s right there. I just want to go inside!”

Even working in TV for a decade now, I still find the game show so alluring, like it’s a magical place. Even though I’ve been on sets, “Jeopardy,” it’s like Oz.

“Quiz Lady” director Jessica Yu and writer Jen D’Angelo (20th Century)
“Quiz Lady” director Jessica Yu and writer Jen D’Angelo (20th Century)

Speaking of “Jeopardy,” you have Will Ferrell on this film as both a producer and the host of “Can’t Stop the Quiz.” Of course, you must know his run on “SNL” as Alex Trebek. And his character gives very Trebek-ian vibes.

Alex Trebek is such an incredible cultural icon; he means so much to so many people. And so we really wanted to make it a love letter to him. It was really so great to see Will play this character, because he has that connection to Alex from “Celebrity Jeopardy!”

It was fun to talk about ways to sort of make Terry very different from that, while also being an allusion to that. And that’s where we came up with this idea that Terry is just the nicest, warmest guy, but he actually doesn’t know that much. Part of what he loves about hosting the game shows is that he gets to learn so much. He’s just like, “I have no idea how you guys remember all this stuff!”

And so that felt like a nice contrast to Alex Trebek, who the reason that he was such an amazing “Jeopardy” host is that you really believed he knew everything he was asking you, in that he was so smart. So it was really fun to play against that with Terry.

Did you write all the trivia questions on “Can’t Stop the Quiz” yourself?

I did for the most part! I have a friend who worked as a researcher for a while, so I asked her to help me out with some of them. We were hanging out and just researching trivia questions, which is very fun.

What game show would you want to compete on? And as a follow-up, which game show do you think you could win?

I would really love to be on “Jeopardy!” We have got to get my brother on “Jeopardy” first, but I would really love to go on it. I feel like, depending on the day, I could maybe win. And I think I might choke and do really badly. So I’m too scared to ever really attempt it, but that is kind of my dream.

I also love a good “Family Feud.” And that one, I really don’t know if I can actually win it, because I feel like that’s so luck dependent. But I really would just love to give an answer that makes Steve Harvey look at me judgmental. Like I’m crazy. I feel like that would be a real bucket list item, to get a real shady look from Steve Harvey.

If it’s “Family Feud,” your brother could be on it too. Then you could both win!


Check out the “Quiz Lady” trailer below. It’s now streaming on Hulu.

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