Mayim Bialik has temporarily taken on the job of Jeopardy! host — she'll work solo through Nov. 5 and then share duties with champion Ken Jennings while a permanent choice is selected — to replace Mike Richards, who left the job amid scandal only days after taking it on. However, the actress has long dealt with public scrutiny over her stance on issues such as vaccines.
For example, while she wrote in her 2012 book about attachment parenting, Beyond the Sling, that she opposed vaccines for her children, she said last year that they would be vaccinated against COVID-19. She joked in a new interview with the New York Times that the public scrutiny could have been worse.
"I credit me and my publicist, Heather, that like there really wasn't a lot more," Bialik said. "I've been talking for a long time."
After all, Bialik had her first TV roles in the '80s, on shows such as The Facts of Life and Webster. She starred in her own successful TV show by the time she was teenager. (The Call Me Kat star has spoken to Yahoo Entertainment about the challenges of growing up in public.) Now 45, she's spent years giving interviews, writing books and blogs and even hosting a podcast on mental health.
In 2021, Bialik, who earned a doctorate in neuroscience from UCLA in 2007, also can be seen in commercials advertising Neuriva, a supplement for brain health. This, too, is a flashpoint, because, as the Times noted, before Bialik signed on, the company behind it faced a class-action lawsuit over its claims that the supplement improved brain performance. (The company denied wrongdoing but agreed to tweak the language it used in promoting it.)
"It is exactly what it states that it is: It's a supplement that has components that absolutely are healthy for your brain," Bialik said. "I make no claims and haven't made any claims that it cures anything."
The former Big Bang Theory actress made it clear that she wanted to avoid controversy during her interview. Bialik, who is Jewish, declined to discuss Richards's departure, which was prompted by offensive comments about women, Jewish people and many others. She wanted to keep the focus on the show.
"I had a reaction, but I don't really feel like it’s for public consumption," she said. "It further potentially complicates any discussion about trying to return to a state of normalcy for Jeopardy! And so I'm kind of respectfully choosing not to talk about it."
She had said as much last month in an interview on The Late Late Show with James Corden.
"I mean, I'm just trying to read the clues. You know, just let me read the clues," she said then. "The thing about Jeopardy!, we spend our whole lives wanting to be seen, you know, and this job is like — people should think the least about me as possible. Meaning, it's my job to be the host, just like read the clues."
Her hosting philosophy requires her to be understated.
"I didn't want to be distracting — like, 'Oh my gosh, there's that lady!'" Bialik told the Times. "I think a lot about Jeopardy! just needs to be very neutral to pleasant."