‘Legends of the Hidden Temple’ Host Cristela Alonzo on What Makes the Reboot Special
Kids who grew up on green slime and orange blimps are living out their respective childhood dreams as adults competing on the rebooted Legends of the Hidden Temple. The 1990s game show is given a modern update on CW with a new host in Cristela Alonzo.
This multi-hyphenate was the first Latina to create, produce and star in her own network sitcom Cristela. She most recently wrote the upcoming Lifetime film Holiday in Santa Fe starring Mario Lopez. You can also expect her second Netflix standup special next year.
Along with impressive credentials, the 42-year-old brings a genuine enthusiasm to Legends of the Hidden Temple. Complimented nicely by all-knowing storyteller Olmec, given life once more by original voice Dee Bradley Baker. We caught up with Cristela about reawakening a beloved piece of TV nostalgia.
What was it like stepping foot on set for the first time? Did childhood memories come flooding back?
Cristela Alonzo: Absolutely. When I was growing up Nickelodeon was the hub for kids for me and my friends. When I first saw Olmec, I got giddy. It’s the icon of the show. Also, it reminded me of a time I used to watch shows like Salute Your Shorts, Double Dare, Hey Dude, and Legends of the Hidden Temple. It was a fun time that was so carefree. I realize shooting that it’s what I wanted the contestants to feel. Yeah, people were competing for money. But when we were shooting this, we weren’t really concerned about the money as much as bragging rights that we were all there. I keep in touch with the contestants. We schedule watch parties. We’re all connected on Instagram because we all realize we went through something really special.
How do you compare the typical studio energy to moving the show outdoors?
When you say studio energy, all I hear is air conditioning. It is so nice to be athletic and do challenges when it’s air-conditioned. Outdoors it looks beautiful and you get a chance to experience the jungle element. When you see old episodes, I remember thinking that moat looks huge but in actuality, it’s what this little pool? The fact we are able to build on a larger scale outdoors is great. It adds to the authenticity of what it’s supposed to be. Executive producer Scott Stone wanted the whole journey to take up the span of a day. When you see the rounds go, you start to see later in the day where we lose the sun. It makes us feel like we are on an adventure. All this is happening over the span of time so by the end when they are running Olmec’s Temple, you see they’ve been through a lot.
Watching as a kid, I thought about how virtually impossible the challenges were. It feels the same with this version.
You’re right. I think it comes down to this version being with adults. We have to make it a little harder. Though you don’t necessarily have to be an athlete that works out every day to be able to conquer these challenges. We have the Steps of Knowledge. You have to pay attention to the legend and learn about it. When it’s challenging, the contestants can get dirtier and have more fun. I think as adults we need more of that kind of action. When we get to a certain age, it seems like we’re not allowed to play anymore. We’re not supposed to have fun. This is a perfect show to go back to your childhood. We need to be having fun and playing right now, especially the time we are living in.
Did you get a chance to play yourself?
I did not! It’s the first season so they are making sure all the obstacles and challenges worked. It’s constant testing. I had no chance to run it, which sucks. Part of me is kind of glad they didn’t let me do it in season 1 because I probably think I would suck at it so much. I would have been so embarrassed if there was footage.
Who would be your teammate?
It’s either my sister Julisa as payback as she was always the feminine sister, and I was the tomboy. I loved the idea of her getting dirty because she isn’t that person. My brother Eloy is very competitive. He taught me baseball, tennis. He was always teaching me sports, yet never played himself. I don’t know. I think that this would be payback too.
Tell me about some of the teams we’re going to meet in the coming episodes. We’ve seen lots of representation already this season.
We have a drag queen coming up in one of the teams. What I was thinking is how do you keep that hair and makeup on? The effort is amazing. Seeing someone running in drag shows you what diversity is about. In the premiere episode, we had a team of black transgender women. We have black, Latino, Asian, LGBTQ, et. What I love about this show is we show anyone can do it, and everyone is allowed. This is a representation of life. Whatever you see yourself as, whoever you are. You can do whatever you want. There is a really cool contestant Abby, who has alopecia. She lost her hair completely at 16. She is a badass makeup artist. For her, she wanted to show she is this person who has alopecia, but it doesn’t define who she is. There are a lot of stories like that.
Are we getting many who did the show as kids and returning as adults?
We have one team this season that is coming back. They played separately but are best friends in real life. They teamed up and wanted payback because they didn’t finish the Temple when they were kids. They wanted another chance to see if they can do it. That episode is really cool because there is an Easter egg nobody sees coming that is so great.
Viewers of the old show remember host Kirk Fogg fondly. Have you gotten words from him?
I got to meet Kirk throughout the whole thing. It was really important for Scot that he kept it as close to the original as possible. I ended up speaking to him about tips and about what he liked. We had Dee back as Olmec. It was an honor to work with him. People seem very into it. Before the premiere, I know people were skeptical of the show. You’re coming in and disrupting childhood memories for people. Now they are seeing, “This is really cool.” I bring something different than what Kirk did. That’s I was a fan of the show and nostalgic too and on that journey as well.
Any other Nick shows you want to see rebooted?
You Can’t Do That on Television. I would do that in a heartbeat. Sketch, kids, I..it’s one of those shows that can be relevant and updated in a cool way.
Legends of the Hidden Temple, Sundays, 8/7c, CW