WWE Giant Paul Wight on Transitioning to Sitcoms With 'The Big Show Show'
It was 20 years ago when Paul Wight, known to WWE fans as the Big Show, joined Mick Foley and Triple H for a bit during The Rock’s hosting gig on Saturday Night Live. That experience is where the 7-footer believes he first caught the acting bug.
Fast forward to today and the former multi-time wrestling champion is starring in his own Netflix series, aptly titled The Big Show Show. The sitcom sees Wight acclimating back into home life after retiring from WWE — and he may have met his match with his wife and three daughters.
“I’m nervous because we put so much heart into this,” he said. “From my own personal journey, [co-stars] Allison [Munn] and the girls saw me every night to thank our live audience before the show and after. Almost after every taping I was almost in tears thanking everyone who filled a seat to watch the taping. It meant a lot to me.
“It’s really a dream come true to have this opportunity and have this relationship with the fans. I believe in my gut as hard as I can believe it that I think fans will love this show. If they’re a fan of family entertainment and a fan of the Big Show, I think they’re going to see a side of me that I don't think they’ve seen before.”
Timed to the first season dropping on April 6, Wight talks about his time on set and if we’ve seen the last of him in a WWE ring.
Over your career you’ve been able to develop your comedic skills, whether it’s in WWE or in other projects like The Waterboy and Jingle All the Way. How did all that experience prepare you for starring in your own sitcom?
Paul Wight: I think being in sports entertainment for more than 25 years prepared me in how to work in front of a live audience. This is a whole different animal to work multi-cam, scripted, in front of a live audience. Thank God I had Allison Munn as a co-star because she is amazing and has done so many shows. She is a pro in hitting her light and making sure the camera angles are right. She gets the little things like not talking when you shut a door so the door doesn’t go over your line. There were so many things I had to learn. She was my inspiration and my coach.
For me, luckily I had the background of being a pro wrestler that I got experience in front of a live crowd. I knew how to find the rhythm of the audience.
How was it building a relationship with your onscreen family members offscreen? Is there anything you did to break the ice or did you hit it off right away?
Right away it was magic from the very first read we did together... Allison’s energy — and with the dynamic of her being shorter and me being a monster — and her being this smart, funny, endearing, powerful chick that is married to a giant, it all just worked. I was surprised. I was lucky enough to do a couple of shows and movies [before this], and you don’t always get lucky with the chemistry of the cast. I mean, I have three daughters now that I talk to all the time. I love the girls.
This past December, I took them all to an Ariana Grande concert in Anaheim for a Christmas present. Me, the Big Show, was sitting in the crowd of an Ariana Grande concert. I did that for my girls. I hear about Reylynn [Caster, who plays Lola] working on her driver’s test, Lily Brooks [O'Briant, who plays Mandy] is doing some stuff for St. Jude’s charity and little Juliet [Donenfeld] — “my heart,” I call her — she's the hardest worker out of the whole group. She is so talented. I’ve got three daughters now and the best TV wife on the planet.
You have Jaleel White on the show as well, who is no stranger to sitcoms. What have you gotten working with him?
Jaleel White has been absolutely unbelievable to work with ... He knows live comedy and knows sitcom comedy so well. It’s like watching a true professional maestro that just waves that wand. He just knows how to get the most out of everything. He knows how to get the most out of me. He has no problems playing his role and making me a little funnier. Watching his professionalism, I’m so thankful to have him on the show.
He is such a talent. For me, it was a little intimidating to see a guy where everything he said was funny. Everything. A lot of times I would have to hold my line so the people could have time to laugh at what he was saying. He is a cool cat to begin with [and] he is a regular dude, he is a dad and has a daughter.
It was great because Mark Henry is my best friend. He is one of my dearest, closest friends. I’ve always had great relationships with Rikishi and Mick Foley. Mick was my first opponent in WWE. To have those guys on the show with the episode we had, they were absolutely amazing
Jason [Berger] and Josh [Bycel], our writers, Allison and my girls, they all love Mark. Hopefully, if things move forward, we’ll have him again. I want him to recur a little bit more because he brings such a sweet tenderness to the show that is a 180-degree turn of what people are used to seeing from Mark Henry. The “World’s Strongest Man,” “Hall of Pain,” he is a big intimidating guy, but he is a salt-of-the-earth sweetheart in real life.
The story and character you play isn’t a far stretch for you. What are some of the differences between the dad on this show and yourself?
The dad on this show has a lot more going on with him because he has three girls to keep up with. Allison [who plays wife Cassy] is a master at budgeting her time with the girls, time for her career, time for me. I think the biggest difference for me is I only have one daughter in real life. It’s a little bit easier to keep up with one kid, I think. The Big Show dad on our show is a little bit busier. His girls run him in circles. The one thing I do love about the show is when you watch, you’ll understand the family unit really loves each other and cares about one another. I think what fans will find is we’re the kind of family you want to be a part of. There is chaos and it’s fun, but the underlying rule of thumb, there is no doubt in your mind everybody on that show truly cares about each other.
You’ve been in pro wrestling for more than 25 years, and unlike your character, you haven’t officially retired. Have you mapped out an ideal situation or opponent when that day really comes for you in WWE?
I don’t have an opponent picked out yet for my final match because I think that is a ways away. What I have done is stepped back as far as full-time, five nights a week, in the trenches. I’ve done that for 25 years. Now it’s time for the guys to stake their claim and build their characters and legacies. I’m always there to help those guys along. I think that is one of the great advantages of where I am in my career.
I’m able to help guys, be an opponent for them, give them advice and still do what I love occasionally and have fun with it. I love interacting with our audience. Our audience is the best audience you can ever imagine worldwide. To have their support and earned their support for the last 25 years is pretty humbling.
This show is a welcome escape for right now — as is WWE. What are your thoughts on WWE's decision to continue to produce shows without a live audience?
We have the slogan about putting smiles on people's faces, [both] at the core of WWE, from the people who work backstage to the talent, all the way up to Vince [McMahon] himself. We want to give our audience a chance to step away from the everyday. We want them to sit down and get invested in our story-telling. That’s what we do is we tell stories with an athletic performance, we give people a chance to escape. Every one of our characters from the amazing women competitors to our 205 Live stars to our Braun Strowman and Roman Reigns and Brock Lesnar. There is someone for everyone to identify with, root for, and in some instances, to want to see that particular person get booed.
That escape is important now in this time of social distancing and being cut off from interacting in-person for a civil responsibility to be safe. It’s important for us to provide an escape for our fans and do it in the safest way possible. I know WWE is very diligent about only having necessary personnel interacting. I know that our medical staff are there for testing and making sure the talent is cleared and ready to go. Nobody is being asked to do anything they don't want to do. There aren’t any repercussions. If someone feels uncomfortable, it’s not about that. It’s about us coming together as a team and using what we have to give our fans the best product we can, so they have something to escape to.
The Big Show Show, Season 1, Now Streaming, Netflix