Q&A With Todd Newton Of “Family Game Night”

Family Game NIghtEmmy Award winner Todd Newton lives to host. It’s been his dream ever since he was a child and he’d sit with his Grandmother, watch The Price Is Right and think, “Wow, Bob Barker’s got the greatest job in the world.” He’s followed in his idol’s footsteps and today, he’s the host of Hub Network’s Family Game Night. The family-themed game show is airing its 5th season and new this year, celebrities and their families are joining the Family Game Night fun and are playing to win money for their favorite charities. Todd Newton and I chatted about this season of FGN (premiering Sunday, August 3 on Hub Network) and he shared details of this season and insight into his life as a million-watts-of-energy, TV host.

Todd, What can you tell me about this season of Family Game Night?
I could tell you this: we have some great families on and we raised a lot of money for some stellar charitable organizations. And had a lot of fun.

We had some people that were just really great. Lorenzo Lamas and his beautiful daughters came on. They were a blast. We had Joey Lawrence and his daughter. We had Melissa Rivers and her son Cooper, who I’ve known forever, and a lot of others. The neat thing about doing a show that’s lasted is now, everyone who comes on the show, celebrities included, wants to be on because they watch at home. And you can see the difference in their performance and their excitement. And to see it with the celebrities and know that we’re raising money for really great causes at the same time was really a kick for all of us.

Are charities ones that celebs chose themselves?
The celebrities get to choose which organization they raise money for. Celebrities do a lot of work for various organizations and they get the opportunity to choose who they want to represent and who they want to play or speak on behalf of. So when you’re Joey Lawrence or Marlee Matlin, you can represent anyone — no one’s going to say “no” to you. To win $10,000 for great organizations was really cool and it was great to be able to bring awareness to them as well.

Family Game Night
A family plays a giant version of Jenga.

How will celebrities take part in this season of Family Game Night?
The celebrities show up in 7 or 8 of this season’s episodes. They just play one game, they don’t play the whole show. We still choose families right out of the studio audience to play all of the different games, a-la The Price is Right. That’s a change that we made in the second or third season, which really made a big difference. Because, let’s face it, the more people who get the opportunity to play, the better!

How did the audience react to having celebrities on Family Game Night?
They loved it because we didn’t tell them who it was. We would tease it the entire show. We would say, “it’s somebody you’ve been watching on TV for years.” Or, “it’s someone who won an Academy Award.” And when they came running through the Family Game Night Tunnel, you could just see the looks on their faces. The parents too because — let’s face it — Family Game Night is for the kids and as parents we love experiencing things through our children’s eyes. You can throw a little cookie or two to the parents and bring our Lorenzo Lamas or Marissa Winokur — who we all loved on Broadway — It’s pretty neat. A little something for Mom and Dad.

What was the driving force behind adding a celebrity factor this season?
We were meeting people, whether it was myself, or the producers, or the network executives; and we were starting to hear the feedback, “My kids love Family Game Night.” Or, “It’s so cool that you play Connect 4, my kids and I play this at home all the time.”
We were starting to see that, and feel that and know that that kind of exposure and recognition was out there for the show. And it was the kind of thing that when the network reached out to these people, I don’t think that anyone said “No.”

Every parent is always looking for memorable things to do with their children. And every parent appreciates that there’s a show on the air that their kids can safely watch that they can safely watch, And now, that their kids can take part in. I think it was just capitalizing on that. And partnering wit hall of these charitable organizations. It made it kind of a slam-dunk, no-brainer.

Family Game NIght
Todd Newton and a young contestant cheer on her dad as he plays Bop It!

Do you have a favorite Family Game Night game?
I’m a Bop It! Guy. Bop It! is the game that I like to jump in and play during rehearsals and throw down and talk a little smack to the crew before the cameras roll. I love the new version of Yahtzee, because it’s very modern, very technological, very hip and I like watching that one. I like watching that one while we’re doing it. I like watching that one at home. But if I’m going to play just one, It’s gotta be Bop It!

What is your favorite part of hosting Family Game Night?
First of all, hosting game shows is all I’ve ever wanted to do. And to be able to do it, and make a living at it, is a real thrill. I think professionally, hosting game shows is my favorite thing in the world. And personally, being a parent is my favorite thing in the world. And my favorite thing about Family Game Night is that it’s the perfect marriage of my two favorite things. I get to experience great moments with families and give away lots of cash and lots of prizes to people that I don’t even know, and that establishes instant friendships.

Do you and your children play board games together?
Yes. My son just turned 13, so to get him to play the same games as my 9-year-old daughter is not as easy as it used to be. He’s the more Yahtzee guy where my daughter is a Connect 4 girl. Just like every family across America, we’ve got that closet in the hallway where we’ve got years and years of board games. It’s loaded up; I’ve got my Yahtzee, I’ve got Trouble, I’ve got Sorry!, I’ve got Twister, (which isn’t as easy to play with kids as it used to be. I guess I’m not as flexible as I used to be.)

Board games are the cornerstone of family game nights, I think for everyone. To be able to play these games in a life-size version is pretty cool for a guy like me.

2014 marks your third Daytime Emmy nomination. Can you describe what it was like when you won in 2012?
Let me think of a word that people don’t normally use. I want to say “surreal,” but I think that is a very overused word. It was…there’s not an adjective for it. It felt like everything I had ever worked for in my life had come to fruition in that moment. And when I say everything, I mean hours on set, I mean hours in the makeup chair, I mean days away from my family, I mean the hours that I would sit with my grandmother, as a child, watching The Price is Right and think, “Wow, Bob Barker’s got the greatest job in the world.” And all of these things are good – I don’t consider any of those things sacrifices. They say that there are moments in your life when your whole life passes before you, I think everything career-related passed before my eyes in the 45 seconds that I was up there accepting the award.

The beautiful thing is, I think about it every time I look at it. I think about how lucky I am that I am able to do this. I think about how fortunate I am to have the people around me that I do that support me and teach me. And I think about I’m so lucky because it never gets old and it’s just a really, when anybody gives you an atta-boy or a pat on the back, in any way, shape or form, whether it’s a Daytime Emmy or my Mom or Dad telling me they’re proud of me, it’s a nice little rush of adrenaline or I don’t know what chemical goes through your veins, I’m certainly not a doctor. But whatever it is that flows through my veins whenever something like that happens, it’s a very special unique feeling and I’m thrilled to be in that club.

Now that you’ve won a Daytime Emmy, was the pressure off when you were nominated this year?
The nomination’s great, but I’ve never felt pressure to win. Obviously, I would love to win again, but it’s not a pressure feeling. It’s just a great feeling to know that people notice what we’re doing and acknowledge that what we’re doing is on par with a big network show. To be ranked up there with some big, big stars is pretty cool and to know that the same people that vote are experiencing Family Game Night. So it’s a win no matter what happens.

Family Game Night
airs on Hub Network Sundays at 7pmET/6pmCT