I should have written about this already, but I’ve been pretty busy and also a bit distracted by lots of stuff.
Anyway, in 2021, I was cast on and won a gameshow called The Hustler, hosted by Craig Ferguson. Yes, that Craig Ferguson. The nutter from Scotland. My wife and I have been fans of him for years. She discovered him while nursing babies back in the day of babies.
Anyway, I follow him on Twitter, as one does. He retweeted a casting call for the new gameshow he was hosting. I looked very briefly into the gameshow and thought it looked like fun, so I filled out an application. One of the things on the application was a question about interesting things about me, so I shared some of the interesting factoids about my childhood and life.
I didn’t know what to expect, so I put it out of my mind pretty fast.
I got a call three days later from a producer who was doing initial casting screening phone calls for The Hustler. I was surprised and delighted!
Thus ensued about a month and half of phone calls that ranged from ten minutes to three hours. I was asked all kinds of questions, many of which were probing for more interesting details about me. I became friends with a couple of the people I spoke with regularly, one particularly being Ryne Dillon. Dude’s a chad. We got along really well and had some long, really pleasant conversations. I guess he’s produced things like Master Chef and such.
I did a bunch of audition photos too: headshots, full body shots, and lots of pictures of me in different outfits.
I finally got to one of the last rounds of screening, which was a virtual mock-game of the Hustler, just the final round. I was on with two other guys. They were fun and we had a good time.
I guess I should tell you the premise of this game. It’s like Survivor meets the Weakest Link meets Jeopardy. And that awesome TV show with Tim Roth called “Lie to Me.”
Five people sit across from each other in a set made to look like a library. The host, Craig Ferguson, wanders the set throughout. The five people are asked trivia questions, and instead of trying to answer the question first, they team up to try to figure out the answer. They have to agree on the answer before they can give it. If they get a question right, money goes in their ‘bank,’ while if they get it wrong, no money goes in.
So they’re all trying to boost the money in the bank.
But the twist is that one of them was given all the answers already, before the filming began, and they’re trying to help the group get answers right – without revealing themselves as the person with all the answers, The Hustler. Another twist is that Craig shares a clue about the Hustler’s identity before each question is asked. So between the clues and the Hustler trying to discreetly influence the answers, the other players have a lot going for them in trying to find out who the Hustler is.
Because if the players correctly agree on who the Hustler is at the end of the game, they get to split the money in the ‘bank.’ But if the Hustler remains undetected, the Hustler takes home all the money. Also, after three questions, the Hustler is able to kick another player off the game without the others having any idea who the Hustler is. And after three more questions, they can kick off another person. Leaving the Hustler and two other players for the final four questions. Also, Craig doesn’t know who the Hustler is. In fact, only one producer knows who the Hustler is.
Well, if you want spoilers beyond the title of this post, keep reading. If not, go to Amazon Prime and find The Hustler and watch it! Season 2, Episode 6. It originally aired on ABC, but it was cancelled after two seasons, sadly.
So I was cast after winning the virtual game. I had a feeling I might be designated as the Hustler, but only found out an hour before they started filming. They were so strict about making sure that no cast member saw another cast member before filming – it was like being in a spy movie. All these producers shepherding we five cast members here and there on this set down in LA. Very fun.
Oh yeah, they flew me to LA. I stayed at a hotel right next to Universal Studios, but only had time to wander a little before I needed to get to bed. I was picked up at 6AM the next day and driven to the studio, then prepped and waited and waited. Then I got word I was the Hustler and was given the list of questions and answers. So I finalized my strategy for staying undetected, made sure to memorize the answers, and walked around to keep my nerves settled.
Filming finally began and I was one of three guys with two women. Everybody looked fun and sharp. Kyle, the good-looking black guy caught something in my body language and knew I was the Hustler after two questions. I saw him notice and process that so I kicked him off after the third question. If he’d stayed on, I would have lost.
James figured out it was me too, I’m pretty sure, but he seemed like he was trying to help me. It was weird. He was weird. But he was ultimately also very cool because I think he deliberately directed suspicion away from me.
That left Christine and Sarah. Christine was quite outspoken at the start, but as the stakes got higher and higher, she quieted down and Sarah got more into it. Christine’s outspokenness was a great opportunity for me to make everyone else, particularly Sarah, think that Christine was the Hustler.
My main strategy was to play the part of a regular player trying to figure out who the Hustler was. I also lied about where I lived, how many kids I had, and what I did for a living. This was to try and keep the clues that were going to be revealed from looking like they could point at me. So I said I lived in Alaska, had two kids, and was a contract instructional designer. At some time in my life, all of those things have been true, but none of them were true anymore. This made the lie easier to build.
Anyway, Christine and I sat next to each other for most of the game, so I was able to use mirroring body language, eye contact and controlled facial non-verbals, and a few planted ideas to keep her thinking we were allies and there was no way I could be the Hustler.
The thing is, both of them probably knew on some level that it was me. I’m good at controlling my non-verbals, but nobody is all that good at that. If an alert person allows their senses and intuition to work well together, and listens to their intuition, they’re going to figure out who the Hustler is most of the time. It’s a gut thing. I’m good at this and I have watched every other episode of the show and can almost always figure out who the Hustler is in about fifteen minutes. I’m in tune with my intuition.
Anyway, I had to give Christine enough other input to make it seem to her that I could not be the Hustler. And I had to point Sarah at Christine, manipulating her into thinking Christine was the Hustler.
It was tense and very cold on the set and was incredibly fun. And I won. Couldn’t believe it.
It felt like all of the stuff I’ve been studying about lying and manipulation and body language built up to this one incredible, shining moment. Like all my ‘training’ had come together.
This was easily the coolest thing I’ve ever accomplished and is in the top ten list of best days of my life.
If you’ve read this far, you’re awesome. Now go watch the show.