After becoming a breakout star and earning a Primetime Emmy nomination during her five seasons on Saturday Night Live, Leslie Jones surprised many when she announced in 2019 she wasn’t returning. The comedian, who first joined as a writer before being promoted to a full-time cast member, revealed her next move would be hosting a revamped version of the popular, long-running game show Supermarket Sweep on ABC.
“I don’t miss it. At all,” Jones tells ET’s Kevin Frazier, speaking honestly about the long-running NBC sketch comedy series. While she admits to missing spending time with former castmate Kenan Thompson, who means “so much” to her, she doesn’t miss the work. “That job was hard, man. That job was like two jobs and very restrictive too. I wasn’t very free there.”
Now, out of New York City and back in Los Angeles, Jones is in full control as the host of Supermarket Sweep. “It’s just, you know, a comedian’s dream come true,” she says of the job.
First launched on ABC in 1965, the game show didn’t become part of the pop culture zeitgeist until the 1990 revival hosted by David Ruprecht. That version of the competition show, which rivaled The Price Is Right and Family Feud at the time, ran for five seasons until 1995 and then for another three, from 2000 to 2003.
While tweaks have been made over the years, the overall competition remained relatively the same with three teams of two facing off in two quiz-based rounds in order to accumulate additional time on top of the initial one minute, 30 seconds everyone’s provided. From there, it’s a matter of answering questions about pop culture or product-based trivia to not only add time to the clock, but allow teams to run a “mini sweep,” in order to pick up a cash prize. The game concludes with the team collecting the most expensive amount of groceries during the sweep going for another run for a bonus prize.
Given the proven formula, Jones says there “isn’t much difference” between the last iteration and the current reboot. However, they did make some of the games harder and plan to give away a lot more money. “We have a lot of bonuses, we’re giving money away to essential workers every week,” the host says, acknowledging the contestants who participated during the pandemic under strict COVID-19 safety protocols.
The biggest change, Jones reveals, is those monotone, primary colored sweaters the contestants had to wear during the sweep. “I let the contestants design their own sweatshirts this time, so you will see a whole bunch of different versions and styles,” she teases, adding that the whole experience of watching is “exciting and bright and funny.”
What truly makes the job special for Jones is the fact that years before she was famous, she auditioned to be a contestant after learning they were looking for new people to be on the show. A longtime fan of the series, Jones knew the competition inside and out. So, “I trained my roommate. I made her watch the show. I took her to the grocery stores. I made her run up and down the aisle. Like, we trained,” she says of her Rocky-style focus on getting her roommate ready to compete alongside her.
Despite all that hard work, her dreams were dashed because her roommate didn’t share the same commitment. “We were the last four teams and they were bringing people in to compete against each other, but you had to stay for that part,” she recalls, adding they were told to take the day off and not schedule any work. It turns out, however, that her roommate couldn’t find anyone to cover her shift at Roscoe’s House of Chicken and Waffles.
“She was like, ‘I gotta go.’ And I lost my ever-living mind,” Jones says. “I don’t think they were ever gonna let me on that lot again ‘cause I called her every type of name I could come up with. I was like, ‘I’ll never talk to you.’ Then I was like, ‘I’m not riding home with you.’”
Fast forward to now, and Jones is finally fulfilling a lifelong dream of being on Supermarket Sweep. Though, it admittedly didn’t hit the comedian until she was on set for the first time during rehearsal. “When you see the carts and you see the game play and you go, ‘Oh, OK and I’m hosting it. Oh, this is fun!’” Jones gushes.
Supermarket Sweep premieres Sunday, Oct. 18 at 8 p.m. ET/PT on ABC.
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