Late Jeopardy! host Alex Trebek was an ‘absolute warrior’ during his final tapings of the game show, which air this week, according to the program’s executive producer.
Trebek died on November 8 after a battle with pancreatic cancer, but continued filming Jeopardy right up until the end.
According to executive producer Mike Richards, who appeared on the Today show on Monday morning, Trebek was in ‘enormous pain’ for those last episodes but made the ‘herculean’ effort to be there.
Icon: Late Jeopardy! host Alex Trebek (seen in 2019) was an ‘absolute warrior’ during his final tapings of the game show, which air this week, according to the program’s executive producer
Star: Mike Richards said Trebek was in ‘enormous pain’ for those last episodes but made the ‘herculean’ effort to be there
Trebek passed away at age 80 after a two-year battle with cancer, but continued hosting Jeopardy! — which he had been the face of since 1984 — until just days before his passing.
‘He was an absolute warrior,’ Richards said.
‘And what he was able to do by giving himself back to the set, to tape those final episodes … we didn’t know it was going to be his final episodes and neither did he. But it was herculean.
‘He was in enormous pain,’ he added. ‘He was, you know, ten days away from passing away. And you will not sense that in any of these [final] episodes. He is strong. He sounds great. He’s funny. And he’s amazing.’
Richards admitted that a ‘normal person’ would likely have stopped filming a year and a half before Trebek was, considering he was getting chemotherapy once a week while filming.
Strength: Richards recalled how the week before the final episodes, Trebek was in the hospital and called him to say he planned to keep filming
‘I think there was a level of professionalism,’ he said. ‘I think he really understood the importance of the show and what it meant to people, and to make what I have always said, he made being smart cool. So I think it was all of those things for him.
‘And I think it comes back to, you know, he wrote an autobiography that described his childhood, and that kind of hard hardworking, blue collar, I’m going to go in and go to work [attitude]. And that’s what he did.’
Richards recalled how the week before the final episodes, Trebek was in the hospital and called him to say he planned to keep filming.
‘He calls me and says, “Mike, I’m going to be fine. I’ll be in to tape. I was able to eat Jello today.” And I went, “Alex, that’s great, but that doesn’t mean you’re going to be ready to host five episodes of a game show,” which is an enormous amount of effort, and he said do not cancel. I will be there,’ he said.
Trebek’s final episodes will air this week, including tonight’s episode, which includes a special moment.
Finale: Trebek’s final episodes will air this week, including tonight’s episode, which includes a special moment. The host is seen in 2012
‘In this very special, unbelievable final week, he comes out and gives a talk about the importance of togetherness and sticking together and that the world is struggling, but we have to get through it together,’ Richards said.
Long time running: Trebek hosted the program for 37 straight seasons, beginning in 1984; he is pictured with his wife Jean in 1990
‘And we had chills. And, you know, there are specific moments in Jeopardy! when you clap and then there are moments when you’re quiet.
‘And usually in his monologue, he would come out, give a statement and they would go to the categories.
‘Well, there’s not many people in the studio because of COVID. And we all burst into applause.
‘And you don’t see it on camera, but as he’s going to the categories, he sees us start to applaud and he kind of looks at us like, what are you guys doing? And, we were so moved that we had to applaud.’
As for who Trebek thought his successor should be, Richards said he ‘mentioned a couple of names’ but wanted to stay out of that decision.
‘No one is going to replace him, and he knew that. As humble as he was, he knew that there was no chance of that,’ Richards said.
‘It’s someone smart, and credible, that loves the show. That’s what he wanted.’