‘Let’s Rock.’ Cristela Alonzo is back on TV as host of ‘Legends of the Hidden Temple.’

The Texas-born comedian, writer and actress adds TV host to her list of talents, with the CW’s kid-friendly, adult reboot of the 90s Nickelodeon game show.

By Kristen CabreraOctober 26, 2021 3:50 pm,

Many of us still fondly remember the TV shows we grew up on. For the Nickelodeon generation, “Legends of the Hidden Temple” is a show that’s been talked about for more than 20 years, since it first aired.

Now it’s back with a new host, Rio Grande Valley comedian, actress and activist, Cristela Alonzo. The new “Legend of the Hidden Temple” is staying true to the original. But instead of kids, the contestants are adults who grew up watching the show. The updated version throws them into the temple games. It airs Sundays on the CW at 7 pm Central, and is available to stream the next day for free on CW’s website.

Alonzo joined Texas Standard to talk about the show, how important it is to have fun and coming back to TV. Listen to the full interview in the audio player above or read the transcript below.

This transcript has been edited lightly for clarity:

Texas Standard: You are from –  I suppose most people know – the RGV. Was it San Juan?

Christela Alonzo: Yes. I always say McAllen, Texas, because that’s the big city. But it is San Juan, Texas. Isn’t it funny that you use McAllen as the reference point, and people are still like, ‘What’s McAllen like?’

Did you grow up on this program as a youngster, or maybe some of your siblings? How did you get involved?

If you had told me five years ago that I was going to get the chance to host a game show, I would have been like, ‘Wait, what? That’s not my thing at all.’ And they came to me and they’re like “Legends of the Hidden Temple.” I’m like, ‘Oh, this is so my thing. Oh my God, I have to do this, you know?’

I grew up with it, so, imagine you’re a kid growing up watching a TV show and then they come back as an adult and say, ‘Hey, do you want to host this show?’ You never think you’re going to get the chance, so I had to jump on it.

What’s your approach to hosting the show, especially where there’s no live audience to feed off of or riff off of?

I think that stand-up and hosting are very similar in that it’s it’s you. It’s a solo job, right? In a way. But the difference is that in stand-up, people go and see you and you’re giving your own thoughts on your own things. In hosting, especially in this show, I see it more as my job is to highlight the contestants and the world that we’re living in. And standup is very insular, right?

So for me, I want to highlight my words. But with this show, I want to make sure that everybody gets the chance to really stand out. So I wanted to make sure that the contestants that we have knew that it was really special to be there. And honestly, it was. We were all there. Yeah, people are competing for money, but it kind of wasn’t about the money. We were all there because we were all fans of the show growing up. So we were kind of there for bragging rights.

I think there may be some listeners out there that may not be that familiar with the show. Maybe it’s a generational thing. But could you tell us a little bit about how it works, how it differs from standard fare?

I grew up with public television. One thing I loved about the programing for public television is that you could have fun and you could learn. And that’s what the show is, because we do talk about a legend that is a true legend that has existed. Nobody knows the origin of it, but there’s many different versions of it.

What I like about this show is that you can learn something new and have fun while you’re doing it. For those that are not familiar with the show. I say this: you learn a legend. You get quizzed on it. You have to act out certain parts, certain aspects of the legend. But ultimately, you’re an adult that is allowed to get dirty and have fun and not be judged by, anybody for what you’re doing. Because right now, I think that what’s so important is that we need to remind everybody that we need to have fun and we need to enjoy life. And that’s exactly what the show is.

I think that if kids watch this show, they can see adults – grownups – have fun and realize, hey, we can actually keep doing this when we’re adults. And I think adults, when they see adults doing it, they’re like, hey, maybe we’ve been taking ourselves a little too seriously.

What was it like filming in the jungle? That’s got to be a change of pace for you.

I know I grew up in Texas. I’m used to the heat. But oh, my God, it was so hot. Even I, who wasn’t doing the physical challenges, was sweating. So that’s already a big thing, but also what I love about it. We were outdoors, which means that we were allowed to build everything bigger. We actually get to build a moat that’s a big moat. We get to build a temple that’s huge – that is challenging for adults to climb through. I loved the idea that we can play with it and really go with the basis of the show, which is: you are trying to get to Olmec’s Temple, and the temple is humongous. And also, the jungle setting really allows you to jump into this world and immerse yourself into what it’s supposed to be.

Were you ever tempted to try any of these obstacles or is that better left for others?

I wanted to do it so bad. I’m not kidding. That was one of the reasons I said yes to the gig. I wanted to run the temple run. I mean, look, if you have the chance, why not? But there’s so much planning and execution that goes into these challenges that they actually have people testing the challenges. I didn’t know that. There’s a job like where people test these challenges and I’m thinking, that is the coolest job ever. Like, man, amazing.

So I didn’t get to do it [during[ season 1, which I’m actually thinking was maybe a good thing because in my mind, I think, I can kill this course. And then I think, I don’t want footage of this because this is going to be awful if I just suck at it. So not this year, but maybe next year

You’ve worn a lot of hats. I know this. This show marks your return to television, since you decided to take a break from comedy and focus on your advocacy work. Can you talk a little bit about that break? What it’s like to return to TV?

It sounds ridiculous, but there’s this thinking that if you take a break, you can’t come back. And I’ve never been a believer of that. I always believe that if you need to take a break, it’s absolutely necessary because something’s telling you to take a break. And when I first started in the industry, I had that thinking of, I can’t take a break. What if people forget about me? And it came – I’m obsessed with Billy Joel – It came from the song “The Entertainer.” And in the chorus, It says “I’ll be put on the discount rack like another can of beans.” it just always stayed with me because I love him so much that I was thinking, ‘I can’t take a break.’

And then, years ago, when I decided to, I thought, ‘I’m of no use to myself if I’m not exactly where I want to be.’ So I took the break and realized that the fact that I already beat the odds, being this, like, Rio Grande Valley native, first generation Mexican-American wanting to do this thing as a dream, not having any access to it, breaking through and becoming the first Latina to have their own sitcom that I write, create star in. If I could do that one time, it means that the door has been opened and I can come back again. And that’s exactly what I did, especially because I write a lot of my stuff. So, it’s like, you need to go out and live life so that you can have life to talk about.

If you found the reporting above valuable, please consider making a donation to support it here. Your gift helps pay for everything you find on texasstandard.org and KUT.org. Thanks for donating today.