To celebrate National Trivia Day, Anglophenia quizzed our reporter-at-large, Sharon Carpenter, on what it’s like to host HQ Trivia, the headline-grabbing app that delivers real-time quizzes — and the possibility of cash prizes — to hundreds of thousands of users.
In case you’re unaware, HQ is a smartphone game-show app that requires users to “tune in” at a certain time each day to play. They’re asked 12 questions and if they get all of them right, they win a share of that day’s cash prize. Get an answer wrong, however, and you’re out.
Sharon tells us more…
How did you get onboard with HQ Trivia?
I became involved with HQ Trivia last November when my agent received a call from the show’s Director of Content, Nick Gallo, asking if I’d like to come in and guest host. I watched a few games to get a feel for it and was so intrigued — a live trivia quiz on your phone, where you can actually win real cash. I figured it would be a fun experience — something a bit outside my usual realm of pop culture hosting and journalism. So I jumped at the chance. After hosting a few games, the team asked me to come back on a regular basis.
Hosting HQ Trivia turned out to be even more fun than I expected, mainly because of how interactive it is. Our viewers are so much more than just an audience; they’re the actual contestants — the stars of the show. Every move each individual makes within the game has an impact on the overall outcome, and that’s crazy to think about considering we’ve had close to half a million playing at any one time!
People are so passionate about the show, even once it’s over they take to social media to continue the discussion with their friends and with us. What’s really incredible to me is how HUGE HQ Trivia has become in such a short time. The first time I hosted there were about 1,200 players in the game and now look at us!
Do people recognize you on the street now?
Yes, I’ve definitely been recognized a couple of times for hosting HQ Trivia and in the most unlikely places — ordering a spiced pumpkin latte at Starbucks or shoeless in a screening machine at the airport. But at the moment, people probably recognize me more often from some of the TV work I’ve done such as The Wendy Williams Show, where I’m a regular guest contributor, or the hit drama series Empire where I made a cameo appearance as myself. I was actually approached recently by someone at a British gala I hosted who’d seen some of my BBC America Anglophenia interviews, so that was cool too!
Do you play HQ Trivia when you’re not hosting?
I played a few times before I began hosting the show to see what it was all about. Nowadays I watch it when I can to support Scott [Rogowsky] and the other hosts, and for the fun of the wild rollercoaster ride it’s always guaranteed to be.
How well do you do?
I think the furthest I got was to question eight, which was probably half due to my knowledge and half due to luck (haha). It’s not easy! Many have come, but few have conquered, as I like to say. Anyone who makes it all the way to the end and wins the game should definitely feel VERY proud of themselves. They’ve earned bragging rights for sure. What’s interesting is that, even if they’re out, players like to stick around to the end to cheer on the other contestants and see who wins.
What do you miss most about the U.K.?
I miss my family the most of course but, aside from that, the fashion and the food. The three Fs you could call it. Americans don’t always have the nicest things to say about our tasty U.K. cuisine and that’s always baffled me, haha! It doesn’t get better than a nice plate of battered cod and chips drowned in salt and vinegar. And I miss crisps — Wotsits and Skips are my favorites! Oh, and can’t forget Bombay mix! Now you’ve got me started — what about Angel Delight? Butterscotch flavor rules!
Who’s the person you’ve been most excited to interview and why?
I’ve interviewed everyone from Will Smith to Nicole Kidman but my favorite interview ever was with Mark Hamill! Why? Well only because he’s LUKE SKYWALKER and had a massive impact on my life growing up in a Star Wars-loving family. When I was three years old I wanted to marry Luke and live happily ever after. When I was about 10 that changed to Han Solo, LOL. I interviewed Mark at the Tony Awards this year and he was so cool. James Earl Jones, his Star Wars dad, was being honored and I found out an interesting titbit of info. They never met during the filming of the movie! James, as the voice of Darth Vader, didn’t need to be on set so the first time they ever ran into each other was at a random unrelated event.
Who’s the nicest celebrity you’ve ever interviewed?
Idris Elba is definitely up there. I knew him before he became so huge and recently saw him on the red carpet for his movie The Dark Tower. I didn’t think he’d necessarily remember me since it had been a few years but thank goodness he did. He was about to skip the majority of the press lined up on the red carpet to interview him since the publicists were rushing him inside. But when spotted me, he called out “Shazza!” came over and gave me a big hug and stopped for a good old chat on-camera. I’m so proud of his success with Luther and all his other projects.
Do you get nervous before meeting famous people? How do you stay calm and focussed?
The first time I interviewed Oprah Winfrey I was so nervous beforehand because she DOES this and she’s one of the best at it! It was more the anticipation than anything because, once we got going, the nerves were gone.
What’s your pre-red carpet ritual?
Definitely a good blowout, some face powder to blot the shine (it can get hot out there under those lights) and some standout but COMFY heels. The right shoes can mean the difference between an easy-breezy red carpet experience and the most painful one of your life! This looks like such a glamorous job but three hours in, in some five-inch stilettos, things can get excruciating.
What’s your most embarrassing red carpet moment?
The one that comes to mind is when I awkwardly asked Don Johnson what brought him out to a movie premiere I was covering. Dakota Johnson was starring in the film and I’d completely forgotten that he’s her DAD! Within seconds though, I’d put two and two together and played it off like I knew she was his reason all along and was just teasing him.
Who’s on your interview wish-list?
Growing up on Doctor Who, I’m sooo excited about our first ever woman Doctor, so I’d absolutely love to interview Jodie Whittaker. I can’t wait to find out what the experience has been like for her so far. She’s sending such a powerful and inspiring message to young girls and women.
Who would you invite to your dream dinner party?
I’d invite the entire cast of all the Star Wars movies past and present, Ricky Gervais, Jay Z and Beyonce, Barack and Michelle Obama, Adele, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, Dev Patel, Madonna and Simon Cowell. We’d need an extra large table and it’s best that I don’t do the cooking. I’d definitely make them play the nightly HQ Trivia game with me.
Are you keen to give HQ Trivia a go?