The world now knows what WWE fans knew all along: The Big Show was destined to become the star of a hit Netflix sitcom. OK, it’s a bit of a shock to everyone including Big Show (real name, Paul Wight) himself. Nonetheless, The Big Show Show was one of the top trending shows on the streaming service when it debuted in March.
The family sitcom centers on Big Show’s retirement from WWE as he transitions to home life with his wife (played by Allison Munn) and his three daughters (Reylynn Caster, Lily Brooks and Juliet Donenfeld). Big Show also has some hijinx with the owner of his local gym, played by Jaleel White. There are also cameo appearances from WWE stars Mark Henry, Mick Foley and Rikishi.
Den of Geek reporter Niko Emanuilidis zoomed with Wight to discuss his WWE career, the strange days of wrestling without fans, the breakout success of his Netflix sitcom, and what to expect if The Big Show Show season 2 is ordered by the streamer. You can watch the full interview below or read on for the transcript.
Den of Geek: So before we get into The Big Show Show, it’s been an interesting few weeks in the wrestling world. And as we saw this new format for WrestleMania, SmackDown, and Raw, how did it feel wrestling in front of, well, no one due to the recent social distancing circumstances?
Big Show: You know, everybody’s making a big deal about not having a crowd and it is a big deal. But if you look at professional wrestling where it started years ago to local TV markets, where there wasn’t a crowd in the local TV markets. They were working for the local territories only. So I think it was a great experience for a lot of our younger guys and gals to really experience that environment without the crowd.
They had to work to tell a story in their match without not necessarily going for cheap pops, if that makes sense. It’s a great educational tool and it’s also a great lesson in doing what you have to do to give your fans the best show you possibly can. So overall, I think what WWE did with it, I think what the talent did was amazing at WrestleMania. There were so many good matches on it and I don’t think anybody held anything back. It was great.
Do you have a new appreciation for what the crowd brings to the live events?
Well, I’ve always had a great appreciation for it. If you remember, I started out my first match with against Hulk Hogan at Halloween Havoc in Detroit in 1995 and then I went through a period of about 10 months where I went to OVW in Louisville, Kentucky. Jim Ross had me on this big weight loss plan back then. I argued with him because I thought to be the giant, I had to be 500 pounds. I’d be a quarter ton of fun, baby. But JR was trying to look into the future and see the more streamlined athlete. And I mean, I’m 375 today so I got it a little bit late, but I understood what JR was doing. But I would go on and with OVW some of those shows, there would be seven people there.
So I learned way back in 2000, when this went on in 2000 and 2001, I never took the crowd for granted from then on. Every time we had a house, we worked hard. I really got what it meant to have a crowd to perform in front of. Because when I came in basically business was hot with the Attitude Era. I didn’t understand a lot of things. The Undertaker would tell me later on about back in the days of the struggles and no one there. Appreciate it, because sometimes you would go shows and there would be a hundred people and you appreciate all the crowds we had and the run that I had with all the different talents. It was pretty good. Believe me, I appreciate the crowds.
Let’s get into The Big Show Show. Your show is currently number three on Netflix, trending worldwide. Did you expect it to be such a hit off the bat? How does that feel?
It’s crazy. I’m blown away. I mean, I knew that when we were making it, we had something special. I had some friends that dropped by that saw the show. And one of my good friends, and I’m not name dropping, but it’s somebody’s who happens …
Please name drop. Please do it.
I’m name dropping. Lenny Kravitz came by one night for one of our tapings and it was funny. I was with my co-star, Allison Munn. And I told our lady in charge, Pixie, that Lenny might be coming by and gave Lenny her phone number to call him, but I didn’t say anything to the rest of the cast. I mean, I know Lenny. Lenny is a rock star for crying out loud. I know him as Lenny, but the rest of the world knows him as a great rock star.
So I told him, he says, “Yeah, I’m going to come by and check it out. Okay.” So we’re sitting on the couch and we were doing a little change to the next scene. And my co-star, Allison Munn looks at me and she’s such a mom, because she doesn’t even curse in real life. She looks at me and she goes, “Shut the front door,” like that. Production stopped. Every girl from 25 to 55 forgot everything that was going on. My makeup girls forgot what they’re doing, my hair girl. Some of the girls from Netflix and staff, all of them just saw Lenny Kravitz. I’m like, “Hey, we’re still shooting a show here.”
And my little one, I call them mine, but the girls aren’t mine. I don’t care. I love them. My little one, Juliet Donenfeld, she plays JJ, she walks up towards Lenny and goes, “I’m a hugger,” and she hugged Lenny right away. But Lenny saw the show and Lenny has known for years, we’ve talked about this and we have talked about manifesting a destiny and put it into the universe and thinking positive and if you have a dream or have a goal to keep trying, to keep applying. This has been 15 years, 16 years in the making of wanting to do something like this and trying to get opportunities and create avenues for this to happen. And also to get people to believe you that you can do this.
I mean, WWE knows that I’m very talented and very versatile. But at the same time, to our fans, I’ve always presented as one kind of thing. You saw brief snippets, a comedic diamond here and there, but this is a whole other thing to have a show that shows your name and you have to lead it and carry it. It’s like any other business. You’re investing in my ice cream, so to speak, so I have to make sure that my brand is something everybody wants.
And then when we went through the casting and I got to work with the girls and Allison Munn and Reylynn Caster and Lily Brooks O’Briant and Juliet Donenfeld, I mean, so talented. And the incredible directors that we would come every week, from Bob Koherr to Melissa Joan Hart to Phil Lewis. There were just so many great directors that came in and worked with us and I learned a little bit from each one of them. To feel like you had this great show and even Lenny says, “Man, you’ve got a good deal.” Because Lenny’s mom of course was on The Jeffersons so he’d been around that set life. So he says, “You’ve got a good vibe here and a good crew.”
And your fingers are crossed. You’re hoping that the audiences came. We had 147 people every week. That’s not a big deal, but we sold out every week. Sold out, brother, swinging from the rafters. Every one of those people, I want to make sure they had a good time and I thanked them before the show or thanked them after the show and everybody seemed to have a good time. But you don’t know till your babies put into this world, so to speak. And so far, the response has been overwhelming.
How different is acting in a television show versus performing as a WWE superstar? Because I mean, not a lot of people who aren’t familiar with the WWE don’t realize it’s performing, it’s acting in its own way. But how does that differ from being on TV?
There’s a little bit of difference. What I do in WWE, I play a character with an athletic performance. When you’re doing film or TV, there’s a difference. The one thing that I could never get used to doing films when I first started was the fact that in an action scene, you didn’t have to continue all the way to the end and you do the same scene over and over and over. It didn’t mean you screwed up the lines. They were changing looks. They were changing camera angles. Sometimes it was your co-star’s angle, sometimes it was yours. They wanted a different tone. And then, you don’t get to see any of that really until the product is done. And then the guy in the editing room picks what you’re going to see and it’s months later and you don’t even remember what you did.
So when you’re doing WWE or sports entertainment, there’s an instant reaction and there’s a feel with the audience. You can vibe what they’re into if you keep your ears open and you can feel what they’re going to buy, what they’re not buying, and what they want. It’s hard to do in film. You have to trust your instincts and trucks. Trust the director, the script and your other actors and just go for it. With our Big Show Show one, I had two amazing writers and Josh Bycel and Jason Berger. They’re amazing. The other writers on our staff, I can’t even say enough good things about all of them. There were so amazing. The way they would write the point of views of our female characters and showed them empowering and showed them funny and real, and then all the same time, how to manipulate this great big giant.
But the thing is also with a live audience, I still had that feel but it was a different feel. Because I would read the script and say, “Okay, this’ll be funny here. This would be funny there.” And then sometimes, they would laugh at a place that I completely didn’t think they would laugh just because I put on my face or a reaction Allison, Reylynn, Juliet, Lily, or Jaleel White did. I mean, my goodness, you have never seen somebody funny until you’ve been around him. I mean, this guy is so talented, just so kind and such a pro. He was so great to work with. I can’t say enough good things about him. He was absolutely so much fun to work with. But I kept blowing scenes with him because I started laughing and he wasn’t doing anything off-script. He was doing the script but the emphasis that he put on it, it just made it funny. Everything that come out of this guy’s mouth was funny. So it’s a gift. It’s a talent.
What do you think was the hardest thing to adjust to and what was like the easiest thing to adjust to?
At first, the hardest thing that I thought, “Oh crap, I might have bitten off more than I could chew,” was our first week. I got a script on Friday and we’re going to start on Monday. We came in Monday, did a table read. Monday afternoon, we walked around the set, might stand here, sit here. They call it putting it on its feet. So I was like, “Okay, this is great.” I’ve already memorized the entire script because I’ve had it for three days so I know all my lines. I’m ready to go. I show up Tuesday and there was a script already in my trailer and I was like, “I already got this one.” I’ve made my notes to it. I got my tabs, I’ll carry it with me.
Mm-mm (negative), there was a new script on Tuesday. Then we go through Tuesday and the writers review it and then the producers do a run through and then we got a new script Tuesday night and then we do it Wednesday. Then the networks and all those people look at it, then we get a new script Wednesday night, and then we shoot Thursday and Friday. A little bit on Thursdays because we had children and you can only use them so many hours. And then Friday was our live show. So I showed up Tuesday and they had made a bunch of changes and I had no idea. I was straight up panicking. I was like, “What?” Because I like paper in my hands. Everybody has their own quirks when it comes to acting but for me, I need the paper to feel it. I have a tough time pulling it off a computer screen. So I wound up realizing that the runners and staff that we had there, the ADs, I was taking very good care of them and tipping them like hot off the presses like the fresh newspaper.
As soon as that script came out on their way home, they drop it off at my apartment because I lived real close to Paramount when I was shooting and I took good care of those ADs so I was always prepared. But once I got into the rhythm of it, then it was easier. But there was a lot of little things. Allison Munn, sometimes your joke will half be on one page and just because the way it writes out, the joke will finish on the other page. But when you’re doing run throughs, sometimes the writers get nervous. And to their credit, if you don’t nail the joke in the run through, they’ll pull it.
So I learned to be like, “Okay, if I write my jokes so it’s on the same page.” Because you still hold your script when you’re doing run throughs. “Okay, my jokes on the same page. Okay, good.” That way I can keep my joke because I kept losing these good jokes in the beginning and I’m like, “Why am I losing these jokes? You’re good at this.” Well, if you don’t own it, which I did or flubbed it or said almost the joke just to get through the scene in what are we doing because it was rehearsal. Then I learned to be very careful. Allison showed me all that stuff. Little Juliet taught me. The kid showed me how to put little tabs for all the scenes that I’m in so I can flip to them for quick reference because I have big fingers and I couldn’t turn the pages. And the girls got me straightened out, quick, fast, in a hurry and I caught up and it was the best fun I’ve ever had
And the season is filled with tons of hilarious moments. My personal favorite was I think episode five with your daughter’s new boyfriend and how that all played out. I can totally see-
Oh, Greg Turbo.
Oh yeah, Greg turbo. Because that would be me, I’d be that guy. So what were some of your favorite moments watching back on the show?
You know, it’s funny. Greg Turbo was actually one of my favorite episodes because it was just, it is such a unique way if you think about it. If you’re a dad and you have daughters, first you want to be intimidating. Like Joe said, “Beat your chest and be that gorilla.” But nothing will have your daughter dumped by a boyfriend any faster than to like the guy.
Because if they’re too close then she’s like, “Oh no, that’s not what we want. He’s got to go.” So I loved the whole role play. When I come home at night late, I’m trying to sneak in normally like the kid would… She’s up waiting for me and I try to lie my way out of it and I get busted. So that was one of my favorite ones. Another one of my favorite scenes was also with Reylynn when we had the argument from the kitchen because she is such a fierce young lady. We were arguing in that scene, and I’ve argued with grown men on TV, they couldn’t look me in the eye and she had so much fire and self-confidence. She just blew it right back at me when we were in that scene, but it was really good because it was like you’re arguing with your 16 year old daughter. I mean, she’s going to fire up on you. She doesn’t care if you’re the Big Show or not. You’re dad and she’s pissed at you. And Juliet, when she had to go the smart kids school, I love that little moment with her.
And the one that really made me laugh was Lily Brooks freaking out that she was going to have to move to a hotel and she wanted my Marriott points. And anybody that knows me knows I’m not coughing up my Marriott points. But Lily Brooks actually, if you throw our whole season, she had such a huge weight load that she carried the entire seasons so well with her character and the sit-ins and the relationship and with Taylor Swift. She did such an amazing job. And we haven’t even really got to some of Lily Brooks talent yet either. She’s a really an incredible singer too. So if we get a season two, we’re going to hopefully bring that out a little bit more.
We saw some wrestlers like Mark Henry, Mick Foley, Rikishi. What WWE superstars could we expect maybe in later seasons?
Well now that we’ve had a little bit of success, I think a lot of guys are willing to. When it’s an unknown product, they’re like, “Ah.” But we’ll see. I mean, I did Broken Skull Sessions with Stone Cold who hates scripted TV. It’s just not his thing. But I got a verbal commitment that Stone Cold will show up here on the show. So Jason and I already have an idea for an episode with Stone Cold and JJ, so if we get a season two, we’ll work on that. Mark Henry, I want to have back more. I love it because Mark Henry is one of my closest friends. But Mark on camera was just delightful with the way he played himself on, just so lovable and that sweet, nice Texas guy that can tear a car in half of his hands.
And that was such a great episode too with Mick and Rikishi and Mark. Those guys weren’t working because a lot of the guys are working full time on the road. They’re in Europe. They’re in Spain. They were in South Africa. I mean, the guys were working. And the guys from my generation that weren’t, they came on the show and they were all big guys, huge guys. They’re all great dads. Mark’s a great dad. Mick’s a great dad. Rikishi’s a great dad. So it really balanced that. And my cast and crew loved those three guys, loved them.
I laughed for weeks after we did the episode where the crew’s thinking about Mick going, “Tell me why?” I laughed so hard, and Rikishi and the crab legs without taking them out of the shell, I mean, it’s sad. It’s not sad. It’s the truth. You put a camera on a bunch of old time wrestlers from the Attitude Era, they’ll know how to get over and they will get over, and those guys did. They did great.