Ahead of Mattea Roach’s run on the show’s annual Tournament of Champions, we sat down with Nova Scotia’s favourite Jeopardy! superchampion for a video chat to talk about fame, fortune and the future. We also asked Roach some of the burning questions sent in by our readers. If you’re wondering where the Halifax native gets inspiration for their iconic fashion sense, what happened when they visited Cape Breton or their most exhilarating Final Jeopardy moment, look no further.
What, if anything, do you miss about Halifax since moving to Toronto?
I miss being by the ocean. I really, really miss the ocean. And I took some vacation in California after taping the Tournament of Champions, and like, the entire time, I was like, “Why did I move away from the water?” Like, obviously, there are great things about Toronto. I love living here, I'm glad I live here. But like, I really miss the ocean. Also my family and my parents' dog (a labradoodle named Isla).
Other than Jeopardy!, when was your most satisfying use of obscure knowledge?
Any time I beat my dad at Trivial Pursuit. I'm sure that there's a better time where maybe I really came in clutch with like, knowing something, but it is always very satisfying to defeat one's parents at any game.
Have you tried Big Spruce Brewing’s “Who is Mattea Roach?” beer?
No, I haven't. My mum ordered some to my house and it's not here yet, so I haven't haven't had it. It’s been sitting apparently at a warehouse in Mississauga for several days. Supposedly, it's arriving like today or tomorrow.
What was the most stressful part of your Jeopardy! run?
Doing press. I’ll say specifically, for whatever reason, I was really stressed about doing Good Morning America. I think just because I did not sleep well and so I was really worried that I was gonna look really haggard on Good Morning America.
Are you still planning on going to law school?
I don't know. I have the ability to go next year if I want. I think I will go at some point, but what is unclear is whether that will be next year or at some point in the future.
Is there a standout moment from any one Jeopardy! game from your original run?
I think for me, what will always be kind of one of the most exciting finishes to a game was, I think it was my 17th, where the second place player had exactly half of my score going into Final Jeopardy. He bet it all on Final and was correct. And then I had wagered— because you make your wager before seeing the clue, right? So you know the category, but you don't know what the clue is. So I had wagered $1, and I knew that that meant if he got it right and bet the way I thought he was going to and I got it wrong, I would lose. And so that was kind of a gamble that I had to take because I didn't want to go to the tiebreaker.
And that moment of seeing his response, knowing that I had written down the same response, so whether he was right or wrong, I knew I was going to win. That was such an exhilarating moment. And I remember some of the producers in the studio after were like, “oh my god, this is some of the most exciting television we've taped this season.” And I was like “whoa, you taped a bunch of games with Matt and Amy this season.” So that's like, high praise.
Do you have any memorization tips, especially for things that you don't find particularly interesting?
No. I honestly don't. I am not somebody who has ever really been very studious. So like I did not do flashcards at any point for Jeopardy!. I bought flashcards and then just didn't use them because the prospect of trying to condense the entire sum of human knowledge into a set of flashcards was so daunting.
I think the best that I can say is if you don't find it interesting, you need to trick yourself into making it interesting. Whether that's making silly mnemonics—like I know some of my fellow Tournament of Champions contestants were sharing with me some of their silly mnemonics that they used to learn the order of Canadian provinces and capitals and things, because they thought I would find that funny. So things like that are helpful, but I don't personally have any. I'm too lazy to have study tips to be totally honest. Yeah, trick yourself into finding it fun.
Who is your style icon?
There are a lot of people that I consider to be style icons. I wouldn't say that I really style myself after any one person in particular, but I can offer a couple of things. Since Kristen Stewart has been in her gay era, shall we say, I've always really enjoyed her fashion. I think that when she was having to kind of do the like, Twilight, whatever, “I am Bella Swan” vibes, like that was not for me. But since then, I think she's had a lot of really great red carpet moments.
I think in terms of like, being, I don't know, more comfy, I love a good just kind of nice pair of jeans. I've been listening to a lot of Bruce Springsteen lately so the only thing that's coming to mind is like, I love when Bruce Springsteen just wears jeans and a t-shirt.
One of my best friends once, I showed up at his house. I was working on law school applications at the same time as one of these other guys, so it was like two of us were working on law school applications, and a third guy, the one who actually made this comment, was working on a paper or something. And I showed up and I was wearing a blazer and jeans because sometimes I'll wear a blazer just on a regular day to trick myself, like I'm going to work. And I showed up and he was like, “You look like if Angela Merkel didn't become chancellor and joined The Scorpions instead.”
I was like, “You know what? I'm not sure if you mean that as an insult, but I'm going to take it as a compliment.” Because I do think that that is kind of how I dress. So that's, I think, the best summation of my fashion sense that anyone has ever offered.
What has been your most interesting fan encounter?
There have been a couple that have been kind of funny. When I was home in May, I went to Cape Breton with my mom because I wanted to get to watch an episode with my grandparents. And also my mom's aunt and uncle's store, their store in Marion Bridge, they had put up before my first game a sign, you know, saying “Good luck Mattea.” And so I thought “Oh, it'd be fun, it's a little bit out of our way but we can drive to Marion Bridge, and we'll go see Cookie at the store, and I can take a photo with the sign, and wouldn’t that be fun.”
So driving from Marion Bridge to Ingonish my mom and I stopped in at some restaurant, I think it was Cedar House. I go into this restaurant, I'm wearing a mask and a hat, but immediately, as soon as I walk in the door, one of the women who's working there kind of points at me and goes, “Oh my god, like, you're on Jeopardy!, I recognize you by your earrings,” because I was wearing the earrings that I wore for all of my games.
And then truly like a parade of other women came out of the kitchen. I was like, shocked at how many people were working there. It was like, you know, in The Nutcracker when there's the kids that come out of Mother Ginger's skirt, and it’s like how can there possibly be so many kids hiding under there.That was how I felt like watching these people come out of the kitchen. I was like, “Oh my god.” And so the whole staff that were working there were like super excited to see me. But I thought that being recognized by earrings was kind of funny.
I've had somebody recognize me by the way I moved my hands as well. Like they basically said, “Oh, I wasn't sure that it was you, and then I saw you talking and the way you moved your hands, I knew for sure it had to be you.” I was like, “oh, dear.” So those kinds of things are funny, like what sticks out to people. Because I don't think you usually know that about yourself and it's kind of interesting to hear other people point it out.
Can you tease anything about the Tournament of Champions?
All I will say, because I can't really tease results, but what I will say is that every game this week, the semi-finals, whether I'm in it or not, they're all fantastic games. And I would encourage people who've been tuning into the show specifically for me, to like, keep following it, even when I'm not there. Because there's some really just amazing stuff coming out of that show right now.