Game shows are all the rage right now and ABC’s “To Tell The Truth”
hosted by Anthony Anderson is no exception.
A modern reboot now in its third season, each episode brings in four celebrity panelists who are tasked with identifying from a group of three the “real” person with a unique experience or occupation. They take turns asking probing questions in the hopes of tripping up the impostors and revealing the truth.
Actor Steve Testa
was recently brought in to fake-out the panel in what will be probably be considered an epic episode starring celebrity guests Jay Pharoah, Rob Riggle, Sheri Shepherd and Inbar Lavi.
Steve headed into the acting profession after retiring from a notable career as a NASA Space Shuttle Engineer. His appearance on the show marked his network television debut, but not his first acting gig. His big break came in the form of a small role alongside Tom Hanks in Ron Howard’s “Apollo 13,” a film he also consulted on. His credits also include appearance in “From the Earth to the Moon,” “The Cape,” and “The Last Tycoon.”
Steve is also creating projects under the Foxtrot Creative LLC banner, along with his daughter Fawn Testa-Ribeiro. Last year, their first short “Lost and Found,” won Audience Award: Best Drama Short at the Silicon Beach Film Festival.
I recently caught up with Steve Testa to find out more:
Tell us about your appearance on “To Tell The Truth.”
STEVE: Performing on the show was a blast - an adrenaline rush and nerve-racking all at the same time. The producers like to have people on the show with unusual backgrounds so the fact that I worked for NASA previously and use to drive (yes...I said drive) the Space Shuttle rocket to the launch pad was intriguing. Several weeks after the audition they called me and asked if I was available to shoot an episode the following day as an "impostor." They told me it would be the long segment of the show so I would need to impersonate two guests - a hypnotherapist and a sleight-of-hand magician. They "skyped" me and held a mock Q&A. They liked what they saw. Then they told me the names of the individuals I would impersonate - Pattie Freeman and JB Benn. Over the next 24 hours I studied everything I could find about them on the internet. The next morning, I went to the studio and met Pattie and JB. We discussed their backgrounds in detail. Shortly after that the producers asked us sample questions and then it was "lights, camera, action" in front of a live studio audience. Like I said: Adrenaline rush and nerve racking...but the supreme test of improvisation.
How was it playing an impostor?
STEVE: It was really exciting. I considered it the ultimate mental challenge to see if I could convince the celebrity panel that I was "the real authentic guest." So I was really fired up to do it. For me it was the Super Bowl of improvisation. My segment was especially challenging because I had to impersonate two guests - the first round was a hypnotherapist, and after she left the stage, the second round (which is called "Before You Go") was an illusionist.
What did you do to prepare?
STEVE: Were you worried they might ask you something you didn't know? When the producers told me that I selected I had about 24 hours to prepare. I researched every article and video I could find on the internet about Pattie and JB. Then I read everything I could find about hypnotherapy and sleight-of-hand magic. I had tried hypnotherapy in the past so my experience in that area really helped. Understanding JB Benn's background and skills were more difficult because I had limited exposure to the art of "magic and illusion." I wasn't too worried that they might ask me something I didn't know because I was too busy memorizing facts about Pattie and JB.
Any interesting stories from the set you can share with us?
STEVE: Yes, actually. When the producers were asking me mock questions before the show they said, "Don't worry about it if nobody picks you during the 1st round of the show because the panelists might pick you during the 2nd round." I laughed to myself and thought, "I accept your challenge." I succeeded in getting two votes from the celebrity panelists for each round. After I got those first two votes in the 1st round I really felt like I was "in the zone." In the 2nd round I was so pumped I felt like Tom Brady driving down the field for the game winning touchdown.
What's the biggest lesson you learned from working on this project?
STEVE: It takes a lot of talented people to put together a great show that looks so effortless when you watch it on television. I'm grateful and blessed to have had the opportunity perform as an "impostor" on the show and, hopefully, I put a smile on someone's face that watched it.
And, now just for fun:
Who’s your favorite actor/actress?
STEVE: Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep
What role from the past do you wish you could have played?
STEVE: Papillon (Steve McQueen) in the movie "Papillon" (1973).
Favorite TV show and movie from childhood?
STEVE: “Magnum P.I.” and “Rocky I”
One thing that would surprise our readers to learn about you?
STEVE: It's perfect timing to answer this question since July 20th was the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon landing and the main news correspondent at the time was Walter Cronkite. I worked for Walter Cronkite for four days when during the "John Glenn's Return to Space" event in 1998. I was Mr. Cronkite's driver and one of his aides during his stay in Cocoa Beach, Florida. I got to talk with him about his history as a news correspondent and what it was like during the Apollo program.
How can fans keep up with you?
STEVE: Instagram @dallastesta link
and Twitter @dallastesta link
Thanks Steve -- keep faking us out!
"To Tell the Truth" (photo:ABC/Eric McCandless)
"To Tell the Truth" (photo:ABC/Eric McCandless)