Celebrity Mastermind: SBS reveals the first eight celebrities

• Celebrity Mastermind premieres 7:30pm Saturday 15 February on SBS

Sixteen well-loved Australian celebrities will battle it out for the winning title across five weeks.

The first eight celebrities to face the pressure as they answer questions based on their speciality subjects are legendary drag queen Courtney Act, journalist and author Jessica Rowe, cook and television host Adam Liaw, author and comedian Adam Spencer, journalist and personality Marc Fennell, comedian and writer Alex Lee, and comedians Sam Simmons and Nazeem Hussain.

Specialty topics include The Nanny, domestic cat breeds, Asian cuisine, great mathematicians of the 20th century, Star Trek: The Next Generation, rats, the slow loris and mangoes.

TV host, journalist and self-confessed quiz junkie Jennifer Byrne (ABC’s First Tuesday Book Club, 60 Minutes, Foreign Correspondent) will return to SBS as quizmaster for both series, questioning contenders for two tense minutes on their chosen specialist subject.

Jessica Rowe said: “I’m a crazy cat lady. No, I’m not a cat fancier, cat enthusiast or a cat lover. I’ve heard some cat fans shy away from the term ‘crazy cat lady’ but I’m proud to wear to the tag! And that is why I’m beyond excited to be quizzed on my cat knowledge as a part of Celebrity Mastermind (I also have a serious girl crush on Jennifer Byrne). But I digress – what is it that I love about cats? They’re elegant, stylist, wild, feral, independent, clean, aloof and, like my daughters, they don’t always come when you call them.”

Adam Liaw said: “I’m inherently extremely lazy so choosing Asian cuisine as my specialty topic means I don’t actually have to go and study anything beyond going out and eating lunch. Plus, I know I’ll never match Jess Rowe’s encyclopaedic knowledge of cats so I’ve really got to try and take every advantage I can.”

Courtney Act said: “In the 90’s I had such a crush on Fran Drescher, I’m still not sure if I wanted her, or wanted to be her…or maybe it was both. She was this fish out of water and I thought she was the epitome of glamour, I loved how she didn’t try and assimilate but rather leaned into her difference and made it a strength. It’s that quintessential 90’s sitcom that keeps you laughing and smiling and feels like an old friend.” 

Marc Fennell said: “Having filled-in behind the quizmaster’s chair, I plan to use my completely unfair advantage to crush the competition. I think we can all agree that 2020 can’t possibly hold any competition of greater global significance than Celebrity Mastermind and I will be approaching it with the brutal, humourless intellectual rigor it surely demands.” 

Alex Lee said: “I’d love to say that I’m delighted to be on Celebrity Mastermind but I am genuinely terrified, because I have chosen one of my phobias as my speciality topic: Rats. I’ve figured I have to know absolutely everything about them in order to defeat them in hand-to-paw combat. Also, the producers wouldn’t let me have the specialty topic ‘Jennifer Byrne’. As for general knowledge, my local pub trivia team have described me as “deadweight” “consistently wrong” and “just in it for the half price schnitty” so I’m really looking forward to showing the other contestants, and Jennifer Byrne, what I’ve got.”

Sam Simmons said: “I’m an animal tragic, studying zoology before being distracted by the circus (comedy). By far the most fascinating creature I came across was the slow loris, my spirit animal. I can’t wait to astound you with my nerdiness.”

SBS Commissioning Editor for Entertainment Josh Martin said: “We’re thrilled to have Mastermind returning for a second season, and we can’t wait to premiere Celebrity Mastermind in an Australian first. One of the joys of the format is the diversity of participants and their choice of speciality topic – from ‘Frogs Found in NSW’ to ‘Aquatic Ape Theory’. There is no end to the passion and inquisitiveness of Australians, and Mastermind celebrates and welcomes all contenders.”

Quizmaster Jennifer Byrne said: “I grew up watching Mastermind and being obsessed with trivia. One of my earliest memories as a child is sitting down with my father and solving crosswords together. Playing games – quizzes, crosswords, board games, trivia – is still one of my favourite pastimes. Last year, being quizmaster for Mastermind was a dream and I’m thrilled to be hosting Celebrity Mastermind in 2020. I can’t wait to meet some of Australia’s well-loved celebrities and discover just how well they know their fabulous specialist topic.”

Both series will be available after broadcast on SBS On Demand. Mastermind is a BBC UK format and is produced for SBS by BBC Studios.

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