Alex Trebek was 'Herculean' while filming final 'Jeopardy!' episodes, executive producer says
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Alex Trebek was dedicated to his job up to the very last moment.
As is typical for television, Trebek filmed several episodes of "Jeopardy!" in advance, leaving the program with content featuring Trebek at the helm for a time after his death.
The show's final episodes featuring Trebek will air this week before champ Ken Jennings takes over as interim host.
Ahead of the final week of Trebek-starring episodes, "Jeopardy!" executive producer Mike Richards appeared on the "Today" show and offered praise for his late colleague.
Alex Trebek's final episodes of 'Jeopardy!' will air this week. (Photo by Santiago Felipe/Getty Images)
"He was an absolute warrior," gushed Richards. "What he was able to do by getting himself back to the set to tape those final episodes ... was Herculean."
The final episodes were taped 11 days after Trebek underwent surgery, and just 10 days before he died.
Richards said that when taping, the star "was in enormous pain," but ensured that fans won't pick up on any of that.
"He is strong, he sounds great, he's funny and he was amazing," the executive said.
It was also revealed that Richards had advised Trebek against filming the episodes because he wasn't feeling well. The star, however, insisted.
"The week before we taped those episodes, he was in the hospital -- this man was unbelievable -- he calls me and he says 'Mike, I'm gonna be fine, I'll be in to tape, I was able to eat Jell-o today,'" recalled the producer. "And I went: 'Alex, that's great but that doesn't mean you're going to be ready to host five episodes of a game show,' which is an enormous amount of effort."
"Do not cancel, I will be there," Trebek told Richards.
Richards also revealed that Trebek offered up a special message on set that no one was expecting.
"He comes out and gives this absolutely amazing speech about the tough times that we're in and the importance of us as a country, as a community, humanity, coming together and being there for each other," he said.
Richards admitted that he and the crew "had chills" after hearing the star's message.
"There are specific moments in 'Jeopardy!' when you clap and then there are moments when you're quiet -- usually in his monologue, he would come out, give a statement and then go to the categories," the Hollywood executive explained. "There's not very many people in the studio because of COVID and we all burst into applause. You don't see it on camera, but as he's going to the categories, he sees us start to applaud and he kinda looks at us [like] 'What are you guys doing?' and we were so moved that we had to applaud."
No permanent successor has been named and while Richards explained that Trebek had "mentioned a couple of names," he largely "wanted to stay out of that" process.