The affable host of Whodunnit? is Gildart Jackson, a British actor who plays a butler named Giles.
“The show was like a thrill ride,” Jackson tells PEOPLE. “In a perfect world, the audience will feel like they’re inside of a CSI episode. It’s like a television drama where a main character is killed off each week.”
Here’s how the show works: 13 investigators will move into a sprawling mansion; 12 of them will be innocent, and one will be the show’s “killer.” A “murder” will take place, and the investigators will use real CSI technology to determine what happened.
The contestant who does the worst will be “murdered” at the end of the show, setting up the investigation for the next episode. In the finale, the investigator who correctly solves the identity of the “killer” will win $250,000.
“This is what the contestants do for a living,” Jackson says. “We have former policemen, homeland security agents, attorneys. It’s fascinating to watch them in action. They form pacts with each other, but ultimately, no one can be trusted.”
Before signing on to Whodunnit?, Jackson was a character actor – he was a regular on General Hospital and had a recurring role on Charmed. So how does hosting a reality competition compare with Jackson’s other acting roles?
“When I took the role of Giles, it was very much pitched to me as a scripted role as I would be doing,” says Jackson. “I deliver the instructions like an actor delivers lines. But I’m not acting with actors; I’m acting with real people. So there’s some improv needed, where I have to react to an everything going on around me. And I can honestly say that I was shocked every day with how things unfolded. I liked the contestants – some more than others – but we really have a great cast.”
Jackson is married to The Office star Melora Hardin. They have two daughters: Rory, 11, and Piper, 8.
“The thing about this show was that it was a very short shoot, so I was able to be with my family the whole time,” says Jackson. “And it was right here in LA, so it was very easy. But I love travel. I hope the show goes on for years, and becomes a long-term success. I’m all for doing Whodunnit?: Barbados or Whodunnit?: Paris. I’d just take my family with me. I’m sure they wouldn’t complain.”
Whodunnit? premieres Sunday, June 23 on ABC.