Paris Themmen has fulfilled his Willy Wonka character’s obsession with getting on television.
The former actor, 58, who played young TV and cowboy-enthusiast Mike Teevee in the classic 1971 film, kept his Hollywood past a secret when he appeared on Tuesday’s episode of Jeopardy!
During the portion of the show when host Alex Trebek asks contestants about their personal lives, Themmen was introduced as an “entrepreneur” and “avid backpacker.” While he revealed that he’s traveled to 61 countries, he did not mention his role in the movie.
But it didn’t take long for sharp-eyed viewers to recognize him as Mike Teevee (spelled “Teavee” in the Roald Dahl book the movie is based on).
“Is nobody realizing that Paris on Jeopardy right now, is Mike TV from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory?…. Like legit it’s the actor,” one user named Rachel Michele asked.
“I was making dinner in the kitchen, listening to Jeopardy when Alex Trebek started introducing contestants at the break. He said @ParisThemmen and I ran out saying MIKE TEEVEE !!! My wife thought I was nuts. Great job Paris!” wrote another fan.
“Why wouldn’t Paris Themmen mention those most amazing fact he had about himself,” wondered another viewer.
Themmen ended up coming in second place on the show with $6,800 in winnings.
In 2015, he reunited with former Willy Wonka costars Peter Ostrum (who played Charlie Bucket), Michael Bollner (who played Augustus Gloop), Julie Dawn Cole (who played Veruca Salt), Denise Nickerson (who playedViolet Beauregarde) and Rusty Goffe (who played an Oompa Loompa) on Today.
“We think of ourselves as a family, maybe a bit of a dysfunctional family, but a family really,” Themmen said, revealing that the cast still keeps in touch.
While the cast members said they were grateful for their childhood experience, many admitted it wasn’t all Hollywood glamour. Nickerson walked away with “13 cavities” from all her character’s gum chewing, and Cole – despite insisting it was “fun to be bad” – had to shed the perception that she was anything like the bratty Veruca.
“I feel bad though, we’re at the part of the interview where we’re sort of bursting people’s bubbles,” Themmen said, laughing.
Most of the cast has left the business – Ostrum is a veterinarian – but they happily sign autographs and revisit their roles.
“We got to really see it, and experience it,” Nickerson said. “And the first thing people do when they find out who we are, they smile.”