Cristela Alonzo juggles 'Hidden Temple,' activism

Cristela Alonzo talks to Olmec in "Legends of the Hidden Temple." Photo courtesy of The CW
1 of 5 | Cristela Alonzo talks to Olmec in "Legends of the Hidden Temple." Photo courtesy of The CW

LOS ANGELES, Oct. 10 (UPI) -- Cristela Alonzo said hosting Legends of the Hidden Temple, premiering Sunday on The CW, marks her return to entertaining after years of focusing on activism. The 42-year-old stand-up comedian has spent the years since her 2017 Netflix special, Lower Classy, promoting social causes.

"Aside from being an advocate for things that you love, you also have to understand that people need to feel good and they need a distraction," Alonzo told UPI in a phone interview. "Now, I'm in the balance of where I want to do both."


Hidden Temple is a revival of the Nickelodeon game show that ran from 1993 to 1995. Four teams of two compete in physical challenges until the winner gets a chance to run the hidden temple.

The Nickelodeon incarnation featured kids competing. The CW's edition features all adult contestants, which Alonzo said intensifies the game.


"We can make it more challenging," Alonzo said. "We can get dirtier, and I think that as adults, we're not used to really having fun and getting dirty."

Challenges include obstacle courses, puzzle solving and trivia about legends told by Olmec, a talking statue. The legends included on the show are based on historical legends of South American cultures.

The climactic run through Olmec's temple is the largest obstacle course. If contestants make it to the end, they win $25,000.

The teams of contestants represent diverse backgrounds, including a team of two Black trans women. Alonzo said diversity was an important aspect of the show to her.

"We wanted to make sure that the contestants represented a big slice of life and what we really look like, who makes up the people that live in this country and just in life in general," Alonzo said.

"If you want to show a show that really has a variety of people, then all you do is find the people who are best at it and put them on the show."

Alonzo grew up in the Rio Grande Valley area of Texas. She talks about being raised poor in her stand-up.

After Lower Classy, Alonzo said, she traveled across the United States, advocating for social causes. Some of them with which she was involved were DACA and immigration reform, universal health care, voting and the Special Olympics.


Alonzo said she considered herself an example of the need for health care reform. She said she was diagnosed as diabetic once she was a working adult and gained access to health care.

"I want people to know that health is something that we need to take care of," she said. "In this country, we look at it as a luxury."

Alonzo said she has tried to use her work to share her life experience before. In 2014, she created and starred in an ABC sitcom, Cristela, inspired by her own life.

"If people can pay attention to me and I have a voice that people will listen to, I need to make sure that people know how a lot of us are living," Alonzo said.

"It's important to humanize all of us and make sure that everybody knows we all might struggle, but we all have a heart and soul at the end of the day. We're all people."

Cristela only lasted one season. Alonzo said she is also preparing to film a new Netflix stand-up special in the next few months to air in 2022.

Legends of the Hidden Temple airs Sundays at 8 p.m. EDT on The CW.


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