Reigning “Danger!” Champion Mattea Roach represents a new generation of star contest players.
As of Friday, the 23-year-old Canadian has won 19 games and racked up $469,184 in prize money, putting her in the top 10 contestants for consecutive wins and regular-season earnings on “Jeopardy.” history.
Roach, who begins his fifth week of competition on Monday, is in the company of notable veteran players, including Ken Jennings, who currently hosts the show, and this season’s champions.and Matt Amodio.
“The fact that I’m now one of the greatest players of all time hasn’t fully sunk in yet. It doesn’t really feel real,” said Roach, the first Gen Zer to be dubbed “super champion” by the show for achieving a string of double-digit wins. (Generation Z generally refers to those born between 1997 and 2012.)
As a tutor to aspiring law school students, and perhaps herself, she plays with nonchalant confidence. Roach is relaxed enough to casually think out loud about her approach, like she did when she hit a crucial Double Jeopardy last Wednesday.
“You know what, if I bet big and lose today, like whatever, I had a hot streak,” Roach mused, then successfully wagered $8,000 and ended up snatching the game from formidable challenger Ben Hsia of Fremont, California.
The category was anatomy, the clue was “To gently tease another person,” and Roach’s slightly exasperated response: “I should have bet more. What’s ‘rib’?”
In addition to conservative betting, his game has been distinguished by the wide range of knowledge and ring command that “Jeopardy!” They have the champions. Athletic ability doesn’t contribute to the latter, said Roach, who admits sports are not a favored category.
Among his trademarks are an engaging smile and a demure wave to the camera at the start of a game; tattoos that include lyrics from Talking Heads songs and serious outfits but with a touch of personal style. However, for a recent interview, she paired a t-shirt with denim.
“There’s no denim in ‘Jeopardy!'” Roach said helpfully. As for his on-camera wardrobe, it’s all the clothes he already owned. “I hate shopping,” he said, and thought he would send the right message.
“I wanted to be comfortable, I wanted to look professional and I wanted to express my personality, and I think I did,” she said.
A native of Halifax, Nova Scotia, who lives in Toronto, Roach attributes her love of learning to her mother, Patti MacKinnon, an auditor, and her father, Phil Roach, who works in human resources. Mattea Roach started reading at age 3, she skipped a grade in elementary school and enrolled at the University of Toronto when she was 16.
After Mom and Dad helped pay for the first two years of college, Roach took care of the rest.
“I have three younger brothers at home, and even with them (their parents) working, there’s not a lot of money to go around,” she said. “I thought I could work, so why wouldn’t I?”
She majored in sexual diversity studies and earned minors in political science and women’s and gender studies. The school’s talk show helped her gain poise and tackle unfamiliar topics, presumably useful training for “Jeopardy!” – and maybe politics.
As a young man, Roach said, he had a vague interest in “the workings of government,” and while he kept that interest, he realized he wouldn’t be a good fit. Despite the outpouring of media and online attention, “Jeopardy!” has brought, “I’m actually a very private person, and I prefer to have a relatively more normal job,” he said.
He was applying to law school when “Jeopardy!” He called her to be a contestant. Her success and that of Amodio (38 wins, $1.52 million) and Schneider (40 wins, $1.38 million) have made the show’s 2021-22 season a memorable one.
Roach mentioned on air that he could pay off his student loans after his first win. What does he plan to do as the sum has grown?
“I’m so boring. I don’t want to splurge on anything,” she said.
Roach intends to invest the windfall for his future, though some of it will go toward making travel plans derailed by the pandemic. He came up with another possible indulgence.
“Hopefully I’m not afraid to buy concert tickets anymore,” he said.