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How Dungeons & Dragons Prepared Joe Manganiello to Host Deal or No Deal Island

“It’s getting your players ready to roll dice and ready to understand what they need in order to make that saving throw," the celebrity DM said.

By James Grebey
Joe Manganiello smiles wearing a plaid jacket at the 2022 Film Independent Spirit Awards

Joe Manganiello is known for starring roles in True Blood and the Magic Mike movies. But, among a certain geeky contingency, he’s also renowned for being a huge, outspoken fan of Dungeons & Dragons. And it turns out his experience as a Dungeon Master was very, very helpful when it came to hosting the new game show Deal or No Deal Island, which premieres next week.

Deal or No Deal Island combines the classic high-stakes game from the ‘00s with aspects of Survivor, Big Brother, and Fear Factor. The 13 contestants must work together — and against each other — as they brave physical challenges and nightly Deal or No Deal games in an attempt to ensure that the last player standing has a shot at the biggest prize in Deal or No Deal history.

RELATED: Host Joe Manganiello Explains Which Game Shows Inspired Deal or No Deal Island

You might not think that fantasy roleplaying would naturally lend itself to Deal or No Deal Island, but it does. Manganiello, who started DMing when he was 9 and famously hosted an ongoing campaign for Hollywood friends like Vince Vaughn and Tom Morello, says the skills are very applicable. 

“When you’re running the game, there’s an umbilical cord running into every single one of your players. You know what they want out of it. You know what makes them scared, you know what makes them laugh,” Manganiello said. “That umbilical and the development of that is crucial to hosting a show like Deal or No Deal Island because there are moments when people cry on this show, hard. There are moments that I think about and I wonder how that person is going to live the rest of their life having what happened on the show happen. The stakes are so high.”

Joe Manganiello hosts Deal or No Deal Episode 101.

The logistics of being a Dungeon Master — the player who constructs the fantasy world and roleplays as the various characters and enemies that the other players’ adventurers will interact with — were helpful, too. A good DM (which Mangiello is), needs to be able to “understand what the players want, understand how that fits in the ups and downs of an ongoing season story like this, and set the tone for the audience” — all things that apply for a game with as many moving parts as Deal or No Deal Island. 

“If what you have in your case is less than this, then this happens, or that happens, and if so, you’re out. If not, this happens. Let’s open that case,” Mangiello said, as an example. “It’s getting your players ready to roll dice and ready to understand what they need in order to make that saving throw.”

“So yeah, growing up as a childhood dungeon master really did prepare me,” he continued. “A lot of the producers said they noticed that as well.”

Deal or No Deal Island will premiere with a 90-minute special at 9:30 p.m. on Monday, February 26, 2024. Following this supersized first episode, subsequent episodes will air on its regularly scheduled timeslot starting on Monday, March 4 at 10 p.m.

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