Dan-Jumbo, the Nigerian-born Brit who constructs the furnishings that are integral to these
room makeovers, has quickly gained acclaim as the show's most appealing star--and has also called
Buffalo home for the past 12 years. Despite his busy shooting schedule, Dan-Jumbo hammered out
some time to discuss show business, stomping grounds and sex symbol status with After Six.
NT: What is your Buffalo connection?
ADJ: I moved to Buffalo from England in 1991 because my brother Raymond, lived here. He was an engineer and he had been here since 1981. The two of us formed a partnership and opened a construction company called Eurotek. I've been here ever since.
NT: How did you get involved with the show?
My friend Tom Christiano, who is now my marketing manager, was having some work done on his own house by another carpenter, Domenic Cortese. Domenic has his own radio show, so he has an agent. His agent told him about "While You Were Out" and Domenic told Tom. It was nice of him to think of me. When I found out about the tryout, it was so late in the game that I had to have the video on this guy's desk at TLC by 10am the following morning, and I had no idea what the show was about. So we were up half the night shooting a video in the kitchen. At that point I thought the show was some kind of "This Old House" program. I made one follow-up call to them and then I got a call from the production company, who asked me to come to an interview in New York. I left the interview and the phone rang about an hour later--they had made their decision.
NT: That was 78 episodes ago, which makes you the longest running cast member of While You Were Out. How has the show changed since you came on board?
ADJ: It has improved. We're a lot more comfortable now in our respective roles. At first we would be excited just to get a wall painted. Now we come in and build a four-poster bed or an armoire--we're far more productive. Since the show has gained popularity, I think that the homeowners get more excited too.
NT: The show's premise relies heavily on the two-day time frame and the element of surprise. When tensions arise, what do you do to blow off some steam?
ADJ: There's no time to blow off steam! We're paid to be professional, so it's not an option. At the end of the day, we just get away from each other or go out for a drink. The tension does happen a lot. I'm fortunate because I at least have my own space to work in.
NT: Can you recall a specific episode that stands out as your favorite?
ADJ: Yes--one episode where a daughter surprised her mother with the redocoration. She was a single mom who had been struggling to keep up house and home for awhile--we met her and she was just an amazing woman. The designer, John Bruce, came up with this incredible Thai-inspired room that was, without a doubt, the most amazing turnaround we'd ever done, with ornate fretwork, dark-stained wood and silk everywhere. The room was just so opulent. When the mother came home, she totally got it--not just that she had this beautiful room but that someone took the time to do this for her. It brought a tear to everyone's eye. We were all touched. It didn't come across on camera, but that episode was most moving.
NT: Tell us about your upcoming book.
ADJ: The book is purely in the proposal phase. It's on remodeling. I'm taking probably 20 projects, of varying degrees of difficulty, and going through how to do them step by step. It's targeted specifically at the busy woman of the new millennium who maybe didn't learn these things from their fathers. The book is geared up for two-day projects; everything can be completed in 48 hours or less. It will also be very mildly autobiographical. It's really a highly visual, highly illustrated, nice hardcover coffee table book.
NT: What was your reaction of being named on of People Magazine's 50 Most Beautiful People?
ADJ: At the time that came through, I knew what media exposure could do--it was huge. But I still thought, "I'll believe it when I see it." The magazine took me to Manhattan for the photo shoot. Since the contents need to remain confidential, I couldn't tell any of the crew. Shortly before the issue came out, we were having breakfast in one of the homes and they were discussing the issue on The Today Show. Matt Lauer mentioned the names of some of the people being featured and the last one he said was mine. Everyone was surprised except [former While You Were Out host] Teresa Strasser. The first time I ever met her, she actually told me, "You're going to be one of People's 50 Most Beautiful People." At the time it was funny, but she's an extremely insightful person.
NT: What are your secrets for surviving 220 travel days a year?
ADJ: My iPod, Flonase and Zycam. Being in airports and breathing the compressed air on the plane makes it really easy to pick up viruses. I take advantage of every mechanism possible to stay healthy and I work out like a fiend. I hate to rely on medications, but they really work. I also load up my iPod with music and audio books and try to rest.
NT: What do you like to do when you're not filming?
ADJ: When we're on the road, I'll take the production vehicle and explore the city that we're in. I really like New Orleans, Charleston, Miami and Portland, Oregon. When I'm home, I work on the house I live in, or do other projects, like restoring my '71 Triumph TR6.
NT: What do you miss most about being in Buffalo when you're out on the road?
ADJ: I miss my girlfriend, Rebecca, and my friends. I also miss the culture. When we're in these other cities, I don't know what's going on like I do here. I miss going to Thursday at the Square or seeing the Buffalo Philharmonic at Fort Niagara and Shakespeare in the Park.--those types of things. I miss my cats.
NT: Prior to becoming a part of While You Were Out, what were your major hangouts?
Back before Chippewa Street was big, we used to go to the Icon, the Third Room, or the Atomic. Now I like Mother's, Tim's Rendezvous and the Left Bank. I also used to be on the lake all the time--I was a fanatic. I would wake up at 5:00 am so that I could go out on the jet ski before work.
NT: What keeps you in Western New York now?
ADJ: I'm established here--I have roots. I know so many people who have moved to different cities and then return to Buffalo. It's a decent place to live with good friends.
What do you see yourself doing next?
I have a lot of things that I'm interested in. I really like politics. If I stay in Buffalo I've got to run for mayor. When we filmed in Buffalo recently I took the While You Were Out cast around and they ended up leaving with the thought that "wow, this is actually a pretty cool place." As I drove them around--I did it as a tour guide--I was reminded what a very big city it is, but a lot of it is a mess. I see what Cleveland and Pittsburgh have done and I know that could be done here. You have to attract industry to the city, which will bring educated people to live here. You have to make changes.
NT: Finally, we have to get your opinion: who looks better in a tool belt--you or [Trading Spaces carpenter] Ty Pennington?
ADJ: Oh, whew...we're tied, of course!