Mayim Bialik and Jalen Rose talk mental health and why she returned to acting

I love “Jeopardy!” And after the great Alex Trebek passed away, we’ve had a national debate about his successor. Unfortunately, the process of selecting a successor has been more painful than a presidential election. It involved mud-slinging, digging for dirt, and just making up stories. The latter is true for my “Renaissance Man” guest Mayim Bialik, who is an interim co-host — and admitted to feeling the sting of the glare. This is especially true after being incorrectly called an anti-vaxxer.

“After the New York Times did a piece on me which I found really kind of like, neutral … I can’t tell you the number of people who were like, ‘she’s an anti-vaxxer,’ ” she told me of the October article.

“And it’s like, ‘Did you not read the article?’ That upsets me just as a human. It doesn’t upset me as a celebrity so much because, like, I’m grateful to my publicist for reminding me not to read comments. I had a little slip … But the fact is, like, when people say things about you that aren’t true, that hurts. And that hurts, whether it’s between you and your girlfriend or, you and your lover or, you know, on the New York Times comments section … I really just wanted to be like, ‘I’m not an anti-vaxxer.’ Like, my kids were vaccinated late. That’s true. And we were vaccinated.”

Mayim is a well-known actor for quite some time. As a child actor whose breakthrough role was a young CC Bloom (a k a Bette Midler) in “Beaches,” she later played plucky teen “Blossom.” Back then the most controversial thing about her was her choice of floppy floral hats.

Now, in social media-centric 2021, she is a mother of two, has a Ph.D. in neuroscience and a lot of nuanced educated opinions that apparently get people, who don’t read beyond the headline, fired up. She also hosts “Breakdown,” a podcast on mental health, where I was recently a guest. Our chemistry was so strong that I decided to join them for a home and breakfast, where we talk science, religion, childhood and hoops.

As a teenager, I was famous so I know how it affects maturation. Her fame was already established earlier. She spoke of her experience and I was able to nod my agreement.

“It’s hard having everyone tell you you’re amazing when you know that that’s not always true. And it’s hard, having people be interested in you for what you can provide for them or what you can give them … So I think there’s a part of you that doesn’t really develop all the way, especially when you have fame young. You know, like, there’s part of you that’s always like, ‘Love me, love me. Like, What can I do?’ You know? So there’s definitely an aspect to my life that was shaped by that,” she said. Though she doesn’t know who she’d be without having walked that unique showbiz path.

Mayim Bialik is now hosting 'Jeopardy!' after a grueling process to pick Alex Trebek's replacement.
Mayim Bialik is now hosting “Jeopardy!” after a grueling process to pick Alex Trebek’s replacement.

The perks were many: lots of NBA basketball games. It was her first time seeing Shaq as a child and she attended an NBA All-Star Game. Born in LA to New Yorkers, her family is an avid fan of Golden State. And let’s not forget her beloved UCLA Bruins. Mayim quit acting to go to UCLA. There, she performed regular college student things such as sleeping outside the Pauley Pavilion in order for tickets.

“In those days, that was the decade of decadence at UCLA. I saw more games than I can count at Pauley Pavilion … I mean, we were out of our minds for UCLA basketball,” she said.

Mayim had hoped to become a psychiatrist and go to medical school. But she said she didn’t have the grades, so instead she went to grad school. Also, she took the time to become a mom and care for her three children now aged 13 and 16. The reason she returned is quite shocking. She needed to get health insurance.

“I wasn’t thinking I’d be on the ‘Big Bang Theory.’ I’d never watch the show. Because I was so busy. We ran out of health insurance because health insurance is not provided in this country unless you have a certain kind of job,” she said. The importance of dealing with mental health issues was discussed a lot, but we also talked about brain trivia and hoops.

Mayim did a great job with my Gone in 60 Seconds segment. She said the best Jewish delicacy people should try is a black and white cookie, that Steph Curry should host “Jeopardy!” and admitted she was horrible in math. Her favorite female TV character from the ’90s is Regina King’s Brenda Jenkins from “227” which is an excellent choice (though I am partial to Marla Gibbs who played my mom in the “Jalen vs Everybody” pilot).

Finally, she said if she wasn’t in showbiz, she’d be an excellent organizer. I don’t want to brag, but being a former pro athlete and current frequent flier, I am also an ace at organizing, packing and cleaning out garages. Rose Blossom Organizers is our newest venture. Let your neatness blossom. OK, so I haven’t actually checked with Mayim on that yet, but I do think I’d look great in a floral workman’s jumpsuit.

Detroit native Jalen Rose is a member of the University of Michigan’s iconoclastic Fab Five, who shook up the college hoops world in the early ’90s. After playing 13 seasons in NBA basketball, he became a media personality. Rose is currently an analyst for “NBA Countdown” and “Get Up,” and co-host of “Jalen & Jacoby.” He executive produced “The Fab Five” for ESPN’s “30 for 30” series, is the author of the best-selling book, “Got To Give the People What They Want,” a fashion tastemaker, and co-founded the Jalen Rose Leadership Academy, a public charter school in his hometown.

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