For those who’ve watched levelheaded Sarasota interior designer Jason Champion make his way through six episodes of HGTV’s “Design Star,” Sunday night’s elimination may have come as a surprise.
Champion, a 33-year-old Gulf Gate resident, has been the buzz of Sarasota this summer, hosting red-carpet screening events at Burns Court Cinema and lighting up message boards on HGTV.com.
Champion, an interior designer for 15 years, has had to remain mum about much of the show’s behind-the-scenes drama. Regarding his interactions with cast members — of which only four remain — Champion dubbed himself “the cast clown.”
“I diffused a lot of stressful situations by saying a lot of stupid things,” joked Champion on the eve of “Design Star’s” July 19 premiere.
Even the show’s icy judges found Champion lovable, while they eliminated him from the competition.
“You’re like a big, fluffy cream puff that I just want to put in my lunch box and take out and snack on every once in a while,” said Candice Olson, host and designer of HGTV’s “Divine Design.”
But no amount of personality could save Champion.
“That room is a real bummer,” said judge Vern Rip of the princess-themed bedroom Champion designed for a 17-year-old girl. “What kind of princess lives in this room? It’s like the princess from the kingdom of no imagination.”
“In these sorts of challenges, it’s all about the befores and afters,” Olson said.
In a phone interview Monday, Champion dished about his newfound celebrity status and whether or not he regrets getting weepy on national television.
Q&A with Jason Champion
Can you gossip about the show now?
“Well, it’s not like I can really dish until the show is over. You know, it was crazy. The work schedule they put us on, shopping under those time limitations — it was nuts.”
You’re watching the show for the first time, too. Do you feel the editing was fair?
“It’s 50/50. There are some parts where I’m watching and it’s like, ‘Hello. You all forgot the part where I said this or I said that.’ And then there are times where they’ve made me look better. I feel it was a pretty good portrayal of who I am.”
Do you regret crying on TV?
“Nah. I’m fine with it. It is what it is. It’s not like you can change it now.”
Will there be a reunion show?
“They haven’t told us. We’re kind of in a holding pattern at the moment. You just never know. I could get a call in two weeks telling me, ‘Hey, fly out to L.A. for this thing.’ I’ve got to be prepared for that now. It’s part of the job.”
Have you gotten any big clients or television offers since the show premiered?
“No crazy offers for TV. A Canadian company brought me on to design their spring line for them, and I’ve got a few television interviews coming up.”
Are you getting recognized on the street?
“It happens about twice a day. I’ll be out to dinner and someone will stare at me for a while and then it’s, ‘You’re that guy from “Design Star,” right?’ It’s either that or Will Ferrell or Perez Hilton.”
Will Ferrell and Perez Hilton are your celebrity doppelgangers?
“Yeah. That’s who I’ve been labeled after.”
Are you comfortable with the fame?
“My partner Jim gets a bigger kick out of it than I do. I stopped paying attention to all that stuff. I just have to be careful now when I’m drinking on the key. It’s kind of weird. I sit and watch the show and it’s like OK, there I am. I think about it like it was just another job.”
How did you friends and family respond to Sunday’s elimination?
“Of course nobody knew it was coming because I’ve been very good at keeping quiet, so it was shocking to some people. But those who’ve known me long enough figured out that I was going home this week.”
Did any of the cast members irritate you?
“Nobody drove me nuts. Nathan and I had a little tiff every once in a while.”