Jeannie Mai on ‘Raid the Cage,’ Daughter Monaco and Split From Jeezy

Jeannie Mai on ‘Raid the Cage,’ Daughter Monaco and Split From Jeezy

Jeannie Mai and Damon Wayans Jr. are co-hosts of the new CBS game show Raid the Cage, and it’s easy to see why it’s all the rage!

Speaking to ET’s Rachel Smith in New York City, Mai and Wayans exuded palpable excitement about the new game show slated to premiere Friday on CBS.

As Wayans playfully put it in describing the game show’s concept, “Well, I’ve always been a really big fan of game shows, huge fan of shoplifting, so I feel they combine those two together in a nice way.”

OK, not really. The way it works is two teams of two face off to grab-and-go prizes from the Cage before their time runs out and the doors close. But they must correctly answer trivia questions to add seconds to the clock, which allows teammates more time to grab valuable prizes — from good ol’ cold hard cash, Tiffany necklaces and  a trip to Antigua to a Birkin, Rolex and even a brand new car. After three lively rounds, the team that banks the highest total dollar value in prizes wins the game, and they get to walk away with whatever they grabbed. They then play a final round for an even bigger cash prize.

In other words, euphoric mayhem at its finest.

“You got the trivia portion, then you have the physical challenge portion, right? Because you gotta get a certain amount of trivia to get time in the cage for your partner,” Wayans explains. “The gabber does the trivia and the grabber does the grabbing [in the cage].”

Mai says “the pace” of the game is what impresses her the most.

“It happens so quickly,” she tells ET. “And it takes a little bit of brains, a whole lot of strategy and just like bam, bam, bam, you gotta go for it. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a show [where] somebody can just increase their bank account by $50,000 in like 38 seconds.”

It’s not the first time Wayans has hosted a show. But this is the first time the 40-year-old actor and comedian has both hosted and executive produced a game show that’s gotten so much hype ahead of its premiere, and rightfully so.

“It’s interesting because I feel like the only difference was like, I do stand-up all the time. So I’m cool with the stage presence of it all, but it’s trying to be charismatic about giving pertinent information to these contestants,” Wayans explains about preparing for the role of co-host and executive producing. “Because I think that was the hardest part, just trying to make it sound authentic.”

While there’s so much excitement surrounding the series premiere of Raid the Cage, Mai has also navigated some personal life challenges. Her husband of nearly two years, Jeezy, filed for divorce back in September. According to court documents obtained by ET, Jeezy, whose real name is Jay Wayne Jenkins, stated that the marriage is “irretrievably broken” and “there is no hope for reconciliation.” Jeezy and Mai share a 1-year-old daughter, Monaco.

“I’m taking it day by day and thankfully being able to have a show like this and be able to do something that you enjoy doing takes your mind off things,” Mai says. “I’m just focusing on Monaco and focusing on things that I’m passionate about. When you’re surrounded by people, you just get to laugh and look at things that you enjoy doing in life.”

Ever the perfect colleague and co-host, Wayans interjected by exalting Mai as a mother.

“Also, such a good mommy, by the way, this one right here,” he says.

And, yes, Monaco has been on the set. What’s more, she’s even raided the cage!

“She went for the teddy bear,” Mai says. “There was a teddy bear that’s like a life-size one and there’s a Tiffany necklace.”

“And she was like, ‘I’m gonna take this,'” Wayans adds.

Still a few months away from turning 2, the kid’s already got style.

“She went for it ’cause that’s my girl,” Mai quipped. “She went for the bling.”

With 12 episodes in the bank, Mai and Wayans are looking ahead, and sharing who they would like as dream contestants.

“I would love George Clooney, from Ocean’s 11,” Wayans says. “The first [Ocean’s], you know what I mean? When he was nice and rugged.”

Wayans also invoked the comedy legend Bernie Mac.

For Mai, she’d love to see Ice Spice get in the mix. But then Wayans dropped the suggestion of all suggestions.

“You know what would be cool? It’d be cool to see Marlon and Shawn [Wayans] versus Keenen [Ivory] and Damon [Wayans],” he noted, referring to his brothers.

If Wayans and Mai can make it happen, give ’em a high-five!

Raid the Cage premieres Friday on CBS.


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