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The Chase star Shaun Wallace reveals his love for New Zealand

The Chase star’s set his mind to a brainwave of a mission Down Under
Shaun Wallace in the Chase studio

Shaun Wallace can’t help himself. The professional quizzer from The Chase casually drops some random facts into conversation as he’s explaining that Kiwis’ love of sport is one of the reasons why he’s so fond of New Zealand.

An All Blacks fan since childhood, he points out we also have teams that have excelled in sports other than rugby, including sailing, cricket and netball.

“We’re not so hot at football [soccer],” we tell him during his interview with the Weekly.

“Oh, come on, you’re not that bad,” he replies. “Your men’s team made it to the World Cup in 1982, and also in 2010, where you were the only team that was unbeaten – you drew all your matches.” He reels out these details without even pausing to think. And he’s absolutely correct.

Shaun Wallace in a grey suit standing outside
Off screen and out of court, barrister Shaun is a warm and friendly character who loves to meet his fans.

It shouldn’t come as any surprise that Shaun, 64, is a mine of information about the years-old sporting achievements of a nation on the other side of the world. His astounding ability to retain facts on a huge variety of subjects is what has made him so successful at quizzing. He won Mastermind in the UK before becoming the first person signed up to appear on The Chase when it started 15 years ago.

But he admits he has an edge when it comes to remembering details about our national football team. He’s both a huge fan of the sport and of New Zealand. He likes it so much, he’s here on his fourth trip in five years. The count would be higher if it hadn’t been for the Covid years.

“I love New Zealand, I really do,” says Shaun, who’s been fascinated with the country since he was a child. “To a nine-year-old kid, it was so far away, it was the equivalent of Pluto.”

Shaun Wallace standing under the famous Bluff sign that points to many major cities in the world
Shaun takes in the sights from Auckland to Bluff.

Along with our sporting teams, he’s a huge fan of our scenery, culture and the warm welcome he gets every time he visits. “People are so friendly – you’ve always been so kind and receptive of me. I’ve been fêted like a rock god!”

He chuckles as he remembers, “When I was in New Zealand last year, there was an item on the news that said Elton John and Ed Sheeran had been there in 2023 but the biggest star coming to these shores was the Chaser Shaun Wallace. That brought a tear to my eye!”

After so long on one of the UK’s top-rating shows, Shaun – who still works as a barrister despite his TV job – has got used to being in the public eye. “But it still blows me away that The Chase has had phenomenal success not only in England but in places like New Zealand, Australia and America.”

As well as being constantly recognised, he is frequently approached by fans wanting selfies and a quick chat

A selfie with Aaron Smith
Meeting Aaron Smith.

“It does take me longer to go anywhere and do things, but I don’t mind. I always stop and talk to people – it’s my way of saying thank you to the public for making the show the amazing success that it is.”

People not only want to say hello but test his general knowledge. “Sometimes people ask me impossibly hard questions that I don’t know and then they’re excited that they beat a Chaser. Fair enough, you got me. I’m still going to sleep at night though.”

People who talk to him are often surprised to find he’s so friendly and affable. That’s a complete contrast to the gruff, humourless persona he adopts as the Dark Destroyer on the show.

“When I’m quizzing, I’m not there to smile, I’m there to win,” he admits. “Once filming stops I’m friendly. I’m the only Chaser who will go and see the contestants afterwards, whether they win or lose. But on the show, I’ve got a job to do.”

Shaun standing at the speech booth in Parliament
Taking the mic at Parliament.

His training as a barrister helps him to remain focused on what he needs to achieve. “I’m trained to be cold and dispassionate in court. I’ve taken those transferable skills into the shark-infested world of entertainment,” says Shaun, a criminal defence lawyer who has defended murderers.

“As a barrister, you are taught to research, to prepare, to think on your feet and to be objective. That’s helped a lot when it comes to being a Chaser. I’ve appeared in the Court of Appeal and I’ve appeared in front of some very stern judges. If I can cope with that pressure, sitting in a studio answering questions is a doddle.”

His court experience also helps him to keep a straight face when host Bradley Walsh is joking around.

Shaun adds, “Of course there are times when I look at Bradley and I want to crack up. He’s very funny. Sometimes I can’t help laughing and sometimes I come out with things that make him laugh. We get on very well. We’re only two days apart in age. He’s always saying we’re like twins from different mothers.”

Shaun also gets on well with the other Chasers – Anne Hegerty, Mark Labbett, Paul Sinha, Jenny Ryan and Darragh Ennis – and believes the fact they’ve got a “unique mix of personalities” is one of the reasons The Chase is so popular.

The Chasers with Bradley Walsh in the studio
The Chase family (from left) Shaun, Paul, Anne, host Bradley, Jenny, Darragh and Mark are a formidable team.

“We’ve all got different characteristics but what we’ve got in common, apart from being crack quizzers, is that we’re very competitive. We’re particularly competitive on the buzzers in the Beat the Chasers spin-off show. Paul, Mark and Jenny are lightning fast, and sometimes it’s very difficult to get a buzz in edgeways. But by and large we are a team – a very formidable team.”

One of the bonuses of being part of a team is having people who can cover for him if the demands of his day job mean he’s not able to shoot the show.

“If I have got a really important trial, then that will always take precedence. I will have to make up the recording schedule later on or somebody steps in and takes my place. Luckily, we have some flexibility.”

Shaun giving Mike Pero a fist bump in the cockpit of a plane
At the controls with Mike Pero.

Because it’s common knowledge that he’s a barrister, it’s not usually too much of a shock for jurors, witnesses and legal staff when he turns up in court in his wig and gown. “They’re there for the case. They’re not interested in Shaun Wallace the Chaser, they only care about Shaun Wallace the barrister. The fact I’m on TV isn’t going to give me an advantage or affect the nature of the evidence. I just get on with it.”

He plans to keep on defending people in court for as long as he can. “I’m celebrating 40 years in the job this year and I have no plans to retire at 65 – I love it. I love quizzing too, so I will be doing that for as long as I can. I never take being on The Chase for granted. It could all end tomorrow, I know that, and I still pinch myself that we are celebrating our 15th anniversary this year.”

He appreciates all the opportunities that have come his way as a result of The Chase. For example, hosting quizzes on cruise ships. He’s been booked for four sailings this year, including a recent one around the Mediterranean.

Shaun Wallace standing on top of the Auckland harbour bridge with cars whirring past below him.
On top of Auckland’s harbour bridge.

Shaun has managed to schedule this year’s visit to New Zealand to coincide with the England rugby team’s tour of the country. He’s excited about going to the matches, although he has divided loyalties. “Obviously England is the country of my birth, but since I was a kid I’ve supported the All Blacks. It’s going to be interesting!”

Another reason for his trip is to host charity quiz evenings in Queenstown, Dunedin, New Plymouth, Hamilton, Kerikeri and Auckland. Kiwi company Believe It or Not Quiz Events will organise them. Money raised goes to local charities and Shaun’s hoping to top the $80,000 that similar events brought in last year. “Hopefully people will be coming out in their droves to see me and contribute to a really good cause,” he grins.

It’s also a chance to spend time with his good friend Brendan Lochead, the CEO of Believe It or Not Quiz Events. The pair became mates when Brendan helped organise Shaun’s first visit here in 2019 and they speak once a week.

Shaun Wallace taking a vintage car tour in Hawkes Bay
Sightseeing in Hawke’s Bay.

“He’s brought a lot of joy to a lot of people with the quiz company he founded, and we will be friends for life and beyond.”

Behind the scenes, Shaun has been boning up on New Zealand trivia. We hope to catch him out with a question about which Kiwi currently plays in the English Premier League, but should have known better than to ask about football. In the blink of an eye, he replies, “Chris Wood, Nottingham Forest. He’s a very good striker.”

He admits soap operas are his weak point. “I don’t like them so I don’t watch them, and if I get a question, I just guess,” he says. Next time we’ll have to test him on Shortland Street.

There will hopefully be a next time as he’s keen to keep coming back. “If New Zealand will keep having me, I’ll be here.”

Watch The Chase at 5pm on TVNZ 1. For tickets to Believe It or Not Quiz Events with Shaun Wallace, see believeitornot.co.nz

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