When Ryan Mazie ‘14 entered to be a contestant on the game show 25 Words or Less, he knew teaming with Jamie Rogers Cabellero ’14 would give him the greatest chance of winning.
He was right. They won three times on the show, hosted by Meredith Vieira.
25 Words or Less, which is broadcast on ABC affiliates across the country, pairs celebrities with “civilians” who compete in a word game for a cash prize. Mazie said he got into the show during the pandemic with his partner, who couldn’t be a contestant because he works for a game show.
“Since the show is a … language show, I thought, ‘Who do I talk to more than my partner and dog?’ Jamie was the answer,” said Mazie. “I just knew out of everyone, Jamie could pull a random word out and I’d get it.”
Mazie and Cabellero met in the dining hall during their first year as undergrads at Emerson. Years later they reconnected, when each worked on separate Oscar campaigns for films. Cabellero helped Mazie get a foot in the door to Jane Doe Films, where they worked together until 2021, on projects including the seven-time Emmy-nominated series Allen v. Farrow, which Caballero produced and Mazie co-produced.
Mazie is now a documentary producer and head of communications at Story Syndicate, and Caballero is now a documentary producer.
The skills they honed and connections they made at Emerson are invaluable, said Caballero. She has hired numerous Emersonians as interns, and asked fellow alums for recommendations to fill open positions.
Caballero said the Emerson classroom experience encouraged the development of an entrepreneurial spirit. “When you’re making your project, you have to hire crew by yourself. It’s like a microcosm of working in the film industry.”
“[Emerson College] is a powerful name. I think the Emerson name brings you to the top of the resume pile,” said Mazie.
In their maiden show, the duo were facing confident champs. Jamie said their opponents seemed like they were on a winning streak. Teams are partnered with celebrities and actress/comedian Melissa Peterman was paired with the Lions for that first game.
“You get a few minutes beforehand. The celebrities pick the word to guess. In those few minutes with them you’ll say, ‘Don’t do anything sports-related or geography,’ things we don’t know,” strategized Mazie.
“[Peterman] was really good. We also did very well. Having Melissa on our side was good,” said Caballero. “The other team had Raven-Symone, who is also good. We were happy with Melissa.”
The Key to Winning
Practice, practice, practice. That’s the key to winning, said Mazie. You can play along on YouTube, Facebook, and TV. After learning they’d be contestants, they were practicing every day during lunch breaks. Mazie’s partner would text the word lists to use.
“Having a partner you know super well, that was an advantage we had,” said Mazie. “Jamie had great words that triggered me to say things.”
“When we were in the practice round, and not the live show, I got the word ‘nocturnal’. I thought, ‘Oh, man, what am I going to say?’” said Caballero. “I said Tom Ford movie. Ryan knew Nocturnal Animals. Ryan knew it! It was so Emerson.”
Mazie said as veterans on the production side of entertainment, roles were flipped, and they enjoyed being in front of the camera.
They also learned that Vieira is a big fan of Boston, and particularly Emerson.
“Every episode she’d mention Emerson College. She’s a Boston girl,” said Mazie.
The show has aired several times on air and they duo continue to get texts when people see them.
As part of their spoils, they won trips to Orlando; Scottsdale, Arizona; and a week in Ireland for a tour that include meals and lodging. They also got a $250 Lobstergram. They took the Arizona trip with other people, but are planning on taking the Ireland trip together in 2024.
“Even at different companies now, we still talk. [Going on 25 Words or Less] reaffirmed how good of friends we are and could pull off some wins,” said Mazie. “It was fun. I would like to go on more game shows with Jamie.”