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'Jeopardy!' greats Ken Jennings, James Holzhauer and Brad Rutter on villainous 'The Chase' personas

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"The Chase" is (almost) on.

Like "Jeopardy!," where Ken Jennings, James Holzhauer and Brad Rutter dominated, earning their spots on the quiz show's Hall of Fame, ABC's new game show required the brainiacs to flex their intellect. But the series, debuting Thursday (9 p.m. EST/PST) also asked for a little bit of savagery.

Holzhauer, Rutter and Jennings – who triumphed over his fellow "Jeopardy!" legends in last January's GOAT tournament – will take turns performing the role of the Chaser, a role the network describes as "a ruthless quiz genius determined to stop them from winning cash prizes." First individual contestants build a cash pile, answering as many questions as they can in one minute, with each correct answer worth $25,000.

Then each goes head-to-head against the Chaser, answering multiple-choice questions with hopes of securing the money for the final round when team members unite. If they can answer enough questions in two minutes to elude the Chaser in the final round, the combined cash pot is divided among the team equally. The show is hosted by Sara Haines, a personality on ABC's "The View."

A British version of "The Chase" premiered in 2009. An earlier American adaptation of the series debuted in 2013 on Game Show Network, airing for four seasons. (Episodes from the first two seasons, hosted by Brooke Burns, are available on Netflix.)

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For Jennings' intimidating Chaser persona, he borrowed a certain Springfield Nuclear Power Plant owner's signature finger steepling.

"That’s straight up Mr. Burns," says Jennings, raising his hands to make the motion. "He’s taught me everything I know about evil."


For Holzhauer, who appeared on the American version of "The Chase" as a contestant in 2014, being the Chaser is an ideal role.

"I grew up kind of dreaming of being either the evil pro-wrestling character who denies the patriotic American his title belt, or a 'Jeopardy!' champion," he says. "This is kind of like the amalgamation of both of those things."

Rutter relies on his clothing accessories, jokes Haines.

"He likes a bow tie that leans a little to the left, so he has a little bit of relatability, because his answers are not relatable," she says.

Rutter chimes in. "Also studies have shown that the perfectly adjusted bow tie actually does intimidate people," he says.

"And he looks good," Jennings offers. "Brad's gonna beat you with wardrobe."

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Haines says that of the three, Holzhauer was "the only successful villain."

"These guys, they have a very deliberate victory style, and although they talk big, they do let people down lightly," she says. "They do not revel."

"James revels in all of it," she says. "There are contestants that say, 'I don't want to go up against James 'cause I think he's cold-blooded.' And they aren't wrong, sometimes. But the other two talk tough, but when it comes to beating you, they do it very gracefully."

"I still remember being a game show contestant," Jennings says. "I'm not going to be up there delivering withering Maggie Smith on 'Downton Abbey' British-style putdowns. Those guys are trying their best."

Jennings believes the contestants are part of the show's draw. "They get to gang up on us, which is cool," he says. "If you’ve ever watched a game show and yelled out answers at the couch and thought, 'I could be up there,' this is your chance to see if regular folks can gang up and beat one of us."

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: 'Jeopardy!' greats Jennings, Holzhauer and Rutter on 'Chase' personas