"He was frail, but he was still very much Alex," the Jeopardy! champion recalled. "I remember him just being very confident in me to be a guest host if he ever needed that — we were hoping we'd have him with us for longer."
"I was reminded of the thing he always emphasized about the show which was: He's not the star of the show. The host is not the star of Jeopardy!" Jennings continued. "He always made it about the players and about the competition. It's just hard to imagine that in the TV landscape today, a star of his size saying, 'Hey, the game is not about you,' but that was great advice."
— Good Morning America (@GMA) January 5, 2021
The ABC show began airing its final episodes with Trebek as host on Monday. He finished taping the shows on Oct. 29 — just 10 days before he died at age 80 following a battle with stage 4 pancreatic cancer.
Trebek's final string of episodes were originally set to begin airing on Christmas Day, but were delayed "in order to give his millions of fans a chance to see his final appearances," the show said in a recent press release.
Beginning Monday, a rotation of familiar faces will take over Trebek's position for now, starting with Jennings and followed by other members of the Jeopardy! family.
"Though a long-term replacement host will not be named at this time, Jeopardy! will return to the studio with a series of interim guest hosts from within the Jeopardy! family, starting with Ken Jennings," said the show, which resumed production on Nov. 30, in a statement.
"You can't fill shoes like Alex Trebek's," Jennings told GMA of his new post. "He was just a legend and, you know, I'm like everybody else — when I hear that music, I don't want to see an interim host. In a perfect world, I want to see Alex Trebek."
"So it was a little bit nerve-wracking being asked to do that," he added. "It was an honor, but it's a stressful one."