THE BLOG
07/21/2013 03:53 pm ET Updated Sep 20, 2013

The Killer Questionnaire? What Fans of WhoDunnit? Are Dying to Know

This interview almost did not happen.

The morning that I was supposed to speak with Kam Perez, a contestant on the reality show Whodunnit? where each episode plays out like CSI with contestants scrambling to figure out the "murder" of the last eliminated contestant, my computer appeared lifeless. While noting the irony, I panicked. Fortunately, there were embers of life to the device, and my husband, somewhat of an "amateur sleuth," placed my laptop in the freezer. It had overheated and he brought it back to life. Much like the safe contestants on each episode of this innovative interactive reality show (ABC, Sunday 9 p.m.), my computer had been "spared"... at least for another week.

In case you haven't tuned in,, Whodunnit?, created by the brainchild of CSI, shows contestants employing crime scene investigation techniques to uncover a "murder" in each episode. Contestants are eliminated -- in the truest sense of the word - based on who did the worst job at figuring out the crime. Then their "murder" is the focus of the subsequent episode. In the finale, when three players are to remain, one will reveal the killer's identity and walk away with $250,000.

...And as for the killer? Well we have to assume that something is in it for him/her too. Following is a Q&A with Kam Perez, who works for Homeland Security and has "lived" past episodes 1-5 to tell his tale of life in the harrowing WhoDunnit? house.

SHW:
You came on knowing that you would be solving a mystery? What type of reality show did you think you were in for?

KP:
We knew that the show was looking for "amateur sleuths" so it was going to be something related to some kind of Sherlock Homes/crime type of thing. We didn't really understand that we would be trapped in the kind of situation we ended up in. I was expecting a traditional reality show where you spend a day learning an investigative technique and at the end there's a challenge where you put it all into practice. They threw us in on the deep end. From the very get-go, you are on your own investigating these crimes and what you are supposed to look for is up to you.

SHW:
How did you feel when the first murder occurred? Did you have any inking that something was going to go that way?

KP:
We knew there was going to be some kind of an event. That was the catchphrase: "There will be an event." We didn't know what it was going to be or what to expect. When it happened, we went there, but we all weren't sure it was actually Sheri. It was in fact her lying on the floor, surrounded by a broken fish tank and live wires (and then the contestants witnessed her getting electrocuted).

SHW:
Many presume Sheri, as the first 'murdered' contestant, was simply an actress.

KP:
No. She signed up to be a contestant just like the rest of us, and that's really where the game got scary.

SHW:
Whoah. I was sure she was an actress and can't believe I was wrong. As a contestant, you've got to have acting chops to be on the show.

(There was no direct comment from Kam on this, but the PR rep for the show says she is pretty certain that Sheri has no prior acting experience.)

KP:
With that first crime scene, Melina, Lindsey, Dontae and myself came from outside of the house and we all ran in and almost stepped on that live wire. That's where you see the fear in our faces, the jumping around and the screaming at the sparks as Sheri appears to be electrocuted -The fear you see on our faces is completely real. Later on, as a contestant figuring out how the crime played out, you become really immersed in the whole fantasy. You forget there are cameras. We didn't know there was going to be any danger once we arrived, and then we were scared of that danger...You have to play it out as if there is a real murder because figuring it all out is key to staying. There is probably an expert somewhere nearby that knew exactly what to do to protect us against those live wires, for instance, but at the time, we were not thinking of that.

You don't have time to do a reality check and remind yourself that it's all costume. You end up playing it out in your head as if it's a real murder.

SHW:
What was your first impression of "Giles," the English butler and host (played by British actor Gildart Jackson)?

KP:
Melina caught right away that he was 'creepy' when she spotted him first. When you see him, he looks like a proper British butler that you see in so many movies. It wasn't until later on with his puns that he really started to give me the creeps.

SHW:
After each murder, players fill out a questionnaire (not shown on TV) and subsequently present (orally) to viewers how they think the crime played out, and who they believe the killer is. Based on how well they score on the questionnaire, their chance of being "killed off" is lessened. How did you hypothesize who the killer was - Was that decision based on 'gut instinct' or observations about the crime?

KP:
I used a lot of the facts of the murder and observations of everybody's behavior to come up with my hypotheses. I'm sure some people went based on gut instinct, or something the person was wearing, but I was conscious of (contestants') behaviors and what type of person it would take to carry out the murder. My suspect all along at this point (in what has aired) has been Geno. Early on, it was based on the angle of the shot Sheri took from the slingshot. You would have to be very tall to get that shot, and of the tall players, it was down to Geno, Ulysses and me. Ulysses doesn't seem to possess the killer instinct, so I concluded it was Geno.

We all at one point asked out loud if it was possible that Giles could be behind it - with the old notion and cliché that 'the butler did it.'

SHW:
Don pretended to be a football coach/teacher when he is in reality a retired cop. None of you went for his football coach story - which was actually very funny to watch. You were all certain, without a doubt, that he had been a cop. What made you 100 percent sure in order to call his bluff?

KP:
He used cop lingo (i.e. "bleeding out") and wore the 'retired detective uniform.' When we arrived at the first crime scene, the first thing he did was lean down to sift through shards of glass with a pen! - That was clearly to avoid leaving fingerprints behind. To me, that was a dead giveaway. Also, the entire time he was wearing a ring that looks like a police academy 25 year service ring. It definitely wasn't from a high school football championship or anything along those lines! I don't think he even realized he was wearing it - because certainly, if he was trying to hide it, he would have taken it off.

SHW:
With 'Dontae's inferno,' you must have been scared out of your wits (watching a contestant running on fire towards the pool) - even though you knew this was a 'reality show.' Can you tell me a bit about what truly was going on in the contestants' minds?

KP:
More than Sheri's murder, this is really what set the tone for us. Obviously we know no one was actually going to die, but when we saw Dantae running on fire, we had no idea it was a stunt double. We thought it was actually Dontae! I thought to myself 'They're going to set me on fire if I fail at this. I might actually die.' I felt a real reason to have to stay alive because I had no idea what stunts they had planned for me. I didn't want to go out like Dontae did!

SHW:
Nothing tipped you off with regard to what you had to sign before going on the show?

KP:
There was a point where they asked us to sign for insurance so, yeah, that certainly doesn't inspire confidence in your own personal safety!

SHW:
Many suspect you are the killer, which you can neither confirm nor deny to me. After the first killing, what were the dynamics in the house like behind the scenes in terms of suspicions towards one another and regard for one's fellow competitors?

KP:
There was definitely some tension just because of the nature of the competition, but not necessarily suspicions of one being the killer that really affected dynamics in the house. We were careful about the information we shared with one another, knowing that sharing can potentially come back to haunt you if you give somebody an advantage in the game. With me personally, my idea from the get-go was that from what we knew, the killer's motivation was to find the best investigator. So it didn't seem like it would make any sense for the killer to be sabotaging us along the way. There was no reason to hide anything from the killer because the killer knows how the murder was committed. There's no reason for the killer to deceive anyone either because by purposely manipulating information, the killer ends up skewing the results of his experiment to find the best investigator. I never had any issue with trusting anyone based on suspicions about whether they may or may not be the killer.

SHW:
So essentially, the killer is playing his own game to develop his own strategy at keeping competitors guessing?

WhoDunnit? PR Rep Interruption:
Correct (At this point, I knew that the rest of this answer would remain a mystery til the series wraps.)

SHW:
We see you becoming somewhat 'cliquey,' forming your alliance (with Ulysses and Geno) and keeping Adrianna out in an early episode. At that point, did you suspect Adrianna (a contestant who suspiciously sounds and acts like Nancy Grace in my opinion) as a killer, or did you just find her distracting to solving the murders?

KP:
The answer is: neither. My plan was to make as small a group as necessary. Three are all you need to cover everything. The more secretive that any one fact is, the more valuable it is, so the idea with my group of three was to limit information to those three. Everybody else can fight it out amongst themselves. Adrianna came off as offering nothing in exchange for my information, just wanting to devalue it for no reason.

SHW:
I know that you are an attorney for Homeland Security, but what exactly is your background with forensics that you talk about in the first episode, and how has it helped you in this process?

KP:
It is part of my background. I'm a former private investigator - That was before I went to law school. I received a Bachelor's degree in Criminology and I focused on forensic evidence (blood spatter analysis and that sort of thing). In law school, I focused on it in the more legal sense. I have some experience that others wouldn't have as to how to process a crime scene, how to approach the scene, and how to determine what is relevant. That area of work is my focus until the present. Ulysses practices more transactional law and Melina is a flight attendant - There were people who didn't necessarily have a background in crime, but had experience with deduction in general. They bring knowledge from their life experiences.

SHW:
Why weren't you more secretive about forming your alliances? As a fan of Big Brother I'm curious, and this question actually comes from a fan of Survivor.

KP:
I actually was not a big 'reality' guy before all of this, and now I've been turned on to Big Brother and other shows. Someone forwarded me a podcast referring to the fact that I 'broke the cardinal rule of reality shows by making my alliance public.' That's when I started watching (other shows) to see what they're referring to. The thing that really drew me to Whodunnit? was that it was a more objective competition. With a more objective competition, it doesn't matter what America thinks. It doesn't matter about 'immunity.' It all comes down to your skills. I'm not the kind of person to deceive anybody, so a secret alliance and backstabbing and misinformation was not the way for me to operate. You do see that the other alliance does some backstabbing and uses misinformation, but I was very upfront that I wanted to have a team of three and leave others to their own devices.

As far as picking Ulysses and Geno initially: Ulysses, (I chose) as another attorney who would be looking at a problem abstractly and breaking it down with a similar way of thinking to mine. Geno is a trivia host with a lot of random knowledge that could come in handy. I thought it would be resourceful to have that sort of knowledge, just as you see how Dana (a nurse) knew about cyanide because of her dad's work experience (industrial plaiting). Obviously, you see that Geno later sees things differently with regard to working with me.

SHW:
What did you think of the mountain lion that 'killed' Don?!

KP:
I just saw the mountain lion (Don was not in the room at that point) and everybody's big, scared reaction that you saw on TV? That was when the mountain lion saw us and came towards us.

SHW:
Obviously that was some well-trained lion in the house! I'm curious personally how big the house was and how far apart one contestants room was from another's. Those "killed" would have to be alerted by production and told what to do. (When a contestant meets his/her demise, the death scene is acted out by the cast member and a stunt-double fills in as necessary - i.e. Dontae's stunt double who ran on fire).

KP:
The house is gigantic. There were bedrooms on three different floors, then three - maybe four - rooms down in the basement. We were far apart from one another, all in our own individual rooms. That house could have held a total of 20 people. The kitchen you see during Don's investigation is actually only half of the kitchen. They put up a wall and converted the other half it into another room (where the lion was hidden).

SHW:
In the "morgue" when you examined each dead body, were you working on a dummy or a very still actor?

KP:
The answer is actually neither -It was not a dummy and not a very still actor. It was actually the contestant who had previously died! That adds another reason to not die - not having to be semi-nude while other contestants examine your body!

SHW:
I can't wait to see the bloopers and outtakes.

Do contestants know that the "Killer" is playing his/her own game to outwit them so they will not guess the Killer's identity? For instance, part of the game entails that the Killer is hearing the riddle, a clue to the murder (provided by Giles) for the first time along with the others.

KP:
We know that the killer is among us, but we didn't know about any game the killer was playing specifically. I was on the lookout for how people reacted in order to solve the murder and see if they could be the killer.

SHW:
Did it give you a source of consolation working on the eliminated contestant, knowing they're not really dead and they are now acting?

KP:
I always sent Ulysses to the morgue, and because of my background, I tried to stick to the crime scene. Ulysses would be a better person to ask about the bodies. No one has a background in playing dead.

SHW:
The joke is on us a bit with this show (which reminds me - albeit remotely - of The Joe Schmo Show). The audience is fooled about how much of this is reality and what is an act by contestants.

KP:
A lot of the mystery about specific rules is sort of on purpose. If you watch closely, we are confused as to what the limits are and what the killer knows and what the killer is doing. We find out (during the second episode) that Giles hasn't fled the scene because he has that ankle monitor on. We're finding out the rules along with everybody else who is watching. We have theories of the motive and based on the motive, we form theories about what type of person would have that motive. As you're watching, we are there trying to figure out all these things ourselves.

Stay tuned for a follow-up interview with production when the series concludes. Whodunnit? airs on ABC, Sundays at 9 PM EST.