New ‘Celebrity Family Feud’ Exec Producer Myeshia Mizuno Makes History as First Black Woman to Run a Primetime Game Show (EXCLUSIVE)

As a child of the 1970s, Myeshia Mizuno still remembers watching the Richard Dawson incarnation of “Family Feud” at home. Now, she’s the new showrunner on the Steve Harvey-hosted daytime version in syndication and the primetime “Celebrity Family Feud” on ABC — which returns July 9 for its 10th anniversary and landmark 100th episode.

And in taking on those roles — which she began earlier this year, Mizuno is also making history. After much research by the folks at series producer Fremantle, they can confirm that Mizuno is indeed the first-ever Black woman to serve as a network game show showrunner.

More from Variety

“I grew up watching game shows, everyone watched game shows,” Mizuno says. “They have traditionally been run by white males. So, to be the first Black woman to run a primetime network game show is huge. And not just any game show, but an iconic franchise at that! I’m very appreciative of it. I don’t know why it has taken such a long time, but I’m happy to know that it’s now a genre that has been cracked open for someone like me to be a part of it.”

Variety spoke to Mizuno this spring on the set of “Celebrity Family Feud” as the show celebrated its 100th episode (and 10th anniversary) with, naturally, a large cake shaped like the “survey says” computer board. Now that she’s in charge “Feud,” Mizuno knows her most important job is to also make sure the show continues to run like a piece of cake.

“It’s daunting, but definitely what I’m up for,” she says. “It’s a well-built machine, but coming in and adding some oil to the spokes is how I look at it.”

That includes small tweaks like replacing one of the giveaways on the syndicated version from a car to a vacation package. “Because every time you ask the families what they want to do, they always say they want to go on a vacation. So, we partnered with Marriott this year.”

On “Celebrity Family Feud,” the production added a plush backstage area for the contestants to relax before or after their episode taping. “We’re finding that they’re still hanging out and sticking around for the next game afterwards,” Mizuno says. “Rather than just packing up ad leaving. I think we brought an environment of excitement and fun. And everyone is enjoying it — myself, the staff, the audience. It’s family.”

Celebrities and their friends and family playing for charities this season include Megan Thee Stallion vs. Ne-Yo and NFL players vs. Olympics stars on this week’s episode. Upcoming face-offs include Meghan Trainor vs. Tori Kelly; “Golden Bachelor” stars vs. other “Bachelor Nation” players; Robin Thicke vs. Anthony Anderson; and Walker Hayes vs. Rachel Bilson. Others include Daughtry vs. Papa Roach; Earth, Wind & Fire vs. The War & Treaty; Fat Joe vs. Gabriel “Fluffy” Iglesias; and David Foster/Katharine McPhee vs. Clay Aiken. On tap for the holidays will be a special episode featuring Shaquille O’Neal vs. Sherri Shepherd.

CELEBRITY FAMILY FEUD - "Megan Thee Stallion vs Ne-Yo and NFL vs Olympians" Hosted by Steve Harvey, Megan Thee Stallion goes head-to-head with Ne-Yo; and later, NFL athletes battle it out with Olympians for their selected charities. TUESDAY, JULY 9 (9:00-10:00 p.m. EDT) on ABC. (Disney/Eric McCandless) 
Megan Thee Stallion goes head-to-head with Ne-Yo on “Celebrity Family Feud” (Disney/Eric McCandless)

“They have all been so lovely and awesome and excited, and I think it’s because they all know the show,” Mizuno says. “They want to play, they want to win. It brings out the competition. They’re playing a game with either their close friends or their family. And it’s something to tick off your bucket list is I played on the Feud.”

It also means the celebrities sometimes surprise themselves with how loose they can be with their answers — and sometimes they’re asked to rephrase an answer that gets a little too blue for primetime. (Mizuno notes with a chuckle that the syndicated version’s standards and practices are much more lenient than in primetime.)

Mizuno is no stranger to the syndication or game show worlds. After an early career working in advertising (you may remember her ads for 1-800-DENTIST or the George Foreman grill), she moved on to producing unscripted fare for outlets including MTV, Fox, NBC, GSN, BET, BBC and producers like Telepictures and Endemol. Mizuno produced two seasons of “Judge Judy,” and was part of the original team that launched My Network TV — back during its brief attempt to produce daily, English-language telenovelas.

Her later gigs included ABC’s primetime revival of “Supermarket Sweep,” as well as the NBC syndie talker “Trisha” and CNBC’s “Money Court.” Moving to Atlanta, she earned multiple Daytime Emmy nods and a win for “Lauren Lake’s Paternity Court.” Off of that success, she developed two more court shows: “Couples Court with The Cutlers” and “Personal Injury Court.”

It was Mizuno’s success in the daytime court space that caught the attention of Harvey, who was interested in coming up with his own legal franchise. That show became ABC’s “Judge Steve Harvey,” which she developed with Harvey and executive produces as well. The show landed an Emmy nom in its first season — so when the executive producer slot opened up on “Family Feud,” it made sense to bring Mizuno over.

“I’m very blessed because we have a very good working relationship,” she says. “I understand him, I get him. What little bit of directive I have to give or direction he picks up immediately. ‘Judge Steve Harvey’ to me is very special, because he had the idea and I developed it. And then now to have this progression is wonderful. Me coming into a show that he’s been doing for 15 years has been even easier because he knows it. There’s not a lot I have to do regarding him.”

Harvey returns the compliment, calling Mizuno “smart” and lauding her work on “Judge Steve Harvey.” “Having worked with her on the judge show, she’s in my ear the entire time,” Harvey says. “She has an uncanny knack for knowing when and how much information to give a person. She just fell right into place. Man, she has a knack for moving and managing people.”

Harvey is also taken aback by the fact that Mizuno is only the first woman of color to run a network game show. “That’s crazy,” he says. “But when I said pick the absolute best person for it, they really did. But for her to make history like that, I think it’s important. This show is iconic. It’s a juggernaut. You don’t want to come in and mess it up. You can’t drop the ball. Because trust me, she’s under a lot of pressure. All eyes are on her. Nothing can happen to this little franchise. I can only imagine what that is like for her. But I think she’s held up. She’s done really, really well.”

As a sign of respect, Mizuno doesn’t call the host “Steve” — she calls him “Mr. H,” for “Harvey.”

“Look, you have to give the man his respect,” she says. “He’s been in this business for many years, and he’s done a little bit of everything. He’s still doing it. I feel funny calling him ‘Steve.’ That’s just me. I prefer ‘Mr. H.’”

As Harvey recently noted in another Variety column, under his watch “Family Feud” has become as much a comedy as it is a game show, and that likely explains its tremendous ratings growth since he took over.

“People watch it religiously. I have family members that watch it every night. They don’t miss it,” she says. “And it’s tiring, it’s a lot on him. He is really running the train on this show. He’s keeping everybody involved. He’s keeping the humor moving. Anybody can do survey says and throw to the board. This is a comedy show with a game show aspect to it, and that’s why people love it.”

Best of Variety

Sign up for Variety’s Newsletter. For the latest news, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.