Dan-Jumbo was named one of People Magazine’s
“50 Most Beautiful People” in May of 2003. While
You Were Out features a homeowner who sends his or her partner,
parent or roommate out of town for a couple of days as host Evan
Farmer brings in a talented designer and two handypersons to work
around the clock to create a new look for an indoor or outdoor
space. There’s always the big surprise at the end of each
show, when the transformation is revealed and the homeowner announces,
"Look what happened While You Were Out!"
Big Home Shows: Have you always been interested
in carpentry and renovation?
Andrew Dan-Jumbo: No, I was into graphic design first, then I moved to the US. I got here and with my brother sat down to create our construction business. We've been in business for about 13 years. I'm actually not a carpenter, I'm a general contractor but for the show, I mainly do carpentry.
BHS: How did you learn your carpentry skills?
ADJ: I taught myself. I've always been good with my hands and have coordination and am pretty dexterous. My family was one that always encouraged us that if something was broken we ought to investigate why it wasn't working and fix it so it did. I think that's why I'm mechanically minded.
BHS: You mentioned your family and brother. Where do you fall in line?
ADJ: I work with my older brother. I'm the baby of the family.
BHS: What was your favorite project over the course of the past 3 seasons?
ADJ: Well, 143 shows have been taped so far. It's hard to single out one favorite project. We recently did a show where we worked with the Roger Clement Foundation in Houston. The show was for a boy with liver failure who recently lost his mom to breast cancer. His dad worked so hard all the time during his wife's illness and the illness of his son. So much was being spent for medical bills they didn't have the money to buy a home. So the Foundation bought a two-bedroom condo and brought us on board to renovate it completely for a surprise for the father. I got to do the son's room. At the end of the show we were able to hand the father the keys and give him ownership to his home.
BHS: I bet that was amazing.
ADJ: It really was. I really enjoy the shows where we're able to touch people and change lives. We always have fun with the show but episodes like that stand out in my mind.
BHS: What is the most embarrassing thing that happened to you during a show?
ADJ:During season one the crew played an awful trick on me. They said the lady we were working with had lost a prize because she answered a question wrong. [Editor's note: In the course of the show homeowners are asked questions about their partners who they're doing the show for to win prizes for the room] So I was told to make her feel better, I should model a tool belt with nothing else on but my boxers. So, to cheer her up, I went ahead and did it. She actually had already won the prize and was just trying to see me undressed. I felt embarrassed but it was all in good fun.
BHS: You were named as one of People Magazine's "50 most Beautiful People" in 2003. How did that affect you?
ADJ: After the initial hype, I just let the whole thing go. The show keeps me too busy and is too important to me to loose focus or worry about it. We film around 60 episodes a year, so that doesn't leave me much time for things like that.
BHS: Did the surprised person for the show ever NOT like what was done for them to the home?
ADJ: It's very rare, but it does happen. People get frustrated and don't like what we've done to their home. But, most of the time, since their partner was the one to apply for the show and go to all the trouble to give them a big surprise, it helps make it easier and they generally don't get too upset.
BHS: Do you find it unusual that a carpenter would also be such a celebrity?
ADJ: Apart from a show like this it would be very odd to find a celebrity carpenter. With the fast growth of these kinds of shows, and the high numbers female viewers, the men on the shows like me get a lot of attention.
BHS: Are you surprised by the success of these types of shows - the remodeling and home makeover shows?
ADJ: Absolutely at the start, but now it's not such a shock. When the producer was looking at hiring me for our show, he told me he knew the show would be an instant hit. Naturally, I was glad to find out he was right. I just hope the show continues to grow.
BHS: Did you ever imagine that this is what you'd be doing?
ADJ: No, not at all. I do want keep moving forward and see where this leads. I never dreamed I'd be on television, but wanted to move on to something new in my life. So I started the business with my brother and eventually I was led to this.
BHS: Do people recognize you when they see you on the street or in a store?
ADJ: Oh yeah.
BHS: What are the kinds of reactions you get?
ADJ: I get a number of different reactions when people recognize me. It depends where I am. Most people act very surprised. I get the biggest reaction in Buffalo [His hometown]. It's really a shock for fans to see me out with other people just having a good time with friends. It's interesting. It'd be hard to imagine what it's like for 'A' list people like George Clooney or Brad Pitt.
BHS: How do you deal with it all?
ADJ: I'm still able to go out and shop -- like at Target, but I have to add at least an hour to the time I plan to be gone. It's hard at times and can slow down my day, but I enjoy being able to see fans and sign autographs. I sign about 50 autographs a day. I've never been mobbed, thankfully, but I don't get the sense of privacy and home life most other people have.
BHS: What's the most common question people ask you?
ADJ: 'Do you really get it done in two days?' The show is so beyond a reality show. There's all the setting up for it and we have to do all the shopping. There's lots to get ready before the cameras start filming. It all takes time. It's not just what the viewers see.
BHS: I have to ask, what is the origin of your name, Dan-Jumbo?
ADJ: It's Nigerian. My dad was Nigerian and my mom English. Way back before I was around, about 150 years ago, our family name was different. My father's ancestors were dealing with Europeans for business and they couldn't pronounce the original spelling. So they changed it for business so people could pronounce it. My father inherited the name, Dan-Jumbo. I actually struggled with the name growing up and going through school. I thought about changing it once I got on television but my father recently passed and I felt it would have upset him. You know it's a name you won't forget.
BHS: Have you ever been to the Tidewater area of Virginia before?
ADJ: The show's filmed in Virginia before. We shot about 4 shows there. We shot two on the Eastern Shore. We had to go across the 17-mile bridge. We did a house in Bay View and a community center too.
BHS: How long have you been making appearances at shows like this?
ADJ: Most people don't know we had to film 24 episodes before airing any. We started shooting in May 2002 and the shows didn't air until August. Shortly after that I started doing home shows.
BHS: How many are you planning to make in 2005?
ADJ: I do about 25 to 35 shows a year. I've done eight so far in 2005 - some even back to back. I'll hit around 30 for 2005.
Do you have a big following of fans?
ADJ: I draw in about 1,200-1,500 per session I'd guess. I saw big turnouts in Indianapolis and Philadelphia. I usually spend about two hours signing autographs before and after I'm on stage. I'm on stage about an hour. I give a sort of a National Inquirer style exposé and behind the scene look into the show. I think it's really entertaining and creates a happy audience.