'It's contagious in a good way': Anchor John Quiñones on using 'What Would You Do?' as a wake-up call

John Quiñones has been presenting the ABC show since its inception and after 13 successful seasons, he opens up about how the show impacts minds both young and adult alike


                            'It's contagious in a good way': Anchor John Quiñones on using 'What Would You Do?' as a wake-up call

In John Quiñones' ideal world, cameras rolling 24/7 is the way things should be. Documenting people in their most challenging moments is what the presenter's ongoing show, 'What Would You Do' is all about, and mind you - the scenarios depicted can range from anything silly, to extremely mindful - as fans and followers of the show already know.

For those unaware about the concept of the show, as the public targeted on it are, 'What Would You Do' has mastered the art of fazing random people in the public with absurd scenarios that call for action and through that, people's true nature often comes out.

And controlling all of that onscreen is the beloved Quiñones, who has had a stellar career in both reporting and presenting. As the show's anchor, Quiñones believes that through their program, they are able to 'sound the alarm' in various social situations. How so? He explains in a casual chat with Meaww. Here are some excerpts:

With 'What Would You Do' gaining such epic popularity, how often do you come across an episode where the instances make you ask yourself the same question?
Our scenarios are incredibly realistic. So, I become a bystander in virtually every single episode we film. I think that’s why the show is so successful. Viewers are forced to sit there, often with their families, and wrestle with some serious moral and ethical questions: Should we step in or do we step away? What would we do?

What is usually your response to the situations on the show? Have you ever related to the way people going through the situation have responded to it?
My personal response today, more than ever, would be to sound the alarm. I have learned from doing the show all these years that’s it’s very important for someone, anyone, to raise their voices in the face of injustice. Because once someone does that, other bystanders join in. It’s contagious in a very good way.

The show has also garnered fame for being used in schools throughout the country as kids study ethics and morals; how do you feel about it?
I love the fact that schools use videos of our scenarios in the classroom. What better way to teach than by example? And in every single one of our scenarios, there are heroes who come to the rescue in beautiful ways. It is truly inspiring and entertaining.

How far do you think the scenarios depicted impact young minds?
Judging from the great response we get on social media, the show impacts people of all ages. Young people certainly watch our scenarios in greater numbers on their phones, tablets, and computers.

How did WWYD happen to you? What made you decide you wanted to host this show in particular?
I’ve been a reporter and news correspondent for most of my life. WWYD is just an extension of the profession since we often use hidden cameras in TV journalism. When I came up with the idea to do the show, it was just an effort to tell stories in a more compelling way. We use actors to create the troubling situation, but the reactions we get are from very real people. They are genuine and enlightening, just like the best stories in journalism.

TV personality John Quinones arrives at the National Television Academy Honors on October 20, 2005, in New York City (Getty Images)
TV personality John Quinones arrives at the National Television Academy Honors on October 20, 2005, in New York City (Getty Images)

What would you call the biggest inspiration in your profession?
I grew up in the barrio – the poor, Mexican neighborhoods on the West side of San Antonio, Texas. As a young boy, I witnessed a fair amount of racism and discrimination. Making matters worse, the news about Latinos in my community was too often negative - always about drugs, gangs, and crime. I knew there were many positive stories in the barrio.

And, I felt that because of my unique insight – having been born and raised in that community – I could tell those positive stories better than anyone else.

After 13 years of successful airing, does figuring out how people's minds work at any given situation, come easily to you?
I’ve long given up trying to figure out anyone’s thoughts because just when I think I know how someone is going to react to a scenario, they surprise me. That is what makes the show so interesting. Every day is an adventure. Every day I learn something from a stranger who says or does something that totally contradicts what we expected from them.

Author John Quinones attends the 'Heroes Among Us' book release party at the Tribeca Grand Hotel on January 9, 2009, in New York City (Getty Images)
Author John Quinones attends the 'Heroes Among Us' book release party at the Tribeca Grand Hotel on January 9, 2009, in New York City (Getty Images)

If you had to point out one particular scenario from the show where you felt like you were in a fix - what comes to mind?
The only time we’re in a 'fix' is when we’re filming one of our segments and very few people show up where we’re staging our scenario. That makes for some very long days.

We always want a lot of bystanders to witness our scenarios because that gives us a better sampling. Different reactions make for a more interesting show. So, the biggest challenge is finding the right place to film our segments.

If you could change one thing about the show, what would it be and why?
I would like to film more of our scenarios with young children or elderly adults. I think people on opposite ends of the age spectrum can teach us a lot about ethics and morals. I have no doubt they will also make us laugh, a lot.

Other than WWYD, are there any upcoming projects that you're thrilled about?
In WWYD, I’m looking forward to traveling more to film scenarios in different locations across the country and basing more of these scenarios on topical news headlines. Outside of WWYD, I’m planning to bring riveting stories to the viewers of the ABC Newsmagazine '20/20'.

A new episode of 'What Would You Do?' airs tonight at 9 PM ET on ABC.