Chad R's Blog Post
I feel like every Wheel of Fortune fan is one because they watched it as a kid with their grandparents. I'm no different. I had a set of grandparents that lived just a mile away, so I was over there constantly. Any night that I'd be there, we'd watch Wheel at 6:30 sharp. Except for Sundays, when I sat down on the floor in front of their chairs fully expecting to hear the crowd scream “WHEEL. OF. FORRRRRTUNE!” right at 6:30, and instead getting treated to some guy saying, “From Hollywood, we bring you…The Lawrence WELK Show.” I hated those Sundays…
My grandma still watches every night, and everyone in our family knows not to call and interrupt her while she’s watching “her program.” When I found out a couple years ago you could apply online to be on Wheel of Fortune, I signed up immediately. I thought it would be pretty cool to tell my grandma she would know someone on the show. But that was still a pipe dream when filling out a form on the website.
Back in early October, I got the email I was hoping for: I had been selected to come audition in downtown Chicago toward the end of the month! The contestant crew had seen my information and the one-minute video I’d sent along, and wanted me to try and take the next step.
When going through the group audition, I can’t stress enough how important it is listen to Gary, Shannon, Alex, and Jackie. You’ll meet all or some of them during the audition phase, and they are your Yoda. It’s not a secret – they tell you exactly what they look for in a contestant. Follow their lead, and play the simulated games smartly. Good letters at home are good letters anywhere you’re standing.
If you make it to the end of the group session, you don’t find out whether or not you’re going to be on the show. They tell you that if you’re picked, you’ll receive a letter in the mail in the next two weeks. If you don’t receive anything, you’ll have to try again next year. Two weeks and two days later, the envelope with “Wheel of Fortune” stamped in the return address area sat at the top of the mail stack. I made it!
You can imagine my grandma’s surprise when I told her I was going to be on the show she’s watched for nearly its entire existence! Similar to the way I think everyone becomes a fan of Wheel, the initial response I’ve always gotten when telling other people I was going to be on the show was a complete double take. “Wait, what!?!?!”
It comes in handy in certain places too. The day my wife and I flew out to Los Angeles for the taping, I had an interview for a new job that morning. I asked them if they could take me a couple hours earlier so we could make our flight, and as I was getting ready to walk out, I thanked them for being flexible with me because we had a flight to catch later. When they asked where I was going, I told them I was heading to L.A. to be a contestant on Wheel of Fortune! They had the same double take reaction that everyone else had, and peppered me with additional questions before I left! I got an offer the next day!
Before you get to taping, you most certainly need to practice. We’re not all Allen Iverson here. I saved up two weeks of episodes on the DVR, and printed off alphabet lists to cross off letters as they’re called. It’s a great way to simulate the used letter board they have in the studio, and you’d be amazed at how helpful it is. But don’t limit yourself to just playing Wheel though. Mix in other word games so you’re exposing yourself to as many letter combinations and word endings as you can.
Remember Gary, Shannon, Alex, and Jackie? They’re the first faces you see when arriving to the studio on taping day. The force is strong in them, and they spend the day trying to impart their wisdom on you. Through rules meetings, rehearsals, and down time, they’re there to answer any questions you have, and to make sure that you’re fully prepared for the show. They can even be a little hard on you when going through game mechanics prior to everyone getting there, but I promise it’s for your own good. By the time your episode is up and the lights come on, you’ll be confident enough with the moving parts that the only thing you’ll be thinking about is that big puzzle board 75 feet away.
We were all sitting there filling out paperwork about an hour after we arrived, and one of the coordinators said very nonchalantly, “Oh, here comes Vanna.” A few of us chuckled in the “Yeah, right” sort of way, and a moment later she comes strolling through the door. Jaw meet floor! She just wanted to stop in and say hello and to wish us all good luck before heading off to makeup. How awesome is that?!
If you ever feel nervous after you get there in the morning, just remember the 17 other contestants there with you that day. Talk and get to know them because they’re experiencing the same emotions as you. You’ll have just as much fun meeting and getting to know a new family there as you will playing the game. And though you don’t get to interact with your family and friends that attend the taping, you can send a wave their way. Shout out to my wife Ali, my aunts Julie and Teresa, and my cousin Ty for coming to support me!
When it was time for my show, it honestly felt like a dream. You watch for so many years with the camera zoomed out and squared up perfectly to the puzzle; now you’re off to the right with the board angled slightly away you. It’s familiar, yet completely new and exhilarating all at the same time! Pat is absolutely amazing. He does a perfect job at disarming you, and keeping the atmosphere loose and comfortable to give you the best chance at succeeding. The red light is on for only 22 minutes, so remember to enjoy yourself!
Thank you to everyone at Wheel of Fortune for a wonderful experience, and an extra special thanks to Gary, Shannon, Alex, and Jackie. You guys rock! And I hope my grandma has as much fun watching as I had playing!