Interview with Eric Wydra
Have you always been interested in game shows?
I'm not a game show "fanatic", but I always have been a fan of them. I'm interested in trivia - especially as it relates to pop culture and have always enjoyed watching game shows and playing "Trivial Pursuit".
How do you plan to spend the $57,000 that you won on the show?
That's a great question and even though it's been almost 2 months I'm still not sure how I'll spend the money. I'm a pretty conservative person by nature, so I doubt I'll just spend it without a lot of thought. I'm really interested in travel and have a goal to visit all seven continents eventually, so I'm sure some of the money will be spent on a pretty cool trip - maybe even with first class airline tickets!
What made you interested in being a contestant on the Weakest Link?
In addition to being an accountant, I'm also an aspiring actor in Detroit (I've appeared in some local commercials and industrial films). When I read about the audition for the game show in the paper, I immediately made plans to try out since it could mean some national TV exposure. Additionally as I said earlier, I am a fan of game shows, so I thought it would be fun to see how I'd fare. Finally, the chance at a free trip to LA was also very appealing!
What steps were involved to become a contestant on the show?
The tryouts were held at a local hotel here in Detroit. The first round consisted of a general knowledge trivia test covering a wide round of subjects. While the tests were being graded, they showed us a 20 minute clip of the British version of the show (since the American version hadn't yet been produced). The contestant coordinators then announced the names of the people who had passed the test. Those of us who passed stayed in the room and the rest of the crowd was thanked for coming down and left. In round two of the auditions, one of the show's staff members interviewed each of us on camera from "interesting facts about us" that we provided to them in a questionnaire we filled out before taking the test. After everyone was interviewed, we played two mock rounds of the "Weakest Link" using the actual rules of the game - being mindful to bank money and also voting off contestants after each round and giving reasons for voting a particular person off. That was it - they thanked us for coming in and said that some of us would hear from them about appearing on the show. The entire process took about 2 hours. About a month later, I was very happy to get the call from NBC that I had been selected as a contestant.
What happened behind the scenes from when you arrived at the studio until taping began?
We arrived at the studio about 8:30 in the morning. The morning was pretty hectic from arrival until the show began taping at 1 p.m. Most of the morning was spent on technical aspects such as getting each of us into wardrobe (we each brought 3 or 4 different articles of clothing that the contestant coordinators and producers chose from for us to wear on the show), getting makeup applied and fixing our hair. We were read the extensive rules of the game and also given a briefing on what we could and couldn't do on the show from a lawyer in the Standards and Practices department at NBC. During any downtime, we were encouraged to get to know the other contestants and make sure that we knew everyone's names so we would know who we were voting off. Finally about an hour before the show, they hooked our microphones up to us and we were able to go the set for the first time - which for me was the moment that I started to get a little nervous - it suddenly was very real.
What was your impression of Anne Robinson and the behind the scenes people?
I thought Anne Robinson was great ! She does her job very well and brings a nice mix of sarcasm and humor to the show. She really says what everyone at home who watches game shows are thinking when a contestant bombs a question. I must say though anytime I heard her say "Eric" I knew I was about to be humbled! The behind the scenes people from the contestant coordinators to the producers, director and executive producers were great - they really took good care of us throughout the day and helped to keep us calm, which was a definitely needed at times.
Were you somewhat upset at the way Anne Robinson was talking to you and the other contestants?
Not at all - anyone who appears on the "Weakest Link" knows that it is marketed and produced as the "anti game show". It's unlike other game shows since the contestants have the added stress of a host who ridicules them and a mostly silent audience behind them all dressed in black who add to the intimidation factor of the show. Any "rude" comments made by the host or the other contestants is all a part of the game and is to be expected when you agree to be part of the show.
How well do you feel the show will do here in the U.S.?
I hope it will do well. I know initially a lot of the press and viewers criticized the perceived negative tone of the show, but that is what makes it unique. As a contestant, you have to deal with the pressure of being on TV, thinking quickly on your feet and the knowledge that any "dumb" answers you give will not be overlooked by the host or your fellow contestants. Personally that adds to the fun of the show. From what I read, Anne Robinson's style is catching on with America - so I think the show will do well.
Have you ever considered being a contestant on another game show?
Yes I have. When I was in high school, "Wheel of Fortune" came to Detroit and I tried out for the teen edition of the show. I was not selected for the show but I did get to meet Vanna White which was fun. I have also from time to time called the 1-800 number for "Who Wants to be a Millionaire". I have qualified for round 2 on the phone for "Millionaire" but have never received the phone call back from them. So when I heard about the "Weakest Link" I thought "why not try?"
What was going through your mind while the other contestants were answering their questions? when they were revealing their vote?
When the other contestants were answering their questions, I was trying to pay attention to who was missing their questions so I could figure out who to vote for after the round. Also if I had just missed a question and I knew the answer to someone else's question, I'd be wishing that I had been asked that question instead of mine! When the votes were revealed was probably the most stressful part of the show. I don't know about the other contestants but at that moment my only thought was "please don't say Eric!"
What are your feelings about what Carol said in her interview about you, calling you a "vindictive little man"?
That was probably my favorite part of watching my episode air. When the voted-off contestants do their interviews, they are in a sound proof studio away from the rest of the players in the game - so we don't know what they are saying until the show was aired. I watched the episode with 10 other people and we all started cracking up at her comment. My phone also started ringing off the hook with people saying "you vindictive little man" and then hanging up. I must say that nearly 2 months later, that nickname has stuck - so I have to thank Carol for that. I'm still not sure what I did to make her dislike me that much - but it's probably safe to assume that I won't be receiving a Christmas card from her.
After the being the weakest link for the third time, were you worried about getting eliminated in the final vote?
If I remember correctly, I think I was only the weakest link for two rounds (rounds 5 & 6) - though I could be wrong. But yes during those rounds I fully expected to hear my name and be forced to take the "walk of shame". So I was pleasantly surprised when the voting was announced and I was still in the game!
What advice would you give people going on the show?
My advice would be to just enjoy the experience with no expectations. It is truly a once in a lifetime experience. My only wish that day was to not be the first person voted off. Once I accomplished that, the pressure disappeared for me. After that I fully expected to lose the game. I mean seven out of eight people leave with nothing - and I didn't expect for a moment that I'd be the last one standing. I think that helped me to remain calm during play and really have fun on the show. If I had put extra pressure on myself to win, I honestly think I would have lost. So my advice is if you want to go on the "Weakest Link" - enjoy the free trip to LA and just have fun. If you end up winning some money too, that's just gravy!
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