A Tacoma woman won it big on game show “Wheel of Fortune” recently. She just can’t say how big until the show airs Friday night.
“I will say I did really well,” said Devan Lawrence, 26, who even weeks after the taping could still barely contain her excitement.
“I’ve been watching ‘Wheel’ on and off since I was a kid with my parents,” the Puyallup native said.
Lawrence tried to get on the show once before; this year she was randomly chosen after applying online. She was asked in March to audition in Seattle.
Along with 90 other people, she spent the audition day playing a road version of “Wheel” and took five-minute timed word-puzzle tests. The audition was as much for personality as it was puzzle-solving skills. The fact she called out wrong letters during the audition didn’t hurt her chances, she said.
“They want you to have a personality that stands out and they want you to be a good player. They are mostly looking for energetic people having fun – despite calling out the wrong letters,” Lawrence said.
The group of 90 people was cut to 20 that day, but Lawrence didn’t know if she’d made the show.
“It was so fun, though,” Lawrence said. She found out two days later she had been chosen to be a contestant on “Wheel” – television’s longest-running game show.
“I called everybody. I called my mom. I called my dad. They couldn’t believe it. I was in shock.”
With only days to hone her skills, she bought the Nintendo Wii version of “Wheel,” which she described as being just like the show. She and her boyfriend practiced daily for two weeks.
The show was filmed April 3 in Portland. “Wheel” trucked its iconic namesake and puzzle board to Portland from Culver City, Calif., for four weeks’ worth of shows. A week’s worth of shows was shot each day in front of 3,000 audience members.
It was part of the show’s annual “Going Green” campaign. The grand prizes are “eco-friendly” cars including the Chevrolet Volt, Nissan Leaf, Toyota Prius and Toyota Highlander Hybrid.
Before the show taped, Lawrence got her makeup done by L.A.-based makeup artists – a highlight of the experience. Lawrence works as a makeup artist for Mac Cosmetics in the Nordstrom store at Southcenter Mall.
On stage, Lawrence got in some practice spins on the wheel.
“The puzzle board is so large in real life. It weighs almost 3,000 pounds. It’s hard to spin,” she said.
“Wheel,” like other game shows, has strict rules – a result of the quiz-show scandals of the 1950s. A commissioner was on hand to oversee the process, Lawrence said. When Lawrence saw family members in the audience, “I waved and got in trouble.”
She didn’t get to meet host Pat Sajak or hostess Vanna White until the moment the show began.
“They literally walked on and the show started taping,” Lawrence said.
At that point, Lawrence felt faint, she said.
“My heart was beating so fast. I started to feel sick. I’ve never been so nervous in my life,” Lawrence said.
But after the first couple of rounds, “It was like playing a game at home for me. It was like no one else was there.”