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Contestant Interview with Deb Wilson

$16,000 WWTBAM winner

Returned to the show on the Zero dollar winners edition.

Toeth: How did you first qualify for the show?

Deb: Rob and I really enjoyed watching Who Wants To Be A Millionaire from the beginning of its run. As Rob explained, we initially tried to get in through the phone game. After a little over a year, Rob made it to the show as one of the last contestants chosen from the phone game. In August 2002, I drove to Evansville, Indiana to audition as part of the Bus Tour. When the APs read the list of test passers, my name was the last of about nine to be called. I was surprised to hear my name called because I wasn't sure that I had passed. I was very nervous when it came to the audition itself, but I somehow managed to get through it. Three weeks later I received the postcard telling me that I was in the contestant pool. About six weeks later I got the call from Kevin when we were at the airport on our way to Walt Disney World for a brief vacation.

Toeth: What were your thoughts after you missed one of the early questions, and left with $0. Did you have any idea they were going to invite you back for the "Zero dollar winner's edition", or did it come as a surprise?

Deb: After leaving the show with nothing, I was devastated. Rob and my brother Steve were backstage with me and tried to cheer me up. There wasn't anything that they could say or do to help me overcome the humiliation I was feeling. The worst part about it was that I knew the answer to the question I had missed. I do not really remember answering it or walking off the stage. During all this, the next contestant had taken their place in the Hot Seat and Meredith mentioned to her that they might invite me back. None of us heard this at the time, though. I just wanted to get out of there as quickly as possible. I wanted to walk back to the hotel, but they wouldn't let me.

When we finally left the studio, I insisted on sitting in the back of the bus. I could hear some of the other contestants saying nice things about me, but I was too upset to even respond. It was getting pretty late by the time we got back to the hotel. Rob and Steve were trying to persuade me to go out to dinner, but I wasn't hungry and didn't want to go out in public. Rob mentioned that there was the possibility that I would get invited back at some point as we knew of the upcoming zero dollar tapings. He didn't much more than get those words out of his mouth when the hotel room phone rang. It was Kevin inviting me back for those tapings. I immediately said I'd like to try again. It cheered me up some and we then went out to dinner.

Toeth: Did you plan a different game strategy for your second chance return?

Deb: I decided to read the questions at least twice and wait for Meredith to ask me if it was my final answer. Of course, all the extra readings gave me more time to second guess myself and to overthink a question.

Toeth: Did you favor the removal of the fastest finger rounds on the syndicated version, meaning you can go right to the hotseat, or did you like the challenge of it?

Deb: Yes, I did favor the removal of the fastest finger rounds. If I was fortunate enough to get the answers in the right order, it certainly would not have been quick enough to get me in the Hot Seat. It was also nice to know that everyone would have their chance to play for the money.

Toeth: How was Meredith as a host in your opinion?

Deb: Meredith was nice, but I think I would have felt more comfortable with Regis. In hindsight, I wish I would have talked to her more, but I was just too nervous.

Toeth: Will the $16,000 that you won make life a little easier?

Deb: Maybe just a little. I have been a stay-at-home mom for nine years, so the extra money will add a little security when it is time for our children to attend college. We have bought a few things, but I think the majority of the money will be put toward their education.

Toeth: What was your favorite moment during your two appearances on the show?

Deb: My favorite moment was reaching the $1,000 level knowing that I would not go home with nothing again. Up to this point, I did not think that there was anything worse than being a zero dollar winner. When I started to panic on the $500 question, I realized that there was something worse, I could do it again. So, I convinced myself to waste a lifeline. But once I reached the $1,000 level, I was more confident and was able to play the game more relaxed.

Toeth: Your husband, Rob, was on the primetime ABC version a while back and won $64,000. Did he give you any tips or pointers before you went to the hotseat?

Deb: Rob provided all the tips and pointers anyone would need. Unfortunately, I was too nervous to remember or listen to his advice. The only advice he could not provide me with was how to remain calm. For me, it was more of a mind game than a trivia game.

Toeth: Thanks for taking the time to do this interview, it's been a pleasure.

Deb: Thank you for the opportunity to share my story.
Interview conducted July 20 2003.

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