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Contestant Interview with Rob Wilson

$64,000 WWTBAM winner

Toeth: How did you first qualify for the show?

Rob: My wife and I began trying to qualify for the show around February of 2000 via the original phone game. We got pretty good at it with our best month being October 2000 where we qualified over 60% of the time. We also each received our first callbacks that month, but neither of us received the second callback to go to the show.

It was around this time that the show began to announce the first auditions. I couldn't arrange to go to the first set of auditions, but when they announced auditions in the Spring of 2001 in the Midwest, I began trying to get a slot. I managed to get through the phones to get a PIN number for the March 16th, 2:00 PM audition in Chicago. At the audition, I passed the test, but did not receive a postcard saying that I was in the contestant pool. I am glad that I went to the audition and feel like it was a great experience, but I sure would have liked to have seen a postcard come my way.

A month later, they opened the phone lines for the "new and improved" version of the phone game on Easter Sunday. The first night, it was nearly impossible to qualify as the voice reading the questions was going at an accelerated speed. The next night, a month to the day after my audition, I qualified. Under the new rules, you could only qualify on one night, so although I didn't realize it at the time, it would prove to be the last time I played the phone game.

On June 11, 2001, my wife called me at work to tell me about two phone calls that I had received. I don't recall what the first one she told me was about now, but then she told me that the other call was from Who Wants To Be A Millionaire (she can be evil sometimes). As this was nearly two months since I had qualified and they had already announced that the phones were going to reopen at the end of June, I had pretty much given up hope that I would receive a call and thought perhaps someone were playing a trick on me. I returned the call and the girl I spoke with, Heather, I think, soon convinced me that this was the real thing. The rest, as they say, is history.

Toeth: Was it as mind boggling as it looked to do the Fastest Finger, or were you totally focused?

Rob: There was a practice session shortly before the show where all of the contestants competed as a group on five Fastest Finger questions. The first one I botched due to inexperience with the controls. Of the remaining questions, I got only one wrong and I won two of the other three, losing on the one by only 0.01 seconds. As a result, I was feeling pretty confident that I would win a Fastest Finger question by the time the taping started.

As far as focus, however, it was difficult. Just before we were taken out onto the stage, the reality started to hit me of what was about to happen. The Fastest Finger win helped calm me some, but I was sitting in the Hot Seat for awhile before I really gained my composure.

Toeth: When you got into the hot seat, what was going through your mind?

Rob: LOL, not enough of the right answers. Seriously though, it is such a rush when you win the Fastest Finger and get into the Hot Seat that I felt like I was in a fog. Then, Regis hit me with a curveball right out of the box. My AP had pointed out several possible discussion points that Regis might talk to me about and he chose instead to ask me about my career as a Systems Analyst. Specifically, he asked me what a Systems Analyst is and it threw me for a loop. I managed to give him something of an answer, though, and we got underway.

The thing that I most tried to do while in the Hot Seat was focus. The set is kept relatively dark compared to other shows and I tried to use that to my advantage. Since I couldn't see the audience and cameras too clearly, I was able to block them out for the most part and just focus on Regis and the question in front of me.

Toeth: How was Regis as host? Was he as good/better than Meredith Vieira in your opinion?

Rob: Regis was great. I was able to cut up with him early in my run and that really helped to reduce my nervousness. I like Meredith, too, but don't know how well I would play the game with her. Some of the delay tactics she uses before confirming an answer get a little old, but I think Regis was guilty of some of the same things.

Toeth: Did you have any strategy or a goal amount planned before you got on the show?

Rob: Well, Debbie and I watched just about every episode of the show and often played along via Enhanced TV, so I had a pretty good feel for how to play the game. In fact, when we initially started to try to get on the show, it was after discussing how we thought we would do. I was fairly confident that if I won a Fastest Finger question I would leave with a five figure check or better. I really wanted to win a quarter million dollars and think that I could have done it had I handled my nerves better.

Toeth: What was your favorite moment while you were in the hot seat?

Rob: There were probably two of them. One that is fun to watch on the tape is where I held up the autographed photo of Kelly Ripa and got Regis to pose similarly to how Kelly is posed. The other is when I was able to calm myself enough to commit myself to an answer at the $32,000 level without using one of the two remaining lifelines I had at the time. It was also great to be able to tell my daughter happy birthday on national television. She turned five on the day the show aired.

Toeth: Did you have any regrets in any part of your gameplay, such as using a lifeline too soon? Would there be anything that you would want to do over?

Rob: Yes, I absolutely blew the 50/50 on the $4,000 question. I knew the answer before the choices came up. However, I'm a firm believer that everything happens for a reason and I suspect in this case using the lifeline and verifying my original thinking gave me the confidence that I needed. Without it, I may have let my doubts overwhelm me and end up burning out earlier.

Toeth: Was the money you won life-changing in any way?

Rob: LOL, ask me that again in about 12 years. Right now, most of the money is put aside for college money for my son and daughter. It does give me a little more comfort knowing that it is there, but I'm hoping that by the time college rolls around that they will be able to pay their own way much as Debbie and I did.

Toeth: Your wife, Deb, was recently received a second chance and returned to the show on the Zero dollar winners edition of the show and won $16,000. What is it like having two Millionaire contestants in the family? I'm sure you both would have a long enough story to make a book if you wanted to.

Rob: Obviously I'm very proud of her. As nervous as I was, she was probably ten times more nervous as this was way outside of her comfort zone. I feel so fortunate that we both got to be on the show. Not counting the couple's episodes of the show, I know of very few people who have been in our situation.

One of the more interesting aspects of us having both been contestants on different versions of the show is to compare the reactions that we got. Living in a small town and being on primetime television, we couldn't go anywhere for the first few weeks after the show I was on aired without being recognized. Debbie's appearance on the syndicated version of the show went virtually unnoticed. So far, there hasn't even been one article in the newspaper about it, although we have done an interview with the largest local paper that should be running soon.

Toeth: It's been a alot of fun, thanks for doing the interview!

Rob: It was my pleasure.

Interview conducted July 16 2003.

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