After taking an online test and trying out in Washington, D.C., Che Smith was invited to be taped on “Jeopardy!” in August. A Ph.D. student in the Gillings School of Global Public Health, Smith made her TV appearance Thursday.
The Daily Tar Heel staff writer Katie Reeder spoke with Smith about her experience.
DAILY TAR HEEL : Did you grow up watching the show?
CHE SMITH : From a very young age — I don’t even remember, so I usually just say five years old — any family member that turned it on, I would sit and watch it with them. I was always enamored by the production aspect of it, the fact that it was a TV show and the way the questions were arranged on the board. Just everything on the show fascinated me, so I would just watch it whenever I got the chance.
DTH: Is this something you ever thought you would do?
CS: I actually made it to the tryout process before, back in 2008. I tried out in Savannah, Ga. After I didn’t make it on that year, I wasn’t sure it would ever happen, but of course I’ve always wanted to be on there, and I did reserve a little bit of hope that it would happen.
DTH: How did your friends and family react when they found out you were going to be on the show?
CS : Everyone was so excited. That’s the best word that I can use, just super excited — especially those family members who have watched the show with me.
DTH: Did you study before going on the show?
CS : I asked the casting coordinators, and they said the best way to study is to watch the show. I made sure to DVR the show, and I would watch as many episodes as I could. Because I was living in Washington, D.C., at the time, I would go to museums all the time to study and just try to absorb as much information as possible.
DTH: What was the most exciting part?
CS : One of the most exciting things was the announcer, Johnny Gilbert, when he came onto the set.
You just kind of hear his voice all the time when the show comes on, but you never really get to see him, so matching a face to that voice was pretty exciting. And then of course when we first saw Alex Trebek walk onto the stage, that was very exciting.
DTH: What made you the most nervous on the show?
CS : Basically you don’t know what categories you’re going to get until you get on the stage — so just not knowing what the categories would be and whether I was prepared to answer questions on those topics.
DTH: Did you meet any other people on the show?
CS : You get to meet all the other contestants that tape that day, and you basically spend the whole day with them, so I got to know them very well.
Everyone was really excited to be there. It’s really weird because we all have this common goal of — we’ve always wanted to be on “Jeopardy!,” and that day happened to be the day that we got our chance to be on “Jeopardy!”
DTH: Did you have to keep the results a secret?
CS : I had to be very limited in what I said about the taping and the results, so it was really hard to do that, but there was still a lot of excitement among my social network.