Like many people, Hillary Kwiatek has enjoyed watching and playing along to the quiz game show “Jeopardy!” for many years.
But unlike most, the Bethlehem woman made her way through a multi-layered tryout process to get onto the hit syndicated game show. If you want to find out how she did, you’ll have to tune in on Thursday night.
Kwiatek, 45, who works in communications and human resources for Lehigh University, is sworn to secrecy in terms of how her performance turned out.
Kwiatek is no stranger to television appearances. From 2000 to 2004, she was an on-air presenter for WLVT-TV, PBS-39, during pledge drives.
And when she was going to high school in the Washington, D.C. area, she was the captain of a quiz team that made some appearances on television in a show not unlike the “Scholastic Scrimmage,” which appears periodically on WLVT.
Still, the experience of being interviewed by Alex Trebek for contestant introductions at the beginning of “Jeopardy!” is unique, she said. “I’m not sure there is anything you can do to prepare yourself for something like that,” Kwiatek said.
To get on the show, Kwiatek participated in an Internet simulation of the show early in the year. As a result of that, she was invited to an in-person audition in New York, during which she was told that she was one of 2,500 people—out of 100,000 who tried out on the Internet—to make it that far.
At the conclusion of the in-person audition, Kwiatek said the contestants were told that if they were not called within 16 months, that they should consider going through the process again. Three weeks later, Kwiatek got the call to go to Hollywood.
Contestants have to pay their own way to get to the show, she said. However, there is a minimum guaranteed payment of $1,000 to make the appearance. So she booked a flight and visited southern California for the first time in her life.
The day of the taping, Kwiatek said, they put contestants through a rehearsal and makeup.
One might not think that a longtime show fan that made it through auditions would need rehearsal, but learning the timing of using the buzzer was tricky, she said. Failing to use the buzzer well could mean you never get to answer a question, Kwiatek said.
There was a lot of excitement among the show staff, Kwiatek said, because her taping was one of the first for the show’s 30th anniversary. The new season of “Jeopardy!” actually starts on Monday night.
“I was so impressed with everyone who works on the show,” she said. “It was a really fun experience.”
To see how Hillary Kwiatek did on her “Jeopardy!” appearance, tune into WPVI-TV, Channel 6 on Thursday night at 7 p.m.