UMSL student spins the Wheel of Fortune

Kevin Slattery

UMSL student Kevin Slattery (at far left, in the UMSL Tritons sweatshirt) is a contestant in a “Wheel of Fortune” series that begins airing March 28. (Photos courtesy Sony Pictures Television)

When the nationally syndicated “Wheel of Fortune” television game show begins airing its College Road Trip series Monday, Kevin Slattery will be spinning the wheel proudly wearing his University of Missouri–St. Louis Tritons sweatshirt.

A junior majoring in education, Slattery was chosen to participate among thousands of potential contestants nationally. Other universities represented this week include the University of Southern California, University of Texas and Penn State University.

Wheel portrait

Kevin Slattery, an education major at UMSL, was selected from among thousands of college students across the country to be a contestant on “Wheel of Fortune.”

A longtime fan of game shows in general and the “Wheel of Fortune” in particular, Slattery traveled to Springfield, Ill., when the show’s “Wheelmobile” was in that area evaluating potential contestants.

“Getting on the show is a multi-step process,” Slattery said. “I was randomly selected [in Springfield] to come on stage and do a quick interview with the traveling host and play a ‘Speed Up’ round. A couple of weeks later I was selected for a callback audition with the contestant coordinators from Los Angeles.”

Several weeks after the callback audition, Slattery received written notification of his selection.

“I literally screamed at the mailbox and started calling family and friends,” he said.

The biggest challenge at that point, Slattery said, was making travel arrangements and getting off of work as filming started two weeks after the letter arrived.

The College Road Trip series – five shows – was taped Feb. 19 at Sony Picture Studios in Culver City, Cal., the same location for the filming of “Jeopardy” and “The Goldbergs.”

Slattery likened the entire experience to a “day camp for adults,” as he and his fellow students lodged, ate, traveled, practiced and participated together. He said the professionalism and humility of the show’s stars and crew also added to the enjoyment.

Pat Sajak and Vanna White are television legends, having hosted America’s longest-running game show for more than three decades. Slattery said both were as personable in real life as they come across on the screen.

“Vanna White is as gracious as she is beautiful,” Slattery said, noting that the host met students before filming “with a warm ‘hello.'” Students did not see Sajak until filming started, but Slattery said the veteran host “made all of us feel at ease by cracking jokes during commercial breaks and providing words of encouragement. They [Sajak and White] have been doing this for 33 years – so they are truly pros.”

For any “Wheel of Fortune” wannabees, Slattery said visit the show’s website to find audition opportunities. And the keys to success?

“Be enthusiastic, know the rules of the game and be able to think under pressure,” he said.

“Wheel of Fortune” is a televised competition in which contestants solve word puzzles, similar to those used in Hangman, to win cash and prizes determined by spinning a giant carnival wheel. It airs locally on KSDK (Channel 5) at 6:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.
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