An Arkansas State student experienced a lifelong dream when he participated in the Wheel of Fortune in an episode that aired April 7.
Maumelle native and creative media production major Alex Galbraith has been watching the show since he was little and it was fitting he got to be a contestant.
“I grew up watching Wheel of Fortune,” Galbraith said. “That was one of my favorite shows as a kid. I actually even, when I was younger, for Christmas I asked for a wheel. I wanted a Wheel of Fortune wheel. Which is impossible. But that was something I had grew up watching my entire life. It had kind of always been a dream of mine just to get up there.”
Before ever getting to the studio in Los Angeles where the show is filmed, Galbraith had to go through an intense audition to get chosen as a contestant.
Wheel of Fortune brought its Wheelmobile to Little Rock in November 2019 and gave Arkansans the chance to try out for the show.
Galbraith attended a tryout where applications were drawn randomly to see if he got the opportunity to show his talents. However, Galbraith’s application never got chosen at the original tryout.
The sophomore was not out of luck. When the crew went back to LA they chose a few more random applications and this time Galbraith got selected for a tryout in January in Little Rock.
“That (audition) was pretty intense,” Galbraith said. “It was at the Capital Hotel downtown. There were a lot of people. I think I was the only college kid there. They had a wheel, they had a projector with the board. You had to go through solving puzzles. You had to be loud, you had to be confident. You had to solve a written test. Once you were done with that, that took a little over two or three hours. Then we left and about two weeks later they gave me a call and said that I was accepted to go to the real thing in LA.”
Galbraith’s episode was filmed in February and on a day where six shows were filmed, Galbraith’s was the last. The Maumelle native still had to arrive early in the morning and waited all day for his shot at the contest. He arrived at the studio around 7:30 a.m. and left around 6 p.m.
“It was really cool,” Galbraith said. “It’s an extensive process. I will say this, the studio itself is much smaller than portrayed on TV. The board where the letters are is super small. The wheel is much smaller than it looks on TV. The audience is extremely small. I was unfortunately the sixth show. I just kind of sat there waiting my turn. Which is actually super stressful. It puts a lot of weight on you watching everybody else’s shows. Their staff did a great job. They provided a bunch of food for us.”
While waiting, the staff also gave Galbraith and other contestants tutorials on everything they needed to participate in the show along with going through a hair and makeup process.
“We went through tutorials on how to believe it or not how to spin the wheel, (and) knowing how to utilize your resources when you’re up on stage,” Galbraith said. “You know looking at the board, (and) looking at the used letter board. We filmed some promo videos. They kind of coached you up.”
Once on the show, Galbraith said you have to keep your composure through the whole thing despite the lights, cameras, audience and Pat Sajak sitting two feet away.
“I think definitely the hardest part, and they tell you this too, is trying not to focus on the amount of money that you have,” Galbraith said. “You know it’s tempting, you spin the wheel and you want to look down and see what you landed on. Focusing is extremely hard. You’ve got to focus. You can’t let a mistake bring you down. If you land on a bankrupt or something you can’t let that get to you. You’ve got to just spin and focus on trying to solve the puzzle. The problem is you’ve got a very limited amount of time in doing so.”
Galbraith finished third and came away with $5,000 from the contest.
“I’m very grateful for the experience and opportunity,” Galbraith said. “I know I could’ve and should’ve done better. So I was a little upset about that. But look, we came away with $5,000 and I’m thrilled with that.”
Galbraith plans to put the money towards his education.
“Right now (I plan) to just kind of put it back towards school,” Galbraith said. “That’s very boring and not very exciting but I’m going to use it to help out with student loans and help pay for tuition. I’m going to try to use that to help out with this next fall semester. I might put a couple hundred back to use on myself and have a little fun with it.”
Galbraith said one downside of getting to be on the show was the access to Sajak and Vanna White. He got to talk the usual amount contestants do with Sajak during the actual show, but nothing more.
“I got to briefly talk with Vanna before the show,” Galbraith said. “But outside of that, you didn’t get to talk to them. Which was unfortunate for all the contestants really to go out there and not get the chance to get a picture with them, to visit for a second, autograph or whatever you wanted. That part was kind of frustrating.”
However, Galbraith said it was still surreal to see the legendary pair.
The sophomore received all kinds of support from phone calls, texts and emails from friends, family and teachers while also representing the A-State community.
“Like I said I wish I could’ve done better. But, that was absolutely a once in a lifetime experience. I think I made the most of it.”
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