WWTBAM 2: My Millionaire interviews

Washington, DC, USA

Tomorrow is the big day!  If you’re not sure when and where to watch in your city, look it up here.

Anyway, I’ll go ahead an continue my story from where I left off

After the test…

Those of us who passed gathered in the front left section of the auditorium while everyone else filed out.  It seemed like about 15% of the test-takers were left.  We had the opportunity to trade our t-shirts for a different size if we changed our minds since we walked in.  Perks already!  There was some paperwork to do–a couple of releases and a bio sheet.  Apparently, these were available on the website and some people had filled them out at home.  I didn’t, so I had to rush through and fill them out now.

I had a hunch that we’d be interviewed next, so I tried to craft my answers to make myself sound as interesting as possible to the interviewer.  Now, I think I’m a pretty interesting guy, so it wasn’t that hard for me.  The question was whether other people would agree with my self-assessment.

Interview

After I had finished filling out my forms, I was lead down a hallway with the last of the folks who had passed the test (those with their paperwork ready went first).  On the way, we passed the people who were lined up to take the next test.

I walked into a conference room.  At the front, there was a long table with about 4 people interviewing potential contestants.  I’d recognize most of them again a few months later in New York.  It turns out they were all mid-level producers on the show.

I took a seat and waited to be called.  I hadn’t really thought too much about what I’d say if I got this far (which, at this point, still wasn’t all that far.)  But I figured I’d treat it like a job interview and try to talk myself up.  And, as I said before, I’d try to hit on all things that I thought made me interesting.

There were a few topics I was hoping the interview would touch on:

  • I produce a French-language TV talk show that airs Africa.
  • I’m getting married to a Pakistani TV personality.
  • I have watched sports in over 100 stadiums in 10 countries.
  • I took care of my grandmom for almost 2 years.

Those sounded like game-show talking points to me.  I’d try to steer the interview in that direction.

I surveyed the faces and tried to pick out who I wanted to interview me.  There was a cute red-haired girl about my age who looked personable, and she ended up calling my name after a few minutes.

“So you’re Gary Butterworth?”

“That’s me.”

“So you’re also a TV producer.  Where does your program air?  Just so there are no conflicts…”
“Actually, I’ve never worked on a show that airs in the US.  My current show airs in 8 countries in Francophone Africa.”

“Oh, interesting.”  Looking down at my bio sheet, “how long have you been engaged?”

“What time is it?  Haha, no, I’m kidding, about 6 weeks.”

“Oh wow!  So very recently! Is she going to be Mrs. Butterworth too?  Do you ever get teased for that?”

“I do, all the time.  And I don’t mind it, but sometimes I get disappointed because I think I’ve heard them all.  But every once in a while I hear a new one.  Maybe if I’m on national TV people can find some new ways to make fun of my name.”

“Does your fiancé ever get recognized on the street?”
“Well, it’s not like there are paparazzi, but it’s happened a couple of times.  I was with her once.  It was kind of cool”

“That’s great.  Tell you what…go sit back down.  I’m going to send you back to talk with someone else on camera in just a minute.”

That was pretty much it.  For a second, I was disappointed–I didn’t hit all of the bullet points I wanted to hit.  But then I realized that I was still in this!  In fact, almost everyone else was sent out after the interview.  Hardly anyone was waiting for an on camera interview!  (I don’t know if it’s true, but I heard later that some people actually get sent home without the on-camera interview and get called for the show anyway.  But don’t quote me on that.)

The woman who interviewed me came back to my chair to take a quick photo of me.  She was supposed to do that when I was interviewing, but she forgot.  Probably because I’m so awesome.  ;-)

 

Video Interview

A few minutes later, a guy in his early 30s grabs me to go to the back of the room for a quick video interview.  It’s just with a cheap little handi-cam and with no lighting–they just want a record to review.

He glances down at the same bio sheet that I had filled out earlier.  He mentions that he went to Syracuse, too!  Awesome!

He starts asking me about sports stadiums.  Even better!  What’s my favorite college basketball arena?  I have to say the Dome.  I tell him I have to say that even if I don’t really believe it.  He understands.  Palestra at Penn is nice too.
Have I ever been to Cameron Indoor Stadium?  No, but it’s on my list.  He says it lives up to the hype.

Soccer stadiums?  I really like Estadio Saprissa in San Jose, Costa Rica, but it has artificial turf so I feel like that should disqualify it from my list.

Favorite stadium overall?  I really wish I could say some really obscure soccer stadium in latin America, or some little old ice rink in Quebec, but in all honesty, nothing even comes close to Fenway Park.  He’s a NYC-based Red Sox fan; he gets it.

I loved that conversation, but I almost completely lost track of the fact that I was being interviewed for a chance to win a million dollars.  I wondered if I wasted too much time talking about stadiums (probably the only time in my life I’ll wonder that).  But the conversation continued, so I relaxed a little bit.

“Tell me about your grandma.”

“Well, a few years ago, she wasn’t doing so well, so I quit my job and moved in with her.  I took care of her for about two years, and we tried to watch Millionaire every day.”

“That’s great!  And it says you sometimes get excited and passionate about weird little historical things…”
“Yeah, just yesterday I was driving home and I pulled over and made Sarah hike into the woods so I could show her one of  the stone they placed when they surveyed the boundaries of the District of Columbia back in the 18th Century!”
“Oh cool.  You should come to Chicago and take the Architectural Society’s tour some time.”

What would I do if I won a million dollars?  Hmmm…I hadn’t thought about that.  Well, neither Sarah nor I had ever owned a car.  And her niece and nephew live in Pakistan.  If I had a million dollars, I could bring them over here on there summer vacations every year.

That seemed like a good answer.  And that was it!
He told me to watch my mail for a postcard to see if I was a finalist.  I don’t think he actually winked, but he said it with a wink in his voice.  I was pretty sure I was going to be on the show…

Promo shoot

But first, would I mind hanging around a few more minutes to be interviewed for a promo for the local affiliate?
Sure, why not?

In all honesty, I DO NOT like being on camera.  I’ve been in a handful of behind-the-scenes features over the years, and I don’t shy away from the camera the way that some behind-the-scenes people do.  But overall, I DO NOT LIKE BEING ON CAMERA.

But why not?
As far as I knew, it wasn’t 100% certain yet that I’d be on the show, so anything to make a last-ditch effort to strengthen my case even further.

I went down another hall, waited a little while, got a little make-up, and then sat down for a nicely-lit, formal sit-down interview.  While I was getting made up, I was chatting with the camera guys.  They were DC-based freelancers, so we tossed some names around.  We both knew people that the other person had heard of, but we didn’t have any mutual friends.

A producer sat down and interviewed me.  He was incredibly expressive…I think trying to draw emotion out of me.  It work–he got me to look like a bubbly idiot.  “Who wants to be a millionaire?  Phhhh…who doesn’t?!”

As far as I can tell, this promo has never run, with me or without me.  Thank God.

Post card

A few weeks later, I got a post card in the mail.  I was officially in the contestant pool, and I could be called any time in the next two years to be on the show.

 

***

I may or may not get to post again before the show actually airs, but I’m planning to write two more posts about my Millionaire experience.  One will be about “The Call,” how I prepared, and my long day in the green room in NYC.  The other will explain what my thought processes were for each question I faced.