IU McKinney Student Takes Spin on Wheel of Fortune


Russell Hollis, a third-year evening student at the law school, was watching Wheel of Fortune with his wife, Jennifer, one evening in May 2012 after final exams, and she noticed he was doing well on the puzzles. She encouraged him to fill out the game show’s online contestant form.

“I thought that if I won anything, it would be a great thing to help pay for law school,” he said. Hollis works as a deputy trustee in the Warren Township Trustee’s office.

Hollis was contacted by people who work for the game show, asking him to take part in auditions happening in June in Louisville, Kentucky. He went to the audition before leaving for his summer externship in Cook County Circuit Court in Chicago. His puzzle prowess was not on display at the audition, Hollis said, and he didn’t believe he did well enough to warrant another phone call from the game show’s organizers.

He was wrong. Two weeks later, he was notified that he had been chosen to be a contestant.

“I think they were looking for people who could clearly project their voices, were energetic and fun, and could portray that on television,” Hollis said.

Hollis and his wife flew to Los Angeles for the taping in September. Contestants have to travel to the taping at their own expense. A week’s worth of shows are taped each day, and Hollis’s group was the last show of the day to be filmed. The show Hollis appeared on is scheduled to be aired on November 23, 2012. Prior to the show’s debut, he was not able to divulge what he won, if anything.

However, what he could say was this: “I did not come home empty handed!” and he said this with a smile.

It was a great experience, Hollis said. Pat Sajak and Vanna White look just as they do on television, and are very nice and polite, he said. Sajak was very approachable, Hollis said, adding that Sajak’s personality off-camera is the same as it is on-camera.

“I was able to crack a few jokes with him off-camera,” Hollis said.

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