BRANFORD — Town native Milissa Bruckshaw says her family “always joked” about her getting a chance to appear as a contestant on Wheel Of Fortune.
Now everyone can see the college student take a spin on the giant wheel at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 18 on WTNH Channel 8.
The Branford native had stars in her eyes during the taping at the long-lived show’s studio in Los Angeles, where she is a student at California State University.
Although Bruckshaw has long watched the show with her mom, Stacy Bruckshaw, who lives in Branford, she said she was not prepared for the rush of being a contestant on the iconic game show.
“I was shocked to be there,” Bruckshaw said. “It was being on the actual stage – it felt a like a weird dream. It was a strange experience and it was really awesome.”
The show, which she and her mother “have been watching it since before I can remember,” is “kind of like a tradition my whole life pretty much,” she said. “We always joked about me going on it one day.”
But being there was a lot different than watching from her living room.
“Oh my gosh, it’s nowhere near like it is watching from home,” Bruckshaw said. “The whole process is so stimulating. There’s all the lights — there’s the people around you and everything.”
COVID-19 protocols are in place during the taping and there is no live audience, according to a spokesperson for the show. However, there are other contestants and the television crew. Since they tape several episodes in one day, the number of contestants is fairly large.
At the taping, there was a surprise in store: “When you’re there, the board is so much bigger I found myself looking back and forth to see the whole thing.”
But the years watching helped, she said.
“I told my mom I was so lucky that we had watched our whole life before I went on the show,” she said. “Because it was so overstimulating to be in the lights and all that.”
“It felt like I blacked out…like I didn’t know what was happening but I still made it through,” she said.
“I knew the rules, like I didn’t made mistakes,” she said. Her advice to would-be contestants: “The biggest thing is make sure you buy your vowels so that you can keep control of the wheel” and “think fast.”
Bruckshaw applied by submitting a 60 minute video introducing herself to https://www.wheeloffortune.com/join/be-a-contestant. She later auditioned via ZOOM a process that she found “easy and fun.”
Meeting Vanna White and legendary host Pat Sajak was a thrill for her, she said.
“Oh my gosh,” she said, recalling what she told them, “‘I‘ve watched this show forever and it’s really awesome to be here with you guys’ — and I’m sure they hear this all the time and are sick of hearing that.”
“They’re both nice and supportive through the whole thing,” she added.
She was there for several hours and contestants took turns practicing spinning the wheel.
“We kept reading that the wheel is so heavy,” she said. “I was short so it was a little bit tough.”
And, she did wear her lucky tiger’s eye bracelet that she wears at the casinos here in Connecticut.
For those thinking about going on a game show, she advised, “Go for things even if they seem weird or out of the box … like being on a game show. Be present as much as possible. Have as much fun as possible.”
Her family will be watching Thursday evening, with her mother, Stacy, and her grandfather Bill Bruckshaw of Branford and her other grandparents in Clinton, Donna and Pete Gambordella.
“They’re so excited, everybody’s been calling me and everything,” she said. She couldn’t share any spoilers about the show.
While Bruckshaw doesn’t remember the “I’m a Wheel Watcher” jingle from the 1980s, she is familiar with the catch-phrase as she and her mother are members of the Wheel Watchers Club.
But, she clearly enjoyed saying the show’s instantly-recognized intro: “Whee-eel of Fortune!” she cried over the phone from her apartment in L.A.