Sophomore Sean Holiday has always loved watching game shows on television, berating contestants who miss questions and thinking he could do a better job. The 19-year-old’s dream came true when he qualified this fall to be a contestant on ABC’s trivia show, “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?”
Holiday grew up in Rancho Cucamongo, Calif., a suburb of Los Angeles, and majors in international affairs. At first glance, he said he does not look like “one of those dorky kids who knew every state capital and random facts that do not have real-life application.” With spiked brown hair, bright green eyes and a flawless smile, Holiday looks like he belongs in a boy band rather than on a game show.
Holiday first tested his trivia abilities when he tried out for “Jeopardy” at age 17. A year later, he tried out for “The Price is Right” with a friend, but his friend got picked for the game and walked away with $1,000 and a dishwasher, which he later sold on eBay.
“Third time’s a charm,” said Holiday, although he declined to disclose the results of the episode, set to air between April 21 and 26 on ABC.
Holiday said he decided to try out for “Who Wants to Be A Millionaire?” after his mom saw him watching the show in the family’s living room and realized his potential.
“Who Wants to Be A Millionaire” premiered in the United States in 1999 as an hour-long show with host Regis Philbin who also hosts the talk show “LIVE with Regis and Kelly.” In 2003, a half-hour version with host Meredith Vieira of “The View” replaced the original show.
Show contestants take turns in the “hot seat,” attempting to answer multiple choice questions of increasing difficulty toward an ultimate $1 million prize.
In September, Holiday went to New York to take a 30-question multiple choice test. Out of 50 potential contestants, Holiday was one of six who passed the test and interviewed with the show’s producers.
Holiday said the show’s producers called him in October to say he qualified as a contestant for the game show and would need to return to New York.
Holiday arrived at ABC studios the next month.
“(The other contestants) were really nice and not competitive at all,” he said.
The show was not scheduled to tape until later in the day, and Holiday said his sister and his friends sat in the studio audience to support him.
“It was really tiring to wait for six hours,” he said. “I was really nervous, but once I walked onto the set I felt totally calm.”
During the taping, producers requested that Holiday and the host pretend to be prom king and queen.
“On my test there was a section to put down personal achievements and I wrote down that I had been the prom king at my high school,” he said. “So the producers asked me if I could wear my crown during the show.”
Holiday said he began to doubt himself as the questions got more difficult during the taping, but he adopted the attitude of “what’s meant to be is meant to be.”
“I feel that I was meant to get on this show,” he said. “And as for the questions, in the end it all comes down to luck.”