Sarah Ellis, who moved to New York nearly four years ago from her native Platteville, WI, was vacationing in Los Angeles when she had her opportunity.
Ellis and her three friends decorated t-shirts and made their way down to show. After all, Ellis said her childhood dream was to be in the audience. She never imagined that she’d actually get a chance to be featured on the show.
According to Ellis, every studio audience member is interviewed as they wait on line to get into the taping. An interviewer asks questions such as where are you from or are you excited to be here, and Ellis felt like she nailed it.
"There's a woman with a clipboard behind him and when she sees something that perks her interest she writes a few notes down,” Ellis said. "When she got to our group, she started writing like crazy. Everyone in line with us said you're going to get on.”
Eventually, Ellis and her group were placed near a set of cameras, which she added were strategically placed at good angles so people would look better on television.
She was the first contestant chosen as well as the first contestant to guess correctly on the first prize shown at the beginning of the game. When she played One Away alongside host Drew Carey, she was able to pull off a feat that hadn’t occurred in years. She correctly guessed the cost of a Mini Cooper on her first try, and won it.
“You guess the prize per digit one digit away from the number they show you; so for example, if the first digit of the five digit number was 3, I would choose a 2 or a 4, and we would go down the line of digits,” Ellis said. "The chances of guessing the price of the prize are 1 out of 32 chances, and I guessed this number right the very first try and people were going nuts. After I won, all of the stagehands and crew backstage came to congratulate me saying they haven't seen it in years.”
The entire experience was magical, Ellis said, emphasizing that everyone on the show, from Carey to producers to those working with the audience, were nice and "knew they were going to make a few people’s lives extra special."
As for her own stage presence, Ellis said that she only had about two hours of sleep the previous night, so she was a bit delirious the entire time and didn’t remember what exactly happened until she rewatched the episode last week.
"It was quite a fun episode because I was really playing with Drew up there, and when I won I laid my back out on the hood of the car like I was in an 80s music video and somehow slithered on the floor for a while,” Ellis said. "I also picked up Drew Carey!"