Danielle Hollander lives next door to her grandmother, Ruth Grant, in Gainesville, and for years the two women have watched “Wheel of Fortune” together.
“I’m her granny, and she’s always come here and watched that show with me,” Grant said. “She was always pretty good at it and I’d say, ‘Danielle, you ought to get on that show.’”
Little did Grant know Hollander was signed up for the “Wheel Watchers Club,” to know when the show would be auditioning contestants in Georgia.
“My grandmother and I always watched it,” Hollander said. “She’d been telling me I needed to go on there. My grandpa had recently passed away, and I was trying to do something to cheer her up.”
Hollander, who filmed an episode of the show that will air Jan. 15, started by submitting an audition video. She didn’t tell anyone she had submitted it, “in case I didn’t get called back.”
But she did get the call to audition at the Omni Hotel in Atlanta, and she brought her mother and grandmother with her.
“I went with her down there and there was about 70 of them,” Grant said. “She made the top 20, and then they let her know a few weeks later that they’d chosen her to be on.”
The audition started with a one-on-one interview. Once she made the top 20, Hollander was broken into smaller groups of five for mock episode auditions.
Hollander was getting ready to leave the country when she got word she would be on “Wheel of Fortune” in November.
“I left to go on a cruise when my grandmother called me and said, ‘You got the letter in the mail!’” she said.
The family had about two weeks’ notice to fly to California for three days in mid-November. Hollander arrived on set at about 6:45 a.m. for hair, makeup and some practice wheel spins.
“We met Vanna White,” Hollander said. “She actually came by the dressing room while they did the hair and makeup for you. I was going to the bathroom when she came by, so I was walking right by her across the studio. She stopped and said, ‘Hi, I’m Vanna,’ and I kind of went, ‘Oh! Hi!’”
Each day, the show tapes about six episodes. Hollander filmed the fifth episode that day and was in the audience for all the other tapings.
“It’s kind of an honor to even get picked to be on it,” Grant said.
Hollander said the filming experience was eye-opening, and both “bigger and smaller” than she expected.
“It’s so different in person,” she said. “Everything seems a lot smaller in person, because on TV everything seems so big. But it was big, too. It was overwhelming.”
Hollander said the wheel was much smaller in size than she expected, but she was told it weighs about 2,400 pounds.
“It was really something to see,” Grant said. “We were all in the audience, and I enjoyed it very much.”
Hollander called the filming experience “a dream come true.” Her episode will air at 7 p.m. Jan. 15.
“We’re all going to get together and have a little party that night that she’s on,” Grant said. “We’ll get the family together and watch.”