By Jenna Bagcal
Most people who are fans of the legendary game show “Jeopardy!” may never have the opportunity to appear on the show as a contestant. But Kristina Johnson from Flushing isn’t like most people.
The freelance writer and stay-at-home mother of two appeared on the Oct. 11 episode of America’s favorite quiz show, where contestants answer trivia questions that range in topic from current events and politics to obscure songs by one-hit-wonders.
Johnson went up against history podcaster and writer Patrick Wyman and three-day defending champion Alex Schmidt. After a solid first and second round of gameplay, the Flushing resident entered Final Jeopardy! with $8,000, but ultimately finished in third place after incorrectly answering the final question.
She took home a prize of $1,000, Wyman won $2,000 for second place and Schmidt finished in first place with a total of $28,001.
Johnson said that she’s been a fan of the show since she was a young girl and recalls when teachers at St. Andrew Avellino Catholic Academy would let the students play “Jeopardy!” on Fridays.
“That’s when I was able to feel popular because kids wanted to be on my team,” said Johnson, who was gifted at trivia even then.
Johnson’s long process to appear on the show started back in 2014, when she first took the online qualification test. After she passed, she was invited to an audition in Boston, but did not make it through to the live shows. Producers told her that there would be an 18-month period during which she could be called up to appear on the show, but she said she never received the callback.
Three years later in July 2017, Johnson gave it another shot and took the online test. She passed the second time around and was subsequently asked to audition in Manhattan.
“At that point, I was super pregnant, so I was probably more memorable,” shared Johnson.
She gave birth to her son soon after, but he fell ill at the time she was waiting for word back from “Jeopardy!” producers. She was called up and told she had been chosen as a contestant, but she said that by the time taping started her son was better.
Johnson said that the show’s producers had one rule: don’t post anything online.
“They tell you not to post anything on social media ahead of time, but you can tell your spouse and close family — as long as they don’t post anything on social media either,” she said.
The lifelong quiz show fan also shared that it was “surreal” to meet the show’s host Alex Trebek, especially after watching the show for so many years prior to becoming a contestant.
“You don’t spend a lot of time with him. They keep you separated because he gets the questions the morning of the show and has to go over them,” said Johnson who added that the only time the contestants could speak with Trebek is during the story sharing portion of the show.
What viewers don’t get to see at home is how personable the TV host is, as he would often walk over to the show’s audience to talk to them during commercial breaks. The Flushing resident remembers how impressed everyone in the audience was with Trebek for how “nice and generous” he was with his time.
“He’s very funny and just what you want him to be in real life,” Johnson said.
Johnson said she would watch the show when it aired at home with her family and was especially excited for her 2-year-old daughter, who already recognizes the “Jeopardy!” theme song, to see her on TV. She shares that she’s also excited to watch herself on TV and recalls the experience fondly.
“If you make it onto ‘Jeopardy!’ you’re definitely surrounded by ‘your people,’ said Johnson. “Everyone you meet on the show is like, ‘you’re awesome, you’re interesting, you’re cool.’”
Reach reporter Jenna Bagcal by e-mail at jbagc