Julie Podlesni took an online "Jeopardy!" quiz on a friend's suggestion last February but didn't expect it to amount to anything.
But after a phone call and in-person audition last summer, the 28-year-old federal law clerk and her boyfriend were headed to California.
The Nokesville, Va., native came to Chattanooga in 2010 to work for U.S. District Judge Harry "Sandy" Mattice. As an undergraduate at the College of William and Mary, she majored in biology and government. Those subjects, a law degree and a background in high school quiz bowls likely helped her get through the process of landing on the popular TV game show.
Her "Jeopardy!" appearance, filmed in November, aired Jan. 9.
Q: Why did you to want to be on "Jeopardy!"?
A: I wasn't sure about doing it because I didn't know if I wanted to be on TV.
I had a lot of people say, "If you don't go, that's terrible. You have to do this." I've always been a nerd, so I've always liked quiz bowl, challenge bowl, stuff like that. I think part of it, too, it can be tough being a woman and being competitive, and that's the one area where it's OK to just go for it.
Q: Could you explain the audition process?
A: I took the online quiz and was contacted a few months later to attend the audition. The entire audition was about four hours including waiting. You take a test and then a five-minute practice round and brief on-camera interview. They tell you that you'll be in the contestant pool for 18 months and they will call if you've been selected to go on the show.
Q: How did you prepare for the competition?
A: I watched [the show] a lot at the gym because it's on when I usually go to the gym and it distracts me from the horrible reality of having to work out. So my "Jeopardy!" watching was as reliable as my gym going was, which is to say not as much as it should have been. I joke that I know lots of stuff at a very shallow level. I have very diverse interests.
Q: What was the actual competition like?
A: I had no idea what my score was for most of the game. I thought I was trailing abysmally, but when I watched it later, I realized that I was only trailing by $2,000 to $3,000 until Final Jeopardy.
Q: What were your best categories?
A: "The Labors of Hercules" and a category on grocery store items.
Q: How did you do?
A: I only missed two questions and the Final Jeopardy question and came in second.
Q: Even though you didn't win, was it an overall good experience?
A: Yes. Because I'm so afraid of looking like an idiot and so risk-averse. I was like: You have to try stuff; you have to do this.
Q: What advice would you give to someone interested in appearing on "Jeopardy!"?
A: There are these websites that give you all sorts of tips. And I didn't discover those until pretty late. But those would be super-useful. As far as how do you study to get on, I don't think you can because it's so general.
Todd South covers courts, poverty, technology, military and veterans for the Times Free Press. He has worked at the paper since 2008 and previously covered crime and safety in Southeast Tennessee and North Georgia. Todd’s hometown is Dodge City, Kan. He served five years in the U.S. Marine Corps and deployed to Iraq before returning to school for his journalism degree from the University of Georgia. Todd previously worked at the Anniston (Ala.) Star. Contact ...