Milford resident takes on ‘Jeopardy!’

'Jeopardy!' host Ken Jennings.

'Jeopardy!' host Ken Jennings.

Eric McCandless - Getty Images

MILFORD — Growing up in a household of “Jeopardy!” fans, Colleen Birney was amazed when she first stepped on the game show’s iconic set.

“It was everything I could have imagined,” she said. “It was so much fun.”

Mark Birney, Colleen’s father, said Colleen and her mother, Jan, are regular “Jeopardy!” watchers.

“Colleen, when she lived with us, would sit with her mother, and they would shout out the answers,” he said.

Even though Colleen is now an adult, the tradition still goes on. But, instead of shouting the answers, she and Jan text the answers to each other.

“I do think my mother should have gone up when I was younger because she is incredibly smart and got everything right, so it became a competition for me to see if I could beat her,” said Colleen.

Every year, Colleen would take the online Jeopardy! test for fun, and last summer, she received an email from the show inviting her to an audition.

“When you take the online test, you never hear how you do, and you don’t know if you passed it. So I was surprised to get an email from them inviting me to the show,” she said.

Before she flew out to California, she had to do a couple of Zoom interviews with the show's producers.

“One is just answering another online test, another one is you play a virtual form of ‘Jeopardy!’ with other people who are auditioning, and I think they do that to get your personality,” she said.

After the Zoom interviews, the producers to Colleen she was in the contestant pool but told her she might not hear back from them again.

“So I chalked it up as a fun experience to play ‘Jeopardy!’ with all these people, and around Easter time, I get a phone call from one of the producers and inviting me out to be a contestant on the show,” she said. “I had three weeks to get ready, book a hotel and get myself out there.”

When she received the call from the producers, she was not allowed to tell anybody, but she did tell her immediate family.

“My sister made the trip out to California with me,” she said. “But you can’t post anything on social media about it, and even after your film date, you can’t post anything about it or tell people until after the show sends you the promo pictures.”

“They sent me the promo pictures last week, and I filmed back in May, so it’s been a few months since I’ve been able to tell people,” Colleen added.

Her first surreal experience was when Colleen walked onto the studio lot.

“I’ve been to Disney World before, and I kind of felt like that,” she said. “On my actual tape day, they had us in the Wheel of Fortune set to do hair and makeup and seeing that was incredible, and then when we were on the actual ‘Jeopardy!’ stage, it was mind-blowing and felt unreal.”

The prep she did to practice for the show was children’s books.

“My mother was a school librarian, but she got me a bunch of children’s books to cram because you can absorb the information a little bit easier in that way,” she said. “I also played a lot of ‘Jeopardy!’ archive games online, and having to perform in front of people and focusing on doing the best for myself is how I got through it.”

Colleen said she can’t say the outcome of the episode, but encourages everyone to watch her on the show when it premiers on Wednesday, July 27.

“I would highly encourage who has any inkling to try got get on Jeopardy! to certainly do it,” she said. “It is the most rewarding, most fun and the coolest thing I have ever done in my life."