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'Who Wants To Be A Millionaire': BSU student to be contestant on trivia game

Jacqui Gillis, a Bemidji State University sophomore from Chicago, receives applause from "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire" host Meredith Vieira and the audience during a taping of the trivia game show last fall in New York City. The show will air Thursday. Photo Courtesy of Valleycrest Productions Ltd.

Jacqui Gillis will make her TV debut Thursday.

The Bemidji State University sophomore will appear on "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire," a trivia game show hosted by Meredith Vieira.

Gillis told "Millionaire" she is a real "trivia geek" and her opportunity to be on the show was the dream of a lifetime.

"I loved it," the 19-year-old said in a telephone interview this week from Chicago, where she is home for winter break.

Gillis, who cannot reveal the results of the show before it airs Thursday, flew to New York City last fall for the Sept. 22 taping of the show.

"It was really fun," said Gillis, who is pursuing a mass communication major with emphases in advertising and journalism and a minor in history at BSU. "Everybody was so nice."

Gillis auditioned for the show last summer in Detroit.

"Me and my mom drove up to Detroit," she said.

The two had been watching television together when they learned about the "Millionaire" auditions. After traveling from Chicago to Detroit, Gillis stood in a long line of potential contestants to take a test. She passed, and began the interview process. The wait then began to see if she would be selected as a contestant.

On move-in day last fall at BSU, Gillis was talking with her new resident assistant when her phone rang. It was a New York phone number; she was selected for the show.

"I was so excited," she said.

Gillis ran to the parking lot where her parents were waiting to go out to lunch with her and she told them the news.

"They were so excited," Gillis said.

Her parents, Roy and Shannon Gillis, drove from Chicago to New York City and met her there the night before the taping. They sat in the "Millionaire" audience during the show.

Gillis said she wanted her father to be her sports "Phone A Friend," but he insisted on sitting in the audience with her.

"He knows everything there is to know about sports," she said.

Her three potential "Phone A Friends" were her aunt Diane McGowan of Chicago; uncle Bruno Gervasi of Lockport, Ill.; and sister Jillian Gillis of Chicago. Also, for the show's airing this week, Time Magazine contributor and LA Times columnist Joel Stein was available to contestants via a live face-to-face Skype video call as the resident "Expert" for the "Ask the Expert" lifeline.

Gillis, who said she has always been good at trivia games while watching them on television, began sharpening her trivia knowledge even before she was selected to be a contestant on "Millionaire."

"Before we left for the audition for the show, my dad would send me e-mails with random facts," she said.

On the flight to New York City and in her hotel room the night before the taping, Gillis looked through Trivial Pursuit cards.

"I just tried to look up random trivia and stuff I wouldn't normally know," she said.

After arriving at the studio, she waited in a room with other contestants before going on the show. One by one, the contestants were called onto the set.

When her name was called, Gillis entered the set and watched one of the other contestants face a list of questions from Vieira. Gillis was next.

"It was really cool just to be on TV," she said.

Gillis said Vieira was very nice. In between commercials, she said, Vieira coached her along, saying "You're doing great."

When the show airs Thursday, Gillis will be watching with her entire family at her aunt's house.

The show will air at 4 p.m. Thursday on KSTP-TV and at 7 p.m. Thursday on KSTC.TV.