Phoenixville scientist set to appear on ‘Jeopardy!’

Bridget McNulty, an analytical chemist from Phoenixville, will compete on “Jeopardy!” Monday, Dec. 12. Here she stands next to the show’s host, Alex Trebek.

PHOENIXVILLE >> Here’s the clue: This Phoenixville resident could be crowned the newest “Jeopardy!” champion. Answer: Who is Bridget McNulty?

An analytical chemist at GlaxoSmithKline, and previously at Shire in Wayne, McNulty, 43, was a recent contestant on “America’s favorite quiz show.” Now fans of “Jeopardy!” will have a chance to see how she performed, as the episode is set to air locally on 6ABC WPVI-TV on Monday, Dec. 12. Check local listings for additional information.

A fan of the game show since she was a kid, McNulty said she can remember shouting out the answers at the TV screen when she would watch with her family. She always wanted to try out for the show because she had a knack for remembering random facts.

In April 2015, McNulty got her chance after she took the show’s online exam. The test has users answer 50 questions as quickly as they can.

“They don’t show you the answers,” she said. “So you don’t know how you did.”

From there the show narrows down the number of test takers down to about 3,000 people based on their performance. About six months after she took the test, the show emailed McNulty and invited her to an in-person audition in Boston.

When she arrived, she took a 50 question written test and then all 30 or so contestants there for the audition were divided into groups of three.

“You do practice games with real buzzers like on the show,” she said. That’s followed by a mock interview and then everyone is sent home. “Again, you don’t have any idea how you’ve done … I probably did OK. I thought I was in the middle of the pack.”

McNulty and the other contestants were then placed into an 18-month contestant pool where the producers could call on them at any time to be on the show. This past August her cell phone rang with a call coming from a Los Angeles phone number. She knew this was her lucky day.

“It was the first thing that popped into my head when I got a call from California,” she said.

They producers invited her to come out to Culver City, Calif., for the Aug. 31 taping. They suggested a hotel where most of the contestants stay, she said, so they were easy to spot in the lobby the next morning waiting for the shuttle bus to pick them up. The show asked everyone to be dressed for the show and have their hair done but no makeup on. Contestants are also asked to bring three outfits with them.

“It’s funny to see them in the lobby. You can tell. All these people in the lobby dressed up with extra clothes and no makeup on,” she said.

After the bus dropped them at the studio, producers ran through the show rules, followed by some practice games to make sure everyone feels comfortable for the real thing. The show tapes five episodes in a day, and McNulty said her game taped at around 11 a.m.

“It’s quite a machine; very organized,” she said. “They have it down to a system. I think there were 12 or 13 of us and then the winner continues on.”

The shows’ host Alex Trebek doesn’t meet the contestants until he walks out on stage for the taping.

“It was pretty exciting to see Alex (Trebek),” she said. “You walk to the stage with the studio audience and people are clapping. The coolest thing is when they announce your name. It’s like ‘Oh, my gosh, that’s me.’”

During commercial breaks, Trebek will talk to the audience and answer questions. Then, as fans know, there is segment of time when Trebek will interview the contestants based off of information they provided in a pre-interview.

“He can ask you whatever he wants,” she said. “You don’t know until he’s there in the moment. I was more nervous going into that more than the actual questions.”

Contestants not involved in the taping get to sit and watch the show from the audience too. When McNulty played the game she remembered Trebek being taller than she first thought.

“He didn’t look overly made up but was nicely dressed,” she said. Producers roll through the show episodes quickly and Trebek had a new wardrobe each time.

After the final episode taped it was time to go home. While she won’t say whether she became the next Jeopardy champion, she admitted she was happy with her performance.

“Even if I hadn’t made it past first audition, it was still a fun experience and a good excuse to go to California for a few days,” she said. “I’m very happy with the experience.”

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