Confidence and luck helped Justin Bowers get into the “Hot Seat” on Who Wants to be a Millionaire?
(reprinted from Temple Times, Vol. 32, No. 16, January 31, 2002)
What did it take to get Temple student Justin Bowers on national television? Is he an athlete? An actor? A news reporter? Or a possible millionaire?
Is that your final answer?
Tune in, Temple. This talented Owl will be a contestant on the “College Edition” of the popular ABC show Who Wants to be a Millionaire? next week.
The two-part telecast will air on February 4 at 8 p.m. and February 7 at 9 p.m. Bowers believes he is the cliffhanger contestant, still in the “Hot Seat” when the first show ends.
But he’s pretty laid back about it; after all, he already knows how the show will end.
“It was very surreal,” said the English major, who in his excitement had trouble sleeping the night before the taping. “We were to go down to the lobby of the hotel at quarter to seven, but I woke up on my own before 5 a.m. I went ahead and got up, but ended up running on adrenaline the whole day and felt completely overwhelmed.”
Bowers was one of 14 students selected in a nationwide search for contestants last fall. He had originally joined a general audition that didn’t conflict with his class schedule—but he ended up missing class anyway.
“I was watching the news, and they made an announcement for open auditions at the 12th and Market streets Marriott Hotel,” said Bowers, who is one credit shy of junior status at Temple. “It was scheduled for noon, but I waited in a line of 250 people for almost two hours before they finally let us in.”
After a short introduction about the show and the audition process, everyone sat down to take a written exam.
“It had all sorts of questions about history, literature and everything across the board. We had 12 minutes to do it,” Bowers explained. “They only passed about 30 people—and as they read off the numbers, they read off mine.”
He didn’t have much time to be excited, however. He had to fill out some paperwork, and then he was ushered in to speak with the producers. When they saw Bowers was a Temple student, they mentioned the upcoming college edition. Sure enough, a few weeks later, he was backstage at ABC Studios in New York City being introduced to Millionaire host Regis Philbin.
“Seeing everything behind the scenes, like how small the studio actually is, all the stuff they have to do and all the interesting technologies that they have, was fascinating,” said Bowers, a Doylestown native who now lives in East Falls.
All he wanted—indeed, all he expected—was to win a Fastest Finger round and land his chance to face-off against Philbin.
“I went out there and I . . . just did it,” said Bowers, hesitating as if he still didn’t quite
believe it. “I don’t know if it was luck or confidence or a little bit of both, but it worked out.”
Once he was actually onstage, however, it wasn’t long before the pressure kicked in, Bowers said.
“I had no idea what I was doing up there,” said Bowers, whose fatigue didn’t help. “I started to feel the pressure the further I got into the game. All that music you hear when you watch the TV show is really loud in the studio when you’re actually up there.
“And, as you’re trying to think, there’s all these lights shining right in your face from every imaginable angle,” he continued.
According to Bowers, however, there were frequent breaks that you don’t see on the final edit.
“Regis would lean over and ask, ‘How are you feeling?’ I’d answer, but I didn’t get to really talk to him that much,” Bowers said. “There would be people running around touching up his makeup, producers talking about what we were going to do next, and so on.”
While Bowers can’t disclose his winnings prior to the airing of the show, he did say that he was pleased with his performance.
“I’ve totally had my 15 minutes of fame,” said Bowers, an aspiring writer. “And I think I was actually on there for all of 15 minutes. Now I’m just going to fade away into obscurity, but it was a lot of fun.” — Helen H. Thompson
Who Wants to Be a Millionaire: The College Edition, a special two-episode telecast, airs Monday, February 4 (8-9 p.m.) and Thursday, February 7 (9-10 p.m.), on the ABC Television Network. You can match wits with Bowers by logging on to abc.com at the beginning of the Millionaire telecast each night and clicking on the yellow ‘Enhanced TV’ button to launch an interactive gaming application.