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Southlake Style

Carroll Grad Competes on “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?”

Oct 13, 2016 11:13AM ● By Audrey Sellers

Arvind Venkataraman with host Chris Harrison

One of Southlake’s own is going for big bucks on “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?” Arvind Venkataraman, a 2012 Carroll graduate and founder of Apollo Tutors, will appear on the famous quiz show on October 14. Tune in to KTXA 21 at 6:30 p.m. to cheer him on! Here’s a sneak peek of the show. We caught up with Venkataraman to hear about his experience and just how he would spend a million bucks. 

Southlake Style: What was the selection process like? 

Venkataraman: It was a lot of fun and required a lot of discovery of both myself and working with different producers. About a week after I applied online, I got a call from ABC asking if I had time to chat. Next thing I knew, it was the screening interview and they scheduled a Skype interview for me to take the Millionaire Test, pretend like I was on TV, and then they asked me if I would high five or hug Chris, scream or dance. I said I’d do all of them.

After the Skype screening, they notified me that I was in the contestant’s pool and would be on the show some time in two years. Then finally, I got the call to come to Vegas to film the episode, and it was all trivia from there. Thousands of people take the test and hundreds are in the contestant pool. I honestly did not expect to get selected so quickly for this season.

SS: Tell us a little about your preparation for the show.

Venkataraman: My goal was to try to get immersed in a little bit of everything, but not spend too much time on one particular resource. I watched almost all the reruns from Chris Harrison’s version, as well as old episodes from past winners and from previous hosts. After a few weeks, I ran out of reruns and started watching the Indian version of “Who Wants to be a Millionaire” with my parents to keep practicing. I also used trivia apps on my phone to make my leisure time into trivia time.

My former debate coach Jason Warren was a quiz master at trivia nights in Dallas, so going to those really helped me practice some of the more obscure questions. Outside of trivia, I also studied my Greek roots, capitals, flags and top 10 lists to build some knowledge that I could use to get context clues. I also asked some of my tutors from Apollo Tutors for specific information on chemistry, math, biology and business to learn more from the experts.

SS: Any audition tips you can share?

Venkataraman: Don’t get too careful with trivia apps—they usually just ask for one specific fact. The questions on “Millionaire” usually require knowing one fact to filter through the answers and figure out the right answer. And have fun with the questions. Many people can get the trivia questions right, but the team also looks for your personality and the thought process to find the answer. Why are you uniquely the right person to be on the show versus all the other smart people? Be persistent. The whole audition process is kind of mysterious, and you have to follow up and stay on top of it to make sure you’re on track.

SS: Did any of the questions surprise you?

Venkataraman: Oh yeah! When they asked me which government agency’s training facility was in Quantico and where Priyanka Chopra plays Agent Alex Parrish, I immediately knew the answer. When I was a kid, I wanted to be an FBI agent, and Priyanka Chopra is also my favorite Bollywood actress. That question was almost serendipitous.

SS: How would you describe your overall experience?

Venkataraman: The whole experience was surreal and a lot of fun. The audition process was really intense and I wanted to put my best foot forward. But once we were in the studio and amongst the other contestants, it was a blast getting to know everyone.

SS: Were you nervous? Excited? Both?

Venkataraman: Both! Mainly excited but also nervous. I didn’t want to mess up on national television. Also, I’ve never worn makeup before and was worried that it was going to melt on me during the show. During our training, the producers mentioned that when you’re on the stage and the lights turn on, all the meat from your brain falls out—and that was definitely what it felt like when I first got out on the stage. But once the crowd started cheering, Chris started doing his announcements and the questions popped up, I was ready to roll.

SS: What’s Chris Harrison like in person?

Venkataraman: Chris Harrison is one of the most genuine people that I’ve met and was extremely friendly. He asked me about what I did and where I went to school, and he even recognized Southlake for our strong sports and academic programs. I was captain of the debate team. Turns out, Chris is also a Dallas native from Lake Highlands, and he lives a few miles down the road from my neighborhood.

SS: So, what would you do with $1 million?

Venkataraman: I would donate some to education charities because the achievement gap in education in the United States is a cause that is dear to me. I’d also give back to my parents for bringing me to life and bankrolling my education. My dream is to buy a parking garage and build a real estate empire of residential and parking garage properties.

SS: Anything else you’d like to mention?

Venkataraman: I want to thank my plus-one and fellow Carroll alum Tim Dominguez for preparing and going to the show with me. We’ve been friends since our days at Dawson Middle School. Also, the Bollywood / Quantico star Priyanka Chopra replied to my promo video. She thought my answer was hilarious! Day made.