Yep, that’s me. Stood in front of Bradley Walsh on a national prime time quiz show, frantically trying to remember what Christmas song the lyrics, ‘Where the treetops glisten and children listen’ come from. You’re probably wondering how I got into this situation.
Hello. My name is Hannah, and I was a contestant on ITV’s The Chase, which aired on March 6th, 2019. I won’t lie, this is a deep-harboured secret that I’ve kept under wraps for nearly six months at this point, and it’s practically been eating me alive. However, as the episode was broadcast to tons of eager viewers across the UK, I thought it’d be stupid for me not to talk about my experience on the infamous quiz show.
Let’s rewind back to February 2018. I was still in my previous job, hating life and feeling like I needed a breath of fresh air. The Chase had always been one of my favourite programmes; it was practically a given in second year of university that me and my flatmates would sit down together and binge every episode over a cuppa. I had a free night and no hope in life, so I decided to put in an application. I went full-on whacky, gushing over every single chaser (because genuinely, I love them all), praying that my slightly hysterical words would stand me out from the rest of the crowd.
We now jump into the summer of the same year, where I received a phone call at my new job from a random London number. Now, I don’t normally answer calls from contacts I don’t know, but for whatever reason, this time I was compelled.
When I heard the words, “Good morning, this is Chris from ITV’s The Chase here”, I pretty much lost all my shit.
Following a quick chat about myself (where I answered some impromptu quick-fire questions that I didn’t do well in, foreshadowing what was to come), I then attended an audition in Southbank, where I was chosen to be a contestant on the show for real.
I really do have to give massive props to the production team; they were incredibly lovely and transparent throughout the whole process, and really made you feel at ease in what was an extremely surreal situation. Not everybody was successful in making it through that first audition, but the team handled the rejections with a lot of grace, encouraging participants to come back and give it another shot.
Fast forward to October, and I was pegging it through King’s Cross station to jump on a train to Elstree Studios. Prior to this, I'd tried to boost my general knowledge through various apps and Google searching, but there’s only so much you can do to beat a chaser. I figured that I’d either get lucky, or I wouldn’t.
After being dropped off at the studios and meeting my fellow contestants, I had a whale of a time wandering around the star-studded lot, hoping to get a glimpse of Bruno Tonioli somewhere (Strictly Come Dancing was also filming at this time, another one of my guilty pleasures). After some prepping and recapping from the prod team on being enthusiastic and knowing the rules, the four of us were whisked off to make-up, so we didn’t look like ghosts under the glaring stage lights.
I even got my own dressing room to get changed, which was just down the hall from George Ezra’s band’s room (am I famous yet?). I can’t even tell you, this was one of the most nerve-wracking waits of my entire life. It felt like trying to do last-minute revision for an exam, where the syllabus consisted of literally everything. I was recounting all the random facts that I could, hoping that at least one of them would come in useful.
Spoilers: they wouldn’t.
Fun fact: Those stools were hard to balance on. I kept getting scared that I would topple off it in excitement
Walking onto the set and seeing my name on the contestants table was absolutely hilarious. This was the point in the day where I began to disassociate with my surroundings. It all felt like an extremely bizarre trip, and I wasn’t sure that I was taking anything in to be honest. That increased tenfold when the legend himself Bradley Walsh walked out.
The episode was actually filmed pre-Doctor Who Series 11, but regardless, I can now say that I officially met a Tardis companion. But let me tell you, Bradders is so much more than that. He was an absolute gent, remembering everyone’s names and constantly joking around on set, especially when he screwed up.
For anyone wondering, the format of the taping is more or less exactly how you see it in the show. We filmed all our intros, and one by one went up to face the chaser. The reaction you see from me once I see The Sinnerman step out is genuine; and let me say that Paul was extremely kind to me throughout the whole process.
He wasn’t kind however to my fellow contestant Carl, who was first up and took the lower offer, despite getting a cool £5,000 in the cash builder. I’d like to give my thoughts on this choice in the form of a visual cue, with my, Kerry's and Mark's reactions:
I think that says it all tbh.
After that debacle - and then the lovely Kerry being knocked out - I was pretty shaken. All the previous confidence I had was completely wiped, and once it was my turn to stand in front of Brad and chat about myself, I was drifting through the metaphorical wind.
I was however extremely grateful that I got the chance to mention my blog. It was probably the best thing that came out of the whole show; I had so many viewers get in contact and give my site some love. It was honestly so humbling that people thought my work was of interest, and that Brad seemed to think so too!
Then it was time for the cash builder. The time where everything went tits up. I got my first question right and thought I was off to a good start, but it only takes getting one wrong to throw you off. By the time I was halfway through, I was barely even listening to what Brad was saying. I had zero idea what was going on. I was a complete and utter fool - the picture at the start of this article sums it up really.
This segment of the show has haunted me for a while. I knew exactly what a bimbo I looked like; and I was dreading the reactions of the public, certain that I would receive hate from all over. Fortunately for me, most antagonistic behaviour was directed towards my fellow contestant, Carl. My flatmate did however find one comment, and it was too witty not to share;
“She’s dating a guy called Joe because that’s the only name she can spell.”
Fair play, Twiitter. Fair play.
Once I got to the board, I chose to go straight down the middle. Partially because I wasn't feeling so trusting in my abilities, and partially because I didn’t really want to split a big cash prize with someone who went low.
I'm not bitter at all.
Being under such pressure, several times I misread the question, or forgot about everything I knew. Honestly, I got down to the bottom step by pure luck. Most of the questions were geared towards people slightly older than me, so I was at a disadvantage. But I did my best under intense circumstances, and I was quite proud that I even got as far as I did.
The classic "OMGIGOTITRIGHT"/"I still can't believe I'm standing next HRH Bradley Walsh" face
Even when I got knocked out and walked down the ‘dreaded step of doom’, the production team were incredibly supportive, greeting me with a tin of celebrations and cuppa to ease my sorrows whilst I watched the rest of the episode unfold. I still felt alright leaving the studios - it was only the next day in the shower that I had a full-on breakdown.
You think I'm joking.
The day the episode aired, I only told a few select people to tune in. As for myself? I turned my phone on airplane mode, tried to answer my work emails and pretended that my dopey face wasn’t being broadcast to millions of people across the UK. It wasn’t until after the show had finished that I opened my device to a flood of messages from loved ones and strangers alike.
All in all, the experience was certainly one I’ll never forget; simultaneously incredible and humiliating. The worst part was waiting to see the reactions of everyone around me, but I was pleasantly surprised by the level of support that everyone gave. Of course it was a shame not to get any money, but to be honest that wasn’t why I applied to the show in the first place. I wanted to be a contestant on my favourite quiz show, fulfill a life goal by being on national TV and meet the amazing Bradley Walsh, and I did all of those things.
...I just didn’t think about the crippling anxiety that it would leave me with afterwords. LOL. But you've gotta laugh.
If you're viewing this post as a prospective applicant to show, here are some pearls of wisdom from someone whose been there and done it:
Make your application form as detailed and personal as possible. This means including lots of fun facts about yourself, so think about the weird and wonderful things you’ve done and write about that
If you’re invited to an audition, you may have to take time off of your job on short notice, so just be honest and hope that your boss will understand that it’s a bloody good opportunity
In your audition, stay enthusiastic and excited about the show. Try to think about what producers will want to see on screen. AKA - Don't be dull :)
If you’re successful, for god sake, do more revision than I did
Soak up the experience; you’ll probably only be there once. Even if it's terrible, look at the fun side of it
Don’t EVER take the low offer (sorry Carl)
Banter with Brad and have fun. He's such a good laugh and will make you feel ten times better, no matter what's happening
If you're nervous, remember that every other contestant probably is as well and you can have a stiff drink after the taping is over
Try not to worry too much about the reactions of viewers; it’s more likely that they’ll be excited to see you on the telly as opposed to judging your actual performance - the exception being if you take the low offer (sorry again Carl).
So, thanks for reading. I hope I made you laugh, or gave you some good pointers for applying. But for now, you have been caught, and for you The Chase is over.