TALLMADGE – A local 2008 graduate will appear May 31 on "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?" at 3 p.m. on WKYC Channel 3.
Ian Manka, 27, is no stranger to game shows. When he visits his hometown, others remember him as the kid who appeared on Jeopardy's Holiday Kids Week when he was 12.
"I placed third out of three. I won $1,000 and a computer," Manka said. "It was a very good experience. Everyone was very excited."
Now Manka will be on "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?" hosted by Chris Harrison. The contestant must answer 14 multiple choice questions, and with each correct answer he adds to the amount of winnings with the chance to win $1 million.
If a contestant answers the fifth question, worth $5,000 correctly, the amount of money is guaranteed. The 10th question, worth $50,000, if answered correctly, is also guaranteed.
The contestant also has three lifelines. The 50:50 eliminates two wrong answers from the four multiple choice answers; the Ask the Audience allows the audience to key in their choice and the percentage is shown for the contestant; and a Plus 1 allows the contestant to bring someone to the studio and talk out the question.
In a phone interview, Manka was not allowed to reveal the results of the show he taped in July of 2017 in Las Vegas until after the show airs but shared other experiences that prepared him for the contest.
Manka graduated from Tallmadge High School as the valedictorian and has been gathering bits of information all his life, which made him a natural fit for a trivia show.
He graduated in 2012 from the University of Southern California with a bachelor's degree in business administration and a minor in cinematic arts. While attending USC, he was the executive producer of a game show, "Mind Games," at the student-run TV station, directing and writing for the show as well.
"In total, I produced, wrote, and directed 50 game show episodes and directed or produced an additional 300 episodes for the network," Manka said.
In addition, Manka regularly attends O'Brien's Pub Quiz in Los Angeles, the longest-running trivia night in Los Angeles (20 years and counting). He writes questions and hosts two to three times each year as part of the quizmaster rotation.
"Many regulars have appeared on at least one, if not multiple game shows including ‘Jeopardy!’ and ‘Who Wants to Be A Millionaire?’" Manka said.
Manka, who is the director of one of the college facilities at USC, will miss his own show when it airs while he helps with a 50th anniversary celebration of the building where he works. He hopes family and friends watch back home in Tallmadge, which he visits annually during the Christmas holidays.
"It's interesting how the city has changed," Manka said. "My graduating class was the last in the former high school. Tallmadge is coming into the 21st century with all of these new facilities to prepare students for the future."
Manka was a member of the robotics club and competed locally on Academic Challenge.
"I'm used to storing up knowledge," Manka said. "Trivia games are about quick recall and coming up with answers or working through a problem."
His Plus 1 lifeline was Patrick Friel, a regular at O'Brien's Pub trivia night, a two-time "Jeopardy!" champion and a contestant who won $100,000 on "Millionaire" earlier this season.
Manka auditioned for "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?" in Los Angeles by passing a multiple-choice test and being interviewed by the producer who wanted to know why he wanted to be on the show and what he would do with a million dollars. Test questions were videotaped, and the executive producer called about being on the show, which was taped in Las Vegas.
"I've had pretty good exposure to the spotlight, but if you think about it too much, it will freak you out," Manka said. "But with my training being around television cameras and studios, I was comfortable."
Manka had served as a Plus 1 lifeline in the previous season and was familiar with the process.
"As you step on stage, your heart starts beating," Manka said. "You take a deep breath and play the game and try to win a million dollars."
Confidence is necessary to win, he said.
"As I was getting set up to appear on the show, the stage manager went through the last-minute instructions," he said.
He asked, "Do you have any questions? What are you going to do next?"
Manka said he answered, "I'm going to win a million dollars."
The stage manager said he was the first contestant who gave the right answer.
"That's the confidence you need in yourself to win," he said. "It's all up to you."
In Manka's free time, he loves to travel and has been to 60 countries and flown more than 750,000 miles in the past eight years. His destination is often chosen by airfare deals.
He likes natural settings and said a couple of his favorite places were the numerous waterfalls at Iguazu Falls between Brazil and Argentina and the cliffs at Forde Preikestolen in Norway.
"It's not just the sights but the people and different cultures," Manka said. "Sometimes I get lost and end up in another place than planned. It's magical."
Iceland is on his destination list, and the only continent he hasn't visited is Antarctica.
If he wins enough money on "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?," he may be traveling soon.
Reporter Laura Freeman can be reached at 330-541-9434 or firstname.lastname@example.org