Deanna Bendaw is excited to watch The Wall tonight at 7 on NBC.
"I'm really looking forward to seeing it because I have no idea what I said," she said, laughing during an interview Monday. "I just hope I don't embarrass my family."
There's probably little chance of that. It was her older sister, Ebony Wardlaw, who lives outside of Atlanta, who started the chain of events that got them on the new game show in the first place.
Bendaw (full name pronounced Dee-ahna Ben-dow) just moved to Cedar Hill after living in Oak Cliff for years. The Georgia native and graduate of Florida A&M University moved to Dallas in 2002.
"We are just one of those ridiculous reality TV-trivia junkie type people. My sister found the link on NBC.com. She was doing her weekly look online to see how she can become famous," she said, laughing again.
"She submitted our information and the next thing you know, we were being chosen. We had to submit a photo ... we did some video. It was a great opportunity. ... We just had such a great time."
The show can get really intense. A duo starts out together. But later, one of them is placed in isolation while the other answers trivia questions. If the answer is correct, they get to drop a giant green ball ball through a chute that sends it to a giant wall partitioned by dollar amounts that are added to the winning total. Get the answer wrong, and a red ball falls to deduct.
Thought it's a game show, and a thrilling one at that, The Wall has an altruistic motive. NBA superstar Lebron James and host Chris Hardwick serve as executive producers.
"It's more about celebrating the everyday person, the average person," Bendaw said. "Lebron James wanted to have a show that gave back to those who gave to their communities."
While she didn't get a chance to meet James at her taping, she said, "his fingerprints were all over it. This is definitely his baby."
She's hosting neighbors and friends for a watch party tonight.
"I'm really excited to see it air," she said. "I'm making tacos and we're just going to make a night of it. ... I tweeted him to let him know he's invited for tacos, too."
We had questions.
Is the wall as big as it seems?
"Oh my God, it is. Of course, in person it seems even more massive. They say it's four stories tall. Whatever you think you see on TV, in person it's even more overwhelming."
Some other game shows with questions like this require applicants to take a test. Did you have to take one?
"No. I think it's because you have the mix of trivia and luck. It's more about celebrating the everyday person, the average person ... People who have done great things in their communities and who give back. Lebron James wanted to have a show that gave back to those who gave to their communities. So that's more of the focus of this rather than how much trivia you really know."
Were the questions easier or harder than you thought they would be?
"I thought there were some that were pretty tough. It just runs the gamut. You didn't know what could be asked. The fact that it could come from any theme or subject kept you on your toes."
Did the host have any tips for you?
"First of all, Chris Hardwick is the cutest. I just adore him. I've loved him since he was like on MTV and Singled Out with Jenny McCarthy, way back in the day. When I saw him on stage, I was like, [squeal]. He's just fun. He's like the fun leader in charge, just making sure we're relaxed. I wasn't out front with him the whole time. So I didn't get as much time with Chris as I would have loved to. I probably would have stalked him... but he was great."
Did your sister have to write in what she's done or what you've done for the community?
"That came out, just in the process of 'What do you do? Tell us about your community connection,' that kind of thing. We just were talking about it. We didn't know that the show was gonna be what it has become. It's been great. It's such a great thing. My sister's an epidemiologist. She studies public health and public health epidemics. She's been doing that all across the state of Georgia for years. And then I've been fortunate to be able to do some great things all over the country, really, based on the different positions I've had in public relations, and contacts I've had. And so, one of the things you'll learn about me is just this really cool thing that I got to do in Detroit. I have a great friend who runs an organization called Lupus Detroit. Her name is Sharon Harris.
"She posted on Facebook saying, 'Vote for this lady, she needs a new roof. If she doesn't get a new roof on her home , she's going to get evicted'. So, of course I voted. Why wouldn't you? I circled back with Sharon and asked did that lady win that roof. And, she didn't.
"Of course, being a lupus warrior she had to decide between roof or medication. And that just didn't sit well with me. And I was able to call some friends in Detroit and some corporate leaders that I know ... and next thing you know I'm organizing a "Motown Makeover" and several corporations and citizens and even one of the Pistons came out to not only help get her a new roof, but medication, a gift card so she could have medication.
"You don't know what you can do as one person. You know, it was just one of those moments of one thing, one idea, one phone call, just as a person, just help out your fellow man and this happened and this grew. It just grew.
"I guess that was a story that NBC was pretty proud to share that and I guess Lebron James liked it as well. I know a Dallas girl helping out Detroit may not gel. ... I never thought that was a big deal. It was just something to me that needed to be done."
And a story that needed to be told.