After 37 years, Vanna White gave the iconic Wheel of Fortune wheel her first spin — and the moment carried weight, both literally and figuratively.
On Monday’s broadcast of the popular game show, White took over hosting duties from Pat Sajak for the first time after he had to undergo emergency surgery for a blocked intestine. In a clip from the episode, White, 62, said the wheel was “heavy” after giving it a whirl to determine the value of a consonant in the last puzzle of the night.
Though the wheel landed on a $500 wedge, White mistakingly thought it landed on the bankrupt spot. Just as she was about to spin it again, an off-camera producer stopped her.
“Oh no! I’m looking at the wrong arrow,” she said, before joking to the crowd, “How do you do this show?”
In an exclusive interview with PEOPLE, White says she “didn’t have a chance to prepare” for her solo debut and was “very nervous.”
“I literally had a 30-minute rehearsal of hosting the game. I did one, and then we did the shows! I’m very green, let’s put it that way,” she jokes. “I think for listening Pat for 37 years, I understood the game and how he hosted it. I was very familiar with the show.”
She continues: “I just wanted it to go smoothly. I wasn’t sure it was going to. I’m very shy, and I prefer being behind the scenes, not the center of attention. It was awkward in one way. But I did it. I did 15! I was on for three weeks of shows.”
White adds that at the end of the day, Sajak’s wellbeing is most important.
“My biggest concern was Pat’s health,” she says. “I was so worried, and it was so strange being on the set without him. I’ve never been on the set without him in 37 years, but the staff and crew were so supportive and made me so comfortable and helped me in every way. Everybody was so supportive. I had a few minor mistakes, but nothing that affected the game.
Sajak, 73, underwent surgery in November.
“The Wheel of Fortune taping on Thursday was canceled because host Pat Sajak underwent successful emergency surgery to correct a blocked intestine,” the show tweeted on Nov. 8. “He is resting comfortably and looking forward to getting back to work. Taping resumed today as scheduled, and Vanna White has stepped in a host.”
The following day, the show gave viewers a first look at White’s upcoming episodes as host, tweeting two photos of her on the Wheel of Fortune set, which was all decked out for Christmas.
Sajak has been hosting Wheel of Fortune, which is the longest-running syndicated game show in the U.S., since 1982. The show taped its 7,000th episode in May.
On Saturday, Sajak cleared the air about the upcoming Wheel of Fortune schedule on Twitter, telling his followers: “It’s a bit confusing, but here’s the deal: Vanna will be hosting this coming week and the next. Then two weeks of shows I taped before my surgery. Then Vanna again the week of Jan. 6 with a special guest at the puzzle board. Then the planets will realign, and it’s back to normal.”
Wheel of Fortune airs weekdays (check local listings).
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