Schneider, 42, reflected on her phenomenal streak, including the attention she’s received both positive and negative, a possible return to Dayton, how it feels to win $1.2 million due to a sheer love of knowledge, and a friendly reminder that all good things must come to an end.
Q: When we spoke last month, you were a millionaire, correct? What is the taping schedule?
A: My first episode which aired in November was taped at the end of September. The episodes airing now were taped in early November.
Q: Has it been tough keeping your outcome a secret?
A: It’s definitely hard. They certainly incentivize you because I don’t actually get any of the money until March. So, that’s how they enforce their NDA (non-disclosure agreement). But it’s suddenly just a strange feeling. When friends started texting me every game, I (wanted to tell them), “You don’t realize what you’re setting yourself up for if you’re going to text me every time.”
Q: Can you describe the pressure within your most challenging episodes?
A: My mantra for every game is (realizing) all I can do is focus on the next question. I can’t get too distracted or worked-up to the point I lose focus. To an extent, which makes “Jeopardy!” easier is that it goes so fast. You don’t really have a ton of time to get too much in your head about what’s going on because the next question is coming, and you have to be ready to answer it. So, that’s definitely part of the formula. Beyond that, I just have to tell myself to trust what got me here. I’ve done very well, I know my stuff, and I trust it will come through for me as it goes.
Q: Your runaway episodes have been fun to watch, but there have been a few unexpected, suspenseful nailbiters these past few weeks. In particular, during the week of Jan. 9, you only answered one correct Final Jeopardy!
A: Some of it is just coincidence, a run of questions I just didn’t know. But I think it was also a fatigue factor. We tape on Mondays and Tuesdays and those episodes were taped on a Tuesday. It was my second day of taping, and it was a long day with very intense focus. During the actual game, because it goes so fast, you don’t have time to be fatigued but to force your brain to do that extra thinking, when you’ve got the time, I think my brain was just fried a little bit. And in those cases, they were runaways, and I knew I was going to win either way, so it kind of took the edge away, but it shouldn’t have because that was a lot of money!
Q: As you look back on recent episodes, is there a certain answer you wish you could do over?
A: Absolutely the Annie question.
Q: Yes! The Jan. 11 episode. The category was Broadway Musicals: ‘Each in a show that ran more than two years, Ethel Merman and Sarah Jessica Parker played two different characters with this first name.’ You answered Rose from ‘Gypsy.’
A: I actually thought Annie, but for whatever reason I thought it couldn’t be Sarah Jessica Parker as if I could only imagine her as an adult. And then realizing “Annie Get Your Gun” was right out there… if I had just kept my brain on Annie for a little bit longer, I would have realized it was correct. It was just so frustrating.
Q: Has the game changed you in any way as a player and do you feel you’ve grown with every game?
A: I have, but I don’t know if it has started to level out a bit because there’s only so far you can go in the game. I definitely think about some things that, when the time comes for the Tournament of Champions, I will want to do differently. One of them is being more aware, more aggressive, about finding Daily Doubles and hunting them down at the right times. I also plan to work on practicing writing down my answers in Final Jeopardy! I’m overly concerned about my handwriting. My handwriting isn’t great and writing with a light pen doesn’t help. I’ve been worried I would get the correct answer, but my writing wouldn’t be legible, which is just putting one more thing in my mind that didn’t need to be there. So, working on my mindset around Final Jeopardy! is something I want to improve.
Q: How does it feel to have so much exposure across the country?
A: It is mind-blowing, a very strange experience. Whatever I do is kind of news. But it’s also really cool. My girlfriend and I went to Sonoma this past weekend to get away for a little bit and I was recognized. Just to have people happy to see me is a really nice feeling. I don’t have to do anything. I’m just making people happy with my presence which is really nice.
Q: Many people were shocked to hear you were robbed at gunpoint over New Year’s weekend. You just spoke of the joy of being recognized but are you at all concerned about the darker side of national exposure?
A: I don’t really think this incident had anything to do with me being on “Jeopardy!” I was just the victim of circumstance. So, in that sense, it hasn’t changed how I feel. But it certainly has made me more aware of my surroundings in general. And as for being recognized, it hasn’t been too much or movie star-oppressive, but it has made me more aware that when I’m out and about I need to be “on.” I need to have my public face ready to go at any time, which is not a huge burden but definitely an interesting change in how I am out there in the world.
Q: The respect and acclaim you’ve received during your record-breaking run has been far and wide. How do you feel about your achievements thus far?
A: It really has been amazing. I’ve known this was going to happen for months, so it was odd that this thing was about to happen that no one knew about. The names I’m among are people I’ve watched and admired my whole life, which is a really neat feeling. I’ve always expected I’d be on “Jeopardy!” one day. I’ve always felt I’d be pretty good, but you never really know until you get there. It’s really gratifying to know the confidence I had going into it has been justified.
Q: Are you still processing the thought of being a millionaire?
A: It’s validating. It’s a number that people are going to notice and remember. It means that I’ll always be part of the “Jeopardy!” story. All this information has not been particularly useful to me over these years, but now it’s paying off for sure.
Q: How does your family feel about your success?
A: Sadly, my dad passed away about six years ago. He tried out for “Jeopardy!” when I was a kid and came very close to getting on. He’s definitely a part of my “Jeopardy!” story as well. I wasn’t able to get home for Christmas, but my mom and family have been excitedly watching. It’s been neat.
Q: Do you hope to visit Dayton in the future?
A: I meant to come back this month but there’s just been too much going on and then omicron (happened). But this year will be the C-J Class of ‘97′s 25th reunion, which is something I’m tentatively planning to attend.
Q: Is there anything you’d like to say about your future on ‘Jeopardy!’
A: What I can say is, the thing about these streaks, as Ken Jennings has pointed out in his show intros, the nature of them is not like a professional athlete’s career that sort of fades for a while and then stops. It’s just going to go along and one game it’ll be over. It’s just the nature of “Jeopardy!” I really didn’t know when it was going to be. Every time I had to go into it thinking that if I’m not careful, it could be my last game.
HOW TO WATCH
Schneider can be seen on “Jeopardy!” weeknights at 7:30 on WDTN Channel 2.