We’d like to buy a vowel, Vanna! After decades revealing letters on Wheel of Fortune, Vanna White took over as host last month when regular emcee Pat Sajak underwent emergency surgery.
White, 62, exclusively dished to Us Weekly about the change in Fortune on Tuesday, December 10, at the christening of Carnival Panorama in Long Beach, California, after Carnival Cruise Lines named her the godmother of the new ship.
“I was probably the most nervous — and excited at the same time — to be able to fill in for Pat while he was away,” she told Us on Tuesday, a day after her first episode aired. “But I’m proud to say that he is healthy and back at work.”
White revealed she was “a little bit” taken aback by the hubbub around her turn as host. “I didn’t think it was that big of a deal, but I think [that] when you’ve seen something for 37 years, and all of a sudden, there’s a change, you’re curious.”
She went on: “I have never even thought of hosting the show. Never crossed my mind. But obviously, I stepped in, took one for the team to fill in for him because I’m very familiar with the show after all these years. And our executive producer thought I was the perfect person to do that in his absence. So it was good. It was different. It was fun. But I’m glad he’s back. … I learned that I was very uncomfortable doing it and agreeing to do it because it was just so out of my comfort zone, but I learned that I could step up to the plate if I had to.”
White soon realized she wasn’t the only nervous one on the Wheel of Fortune set, however. “I was able to mingle with the contestants, which I never get to do when I’m touching letters,” she explained to Us. “So it was a nice little camaraderie between the contestants and myself. It’s like you kind of become close to them in a sweet way. You’re pulling for each and every one of them, and they’re nice, and they’re nervous, and they’re excited, and they’re happy. So it was kind of a little touching moment with me and the contestants.”
And she “absolutely” wants to see more women hosting game shows in the future. “I think anybody that wants to do something like that should,” she said. “I don’t have a preference, male or female. I think that we’re all entitled to whatever position we want. So, go for it, if you feel like it.”
White also told Us about her “very close” working relationship with Sajak, 73. “We’re like a brother and sister after 37 years,” she said. “I think the two of us have been together longer than anyone else, as far as having spouses or children or whatever. We have been together a long time. … I can just look at him and tell what kind of a mood he’s in.”
Sajak and White are signed to appear on Wheel of Fortune until at least 2022, and she told Us that she and the host “haven’t talked” about whether to extend their contracts. “I love my job and I can’t imagine not doing it, so we’ll see,” she added. “Who knows? I mean, who knows if they will want to continue with us in the next, what, two, three years? So we’ll just take one day at a time and see what happens.”
With reporting by Marc Lupo