Fred Fletcher-Jackson is a theater teacher and actor who also happens to be a professional wrestler. Now, the 2011 Severna Park High School graduate can add “Wheel of Fortune” winner to his resume.
One could argue that Fletcher-Jackson — or “The Purple Parrot” Colin Sheen when he’s in the wrestling ring — was born to be on the long-running game show. Fletcher-Jackson was born in Baltimore and his family moved around a lot when he was young. By the age of 8, he had settled in Severna Park with his dad and grandmother. Family lore states that his first words were “buy a vowel,” and Fletcher-Jackson said he’s been watching “Wheel of Fortune” ever since that first utterance.
Fletcher-Jackson saw advertisements to audition for the show’s WWE week, where a contestant pairs up with a wrestler.
“This has to be the moment — I love ‘Wheel’ and I love wrestling,” Fletcher-Jackson said of what prompted him to send in an audition tape after toying with the idea for years.
Although he wasn’t selected for WWE week, he did get an email that informed him he’d be taping as part of a Hawaii-themed show. The email arrived just five days before the taping was slated to take place on the other side of the country.
Not only did Fletcher-Jackson win a puzzle or two on “Wheel of Fortune” last month, but he played the show’s first perfect game of the year. The game show’s Twitter account announced his rare feat shortly after it was aired on March 21.
“PERFECT GAME ALERT: You can throw away your broom, Fred already swept everything up,” read the show’s tweet.
With that sweep, Fletcher-Jackson left Los Angeles, where the show is taped, with $75,800 in cash and prize winnings, including a trip to Costa Rica. That’s a bit more than he was originally aiming for. Fletcher-Jackson’s goals going in were twofold — not to embarrass himself and to earn more than the $1,000 each contestant on the show is guaranteed to take home.
“I felt like I had a decent shot at winning — I absolutely did not expect to sweep the game,” Fletcher-Jackson said. “I had done awful at toss-up puzzles in my practicing. I thought for sure my opponents would beat me to the buzzer on at least a few of them.”
During toss-up rounds, letters are revealed randomly and one at a time until a contestant buzzes in and attempts to solve the puzzle. Fletcher-Jackson also dominated the main game puzzles and locked in on the correct answer during the bonus round, a solve that added $40,000 to his total winnings.
Fletcher-Jackson, who teaches at the Suitland, Maryland-based Benjamin D. Foulois Creative and Performing Arts Academy, credits an unlikely ally for his bonus round success — attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD. The answer to that round was “His mind is wandering” and Fletcher-Jackson said it was something he felt was catered to him with his ADHD symptoms. That clue wasn’t the only one that seemed tailor-made for the teacher and wrestler. A trifecta of toss-up puzzles tapped into Fletcher-Jackson’s acting chops: “Nonspeaking role,” “Supporting role” and “The starring role.” With the last answer, Fletcher-Jackson was able to solve it with just the letter G exposed.
As Fletcher-Jackson’s final tally was revealed at the end of the show, he grasped his head, knelt down and then triumphantly pumped his fists before his father, Rich Jackson, joined him onstage and lifted up one of his son’s arms to signify victory.
It was what happened next that changed the results of what a Google search with Fletcher-Jackson’s name reveals. As the cameras were still rolling, game show host Pat Sajak placed a wrestling move on “The Purple Parrot.” It was a move that went viral.
“I was very surprised,” Fletcher-Jackson said. “I think [Sajak is] great at spur-of-the-moment bits. He had me pretty tight in that hammerlock.”
“Wheel of Fortune” hostess Vanna White asked Fletcher-Jackson how he was feeling following his win. After stammering a few words out, White said, “You’re speechless.” He then started a spiel about how he can’t usually stop talking or keep his thoughts succinct.
“So, you took 20 seconds to tell us how speechless you are,” Sajak quipped.
With his fatter wallet, where did Fletcher-Jackson go for his celebratory meal?
“We went to In-N-Out Burger after taping,” Fletcher-Jackson said of the iconic California-based joint.
Besides the Severna Park connection between the show’s host and Fletcher-Jackson, there’s another one that caused the contestant to reflect.
A few years ago, his father underwent emergency surgery for a ruptured appendix. Rich Jackson’s post-op treatment was done at Anne Arundel Medical Center’s Sajak Pavilion, where he made a full recovery.
“The Sajaks’ contributions to our family extend beyond an entertaining game show,” Fletcher-Jackson said.
While Fletcher-Jackson must contractually wait a year to appear on another game show, he’s hoping to toss his name in the hat for another show once he’s able.
“I want to be on all of the game shows,” said Fletcher-Jackson, listing some of the recent revivals he’d like to try before adding a pair of established game show heavyweights. “I’m not good at ‘The Price is Right,’ but I’d love to go just for the experience and to meet Drew Carey, another showbiz idol of mine. Same with ‘Jeopardy’ — love it, not great at it, but I'd love to share a stage with Ken Jennings.”
Fletcher-Jackson urges folks to send in an audition tape for a game show, especially “Wheel of Fortune.”
“They were a class organization,” Fletcher-Jackson said. “The producers, Pat and Vanna, the contestant team, the stage manager, the makeup folks, everyone treated us like stars.”
Fletcher-Jackson said appearing on a game show he’s been watching since his diaper days hasn’t tampered with his love of “Wheel of Fortune.”
“If anything, it made it stronger,” Fletcher-Jackson said.
Highlights of Fletcher-Jackson’s appearance on “Wheel of Fortune” can be viewed at www.youtube.com/watch?v=uLFuueXFEGM.