How do two siblings from Haida Gwaii end up on a national game show?
For Derek Washington, it started when one of his friends sent him the Family Feud Canada call looking for Haida Gwaii families. He forwarded the posting to his family’s group chat, more as a joke than anything else, not really expecting it to go anywhere.
But his youngest sister filled out the application and a little while later she told them, “We have to do an audition.”
The family team was made up of Derek and his sister Neena, who live on Haida Gwaii, their two younger half-sisters and their dad, who live in Ontario. Derek and Neena’s step-mom, who Derek just calls mom, was the team’s “alternate” and she went through the whole process with them as well.
For the Zoom audition they put on a team uniform and each introduced themselves. They also did a little skit and a mock version of the game.
Derek believes that they were successful because of their enthusiasm and positivity.
“We’re a pretty excited family,” he said.
After their interview, the producers told them it would take a little while before they heard back, as they needed to wait for all of the other auditions to come.
“We knew it was going to be a while but then time was going by and then we kind of forgot about it. They said if we got selected as a family it was going to be quick and sure enough it was,” Derek said.
Once they confirmed the date, the family had two weeks to prepare. Derek said while he was familiar with the U.S. Family Feud, he had not watched much of the Canadian version. However, in the lead-up to playing he binge-watched past episodes and played along with the contestants.
“When they said you guys are going I was like, ‘OK, I’m doing my homework’,” Derek said.
Family Feud Canada covered travel costs for the family members to get to Toronto, where it was filmed, as well as accommodation for the days they spent in the city.
However, Derek and Neena flew from Haida Gwaii to Vancouver and were then booked on an overnight flight to Toronto. They did not arrive until after midnight and they had to be at the studio by 7:30 a.m. the same morning.
If he had known that was going to be the schedule, Derek said he would have asked to go a day earlier so he would have been more well-rested.
The morning was a blur of make-up checks, getting acquainted with the stage and running through the rules (such as you cannot ‘boo’).
Derek’s mom travelled to Toronto as well, even though Family Feud did not cover her costs.
“She was championing for us in the crowd and getting the crowd to cheer. Just to look out and see her out there really calms your nerves, just makes you feel good that somebody is out there cheering for you,” Derek said.
He estimated there were fewer than 100 people in the audience and while it was nerve-racking to be on stage, he just tuned into the game.
“Once we got through the first round we did calm down quite a bit like ‘it’s OK, we can do this’.”
After they won their first show, Derek’s dad asked if he could go for a smoke but there wasn’t time, they went straight into the next show against a new family.
The Washington’s ended up losing in a sudden death round during the second show, but Derek said he had a chance to win it for them and he did not even realize it.
He had to guess what people responded when they were asked to name something that talks back and the other team ended up scoring the points when they correctly guessed virtual assistant.
“I have a [Google assistant] in my house. I use it every day I didn’t even think of a [Google assistant] or Alexa or Siri,” Derek said.
While the $10,000 prize just slipped their grasp, they did get some money for each question they answered correctly and Derek said his family used it for a nice night out.
It was never really about the money for Derek though. The best part of the experience was spending time with family, he said. While the Washingtons have visited each other individually, he said they had only all been together as a complete family unit twice before playing on Family Feud.
“That was the biggest prize for sure, just being together with family and sharing that experience all together. It was amazing,” Derek said.
“Dad is 73, none of us are getting any younger and that’s something that to me is forever out there in the digital world.”
Derek and Neena were able to arrange for their flight home to leave a week after filming the show so that they would spend even more time all together.
The Washingtons will not be making an appearance on Family Feud again anytime soon, in part because they would have to wait 10 years before applying again. You never know, though, maybe they will pop up on another show, like the Amazing Race Canada, Derek suggested teasingly.