Aaryn Hammond never saw herself as the game show type. The 27-year-old Baltimore resident admits she'd tossed the notion around with her father, Milton Harrison, while growing up, but the idea of competing for prizes on TV was just a joke the two shared, nothing more.
That is, until Hammond's mother saw a tweet advertising casting for the second season of NBC's game show "The Wall" and entered her daughter and husband without telling them.
Now Hammond and her father will compete for millions on the show's summer return Thursday.
"My mom really enjoys doing things as surprises," said Hammond, who is a second year resident in Johns Hopkins' emergency medicine department. "[My reaction] was a combination of laughter and disbelief."
Originally from North Carolina, where Harrison still lives, Hammond moved to Baltimore two years ago. She loves the city's culture and walkability, she said, and her close proximity to Patterson Park.
After "The Wall" sent word of their interest in Hammond and Harrison, the two sent away an application and introductory video. A few interviews later, they were on a plane to Los Angeles to shoot their episode.
"The Wall," a trivia-based competition co-produced by the NBA's LeBron James, features a four-story-tall pegboard similar to "The Price Is Right's" Plinko game. The bottom of the pegboard wall is divided into 15 different slots representing different cash amounts. Through a series of three rounds, the two-person teams answer trivia questions and send a ball bouncing down the board from different "drop zones" and into the slots.
Get the answer right, and the falling ball's slot total adds to the cash prize a team can take home. Get it wrong, and the ball detracts from a total bank value. In later rounds of the game, teams are split up and cannot communicate to choose how to drop the balls and advance their play.
The father-daughter duo's close ties gave them an advantage in the competition, Harrison said.
"Whenever I would feel panicked because this is kind of intense, I'd think about Aaryn and would draw on her confidence and her support," he said. "It did feel like us against the world for a moment there."
The two grew up playing sports together, and Harrison often coached Hammond's teams. Even when he stopped coaching, he supported his daughter from the sidelines, so the two were natural teammates, Hammond said.
"Playing ['The Wall'] together felt like old times," she said.
Both were nervous going into the competition — "I still feel jitters," Harrison said — but Harrison managed to provide comic relief.
"Throughout the show, he had the audience cracking up, even [show host] Chris Hardwick was laughing," Hammond said.
Harrison and Hammond did not reveal the results of their gameplay, but any prize money the two took home will go toward Hammond's student loans.
Hammond had thought of student loans as something looming in the future. "Every now and then we will jokingly play a lottery ticket," she said. But when the duo secured their chance to compete for more than $12 million, there was no doubt that any winnings would go toward repaying student debt, said Harrison, who helped put both Hammond and her sister through medical school.
Hammond's parents will join her in Baltimore on Thursday to watch the episode air.
The people of Baltimore should tune in because the show "gives regular people a chance," Hammond said.
"The show will definitely offer excitement, and beyond that, pure comedy. I've never met anyone who did not find my dad funny."
See Aaryn Hammond and Milton Harrison compete on "The Wall" at 9 p.m. June 22 on NBC, Channel 11.