'P-A-N-I-C': Vanna White opens up about hosting 'Wheel of Fortune' at last minute

"I had no practice whatsoever," White said.
@TheVannaWhite/Twitter
/ Source: TODAY

"P-A-N-I-C."

That's what Vanna White said she felt when she was asked to host "Wheel of Fortune" 30 minutes before the show started taping last month.

"P-A-N-I-C. 'Panic' is the word that comes to mind!" she told Vulture, laughing.

White ended up hosting three weeks' worth of shows while host Pat Sajak was recovering from emergency surgery due to a blocked intestine. The first of those episodes began airing Monday.

"Our executive producer came up to me and said, 'Hey, Pat has to go into emergency surgery right now. How would you feel about hosting the show?'" White recalled. "Panic set in at that moment, but I made a quick decision and realized the show must go on. I felt like I had to do it, and I did."

For some perspective, White had the same amount of time to prepare as it takes a viewer to watch an episode of "Wheel of Fortune."

It was the first time White had hosted an entire episode by herself. She previously filled in as host in 1996 when Sajak had laryngitis and couldn’t finish hosting an episode he’d started.

While she's spent 37 years on the show, White said hosting takes an entirely different set of skills. Since Sajak became ill right before the taping, there wasn't even time for a dress rehearsal.

"I had no practice whatsoever," White said.

On Monday, she tweeted that she was "excited and nervous" to temporarily take over hosting duties. Minnie Mouse helped out by turning the letters on the puzzles.

While some viewers pointed out White's jitters, she earned plenty of praise for stepping up on such short notice.

"It was like being on a ball team. All my life I’ve played first base, and now I had to step in and play second base," White said. "It’s out of your comfort zone when you’re not familiar with it."

Sajak is now back taping new episodes. He tweeted that White's episodes will air this week and next. The following two weeks will be shows he taped before his surgery. White will be back the week of Jan. 6 with help from a "special guest" at the puzzle board, and then after that, it's back to N-O-R-M-A-L.