Big money

| February 01, 2007

An audition video showcasing trucker Matthew Sollena’s fun-loving personality helped land him a spot on Deal or No Deal.

“Take the money!” the audience yelled. “Take the money!” his wife pleaded. “No deal!” his children screamed.

But in the end, trucker Matthew Sollena made his own decision and won $675,000 on the NBC show Deal or No Deal, the American spin on a game show that airs in different versions in countries all over the world.

Most 46-year-old truckers from Staten Island, N.Y., never dream of hitting it that big – unless, of course, they are Matthew Sollena.

“I knew I would be on the show,” Sollena says. “I wasn’t surprised at all. All the people they have on there are boring, and I knew they wanted some personality.”

Sollena downloaded an application from the NBC website and made a five-minute video to audition for the show.

“I did impressions on the video I made, even though they all sound the same,” Sollena says, doing a less-than-dead-on imitation of James Cagney. “Then I said into the camera, ‘Go get Scott St. John and tell him you gotta see Mattie.’”

Scott St. John is the executive producer of Deal or No Deal. After calling him out personally, Sollena figured he had a pretty good chance of getting on the game show.

“I told them that if I won a million dollars, I would take my whole family to Italy and buy some cannolis,” Sollena says. “Then I would buy a yellow Corvette.

“I would buy my mother-in-law a house in China. She doesn’t want to live there, but I want her to.”

The gimmicks and gregarious personality worked, and within months, Sollena was standing on the stage next to Deal or No Deal host Howie Mandel. His wife and 16-year-old twin daughters stood anxiously onstage, and his three sons sat in the audience.

His son Michael, 20, wasn’t too nervous about his father’s television debut.

“It seemed pretty normal, like he was a TV star already,” Michael says. “He’s a pretty funny guy. Now I feel like my dad is a superstar.”

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