PALM BEACH GARDENS — After spending nearly a year as a critical-care nurse amid the novel coronavirus pandemic, Kayla Marzullo needed a distraction.
Last summer, Ellen DeGeneres and her production crew were happy to provide one.
Marzullo, a former Palm Beach Gardens resident who now lives in Los Angeles, taped an episode of the primetime game show Ellen’s Game of Games in August.
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The show, in which contestants maneuver around obstacles, answer trivia questions and play games from host Ellen DeGeneres’ syndicated talk show, will air at 8 p.m. Monday on NBC.
Marzullo, 27, remains mum on how she did, but she said the experience was therapeutic after having spent many months on the front lines of a global pandemic.
“It was much-needed relief,” said Marzullo, a Palm Beach County native who graduated from Park Vista High School. “It was a distraction for me. Ellen always keeps things light and fun, and we need that more than anything.”
Marzullo, an ICU nurse who moved to Los Angeles several months ago to pursue opportunities in professional dancing, was selected to compete on “Ellen’s Game of Games” after her mom sent producers photos of her from the hospital where she worked, as well as a short biography.
At the time, Marzullo said, she was working long hours and felt isolated and detached.
“I was giving her updates and sending her pictures from the hospital,” Marzullo said. “I was wearing my PPE, things that I wear every day. She submitted it to the Ellen show and didn’t tell me. She knew I loved the show.”
A short time later, she got a call from producers who wanted to set up an interview.
After she was picked, she flew to Los Angeles to tape her episode.
Because of the pandemic, there were numerous safety precautions in place, Marzullo said. Contestants were quarantined before taping, had to wear masks when they weren’t filming and underwent regular COVID-19 testing. The show did not tape in front of a live audience.
“They were very organized and informative,” Marzullo said. “I always felt safe.”
As a fan of the show, Marzullo was familiar with the games in which contestants had to compete. But she said producers threw some curveballs during the show’s taping.
“You don’t know what to expect, and they don’t tell you until you get there,” she said. “There are so many different games. You don’t know who you’re competing against until you get out there. It’s really fun. It’s a big playground for adults.”
Marzullo said she plans to watch Monday’s episode at home with her roommate and two dogs.
She said she’s thankful for the opportunity to compete and put the challenges of her job aside for a little while.
“I’m just really grateful to be a part of it,” she said. “It was something to look back on and say that I did. I hope to make people proud.”
This article originally appeared on Palm Beach Post: ‘A big playground for adults’: Former Palm Beach Gardens nurse competes on Ellen DeGeneres’ game show