Tony Harkin, 11, is "comfortable in his own skin."

Perhaps because of that, the New Milford youth has been chosen to be on "Jeopardy! Kids Week."

Tony will fly to Los Angeles March 5 to film a segment of the ABC game show that will air in July.

He was a natural choice, said Maggie Speak, a contestant executive who screens kids.

"Tony is really funny, very personable and comfortable in his own skin," she said last week. "We do all the auditions -- adult and kids -- in the same vein with difficult tests and then group interviews."

"Obviously, with kids, we're looking for different things," Ms. Speak said. "Sometimes it's the kid who just enjoys being a kid. Sometimes it's the kid who can play the heck out of the game."

Tony has been know locally to have a stage presence.

A dancer who studies tap, ballet and jazz dance, he has already been in theater productions New Milford, Brookfield and Sherman.

Learning comes easy for Tony, a student in the Talented & Gifted program at Sarah Noble Intermediate School, but he said game show preparation is a challenge.

"It's very hard to study for `Jeopardy!' The game can cover so many areas, I'm reading everything I can," Tony said. "I'm concentrating on my weakest areas -- geography and history."

Tony's mom, Mikki Harkin, has confidence in her son's ability to succeed on the show.

"He literally eats books," she said. "We can't keep up with him. He has an incredible memory of what he reads and studies."

"We watch "Jeopardy!" as a family," Mrs. Harkin added, "and I thought, `if he can answer some of the adult questions, he should be great in the kids version.' "

Tony started applying for "Jeopardy!" by taking two online tests, then auditioned twice online.

Last May, he and his mom went to New York City for the next level of testing -- a 50-question written test -- and a personality interview.

A group of some 300 kids took the test in New York, then played a mock version of "Jeopardy!" on computers. Kids who passed that level then audition in groups of 30 before a panel of three "Jeopardy!" executives.

Tony was chosen as one of 15 who will be on the July shows.

"I say this often, but it's true. You can get jaded watching the news," Ms. Speak said, "but you meet these kids... they're bright, capable, eager to learn -- and you feel good about the future."

Unlike with the adult "Jeopardy!" game, each kid appears in just one game during "Jeopardy! Kids Week."

First prize is $15,000, second is $2,000, and third prize is $1,000 in each of the five games that air that week.