“No one actually knows me. They might think they know me, but they don’t know the real me. I’m unique, not your typical this or that, and I’d make a great reality TV star.” These sentiments were uttered by many of the participants in an open casting call for The Real World at Sharkeez bar in downtown Santa Barbara.
The Real World has been around for 26 seasons now, longer than any reality TV show. That makes sense because its success doesn’t hinge on remote destinations or secret millionaires. The show’s simple premise has made it a palimpsest-like canvas; each subsequent generation of young adults projects their insecurities and their understanding of themselves on top of the last’s — often with same cast of stock characters. The semi-militant black guy, the pretty girl, the good guy. These roles seemingly reoccur every season. But this isn’t necessarily intentional.
I asked Damon Furberg, who’s been a casting director for the show for 15 seasons, about this “role” phenomenon. “People always ask me if we cast for conflict,” he said, “but that’s never the case. We’re just looking for a group of people who are completely different. It’s not a Noah’s Ark situation.”
Sitting in Sharkeez, listening to hopeful cast members’ responses to the casting questions, it’s pretty clear what people think they’re auditioning for:
“I’m very confrontational. I don’t care; I’ll aways speak my mind.”
“I’m very funny and spontaneous. I’m just crazy. I do such crazy things.”
“Drama followed me in high school … ”
Perhaps even more telling, though, were participants’ responses to the following question: “If someone were making a movie about your life, what would the title be?”
“The Girl You Want to Hate But Can’t.”
Translated, all of these mean basically the same thing: I’m unpredictable, I’m complex, and I’m definitely not like everyone else here. I’ll be this season’s dramatic semi-masculine girl, naive small-town boy, or conniving homosexual with a sordid past.
Obviously, Santa Barbara is a pretty logical place to visit if you’re looking to cast a reality show. There are a lot of young people and people who are looking to “start over,” to reassert themselves socially so they can be who they reallyare.”
I would think that casting The Real World would give you a pretty keen sense of just how “non-normal” everyone is. Ironically, the most “normal” thing people do is probably talk about how different and crazy they are.
I asked Susan Martin, the casting director at the Santa Barbara casting call, about this behavior. Her response was, “People are just so interesting, and every city is really great.” What I think she meant to say was: “I don’t really want to talk to you about any of this, and I don’t think I need to affirm your rather obvious observations about this process.”
So, all this is to say none of us are normal. And the least “normal” thing you can do is to know that and not really care.
If you feel like proving to the world just how non-normal you are, it’s not too late to try out for The Real World. They are still accepting applications online at mtv.com/therealworld.