MTV Hosts Open Auditions

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It very well may be the free room and board. Perhaps it has something to do with a chance at stardom. Or maybe it is just the six-month hiatus from Berkeley life.

For whatever reason, nearly 600 hopefuls swarmed LaVal's Restaurant last Thursday as MTV hosted an open casting call for "The Real World" and "Road Rules" television programs.

As each show looks ahead to a 10th season, casting officials are searching for 13 lucky twenty-somethings for the coveted roles, says MTV's Marcy Ackerman.

"Like the other casting calls we've been holding, we're looking for those who stand out, shout out and act out," Ackerman says. "If they impress us, they advance to the next round for interviews."

She explains that the city of Berkeley has been a prime casting location for Bunim-Murray Productions, which runs both shows. In past years, seven UC Berkeley students have been cast on the two shows.

"If you think about the nature of our shows, you think of miscellaneous world views spiced up by riotous conflict," Ackerman adds. "Such is Berkeley and such are the kind of people we want this season."

For MTV, the next few months include selecting several thousand individuals from an applicant pool of at least 40,000. Hundreds will advance to a subsequent round, and a small fraction will move to the semi-finals.

When the casting process ends in December, "The Real World" cast members will find themselves living it up New York City-style in a fully furnished Manhattan loft. For the six-person "Road Rules" crew, home will be an oversized Winnebago and money will come at the expense of arduous challenge missions.

But for the months that cast members spend away from home, they must contend with an aggressive camera-wielding crew videotaping every giggly laugh, gratuitous moan and heated argument.

And though the prospect of having one's life documented and aired for every teeny-bop fanatic to see may prove daunting for some, others see it as the opportunity of a lifetime.

"I figure being on a show that forced you to open yourself up and show your true colors is great," Stanford University student Matt Freed says. "And at the same time you're living in a dream house or winning tons of cash."

He explains that many of those seeking a role on "The Real World" and "Road Rules" are enticed by the fame that goes along with being on the shows more than anything else.

"A couple of girls waiting in line told me they were here for one reason only," Freed says. "They want to look good, get on the shows and tap dance their way into Hollywood."

In hopes of catching more than just a pretty face, MTV officials passed out two-page handwritten applications to all applicants.

While one question asked for contact telephone numbers, another invited comments about sexual relationships, hang-ups and fetishes. And the final question left some confused, gnawing their erasers and hastily trying to muster up the details of their most embarrassing moment.

Before long, the eager hopefuls were ushered into LaVal's several at a time for their turn to show the casting directors what they were made of.

"I was really surprised by the set-up of it," says UC Berkeley student Bonnie Hsu. "I was picturing some one-on-one interrogation or something along those lines."

But instead, 10 and sometimes up to 20 prospective cast members were seated at oversized tables manned by casting directors.

"Everyone just sat down and tried to look cool and stylin'," adds Hsu. "But then the cameramen came up with their lights and mics and made some pretty jittery."

Meanwhile, casting officials introduced themselves and explained the format of the group interview.

"She asked us what we thought of same-sex marriages, rent control and what we disliked most about our parents," says Hsu. "We had these questions laid out before us and were supposed to debate them in front of the cameras."

She explains that the format of the interviews allowed officials to pick out who was boisterous, who was timid and who was somewhere in between.

"I've heard the description before, but I'd totally describe it as bulls versus non-bulls," adds Hsu. "I tried to find a medium and go with it, but maybe they want more than that."

And although "The Real World" and "Road Rules" producers are currently deciding who will advance to the next round of auditions, some have already been notified.

"I've been here all day watching people come and go for their two-hour wait and 20-minute interview," says Peter Kalat, area director for, which co-sponsored the tryouts. "But some people have been here as long as I have."

Kalat explains that these are most likely the individuals who caught the attention of the casting department early on in the process and are already well-immersed in the second round.

"A lot of students and young kids came to the Berkeley call looking to be casted," he says. "But it's obvious that some stood out more than others. These are the lucky ones."

Season 10 of "The Real World" and "Road Rules" will air next June.


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