The producers of MTV’s “The Real World” are looking to make their show a little more highbrow. That’s where Yale comes in.
Recruiters for the hit reality TV show will hold an open casting call Saturday at BAR pizzeria and nightclub on Crown Street between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. Seven 18- to 24-year-olds auditioning at casting calls around the country will be selected to appear on the 21st season of MTV’s longest-running show, which documents the lives of seven strangers living and working together over the course of several months.
“The Real World” talent search has passed through New Haven once before, in 2003, casting director Damon Furberg said. Other Ivy Leaguers have appeared on the show, and a Yale student once made it to the final round of the selection process, he said.
But this may be one Eli’s lucky year, because the show is trying to resuscitate its reputation, Furberg said.
“We’re looking to reach out to people who, over the last few years, have gotten disenfranchised with the show,” he said. “We want you to come — we welcome you back.”
So in this year’s auditions, he said, the casting team will be eyeing driven, career-minded people who are active in social, political or environmental causes.
“We are trying to do a more socially conscious season,” he said. “We’re not looking to do a public service announcement season, but we are looking for people who stand for something.”
Groups of students asked by the News about the casting call teased their friends — who would be the funniest on “The Real World”? But no students interviewed said they would seriously consider auditioning.
“It’s really invasive,” Janice White ’09 said. “People on that show don’t look good.”
Casters may be looking for ambitious people, Furberg said, but auditioners need not be activists.
“We’re still going to pick the seven best people we can find, regardless of whether they meet any criteria,” he said.
What makes someone “best,” he explained, is having a “big personality” and the candor to speak one’s mind.
Parisa Montazaran had what they were looking for. She appeared on the last season of “The Real World” in Sydney after trying out unsuccessfully the year before.
Montazaran, who graduated from New York University in 2006, said in a phone interview that her involvement with the show began by chance when she went to a sorority meeting and found MTV recruiters there, she said.
Though initially skeptical, Montazaran said she started to open up when the casting directors asked her about political issues. They seemed particularly interested in her Muslim background, she said.
But although the producers had a religious theme in mind for the Sydney season — Montazaran’s cohabitants included a devout Christian and people with multiple religious backgrounds — the group’s dynamic veered in a different direction.
“By people mixing together, you never know what it’s going to bring out,” Montazaran said. “It didn’t bring up those issues — we more just rubbed each other the wrong way and pissed each other off.”
Although the Sydney season ultimately focused on partying, sex and alcohol, Montazaran said not every season has to do the same.
“Hopefully bringing people together who are passionate about different things can bring out a more relevant dialogue,” she said.
Montazaran said people often freeze once the cameras start to roll and, self-conscious about how they will appear on television, resort to guarding the personality that they showed in auditions. Cast members need to be comfortable enough with themselves to let the rest of the world see them, she said, or else they try to mask their personality for several months.
Her advice to a Yalie considering trying out: “Be prepared for absolute chaos.”
“I know there’s a lot of Type-As up there who are accustomed to doing well in life because of their intelligence and grip on things,” she said. “But the experience of being thrown in with other people who are meant to set you up in good ways and bad ways — you have no control.”
And they should be ready, she said, to get recognized everywhere.
“I’ve tried different hairstyles and glasses, but without fail, I can’t get out of it,” she said.
The location of “Real World 21” has not yet been determined, but production is scheduled to begin in May and continue over the summer, Furberg said, so college students would not have to defer their education to appear on the show. Filming can last between three and five months, he said, depending on how long it takes to accrue enough material to fill a season.
Were a Yalie to be chosen, he or she would not be the first to appear on a reality TV show. Last fall, Victoria Marshman ’09 competed on Tyra Banks’ “America’s Next Top Model.”