The people who brought you “The Real World” have created a new NBC series, “Starting Over,” which sends six women to Chicago to live together and try to rebuild their lives. Two life coaches help the cast, and as each woman solves her problems, she is replaced by a new cast member.
Last weekend, about 100 women of all ages came to an open casting call at the New Haven NBC Studios on Church Street to tell their stories. Some drove more than two hours for their chance for a spot on the show.
New Haven is one of more than 30 cities the casting directors for “Starting Over” have visited in their search for women with interesting stories.
“It actually gets harder with each call because many stories have already been done,” casting director Damon Furberg said, “We need to keep searching for a new goal or challenge.”
Cast-hopefuls had a variety of expectations about the interview. Some, like Danielle Kriegsman, said they did not feel much anxiety.
“It’s not an audition, you don’t have to sing or dance,” she said. “You just talk and be yourself.”
Other candidates described their inability to sleep the night before the audition because they were so nervous. But coming out of the interview, many of the women said they actually enjoyed the experience.
“I feel we’ve already started the process of ‘starting over,'” Elizabeth Frank said.
Amy Viger described the experience as “highly emotional” and said many women started to cry during the process.
“I feel like I’m already on the show,” she said.
Moments after coming out of the room where the interviews were held, there were several women who hugged and congratulated each other.
“It’s good to know you’re not alone, that there are people who can relate to your experiences” Sheri Vatteroni said.
The interviews were set up so that the casting director interviewed eight women at once. The director went around the circle and asked the women where they are in their lives and what their goals are.
Furberg, who has worked on “The Real World,” “Road Rules” and “The Real Cancun,” noted that there are some key things she looks for during interviews.
“There are certain characteristics that you want regardless of the show you’re casting for,” Furberg said. “Things like charisma and the ability to be comfortable speaking.”
But Furberg emphasized strong candidates should know what they want to achieve since the show is based upon solving problems and changing lives.
“One of the most important things we look for is a definable goal, something that can be completed in six to eight weeks and that we can help them with,” Furberg said.
Follow-up interviews with one of the casting directors were scheduled with a number of the women. The directors will then meet to watch all the tapes and further narrow down the number of candidates. The producers will then make the final decisions for who will appear on the show. Furberg said the whole process takes about a month.
Although he has a lot of experience with reality TV shows, Furberg said he still thinks “Starting Over” stands out among the rest.
“It’s a very different show from anything I’ve worked on before,” he said. “It’s unique because I get to do a little good for these people. We really want to help them.”
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