Friday, September 15, 2006

Exclusive Interview With MTV′s REAL WORLD Casting Director Damon Furberg

With open casting calls currently underway for Season 19 of the MTV hit reality series REAL WORLD, our own Elaine James caught up with Damon Furberg, Supervising Casting Director in this exclusive one-on-one interview.

Elaine James: What are the judges looking for in potential roommates?

Damon Furberg: The number one thing we look for in a candidate is charisma. We seek out people who draw the attention of everyone around them- - and often it′ not because they are the best looking or the loudest, they just have "it".

We also look for depth. A cast member needs to have many different sides (or as we call them "layers") to their personality in order to sustain the interest of the audience.

Another thing we often seek is people who are at a turning point in their lives. You tend to get this automatically with people in the 18-24 age group, because it′s a volatile time of life to begin with. A lot of what drives this show is having a cast that grows, changes, and comes out of the experience as different (and hopefully better) people than they came in.

Although it′s by no means a prerequisite, an interesting background is also a plus. This isn′t so much because we spend a lot of time telling people′s histories, but rather that interesting childhoods usually yield interesting people

Elaine James: Is there anything that you′ve heard thousands of times and will dismiss people for?

Damon Furberg: The biggest challenge with casting a show that has the sort of pedigree and long life of Real World, is that people come in thinking that emulating Puck, or Tek, or whomever is going to get them on the show. Those people were great, but we′ve already had them. Applicants are much better off being themselves, cliché as that may sound.

Elaine James: What are some of the weirdest or funniest things that you′ve seen during casting calls?

Damon Furberg: We tend to see weirder things on the casting tape submissions (and yes, we DO watch every single one of them) than we do at the casting calls. We certainly get a lot of nudity in casting tapes, and for some reason, a lot of people like to introduce themselves while sitting on the toilet. Sometimes I wonder if people are deliberately trying to make the casting special by being the craziest "reject."

At casting calls, I′ve had people show up in weird costumes, and certainly every casting director I know has stories of people trying to hit on them at the casting table. This didn′t happen to me, but a friend of mine casting for another show had a really drunk applicant get up and dance on the table, then fall through a plate glass window. Let me hasten to add, that guy DID NOT get a second interview.

Elaine James: Can we release what city the house will be in?

Damon Furberg: A lot of people don′t realize this, but the location of the next REAL WORLD is usually not decided until shortly before we lock the cast. In other words, I don′t know... and I couldn′t tell you if I did.

Elaine James: Can you give us any hints to what the cast will be doing this year?

Damon Furberg: It′s the same situation with the job, we usually don′t know until shortly before we lock the cast.

Elaine James: What will make this season/cast different from the last 17?

Damon Furberg: I have absolutely no idea! Many people assume that we go into casting with a set idea of what we′re looking for, in terms of types of people, combinations of people, etc. The truth is exactly the opposite-- the people we find during casting determine the makeup of the house.

Even after we lock a cast, it′s rare that we have a "concept" of what the season will be about, because we′re dealing with real people, who are entirely unpredictable.

I′m not going to say we don′t have a few side bets going within the casting department as to who will be smooching who, or which people are going to bond or hate each other, but half the time, we′re completely wrong. That′ the exciting thing about casting this show -- after all these years, it′s basically still just a big, crazy experiment.

Elaine James: After seeing Paula′s journey through getting treatment for her eating disorder during RW Key West, will you be trying to steer clear of applicants with issues like this or do you feel like it was positive to show this type of struggle to viewers?

Damon Furberg: First off, yes, I do feel that telling stories like Paula′s is a positive thing. There′s nothing more satisfying than having someone show up at a casting call and tell us they learned a life-lesson from watching our show.

However, as casting directors, we DO feel a responsibility to protect these kids, and we never want to put someone in a position they aren′t comfortable with. Drama is fine, but if we think someone is going to be abjectly miserable in the house from start to finish, then we′re just not going to cast them.

We definitely make it a point to be very upfront with applicants regarding the stresses they will be placed under, but it′s ultimately up to the individual to decide for themselves if REAL WORLD is right for them. On the flipside, it′s also important to remember that our advance knowledge of the severity of an applicant′s issues is largely based upon how honest that cast member chooses to be with us.

All that aside, I think that when we′ve had issues that go beyond the usual drama such as Paula (or Frankie, to give another example) I′ve been very impressed with the way the producers have handled it. Not only do they get that person whatever help they need, I think they choose to tell the story in a constructive and sensitive manner.

In the end, I believe that despite the trials and tribulations Paula went through, she came out a better, healthier person than she went in. I think if you were to ask her, she′d tell you she wouldn′t have traded that experience for the world.


An open casting call for REAL WORLD 19 begins tommorrow, Saturday, September 16th, in the following cities:

Charlotte, NC
Fresno, CA
Syracuse, NY

For more information on specific locations and cities, please go to: