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What MTV's 'Real World' Is Looking For At Saturday's Chicago Casting Call

By Mae Rice in Arts & Entertainment on Mar 2, 2016 3:28PM

The cast of 'Real World' season 29, 'Ex-plosion' (photo via Facebook)

One of the earliest and best reality shows, MTV’s Real World, will hold its first casting call for its 33rd season in Chicago on Saturday. The open call will run from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Bar Louie in Printer’s Row, and it’s basically an interview for the job of being yourself really hard.

Chicagoans are good at this, Real World casting director Themi Chahales told Chicagoist. She’s worked on the show for three seasons, and for all three of them, she’s run casting calls here.

The tradition could date back beyond her tenure. “I almost want to say every season we come to Chicago, because we get such great cast members in Chicago,” she said, though she couldn’t be sure.

Typically, Midwesterners have turned out for Real World casting calls in droves, too—perhaps because Chicago is “a central point” in the country, and people drive in from all over, Chahales said.

Despite the crowds, it’s not glamorous to be an aspiring reality star. It really is like a job interview—a group job interview, no less. Those who drop by the bar will sit down in groups of 10-15 for an “informal” conversation with a casting director, Chahales said.

“I’ll ask questions like, ‘What’s the most interesting life experience you’ve had?’” she said.

All the while, Chahales said, she’s looking for authenticity.

“We’re not looking for actors,” she said. “The more truthful you are to who you are and what you’ve been through, the more likely we are to choose you.”

It also helps to look young. Prospective cast members need to be 21 this June, legally, but they should also “appear to be between the ages of 20 and 24,” according to a release from the show’s production company Bunim/Murray.

(This isn’t unusual for reality shows, but it’s sort of funny: The Real World first premiered in 1992, so it’s close to 24 at this point—almost too old for its own casting calls.)

Other sought-after traits in a cast member, according to the statement: "a larger-than-life personality," "an adventurous spirit," and "personal magnetism."

"We also love people who are at a turning point in their lives and have big decisions to make about their future," the statement reads.

The quest for all these things can lead to impromptu performances, Chahales said.

“We have a lot of people that have a talent that they want to show off,” she said. “I always think that’s hilarious. We’ve had like rappers, breakdancers, everything… we had a guy do a stomp routine for me once. It literally brought the house down.”

The casting call is just the beginning. Prospective cast members who make the next round of recruiting do a one-on-one Skype or in-person interview with a casting director. Those who progress from there get flown out to LA, where producers pick the season's official cast.

So far, though, most of the details of the season currently getting cast remain a mystery.

“The producers are really hush-hush about things like where it’s going to be located, and what the twist is going to be if there even is one,” Chahales said.

Yes, now Real World seasons often come with a surprise twist.The premise of strangers living in a house and “getting real” has lost its (initially very substantial!) luster over the years, so the show format has evolved.

The 32nd season, for instance—set in Las Vegas and premiering March 17—has a Road Rules-ish twist. Cast members must live by the maxim “go big or go home” on the show, according to MTV. This means completing a bunch of missions, like dancing at a strip club. If they fail, the show replaces them with a new cast member.

Still, at its core, the show is the same as it always was, Chahales said. “It’s a social experiment with people from different backgrounds.”

Young, decently-hot, threesome-prone people from different backgrounds, that is, if the last 31 seasons have been any indication.

“Bring your charisma!” Chahales said.