Reality Check

Janette Neuwahl

After pulling an all-nighter to study for a midterm, Speech junior Jeff Shuter was anything but prepared to attend an open casting call for MTV’s “Real World” and “Road Rules” television shows. But after a friend working for the program told him about the Nov. 10 event, Shuter decided to test his luck.

“It was the last thing I felt like doing,” Shuter said of his Saturday morning trip to Wrigleyville. “After sitting in traffic for two hours, I was so tired I couldn’t comprehend what they were asking me.”

Despite his lethargy, Shuter made it to the second phase of the process: He was called into a back room where he was given a 15-page application to take home and fill out. When he got home, Shuter promptly fell asleep and missed the deadline for handing in the application.

“The next morning I slept until nine and then worked on the application for two-and-a-half hours,” he said. “At noon I walked into the hotel and luckily one of the casting directors walked out of the elevator and took my application.”

After his mishaps, Shuter is not very optimistic about his chances for a third interview.

“Being given a second application was cool, but it really doesn’t mean anything,” Shuter said. “I’m not banking on it or anything, but it would be cool because (the next ‘Real World’) is in (Las) Vegas.”

Four other Northwestern students also were called back after the initial auditions at the John Barleycorn pub in Wrigleyville, leaving some hope that NU might land a second student on the popular show. Along with Shuter, Speech junior Julian Thomas, Speech seniors Maggie Haynes and Gabe Ribas, and Weinberg sophomore Stephanie Struhs will return for Round 2.

Janet Choi, Medill ’00, appeared on the Seattle season of the “Real World,” which aired in 1998. The current candidates had mixed opinions on whether that would improve their chances.

“Actually, the Seattle ‘Real World’ was the only season I got into,” Ribas said. “Janet was really great and I enjoyed seeing her at NU my freshman year, but it might hurt our chances.”

After waiting in line at the open call for five hours, Ribas was pulled aside by an MTV representative who told him there was something wrong with his application. He then was escorted into a room under the bar where he was given three hours to complete the form.

“The only way you could leave was to go to the bathroom, and even then you had to leave the application on the table,” he said.

Later that night Ribas was called back by a representative who asked him to come in for a one-hour camera interview at Hotel Allegro in Chicago.

“During the interview we were just talking about me,” Ribas said. “You tend to learn a lot about yourself when you talk for that long.

“I’m not a person that has anything to hide,” Ribas said. “There is nothing in my life that is that much of a secret, so I didn’t find it much of a big deal at all.”

Bunim-Murray Productions held the casting calls in seven different locations nationwide. According to the company’s Web site, more than 15,000 people went to the open calls and another 30,000 sent in videotaped auditions.

Applicants go through six or seven rounds of interviews and a weeklong casting session before being selected for the shows, which begin shooting in February or March. The next “Real World” will be filmed in Las Vegas, and “Road Rules” will travel throughout the South.

Speech sophomore Alan Gaskill, whose family friend Morgan Fahey is the shows’ supervising director, helped to facilitate the open calls in Wrigleyville. Gaskill said that although it was a long day, he would do it again.

“It was a little surreal having complete power over the thousands assembled in line,” Gaskill said. “It’s not something I’d like to do full-time, but it was interesting.”

Struhs said she hadn’t planned on going to the audition but decided to come along when a friend had an extra seat in her car.

“It was so random, I just jumped into her car and went,” Struhs said.

After waiting six hours to hand in the initial application, Struhs and her friends were broken into groups of 10 to discuss homosexuality, racial profiling and “the myths of sex.”

“Everybody was fighting for a chance to speak, and there was always one dominant person who, in my group, was a gay guy who I thought was going to be pulled aside for a second interview,” Struhs said.

While waiting for her friends, Struhs also was pulled aside into a back room with about 15 other people where she spent about three hours filling out another application.

“Basically, MTV knows everything about my life now,” Struhs said.

Now the applicants are waiting for a call to either push them further along in the process or end their hopes of being on the show.

“I don’t know or believe I’ll get on at this point, so if I don’t make it, it’s not going to be earth-shattering,” Ribas said.