Veteran reality TV casting director Sasha Alpert has worked on numerous shows, including “The Real World,” “Project Runway,” “Bad Girls Club,” and “Best Ink,” among others.
What’s casting like for reality TV?
It’s so different for every show. There’s “Real World,” where you’re looking for one set of person, but then you have “Project Runway,” where the person has to have skill. You’re looking for people that have strong, memorable personalities, and people who are not afraid to be themselves. In this age of online conversations and social media, there’s a group of people very open to talking about very personal things about their lives. There are really a lot of people who are perfect for reality television.
What do you look for?
You have to find someone that, for one reason or another, you want to listen to. Sometimes they’re stunning on camera, sometimes it’s because the quality of what they’re talking about just draws you in; most of the time, they’re tremendously good storytellers. Storytelling is a thing that I found some people are just born with.... They can tell you a story about turning off their alarm in the morning and make it interesting.
What advice do you have for those looking to audition for a reality TV show?
Make sure the show’s the right fit. The shows I’ve worked on, no one’s telling you which side you look better from, so you really have to make sure that this is exactly what you’re comfortable with, and that you’re willing to bare it all and open up.
Why is reality TV so popular?
Because it feels like people going through genuine ups and downs in their lives. The good, the difficult, the argumentative—whatever it is, they’re going through something very real. So you really want to bring that realness to the audition so you don’t feel that you’re playing a role. I know it sounds very trite, but really be yourself in all its dimension. People are quirky and interesting and dimensional—bring that.
What role has social media played?
I think it’s taught people what they’re getting into, so then you get a self-professing group of people that knows.... I would say that the role of social media is that it’s trained all of us to be like that in a way. Everyone knows what the stakes are.