University students try to find place in ‘Real World’

By Agnes Jasinski

There was Kyle from Lake Bluff, Ill., Janet from Chicago and Jamie from Chicago’s North Shore. Although a University student hasn’t made it on to The Real World yet, Matt Mason and Nina Obediah decided to give it a shot.

“It was kind of random,” said Mason, senior in LAS. “My friends were talking about it, and we went as a joke.”

Mason’s appearance at Chicago’s open casting call for the “story of seven strangers” on the MTV Network won him a spot as a top 22 finalist.

“I was really excited,” he said. “It would’ve been different to be on the show … causing some controversy.”

Obediah, a senior in education, wasn’t so lucky. She auditioned for the show as a freshman at Arizona State University and admitted she was at fault for the rejection letter she got in the mail thanking her for participating from the show’s producers.

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“The first mistake we made was going out the night before (auditions),” she said. “We got there really early in our pajamas.”

Obediah, who has since transferred to the University, recalled a 10-page packet of release forms to fill out, along with a group meeting with other hopefuls about topics that would stir up conflict, like homosexuality, drug-use and race.

“I felt really intimidated,” she said of her group session. “They were going for people with strong opinions for or against the topics.”

Mason said that people who fit a stereotype were more likely to be called back.

“When you’re on a show, you take on a role,” he said. “I learned that you shouldn’t believe everything you see. A lot of the behind-the-scenes action is scripted.”

Mason called himself a “Randy,” after the easy-going cast member from the San Diego season.

“There’s always someone like that … someone that’s laid-back, but when he snaps, you get the hell out of their way,” Mason said. “I’d be that token white guy no one really knows much about, but has his moments.”

Jay Rosenstein, an assistant professor in journalism, said the characters cast for a specific trait, such as “homosexual” or “small-town,” often end up growing as characters. Rosenstein teaches a discovery course on the history of TV documentaries and their continuing influence on modern television and film.

“They cast people to create conflict, enhance drama,” he said. “But they sometimes defeat those stereotypes … they become three-dimensional people that bust their way out of that mold.”

Obediah was relieved she never made the show. Looking back on the experience, she worries that she would’ve embarrassed her family with her “bad mouth.”

“I never really thought about the negative repercussions,” she said. “There’s no privacy … it’d be weird to know your parents could see all this.”

Mason’s parents weren’t too pleased when he kept getting callbacks because of his plans to drop out for a semester if he made it on the show.

Although he never made the final cut, Mason did get a commercial out of the deal. After producers narrowed the list of potential cast members for both the Real World and Road Rules down to 25, several were asked to do commercials for various advertisers. Mason’s ad was for Head and Shoulders shampoo for men with highlights. Despite all the primping required, Mason said he missed the commercial when it ran.

“It ran for a short time … I never saw the finished product,” he said.

Rosenstein said students will always be willing to audition for a show like the Real World because celebrity is today’s greatest obsession.

“Everyone wants to be famous … everyone wants to be known,” he said.