‘Big Brother Canada’ casting director Robyn Kass gives tips for auditions

Calling all Big Brother Canada fans: casting for a new batch of houseguests is open for the hit reality show’s seventh season.

Big personalities, competition beasts, and strategic planners are all welcome for the casting of Season 7.

The hit show returns in 2019 and Global is gearing up for another outrageous season.

Big Brother Canada casting calls will be held in Toronto on Nov. 24 and Global News spoke with Big Brother casting director Robyn Kass to help collect some tips for the people interested in auditioning for a spot as a houseguest.

Global News also spoke to Kass about the casting process for Big Brother, tips for people who come out every season to audition for Big Brother Canada and much more.

Global News: What got you interested in casting in general?
Kass: I have been in casting for about 20 years now and I think it’s just, born and raised here in Los Angeles, having sort of the industry all around you. And growing up I was a fan of all the old school dating shows and game shows. I was a fan and I got into it through a friend out of college. Not sure what I was meant to do and I was one of the few lucky ones. That was in the business when reality TV started. So I’ve been in it from the beginning.

And reality TV is the best thing ever in my opinion.
It is, right! I find it so much fun, I love it.

You can get addicted to a show in a second and then you just find yourself binge-watching a whole season.
That’s so funny that you say that because obviously now there are so many shows out there and I like to stay current so if I’m talking to new producers or something I can at least talk about the shows and I will tell myself, ‘OK, just tune in for an episode.’ But then you’re screwed — it’s like you have to know what happens next week.

You do casting for both Canada and U.S. productions of Big Brother. What are the main differences between the two nations?
I should have a really good answer for that but I don’t, really. I mean, it’s not really that different. When we started Canada Season 1, we would get warnings about, ‘Oh, you’re never going to find a good one. They’re too nice in Canada.’ And what we have realized is that is not true. You guys are just as brutal and just as into the gameplay as we are down here. In the first few seasons of Canada, there was a fresher energy at the open calls because it was new and exciting.

I do still think it’s new and exciting in Canada and here. I still think it’s exciting here in the U.S., but going on Season 21, a lot of the candidates we’ve seen so many times, we kind of know who’s going to show up. We know who is going to be at the open calls because they come every year. And that’s just started to happen the last few years here in the States. People who are brand new to the show are applying in Canada and people who have just started watching Big Brother the last few years. And that’s always good for us.

That leads into my next question because there are obviously countless people who come out every season to audition who didn’t make it the year before. What’s your advice for them and how should they stand out if you’ve already seen them three or four times?
People ask, ‘Well, I’ve applied twice and I haven’t made it on, should I keep going?’ I always say keep applying and it’s not so much how they can stand out this time, it’s that people change in a year and your life can make you a different person. So you might go this year and within the next year maybe you get married, maybe you had a kid, maybe you had a divorce, maybe you travelled the world, maybe you start a new job, maybe you move somewhere and all those life experiences make you a different person. We like houseguests who have interesting lives and who can have interesting conversations and those things that you do in a year can definitely give you the life experience that you need to grab onto those conversations inside the house. So I would say, yes keep applying.

What stands out to you the most during a casting call?
It’s so tough to answer these questions and make it sound real because everybody says be yourself and you hear the same things. And for us, it’s the authenticity of people who are just talking to us. We can tell when someone comes up in front of us and we ask them a question, we can tell if they have answers rehearsed. People get so excited about the open call that they end up spending two or three days prior thinking, ‘Gosh, if they ask me this, this is what I’m going to say.’ And they think, ‘if Robyn is there, I’m going to say this to her,’ and we can tell when people have things planned out. It’s so much better when we can just have a conversation. I tell people who are going to an open call to have a cup of coffee, wear an outfit you feel good in, get a good night’s sleep and come with an open mind and be ready to just have a conversation because if you’re a houseguest we have to see how you’re going to interact with people over two months. So, I would rather just have a conversation with you than you stand up in front of me and say the cliche Big Brother things that you think I want to hear. Those are what I don’t want to hear.

Like the Big Brother superfans that study the casting videos before they come in and rehearse their favourite person?
I love it when people will talk about the show and talk about their favourite players but I’m not necessarily looking to cast anybody twice. I’d rather have somebody say, ‘I love this person’s game play but this is how I’m going to be unique and different.’

Which houseguest has surprised you the most once you saw him or her inside the Big Brother Canada house?
If I think about last season I would love to say that the girls surprised me because they were so bad-ass, but that’s not true. They were all really, really strong in the interviews. I mean, it’s always great when we have really strong female players. I don’t know. I’m always surprised because you never know exactly what they’re going to be like in the house. But I will tell you there has yet to be a Canadian houseguest who has let me down. They might play a little bit different from what I expect, but I think in the six seasons that we’ve cast out here, every single person who’s walked in that house has put it on the line and has played their heart out, which is really all I can expect from them.

Of course, and we have Ika [Wong], too, and she’s a Canadian icon now (laughs).
I mean, come on, we’re never going to be able to top Ika. Yes, I mean she is the gold standard of any houseguest.

In one of the Big Brother seasons, Frankie Grande was a cast member. Would you ever cast a celebrity’s sibling again or would you put them on Celebrity Big Brother?
Frankie applied for the show so it wasn’t like we were seeking a celebrity sibling. But just like a random celebrity sibling, I don’t think would ever be on a celebrity version. If someone’s great and they are a sibling or they’re related to a celebrity or somebody, of course. But Frankie was great, no matter what. The fact that he is Ariana’s brother is just a little bit of frosting on the cake but with or without her he was a great help.

And he held that secret of being Ariana Grande’s brother in for so long too during his time on the show.
But he sure loved letting the cat out of the bag, Right!

You’ve done casting for Big Brother, The Bachelor, Survivor and other shows. Is there a different type of style that you look for when you’re casting on each show?
The big competition type shows like Survivor or The Bachelor or Big Brother, the way we find people are similar. Obviously we’re looking for different people on The Bachelor. We’re only looking for early 20s, single, want to get married type people. For Survivor or Big Brother, they’re a little bit more similar although the people going into the Big Brother house would probably say, ‘I love watching Survivor but I could never do that, I could never live outside.’ Sometimes, depending on the project, when they come to me if it’s a new show, I will brainstorm what is the best avenue. Should we travel for it? Should we stay here? What are the sites we should look for? How should we post the types of people we’re looking for? So usually when they hire my staff, we’ll have a bit of a brainstorming day or two where we decide on the best avenues to take to try to find the specific types of people.

Casting can be very long and there are different tiers that people have to go through. What is the process like for you? Does it get tiring?
I am very fortunate. I love my job. I love reality TV. I know I realize how lucky I am. That being said, I mean, it’s a job like any other job and there are days that are really difficult and really tiring and really frustrating. Just think like any other job there’s huge ups and downs. I’m lucky that I get to interact with so many interesting people and hear about people’s lives and people’s jobs. But that being said, when it’s all said and done, there’s a group of people all making decisions and we don’t always have the same taste. So sometimes I’m frustrated, sometimes I don’t agree with producers and the network. Those days are frustrating.

Do you have an all-time favourite Big Brother cast member?

I still go way back to early, early Big Brother. Danielle Reyes is my favourite, who was Season 3 runner-up. I still think she’s one of the best players and I think I’ve said that before. So hopefully we’ll be breaking too many hearts but I do think that she sets a great standard in the U.S. And in Canada, I mean since we talked about her, I think it’s going to be hard for me to get another cast member whom I enjoy watching more than Ika [Wong].

(This interview has been edited and condensed.)

Big Brother Canada casting calls will be held in Toronto at Corus Entertainment, 25 Dockside Dr., from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. ET/PT on Nov. 24.

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