Of all the potential collaborations involving protestors of Occupy Wall Street, working with MTV, the beacon of corporate, materialistic media organizations, would seem to be among the most unlikely. That’s why we and many others around the Web were a little taken aback by a casting call posted by MTV on Craigslist seeking Occupy Wall Street participants for roles on the upcoming season of the Real World.
But the production company behind the ubiquitous reality show, Bunim/Murray Productions, assured TPM that the casting call was entirely legitimate and further, that the company has received a flood of responses from Occupy Wall Street participants who actually want a crack at appearing on season 27 of the Real World.
“Occupy Wall Street is clearly something that’s in the zeitgeist of young people,” said Sasha Alpert, senior vice president of casting at Bunim/Murray, in a telephone interview with TPM. “It’s clearly something they are really passionate about, otherwise they wouldn’t be camping out there for weeks and months. It’s a verbal, vibrant, group of people, and we put the ad out there to make sure that their voice is heard and represented.”
Alpert confirmed that the show would follow the classic Real World format of putting “7 or 8” young adults in a group home to live and work together in an as yet-to-be determined urban location, not necessarily New York City, where the Occupy Wall Street movement was launched and where it continues.
That said, Alpert confirmed that the show wouldn’t be focused on the protests or that the living quarters wouldn’t be on or near Zuccotti Park, where the demonstrators have been camping out, meaning that any Occupiers (Occupants?) who wanted to appear on the Real World would have to forgo their physical protest and move into the group house.
But, as Alpert noted, the protests may yet have ceased at the time the show begins filming in early 2012.
“It’s unclear to everyone just how long the protests will last,” Alpert said.
Alpert couldn’t confirm a specific number of applicants that have answered the Manhattan-based Craigslist casting call for Occupy Wall Street participants between the ages of 20 and 24, as she noted that the specific ad was one of upwards of 20 different casting calls that MTV is holding around the country for Real World season 27. The company is just beginning to sort through the applicants.
But she did say that of those who had submitted applications, none had expressed any reservations about working with MTV or its corporate parent, Viacom, the fourth-largest media company in the world behind Walt Disney, Time Warner and News Corporation.
“Nobody who has applied has expressed any concern about working with MTV or Viacom,” said Alpert, noting that Real World had a “long history” of being on the forefront of progressive youth movements, being one of the first shows to include an openly gay HIV awareness activist, Pedro Zamora, in its third season in 1992. (Zamora died of AIDS the day after the season finale.)
Among the highly-specific personal situations that Real World has sought out in its casting calls over the years are: Home-schooled young adults, young adults who grew up in the foster care system, “elite” athletes, Iraqi war veterans, young adults who have struggled with prescription drug addiction, to name but a few. Alpert confirmed that Bunim/Murray had issued several similar casting calls for season 27 as well, and that Occupy Wall Street was but one of them.
“We love passionate people,” said Alpert, “We love people who believe deeply in what they’re fighting for or against. We are always looking for interesting people, people who are more than their individual stories.”
Asked whether MTV had issued topical casting calls for other sociopolitical movements, specifically the tea party protests, Alpert said that Bunin/Murray had chosen to focus on the Occupy Wall Street protests because it appeared to have a high degree of youthful support (although, as we’ve seen from the first few demographic studies of the movement and its supporters, that is not the whole picture).
She did, however, say that Bunim/Murray engages in “outreach to [college] campus Republicans and Democrats” and youth groups of “every political affiliation you can think of.”
“We want as many people to come and try out for a spot on Real World as are willing,” Alpert added. “There isn’t ever one thing in particular that would qualify or disqualify someone from joining the show, and there isn’t a special place set aside on the show for someone from the Occupy Wall Street movement. It was just a matter of timing; the Occupy Wall Street movement didn’t exist the last time we were casting, but now that it does, we’re inviting them to try out.”