Call her the queen of reality casting”Robyn Kass is quite possibly the most recognizable name when it comes bringing real people to life on the small screen. Having done the casting for longstanding uber popular shows like The Bachelor, Survivor and Big Brother, Kass is a vetted force that has kept at the top of her game for over a decade.
After dabbling for years in the reality industry, Kass launched her own LA-based company, Kassting Inc., which oversees a myriad of productions and projects that tap into love, relationships, sports and competition. Whether it’s trying to find the next ˜showmance’ or getting kooky, animated types that you love to hate”Kass has an ability of weeding through thousands of hopefuls to find those eye-catching personalities.
29secrets chatted with Kass about her foray into the casting world, what role one’s personal style plays when being cast and what it’s really like to love your job.
First things first: What got you interested in casting in general?
Well, living in LA the TV world consumes all of us. It’s really easy to go into entertainment because that’s what the majority of everything that is here. I got my start in game shows and dating shows; I was always a fan of The Dating Game and The Newlywed Game growing up. I was fortunate to know someone who was working on a dating show when I was coming straight out of college with absolutely no experience in casting. I thought I would be good at it and soon I became a recruiter that was hired to go to clubs every night on $400 a week, trying to find hot singles. Honestly, I thought I had the best job because literally every night was me going to the club to talk to cute people.
You seemed to be right at the helm of it all when reality television launched, was that coincidental?
When reality became so big with shows like Real World and the very first Survivor, networks took from people like myself, those that had the casting ability to cast real people. I was very familiar with interviewing real people and getting stories out of them. Big Brother wasn’t much of a hit in the U.S. and they wanted to revamp it all for Big Brother 2, which is when I came in. I was very fortunate that the network knew of me. Everyone thought the whole reality thing would come and go but I was just holding on for dear life, hoping it would stay around. I’ve been riding that boom ever since.
Personal style can play a big part in how people are perceived. Does this come into play in the casting process?
Obviously, every project and show is different. For a dating show I want people to dress how they would dress on a first date. I want people to be done up: girls in heels, guys in a pressed shirt or a nice shirt and jeans if that’s their style. If the project is something more athletic or something like Big Brother I just want to know what represents them best. If they’re most comfortable in a t-shirt and jeans then come in a t-shirt and jeans, if it’s a tank top and shorts because they’re a surfer then that’s totally fine too. For example, with Big Brother, we are trying to represent all of the countries as much as possible. On Big Brother Canada Emmett had his cowboy hat”I’m sure a lot of women in Canada fantasize about that cowboy”and that was his personal style.
You do casting for both Canada and U.S. productions, what do you notice is different between the two nations?
There are definitely different types of people that come out to the casting calls in both countries. I think when it comes to shows like Big Brother it’s somewhat easier in Canada because it’s still a fairly new show there (currently in its fourth season) and there is still that excitement. There are diehard fans that love the show in the U.S. though, but the real challenge in the U.S. is not to repeat anyone we’ve seen in that past 17 seasons, which is always a huge hurdle. A lot of people will come into the casting and say they’re exactly like a past cast member and I’m thinking that I’m trying to get something new and fresh that we haven’t seen before.
You’ve done the casting for shows like The Bachelor, Survivor and of course Big Brother”do you find you have to tweak your brain a bit depending on what you’re casting for?
I love going to the casting of different shows and knowing what the goal is and what types of people will make the show great. Big Brother is my baby and I see it as a mosh pit of all the shows mixed up. When you work on a dating show you’re really looking for single people who are, for the most part, beautiful too and they should want a husband or wife; that should be the goal. For Big Brother, however, you can throw more in. Of course, we want single people and romances and all that, but we also want people that are married, that have families etc. Last year was groundbreaking for Big Brother since we had Audrey (the first transgender houseguest). It’s just a fun show where we can test out all different types and ages and that’s a unique thing to the show.
Casting can be quite long and there are different tiers that people have to go through. What is that whole time like for you?
The thing is they can only fake it for so long. By the time we get to the third meeting, I see who they are, if they’ve repeated the same story three times, for example. I see them both in front and outside of the cameras. We have the initial phase or open calls then there are the semi-finals, then finals and during the final process I will visit them, we’ll do pool time, go to the gym, maybe lunch or dinner with them. I try to see them in as many different environments as possible. You can snip out a lot when you spend that much time with people.
You were born in Southern California so I imagine your style is pretty laid-back. What are your go-to brands or outfits?
Our office is pretty casual and honestly I’m not someone who has to wear a blazer to work. I’m a jeans girl. I’m as basic as possible, I wear jeans and flip flops or sandals around the clock. I like clothing from Joie, Parker, Alice & Olivia, Mint because they’re easy to wear and go with everything.
So what is it that inspires you when it comes to casting and one’s style?
It sounds so corny but I really do love my job. I love meeting these people. I feel like I’m inspired in different ways, by hearing people’s stories and what people will say or do”it’s the passion for the project. I love being with like-minded people and talking about things that inspire them, what they love or hate about the particular show etc.
What about in a fashion sense, who do you look to for inspiration?
Ha, the people who look at other people’s style and think ˜I wish I was cool enough to pull that off.’ For me it’s like Jennifer Lawrence, Blake Lively, they always look great. They’re young, cool and fashionable people, and people I will never be.
Recently in the news there’s been talk about casting workshops and if they are a scam. What is your take on all this?
You’re opening up a huge can of worms for me. I’m sure workshops are great for actors but when it comes to reality I am 100 per cent against it. It’s my job to find authentic people and if they are taught to do a certain thing, act a certain way or tell a story that is not true to them, they’re faking it, which really upsets me. I think it’s a big gimmick, it’s a money business that is unfair and I try to snip it out as much as possible. If someone has been to one those workshops and get on my shows I truly don’t think it was because of the workshop, I think it’s because I did my job and spent enough time with them to know they are a great person and didn’t need the workshop, it’s better to just be yourself.