Be yourself. But be different.
That was the general, and arguably conflicting, advice offered to the hundreds of Calgarians lined up on a brisk and grey Saturday morning with hopes of becoming one of the house guests on Season 4 of the reality series Big Brother Canada. It was imparted by two Calgarians who should know. Roughly half-hour into the morning auditions, part of last season’s Calgary contingent — model Brittnee Blair and chatty sales rep Willow MacDonald — arrived on the scene to significant fanfare. Hopefuls moving through the long line stretching outside Ranchman’s on Macleod Trail cheered and posed for pics with the two reality TV stars, who were as unknown as they were one year ago.
“I would say just come as you are,” says Blair. “If you have something that is really unique about you — like a job or a cool story or somewhere you’ve travelled where no one has been before — I would say bring that to the table. They want to see something different. But still you.”
“You want to stand out,” adds MacDonald. “You obviously want to break away. There’s a lot of people here and it’s tough to be picked or chosen. Whether that’s a great trait, or maybe you have some flaw about you. But negative or positive, whatever you have that is kind of different or quirky about yourself, use that to your advantage. I talk too much. I’m very opinionated. These things that people really don’t like, producers love.”
Big Brother is looking for houseguests for season 4 as Calgarians line to audition outside of Ranchmans with casting director Robyn Kass.Such is the strange world of reality TV. And Saturday morning’s cattle-call auditions certainly had a carnival-like feel to them. Lineups reportedly began to form at 6 a.m. for the 10 a.m. start. Beer was flowing by 11. There was singing and cheering and general revelry, even if some were already plotting and secretly scoping out the competition.
“I’ve just been observing since 6,” says Chastity Moreau, a relatively soft-spoken 39-year-old mother-of-two and healthcare aid from Strathmore. “I’m taking it all in. I’ve heard some crazy conversations. I’m so competitive. Even at baby showers, I want to win every gift.”
“It’s like a huge social experiment, I love everything about it,” says Cara Dirani, a 29-year-old child-development specialist and Big Brother superfan. “I think that you really have a true opportunity to show who you are as a person and you meet a big family. It’s like a new family. It just looks like so much fun.”
Calgarians line up outside Ranchman’s in hopes of becoming a house guest on Season 4 of Big Brother Canada.Of course, the odds were certainly against the Calgary hopefuls. Not only are they competing for one of the 15 spots on the series with the hundreds that showed up in Calgary, but thousands across Canada. The cattle-call tour will be making stops in eight cities — from Halifax to Vancouver — before a cast is settled. Those who made it past this first round in Calgary were to be interviewed again one-on-one on Monday and Tuesday. Eventually, 60 finalists from across Canada will be taken to Toronto for final auditions.
Those who make the cut will be placed in a camera-rigged house in Toronto for three months, completely cut off from the world. They will try and avoid evictions while participating in various physical and mental challenges while, presumably, turning fellow house guests into friends or foes. The last man or woman standing gets $100,000.
On Saturday, the hopeful hordes were trotted out six at a time before formidable casting director Robyn Kass, who has not only chosen houseguests for the first three seasons of Big Brother Canada but has also been with the U.S. version since 2001.
“When we started Canada Season 1, everybody was telling me: ‘Everyone is too nice, you’re not going to find villains, you’re not going to find game players, everybody says sorry, that’s all you’re going to hear,'” says Kass. “But I don’t think there’s a big difference. When it comes to playing the game and immersing yourself in the game, the horns come out. People want that money. U.S., Calgary, it doesn’t matter. People are going to do what it takes to get the money. As nice as Canadians are, you guys have some villains out there also.”
In fact, Kass says Calgarian Kevin Martin, the professional poker player who hatched a near-Machiavellian strategy to come out on top, made a suitable villain in Season 3. Alas, he was ousted the same night as MacDonald back in May. (The eventual winner of the $100,000 prize was Sarah Hanlon, a Toronto hemp-shop worker who was raised in Calgary.) Great villains, Kass says, are smart and “know when to be villainous.” They can be duplicitous in the house, but should come clean when on their own in the confessional “Diary Room.” Fool your fellow house guests, don’t try and fool the viewers, she says.
“I don’t think a villain has to be a nasty person or someone who screams or is mean,” Kass says. “A villain is somebody who is extra strategic and probably plays it better than other people and letting the people of Canada know what is really going on.”
Appollo Muise, another Saturday morning hopeful from Strathmore, didn’t say he was planning to be a villain per se, but the 20-year-old roofer said he believed he would be good at playing other houseguests off eachother.
“If I see two people going at it, I might find some way to aggravate that a little bit,” he said.
Whatever the case, he and all the other would-be contestants had only a brief amount of time to make their case to Kass, who admits she has developed a sixth sense about casting that kicks in quickly. Given the show’s long run — 17 seasons in the U.S. — those auditioning often think they know what she is looking for.
That can be a good thing and a bad thing. But mostly a bad thing, Kass says.
“They over-think it,” she says. “All those people sitting out there right now are thinking ‘Robyn wants to hear this, so I’m going to tell her.’ It’s the cliche sayings that a lot of them say over and over, that make us roll our eyes. . . The number one thing we hear is when we say ‘tell me about yourself,’ somebody will automatically say ‘I can be your best friend, but if you stab me in the back I can be your worst enemy.’ They think I want to hear it, but it’s their delivery. I can tell they are just saying it. They don’t believe what they are saying and I think it’s easy to see right through them.”
Season 4 of Big Brother Canada will air on Global in the winter of 2016.