Turns out Canada has a healthy share of reality show schemers and dreamers.
The casting call for Big Brother Canada drew its biggest turnout Sunday when the show made its final audition stop in Toronto.
Reality show veteran Mike (Boogie) Malin was on hand to help choose the wackiest contenders for Canada’s first-ever edition of the voyeuristic global smash.
“You’ve got to know your role — if you’re the nerd be the nerd, if you’re the party guy be the party guy,” advised Malin, a Big Brother veteran from Season 2 who won the all-star Season 7 and also competed in Season 14.
“If people are going to be skittish or a little shy, you’re never going to get on the show. I like it when people really put their personalities out there.”
Hundreds of wannabe players filled a cavernous hotel ballroom that had been converted into a waiting room.
They included Kristy Gorny, a 35-year-old single mom from Oshawa, Ont. who said her longtime love for other elimination-style reality shows including Survivor and The Amazing Race would give her an edge.
She knew exactly how she’d play the game if chosen to be on Big Brother Canada — where 14 people will be made to live together in a camera-rigged house cut off from all contact with the outside world.
“I’m assuming most houseguests will think that I would be more like the mom of the (house) but really I’m going to be the competitive gamer that’ll probably stab you in the back,” said Gorny, who arrived just before 8 a.m. and expected to wait several hours to see the judges.
Stage performer and artist Patrick Brant warmed up for his audition by treating other hopefuls to an impromptu dance routine, jumping up from his chair to bounce along to Carly Rae Jepsen’s hit Call Me Maybe.
The 25-year-old exhibitionist from Kingston, Ont. said he had what it takes to make it onto the show.
“I think it’s my attitude, (my) original style,” said Brant, who sported hot pink bangs, matching pink eye liner and black lipstick.
“I have a little bit of a savoir faire that I could bring to the show. And let’s be honest, the show could always use a little bit more attitude.”
Executive producer John Brunton said he expected to audition well over 1,500 people in Toronto alone. The tour has also visited Vancouver, Calgary, Halifax and Montreal.
“We’ve been blown away by the turnout,” said Brunton, who helmed similar auditions for Canadian Idol and Canada’s Got Talent.
“We had no idea that we would have had so many people come out. There’s a rabid fanbase in Canada for this show but we’ve been overwhelmed — had to put extra staff on, had to get extra rooms.”
He points to Vancouver as another hotspot — he says almost 1,000 showed up there — and says a broad diversity of Canadians have turned out from coast-to-coast.
Unlike the search for singers for Canadian Idol, culinary masters for “Top Chef Canada” or fashion visionaries for Project Runway Canada, Brunton said he’s after an undefinable quality he referred to as “magic angel dust.”
“It doesn’t take a rocket scientist sometimes to decide who’s a good singer or a good dancer — nine out of 10 people would be able to say, ‘Hey, that person’s really talented.’
“But this is a whole different ballgame. It’s a much more complex kind of casting process and we’re really finding it incredibly fun but also really challenging.”
Brunton said construction on the house is underway, with 55 cameras installed so far. He expected it to be ready for houseguests in late January or February — making for a suitably snowy setting for Canada’s first take on the Big Brother franchise.
Malin said contenders should be aware that surviving the show is a lot tougher than it looks.
“It is a psychological challenge, it’s mental warfare and despite the comforts of the house you have to go there with a real warrior attitude,” he warned. “The boredom is really tough to put up with and it’s a hard grind. It’s like going to work — it’s not fun.”
And despite our reputation for being overly polite, Malin said he spied a few potential players in Toronto and had high hopes the Canuck instalment would measure up well. As long as those who make it on the show leave their morals and ethics at the door.
“If you’re willing to do that and not be scrutinized by people you have a shot to actually do well in this game,” he said.
Gorny says she expects the Canuck version to fall somewhere between the aggressive tone of the U.S. version and the more subtle play typical on the U.K. one.
“I think we’ll stab each other in the back — but then say sorry,” she said.
“Big Brother Canada” is headed to Slice in early 2013.