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Interview with Reality TV Casting Director Leyna Raskoff

Posted on 07/10/2008

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Leyna Raskoff Casting Director

Update: Apply to Solitary 4.0 HERE

This is the 6th installment in our interviews with a reality TV casting director. This week I spoke with Reality TV Casting director Leyna Raskoff.  Leyna has been working in the television industry since she was 19.  Her first official reality TV casting gig was on MTV's Real World San Diego.  She is currently working on Fox Reality's Solitary 3.0 which also happens to be the most popular casting call on RealityWanted.com.   I had the chance to catch up with Leyna and grab some casting call tips and some specific things she is looking for in applicants for Solitary 3.0.

Q. Mark: RealityWanted.com: Leyna, thank you for taking the time to chat with us today. Your casting call is currently the number one casting call on our site.  Why do you think a show like Solitary is so popular?

A. Leyna Raskoff, Reality TV Casting Director: I think people like the idea of really testing and pushing themselves to the limit.  In a game like Solitary, you don't get the support from other cast members like you do on other reality shows. It's interesting to see how people react and handle situations where all their control is taken away. The show is designed to brake you down, drain you to exhaustion and push yourself to the point where you have the chance to see what you are really made of. They control their sleep, food, physical activity, etc.

Q. Mark: RealityWanted.com: Sounds extremely interesting. I did catch a few episodes and I have spent time with last season's winner Phu Pham.

A. Leyna Raskoff, Reality TV Casting Director: Phu was the ultimate Solitary contestant!

Q. Mark: RealityWanted.com: How so?

A. Leyna Raskoff, Reality TV Casting Director: Phu is overly extroverted, naturally entertaining and talked to himself constantly in solitary. He would sing, make up songs, and do interpretive dance. It was constant entertainment!

Q. Mark: RealityWanted.com: Sounds like that helped him pass the time and make the show interesting, so do you look for overly extroverted contestants for Solitary? What can you tell us you're looking for in applicants for Solitary 3.0?

A. Leyna Raskoff, Reality TV Casting Director: Casting this show is a bit different from other shows that I have cast.

Q. Mark: RealityWanted.com: In what way?

A. Leyna Raskoff, Reality TV Casting Director: If you have seen the show we isolate 9 people into their own pods, they never meet with or interact with the other cast members like they would on a show like Survivor or Big Brother.   Knowing this, we must find people who can basically carry their own show.
Q. Mark: RealityWanted.com: Great point, so I suppose you are not looking for people who are shy and quiet, this is why Phu did so well.

A. Leyna Raskoff, Reality TV Casting Director: Exactly, we are looking for people who are interesting to watch, people who are quirky, someone who has their own inner dialogue.  We are also looking for people who like to challenge themselves, have a competitive side and inner drive.  We want people who may be control freaks, not too much but just enough to lose it a little once we take control of their lives in Solitary. Many shows look for people who interact well with others but the cast on Solitary is "solitary".

Q. Mark: RealityWanted.com: Make sense, I just did an interview with a local newspaper and they asked what shows look for in an applicant and I said it depends on the show and this proves the point. What kind of things are you not looking for or what kinds of things frustrate you with applicants.

A. Leyna Raskoff, Reality TV Casting Director:  I have been working in the business now for 9 years and I can read people very well.  I know if they are being fake and this frustrates me the most.  It ends up being a waste of my time and theirs. It may sound cliché but just be yourself when you come in for an audition. We want people who come across genuine and real.

Q. Mark: RealityWanted.com: That's what I tell many of our members. What are some deal killers or things people say or do to get tossed out of the casting process?

A. Leyna Raskoff, Reality TV Casting Director:  I really don't like it when people show up to an open casting call unprepared. If you're told not to wear clothing with logos or certain colors, please don't show up wearing logos or those colors.  If you're asked to bring in a completed application please bring the application filled out and complete.  This is, in many ways, is just like a job interview.

Q. Mark: RealityWanted.com:  Why are logos an issue?

 A. Leyna Raskoff, Reality TV Casting Director:  It depends on the show but can take Solitary for example.  We air clips from the auditions for Solitary, it's such a hassle getting logos cleared for air so we ask contestants not to wear them.

Q. Mark: RealityWanted.com: Tell us what you to see when it comes to the video, photos, applications, basically anything that needs to be mailed to you.

A. Leyna Raskoff, Reality TV Casting Director:  When it comes to mailed in applications, please make sure you include everything we request in one package.  I have had people send in an application with a photo and a note letting me know their tape will be sent soon. We don't wait for the tape and typically move on to the next applicant so people should send it all in at once.  When it comes to photos, we actually don't like professional headshots since they typically don't look like the applicant.  We want a clear, recent photo.  If you send in a photo that is five years old, you had red hair and you look 5 years younger you will end up wasting everyone's time.

 Mark: RealityWanted.com: What about an open casting call? People ask for tips all the time, do you have any?

A. Leyna Raskoff, Reality TV Casting Director: It's a short amount of time to impress the casting director so you want to be memorable but can't come off like you're trying too hard, it's a weird balance. Eye contact is also very important, it shows confidence and personality. A majority of the time we do group interviews at an open casting call so we want applicants to get some words in and make their presence known but not run the entire conversation and seem overbearing.

Mark: RealityWanted.com: Great information, Leyna! I am sure everyone on our site and people seeking out how to apply to a reality show will really dig into this.  One last question before I let you get back to work.  Some members have asked me if they should go to an open casting call even if they already sent in a tape, should they?

A. Leyna Raskoff, Reality TV Casting Director: I would do both, it can't hurt, and I like to see people who have drive, not a stalker but someone with enough interest and drive to impress me.

Mark, RealityWanted.com: Thanks again Leyna, let us know if you pick someone from RealityWanted for Solitary and I look forward to seeing you again soon. 

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