Jason Luna is the only contestant from 1 vs. 100 to win the million dollar prize. Here, he shares his thoughts on the game show casting process and offers tips for standing out during an audition or casting call.
Game shows, with all that energy put into their namesake games, are dependent on one thing: contestants. Week after week a non-stop barrage of faces that you’ll never see again pop up on screen, and the casting process reflects this size in numbers.
Game show casting is a cattle call, where you’re competing with a large number of people just to get on the air. This not only means that statistical probability is against you, but the people choosing contestants won’t be able to spend much time looking at you when they’ve got dozens more to get to.
That being said, here are some ways to maximize your opportunity in the spotlight, so you can get an opportunity to be in the actual spotlight.
Like a lot of game show casting processes, this is one is extremely different from show to show. Deal Or No Deal probably wasn’t looking for any Mathematics professors, but this is the most obvious criterion for anyone who wants to be on a trivia based program. Jeopardy! is probably the most regimented show in this respect, as people are required to pass a test to even be considered.
This skill set worked out well in my regard. 1 vs. 100 had me take a few tests, and I’m not going to lie, I did well on them, but being smart got me in the door before then. I am an alumni of the University of California, Irvine, but I am also an alumni of the school’s College Bowl Club, and was acting president of the club back in the day.
The show was looking for trivia champs for the "Smartest Mob Ever," and I built up a rapport with the talent scout during the process. After my loss in the mob that relationship grew, and so did my bank account when they called me back.
So basically, if they’re going to ask you questions, being able to come across as smart one way or another will definitely help.
This is the secret weapon that will often get you on a game show, or at least is reflected in a large percentage of game show contestants. I think the idea is that the audience is drawing energy from the contestant. After all, the audience and the contestant are sharing the game at the same time. So they want positive energy thrown in with their experience.
Being energetic carried me a long way on my path to 1 vs 100. In the last audition step before my show I actually lost the practice game they had us play. But I had an infectious energy for all of their crazy questions, and the rest is history, as I say.
When you audition for a game show, you should do whatever it takes to get your energy to a maximum level, without coming across as forced or insincere. Not only will it help you convince the people interviewing you that you’re a fun contestant, but it can carry you through the demands of the audition. The days are long, the activities are dull and repetitive (and the main activity is waiting for hours on end), and to say the food they give you is subpar is an understatement.
Your Story and Hobbies
This is the calling card of every game show ever made. Period.
Even Jeopardy!, with its street cred amongst us nerds who use terms like "street cred," takes time out of their show so people can talk about their spouses and their cats. And maybe talk a little bit more about their cats.
My "story" wasn’t particularly difficult to conjure, either in terms of creativity or life experience put into it. I told Bob Saget I had never had a girlfriend before, and that was about it.
That being said, I can give a clear outline as to what you should try to make your story out to be, most clearly stated in terms of what NOT TO DO:
Don't be boring!
TV programming in general has an overpowering fetish for originality, and game shows are no exception. So while TV is making people confused with original ideas like The Marriage Ref and That Show Where Jimmy Kimmel Made People Pull Cylinders Out Of The Floor, they similarly want every contestant to be the newest sensation on the airwaves.
Here are a couple of basic templates for a great personal story:
Inspirational: This is a no-brainer, and will get you on the air in a heartbeat. People who've lost family members, overcome some kind of physical impediment, etc. get attention instantly. They’ll no doubt build up rapport with the people they’re auditioning with, and no doubt the casting director will notice. And they run ads for these people like crazy, so clearly the networks like them.
Crazy: It’s hard to know for sure, but a lot of shows seem to put people on just for being a little bit off kilter. You can run a commercial of a guy with a pet iguana or a security blanket a lot easier than of someone who won the National Spelling Bee.
This leads into a point that ties into all of the above...
Game shows are a business, just like anything else. And businesses are measured in terms of assets, what people actually have in front of them. So they look at potential contestants in a simple comparative analysis: how much can this person offer that someone else couldn’t?
You should in turn maximize your tangible skill sets when you audition. It’s like a job interview: you have to convince the casting director of the skills they tell you about, and the interpersonal skills that are an unspoken assumption.
Basically, be the best representation of yourself that you can be, and you should be fine. And if you can work in a prop that can be brought in the studio, you’re as good as gold.