As a casting director for CBS’s highly rated television show “Big Brother” and other well-known shows such as “The Bachelor,” and “Survivor,” Robyn Kass is as sincere and humorous as she is a phenomenal casting director. If a name predetermines someone’s future career, Kass was destined to work in casting. According to Kass, “the goal of casting a show like “Big Brother,” is to put a group of people in a house together who would never be friends outside [the] house.” She continues, “[Big Brother] is about fighting hard and maybe being in uncomfortable situations to [win] money at the end.”
Kass answers some of fans questions about casting, “showmances,” and the rumors about there being another All-Stars season.
EXAMINER: You’ve been in the business for a while can you give an overview of your career and how you got started in casting?
KASS: When I finished college it was right before reality [television]. I started my career casting in dating shows, and game shows. I think that when reality hit they weren’t sure of what types of people to hire, so they went to people with real person experience. I was doing dating shows when “Real World” started and when “Survivor” started. When “Big Brother” came along, there had been one season of “Big Brother” that was OK, but a lot of people weren’t sure about the show, and they wanted to make it fresh, new, and interesting with a different twist. I was just lucky enough to be in the business at that time, [and] I started my big shows with [season two] of “Big Brother.” I’ve [cast] “The Bachelor” for years, “Survivor,” and dating shows. If you go down my resume, you can see that I’ve had my hands in the big reality shows.
EXAMINER: Have you ever regretted casting a houseguest?
KASS: I’m not going to say regret, [but] I will say that sometimes people are different on the show than I expect. People change in different circumstances, there’s no way to 100 percent [know] how someone will be in a unique circumstance, whether it’s in “Big Brother” or on “The Bachelor” set. I [definitely would] say that some people are different than I expect, but I wouldn’t say that I have regrets.
EXAMINER: Based on your first impression of a houseguest, is there anyone that you're surprised made it or that did not make it far in the game?
KASS: Oh my gosh all the time! Every episode of every show I’ve ever done, I am shocked and surprised. Sometimes my staff and I will sit around, depending on the show and try to chose who we think will win. There’s so much luck involved in any of these shows, and I don’t know if I’ve ever been right with my guesses. I’m rarely right with “showmances,” I’m always surprised. Sometimes I think people will get along, and they don’t. Sometimes I think people will be enemies, and they’re best friends. I talk about “Big Brother” a lot because I’ve been doing it for most of my career, but I’m a fan just like the fans. When they’re surprised, I’m surprised; when they’re shocked, I’m shocked.
EXAMINER: Speaking of “Showmances,” there’s been many this season.
KASS: There has! Who knew that this would be the season of “showmance.” Who in a million years would have guessed that McCrae and Amanda would end up being a couple? When I put the cast down, I wouldn’t have guessed any of those couples playing out the way they did. It’s always funny watching them pair up, and [saying] “Oh my God, I can’t believe she went for him, or vise versa.”
EXAMINER: Out of the final 3, any favorites?
KASS: I’m going to say no, just because I have favorite aspects of all three of them. I really look at all of these people [from shows I cast] as kids of mine, and I don’t pick favorites. From a casting standpoint, I don’t [have a favorite]. I think that all three of them have played hard; [however,] from a viewer/fan standpoint, I feel like every episode I’m rooting for someone different.
EXAMINER: Do you have a viewing panel and how many are a part of the selection process?
KASS: I have a staff of six casting producers, and they’ll watch all the videos. I also watch a lot of them. [The casting producers] are the ones who will travel around the country, set-up the open calls; interview all the people in person, so they see thousands of people. When it goes to the next round, they will each pitch me their favorite people, so I’ll watch videos or Skype interviews, or [watch] tapes of the favorite people that they have [chosen]. I’ll usually see may be about 400. From there we narrow down. Everything is a narrowing down process. Choosing the finalist, and narrowing down from there. The whole process takes about three to four months from beginning to end.
EXAMINER: Is there an “it” factor?
KASS: I have so many people ask me, what are you looking for? The “It” factor is exactly “it.” It could be anything. It could be the way someone talks, the way someone laughs, the inflection in their voice, their story telling, [or] their enthusiasm. Maybe it’s the way they bug me, maybe it’s the way I want to hang-out with them. It has to do with people who you don’t forget. There’s so many people who are fine, and [at] the end of the day, those people sort of mix together in your head. It’s those people who you remember! Maybe it’s someone I hate, [and] annoys me, [or] I would not want to be stuck in a house [with them], but you’ll remember them, and you’ll have discussions. Sometimes [casting producers] will come in, and we’re fighting for 10 minutes. “I like them, I didn’t like them!” It’s like, “we just spent 10 minutes talking about this person, clearly there’s something about them that’s making us want to talk.” That is the “it” factor – good, bad, funny, crazy, wild, [and] opinionated. It’s anything that makes them standout amongst all the other people.
EXAMINER: Do you have a favorite city to cast?
KASS: No, I think it changes. We get good characters from everywhere. I’ve always loved east coast characters. We [also] get great people from the Midwest, great people from Chicago. We always find different people from different areas. That’s why we try to switch up the cities for every season.
EXAMINER: Does it increase your chances to be cast if you attend a casting call as well as submit a video?
KASS: I always leave it up to the people who apply. We’ve had so many people get on the show who just submit a video. We’ve also had so many people on the show who just went to an open call, [and] we’ve had a lot of people get on the show who’ve done both. I tell people [it’s] where you feel, you’ll do the best. It’s [equal] with the people who have submitted online and the people who have gone to casting calls.
EXAMINER: Have you ever tasted slop?
KASS: I have! It’s disgusting, and I do not know how those people [spend] a week or weeks on it. It’s just like tasteless mush. It tastes exactly how you would think it would taste when you look at it. It has protein in it, which is important for them, but it is not something you would want to live on for days.
EXAMINER: Rumor has it that next season is All Stars, can you confirm?
KASS: I love how these rumors get started because I will tell you [that] the last thing on anyone’s mind right now is next season. It’s all about getting through this season and not one word has been mentioned at all from production or network regarding next season. None of us [probably will even] think about next season until next year. Wherever those crazy rumors come from, there [is] no truth to that! And I’m not saying that it will or won’t happen, it just hasn’t been talked about. So those rumors would all be false!
EXAMINER: What are you currently working on?
KASS: I’m casting “Big Brother” Canada. We do the same process there as we do [in the U.S.]. There’s a lot of Big Brother in my life, right now!
Big Brother season finale airs Wednesday, Sept., 18 at 8 p.m. on CBS.
©Salatha Helton All Rights Reserved. This was an exclusive interview with Robyn Kass. No part of this article may be reproduced without prior permissions from the author.