Dick Donato, <EM>Big Brother</EM> Dick Donato, Big Brother

The bigwigs behind Big Brother, including executive producer Allison Grodner, are holding open casting calls for the show's next season — which will be starting up in mid-February, a lot sooner than its typical summertime slot, thanks to the writers' strike. There are still a few days of open calls left, so if you've always wanted to bare your soul (not to mention the rest of you) on national television and live 24-hour Internet feeds, check out CBS.com. Grodner told us what will get you noticed, why nothing's too outrageous and how some former faves nearly didn't make it on to the show.

TVGuide.com: This is awfully soon for you guys to be doing casting calls again....
Allison Grodner: It's crazy, isn't it? It seems like we just ended [Season 8]! It's like, "Oh, wait a minute, it's not summer?" [Laughs]

TVGuide.com: How much time do you usually have between casting and the new season?
Grodner: For a summer season, we usually start up at the end of February. It's quite a big casting process, and it's also preparing the house, redoing the equipment [for the challenges]... there's no doubt that this is more of an accelerated process at this point.

TVGuide.com: What do you look for in a Big Brother candidate?
Grodner: We are always looking for interesting personalities. We're looking for a diverse group of people from different backgrounds, with different personalities and different points of view. It's always about the mix — you mix it up, you close the door and throw away the key, and see what happens. [Laughs] Every year it's a surprise. We're looking for people who can be themselves, who are un-self-conscious and can be honest. And that's pretty much it. Last summer was a really good example of that; there was such a range of people. It's people you would never find together in the real world. [Laughs]

TVGuide.com: Are there certain "types" that you always want to include — like a controversial loud-mouth, a blonde bombshell, etc.?
Grodner: [Laughs] We really don't. It's really about people whose personalities interest us and people we feel are very real. The last thing we want are people who will come to a casting session and give us what they think we want — we've now been doing this long enough that we can spot that miles away. Once you close that door, people become themselves, and we need to be able to see what you really are, because people are going to be watching you 24/7. We are looking for diversity of age and a diversity of looks — you know, you've got your pretty people, your very real-looking people. It's a bit of a potion — with Big Brother we throw them in, we stir it up a little, we add some spice, and then you simmer all summer long.

TVGuide.com: So what's involved in the open casting call?
Grodner: People walk in, they give us their best two minutes or less on tape. If you're nowhere near, you can download an application and submit a tape [by mail]. Then we go through those tapes. Really it's the first 30 seconds, so make sure you get across your unique point of view then.

TVGuide.com: Have you encountered any particularly wacky people auditions?
Grodner: Oh, yeah, always. [Laughs] We've seen people who drop all their clothes. And we've seen some really creative things. When people go to that extra effort, we know they're not going to be dull to watch.

TVGuide.com: Is there anything that's actually too outrageous?
Grodner: For Big Brother? I don't know. [Laughs] Obviously there are the rules of the house. If anyone appears to be dangerous, we wouldn't want them.

TVGuide.com: What gets a person really noticed in a casting call?
Grodner: As long as it's not the same old thing. We're going to notice right off the bat if you're putting on an act for us: "I'm going to go in there and fight," the whole stereotypical reality part of it all. We've wised up over the years — we know when people are just putting on an act to get to the next level. Whatever you put on tape should be representative of what your friends and family see in you.

TVGuide.com: What can you tell us about the interview process for some past fan favorites?
Grodner: With Dr. Will [Kirby, who won Season 2], if I remember correctly, his tape was actually not that impressive. We thought, "This is a cute guy; he's a doctor." We liked the idea that this was someone from a white-collar background mixed in with everyone else. He came to our semifinals. Once we had an interview with him, we understood just how brilliant and charismatic he is. We were wowed by him. We knew he had potential, but we didn't know how much. And Dick [Donato, who won last season] diligently showed up at open calls for the past three years. Each year he made it further and further. Last year we had our [people-from-the-past] twist, and his daughter, Daniele, showed up to the open call as well, and they're not talking to each other... it just fell into our laps.

Check out clips of Big Brothers past in our Online Video Guide.

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