In August, American Idol will start searching for new contestants by touring the country in a bus. So far, 19 cities have been announced.
But the show is also looking for contestants with the help of casting companies—including the one responsible for finding Snooki and the cast of Jersey Shore; and the cast of Party Down South; and RuPaul’s Drag Race; and the singles on NBC’s First Dates; and so much more.
I’m referring to Doron Ofir, and I interviewed him to find out what he’s doing as part of the Idol casting process.
While singers can apply at the bus stops and online, he said he’s looking for people who might not apply by themselves. As “a satellite casting company,” Ofir has “been tasked by Fremantle” to find “talent that may not ordinarily been able to be seen through the tour, or as shied away” from the traditional casting process, he said.
“The United States is a really broad and spectacularly large, vast network to cover. So what I’m doing is a lot of independent outreach” he told me. “I’m going through millions of different versions of YouTube video, Soundcloud, DJ services that use session singers—people that either felt that it was out of their grasp, wasn’t right for them, or didn’t even consider it for fear of the process. I’m trying to get to them directly and let them know that there is another chance of getting on, and I would love to hear from them, see what they are made of, and potentially throw their hat in the right as well.”
Though Ofir searching for people, they can also reach out directly to him—and they can also audition all three ways (open call, via ABC.com, and via Ofir).
He said he hopes to find “really great undiscovered and hidden talent. And sometimes they don’t have the means to get to one of the audition locations, or they don’t feel worthy enough to audition. I’m here to help hold their hand.”
Have we run out of singers to audition for Idol?
Singers Ofir identifies to this process will be presented to the producers, for potential inclusion in the pool that eventually auditions for the judges. (Although the show made it seem like contestants stood in line to audition for the judges, there was a multi-step process they had to get through first.)
When we talked, the new American Idol casting process had just started, and I asked if or how the show would be changing, or how the contestants might be different. “That’s not something I’m not privy to, because we are in the initial casting steps. So the creative of the show, how the show is going to be presented—I wouldn’t know,” Ofir told me.
But Idol’s legacy remains at the forefront of his mind. “One of the greatest things about American Idol across the board was the journey from literal home town obscure unknown to a world-wide platform, whether it was Kelly or Carrie, whether they were winners, runner-ups, or not, that show yielded the most extraodrinary talent that has transcended and continued” on beyond the show, and more than “any other talent show in the history of television.”
With The Voice going strong, never mind 15 seasons of American Idol and all of its knock-offs, is there still a lot of undiscovered talent?
Definitely, he said.
“There is an entire generation that never got to participate in the American Idol experience,” Ofir told me. “But I think a lot of people also shied away from it for various fears, and I think that the industry has really changed. … When American Idol started they didn’t have the opportunity to cast through those means or seek them out where they actually exist. And I think that’s one of my strong suits as a company is that I’m able to find undiscovered areas to be able to approach or invite” people to apply.
“I’m looking for talent,” he added. “I’m strictly looking for the best talent and personality combination I can find.”