Tampa twins and donkey fluids on Fear Factor highlight reality TV's love for local casting
(UPDATE: NBC has pulled the episode featuring the Odioso twins from its schedule, substituting an episode aired earlier this month.)
When it finally happened, Brynne Odioso still couldn't believe it.
She had landed on national television, challenged to drink the bodily fluids of a donkey.
But as the Tampa native and her twin sister, Claire, vied against several other pairs of twins for NBC's legendary gross-out stunt contest Fear Factor, she did notice one thing. They were the only out-of-towners around.
"Florida has something to do with it I think," said Brynne Odioso, 22, noting she and her sister, who now lives in Charlotte, N.C., seemed to be the only people flown to Los Angeles for the taping last fall. "Maybe they're interested in bringing people who come from a different part of the country."
The twins' episode proved controversial when NBC executives considered not airing the challenge, according to TMZ.com. The network quietly replaced the episode with a rerun -- not even the Odiosos were told definitively by NBC it wouldn't air -- and has declined to comment on the record about their decision or if the piece will ever see broadcast.
Brynne Odioso said NBC's rules prevent her from describing how she and Claire responded to the challenge, which involved drinking separate glasses of donkey semen and urine. But the twins, who once fought each other to be independent, now balance each other emotionally, providing a storyline producers like, she said.
"Most people stereotype Florida as laid back," she said (both girls are daughters of former Tampa Bay Buccaneers spokesman Rick Odioso). "But that's not always true."
Turns out, reality TV producers may already know how exciting local people can be, given how many folks from the Tampa Bay area they have cast in big unscripted television shows this winter.
In the next few weeks, individuals from the Tampa Bay area will appear on Survivor, The Amazing Race, American Idol and MTV's The Challenge: Battle of the Exes. The people selected range from the wife of a former NFL star to married clowns who work for the Ringling Bros. circus.
And according to one casting director who searches out people for unscripted shows and commercials, this is no accident.
"Tampa is the new Miami," said Rose Rosen, who has found participants for Bridezillas and Dr. Drew's Lifechangers, among other shows. "(A producer friend from Hollywood) tells me Miami's completely tapped out. There are no fresh faces; everybody who wants to be on television has been on television at least once."
Rosen said casting calls in Miami can stretch out to distant neighbors — X-Factor winner Melanie Amaro is from Coral Gables — with limited results.
"They look at Tampa as a new, fresh market," she added. "They say they're looking for people who are genuine and real, but they really like it amped up on steroids. … We have that Florida twist."
Her advice for those who want to get on a reality show: Apply online, be energetic — but not crazy — and offer a twist that might get them excited.
And be prepared to spend some time. "If I'm casting for a commercial, you're in my room for five minutes if you're having a good day," Rosen said. "But for reality, (producers) give me a book of questions to ask. They want a sense of who the audience will get to know."
Rosen had one more prediction: As pretty girls who are twins, Brynne and Claire Odioso will get more reality TV offers.
"When we got back, I got an email from Masterchef asking 'Do you guys cook?' " said Brynne Odioso, who applied online for Fear Factor on impulse back in August. "I said, 'No, but we can learn.' "
Where to see Tampa Bay's reality TV stars
Appearing on: Survivor: One World.
Debuts: 8 p.m. Feb. 15 on WTSP-Ch. 10.
The Situation: As the longtime wife of former Tampa Bay Buccaneers player Brad Culpepper, Monica landed on the show when producers spotted her while trying to cast her husband.
David and Cherie Gregg
Appearing on: The Amazing Race.
Debuts: 8 p.m. Feb. 19 on WTSP.
The Situation: Married for nearly 20 years, the New Port Richey couple work as clowns in the Ringling Bros. "Ambassadors of Laughter" kids program.
Appearing on: American Idol.
Debuts: Shown auditioning Jan. 18, she advanced to the Hollywood rounds, airing Feb. 9 on WTVT-Ch. 13.
The Situation: A 15-year-old student at the Academy of Holy Names in Tampa, Magrane is the daughter of former Tampa Bay Rays announcer Joe Magrane. According to some fan websites, Shannon Magrane may survive to the show's Top 24.
Appearing on: American Idol.
Debuts: Shown auditioning Wednesday, he advanced to the Hollywood rounds.
The Situation: Friends told the Tampa Bay Times the 28-year-old Spring Hill resident says he doesn't advance past Hollywood week.
Appearing on: The Challenge: Battle of the Exes.
Debuted: At 10 p.m. last Wednesday on MTV.
The Situation: Hibbard, a onetime bartender at Coyote Ugly Saloon in Tampa and an alum of The Real World's 2004 season in San Diego, returns for the challenge competition with former stars of MTV's reality TV shows, paired with former boyfriend and Road Rules alum Mark Long.
Information from Times files was used in this report.