MeeVee's resident geek Steve Czarnecki recently spent five whirlwind minutes with Ashton, who dished the behind-the-scenes 411 about his popular show.
Where do you find most of the geeks for the show?
We go all over to find people, but we do find a lot from the Bay Area, Berkeley, Cal Tech, MIT…
When true romance breaks out on the show, is that the best test for the formula?
In your mind as a producer, you really actually hope for conflict, more than having a romance break out. We’re not trying to instigate conflict, but conflict is more entertaining to watch. But when you have that happen — the romance — it’s more a gift for them than it is for me, and that makes me happy. It’s a pleasant, wonderful surprise.
You must get thousands of submissions at the casting calls. At what point do you come in as producer, after they are whittled down?
I jump in when it's about 50 girls and 50 guys. And yeah, the casting calls are big. I feel bad that we have to put them all through the casting calls, but we want authentic people. We want people who have a little ways to go, but can get there. Someone who has a desire to get there, and change who they are… or, not really change who they are, but to become a better person. It’s a rigorous project. They go through intellect tests, social skills, and then it comes down to the final tests — which, frankly, our President can pass.
You'd say, then, that casting is the most crucial element in the show's success?
As crucial as it is to any reality show, it's the most crucial element to our show. I could take the people we're casting and just put them in a little room and watch them all day, voyeuristically. It's more fun than producing the show. They are so entertaining. It's not about the party you're at, it's about who's at the party!