Aug. 30, 2006 — During the next few months, the crew of Black Entertainment Television's "College Hill" will be taking a break from the hustle and bustle of the mainland and kicking back right here in the territory to film the show's highly anticipated fourth season, which will showcase the daily lives of eight students from the University of the Virgin Islands.
The show, which premiered on BET in early 2004, has been traditionally filmed at historically black colleges and universities throughout the states, starting off with Louisiana's Southern University in season one, and ending at Virginia State University in season three.
"This year, however, we decided to come to the Virgin Islands and cast students from UVI," "College Hill" Co-producer Sean Rankine said Wednesday. "And we chose UVI because it's very different from what we're used to doing. It's a different culture–an amazing culture, with amazing people, and we wanted to tap into that."
Rankine, who has worked on other popular reality shows such as MTV's "Real World" and "Making the Band," added that this season will also highlight the positive aspects of the Virgin Islands — from the laidback Caribbean lifestyle to the role UVI plays in the community.
Of course, the show will also paint a picture of the territory's diverse society by bringing together students of different ethnic, social and economic backgrounds and juxtaposing their various interests, experiences and personalities.
"There is no criteria to get on the show," Rankine said. "What we're looking for are interesting people with interesting stories, who can show us what college has to offer."
To find those individuals, BET is holding open casting calls at UVI's Sports and Fitness Center on St. Thomas on Aug. 30 and Aug. 31 from 1 to 9 p.m.
Casting calls will also be held at the Student Center on the St. Croix Campus Sept. 4 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Students selected for the show will live together in a 10-room villa, equipped with a pool, game room and laundry room. They will also be provided with daily transportation to and from UVI and will receive a small allowance.
Sounds easy? It's not. The students will also be filmed 24 hours a day and may be followed by "College Hill" film crews to work, class and various other activities. "It's all about the college experience," Rankine said. "All we ask is that you bring you and your life."
While the entire experience may seem more than a bit daunting for many people –although Rankine made it clear that bathroom visits and other personal activities would not be televised — several students auditioning Wednesday seemed comfortable with the idea of having their lives documented.
They even seemed comfortable filling out a detailed questionnaire for the show, which includes such inquiries as: "How important is sex to you? Do you have it only when you're in a relationship, or do you seek it out at other times? How did it come about on the last occasion?" or "Do you drink alcohol? If yes, what is your favorite alcoholic beverage?"
The questionnaire also asks students to give their opinions on such controversial topics as interracial dating, abortion and "people who have a different sexual orientation than you."
"This show is all about being in people's business," 22-year-old Rachel Navarro said while filling out her questionnaire. "And if you can't even answer a questionnaire that asks you about your business, then how are you going to be on the show?"
Rankine and casting director Kasha Foster said the questions are not meant to offend, but rather give students the opportunity to "be real."
"When you're choosing a cast, you want to make sure that you have the right mix of people," Rankine said. "And what we're hoping to get is the most exciting and interesting people the college has to offer."
"This process also allows us to get to know the students better," Foster added. "And we become very sensitive to the issues that they have. We love them. We root for their successes and cringe at their failures. And we just want to make sure that they're comfortable on the show."
The "College Hill" crew also gets to know the students through a live interview process, which is conducted on campus. "We've gotten to meet so many wonderful students," Foster said. "And I'm so excited, because it seems like this is going to be a really good season."
Students auditioning for the show Wednesday expressed similar opinions.
"This is a great new opportunity for the V.I.," Navarro said after her interview. "And I wouldn't be surprised if BET asks me to host '106th & Park.'"
"And I wouldn't be surprised if they ask me to host it with her," 20-year-old Jahnestra Ritter added.
The fourth season of "College Hill" will begin filming next month, and will air on BET in March.
All students cast for the show must be 18 years of age or older.
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