Doron Ofir: The King of Reality TV Casting
Kevin ScanlonDoron Ofir
"I'm a collector of characters. We're a very interesting breed."
Doron Ofir, 41 — original casting director of more than 100 reality productions, from RuPaul's Drag Race to Millionaire Matchmaker to Jersey Shore — finds the world's most fascinating people. Then he quickly decides whether they have what it takes to be on reality TV. "Ten years ago, this profession didn't exist," he says. "I'm one of the first to create a brick-and-mortar, fully functioning, talent-integration casting company in the world of entertainment."
After spending his childhood in Manhattan, the son of Israeli parents moved to the Long Island town of Great Neck but would venture into the city to be part of the early club-kid scene. That's when Ofir was scouted at the Palladium and became a dancer on Club MTV. "I auditioned to Whitney Houston's 'I Wanna Dance With Somebody,' and I did not know how to dance," he says. "I was one of the ugliest kids you could ever imagine. See, people do not always agree on what is beautiful, but almost everyone agrees on what is ugly, so the only way to change that is to become interesting. Because once you're interesting, ugly goes away."
Ofir has since grown into a handsome, self-defined "gay guy who's not very good at being a gay guy," and his natural curiosity set him on the path to where he is today — figuring out what people are like below the surface. "One of my favorite things to do is sit in the international lounge, in any airport," he says. "I make up stories about people. ... For me, everything has always been a character analysis in its greatest form."
So what's his casting method? "Well, if you want to be on TV consistently, and you're forever trying to get on a reality show, you're probably not what I'm looking for. The way I find people is, I invent myself in their world — and when I say myself, I say my team — I embed myself in the world in which they exist." Ofir means that his 25-plus employees don't usually come from jobs in TV, so they're able to find potential cast members more naturally within their own circles of friends.
Nowadays, the Hollywood resident is finding that he wants to do more: "Yes, I am a gun for hire, and I do deliver casts. But my goal is to be a developmental think tank in the world of reality in order to help produce, passively, the next generation of shows."
He also says he's "a mad, science-fiction, popular-culture fanatic," having invested his savings into Stan Lee's Comikaze Expo just so he could hang out with the likes of Elvira, Mark Hamill and Kevin Smith.
Regarding reality TV, Ofir says, "People relegate reality to the bottom of the barrel and think that it's a type of trash television. I actually think that it's a window into human nature in a way that's never been seen before." When asked if it's the worst part of human nature, Ofir responds, "If this is the worst, then thank God, you know?"
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