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Scaling down

Anyone wanting to lose weight can line up at the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center (TBPAC) on Saturday and share tips, successes and stories with others hoping to be contestants on the popular reality TV show, The Biggest Loser.

USF students won’t have to drive far to the casting call for season nine, as it is being held in Tampa for the first time. Previous auditions were held in Miami and Orlando, said Jackie Topacio, a casting director for the show.

“The producers were hearing such great things about Tampa,” she said.

She said Tampa has a different vibe and was in a good location to attract possible contestants from other states.

Hopefuls must be at least 18 years of age and have 100 pounds or more to lose, and Topacio said they especially looked at people who have not always been overweight.

She said the show was a good way for people to lose weight because they are taken out of their normal environment – where there are jobs to do, classes to take and children to take care of – and sent to the “ranch” in Malibu, where they stay for the duration of their time on the show.

Paul Gordon, another casting director, said contestants have 8-12 hours a day to work out.

“Their job is to work out,” he said. “These people have nothing but time.”

Though there are no specific criteria for contestants, the casting call is geared toward teams – primarily family duos. However, Topacio said the casting call is open to
anyone, including individuals and good friends who want to audition together.

“People love stories where there’s family members,” she said. “This season we’re planning to do teams of two, but it always changes.”

Gordon encouraged students to try out.

“We look for people that we think America could connect with,” he said. “I think if the students want to come down to try out, that would be great.”

If chosen for the show, contestants must keep their experience and whereabouts a secret until the cast list is released.

While waiting in line, potential contestants form bonds and talk about diets that have worked for them, past seasons of the show and who they are rooting for, Topacio said.

“People are very excited – some camp out the night before,” she said.

Despite potentially long lines, NBC and the TBPAC – which has held casting calls for TV shows such as Who Wants to Be a Millionaire – are discouraging people from lining up too early.

Tara McNamara, publicist for TBPAC, said doors to the lobby and Carol Morsani Hall, where people will be queued, will open at 10 a.m. Saturday. She said people should not line up more than three hours prior to the event because no rest rooms, air conditioning or other amenities will be available before the doors open.

People going to the casting call should bring an application from the NBC Web site,, along with a recent photo of themselves, Topacio said. Participants can also bring a photo showing, for instance, what they looked like before gaining weight.

The casting call will run from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m. Saturday.