Q&A: How to get a nod from 'Project Runway's' Heidi Klum or Tim Gunn? Casting director Alissa Haight Carlton tells us
What does it take to make it onto "Project Runway?" The lucky folks shown above with hosts Tim Gunn and Heidi Klum made it on last season, the eighth for the popular series.
April 15 marks the deadline for the show's casting call for Season 9. All The Rage sat down with the Lifetime show’s casting director, Alissa Haight Carlton, to get the scoop on what it takes to recieve an eyelash bat from Klum or raised brow from Gunn — and compete with fellow designer hopefuls as America watches, of course.
All The Rage: What are some of the key things that you look for when casting for 'Project Runway?'
Haight Carlton: For this show we just really need talent, because we are looking for such a specific skill set. Especially because there’s a lot of fashion designers who just don’t sew.… We look for designers with a point of view that can sew like crazy.
Are you only looking for exceptional designers or is the show open to someone who has raw talent but needs to learn more?
Absolutely. If you look at Season 7, Anna Marie Lynett had a point of view and something to say with her clothing even though she had only been designing for something like six months.…We are also getting a lot of people right out of design school like Christian Siriano.
Generally, how many applicants are there?
Not as many as you would think, because there is such a specific skill set required unlike a show like "The Real World." I would say there’s below 1,000. Every year the applicant pool has gotten bigger.
While casting do you ever think, “this is going to be the villain” or “this is going to be the sweetheart”?
We don’t go into it thinking we want to find X, Y and Z. What we do is really narrow down the talent. But it is a TV show and we don’t want to cast 14 wallflowers and we want to make sure there’s personality there.
Is there anyone from Season 8 who surprised you?
I guess I would say Mondo. He really became beloved by all of America that was in a way surprising. He has really become an active spokesperson for HIV, and we never expected that.
What are some mistakes people make when applying to the show?
A mistake some people make is sometimes they think they can put on a fake personality. Really, we just want them to be their selves.
Casting is always a puzzle. Oftentimes there’s really great candidates who don’t get on because there’s someone too much like them, or they just aren’t ready yet. Often they come back during casting for the next season. For example, Mondo was at the casting for Season 7 and ended up on Season 8.… A lot can happen in a year.
If your designs are destined for the catwalk and you’re at least 21 years old, it’s not too late to fill out an application here.
-- Sophia Kercher
Photo: The season 8 cast of "Project Runway" (from left, top row) Christopher Collins, Kristin Haskins-Simms, April Johnston, Andy South, Nicholas D'Aurizio, Peach Carr, Mondo Guerra (Bottom Row) Casanova, Ivy Higa, Gretchen Jones, A.J. Thouvenot, Valerie Mayen, Jason Troisi, Michael Costello, Sarah Trost, McKell Maddox and Michael Drummond. (Foreground) Tim Gunn, Heidi Klum. Credit: Lifetime.