It really happened by accident.
I was on my way to Taiwan to visit my friend and colleague, Matt Gibson, when he asked me the weirdest question by email.
“Would you be interested in being on TV with me?”
I don’t even own one anymore. I got rid of it long before embarking on my travels.
Then I found out just what kind of TV this was.
It was for House Hunters International.
I confess much on this website, so here it is. I had no idea what House Hunters is.
To me, reality TV is tantamount to bottom feeder television. I’ve gotten sucked into a few shows here and there, for mindless fun.
Season one of America’s Top Model. Season three or four of American Idol. The one show I forgive daily is Project Runway. I love fashion and creativity, so the fact that the contestants actually create something beautiful (or grotesque, dependant on the concept) is worth watching.
For those that don’t know, House Hunters International runs on the HGTV network and it’s about looking for a place to buy or rent. We can all relate to that headache, but House Hunters takes the concept further by selecting international locales with foreigners as the stars. The protagonist is new to the country and of course, like anyone, needs a place to live.
The premise is simple. The foreign transplant views three suites during the course of the show. A real estate agent takes around his or her client and by the end of the show, a house or apartment is successfully selected.
So, the setting of my House Hunters is Tainan. The real estate agent was played to perfection by a talented Tainan photographer, named Lief. And the foreigner who’s moving to Taiwan is my friend Matt. And me?
Well, I’m the ultimate force who helps him decide to take the place.
Then, I freaked after agreeing to do it.
Not an actor!
What exactly is it that I’m supposed to do? Talk for an entire half and hour show?!
Is there even a bloody script?
Then the day of shooting arrived.
Being in a TV Crew
I expected a few things. Hair. Make-up. A new nose. A large crew of director, producer, assistant director, grips, catering trucks and production assistants.
None of that happened.
House Hunters airs more than two episodes a week, which amounts to a massive amount of television. Reality TV is also some of the cheapest television to produce, excluding popular shows like Survivor or Amazing Race.
What showed up were a director, a cameraman, one sound guy, a fixer and her assistant.
That’s called a lean crew, y’all. I had to do my own make-up, my own hair and select my own wardrobe.
Which was fine with me, I still got to look like Jeannie.
What I also expected was an egotistical director full of his own air and an unapproachable crew.
I could eat those assumptions, because they were awesome! Within minutes, we built a rapport and friendship that permeated the set.
The sets themselves were live spaces. It is a travel show, after all. They had us looking at potential suites for Matt in some charming neighborhoods of Tainan. They shot us walking the streets, buying food at the night market or recorded scenes of us approaching an apartment building. The idea is to create a sense of place.
For all my grand judgments, the dialogue was improvised, the laughs were numerous and I got a dose of star treatment. We were driven around in a van and lunches and coffees were courtesy of the amiable, Australian director. Overall, I think the show touches on significant elements in the human psyche. Exploring an exotic place to live and the fantasy of travel.
Most of all, I was given full permission to play myself.
In over eight hours of video, my jokes about “Japanese orgies” and Matt being cheap (his character had a budget) will likely hit the cutting room floor.
House Hunters is a clean show, and well, my mouth, not so soapy.
Check out some photos from the set.
We shot over two to three days, and it was filled with nothing but fun, as we also took the crew for nights out after a day of shooting. So, this is movie magic.
I’m told by my newly procured agent that the Tainan show will air sometime in April or May. You can watch the episode on the HGTV website. This is turning out to be a far more interesting year than anticipated.
Oh, I also do live autograph sessions, but I won’t appear with dogs or children.
A reality TV star has to have standards, you know.
Some set shots courtesy of Paul Watters of Carnivore Films