The first questions most people ask when they hear I was on a Norwegian reality TV show is, “How did that ever happen? How did you hear about the show?”
It all starts with Ballard. I was born and raised in Ballard, a great neighborhood in Seattle, Washington that’s known for its Norwegian heritage. In the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, a huge percentage of the Norwegian population left Norway for America, with many settling in the Midwest. Minnesota, Wisconsin, and North Dakota were Norwegian hotbeds. For many who immigrated further west, or eventually moved westward, Ballard ended up being their new home. This is not just the story of the neighborhood, but the story of my own family. My mom and dad are each half Norwegian, and each had family first immigrate to the Midwest (Kenyon, Minnesota and Scandinavia, Wisconsin) before eventually moving west to Seattle.
While Ballard has become a hip trendy neighborhood in recent years, we still celebrate our Norwegian roots. We play host to the largest Syttende Mai parade in the world outside of Norway, and are home to the Nordic Heritage Museum, an aquavit distillery, and Scandinavian Specialties. So to answer everyone’s first question… back in 2009 when word got around about a new reality TV show seeking Norwegian-American’s to go back and visit their homeland, neighborhood blogs and newspapers ran with it and quickly spread the word.
I applied for Season 1 of “The Great Norway Adventure” with a wacky immature over the top video and of course was rejected. All I knew was American reality TV where every contestant seemed like a character, and every episode is full of drama. I let the application process for seasons 2-6 pass me by, but with Alt For Norge hosting an open casting call in Seattle for the first time ever, I couldn’t not go downtown and give it a shot!
On October 17, 2015 I made my way to Seattle’s ACT Theater where I waited briefly before being called into a room with three others, and interviewing with Joan O’Connor and her brother and fellow casting director David – great folks. My time was limited to about three minutes of questions from Joan (all filmed), in which I didn’t think I particularly stood out. “I’m a standard Ballard guy” I explained. The others on my panel included a 75 year old woman who was brought to tears at the thought of finally visiting her homeland, a 20 year old guy who should have been a model, but instead was a Vine hotshot with over 100,000 followers, and a guy who looked like he sailed his own viking ship to the casting call. I was over matched. Based on everything I know about reality TV, if they were going to pick 3 of the 4 of us to be on the show, I’d be the odd man out – and we were 4 of the hundreds, if not over a thousand applying for 12 spots on the show.
The whole experience was great though. It was a blast meeting so many fellow Norwegian Americans. Everyone was very jovial, down to earth, and pleasant to talk with. It was like we shared this immediate bond – a thread that ran though all of us.
As I was leaving I answered a few questions for a journalist and had my picture taken. I later learned I was featured in an article that KUOW, a local radio station, posted on their website. http://kuow.org/post/norwegian-reality-tv-show-brings-casting-call-seattle. (Take a look at the slideshow and tell me if you recognize anyone else in the article!) I figured my Alt For Norge adventure was over at this point, but it was a fun one nonetheless! Luckily things weren’t over just yet!