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The GW Hatchet


The GW Hatchet

Serving the GW Community since 1904

The GW Hatchet

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Who wants to work for a millionaire?

A State Department official, a financial adviser and an opera singer walk into a room. It’s not the start of a bad joke. It’s the start of the audition process for “The Apprentice,” which held a casting call at GW on Thursday.

More than 100 GW graduates and students crowded into the Alumni House, waiting shoulder-to-shoulder to be called into a room to make their case about why they should work for a millionaire. Contestants’ emotions ranged from anxious, to cheerful, to confident.

“Why should I be nervous? I’m excited,” said Kwaku Akyeampong, a 2003 graduate, as he waited in line to audition for the NBC reality show.

The casting call was only open to alumni and students over 21. Participants were auditioning for two shows: the wildly popular “Apprentice” with real estate mogul Donald Trump and a spin-off featuring homemaking maven Martha Stewart, who will soon be released from prison. Producers are traveling to 29 cities across the country to find contestants for the show. Those who made the final cut at the GW casting call will still undergo several rounds of auditions.

Akyeampong was one of the most enthusiastic participants at the event and called the audition “a once in a lifetime opportunity.” Akyeampong, who is originally from Ghana, has a degree in Information Systems Technology and is a senior consultant to IBM. He said he saw the audition as more than just a chance at being on TV.

“This will lend credence to the fact that America is the only place on Earth where if you have big dreams they can translate into reality,” he said. “I’m here, that’s part of the process.”

Other participants said that while they hoped they would make the show, they knew their odds of advancing to the next round of auditions were slim.

“I think I did well, but I have no illusions,” said Heather Sapp, a law student.

Dozens of prospective contestants waited in the building until called to enter the interview room in groups of about six to chat with producers. Not everyone felt as confident as Akyeampong, however, because no one knew what to expect upon entering the mysterious room.

Candidates walked into the room in single file before introducing themselves, handing producers a resume and debating a topic.

The opera singer, State Department adviser and financial adviser were joined by an intern at the Philippine Embassy and a software engineer. Donning a huge maroon hat, the opera singer also brought out a platter of teacake as a tribute to Stewart. No one ate the cake.

“She brought quality back to our lives,” the singer noted about the famous (and infamous) domestic diva.

The group debated whether America should prohibit the importation of prescription drugs from Canada.

“It’s graft, it’s corruption and we should put an end to it,” the State Department official said. “Capitalism isn’t a license to steal.”

The opera singer agreed, noting, “Washington is run by very powerful lobbyists who want to keep money in their pockets.”

Mark Gerl, the software engineer, got his master’s degree from GW in 1995. He was one of the few people in the group who argued against allowing Canadian prescription drugs into America. He joked that the interview got heated because there were “type A people at a table of six.”

He said he wasn’t sure whether he would get called back for the next round of auditions.

“I’m always confident in myself,” Gerl said. “It’s more not knowing what to expect.”

People leaving the interviewing room looked occasionally flustered, often relieved and occasionally triumphant. One especially confident participant, 1996 graduate Pilar Rivera, clearly felt she had a positive audition experience.

Rivera called the audition a “cool process” and said the producers were “very friendly and laid back.” For Rivera, it didn’t matter whether she made the show or not because “it’s an experience.”

“If you’re scared, you’ll never be extraordinary,” Rivera said.

Rob Kimmer, a third-year law student, said his group debated whether Americans should have national identification cards. He tried to catch judges’ attention by entering the room juggling.

“It was an open door, and I took advantage of it,” Kimmer explained.

The juggling routine gave Kimmer a chance to let judges know he ran his own juggling business and has performed at Super Bowl XXXIV and for boxing legend Mohammed Ali.

This wasn’t his first game show experience – he auditioned for “Who Wants to be a Millionaire.” Though he didn’t make it on that show, producers saved his tape, and he made an appearance on “Win Ben Stein’s Money” instead.

Kimmer said he thought he performed well in the discussion and was confident that he would advance to the next round of auditions.

“I was strong,” Kimmer said. “I listened for a while, then I jumped in.”

Some participants seemed slightly nervous at the prospect of potentially going head to head with Trump.

“He really has control of the situation,” said Brandon Wishnow, a 2004 international business graduate.

Etta Pagani, a 2004 graduate, said she was auditioning because it “sounds fun, and I am a big fan of the show.” Despite The Donald’s caustic demeanor, underneath it all, “he seems like a totally good person,” she said.

As Leslie Ebenfeld, a 1997 political science and journalism graduate pointed out, students that graduate from universities in Washington are particularly savvy in business and politics.

“After working in Washington,” Ebenfeld said. “I think I can handle anything.”

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