The Block issues open call for more diverse casting

Block casting director Lucky Price wants to shake up casting applications ...and why it's personal for him.

EXCLUSIVE: Casting for The Block Season 18 is officially underway.

Heading bush for a 2022 “Tree Change” the series is also hoping to expand its casting options.

Casting director Lucky Price (pictured top, centre) wants to encourage more diverse applicants to step forward.

“It’s something that has been at the forefront of my mind with all the casting I do, not just for The Block. I’m a trans man and I say that just to exemplify my experience. I don’t see a lot of people like myself on television,” he tells TV Tonight.

“It’s important to see yourself reflected in the media. Diversity, for me, is personal.”

The Lucky Break casting director has been casting on the Nine show since 2010 (Vaucluse season) as well as on Travel Guides, Big Brother, Mastermind and quiz shows. In any given year he receives tens of thousands of applications for the series, which he personally processes across a gruelling 6 week period.

The Block is often criticised for a dominance of young, caucasian, straight couples. But its first season in 2003 famously put a gay couple onto screens in primetime. Since then it has also featured gay couples (both male & female), Indigenous, Asian, Lebanese heritage and senior contestants -even if it isn’t the most immediate perception.

“If you see don’t see yourself on the television, you just don’t think there’s a place for you”

“If I was trying to cast a trans man on the show, well, good luck. I haven’t seen one trans man apply for the show that I’m aware of. The first and most important thing is I just want more people to put their hands up, if you don’t see yourself on the television, you’ve got to put your hand up to be a part of it,” he explains.

“It is incredibly frustrating that we haven’t seen more diversity, not just on The Block but on Australian TV full stop. If you see don’t see yourself on the television, you just don’t think there’s a place for you.

“The year after (Indigenous comedian) Andy was on the show, we had a substantial increase in the number of Indigenous people that applied for the show.”

While he hopes to shake things up, Price also rejects suggestions the show has a tendency for ‘cookie-cutter’ couples.

“I just don’t believe that to be true. We have a unique opportunity with The Block where all 10 of those individuals are on the show all the way through -which doesn’t often happen in Reality. Normally, it’s an elimination process where you get to know people for a period of time,” he continues.

“They’re actually full of nuance and depth”

“The reason I love working on The Block so much is that, we get to work hard that these people aren’t just an ‘idea’ of a white middle class, Australian. They’re actually full of nuance and depth. There are different shades and parts of who they are. We actually get to know them pretty well, over the course of 12 weeks, more so than we would other people who are on one episode for five minutes and then get eliminated.

“We might make an assumption about them, when we first look at them. But then in a few weeks time, we might realise they’re the complete opposite of that. On Monday, they give us the shits but (by the end of the week) we love them again.

“I think it’s why the show’s managed to survive as long as it has.”

“I think everyone can be better”

He adds, “I genuinely don’t believe there’s any prejudice to exclude any anyone. But I think everyone can be better. I think the television industry in Australia can be better. I think executives can be better. I think casting directors can be better. I think people in the community can be better at putting their hands up. Everyone bears a responsibility.”

Of course, The Block is still reality television… there’s no guarantees of how contestants may be perceived by the public. Price acknowledges it is a genre with those viewers love, or love to hate.

“I wouldn’t be doing my job properly if I wasn’t projecting those kinds of ideas. But that said, I like to think that by the end of a series, while there’s a person you think you’ll love to hate, by the end you just love them,” says Price.

“It is important to make sure that in in a cast of 10 or 20, whatever numbers you’re dealing with, you make sure there’s different types of people and qualities.”

His open call for new applications comes at a time when Nine CEO Mike Sneesby acknowledged that staff had internally pushed for more diversity on screen.

“I can tell you it is something that is at the heart of the people at Nine. As a result of that you’re going to see that naturally reflected more and more on our own screens,” Sneesby said last week.

The Block applications are also deliberately thorough (Price tips a glass of wine helps!) but big production values are not needed for the video submission. Even renovation experience is not essential -go figure- and no extra skills required for the “tree change” season.

“I just want more people to put their hand up,” Price explains.

“People who can spin a good yarn, people who can tell a story about themselves, people who can be their true selves in front of a camera.

“I want to be colourblind in the best sense of the word”

“I want to be colourblind in the best sense of the word. I want to know that there’s people with diverse backgrounds and diverse ethnicity that we can start populating the show with.

“It’s the same requirements as ever. It doesn’t matter where The Block is, you still need to come and bring your best. It’s a beast no matter where it is -but you might be wearing an Akubra this time.”

You can apply here.

9 Responses

  1. Interesting happenings on the US series of Big Brother happening now. Six African American participants went into house this series so they got together, formed an alliance and hatched a plan to vote out all the white participants each week so a person of colour would be the first to ever win BB US. African Americans are usually the first to be voted out of the house. It worked and now down to the final four. and turning on each other. Very interesting to watch them making BB history.

  2. If you’re not getting enough diversity as you put it in the 10000+ applications, then maybe consider those minority groups your trying to encourage are just not interested. Rather than select applicants according to their sexual preferences or cultural backgrounds, why not just focus on what The Block used to be about, that being people interested in building/renovating and participating in an honest competition. Sadly for me, 2021 The Block gas shown it’s less about the competition and more about just being another reality tv show. You lost every bit of reputation and credit amongst the average Australians for refusing to deal appropriately with the cheating, just disgusting as far as those contestants involved and the producers for not handling it properly, seemingly encouraging the antics. After 17 years of this being my favourite show all year round, I’ve turned off. Really can’t stand liars and cheaters and then those that let them get away with it!!! Feel sorry for Scotty 🙁

    1. I can’t really think of any show where people are chosen just for sexuality or ethnicity. As the story indicates you need nuance and depth, a mix of characters. Reaction to cheating is a fair call from the couch, it’s still a genre with degrees of manipulation whether renovation, cooking or singing.

  3. Could be that a lot of cultures and people don’t want to be on show for all to see whether it be cultural or personal reasons they don’t want cameras in their face 24/7.
    You’d think out of 10,000 applications there must be some small variety of applicants in there to diversify your cast on?

    1. This is the point though. Lucky Price is trying to increase more diverse applicants to broaden the pool of options. He’s not about to cast people solely on their race/sexuality/sex.

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