Ask a Casting Director: Wife Swap


"Mad Sally" Baur moves into her new life as a professional organizer (ABC/Michael Rubenstein)

Eye spoke recently with Dominique Bouchard, the casting director for ABC reality series Wife Swap, where wives swap husbands and children for two weeks to experience life in a drastically different environment. With participants in the past including families of competitive eaters, pirates, child-pageant advocates, and a wife who trains cage fighters, one can only imagine the casting gets fairly interesting.

How do you find some of these families, like the pirate or freak-show families? There's definitely a low percentage we actually choose that apply within the show. Families like the pirates, we come up with an idea of people we want to find. Then we try to contact different organizations and put the word out there. A casting AP would be assigned to that particular project of finding a family like that. We offer a finder's fee—so if we contact a particular organization, by helping us out they are going to receive the fee. And the families get a financial honorarium for being on the show.

We're going to have an episode coming up where we wanted to find a family of little people. So for an organization like the LPA [Little People of America], we might have given them the information to spread around.

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Can you tell me more about the pairings? It always seems like the conservative family is paired with the unconventional family, the family with the wife who does all the work is paired with the family with the husband who does all the chores. Without giving our secrets away, I would say it’s not about pairing opposites. It’s really not. We look at the family, what one family could teach another, and what they could possibly learn.

Have there ever been any wife swaps where the husbands wound up with the other wife? Divorces? Any where members of each family still keep in touch? From season 3, there are definitely one or two families who are in contact. I have heard that through the grapevine; I wouldn’t give out who those families are. Divorces—as far as we know, no. But if someone from season 1 got a divorce, I wouldn't know for sure. As far as a permanent wife swap—absolutely not.

Why are so many kids on the show home-schooled? Do you ever recruit through home schooling agencies or organizations? We should really ask America that. There are a lot of families [in America] that believe in home schooling. I'm pretty sure we’ve contacted these agencies, but now we don’t even need to.

Clearly there are rules spelled out that aren’t discussed on the show. Can you talk a little about that? The wives obviously don’t sleep with the husbands. A mom will always have her own room in the home, with locks on the door.

What are the families told in the beginning? They know the process from their end. But the mom doesn't know where she's going or what family she's going to be matched with.

This show is really a collaborative effort; they're part of the process 100 percent. They get a manual with the way they live their life that they need to sign off on.

Is it hard not to intervene with parents like the Riveras, who actually install cameras throughout their house to spy on their daughters? Here’s the thing—we are a show that wants to find families who embrace their philosophies.

As hard as it may seem, we go through 1,000 different families a week [looking for this]. When you swap a mom, you don’t want a mom who’s happy to be gone. With the Riveras, they really felt that they had a lot to offer and that there was nothing wrong.

Have there every been any pairings that were so turbulent, the week couldn't be finished out? We've never had a show we haven't been able to put on air.

Have any of the end confrontations turned violent? We've had really heated table meetings, but not to the point where we felt like something got out of control. We have a crew there, we monitor—especially on ABC; it's a family show.

Why do you think people are willing to be on the show and air their most private family behaviors, some of which might not be the most flattering? What it boils down to is the family has to be confident in who they are and the way their family runs. They already know their good and bad qualities. It's usually a family that’s more adventurous. The Rivera family knew some people wouldn’t agree, but they didn't really care. You can't have parents who are worried about what others are going to think of them.

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