“From ‘The Hills’ to the beach.” That’s the tagline for MTV’s latest reality show.
The beach in question is Siesta Key. That’s also the title of the new reality show, which premieres at 10 p.m. July 31.
People involved with the show say it’s akin to “The Hills,” a hit reality show that ran on MTV. They also compare it to a similar MTV show, “Laguna Beach.” In fact, “Siesta Key” and “Laguna Beach” are produced by the same people.
Both shows are about groups of wealthy young people in their natural habitats. In the case of “Siesta Key,” it’s eight people who (according to MTV) have just returned home for the summer after their first year in college. Actually, at least a couple of them say they weren’t in college at all. One was an international model who wanted to come to Sarasota and help care for her mother. Another was in cosmetology school in the Sarasota area.
The cast members are:
▪ Alex Kompothecras, 22. He’s the son of the guy behind the 1-800-ASK-GARY medical and legal referral service. His family’s massive home on Siesta Key is a center for the show’s action. According to the bio that MTV provided, “He’s also a guy’s guy — with better toys than you’ll ever have and he knows how to fix them when they break.”
▪ Juliette Porter, 19. She’s a student as Florida State University, returning home to Siesta Key and, according to MTV, she’s “full of witty one-liners that will inspire girls everywhere and shut down the haters!”
▪ Kelsey Owens, 20. She’s the international model and she didn’t live in Sarasota before. But her mom has multiple sclerosis, so Owens put her modeling career on hold to come back to care for her. And, in the meantime, to appear on MTV. She’s in a relationship with ...
▪ Garrett Miller, 21. He’s a personal trainer and eschews the nightlife because he starts working out at 5 a.m.
▪ Pauly Apostolides, 25. He introduces himself as “Pauly.” When asked for his last name, he says his full name is “Pauly Paul.” He’s a classically trained musician who’s looking to launch a hip-hop career. He’s Kompothecras’ cousin.
▪ Madisson Hausburg, 23. She’s recently graduated from Southern Methodist University with a degree in engineering, and she’s home trying to decide on the next direction her life will take.
▪ Chloe Trautman, 21. She never went away to college. She’s been in town all along and she’s the “alpha female” of the “Siesta Key” clique, according to the bio that MTV provided.
▪ Brandon Gomes, 22. A recent addition to the group, he’s been a good friend of Kompothecras since they were kids. He said he was invited to be part of the show because “they wanted more diversity in the case.”
The cast member are tight-lipped about what happens on the show’s first season, which has recently completed filming. MTV has provided a synopsis that hints at romance between Porter and Kompothecras, and that the relationship between Owens and Miller may face challenges because a lot of Siesta Key guys are hitting on her.
The show came about, cast members say, largely because of Gary Kompothecras, Alex’ father. He thought the Siesta Key lifestyle would make good fodder for a TV show, and he contacted a company that specializes in creating TV pilots and then shops them around to networks. Alex and a group of his friends were in the pilot.
“When I graduated high school I met Chloe, who introduced me to Alex, and we all became really good friends,” Porter said. “We were just, y’know, having a good summer. This was two years ago. We were just doing our normal thing that summer, going on the boat, going to the beach, hanging out, relaxing. And I believe Gary got us involved in it. I’m not really sure of the specifics. So we filmed a pilot and I was a little nervous about it, because I’d never really done anything like that before. I’m still a little nervous.”
The only current cast members who were in the pilot were Porter, Trautman, Kompothecras and Hausburg. Some of them figured they’d do the pilot just as a fun summer activity and that would be it. But then more than a year after they filmed the pilot, they heard it had been sold.
First it seemed as though VH1 would be airing “Siesta Key.” Then the cast heard it would be on MTV instead.
“It was crazy,” Porter said. “I live in Tallahassee, which is five hours away. I had thought this was never going to come up again. The chances of our pilot were slim. I had kind of lost contact with Alex and Chloe.”
Porter said the hardest part of shooting “Siesta Key” has been the hectic schedule. She’s likely to get frantic calls from producers that mean she has to find someone to cover her shift at her day job.
The season-long show needed a larger cast than the pilot, so cast member recruited friends.
Some of the cast members are looking at “Siesta Key” as an opportunity to show off their home town to the world, and let people know that Sarasota and Siesta Key are not just a place full of retirees and snowbirds.
“It’s a great opportunity to represent the town where you grew up,” Hausburg said. “It’s a huge responsibility and I hope that I take it with grace and I can make my town proud. I think they are showing the beauty that Siesta Key has to offer.”
Owens is used to the spotlight because of her modeling career, but the rest of the cast has no experience with celebrity. In just a few weeks, they’re all going to be the stars of a network TV show. They’ll be recognized everywhere they go, and the TV version of their private lives will be fodder for social media conversations and maybe even tabloid covers.
“It doesn’t feel real yet, Porter said. “It’s not going to feel real until I see myself on TV. I think we’re all in the same boat on that one. None of us know what it’s going to be like, or if people are even going to like us.”