Whether they had dreams of becoming a television star, a scientist, or just wanted to have fun, kids from across mid-Michigan traveled to Michigan State University in May for a chance to be part of the WKAR original television series, "Curious Crew."
Later this month, selected cast members will have their television debut when two new episodes of “Curious Crew” air back-to-back at 5 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. Monday, Nov. 21, on WKAR-TV.
Returning in 2015 for its second season, "Curious Crew" takes a hands-on approach to investigating principles of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) with host Rob Stephenson and a cast of inquisitive kids.
The Audition Challenge
Preparation for the new season of "Curious Crew" began in earnest in the spring of 2015, with an open casting call held on a sunny Saturday in May.
More than 100 kids came to the casting call at the WKAR-TV studios in the Communication Arts and Sciences Building on MSU’s campus. One portion of the tryout placed potential cast members into small teams and given an engineering challenge to build the tallest structure that could hold a golf ball. The challenge was the kind of activity Stephenson and the Curious Crew work through in each TV episode.
“There are kids who are going to be stars, other kids who are going to invent something wonderful, and then you have kids who have no desire to be an actor or scientist but are really great, outgoing kids who do a great job of interacting and learning,” said WKAR Producer Mike Mihalus. “I think that’s what our strength is based on, the fact that we have all types of kids on the program.”
Tyler Harding drove with his family 60 miles from White Lake, Mich., to audition. Harding said the audition experience was extremely fun and he found that although "your first idea isn’t always the best idea," he persevered and completed challenges to the best of his ability.
Lansing native Dominique Pruitt-Wright came to the audition as a fifth grader who was already a fan of “Curious Crew.” She said she hadn't put much thought toward a future in television, but her love of science drew her to the casting call.
"I felt really excited, but at the same time kind of nervous because I didn’t know what was going to happen and if I was going to be able to accomplish this challenge," Pruitt-Wright said.
Cast Selection and Production
Within a few weeks of the casting call, Mihalus and Stephenson chose 45 students to be part of “Curious Crew” for the second season, including both Harding and Pruitt-Wright. To give as many students as possible the opportunity to participate, the cast rotates throughout the season, with each nine-member cast appearing in two episodes.
Production with the new cast members took place on location at Impression 5 Science Center in Lansing over several weeks in June and July.
The full 10-episode season begins with topics "Vision" and "Levers" and includes "Refraction of Light," "Digestive System" and more.
Airing in November and December
Mid-Michigan viewers can get a sneak preview of the second season of “Curious Crew” during the week of Thanksgiving. Back-to-back episodes air Monday, Nov. 23, at 5 and 5:30 p.m., and again on Friday, Nov. 27, at 5 and 5:30 p.m. The full 10-episode season begins its run Monday, Dec. 21, in its regular time slot on Mondays at 5:30 p.m., with encores at 11 a.m. Saturdays and Sundays.
"Curious Crew" is also seen on PBS stations across Michigan (check local listings).
All eight episodes from season one are available now for on-demand viewing in the PBS channel on most devices including Roku, Apple TV, Amazon Fire, iPad/iPhone and online at wkar.org. Season two episodes will become available on-demand as each is broadcast.
Season two of Curious Crew is supported in part by Fifth Third Bank, TechSmith, Capital Area District Library, LAFCU and The John E. Fetzer Institute Fund of the Kalamazoo Community Foundation.
Alumni and organizations wishing to be part of this award-winning production are invited to contact Melissa Nay (517) 884-4761 or MNay@wkar.org.