Reality TV debut for Chris Plys on E!
Chris Plys predicts a serious TiVo spike in the town of Duluth, Minn. Dec. 14.
Plys, an alternate on the 2010 U.S. men's Olympic curling team, debuts as a different kind of competitor that night on the new E! reality show, "Bank of Hollywood." On the eight-episode series by Ryan Seacrest Productions, a panel of four celebrity judges donate their own money to everyday Americans.
Competitors' just need to convince Hollywood that they're worth the cash.
"Everyone back home is going to TiVo it," Plys said. "And they'll embarrass me and everyone when I come to my house."
At least any humiliation will be for a good cause. Plys, whose father has been battling brain cancer for several years, petitioned funds to send his family to the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympic Games this winter.
"The whole concept was kind of cool," Plys said. "I thought about how expensive the Olympics were going to be and thought I might be able to give it to my parents."
Based on the BBC's "Fortune: Million Pound Giveaway," competitors' pleas range from a do-gooder raising change for charity to a lovesick grad student looking for cash to buy his girlfriend an engagement ring. Donations start at $2,000.
Ultimately, the decision rests in the hands of four judges: Author and wife of the late Aaron Spelling, Candy Spelling; poker player Vanessa Rousso; president of Wilhelmina Models, Sean Patterson; and Pussycat Dolls singer Melody Thorton.
The selection process began four months ago when Plys sent an audition tape to Seacrest. He teamed up with his friend, a freelance filmmaker, to shoot a quick pitch video.
Three months later, in October, a film crew flew to Minnesota to interview Plys' family.
"They came up to my house for a day," Plys said. "They had a big interview with my family and work-out thing and an on-ice thing."
Plys enjoyed the full-blown Hollywood treatment mid-October, when he joined about ten other competitors in Los Angeles to tape the show. For three days, the self-described small-town boy enjoyed Hollywood sight-seeing and wardrobe and makeup treatments.
The only real competition was a final presentation to the judges. Plys pitched his case in front of the celebrity panel and a live studio audience of about 200 viewers. Then, the judges voted on whether his donation would be a wise investment.
"It was huge, big-time culture shock," Plys said. "I'm pretty much a small town boy from Minnesota. Being in LA is different from any town I've ever been in... The only thing I didn't like was the traffic."
Beyond the glitz and glamour, Plys said the show gave him a glimpse into entertainment's hectic, hard-working world.
"I've seen the whole production now, and the crazy amount of work that goes into it," Plys said. "For a day I felt what their deal is in Hollywood, which is kind of fun."
Despite his Hollywood intermission, Plys remains focused on Vancouver. During taping, when the rest of the curling team was in New York City for the 100 Days kick-off, Plys took a break from the ice but made it to the gym.
"The Olympics have always been my dream since I was a little kid," Plys said. "I've represented the U.S. a bunch of times for the World Championships, but that's not even close to the level of the Olympics."
That, of course, is why Plys hopes to score cash for his family. Even if he doesn't win, one on-air connection might come in handy after Vancouver.
After Plys pitched his case, Patterson approached the athlete about modeling opportunities. Wilhelmina, one of the world's largest modeling agencies, branched into sports representation in 2008 and now works with two-time Olympic speedskater Allison Baver.
"That was pretty sweet," Plys said. "I'm going to look into that more after the games end."
If reality TV stardom and Olympic success don't pan out, at least Plys has a Plan C.
Story courtesy Red Line Editorial, Inc. Molly Fergus is a freelance contributor for teamusa.org. This story was not subject to the approval of the United States Olympic Committee or any National Governing Bodies.