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OMG! Hopefuls flock to 'Gossip Girl' casting call

Dozens of young ladies lined up at the Moorestown Mall in hopes of landing a spot in a TV ad for the popular show.
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Dozens of young ladies lined up at the Moorestown Mall in hopes of landing a spot in a TV ad for the popular show.

MOORESTOWN, N.J. - Nicole Garner caught the acting bug while vacationing in California, close to the lights of Hollywood.

After searching for audition opportunities in New York City, she found one near her Mount Laurel home. On Friday the nervous 17-year-old was among dozens of candidates attending a casting call at the Moorestown Mall.

Television station CW Philly (Channel 57) held auditions for young ladies - and at least one young man - ages 16 to 25 at the shopping center on Route 38.

The station was searching for one fan of "Gossip Girl," a racy young-adult drama that airs Mondays at 9 p.m. The chosen fan will star in a 30-second advertisement that promotes the 2009-10 season premiere airing Sept. 14.

The spot will run periodically from Aug. 31 to Sept. 13.

"It will air exclusively on CW Philly," said Fran McElwee, a sales and marketing representative for the station.

"Gossip Girl" is shown on the CW, a national network that includes the CW Philly affiliate. The hourlong show is based on the popular book series of the same name by Cecily von Ziegesar. Plots about love, friendship and emerging adulthood follow a group of privileged teenagers living on the posh Upper East Side of Manhattan. The series also is known for its fashion sense.

The casting call attracted fans of the show as well as aspiring models and actors, many of whom wore short skirts, high heels, and other styles frequently seen on the program.

Daniel Cocker, 18, of Mount Laurel, said he auditioned because he is a fan. A graduate of Lenape High School in Medford, he said he never misses an episode and was not deterred by CW Philly's expressed desire to hire a young lady for athe promotional spot.

"If a female can do it, a male can do it, too," Daniel said.

Shunte Loften, 17, said she auditioned because she wants to be an actress. A senior at Lenape, she said she has been honing her acting skills in school theater productions.

Kimmie Janice of Evesham, N.J., also was hoping for a professional break.

"I've been interested in acting and modeling since I was a little girl," the 19-year-old Burlington County College student said.

A graduate of Burlington County Institute of Technology in Medford, Kimmie said she has taken classes at John Casablancas Modeling and Career Centers, which has a location in Langhorne.

In March she was among hundreds of women who auditioned at the Moorestown Mall for a role on The CW reality series "America's Next Top Model."

Renee Jackson, 17, and Tahara Robinson, 18, came from Philadelphia to try out for the ad. The friends are students at a Barbizon Modeling School and aspire to work professionally in the industry.

McElwee said CW Philly was looking for a young woman whose personality shines and whom "the camera likes." Candidates were provided with a short sample script and asked to speak the lines while being filmed.

She expected between 50 and 100 people to audition. Forty minutes into the two-hour casting call, about three dozen candidates had been filmed.

Cherry Hill residents Laura Grabowski and Jill Pacheco, both 16, said they came together on a whim.

Although they were nervous, they had fun. "We thought it would be a good experience," Laura said.

The audition also was a first-time experience for Nicole Garner, who attended with her mother, Anne Holland-Garner, who was on her lunch break. "I was nervous, but I think I did good," the Lenape senior said. "It was cool to have something (like this) around here."

Although only one would be chosen to film the promotion, none of the hopefuls walked away empty-handed.

The casting call was part of a Back to School event for the mall.

Vendors handed out free samples of their products, including Rita's Water Ice and perfumes sold at Boscov's, to candidates and spectators. CW Philly gave each hopeful a green-and-white tank top with the station's logo, and a mall representative provided black velvet bags with faux pearl necklaces inside.

Also, each candidate's name was entered into a raffle for a $25 mall gift certificate.