The Free Press, Mankato, MN

February 11, 2014

Reality show seeking Swedes

DAVE KOLPACK
Associated Press

---- — FARGO, N.D. (AP) — A Swedish reality TV show that features 10 Americans competing in various cultural events for the chance of meeting long lost relatives is entering its fourth season, and casting officials say something is missing. They want someone from the Fargo area.

The show is "Allt for Sverige," or "Anything for Sweden." Contestants are required to be of Swedish descent, but they cannot have visited the country. The winner of the show receives a meeting with family members arranged by the producers.

Sofia Eng, the show's North American casting director, contacted Fargo city officials earlier this month for help in reaching out to local residents. The deadline for applications is Sunday.

"We think it's a huge part of Scandinavian culture in the U.S., so we would love to find someone in the Fargo area or North Dakota in general," Eng said Tuesday.

Eng said the continued popularity in Sweden of the 1996 Coen brothers movie "Fargo" also would make for an interesting show should there be a contestant from the North Dakota city.

"The movie is still very big in Sweden," Eng said. "You've got the main character in the movie, Jerry Lundegaard, who had to be of Swedish descent. And the way they depict people talking in the movie sounds very Swedish to us. Yah, yah, yah."

One of the stars of the movie, Peter Stormare, is from Sweden.

"We think it's funny that a Swedish actor is playing the bad guy," Eng said.

There are no bad guys in the reality show, Eng said, which is different in most other shows that have contestants ganging up on one another or backstabbing each other on camera. The Swedish show looks for "heritage, feelings, humor and having a good time," Eng said. No arguing allowed.

"We don't have any fighting whatsoever. A normal reality show in the U.S. or anyplace in the world, they look for conflict. We do the opposite," Eng said. "We're about the Swedish American who is discovering his or her roots. That is why we are looking for people around Fargo. A lot of Swedes came there when they immigrated back in the days. "

One Fargo resident actually made it last year to the second round of interviews, which are held with about 40 to 50 people each year in New York or Los Angeles. Kevin Zavoral, 34, who works for a Finland-based technology company in Fargo, was told he made the top 20 but not the final cut.

"I just applied for it on a whim," Zavoral said. "I didn't expect to hear back."

Zavoral said he was interviewed in New York by two recruiters and the main producer. They asked him, among other things, why he should be selected for the show and how he celebrates his Swedish heritage. He said they spoke Swedish to each other during the meeting.

"I just assumed they were saying great things about me," he said, laughing.

Zavoral applied again this year but has yet to find out whether he's still in the running.

Nels Backman, 61, of Fargo, whose great-grandparents emigrated from Sweden and settled north of Bismarck, said he was asked to try out for the show but wasn't eligible because he has been to the motherland five times.

"I know the show is very well-received over there," Backman said. "They've always had an affinity for the United States."