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Hatfield, McCoy descendants vie for reality TV show

WILLIAMSON, W.Va. -- David Brown Jr. drove for two days for a shot at being a cast member on a Hatfield-McCoy reality-television show.

Brown, 52, from Rome, Ga., traveled with his sister, Donna Brown, 50, to Williamson to audition for an unscripted, competition-based show featuring descendants of the once-feuding families. The Browns said they are the great-grandchildren of Maggie Hatfield.

David Brown wore overalls snapped over a black T-shirt. He carried a walking stick he'd carved himself, boasting about the green-eyed snake that wrapped around the stick.

Brown said, in addition to his ability to make moonshine, there were two reasons producers might select him to be on TV: "My voice, or my good looks."

The Browns joined other descendants Tuesday at the Williamson campus of Southern West Virginia Community and Technical College in their quest to get on television. Reality-show hopefuls had to fill out paperwork, and they were organized based on whether they were from the Hatfield or McCoy families. Each person spent about five minutes with a producer, having a videotaped interview.

No one at Tuesday's event would release the name of the production company, and people who auditioned said they weren't given a timetable as to when they might hear whether they are going to be on the show. Trifecta Productions, which helped produce the recent Hatfield-McCoy documentary for the History Channel, was coordinating the casting process, along with Bill Richardson, West Virginia University Extension agent.

Jacob McCoy, 17, of Man, was one of the youngest people vying for a chance to get on the show. He said he has a good attitude and wouldn't be afraid to do what the producers want him to do. And with his long brown hair, black ski cap and red-checkered shoes, McCoy said he had something else going for him, too.

"I'm not the stereotypical West Virginian," he said.

Randi Larkin Swanner, 26, said she'd always wanted to be on reality television, but then she got married. The Ashland, Ky., resident thought this show might be more appropriate and "family friendly."

Swanner, a McCoy descendant, described herself as outgoing, opinionated and argumentative and said she'd probably be the villain if she were on the show.

"I've burned several bridges with friends," she said.

Other people weren't so sure about which roles they'd fill for the show, but they were quick to cast their family members.

Brandy Justice, 35, said her aunt, Monique Lester, 45, would be the person to "make it spicy." And Lester said her niece would be the animal lover, likening her to Elly May Clampett from "The Beverly Hillbillies."

As they waited for their turns with the producer, Lester and Justice agreed that if anyone would be on the show, it would be 34-year-old Amber Bishop, Justice's cousin and Lester's niece.

Bishop stepped off the elevator after finishing her audition and announced to her family that the producer asked if her hair was real.

In retelling the story, she swung around to show off brown, wavy hair that stretched halfway down her back. The top section of her hair, which was swept up into a clip, was bleached bright blond.

Bishop, who said she's a natural redhead, let the producer touch her hair to prove it wasn't fake.

That seemed to be one of the stranger inquiries participants received. Several people who'd completed their casting calls said they were asked basic biographical questions and why they wanted to be on television.

Jamie Dunbar, 33, of Charleston, said the producer wanted to know what she liked to do for fun. She told him about an improv group she performs with and recounted a time her colleague pretended to put her through a paper shredder.

Dunbar was also asked how she was related to the Hatfields, and she said she was a descendant of Devil Anse's first cousin.

That prompted a surprising response from one man in the room.

"'Yeah, I'd like to introduce myself,'" Dunbar quoted the man as saying. "'I'm your cousin.'"

Reach Alison Matas at alison.matas@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5100.


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