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POLITICS: PennAve

Lobbyist, former Fox News editor working on Capitol Hill reality show

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Politics,Entertainment,Congress,Betsy Woodruff,PennAve,Media,Television,Reality TV

The casting process for a Capitol Hill reality show — working title: "Hill House" — is rolling right along.

A Northern Virginia-based lobbyist who once bought a restaurant from Jack Abramoff is helming the effort, along with a "House of Cards" veteran, a former producer for (among other projects) "Breaking Amish" and a former Fox News politics editor.

Mark Smith, the president of Da Vinci Group and executive producer of the nascent reality show, said he expects the main cast to include about eight to 12 people in their 20s and early 30s. About 40 people showed up for two casting calls, he added, and the final cast probably will include Hill staffers from both sides of the aisle, as well as former staff working in public relations or for non-governmental organizations. Don’t bank on seeing reporters.

“We actually had a few from Politico and a couple others knock on the door during the casting session,” he said. “We were like, nah, not going to happen.”

Smith said he first mulled this kind of show while sitting in Signatures, an eatery he and his partners bought from storied lobbyist-turned-inmate Abramoff back in the salad days of the Bush administration. He was watching the HBO show “K Street” and thought it was terrible.

“I’m sitting there with a friend of mine and I’m like, ‘I could do better than that,’ ” he recalled. “And I started writing this idea down.”

That idea took a big step toward fruition about a decade later when Smith visited the set of "House of Cards" and met Sharon Roggio, working as assistant property master for the Netflix hit. Through her, he met Jena Serbu, who has worked on "Amish Mafia" and "Breaking Amish," and Hunter Ryan, formerly a Fox News political editor. Smith showed them his idea, and they “flipped out,” he said.

They’ve been working together since then and finished the second casting session April 26. Smith said he expects a major broadcaster to pick up the show, which should be filmed over the summer and will probably start airing in the fall before the midterm elections. He said they aim to make the final casting decisions within the next 10 days.

Smith said the show will focus on issues the cast members and their bosses work on.

“You can make almost any topic sexy, entertaining, dramatic,” he said. “Look at some of the junk that’s on TV, right?”

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