One afternoon in August, Kayla Carolus walked into what she thought was an audition for a lifestyle show on CMT. Auditioning is not out of the ordinary for the 20-year-old former Huntingdon resident, who moved to the Nashville area in 2010 to enroll in a commercial entertainment program at Columbia State Community College in Franklin, Tenn.
What was out of the ordinary for Kayla was finding her entire family, comedian/ actor Tom Arnold and a camera crew waiting for her upon her arrival. Kayla was soon told that she had walked into a "redneck intervention," part of an episode of the new reality TV show Redneck Rehab on Country Music Television.
The one-hour, eight-episode series follows former rednecks as they are confronted by friends and family who fear their loved one has forgotten their country roots. The friends and family members have 48 hours to take their loved one back home for a redneck reunion to remind them of all the fun that they have left behind. The show is hosted by Arnold, who also hosts the CMT show "My Big Redneck Wedding." Kayla's episode of Redneck Rehab will air at 10 p.m. Saturday on CMT.
This photo provided by CMT shows Huntingdon native Kayla Carolus sitting in her “welcome home” sign on “Redneck Rehab.”
"It was truly a surprise," said Kayla, a graduate of Juniata Valley High School in Alexandria. "I cried when I saw all my family. I wanted to hug them all, but I had to sit down and wait through the interview. I honestly had no idea who Tom [Arnold] was until my mom told me afterwards."
The episode will tell the story of how Kayla left her eccentric and fun-loving redneck family in Huntingdon to pursue her dreams of being a performer, dancer, actress and model in Nashville. The episode will juxtapose Kayla's new, busy, glamorous lifestyle with her old, simple, country lifestyle.
The show's filming took place over three weekends in August and September. One weekend in Nashville to film Kayla's life, one weekend in Huntingdon and nearby areas to film her family's life and one weekend at Raystown Lake in Huntingdon County, where the big family redneck reunion took place.
If You Watch
What: "Redneck Rehab," featuring Kayla Carolus and the entire Carolus family of Huntingdon
When: 10 p.m. Saturday on CMT
For more information: Visit www.cmt.com/shows/ or "Redneck Rehab" on CMT (Kayla Carolus Family) page on Facebook
"We camped at Nancy's [Boat-to-Shore Campground], jumped the cliffs, and had fun on our man-made bull and tricky obstacle course," Kayla's mother, Tammy Carolus, said.
Members of the Carolus clan who participated in the reunion and will appear in Saturday's episode include: Kayla's parents Tammy and Ed Carolus of Huntington, sister Bethany, brothers Ben and David Carolus and Phillip Palmer, nephew Colton Carolus, uncle Danny Heffner, cousin Harley Heffner, aunt Abby Heffner, aunt Doll Johnson and best friends Jimbob Johnson and Jake Peterson. Country musician Chris Woodward from Three Springs performed at the reunion.
The Carolus-CMT connection happened when Tammy found an advertisement for Redneck Rehab on realitywanted.com, a website where people can apply and get cast in a variety of reality TV shows. Tammy's application video can be viewed on You Tube under "Tammy Carolus Redneck Reunion."
"We cast a wide net, all over the country, and we look for great characters who are natural, authentic, and not afraid of the camera. The Carolus family certainly fit that bill," Lewis Bogach, executive producer of "Redneck Rehab" wrote in an email.
"They are so comfortable being who they are, and you could immediately tell in the casting tape that there was a real struggle between Kayla and her desire to leave her small-town roots in search of something bigger, and her immediate family, who felt so deeply that they were missing her in their daily lives."
Contrary to what some believe about reality TV shows being staged, Kayla and Tammy emphasize that the show was predominantly unscripted.
"We all said what we felt and did what we normally do, but the production crew just helped us perfect things," Kayla said.
Tammy said that one aspect of her portrayal was slightly skewed.
"I'm probably going to be [seen as] the mom that calls too much to check on her daughter. I must admit that was exaggerated a little bit," Tammy said. "Kayla's dad and I are both very supportive of her career, but miss her a lot and just wanted to get her back home for a big old reunion before she takes off to somewhere even farther away than Nashville, such as L.A.! We all just wanted to remind her of who she is and where she came from."
Bogach writes that Kayla's account is a classic American story: "People should watch because there's a very important lesson in this episode - family, and remembering where you came from, is the strongest foundation that one can build their life on."
Was "Redneck Rehab" successful? Kayla thinks so.
"I really did love going back to my roots and remembering just how crazy my home life is. [The reunion] was just long enough to give me a good reminder of what I truly love," she said. "I know that no matter where I end up, the crazy people in central PA will always have my back."