Warburg talent preps for TV debut

In picking possible reality stars, stage skills didn't hurt

From left: Warburg brokers Leslie Rosenthal, Deborah Lupard, Richard Steinberg and firm president Frederick Peters
From left: Warburg brokers Leslie Rosenthal, Deborah Lupard, Richard Steinberg and firm president Frederick Peters

If the casting for season two of HGTV’s “Selling New York” is to be believed, experienced actors, singers and models have an inside edge on the popular real estate-themed reality show.

Producers went on the hunt for more brokers in the spring, choosing, so far, three Warburg Realty brokers (along with company president Frederick Peters) to join colleagues from Core and Gumley Haft Kleier.

During her audition, Warburg broker Leslie Rosenthal broke into an impromptu “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.”

“The performance aspect definitely intrigued them,” said Rosenthal, who was an actor and singer before she started selling homes. “They wanted people who are natural, who wouldn’t get intimidated by the process, and who can do the takes, too.”

Others from Warburg who made the cut are just as at ease in the kliegs.

“I sometimes direct myself, like, ‘We’re losing the light! Let’s go!” said Deborah Lupard, who was an assistant director on Hollywood films, working with Martin Scorsese and Oliver Stone, before joining Warburg in 2006. “It’s kind of ironic to be on the other end of the camera.”

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After the first season was under way, JV Productions got word that HGTV wanted a second season of shows. It would be much longer than the first, with 39 episodes instead of 13, so more brokers were needed, explained the producers, who began to put out feelers for fresh talent in May.

Within a few weeks, the producers had settled on Warburg and began to audition some of its brokers, and filming began in June. The new season debuts Jan. 6.

Peters admits that he deliberated carefully on which of his 130 agents would get a tryout.

“We certainly thought about who were the most appropriate people,” though “we also tried to include an agent from each of our three offices,” Peters said.

For their part, producers say they were more intrigued by the fact that Warburg, unlike, say, the Corcoran Group or Prudential Douglas Elliman, was a lesser-known boutique firm with agents “who have to work hard to make a name for themselves,” said the series’ producer, Courtney Campbell.

Indeed, these agents make up “a very solid, professional and confident team,” said Campbell, who revealed that next month production starts on a spin-off, “Selling L.A.,” which is scheduled to air on HGTV in October.

Still, onscreen confidence also seems evident in “Selling New York,” like with Warburg broker Richard Steinberg, a star of at least four episodes, including one in which he accompanies New Yorker Roberta Bogen, a designer, on a Los Angeles apartment hunt.

“I will tell you, I’m great at” reality TV, said Steinberg, who used to model in print ads with his wife. (Also, until the mid-1980s, Steinberg was a foot surgeon.) “I was never the captain of the football team, if you know what I mean, so this is clearly my 15 minutes,” he said, “and I’m having a ball.”