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Local stunt video producer hits big time on talk show

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What began as a fun project for Rico Roman and his friends has become entertainment for the public and material for a nationally syndicated TV talk show.

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Roman and his mother, Deb, returned to Ellsworth from Los Angeles earlier this month after appearing on a taping of "The Tyra Banks Show." The broadcast date for the program remained to be announced as of last week.

The 2005 graduate of Ellsworth High School learned on the computer internet the show was seeking youths under age 20 who do stunts, he said Friday. The young producer has not only done them in the style of a popular cable TV show called "Jackass," but recorded them for his "Arse Marks Video" company.

"I thought it was a one-in-a-million chance," he said about his prospects to be chosen for the talk show.

Nonetheless, he invited the show's staff to visit his web site, , where his videos can be previewed. Without advance notification, the evening of Oct. 30 they contacted him about going to California two days later for a taping Nov. 2.

"They told him, 'You guys are crazy'," his mom said of their assessment of the stunts. She also proudly shared how they believed he was the most articulate and camera-friendly of those who answered their appeal.

For around the last four years, Roman and 10 others, including Nick Mewes and Zack Morth, have been on camera performing stunts and skits in locations as varied as his kitchen at home or a sand pit. He said most all have been performed in the Ellsworth vicinity, so many are recognizable to this area's residents. He operates the camera, edits the footage, lines up the talent and handles the production.

The participants film over an indefinite period of time, then he assembles what's been recorded into packages often lasting around an hour each, he said. He's been surprised how much outsiders who've seen the finished products have liked them, finding them funny and even reciting lines from them.

"When we started doing this, we weren't serious...it was just for fun," he said.

Because of the demand, Roman established the web site and started advertising the productions, now available on DVD, he said. The 12th one is currently in progress; a designer identified on the internet creates their covers. The DVDs have been sold to buyers in Japan, the United Kingdom and Mexico. A soldier from Ellsworth serving in Iraq bought one and showed it to others over there.

Before the producer and his mom left for the TV taping, a courier was sent to their home to pick up photos from his childhood, though it was later decided not to use these. He said he was advised about clothing to wear on the show, and dressed in a button-down shirt and slacks for it. Expenses including the round-trip flight on America West, lodging at the Hyatt Hotel on Sunset Boulevard, food and transportation in the L.A. area were all paid.

"He took advantage of room service," Mrs. Roman said, displaying a photo of her son with plates full of food in front of him.

The pair were picked up at the L.A. airport by a limousine and took a similar ride to the CBS-TV studios on taping day, he said. There, they were assigned a dressing room, complete with their names and his production company's on the door. They talked with staff about questions they'd be asked on the show, and met the executive and associate producers, plus were readied by make-up and wardrobe personnel.

"Then I found out what the show's theme was: 'Over the Edge...Teens Who Are Out of Control'," he said.

Roman said he didn't think of himself as being in that category. And once they got into the studio where the taping was to be done, he noticed the audience of between 75 and 100 people was mostly women, whom he believed might not react favorably to the stunts and skits.

"They were gasping," he said, describing their reactions to a compilation of clips from the DVDs he provided shown on large screens around the studio. His own response: "That was awesome!"

The way those highlights were presented was the best part of the whole experience, Mrs. Roman said her son told her during a commercial break. During such breaks, one of the show's staffers using a microphone kept the audience's enthusiasm high by commenting about the topic. Aside from the actual interview, the host talked very little to the guests, though was "nice" when she did. She also made it a point not to meet them beforehand.

About his appearance, Roman remembered being "very nervous" and "the time went by so fast." Questions were also directed to a specialist out in the audience, a Dr. Drew.

"He analyzed us," the young guest said, explaining the doctor told why youths would be willing to jump off of a housetop or light a fire, for example, in the interest of performing stunts.

The second of three sets of interviewees on the show, the Romans moved from a couch on the stage to the front row of the audience afterward, he said. At the show's end, just the three teens returned to the stage for a "wrap-up," when the host and the specialist offered some closing remarks.

Backstage, all of the guests gathered and talked while the microphone equipment taped to them was being removed, Mrs. Roman said. At that point, a show staffer named Jane introduced herself to the Ellsworth producer, telling him she put the presentation of his clips together for the show. She also told him her fellow editors were quite complimentary about them, especially enjoying a segment called "The Kabuki Kid," and encouraged him to pursue his career ambitions.

Now that he recognizes TV is a possibility for him, Roman said he's promoting related opportunities. He's contacting Twin Cities bands about videotaping them and has a section of his clips on the "Homegrown" DVD from another producer, available at Best Buy. Previously, he was in educational films produced by Taproot of Bay City, was involved in a new production for that firm this summer, and has videotaped weddings.

Employed at a TV station in Red Wing responsible for operating a government channel in that city, he also attends classes at Minneapolis Technical College, he said. In addition to being supported by his mom, his family includes his father, Harvey, and a brother, Cordero, who's a sophomore at Ellsworth High School.

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