MTV's "The Real World” Honored for GLBT Legacy

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There are so many LGBT folks on reality shows these days, but I remember when there were essentially none – not unless you count Lance Loud back in the 70s.

Then came MTV’s The Real World in 1992 when a group of diverse strangers lived together in a New York loft for several months with the camera rolling. Among those in the group was Norm Corpi, a gay man who was then identified as “bisexual.”

From then on, whether the show was set in Miami, San Francisco, Los Angeles, New Orleans, Chicago, Washington D.C. or elsewhere, there was usually at least one LGBT cast member.

They included the most memorable: the late Pedro Zamora who was suffering from AIDS during his time in the San Francisco house but whose  courage and eloquence made him a houseguest whose memory still burns bright.

Anyway, Real World co-creator Jonathan Murray was honored recently at the GLAAD at 25 event in Los Angeles and we chatted a bit about the show’s legacy.

“We’ve done 25 seasons in 20 years and The Real World is still the basic same show,” he said. “It’s seven people who wouldn’t normally live together being thrown together and then sort of having their lives examined, undergoing weekly interviews where we ask them about everything they do.”

“If can find those right people, and we work really hard to do it, its a real opportunity for them to experience people different from themselves and it’s an opportunity for them to grow and be affected by the experience,” he added. “That’s what we hope the show accomplishes. It’s a great opportunity for them to see not only people like them, but people different from them and finding out they actually have more in common with each other than not in common.”

The openly gay Murray is especially proud of including LGBT people in the mix from the very beginning and glad to see other reality shows follow suit.

The Real World sort of set a standard. Particularly in reality television, what you saw was that later, eight years later when Survivor came on, they had a gay character, Richard Hatch. When Amazing Race came about, they had a gay couple. So I really think from the beginning, reality television starting with The Real World has done a great job of reflecting gay and lesbian people, and scripted television has sort of had to catch up.”

Among the LGBT Real World alums are Dan Renzi, Danny Roberts, Beth Stolarczyk, Ruthie Alcaide, Aneesa Ferreira, Chris Beckman, Preston O’Neil Roberson-Charles, Mike Manning,  and Katelynn Cusanelli, the first transgender cast member.

While most of the cast members fade from sight after the show ends, others manage to stay in the limelight for one reason or another. Jacinda Barrett from the London season is a famous actress, Eric Nies from the first New York enjoyed success as a model and actor, Danny Roberts has been an LGBT activist, and Scott Herman has become a staunch straight ally for the LGBT community and a fitness guru with thousands of followers.

“I think the people who have participated in The Real World, their lives are transformed in the sense that they have met people that they would not have normally have met and they’ve grown so much from the experience,” Murray said. “Some of them choose to stay sort of in the limelight and do other things in the entertainment industry. Others of them go back to what they were doing before. Pam Ling who was on Real World: San Francisco is a doctor, Aaron Bailey who was on Real World: Los Angeles is a businessman. Sean Duffy is a congressman now just elected from Wisconsin.”

Yeah, but whatever happened to Puck?

Read more at Greg in Hollywood