MTV’s “Real World” invades the nation’s capital for its 23rd season. The formula hasn’t changed much since the show jump-started the reality-TV movement back in 1992. A group of 20-somethings live in a house. There’s always at least one person of color and one LGBT member. Usually there’s a lot of drinking, hookups, arguments and controversy.
This year’s cast features Mike Manning, 22, who is bisexual and hails from Thornton, Colo. He said at first he had no intention of trying out for the show.
“It was just random. My buddy and I went and auditioned and he wanted me to go with him. I was like, ‘No. I don’t want to. I have better things to do.’ He said, ‘I’ll buy you lunch.’ I was like, ‘Cool, fine, whatever.’ We showed up at a random audition at a university about an hour away from us and the rest is history.”
Manning also said he never watched the show until he agreed to audition.
“Actually, my first time ever watching it was a week before I left for D.C. I You-Tubed a few episodes just to get an idea of what I was getting into. Previous to that, I had never seen the show.”
It may seem odd to accept a role on a reality-TV show you never watched, but Manning said he was looking for any opportunity to get out of Colorado.
“I have a habit of not staying in Colorado for too long. Once I found out it was in D.C., I got even more excited. I love the idea of being in our nation’s capital, especially with [President] Obama in office and the political climate geared toward youth and younger people. I just got even more excited to do the show.”
As with other seasons of “Real World,” some people weren’t too happy to see MTV and its cameras taking up temporary residence in their neighborhood — this time, in Washington’s Dupont Circle gayborhood.
“Some people were ecstatic and they loved us,” Manning said. “Other people were more pretentious and like, ‘Get out of our city.’ It was really hot and cold. There was no middle ground with that.”
Manning isn’t the only LGBT member of the cast this season; he describes fellow cast member Emily Schromm as “toying with the idea” of being a lesbian.
“She’s right on the fence.”
And it wouldn’t be reality television without some kind of drama. Manning said he sometimes locked horns with cast member Ashley Lindley on the show.
“I love her to death, but she and I have very different personalities when it comes to certain things,” he said. “We’re both Christians and we both are very similar in a lot of ways, so it makes it hard when we fight because we’re both stubborn. She calls me out in the first week because I wasn’t comfortable with my sexuality when I arrived in D.C. She called me out on it, and it made it difficult to be in front of a camera and in the spotlight. But at the same time, I appreciate it now, looking back, because she forced me to make up my mind, stand up for myself and say, ‘This is me. This is who I am. Take it or leave it.’”
Manning, who is a personal trainer, said he might return to D.C., but wants to finish his last semester of college instead of cashing in on the show’s notoriety with lucrative public appearances.
“I think in the long run I’ll regret it if I don’t finish college right away.”
He added that he might return to work for the Human Rights Campaign, an organization he knew nothing about before going to Washington.
“It’s something I found by myself. Prior to the show, I had never even heard of HRC. It’s not really big in Colorado. I’m trying to put things in place to make it easier for me to move here after I graduate.”
It’s no big secret that MTV, like many other reality-show producers, uses creative editing in portraying cast members. Manning said he has no concerns about how he will come across on the show.
“I think that I’m portrayed as a normal 22-year-old who likes sports and things that are against gay stereotypes,” he said. “I hate to use the word ‘normal,’ but it’s going to be a normal light. I like sports, I went to my job and I partied just as much as anybody else. I just happened to take boys to my bedroom.”
“The Real World: D.C.” premiered at 10 p.m. Dec. 30 on MTV.