‘Real World’ Backlot Talk

Dec 15, 2006  •  Post A Comment

Hi. I’m Greg Bauman, editor of TelevisionWeek. I’d like to welcome Jim Johnston, the co-executive producer for MTV’s “The Real World: Denver” to TVWeek.com’s Producer Shop Talk.
TelevisionWeek: So in last night’s episode, Jenn faced up to some very hard facts about her drinking. What did you make of that?
Mr. Johnston: Jenn I think realizes that maybe under the influence of alcohol she is a lot feistier than she wants to be. She gets very argumentative.
TVWeek: Indeed. So, as a co-executive producer, what do you do when a cast member comes to one of those realizations and issues a cry for help like that? It seems like she realized what was going on and made a resolution to do something about it.
Mr. Johnston: Well, we’ll do anything they want to do. We’ll offer them rehab, doctors, anybody who is willing to go on camera and work with them. As long as they want to take that first step, we are always open to them getting better and learning more about themselves…because we want to demonstrate to the audience, who could be going through the exact same things, what are the steps you take if you think you’ve got a problem.
TVWeek: Right. And this isn’t the first time a cast member has faced these kinds of issues.
Mr. Johnston: No, it’s not. “Real World: Hawaii” is well-known for one of the roommates realizing that she had a problem with alcohol, went to rehab and you learned about what an intervention was, the difficulties of an alcoholic not wanting to admit that they have a problem and then seeing in the end the fact that rehab did this person some good.
TVWeek: So is Jenn headed in that direction?
Mr. Johnston: We’ll have to see. She realizes there’s a problem and I think at this point in the story she’s trying to moderate herself. We’ll see if she can do that. I will tell you though that Jenn will argue anything, sometimes it doesn’t matter if she’s under the influence. She will continue to stand up for what she believes in as a woman, she will continue to stand up to the guys and she will not back down. And this not that last time you’re going to see Jenn bump heads with the guys in the house.
TVWeek: Jenn got physical on the party bus and chose maybe the biggest guy in the cast to go up against, Tyrie. What as a producer do you do when you see that kind of thing going down? When do you make the call to actually intervene?
Mr. Johnston: If you think somebody is going to be hurt, you would intervene. If you think a camera person is going to be hurt, you would intervene. They were holding each other back, there was a little slapping, but I don’t think it looked like anyone was honestly going to get hurt right then and there. They were pretty much policing themselves as far as that goes.
TVWeek: So amid all the drama, some of the boys were talking and they got together and started jokingly referring to themselves as “The Frat.” Is that a storyline we’re going to see develop, this gender split?
Mr. Johnston: Well, you will see these three guys kind of bond together, certainly. They have each other’s backs for the rest of this series and they are very good friends and they are very tight.
TVWeek: You’ve got the typical volatile mix of personalities that make for some really great drama. What kind of psychological profiling gets done to choose the people who wear their emotions on their sleeves and what kind of consultants do you use?
Mr. Johnston: Well our casting department is composed of people who have been doing this for many many years and these people go through extensive interviews, usually four or five, as well as filling out a 40-page profile; so that gives everybody a sense of who they are and if they’re consistently telling the truth. We also interview parents, relatives, friends to find if what they’re saying is the truth. In terms of psychological profiling, no, we wouldn’t be doing that. If there’s somebody with a history of problems and things like that, we wouldn’t even consider that person for the show.
TVWeek: Sure. Well you certainly got a dramatic mix of personalities for the Denver show.
Mr. Johnston: I would say that the way we pick people is you try to the find seven most interesting people that you’d want to spend a semester in college with. We don’t always know about this feisty nature and how it’s going to happen when they live together and relate to each other. We’ve never been successful at predicting anything, I’ll tell you that.
TVWeek: Well, it makes for good TV. The teaser for the next episode indicates that someone gets hurt and there’s a roommate meltdown on the way. So how does the injury happen?
Mr. Johnston: Well, it’s not a physical injury. It’s something internal like a virus or flu, something like that. But it will shake up the house; let me put it that way.
TVWeek: Is the cast going to take any trips any time soon? Will those be reflected in the show?
Mr. Johnston: Well, coming up soon in a couple of weeks, they’re going to meet their boss and find out about their job, which will actually take them on some Rocky Mountain adventures. And as is typical of every Real World, there always seems to be an international trip somewhere, isn’t there?
TVWeek: Alright, well Jim, thank you for your time and we’ll talk to someone from “The Real World” next week.
Mr. Johnston: Thank you.

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