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The Real World
Life as a TV Roommate

"Stephen"
Cast member, The Real World: Denver
Wednesday, October 25, 2006 11:00 AM

Some have to learn the hard way about what happens when you're careless during a search for housemates. Our special feature, Lessons Learned: How to Survive Living With Roommates , has tales from the roommate horror files, advice from industry experts, and Live Online chats designed to ensure you don't get duped.

On air since 1992, MTV reality show "The Real World" has built a cult following, as millions watch each season to see the ups and downs of seven strangers thrown together played out on TV. Season 18 launches on November 22 and will introduce the world to a whole new group of personalities cohabitating in Denver, Colorado.

We are joined by new cast mate "Stephen," a California native who attends Howard University in Washington, D.C., as he discusses his experiences as a TV roommate.

The transcript follows below.

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washingtonpost.com: This discussion will begin momentarily.

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Stephen: Hey everyone! I'm Stephen, I'm 22 and I'm from Sacramento, Calif. Thanks for joining me live. I'll be glad to take your questions!

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San Francisco, Calif.: I've been a big fan of "The Real World" since it started back in 1992, but since the Las Vegas cast it seems like the show is less about how different people live together and more about superficial drama and random hook-ups. This seems especially true with The Real World/Road Rules challenges where you see the same cast members over and over again. It seems like the only requirements are that you have to be good looking and/or at the very least a caricature. You probably grew up with the latter seasons, but what are your thoughts on your place in this series and what your cast has to offer?

Stephen: San Francisco: Good question! I have not grown up with the show like many other people in our age group. In fact, if it didn't come on C-Span or ESPN I wasn't watching so it would be hard for me to compare previous seasons. I can tell you that my experience during the show made me think about a lot of very "real" social issues and from what I understand that's what this show is all about.

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Washington, D.C.: I'm a Real World junkie. I've watched every episode since my freshman year of college (which was a while ago). Did you watch the show regularly? What were your expectations going into it? Weren't you nervous about baring everything to the world?

Stephen: Thanks. Many people have grown up with the show. I haven't been under a rock but I didn't watch it until I got cast. I saw a few episodes here and there. My expectations were to have a great time and meeting some interesting people. Denver met those expectations.

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Washington, D.C.: Why on Earth would you go on this show? At season 18, it's clear they're casting certain "characters" ... don't you feel like a token?

Stephen: Thank you for the question. It was a great opportunity and I was heavily encouraged by friends to try out. I have heard about the stereotype of typecasting. In my experience, however, it is really hard to sum up these individuals with a word,(the gay one, the black one, the slutty one, etc.) There are also two black guys so I didn't feel token at all! :-)

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Washington, D.C.: Being a resident of D.C., did you find that MTV's choice of Denver for the next Real World destination was odd? I have to say that I'm disappointed they haven't chosen D.C. yet ... was Denver a good next choice?

Stephen: Thank you for the question. Denver is an awesome city with a great nightlife and very attractive young people! What else could you ask for?

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Laurel, Md.: While living in the house did you feel it was easy to be yourself in front of the cameras? How authentic are the characters and events that we see on TV?

Stephen: Thank you for the question. It is important to remember that the production aspect is designed to make us most comfortable so we truly adapted to their presence early. As far as characters? Try to remember that we're all just regular people living life and if you see it that way, you won't feel like we're acting. I can promise you no director ever asked me to repeat a statement or anything like that.

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Washington, D.C.: Hey Stephen! I just wanted to say hi because I am Colie's childhood best friend from East Brunswick, N.J. who now lives in the D.C. area. She is such an intelligent, witty, entertaining person ... I'm sure she mixed it up over there in Denver! Was this the first time you've ever lived with the opposite sex, and would you do it again? Do you plan on keeping in touch with everyone from Denver?

Stephen: Hey Colie's friend! Colie is very interesting, to say the least! This is the first time that I lived with the opposite sex and it was a new experience. There was definitely an emotional vibe going on with women in the house. Had it been just us guys it would have been a virtual frat house. Still good TV but not very productive.

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Washington, D.C.: Is it just me, or does every other season of the Real World have to have either a crazy, argumentative, unstable, or militant black male on the show? Kevin in NYC was militant and unnecessarily argumentative, Stephen in Seattle was nuts and constantly causing trouble, Nehemiah in Austin ended up in jail. Please, as a fellow Howard University student, I'm hoping you are "normal" on this season.

Stephen: Hailing from the Mecca: I just want to thank you for the question. I can tell you that I've heard all of those things from our fellow student body. I'd get things like "are you the angry black guy?" In my opinion, no. I've been made angry this season and have dealt with a wide range of emotions but I did my best to hold it down. Besides, your personality really comes through and my normal state doesn't make me comfortable with discord. I hope that helps. See you on the yard!

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College Park, Md.: How many interviews did you have to go through in order to be on the show?

Stephen: Thank you for the question. Billions! Naw ... just playing. I'm so unfamiliar with casting though, so I have really no idea what is normal in this case. I remember several interviews in person and I had to mail in a tape. If you're thinking about auditioning, though cliche, be yourself. I never thought they'd want a guy like me! All of my roommates say the same about themselves!

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Washington, D.C.: Stephen, how do you feel your stint on Real World will affect your political aspirations?

Stephen: Thank you for the question. I'm glad that you asked it. When auditioning for the show I had thought about how this could affect my future goals. After a while though, I decided that I'd have to move out of my comfort zone a bit and live life to the fullest. I feel that had I guarded my actions or if I tried to craft a message surely I could secure my political aspirations, but after much thought, I found it best to be myself because that would provide for the most personal growth.

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Reston, Va.: Do you find that people who are drawn to participate in reality shows have certain common characteristics?

Stephen: Thank you for the question. I think that there are many commonalities we all share, but the primary one is that we all have a personal story that people may want to see.

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Washington, D.C.: Having lived with many different roommates, I find there is always a person who doesn't do their share of the housework. Was there ever any conflict over chores in the Denver house? How was this handled?

Stephen: You are correct about this! We had a very messy living space at times because there are only a few people who cared to keep life in order. I was one of them. :-) We handled conflict in a variety of ways, now that I'm looking back, perhaps some of them could have been handled differently ...

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Washington, D.C.: Stephen, I didn't realize you had political aspirations. You realize that those are pretty much dead in the water now, right?

Stephen: I believe that this could be true. At the end of the day, however, my steps are ordered by my Lord and Savior so really all things are possible. I also know I can't go around planning my life 20 years from now. Do you? Don't believe the hype!

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Rockville, Md.: Are we going to be seeing you in any of the Real World/Road Rules Challenges later on down the road?

Stephen: Stay tuned ...

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Washington, D.C.: I was a Real World fan for the first several years but it seems like when they do have black men on the show, they are always the ones that date interracially. This year you say there are two of you. Are you going to be that "black guy" that dates "all types" of women too? It just seems like Real World producers don't believe or like seeing black love. Even in the case with Alton on Las Vegas, he had to hook-up with a white chick first.

Stephen: You know, you sound like my sister! :-) I am no stranger to diverse relationships, in fact I grew up in Sacramento, Calif., which is very diverse. I am a Howard University student, however, and I have lived in Washington, D.C. for a few years now. Race to me is apparent daily, but I don't like to let that box me in. To answer your question, I have a girlfriend and she is the same one I've been dating while taping the show, and yes ... she's black.

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Silver Spring, Md.: As a hardcore conservative Republican who is against gay marriage, how did you handle living with people of different backgrounds? Especially with Davis?

Stephen: My political views are conservative. My acceptance for people, however, isn't determined by party affiliation so of course I'd get along with other people from different backgrounds. It was interesting getting to know them all on a personal level.

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D.C.: The house in Denver looks awesome. How hard was it to return to apartment/dorm life after such luxury?

Stephen: Great question! Although I loved my mansion this summer where I was rent and utility free, I simply couldn't wait to come back to the Howard Plaza Towers! That's where all of my friends were and I missed the quiet, believe it or not.

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Arlington, Va.: Do you believe "the Lord and Savior" directed you to go on the Real World. Keep in mind the commercial for this season implies promiscuous sex among randomly selected housemates.

The Real World used to be about people from truly different backgrounds learning to live together (Pedro, Kevin, etc.) but now it is just about drinking and being pretty.

Stephen: Thanks again. I can tell you that I grew up deeply spiritual so I try to consult God in pretty much every aspect of my life. I am hard headed sometimes. :-) This season is about people from different backgrounds living together and though there were some crazy situations, it's truly about what we can learn from the experience.

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Potomac, Md.: Were there any major issues that came up while filming in Denver that made you step back and see things in a new light?

Stephen: Yes there were! Many racial, religious, cultural, and sexual issues came up that I was not prepared for. Growth was inevitable, but not always comfortable.

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Boston, Mass.: While, yes, you were one of two black men on the show, it seems that Tyree came from a completely different background. It's unfair to assume that because the two of you are black that you automatically got along, so how was your relationship with him? Atleast compared to the other roommates?

Stephen: Tyree and I have a great relationship. We are from different sides of the tracks but our friendship superceded these differences.

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Stephen: Everyone, thank you for the questions! I hope that I was able to answer most of them. Come check us out this season to see some major points of view. Meanwhile, hit me up on my MySpace!

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