Participants in The Real World know by now to expect the unexpected.
But Thomas Buell Jr., a University of Texas at Arlington student, and six others were caught off-guard nonetheless.
After living together for nearly a month in a San Francisco house in which ever-present cameras allowed no privacy, the seven cast members went on a day trip — returning that evening to find their ex-girlfriends and ex-boyfriends had moved in.
It’s the first time the producers have pulled that trick in the 21-year history of The Real World.
The exes then had to live under the same roof for the next two months, creating a predictably combustible scenario.
The title says it all: Real World: Ex-Plosion. The season begins at 9 p.m. Wednesday on MTV.
We chatted with Thomas, 21, and with his counterpart, Hailey Chivers, who’s also 21 and a UTA student, last week in separate interviews.
How did you get mixed up with this crazy show?
Buell: “I was going to school and one of my roommates applied for Survivor. While he was doing that, something popped up on his monitor saying, ‘Apply for The Real World.’ He turned to me and said, ‘You would be really good at that. You should do it.’
“So I applied. I sent in pictures, gave them a one-paragraph description of myself, not expecting anything to come from it, but I got an email a couple of months later. I guess they liked me. I guess they thought I would be good for the show.”
And did your roommate make it onto Survivor?
Buell: “No, he did not. But he was really excited for me. It was a once-in-a-lifetime thing and I’ll have stories to tell for the rest of my life because of it.”
Maybe so, but you won’t be able to tell about the big fight that broke out on the first night, because you were passed out and sleeping through the whole thing.
Buell: “That’s true. That’s how you skip the drama. Just go to sleep.”
How long were you two a couple? And how long had you been apart before this show?
Chivers: “We started dating senior year of high school and we dated for two years. We went through some rough things during the transition from high school to college. It was hard. That’s a pivotal point in someone’s life. So we went through a lot of stuff that made us grow apart. We ended up breaking up about two years ago, but still going to the same university. We stayed friends. It wasn’t a bad breakup.”
Even though you were still friends, did it cross the line to crash the party in San Francisco, especially given that Thomas was starting up something new with Jamie, another cast member?
Buell: “I was very disappointed. I didn’t believe she was there at first.”
Chivers: “I had barely any notice when I was asked to pack up and hop on a plane. I went in open to the possibility of rekindling our relationship, but I wasn’t necessarily expecting it to happen. Mostly, I thought, ‘I’m presented with this opportunity. Why not take advantage of it? Why not go to a city I’ve never seen before? I’ll never get a chance like this again.’ So I did it.”
You seem so at ease on camera. Had either of you been on TV before doing this show?
Chivers: “I have never even fathomed the idea of being on TV. So when this opportunity was presented to me, it was something kind of foreign and scary at the same time that it was exciting.”
Buell: “I’ve been on the news before, but I don’t think that counts. I guess I’m just a natural when it comes to being on camera.”
Are you satisfied with how things worked out between the two of you?
Buell: “I won’t say how it turned out, but our relationship changes while we’re together on the show. There’s a big change that happens.”
Chivers: “It was very nerve-wracking at times, but I’m glad I did it.”