September 28, 2000

Reality Check

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The Real World has been an MTV staple for nearly the past decade. Now in its ninth season, which has been airing since June, the reality series has traveled to New Orleans. As expected, there is a gay person, a black person, and a super-controversial person. But this is the first time the program has featured a Cornell person.

Last January, Jamie Murray ’00, a graduate of the hotel school, ventured south to live in a mansion for five months with six strangers. His every move was captured on tape.

Here Jamie talks with Daze about typecasting, favorite roommates, newfound fame, and his most prized possession of all — his internet company.

Daze: What are you up to now?

Jamie: I’m working on an internet company [] that I founded with one of my good friends … And we’re out here developing the company and enjoying life in the Bay Area [San Franciso].

Daze: So let’s talk about Soulgear. What exactly is its function?

Jamie: We do things in both the online and offline worlds. Online, we are basically a community content and e-commerce site for action and alternative extreme sports. And then in the offline world, we develop … action sports film festivals in different mountain and beach towns … to promote the sport and get advertisers dialed into this demographic.

Daze: Let’s head back about a year in time. Did you audition at the casting call downtown?

Jamie: Yeah. I was with a good friend of mine actually eating lunch at Benchwarmer’s and he asked me if I wanted to see … the casting call … And it was a beautiful day and he really wanted to try out, and I sort of just kept him company.

Daze: So you didn’t really have any intentions of going?

Jamie: I’ve never watched the show in the past. I just went down there because we happened to be right in the area and my buddy wanted to do it … And then I answered a few questions, and that started a seven-round, very Freudian therapy interview process that culminated in them [the producers] wanting me to come down to New Orleans.

Daze: How effortful was the casting process?

Jamie: You just kind of answer the questions as honestly as you possibly can, and if you’re what they’re looking for, then you … have a shot for the show … I was never preparing myself or thinking about it, or staying up late at night contemplating if I was gonna get on it or not.

Daze: So what was it about you that kept the casting team calling you back for more rounds?

Jamie: … I have no idea really. I think it was a combination of a few different things maybe: the fact that … I’m this younger, ambitious kind of dot-commie entreprenuer, and that sort of resonates with the MTV crowd … We [The Real World cast] were all obviously typecasted into a specific role, and we’re edited into that role, but we’re all obviously a lot more than that … But from a skeletal standpoint, I fit a specific role, which was the white, capitalist, heterosexual male.

Daze: … Who’s from an Ivy league school, right?

Jamie: Yeah, exactly. And ask the casting directors, “Why did you go to Provo, Utah? Who were you looking for in Provo? You weren’t looking for a Jew!”

Daze: I think I read somewhere that you don’t watch the show. Is that true?

Jamie: Yeah, I haven’t really seen any episodes. My buddies watch the show and my mom watches the show, and they tell me sort of what’s going on … I’ve consciously chosen not to watch them, ’cause it’s sort of self-serving and I don’t really need L.A. [editors] … showing me what happened in the house.

Daze: But aren’t you interested in how you were portrayed?

Jamie: I’m obviously curious … but it was a gig, it was a fun time, and when it’s over I don’t want to live and dwell on it … I think it’s unhealthy to live in the realm of The Real World all your life … They [the producers] showed us the casting special when we were done filming … and I saw what they did to me right from day one … I just didn’t know that they were really gonna take all the hours and all the footage and edit those tight little two and three second sound bytes that create this potentially racist, potentially homophobic, rich white kid … They want to show Jamie enlightened after living with a black person and a gay person and experiencing a spiritual Mormon … I had no qualms about Danny being gay, or David being black … But it just makes these really interesting storylines that are not completely true.

Daze: So it seems like the editing is extreme at times.

Jamie: … They sensationalize everything and they really are very cagey at how they edit to make a point.

Daze: Did people in New Orleans ever figure out where you guys were living?

Jamie: Thousands and thousands of people … Our house was completely lit up so everybody knew.

Daze: Would you say Melissa was your best friend in the house?

Jamie: Yeah, she was definitely my best friend … She is a no-nonsense kind of girl and I like that … Melissa can obvioulsy be crazy sometimes and she has her own issues, but the beauty of her is that she takes ownership of those issues … She is very, very true to herself and very honest with other people …

Daze: Was there any romance?

Jamie: No, there wasn’t … You’re under a microscope, and the whole world is going to know about it. There’s just certain people in this world that you shouldn’t hook up with, and one of those people is your roommate on The Real World.

Daze: Who do you keep in touch from the show?

Jamie: Melissa, Julie, and Matt.

Daze: So you don’t talk to Kelley anymore?

Jamie: No, I’m not a big fan of Kelley … I had a hard time with her. She’s a very irritable and negative person. It’s frustrating for me to be in that environment where people are blessed and given so much … how can you be pissed off at the world with that?

Daze: What do you think caused her negativity?

Jamie: I don’t know … There is some pressure with living under the scope of the camera 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Daze: Why did you tell Kelley, in last week’s episode, that she was jealous of you?

Jamie: That was the one thing I did not want to get on the air, because it just looks bad, like I’m a vain motherfucker … But what people don’t understand is that this was such a long conversation … I just wanted her to explore areas in her where she may be potentially projecting things onto me … If you’re pissed at me, look inside [yourself].

Daze: What did you make of David?

Jamie: He was a hard man to get to know and to hang with — a very irritiable, very negative person … He’s just putting up this front … of this thug life, gangster, woo-woo player guy.

Daze: Did he really get laid as much as it seems?

Jamie: Yeah, he did … But how hard is it to find women when you have cameras following you the whole time?

Daze: Did those cameras ever become too much to handle?

Jamie: You find yourself constantly having to justify your opinions on certain subjects … Towards the end, you’re excited when the cameras are finally turned off.

Daze: What were the weekly interviews with producers like?

Jamie: … They’d ask you your opinion of what someone’s opinion is towards someone else … What the fuck? I can’t answer that … And when you try and answer it, that’s where they get the sound bytes. And so I learned quick to … say “I don’t know” when I don’t know.

Daze: Have you done any additional projects for MTV?

Jamie: I just got done filming this other show, The [Real World-Road Rules] Challenge with MTV … Julie and I filmed with this show.

Daze: Do you make any profit at all off the success of The Real Wor

Jamie: This is … like slave labor. I can’t complain, ’cause I sincerely had a great time … But the show is the second-highest rated cable TV show, and it just pulls in ridiculous amounts of cash, and it’s unfortunate that very little of it trickles down to the cast members.

Daze: But you didn’t go into it for the money, did you?

Jamie: No, not at all.

Daze: Has the show opened any doors for you?

Jamie: No … But for a lot of people, it’s a good stepping stone. I never want to get into acting or music … but for a lot of people, they do.

Daze: Do you get recognized?

Jamie: Yes … I’ve been in Europe for the last two months, so it was definitely weird to come back … and you’re getting recognized in the airport, and people are looking at you funny. You sort of just want to sit down after a long hard day and read a book on the train, and you end up talking with five, ten people about the gig … If you go to certain places like really young, college bars, it can get hectic.

Daze: Do you get any negative responses from viewers?

Jamie: Not really … I think I haven’t really been on the show that much, which I look at as a blessing in disguise … For me the show was never about the aftermath of the show … It was about enjoying a really wonderful city, possibly meeting some good friends, and sharing the experience with all my friends from Cornell and high school and my family who came down and visited me.

Daze: But, would you do it all again?

Jamie: Yeah, I definitely would. It was overall a very, very fun experience. And the little ounces of bullshit that’s associated with it are the price you pay.

Be sure to watch Jamie’s Real World experiences unfold, Tuesdays at 10 p.m. on MTV.

Archived article by David Kaplan