Josh H: And you graduated from Holy Angels Academy in Burnsville [Minnesota]?
TD: Yes! Yes, yes! Are you guys familiar?
JK: We graduated from Hopkins and Anoka [both suburbs of Minneapolis].
TD: I’ve met so many great people in LA, and they’re like [in a Minnesota accent] “I’m from Minnesota” and I’m like, “Where you from?” “Oh, you know, Inver Grove.” My roommate and I are getting together this big party of Minnesota gays, and we’re going to watch Drop Dead Gorgeous together.
JH: In the October 2006 Details, an article said you played the minority card—in your case, the gay card—to try and excuse what the article describes as “cruel” behavior toward your other Real World: Key West cast members.
TD: I thought it was using the most faulty logic I’d ever read in the magazine and I thought, “Ouch, somebody does not like me!” It’s one thing to be criticized in the press, but it’s another when somebody mixes up the story completely. I don’t know what he was talking about. I cried when I said goodbye to everyone, but I don’t remember being called out for being vicious to my roommates. All my roommates really like me and we have a really great relationship now, so it’s really hard to read.
JH: When you watch the show back, what do you think about your portrayal in the show? Do you feel like they show only one side of your personality?
TD: It was one of the most difficult experiences of my life literally being ripped apart in postproduction. What’s also hard is that what people are seeing is a year and a half ago, and especially in your early twenties you grow so much. I like to think of it as a very positive experience, and that I’m very fortunate to get to see the negative side of my personality and improve on it.
JK: You’re a public figure now. How do you feel about that? I’m sure you grew up watching Real World, everybody did, watching the Pedros and the Dannys. That’s a lot of pressure.
TD: I’m not a Pedro, I was not a Danny, and I think that kind of plays on my insecurities. Like you guys, I grew up watching [the Real World], thinking Danny Roberts was hot. It does suck being compared to those guys sometimes, because I’m not Danny Roberts, but then you do the show, and I was like, “I’m just going to be me.” I’m not attractive like Danny and I’m not an activist like Pedro, and I’m not even the angry black gay guy like Kuramo. I feel like I’m one of the most relatable of the gay men to be on the show because I do have “Danny issues,” I did grow up in the Midwest, and was kind of very blue collar and gay and grew up in a conservative town. I think the best compliment I’ve had from the show is that everybody thinks I was really funny, regardless if they think I was mean, and that’s what I get excited about, because I don’t care about being sexy, I just hope they think I’m funny.
JK: Funny is sexy, I think.
TD: I’ve kind of found that out in LA, because I’ll always do anything for a laugh and I don’t really care about the sexy thing. In LA guys that I would totally think are out of my league are into me, and it’s not because of the Real World—I’m very perceptive about that—and I was asking my roommate about these guys and he was saying, “You’re a really genuine person and a genuine funny person in LA is nearly impossible.” Maybe just a normal, nice person—that is the new sexy.
JH: How long did you film—three or four months?
JH: And then they have to pack it into a bunch of 22-minute episodes.
JK: Do they film you guys 24 hours a day, seven days a week?
TD: There is no stop. It’s all the time, seven days a week, 24 hours a day. It’s insane. That’s why it’s hard when [people] watch and [they’re] like, “You’re such an asshole,” and it’s like, you don’t understand, this is five months of all of our lives, and they don’t even show you one percent of our footage. I think everyone that’s involved with a show like that leaves a little bit exploited. For those of us that are on the show, we really understand, and that’s why a lot of people on the Real World are really close. Unlike Apprentice or Survivor or Project Runway, which is maybe a three-week shoot, or four weeks if you make it all the way, this is five months of your life. We are sequestered for five months.
JH: How do you avoid a breaking point?
TD: That’s why you see people freak out and people love to judge our behavior, but when you’re in that situation you reach a breaking point, and they use that footage. When you’re having your worst day they can use that footage every single episode and have everybody not know the better.
JK: How do you prepare for being on television 24 hours a day? Do you buy a new wardrobe? Do you work out?
TD: I guess I ran a little longer, but you know, I learned from my eating disorder in the past. This is the way god wanted me to be, and I’ll just be healthy and not obsess about it. I approached the show so differently than the rest of the cast. Some cast members said the only reason they did the show because they wanted to be in Playboy or be an MTV veejay, but I just applied as a joke. I’m just such a typical, normal gay guy, and I never thought I’d get on the show.
JH: Do you worry about dating men or having friends who might be more into you because of the show?
TD: Well, it’s funny because I went to college with Jessica Biel, and she and I danced together and we were friends, and I would watch people treat her—and you could tell who was genuine and who wasn’t—and so it’s funny now being in Jessica’s shoes, to a much lesser degree, I might add—but you totally see what people’s motivation are. I have friends who call me so much more friend after the show, but I’ve always known who my real friends are. My best friends are so disapproving of the show, but very territorial about me, which I find endearing.
JH: Do Real World producers stir the pot on the drama, or is it mostly organic?
TD: They actually do stir the pot. In the interviews they plant seeds. They’ll be like, “Svetlana, Tyler has been really mean to you lately hasn’t he?” and they leave the interview and they’re like, “Wait, maybe I do hate Jose” or “Wait, Tyler and Janelle are assholes,” so they do mess with your heads, but they don’t invade your lives. You know what, it’s funny, looking back on it, the producers would never ask me to do a confessional, but they would always ask people to do a confessional after I had a fight with them. That was that point where I realized, okay, so I get to be a villain on this season. We all knew half way through the season who we were cast as.
JH: You had some interesting things happen during the filming of this show, for one, Hurricane Katrina. What was that like experiencing that first hand?
TD: It was terrible. Right before we shot, I got the worst Katrina, because I was on this small deserted island, called Little Pine Key. The first few days were really scary. I was locked in this little cabana for two days. I had no communication, no telephone, no electricity. I’m supposed to be on the Real World, and here I am in a cabana in the middle of the Florida Keys, in the middle of a hurricane. The rest of my cast was in Fort Lauderdale, Miami, and Key West, and they had TVs and Blockbuster.
JH: I read on blogs that during the filming that there was a lawsuit about the lighting at the Real World: Key West house.
TD: Yeah, our next-door neighbor sued us and production almost got shut down halfway through the season. It was just these rich assholes next door who didn’t want Real World to film next door. Key West is a very small town and he was a big wig in town and so to have the Real World come and get more publicity—he didn’t like that.
JK: So you have an MTV Duel series coming up?
TD: Yeah, it’s one of the proverbial Road Rules/Real World challenges, and people are like, “Oh, they do so many of them,” but it’s like, please, who wouldn’t want to go to Brazil and get paid thousands of dollars to play yard games? I went into this competition and my only goal was not to get kicked off.
JK: And did you succeed? Oh wait, you probably can’t tell us.
TD: I totally didn’t lose in the first round. There was major drama in the first episode, so watch all the episodes at the beginning, because I’m not on the show too long. [laughing] If you watch any of the other challenges, they kick off all the new people as soon as possible.
JK: Now that you’re done with Real World, what are your plans? What do you want to be when you grow up?
TD: My dream has always been to be a producer for the Olympics, producing those segments about the Romanian gymnasts. I’m pursuing very serious TV production but I’m also pursuing comedy as well. I’m performing at the Upright Citizen’s Brigade Theater. I’m doing two things I love—sketch comedy and TV sports production. So ten years from now, I’d like to combine those two, and I’d probably like to be on the East Coast—Boston or New York.
JK: It seems like a lot of the good Minnesota gays move out East, at least for a while.
TD: All the sketchy ones move out to LA, and all the good ones move to New York.
JH: What are you doing [in L.A.], then, Tyler?
TD: [laughs] Good question! TV production is out here in LA. It’s easier for me to break into comedy out here because I can get an agent. It’s not like getting into some of the comedy clubs in New York. The streets are much harder in New York. And I have a great house here. But don’t worry, every other day I’m asking myself what the hell I’m doing here.
The Joshes: Hey Tyler, thanks for talking with us.
TD: Oh, absolutely. You guys were fun.