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EXCLUSIVE: Becky Blasband was an aspiring singer/songwriter when she was invited to participate in a “social experiment” by MTV.
The gig was a new series titled “The Real World” which first premiered in 1992. The groundbreaking show, which told “the true story of seven strangers picked to live in a loft and have their lives taped,” helped pave the way for a new genre known as reality TV.
Blasband told Fox News she first learned about the casting from an acquaintance – and it would forever change her life.
“She was working as a casting director on the show and she thought I would be perfect for it,” the 53-year-old explained. “I think I must have gone in maybe seven times. I just kept saying to myself, ‘What is this thing? I’m not even going to get it.’ I just thought this was a little documentary on MTV that’s going to run in the summer. And I really needed it.”
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Twentysomething non-actor cast of MTV documentary ‘The Real World’. (L-R) Kevin Powell talking on the phone as roomies Andre Comeau, Julie Oliver, Eric Nies, Heather Gardner, Norm Korpi, & Becky Blasband form a conga line in their trendy SoHo loft.
(Photo by Mario Ruiz/The LIFE Images Collection via Getty Images/Getty Images)
“I was a struggling singer/songwriter and I could have used the publicity,” Blasband continued. “So when I got it, I was both excited and frightened. Because they kept saying, ‘Are you sure you don’t mind that we’re really going to focus on you and it’s going to be very intimate? Everything is going to be exposed – all of it.’ I thought, ‘Yeah, yeah, yeah.’ You’ll say anything for a gig. And then it happened.”
Blasband said she had no idea how revolutionary the show would be until a few days before it aired.
“When the show wrapped, we were told, ‘Could you guys come in for a couple of days and talk to the press?’'” she recalled. “I just thought it would be some downtown magazines in New York. Maybe a local channel. But everybody showed up. It was nuts. It was NBC Nightly News, Wall Street Journal, The New York Times – everyone kept showing up for two days. I started thinking, ‘What did I do? Is this actually going to be seen?’ It was completely mind-blowing. I kept thinking back on the days we filmed and wondering, ‘Was I a complete moron?’”
“The Real World” went on to launch many elements still used in reality TV shows today such as “confessional” interviews. It also highlighted a diverse cast, which would eventually launch conservations about race still explored today. It also detailed how the loft mates, in their 20s, were attempting to pursue their dreams in New York City.
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‘The Real World’ cast l-r: Norman Korpi, Andre Comeau, Julie Oliver, Rebecca Blasband, Heather B., Eric Nies and Kevin Powell.
(Photo by Ron Galella, Ltd./Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images)
And Blasband insisted it was all “real.”
“There were, as [late creator] Mary-Ellis Bunim called ‘pebbles in the pond,’ meaning they would drop little things to create reactions,” Blasband explained. “But it was as real as you can get. I think it was the only truly authentic reality show because everything else kind of became formulaic. People started coming in with agendas. Certain people would say, ‘I’m going to be this character.’ But our show was just loose and wild. We were all trying to figure out what it was as cameras captured everything.”
“There were some conversations and some arguments and debates that were much longer and more involved and had different points,” she shared. “But there was some creative editing involve to keep it short and concise for TV. But you were still able to see the depths of everyone involved. These were seven pretty deep, interesting people. I wish they would have spent more time with that in keeping those conversations longer, but that would have been a documentary and that wasn’t the point.”
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Nearly 30 years later, Blasband is going back to where it all began. The original seven “strangers” are reuniting for “The Real World Homecoming: New York,” a limited series on the new streaming platform Paramount+. The roommates got together again in the same New York City loft where they lived in 1992.
“I showed up with a ton of love in my heart,” said Blasband. “I was very excited actually. I had that feeling of nostalgia. And I was so surprised when I saw the loft because I had no idea it would be the same loft. But it felt just like the old days. It was emotional and wonderful. And then when I saw everyone, it was just super exciting.”
According to Blasband, the cast had a text thread leading up to the reunion.
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Becky Blasband (right) said she was excited to reunite with her former ‘Real World’ loft mates.
(Photo by J. Vespa/WireImage for New Line Cinema/Getty Images)
“We had been talking about it and decided to be a united front, work together, have conversations and take things to a more elevated level than a lot of the reality television shows out there today,” she explained. “We just wanted to be ourselves. And we were ourselves. And it was just as intense as it was the first time around. I thought it was going to be this warm, cozy – everybody hanging out, drinking tea and telling stories. But wait until you see.”
But Blasband is grateful for the chance to revisit her whirlwind past. And she hopes the reunion will influence the future of reality TV just as “The Real World” did so many years ago.
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“We all decided to do this very quickly and all of a sudden, it was 1992 again,” she said. “It influences your life. The show has been life-changing in so many ways. But we were all up for it.”
"Real World Homecoming: New York" is available for streaming on Paramount+.