'The Real World: Ex-Plosion' creator Jonathan Murray on the ex twist: 'We weren't sure we could pull it off'
"The Real World: Ex-Plosion" premiered on Wednesday (Jan. 8) night, and at first, the show felt like any other season of "The Real World." The seven strangers -- four girls and three guys -- met, unpacked, and promptly got drunk, partied way too hard, fought, hooked up, and used the hot tub (in the nude and in bathing suits).
And then there was Ashley, the hardest partier of them all. The San Francisco resident really dug a hole for herself on the first night in the house, getting way too wasted, saying some really offensive things about her socioeconomic status in comparison with others in the house, throwing hot burger oil at Arielle's face, and getting into it with Jamie before storming out in just a little pink bikini. Of course, the next day she sobered up, apologized for her actions, and things seemed like they had worked themselves out. That is, until that night when she got drunk -- again -- and did it all over again.
"The Real World" creator Jonathan Murray reveals to Zap2it that when the show cast Ashley, they had no idea she had these partying issues. "Ashley is a fascinating young woman," Murray tells us. "We did not see that coming. She's from West Virginia, and she has the gumption that she wanted to get out of West Virginia and create this new life for herself in San Francisco. But we never expected to see these kinds of issues." According to Murray, those issues will continue for a bit this season -- we haven't seen the last of Ashley's antics.
Aside from the partying and hooking up, one of the biggest aspects of the new season is the countdown to when everything will change: when the exes arrive. "There is something really interesting about this age group and exes, and that's that your ex is often your first love. So even though you may have moved on, in some ways you haven't moved on because you're comparing your next girlfriend or boyfriend to your ex. Or you're coming back to that ex which is very common," Murray says of the producing team's reasoning behind the big twist.
"Often in casting previous seasons of 'The Real World,' we'd find these great people but we wanted people with no real ties to others when they come into the house so let's make sure they don't have exes. But by the time they come into the house, suddenly the ex is back in their life. You'll see that that's what's happening with Jenny. When we cast her, she was splits with Brian and suddenly a week before the show they got back together."
Of course, that didn't stop her from hooking up with new roommate Cory -- in the bear suits, no less. Expect that to cause some drama when Brian moves into the house halfway through the season.
When he approached this season, Murray didn't know if the "Ex-Plosion" twist would even work. "It was really hard to pull the twist off. This was like walking on a high wire without a net," Murray says. "We weren't sure we could pull it off because we had to background check the exes, they had to talk to a psychologist -- all the things you have to do to be on a reality show they had to go through, and we did it under the guise that they could potentially come for a weekend visit. We were amazed when it actually happened because no one saw it coming. It was phenomenal."
So how will the original seven cast members deal with the twist when it comes as a surprise? "The cast wasn't happy," Murray says with a laugh. "Some relationships were starting to form [in the house], and it threw a real wrench in that. It forced them to deal with what they wanted in a partner. Each one was different because one of the roommates was happy to have his ex there initially. It went back and forth and their mood constantly shifted. There was even a point where some of them got together and tried to vote the exes out, and obviously the exes didn't feel so great about that."
Employing the big twist was a huge risk for "The Real World," since the show had never done anything like it before and there were many variables that could have gone wrong. "We were worried some people might leave when the exes showed up. We quite honestly didn't know what was going to happen," Murray says. "But to some extent I think there is this desire among this generation to have it matter, whether it's posting to Instagram or Facebook or a show like 'The Real World,' they want their voice to be heard so we felt that they probably wouldn't leave."
That doesn't mean things went smoothly, of course. In fact, it was quite the opposite. "They certainly gave us a lot of s***," Murray says with a laugh. "Like Arielle says, this is supposed to be the true story of seven strangers, not seven strangers and their exes. Some of the producing team, for a few days they were talking a few people off the ledge."
"The Real World: Ex-Plosion" airs Wednesdays at 10 p.m. ET on MTV.