‘Real World’ Interns Soak In Real D.C.

Posted October 30, 2009 at 4:50pm

When MTV’s “The Real World: D.C.— airs next year, viewers likely can expect the typical shenanigans that surround the reality show: drunken nights out, sexual rendezvous and more than a few anger-filled meltdowns.

But the 23rd season of the drama-filled television mainstay could also carry a different tone than in past years. Several of the soon-to-be reality stars did something rare for the “Real World— but common in the real world of Washington: They interned.

Callie Walker took a gig as a photographer at the Washington Blade newspaper, while Andrew Woods worked in the graphics department at the Washington Times.

Emily Schromm worked at the policy reform group Africa Action, and Ashley Lindley volunteered for the advocacy group DC Vote, stuffing envelopes, doing data entry and making calls to get support for the D.C. voting rights effort.

Mike Manning got involved with the Human Rights Campaign, doing normal intern tasks but also traveling to Capitol Hill to lobby Members of Congress. “I can’t give you specifics, but I did get to meet a lot of Congressmen, about a dozen of them,— he said.

It’s All About D.C.

With such work experience behind them, the “Real World— cast mates say they deliberately took advantage of D.C.’s place as the center of the political climate during their several months of living together in a chic group house in Dupont Circle.

It helped, of course, that D.C. is a pretty popular place to be since President Barack Obama took office.

“I think there’s a reason they waited this long to bring it to D.C.,— Manning said. “And there’s a reason to bring it to D.C. now. … It’s a little more serious than in the past.—

Of course, it is up to the show’s producers to decide how the episodes will be edited; it could turn out that little of the cast’s work ethic is even shown (in favor of those drunken nights out). And the cast admits they followed a “work hard, party hard— philosophy — which, they argued, is exactly how D.C. operates.

“The same person you have a political debate with in the morning, you’re taking shots with at night,— Manning said.

Added Lindley: “When it comes to work, we work hard. And we’re politically minded and we show that.—

Some of the groups that employed the reality stars say being featured on the show is a clear win, since it provides a way to get their message out to an audience that wouldn’t otherwise receive it.

DC Vote even reached out to the cast directly — program manager Abby Levine stopped by the “Real World— house after work one day shortly after filming began to recruit them to help with the voting rights effort.

“Some of them knew about it, and some of them didn’t,— Levine said. “But we had a great initial conversation, and they were very interested.—

Several cast members volunteered at a DC Vote event held this summer for area students heading off to college, and Lindley continued to stop by the group’s offices once or twice a week to volunteer. Sometimes the cameras came, sometimes they didn’t.

But DC Vote sees Lindley’s mere presence as a plus.

“It’s a key role celebrities can play for social change in this country. … It’s especially true for D.C. voting rights, where so many Americans don’t even know the issue exists,— Levine said.

Lindley agreed. “I realized the more people pay attention to me, the more I can use it for a good thing,— she said.

No Excuses

Manning got involved with the Human Rights Campaign through his own efforts, stopping by the organization’s merchandise store and asking how he could help out, according to Susanne Salkind, the HRC’s managing director.

At first, the group wasn’t completely sold on offering him a position.

“As you can imagine, for an organization to decide to hire someone from the ‘Real World,’ it was a decision we didn’t take lightly and thought about a lot,— she said.

Officials put Manning through a very thorough interview process, making sure he’d be up for the challenge and take it seriously. Ultimately, the HRC decided to hire him, seeing it as “beneficial, as another way of highlighting the issues we work on,— Salkind said.

Salkind described Manning as “smart and thoughtful,— adding: “I’m very pleased with the way it turned out.—

Manning did serious work for HRC’s “No Excuses— campaign, setting up lobbying meetings on Capitol Hill and going to speak with Members and their staff — with the “Real World— cameras coming along.

Congressional office staffers who met with Manning — accompanied by full-time HRC staffers — were mum on the details of what took place, but one Congressional aide noted: “I can tell you that it was conducted in a very professional manner.—

That meeting lasted 30 to 40 minutes, the aide noted, generating discussion not only from Manning, but also from others in the room. And having the “Real World— film crew in their office was pretty exciting for Congressional staffers, too.

“I think people were kind of pumped about it,— the aide said.

The Other Washington

Not all of the cast mates got involved in political issues. Baltimore native Ty Ruff interned for the Washington Capitals hockey team, adding that his “actual goal is to be in movies and wind up on the big screen someday.— Philadelphia native Josh Colon tended bar and formed a band, which has performed at several local bars, and he said he also recently launched a clothing line.

But for Lindley, working on political issues in D.C. has been a dream come true. She had been picked to be a convention delegate for Obama during the 2008 election but couldn’t go to the big event because of financial woes. “It was really frustrating to work that hard for somebody and not get to go there,— she recalled.

Most of the cast mates said they plan to stay involved with political issues now that the show has wrapped.

“That’s what we’re here to do,— Colon said. “We’re not just about having sex and drinking.—