On Lifetime’s dynamic “UnREAL,” Jeffrey Bowyer-Chapman plays a reality show producer caught between ethics and ambition. On the latest “Shoot This Now” podcast, we talked with him about MTV’s “The Real World: San Francisco,” when reality TV was caught between activism and clownery.
The show’s third season aired in 1994 and featured a now-historic battle for screen time between David “Puck” Rainey and AIDS activist Pedro Zamora. It was a fight for the soul of reality TV.
Zamora wanted to fight homophobia and promote HIV/AIDS awarenesss. Puck wanted to promote Puck — and eat peanut butter out of the jar with his bare hands. Was reality TV a place to inform and educate? Or to stage silly fights? The season pitted reality TV’s power to give visibility and power to the disenfranchised against its weakness for staged conflict.
Listen on Apple or right here:
“Shoot This Now” is about stories we want turned into scripted movies and TV shows, and yes, Pedro Zamora has already been the subject of an MTV biopic. But we’re hoping for a Ryan Murphy-style, 10-part series, in the vein of “Feud” or “American Crime Story,” focused on Puck and Pedro.
The fight between positivity and staged fights was never better dramatized than on Season 2 of “UnREAL,” in which “Everlasting,” the reality show portrayed on the show, featured its first African-American suitor.
Bowyer-Chapman’s character, Jay, saw a chance to celebrate diversity. But the show’s scheming Quinn (Constance Zimmer) nearly pulled off a showdown between two brides who both thought the suitor, Darius Beck (B.J. Britt), was about to propose.
Bowyer-Chapman also talked to us about his new podcast, “JBC Presents Conversations With Others,” in which he shares uplifting discussions with friends including Jussie Smollett, Janet Mock and Michelle Visage.
In this episode of “Shoot This Now,” as in the Smollett episode of Bowyer-Chapman’s podcast, we also pay tribute to “actorvist” Wilson Cruz, a landmark figure in TV diversity who portrayed the openly gay Ricky on “My S0-Called Life” at the same time Pedro Zamora made reality TV history on “The Real World.” (Zamora died in 1994 at the age of 22.)
Let’s go ahead and call it: This is the best-ever episode of “Shoot This Now.” If you agree, feel free to rate us on iTunes, tell your friends, or whatever. And obviously you should do the same with “JBC Presents Conversations With Others,” where you can hear Bowyer-Chapman every Monday.
Stay tuned for our full interview with Jeffrey Bowyer-Chapman about Season 3 of “UnREAL,” now airing on Lifetime, and for a special mini-episode of “Shoot This Now” about Bowyer-Chapman’s appearances on “RuPaul’s Drag Race.”