‘The Real World’ Was Initially Supposed to Be a Soap Opera

Before her eight-year run on Basketball Wives, cast member Tami Roman was already considered an icon in the realm of reality television due to her appearing on the second season of The Real World in LA. But Roman never sought reality television as a career; instead, she wanted to be an actor. Ironically, The Real World wasn’t supposed to be the reality show it’s become. Roman recently spilled the beans that The Real World was pitched as a soap opera. 

Tami Roman poses for promotional photo for 'The Real World'
Tami Roman 1994 | Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic

She explains the original concept for ‘The Real World’

Roman made her debut reality television appearance on MTV’s The Real World during its second season in 1993. The New York native was pursuing a career in entertainment as a singer and actor, while also working full time at an HIV/AIDS public health clinic. When she decided to participate in the show, she explained that a reality show was not the original ideal. 

Source: YouTube

“The difference between first and second season is they signed up to do a documentary. That was what the format was,” Roman told Amanda Seales during an appearance on Seales’ Small Doses podcast. “They did not know it was going to continue and be ultimately 30 seasons of Real World, they weren’t expecting that. So, it was really a documentary of them trying to see a social experiment type of energy. And then when it did so well, of course, the network was like, ‘Well we should do it again and somewhere else.’”

But Roman says Bunim Murray, the production company responsible for The Real World, had a completely different concept in mind. “It started off as a soap opera,” she explained. “Bunim Murray wanted to do a soap opera and the budgets weren’t for that back then. It wasn’t a world that even MTV was in. So they said, ‘Well how about if we just use real people and see what the stories are?’ And that’s how that documentary-style Season 1 was born.”

Tami Roman says she returned to reality television on ‘Basketball Wives’ because she needed the money

Following her participation in The Real World, Roman embarked on her acting career and also married NBA player, Kenny Anderson. The couple were married for seven years and Roman said the marriage was toxic. She signed a prenup and left the marriage with the $20,000 salary she earned from The Real World and had to figure out how to care for her two young daughters.

Source: YouTube

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Around 2009, she’d landed a role on a show that was being produced by Queen Latifah and moved her daughters from California to New Jersey. But after a year of no movement, the show was axed, and Roman took a job at the law firm Morgan Stanley until she could figure out her next move. She recalled being noticed by a woman while on the train in New York and realized she needed to get back into television.

Roman caught a marathon of Season 1 of Basketball Wives. Needing the money and being a former basketball wife herself, she told Seales that she contacted VH1 directly and pitched herself as a cast member. The rest is history.

She eventually quit ‘Basketball Wives’ citing a toxic work environment

After nearly a decade on Basketball Wives, Roman grew tired of being perceived as the villain on the show. She’d been in multiple verbal spats and even a few physical altercations with her co-stars. The aspiring actor also wanted to transition fully into acting. She left the show completely before Season 8 wrapped.

On quitting the show, she told People Magazine in 2019 that she couldn’t continue in the show’s environment because it did not serve her well. “You know, I have grown a lot over the years, and I want my presence on television to be positive and uplifting,” she said. 

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