‘The Real World Homecoming’s Julie Stoffer on Returning to New Orleans, the Letters & More
For its third season, The Real World Homecoming reunites the New Orleans cast (from 2000), bringing David “Tokyo” Broom, Melissa Beck, Jamie Murray, Danny Roberts, Matt Smith, Julie Stoffer, and Kelley Wolf back to The Big Easy to once again stop being polite and start getting real.
“I think there were a lot of things about our season that were really relatable to people at that time,” Stoffer tells TV Insider. “We were going through personal things that struck a chord with people. We are going to have some of that this time around. Now we’re all in our 40s, we’re all having our midlife crises, and there are some themes that are coming up again. I went through personal stuff in the month that I was down there.”
While it may not all be relatable, due to the unique situation of the show, “overall, the feelings are the same,” she continues. “The jealousy, the hurt, the bullying, the fun, the celebrations. We have a lot of hard conversations. … I think some important conversations get had. I hope they get on the show.”
The reunited roommates started getting real immediately, with the April 20 premiere addressing letters that Julie says she didn’t send but affected the professional lives of Danny (about his sexuality) and Melissa (about her character) soon after their Real World season and for which they never received apologies. Stoffer takes us inside the premiere and talks about returning to New Orleans for Homecoming.
I like the way Homecoming reunites the Real World casts.
Julie Stoffer: I know, right? I’m trying to think of where in entertainment you can see the people after they’ve aged a lifetime, and that’s essentially what you’re watching here. These people are 20, 30 years later. It’s crazy.
And put back in the same situation.
Yeah, a really unique model. I’m excited. It’s not just a high school reunion. At first when they pitched it to me, I was thinking, “Oh, this is just going to be like a ‘Where are they now?'” but it’s not that. It is, but not completely. It’s unique.
What was it like being back in New Orleans for Homecoming, even though it wasn’t the same house?
It was very emotional. I think I started crying the minute the plane touched down because that city holds a lot of emotion for me, and it had been the first time I had been there in quite a while. I really did think we were going to go to the same house. They had me get on a street car, and I just expected Tokyo was going to get on [after]. That’s how it happened the first time, then we took the trolley to the Belfort mansion, and so they took me to the trolley stop, and I was like, “OK, this is happening again.” Then he didn’t get on and we didn’t go to the Belfort, and I was like, “Wait, what’s happening here? I thought this was the same show, but it’s not.”
Coming in, what was your goal for yourself and relationships with your roommates?
My entire goal was just to get to know them again because it had been 20 years. I hadn’t spoken to anyone. I hadn’t seen anyone. I didn’t really want to go, leave my family for a month. I mentally had to struggle with why would I do this and the only thing I could come up with was what if these people are really changed? What if there are friendships here to be made and what if I miss that opportunity because I’m too busy? Going on The Real World was a once in a lifetime opportunity, so going on it again for Homecoming, this was lightning striking twice, and I couldn’t miss out on a twice in a lifetime opportunity like that.
The premiere gets right to it, with the discussion about the letters. How was it to have that conversation after 22 years?
I haven’t watched it yet, but just from my memory, I was totally blindsided. First of all, some of the letters brought up actually were not letters that I wrote, so it’s been a misunderstanding for 20 years that I didn’t know. Then there was a letter that I did write as a 20-year-old. It was an email actually — just to give you an idea of how this kind of stuff gets blown up — thoughtlessly, haphazardly written, one of those you click send and forget about it for literally a lifetime, never thought about it again, And it wasn’t even to Danny, but he heard about it and it’s kind of the telephone game where things got misconstrued, intentions weren’t understood, and now here I am, as a 40-something-year-old sitting there, trying to even remember this email, but understanding that he’s very upset about it and I’m apologizing profusely because I feel horrible. That was not the intention plus that person is pretty much dead because it was 20 years ago, and it’s just not anything that’s been a part of my waking consciousness for decades.
It really isn’t that big a deal. I don’t think he even really thinks it’s that big a deal, but because we haven’t seen each other in 20 years, that was unfinished business, and so I didn’t realize that I should’ve finished that. In the context of a show and seeing people after all this time, it had to be talked about. I didn’t expect to have that conversation Day 1. I thought we might start with, “Where are you living now? Did you get married? Do you have kids?” No, none of that for me. I walk into the house, apparently they all had that conversation. In my memory, I was sobbing uncontrollably in the first hour because I didn’t know that it was going to be high drama right at the get-go.
The premiere ends with you going to talk to Melissa.
She’ll never have the conversation with me because let’s be clear, I didn’t write letters. Unless 20 years ago, something was written that I completely forgot about, but she doesn’t even remember that I wrote them. Maybe that’ll come out in the next episode, I don’t know. She’s kind of jumping onto the Danny thing for other reasons, and I don’t want to give any spoilers away. But let’s just say, letters does not a good reality show make. So trust me when I say this is a good reality show and there’s more to this show than this silliness. This is just getting into it.
Who would you say you leaned on the most during Homecoming? You and Tokyo talked in your room in the premiere.
I do not get to be part of the roommate picking process, but for whatever reason, Tokyo and I end up roommates, which I find very interesting because Tokyo maybe got a little unfairly singled out in the first season of The Real World we went on together. So now here we are, haven’t seen each other in 20 years, but he was the first roommate I ever met on The Real World on the trolley and now we are thrown together as roommates.
Tokyo was the best roommate. We were like little girls up at night. We were probably talking and laughing until 3 in the morning that first night ’cause he doesn’t sleep. We’re sipping Jameson and keeping Matt and Jamie up in the next room because we can’t shut up and just catching up after 20 years. He was an amazing roommate and we really bonded that first night.
How do you feel about your relationships with your roommates now that you did Homecoming?
I don’t imagine I will see them again. A lot happened while we were down there. People that I came into the experience thinking that of course we would just pick up where we left off and be friends, some of that didn’t happen. And then some people that I never thought I would be friends with actually friendships were kind of kindled. But overall, it was a highly stressful environment. Some people didn’t even want to be there, people had different motivations, it was hard and coming away from it, I’ve been pretty heartbroken, to be honest.
Is that how you’ll remember Homecoming as a whole?
It was a magic house, an amazing experience. It was this gorgeous mansion and production was so good to us. We got to go out and see New Orleans and we did so many amazing things, and wow, wouldn’t that be amazing to do that with your friends or family? But in the context of these people and all the drama that happened, this is not just a trip down memory lane. There’s new drama now. There’s new beef and there’s new hurt feelings and there’s new friendships that have been kindled, so I guess overall, yeah, the whole thing has just been really heart-wrenching. That’s the one word I can use to explain how I feel about everybody and everything that happened.
…That was a really special time in my life, a really important time in my life and also just for my own personal growth, New Orleans was instrumental in the person I am now and so to be back there was just really highly emotional and it did trigger a lot of feelings and memories. As heart-wrenching as it was, I’m so glad that I went and I would do it again, maybe differently, maybe with different expectations and understandings of where people are. I’m not the person that’s changed. The majority of the cast members are not the people that I knew 20 years ago, and so this was a very different experience.
The Real World Homecoming: New Orleans, Wednesdays, Paramount+