Jason & Ashley Wahler on 'The Hills: New Beginnings,' Being Vulnerable & More
It's the beginning of a new era for MTV's The Hills as The Hills: New Beginnings debuts June 24 on the network.
A spinoff of the '00s series Laguna Beach, The Hills originally ran from 2006 through 2010 and featured a cast of now iconic reality TV characters. Among some of the show's OG's are Jason Wahler who made his TV debut in Laguna Beach.
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After struggling with sobriety openly, Wahler is turning a new leaf this time around as he and his wife Ashley Wahler give meaning to the show's New Beginning. TV Insider caught up with the couple ahead of the show's premiere in which they speak candidly about the new series, being vulnerable in front of the camera and using the platform to connect with viewers struggling with their own sobriety.
What should viewers expect to see when the show debuts?
Jason Wahler: You're going to see a wide variety of stuff. I think you're obviously going to see all of us get back together, us connecting, and you're going to see a lot of the drama that comes into play with that, but you're also going to be able to see a lot of the growth that each of us have had, see our families, and see us married and see where we're at today. But, it's definitely an emotional rollercoaster.
Ashley, what has it been like joining this new family?
Ashley Wahler: It's been like a emotional rollercoaster. It was very different being involved in reality television — I've never been on camera or on a reality show at all. So, it was really nice, I connected a lot with the girls. I've known some of them prior to filming and I built a lot of really great relationships with a lot of the fellow moms on the show. It's like a new found family I've been included in, so I feel very blessed.
You have a young daughter, how large of role will she play in the show, if at all?
Jason: She'll be on the show here and there, but a big part of what our focus is [this season] we are being very vulnerable and open about the whole recovery process and we're very transparent about what its like being sober and what it's like for Ashley being on the other end of it... I think you get a cool combination of it, but you get a very transparent look at our daily lives, and what it is that we go through. Obviously Delilah is a very big part of that, but in the show she's not so much.
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Ashley: But, I do think with that being said, [with] us being parents, the stakes are a lot higher. The fact that we all do have families now, the drama seems to be a little more in depth... We have a lot more to lose now that we have spouses and families, and lot of the stuff that we are talking about is very real and raw, it's going to be a really great opportunity for the audience to see us as who we are.
It sounds like you'll be tackling sobriety in this return, how important was that to both of you when you signed onto the series?
Jason: Yeah, I mean I think one the biggest reasons I came back is I wanted to show people that recovery is possible and that you can totally transform your life and find a life that's absolutely worth living. I went through so many different trials and tribulations and I definitely went through hell and back. I think for me to show that that's how I live my life today [in] recovery, and you know so many of my family members struggle with addiction and substance abuse... it's something that's become a big passion of mine to raise awareness and to give people hope.
There's so many people, one out of every four people are affected by substance abuse, mental health, or some form of addiction. And, there needs to be more out there that provides solution around this, and I think that's what we want. That's been my primary focus and my primary goal.
Ashley: I think that recovery was really important to both of us. This season is really a story about our testament to our love — we've been through so much in the last couple of years — and being really vulnerable about what the disease of addiction looks like. And, what I've been through personally being married to somebody who's been in the depths of the disease and raising a child.
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We really hit a very raw, vulnerable time when we were filming, and being transparent with the cameras, we really wanted to show the world because recovery is amazing but it's also one of those things that we constantly have to be working at, especially even in our marriage. You know marriage isn't easy and recovery isn't easy, so we really show what that looks like. And, I think it's really important to share that with the world.
How did you find out MTV was reviving the show and how did you get involved?
Jason: I originally heard about it from Spencer [Pratt who] reached out and said they maybe bringing us back, and then we actually got a call from our manager saying, "Hey they're looking at bringing us back. Would you guys have interest?" Initially I was hesitant a little bit due to the fact of what had happened in my past due to being on TV and different things — again I don't blame television at all for my addiction. I mean if anything it just added fuel to the fire.
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But looking at it, me and Ashley we sat down and talked about it, and we obviously after thinking about it, we realized it could be a very good platform for us to shed light. And I really believe God came in my life and allowed this thing to come full circle for me, and to share this. So, it went from hesitation to excitement for myself.
Ashley: I obviously was hesitant because being so vulnerable on camera you get all kinds of reactions, which I guess we will find out once it actually airs. Especially being a mom, I think it can be nerve wracking just because everybody parents differently and of course everybody on the outside can have an opinion about it. So I think the hesitation about that and just being open and vulnerable with the world was a little nerve wracking, but I've known some of the girls before signing on and I did feel like it was a really great opportunity for us to shed light and to tell our stories.
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Even especially speaking from my perspective —a lot of times when someone is in recovery or dealing with substance abuse you always hear about their side, but you don't necessarily hear about the person who has been directly affected by this disease. And it was time for me to finally have a voice, and I felt like it was such an important platform for all the people out there that know somebody that is struggling with this disease.
If MTV were to bring The Hills: New Beginnings back for another season could fans expect to see you return as well?
Ashley: Oh yeah, I would definitely come back, for sure.
Jason: Yeah, definitely.
Ashley: And the relationships have just become so much more in depth... the first season was [about] bringing everyone back together, introducing a lot of the new characters, but now we really know each other. So, I think game on. Let's all get back together, and do it again.
Jason: There's still a lot of things we want to address.
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Why do you think revivals like this are so popular in today's TV landscape?
Jason: I think it's when you grow up watching this stuff, it has such an influence on our culture and the way that television has evolved. It's one of those things where it was a phenomenon, and I just believe people are connected to it. So many people try living in the lives or the shoes of the individual, and I think they are just very curious to see where things are at today.
Ashley: I think because this show was so iconic and it was before social media — you know when you smell a perfume and it reminds you of a certain moment in your life, when life was so great? I feel like before social media, 10 years ago, life was so amazing, and it was still so mysterious. These characters were so mysterious because you couldn't see inside of their lives so personally.
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So, I think it also brings back that time in your life 10 years ago when you were in high school, and you had your first dance, or that song, or that scent. You know it kind of brings you back to that moment when life was so happy, and so good, and carefree, and young. I feel like that's also what people strive for, that young childhood feeling again.
The Hills: New Beginnings, Season Premiere, Monday, June 24, 10/9c, MTV