Tami Roman vowed that she was done with reality TV.
In 1993, the 22-year-old aspiring singer landed a role in the second season of Real World and played a central role in its most memorable moments, including an MTV-documented abortion and a physical altercation with her roommate David Edwards that led to his departure. from the series.
Seventeen years later, as a divorced mom with two children to support, she returned to medium in the VH1 films Basketball Wives, and then in his spin-off Basketball Wives in Los Angeles, where she spent nearly ten years. skillfully inciting drama. Finally, in 2019, she kissed the genre goodbye – forever, she thought – to focus on projects like Apple TV + Tell the Truth, the sitcom Miss Pat’s Show, produced by Lee Daniels, and her hit hit web series “The Chronicles of Bonnet”.
So when Paramount + asked her to participate in Real World Homecoming: Los Angeles, she refused. Again and again. “I will not be back. I don’t work on reality TV and I don’t fucking want to do this with people I haven’t talked to in 30 years, ”she recalled in a recent video chat. Then the producer-partner of Roman, Jill Ramsey, put it differently: “She said:“ Tami, this is where you started. Just go finish what you started. ” That’s when he clicked. “
In August, Roman and her roommates returned to the same Venice Beach home they shared for six tumultuous months during Bill Clinton’s first White House term. There was long-overdue talk of race, body image, and the blanket-dragging incident that led to the first expulsion from Real World – all documented in Real World LA: Homecoming, which is now streaming on Paramount +.
Roman says the experience was productive – up to a point. “I really realized that no matter where you are in life, you have to meet people where they are, and not everyone can move up. Some people are still where you left them. ” But returning a 51-year-old woman to community life also had its drawbacks. “I couldn’t poop for two weeks,” she says with typical frankness.
Roman – then known as Tami Akbar – was working at an HIV treatment center in West Hollywood and performing with an R&B girl group in the style of En Vogue when a colleague told her she auditioned for The Real World. Roman had never heard of the show, but he accidentally ended up in an MTV marathon that weekend. “Are the people on TV just living their lives? I didn’t even know it was. And so I said, “Well, I can do it.”
Using a bulky video camera, she removed the tape for listening and personally delivered it to the production office of Real World, where she was told that the season had already been completely filmed. “I said, ‘Well, I’m not leaving until you watch my tape.” The powerful weaponry worked: a few days later, producers Mary-Ellis Bunim and Jonathan Murray called her and told her she had filmed.
“She had charisma from the first time I met her. She had an amazing ability to be vulnerable and be completely honest about who she is. It was a confidence that made her incredibly attractive, ”said Murray, who was also inspired by her biography: Roman was raised by a single mother and was homeless for a while, a fact that seemed to fuel her ambition. “There was a feeling that she would get what she wanted out of life.”
The cast that season featured a dissonant set of strong-willed personalities, including John Brennan, a conservative Christian country singer from Kentucky, and Dominic Griffin, an Irish writer with spiky hair who rode a wagon with Roman. (“One of the things we learned from LA was that we had to make sure the roommates had enough in common to keep them together,” Murray says.)
Assertive and hilarious, Roman proved herself to be a natural reality TV star before it even became reality. At a landmark moment for television, Real World documented Roman’s decision to have an abortion. MTV cameras followed her to and from the clinic where she had the procedure, and recorded mostly thoughtful conversations she had with her housemates who held different views on abortion rights.
“I wasn’t necessarily trying to represent Roe v. Wade,” says Roman, “but I really wanted to show the emotional roller coaster that the person is on if they decide to make that decision.” Roman expected a backlash, but instead received fan letters from grateful viewers – “women who went through this experience and felt that no one would understand,” she says.
In another memorable moment of the season, Edwards tried to pull the covers off Roman, who was in bed in his underwear. What seemed like a little childish nocturnal entertainment quickly went awry as Edwards dragged an increasingly upset Roman down the hall, clinging to the blanket and yelling for him to stop.
The three female members, including Roman, came to the conclusion that they did not feel safe with Edwards at the house, and, first in Real World, he was kicked out. The situation was extremely dangerous: some viewers believed that Edwards, a black man, was unfairly tarnished by an ugly stereotype, and bristled when his housemate, a white woman, Beth Stolarchik, compared his behavior to that of a rapist. Still others believed that Edwards had clearly crossed the line, even if the quarrel began playfully.
The controversial decision is dealt with in the first episode of Homecoming, and three decades later, it’s clear that feelings remain raw – especially for Edwards, who says his comedy career has suffered as a result.
The novel is firmly convinced that when a woman says no, it must be respected. But she regrets the consequences that Edwards went through and places some of the blame on herself for not revealing certain traumas in her past that contributed to her emotional response. “A lot of the story was overlooked, primarily because I was not as open and transparent as I should have been,” she says. At the time, Roman did not reveal that she had experienced sexual abuse. She also struggled hard with her negative body image. (In a particularly disturbing episode of The Real World, Roman closed his jaw to lose weight.)
“Body dysmorphism is something I was diagnosed with later in life. I didn’t know I was upset. I knew I was abusing laxatives, starving myself, feeling sick, ”she says. She explains that most of her body exposed on camera was “the last thing I ever wanted.” “David didn’t stop because he didn’t know what Tami was dealing with in her own mind.”
Roman, whose recent weight loss has caused concern among fans on social media, says she is still battling demons. “When I think I look great, everyone thinks I look like a dumbass,” she says. “Every day is a challenge for me: to stand up and say:“ I love everything in myself ”.”
Roman married NBA star Kenny Anderson shortly after filming Real World and spent most of the next seven years on Wife and Mom. After they divorced in 2001, she focused on film and television work. The Basketball Wives franchise, which she joined in 2010, provided a steady paycheck and introduced it to a whole new generation of reality TV viewers.
“The only thing I knew how to do was to be myself,” says Roman. “And I feel like this has always been my blessing and my curse.”
Although Roman started out as one of the most trusted drama queens, she eventually grew tired of the contrived feline fights, especially in the later seasons, which coincided with the rise of Black Lives Matter across the country. “We had to offer something significant and valuable to the audience. And when I saw that it wasn’t happening, I said, “I don’t need to do this, because I really know how to act.”
She returned to audition and quickly landed roles in The Karl Weber Family Business, as well as In Truth, where she plays Octavia Spencer’s stepmother. Playing against an Oscar winner and Ron Sifas Jones on a show that recently returned for a second season is like “my own personal masterclass,” she says.
“I was able to surpass [reality TV] because they only showed you a one-dimensional view of who I am, ”says Roman, who is now married to former NFL player Reggie Youngblood. “I don’t wear boxing gloves, I don’t scold people. And sometimes I like to think I’m funny as hell. “
Roman says she was given the drive from her mom, who died of cancer in 2013. “She was not a touchy mom, but she always provided. I feel the same: all I can do is provide for my family and work for her. “
While still filming Basketball Wives, Roman began sharing videos of her wearing a hat and sounding everything on her mind, often between puffs of a cigarette. This spawned the popular Instagram account The Bonnet Chronicles, which morphed into a web series in which Roman, like her alter ego Petty Betty, rants about everything from ugly babies to people talking in public over Bluetooth.
Years ago, Jordan E. Cooper, creator of The Miss Pat Show, came across a clip of Romans talking about chicken wings from a grocery store in an episode of The Bonnet Chronicles and was impressed by its natural, humorous rhythm. When he started developing Miss Pat Show, a sitcom that airs on BET + and tells the story of a former inmate comedian who lives in small Indiana, he wrote the role of Pat’s free sister, Denise, with her voice in his head. … At the time, Cooper was unaware of her reality TV past.
“One thing I learned about Tami is that Tami is a predator. She will go to work. And I think it was just the opportunities that presented itself, and she succeeded. But I think she’s finally got to where she belongs, “he says of comedy, calling her” a master at mastering language and making it fun. “
Kim Fields was also unaware of Roman’s real resume when she filmed it in two episodes of The Miss Pat Show. “I thought okay, this chick has chops,” she recalls, she thought. She even asked a friend at the New York theater if she had heard of Roman. Friend’s response: “Do you mean Tami Roman from the reality show?”
As Fields soon found out, Roman was actually training with her mother, acting coach Chip Fields, which may have been the reason for their instant sympathy. “I grew up on the same thing. I was fed the same food, ”says Fields, who has also collaborated with Roman on the upcoming fashion drama Vicious, which is slated to premiere next year via streaming service UrbanflixTV. As a former child star-turned director, Fields says he admires Roman’s ability to thrive in an industry that tends to label people.
“Anything Tami Roman wants will be done. I have no doubt about it. Just how, when and how her hair flutters, when d … jumps.