When Ty Ruff, a 22-year-old Baltimorean, heard that he'd be a castmate in "The Real World: D.C.," he was disappointed. The previous season had been filmed in Cancun, Mexico, and the one before that took place in Brooklyn, N.Y. Once he settled in, though, being in Dupont Circle "was like ... the other side of the world."
Ruff moved into the house at 2100 S St. on July 2 with seven strangers, but the castmates, some of whom were just 5 years old when the original "The Real World" was broadcast in 1992, can't say much about the 23rd season of the show, which is scheduled to premiere at 10 p.m. Dec. 30 on MTV. Their tight-lipped spiels sound rehearsed, as each castmate chants the "live hard, play hard" mantra they say defines D.C. culture.
"We're not just wanting to have sex and drink a lot," says Emily Scromm, a 21-year-old Missourian.
Viewers may come to different conclusions, though, once the editing room has had its way with the footage.
Ruff says he's not worried that the show will cast him in an unflattering light, even though there are moments when his mom will not be proud of his behavior.
"If anyone made me look bad, it's me," he says. "When you're in front of a camera, your opinions matter."
Adopted at age 5, Ruff was raised in Baltimore's Park Heights neighborhood. He likens it to the unfriendly streets depicted in the HBO series "The Wire."
"There's a lot of traps some of my childhood friends have fallen into," he says, listing violent crime, drugs and teen pregnancy.
Attending private school helped him avoid such obstacles. Ruff graduated from Gilman in 2005 and headed down what he says was the path expected of him, which would have led to a career in business. He graduated this year from Trinity College in Connecticut, where he majored in economics, played football and also modeled for Gilly Hicks and Abercrombie & Fitch. This, paired with his "Real World" experience, has inspired him to pursue acting.
That doesn't sit well with his roommate, Ashley Lindley, 21, of Fort Bragg, Calif. Ruff, she says, has a different perspective about what it means to be an actor.
"I've been acting for eight years now, beating my head against a brick wall trying to get my name known," she says. "I'm trying to be known for my work ethic, and not because one day I woke up and decided to be an actor."
Ruff concedes that Lindley "has taken her punches," and says he'd like "to take classes and do independent projects before flying off to Los Angeles."
For now, Ruff would prefer not to have his acting chops judged based on his "Real World" appearance.
"There's no script," he says. "There's no character I was trying to portray."
Had there been, he'd likely be typecast as a villain. Ruff says friends who have seen segments of the show tell him he comes across as kind of a jerk.
"It's pretty funny," he says they tell him, "but it's consistent with who you've always been."
"Real World: D.C." premieres at 10 p.m. Dec. 30 on MTV. Also, there is a premiere party for the show at BlackFinn American Saloon, 1620 I St. N.W., Washington, starting at 8 p.m. that night. For more information, call 202-432-4350.