Plenty of reality television shows seem to go the extra mile in supporting stereotypes. Two of the most popular reality shows in the format's history, MTV's Jersey Shore and A&E's Duck Dynasty, certainly focus on -- and capitalize on -- the most outrageous traits of the respective shows' characters. Thick accents, folksy witticism and unique grooming methods have been prominent go-to tools of those shows and have helped hordes of viewers relate to the stars of each series in ways that are usually impossible on competition-intensive productions such as Top Chef or Survivor.
Early this year, seemingly out of the deepest swamps of the dirty South, CMT's Party Down South managed to combine the most appealing -- or least appealing, depending on your perspective -- of the two reality television touchstones as it became the biggest hit of CMT's history (take that, Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders!). Throwing some party-ready dudes (Ryan, Lyle, Murray and Walt) and belles (Taylor, Tiffany, Mattie and Lauren) into a gorgeous waterside house in South Carolina stocked with plenty of Jack Daniel's, light beer, strong personalities and even mightier hormones made for viewing many might put into the guilty pleasure category, but here at Mixmaster, there's never any guilt in the pleasure we take.
The second season of Party Down South, which premiered last Thursday, has all of the cast members from season one reunited. But this time, the crew is tearing up a neighbor-free house in the woods near Athens, Georgia. Taylor "Lil' Bit" Wright, the 24-year-old charming, diminutive and recently divorced Christian who can win a bikini contest as easily as she can send prayers up for her vomiting housemates will be in town this week with another PDS cast member, the take-no-bull-crap Louisiana dynamo Tiffany, hosting the Thrifty Thursday Party at Denton's Rockin' Rodeo.
We had the chance to speak to Wright over the phone last week as she was getting her hair and make-up done for that night's CMT Awards Show about judgmental Christians and having to relive drunken moments caught on camera.
Now that you've finished filming two seasons worth of shows, take us back to the very first night of the first season. What were your expectations of how life would be with a bunch of strangers in one house?
The first thing I expected back then was how there was going to be a bunch of drama, honestly. I figured it would be really hard, and I didn't really know what to expect beyond that. Because of where I was in my life at that time, right after my divorce, I was just ready to go and jump into whatever the experience was going to become. I was numb from the things that had been going on in my real life, and all of a sudden, I was in the house with everyone for a television show. I damn sure didn't expect to meet my new best friends, which is what happened.
So, filming a reality show helped you escape from your actual reality for a bit, then?
Yes, definitely. It was a blessing for me. That sounds funny to say a party show could be a blessing, but given my state of mind at that point, it really was. I had been married under God and that marriage had fallen apart and I didn't know what to do with my life next. This opportunity came up and I thought, "My husband didn't want me, but CMT does!" I loved it. I grew up watching CMT, and it was exactly what I needed at that time in my life.
With the entire cast returning for the upcoming season, the first night of season one and season two obviously were different experiences in pretty much every way, right?
Oh, yeah. The first time, we were literally trying to remember everyone's names while drinking heavily. We were all really nervous and just trying to figure out what the experience would be like. We didn't know anything about the filming process or anything about living in a house designed to film a show. For season two, we knew all of that, so we started partying immediately. There wasn't anything to figure out this time, because it was a reunion, really.
There wasn't a large gap between the finale of the first season and the premiere of the new season. What was life like for you, and for the rest of the cast, during the time between seasons?
There was seven months between seasons, but we stayed in touch and we all stayed friends. But even though we live in different states, we've made it work because we really do love each other. During the break, I went back home to North Carolina, back to the same house I lived in with my ex-husband, and I said, "Oh, hell no," and I moved to Nashville. I love it here.
A lot of film ends up on the cutting room floor for these kinds of shows, and the producers have to create compelling stories. Were you happy with the way you were portrayed after you watched the finished episodes?
I guess I was pleased with how I was represented. I don't know. I don't really want to comment too much on that part.
Why is that? Did the final product come out differently than you or other cast members hoped it would?
It's a great show and we all went balls-to-the-wall and no one held back, so some of what we did was embarrassing when we had to re-watch it. But the production company and the editing crew did a great job.
In almost every episode of season one, you pulled out your Bible or prayed on camera. You also did a lot of drinking and even won a bikini contest by stripping down to your underwear. What kind of response have you received from the Christian community since the show began?
I did get a lot of hate mail and a lot of people judged me negatively for what they saw on the show. Of course, I wonder what kind of Christian are you if you think you can judge me, you know? God is the only one that can judge me. But I have also received some positive feedback from Christians that have told me they were glad I showed you can be Christian and not be perfect. Christians are real people that make real mistakes. People can love Jesus and not be perfect and too many people forget about that. I mean, I can pray while I have a beer in my hand.
Keep the Dallas Observer Free... Since we started the Dallas Observer, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Dallas, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Dallas with no paywalls.