High Society’s Tinsley Mortimer: “People were never fed a line to say, ever”

The third episode of The CW’s High Society airs tonight, preceded by the network’s debut of Fly Girls, a docudrama that follows Virgin American flight attendants. Last week, 1.2 million people watched, falling from 1.39 million for its premiere.

That may be because, as After Elton’s Michael Jensen’s said in his review, watching the series “was like spending two hours in the sewer. Except the sewer is less shitty than this show.” (He goes on to criticize CW president Dawn Ostroff’s cluelessness about gay representation on her network, and referring to cast member and socialite Paul Johnson Calderon, writes, “Usually it would be a good thing to have a gay man on a show, but in this case it definitely isn’t.”)

The bad behavior has gotten most of the attention, but the person at the center of the show, Tinsley Mortimer, told me that she did the show because she wanted people “to see who I really am, and not just see a picture on a red carpet in order to build my brand and my image and a company that I want to have; I want to have a fashion line under my name… It was something I didn’t want to pass up.” Besides, she said, “everything you do is written about and talked about and scrutinized,” including her divorce.

“So far, I do believe that you’re getting to see who I am,” she said, though the show does focus on her castmates and their craziness more, like Paul throwing a drink in someone’s face and Jules Kirby’s bigoted remarks. “It’s hard when you’re on a show with a lot of people: you don’t want to be lumped into that category, and you can’t be accountable for their actions, and it’s difficult, and it’s horribly shocking to me, the things that she said,” Tinsley said. “I have never been around Jules ever saying the things she said on camera, and if I were, I would never tolerate it, of course. For me, it was super-shocking, of course.”

Tinsley also said, “It’s not my style to throw drinks at people, either; it’s not my style. But it doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen in the world I live in,” she said. “I’m not that type of person.” She also distanced herself from the others: “they are connected to me but we aren’t all best friends.”

As to Jules’ claim that the show is fake and scripted, Tinsley said that is “completely untrue,” and that “it’s really frustrating to have Jules say those things about it … She’s trying her hardest to retract her statements by saying it was scripted. That’s ridiculous; it wasn’t.” Tinsley also added, “Had they told her to say that, and she said it anyway, she’s just as much to blame. That’s ridiculous; who says that stuff?”

Of course, many reality shows are accused of being fake, but Tinsley said her show is authentic. “I understand why people say that about reality shows. I get that. I do believe that if you watch the show, you’ll see that it doesn’t look like any other show. It doesn’t look like the Hills, it doesn’t have that sort of format. It moves fast.” The only thing producers did, she said, was tell her things such as, “bring up this with your sister.” Otherwise, “everything that happens is real,” and they only ask them to discuss topics because “the cameras aren’t there 24 hours; they don’t recreate it, but they want to make sure those things are brought up. … People were never fed a line to say, ever.”

The series was filmed in a little over a month last fall, from October to November, and prior to that, they did pre-production and filmed scenes at Fashion Week and elsewhere. “It was, for the most part, every single thing that you were doing was being filmed,” Tinsley said. “You were pretty much with them the entire day, which was extreme and intense. Even though it wasn’t, it felt like Big Brother.”

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about the writer

Andy Dehnart is a journalist who has covered reality television for more than 15 years and created reality blurred in 2000. A member of the Television Critics Association, his writing and criticism about television, culture, and media has appeared on NPR and in Playboy, Buzzfeed, and many other publications. Andy, 36, also directs the journalism program at Stetson University in Florida, where he teaches creative nonfiction and journalism. He has an M.F.A. in nonfiction writing and literature from Bennington College. More about reality blurred and Andy.