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“The Real World” creator Jon Murray talks about Pedro Zamora and why his story lives on

If you’re old enough, then you still remember the very first season of The Real World in New York and that one of the houseguests, Norm, was gay. Then the next season in LA there was a lesbian: Beth. And on and on. Danny in New Orleans, Dan in Miami, Chris in Chicago, Ruthie in Hawaii. Since I haven’t really watched it since the Chicago season, that’s where I have to stop.


But none of the gay cast members is more iconic than Pedro Zamora from season three in San Francisco. I chatted with Jon Murray, the show’s executive producer (and executive producer of the upcoming MTV film Pedro) about how this extraordinary young man – who left us much too soon – came to be on The Real World.

“I remember opening the letter from him saying he wanted to be on The Real World,” Murray recalled. “He was this kid from Miami who wanted a chance to go to San Francisco, he wanted a chance to fall in love and he wanted people to know someone who had HIV.”

While personally touched by Pedro’s story, he also knew it would make great television.

“The drama was so real and his story was so profound,” he said. “When I saw that letter, I not only knew he should be on The Real World, I actually said, ‘This is a movie of the week.’ This kid had come over on the Mariel Boat Lift, his mother had died when he was 14, he had found out he was HIV-positive at a high school blood drive. There was such a story there.”

The story got even more dramatic when Pedro’s health deteriorated during the middle of the season. But he carried on through the end and even married boyfriend Sean Stasser in one of the later episodes.  He died Nov. 11, 1994, just after the final third-season episode of Real World aired.

I wondered what it was about Pedro that touched people so deeply. Anyone who watched that season of the show will certainly never forget him.

“He could communicate like those people like Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, these people that know how to communicate,” Murray said. “He’s one of those people. I think that was a lot of the success he had was his ability to cut through and communicate to all kinds of audiences. And he had an ability to adjust his message – the presentation of his message – to different audiences and be very effective.”

The movie about Pedro’s life will debut on MTV and Logo on April 1.

Said Murray: “I’m so excited now that we were finally able to make that story into a film.”

FILE UNDER: Movies, Reality


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