The Real World: Brooklyn's Ryan, a 23-year-old veteran of the Iraq war, had settled into a life of pranks, filmmaking classes and fun when he got an unexpected call from his brother back home in Gettysburg, Pa.: The Army was ordering him back to Iraq. Ryan, who said in his audition tape that he considered the U.S. presence in Iraq "worthless," talked to TVGuide.com about his reality TV days and going back to war during a break from training in Mississippi. Check out the exclusive preview, and then see what he had to say.
TVGuide.com: This week, we're going to see that moment last fall when you got the call from your brother about the package the Army sent to tell you about your return to Iraq.
Ryan: That call. ... I got the package on Veteran's Day, of all days. The army's very ironic when it comes to that stuff [Laughs].
TVGuide.com: What was running through your mind in that moment?
Ryan: Oh my gosh. A million things. To tell you the truth, I picked up the phone call, I didn't really know who it was at first. ...I didn't put two and two together that it was my brother. ... Then it all hit me. ... When that happened ... the cameras disappeared, the setting disappeared. I was just in that phone call. ... My mind was going a mile a minute. ... When it registered, it was like a ton of bricks. ... When I saw that episode [later on], I don't even remember what happened.
TVGuide.com: It was clear to your roommates that something had changed for you. Why didn't you tell anyone at first?
Ryan: I needed a lot of time for myself to think about everything and come to terms with it. I needed to think about how I was going to deal with my family, I needed to think in the long run, what can I do to get ready? What's it going to be like? Where the hell am I going? What am I doing? What are things going to be like over there [in Iraq]? How's my girlfriend going to deal with it? And lastly came my roommates. They're all doing these great things, pursuing their careers. The last thing I wanted to do was pee on their parade.
TVGuide.com: Have you gotten any response from viewers not only about your presence on the show, but the issues you speak out about?
Ryan: I've gotten a lot of good feedback from soldiers that have served in Iraq and Afghanistan. Every now and then I get a letter from soldiers at Walter Reed [Veterans Hospital] that are recovering from wounds and they always make sure to watch the show. ... And a lot of military families, spouses, who have had their husband or wife killed. ... That is what I've taken the most [of] out of this show. ... I've had buddies that were killed, and people that remind me of them, and for people to say that to me, that means a lot. The military is a lot tighter than I ever thought it was.
TVuide.com: What do you hope viewers take away from seeing your experiences on the Real World — especially those who don't have much exposure to the military?
Ryan: Hopefully they see that we're not robots. Not all of us are like, "Yeah! War! Let's go and kill people!" That's not what we do. I know a lot of people that disagree with what they do, obviously a lot of people are scared [of] what they do. We're normal people. ... The demographic of MTV is the same demographic that's over there fighting. And that's what I wanted to show most of all. When I deployed to Iraq, I wasn't even old enough to drink. And I was on the front lines. ... I just wanted people — to remind them, this many years into the war, it's your demographic. It's our generation. They're the ones that are doing it every day whether you've forgotten about it or not. There's still people over there, dying.
TVGuide.com: How long is your tour this time?
Ryan: Nothing's certain in the army. I'm not sure, but anywhere from 10 to 12 months.
TVGuide.com: In the meantime, there was one roommate with whom you bonded the most while you were still in Brooklyn: Chet. He's said that the two of you have quite the bromance.
Ryan: Oh, it's a full-fledged bromance. Brody Jenner [who hosts MTV's Bromance] would be, I guarantee, very jealous right now. Probably crying somewhere.
TVGuide.com: Maybe that will be your next gig?
Ryan: Bromance 2, with Ryan and Chet. ... You haven't seen the last of [us].