Platinum Hit's Johnny Marnell on Reality TV Contrivance and Real Relationships
Until he was eliminated on last week's Platinum Hit (Fridays, 8/7c, Bravo), Johnny Marnell seemed like the show's front-runner. But a song that was deemed a "miss" and an onstage showdown with antagonist Nick ultimately led to Marnell's demise. Below, he discusses his elimination (which, months after filming, he still disagrees with) as well as former castmate Melissa's allegation that Johnny's on-screen relationship with Nick was merely a "show-mance." That's not true, says Johnny, but doesn't mean you should believe everything you see on reality TV.
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With the perspective that time affords, what do you think of your elimination?
Johnny Marnell: It was hard to relive it by watching it, but it wasn't as bad as when it was going on. It's unfortunate the way it went down. I would have preferred to be on anyone else's team [besides Nick's], where there's a mutual respect for each other and at least an attempt to get s--- done. I don't feel it went down that way, but I do feel I did the best I could. I respect the judges, but I don't agree with them on this episode. There was never a thought of sabotage or trying to push Nick out. He chose to remove himself from the situation and I had to finish the song [by myself]. It got pretty bloody. There were a lot of emotions going on and I had to defend myself.
What's interesting is that, pretty much every week before this, the person who contributed the least went home. You wrote the song yourself and you still went home.
Marnell: What you didn't see, since there's not enough time to show everything, was that I forced Nick to write a bridge. He did and the judges hated it, they tore it apart. Kara [DioGuardi] loved my opening line to the song and that also didn't air. Obviously they liked the hook because they chose it originally. I can't even say I was on my own writing this. That would have been a gift. Instead, I was in the room with Nick. I feel like not only was he not wanting to contribute and help, but he was also wanting to slow me down. The whole sabotage word was surprising to me because, if anything, I felt like I was being played against.
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Did the thought ever cross your mind that they kept the guy who stirred up the most drama, in classic reality show fashion?
Marnell: Just as Jewel admitted that she thought I wouldn't intentionally act to throw a challenge, I don't think the judges or producers would intentionally think that way. But I do think the situation was misread. It was clear to me that Nick didn't want to be there, but unfortunately I couldn't convince the judges of that.
Your relationship with Jes was a major part of the show. Are you guys still together?
Marnell: I live in New York primarily at the moment, but I also do a lot of work out in L.A., and try to be there as much as possible. Every time I'm out there, I look forward to seeing Jes a lot. I still think she's an amazing person. We look forward to writing together in something besides rap. I think she's an incredible person inside and out. I really am glad we're still in each other's lives.
Melissa told me she thought your relationship was put on for the sake of getting airtime. What do you think about that?
Marnell: I remember reading that and just cracking up. That's Melissa. I think that's gross. I would never, ever start up a fake relationship with someone, even on a reality TV show, as a ploy and a strategy. That's so silly to me and gross. But I will say that Jes and I aren't stupid. That's a big reason why I stayed as long as I did, and why she's still [on the show]. We realized how much of a thing it was: Every time we were a foot from each other, cameras would swoop in. We realized that there was an interest in the fact that we were together, but not by any means was that why we were together. We genuinely like each other. We never forgot that we were in a competition, and it was nice to have someone to rest your head on at the end of these grueling days we were going through. It was by all accounts a real thing. I think it would be gross to concoct a relationship let alone a persona on a reality TV show. That's just not me.
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So you were able to stay true to yourself, despite the cameras?
Marnell: Yeah. I should also mention that reality TV is by no means scripted but it is ... I guess, contrived could be a word, part of the time. There were times when cameras were off and then they'd turn on and people would be like, "OK, we want to see you guys hanging out." That was part of our day-to-day. I really bonded with the crew as well as the cast. You're in this bubble and you get to know these people. Long story short: I don't, in fact, slide down doors when I say goodnight to girls. But when you have a crew around you that you really like and respect, and a big part of [Jes and my] relationship was making each other laugh ... It was kind of unfortunate sometimes to watch. I can understand why people might think we were putting something on, but that was just part of how we laughed with each other.
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At one point, you referred to Nick's offering to your song as "power pop anthem garbage." Was that a comment on the way he wrote and played, or a genre as a whole?
Marnell: Oh no, no. Absolutely not. I love that type of music. I try to get my hands dirty with as many [musical] types as possible. I'm not above any genre, by any means. I kept comparing him to Blink-182, not out of distaste for that band. I love that band. I just thought we were in a songwriting competition, and every week we did something different...except Nick. Nick did everything the same. I think I demonstrated my versatility as a songwriter.