iO Tillett Wright joins Nev Schulman for MTV’s “Catfish” spin-off “Suspect”


MTV’s Catfish has been a huge success for the network that it inspired last year’s one-off special Truce featuring rapper co-host Angel HazeSuspect, debuting tonight, will have another queer, gender non-conforming co-host joining Nev Schulman on his new docuseries, as artist and activist iO Tillett Wright hits the road with cameras in tow to find out what secrets people are hiding from the ones they love.


(Plese note: iO prefers the usage of no pronouns.)

If iO looks familiar it could be for a number of reasons. A child actor who often played male roles, iO is well-known for the Self-Evident Truths Project, a series of photographs iO has been taking of anyone in America who feels they identify as anything but 100 percent straight. iO gave a TED Talk on identity and the project, which helped to boost iO’s profile, which could be one reason Nev and MTV were so keen on having iO join them on their new show.

Suspect is like Catfish in that it begins with someone (most often well-intended) who needs help finding out the truth. On Catfish, it has to do with who the person they’ve been connecting with online. Suspect, however, has relatively nothing to do with the internet. Instead, Nev and iO will force some much-needed conversations (although that even seems like a harsh word for what ends up happening), and help to relieve the stress and pain the secret keeper might feel. Because there’s always a secret, and it’s usually nothing like their friend or loved one guessed it would be.

We spoke with iO at an MTV Press Junket in Los Angeles, where we talked about what we can expect from Season 1 of Suspect. Tell us the origins first. How did the show come to you?

iO Tillett Wright: That’s a question for Nev. I don’t really know. They found me, and they asked me to come in for a show that the Catfish people were working on, and I was kinda like “Huh?” And I went in, and I was very much like, “What the fuck am I doing here?” and then I think people like that, the less desperate you are.

Then I went back for what they refer to as a chemistry test with Nev and word on the street is that I’m the only one that would actually challenge him and stick up for myself and be like, “Actually I disagree.” I think they wanted the show to actually have some heft to it and some actual intellectual—they didn’t want someone who was just going to be all “Ahhhh” next to him.

And, weirdly, all of the imaginary scenarios that they gave us I had some personal relatable thing to, which continued through the show, which makes me think I had a really weird life but it was just like a natural. We’re both from New York. He’s from the Upper West Side, I’m from the Lower East Side so we’re from the opposite ends of 8 Mile, but we’re both very outspoken, opinionated people with totally separate areas of expertise so, I don’t know, we fit well together.


AE: So what do you do in the show? Is this like Catfish but with a different twist to it? 

iTW: No. Catfish is about the internet, and this is not at all about the Internet. This is about people who have secrets. The show is about people who have secrets and somebody who’s worried about someone that they love calls us and is like “Help me, I need to figure this secret out.”

So we go in, and we hear their suspicion, and usually, we’re kind of skeptical about their suspicion. The whole show is a balance of managing people’s privacy because we’re never gonna pry, and it’s not a “Gotcha!” experience at all. I’m super, super, super adamant about that. It’s always about helping people be honest about who they are and realize that what they truly are is good enough and that the people who love them love them for who they actually are, and they don’t need to keep a secret. And if they are keeping something dark or something nefarious, then we try to help everybody communicate with each other so that they can stay family or loved ones or lovers or whatever.

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