“Men of West Hollywood” is a shamelessly addicting reality series about six guys — three gay, three straight — that live aspirational and ostentatious lives in Los Angeles. The men range from the gay Justin, the “human Ken doll” (he has had countless plastic surgeries), to David, a straight guy who is trying to live the dream in LA. Brennen, a Youtuber, and Landon, a real estate mogul, are the other two straight dudes. Rounding out the cast is Darren, a gay fashion photographer, and Murray Swanby, a gay party promoter and underwear model who is the show’s standout cast member.
As the episodes unfold, there is drama, drama, drama, of both the personal and professional kind. Swanby acts almost like a den mother for the guys, and he helps David out with his modeling career in one episode. But he can also pick a fight, as when Justin trash talks him at a pool party. The affable promoter also has some baggage with his ever-present ex, Nick, an Andrew Christian model who thinks the flirty Swanby is more dedicated to his job than any boyfriend.
Swanby chatted with Gay City News about being on the series and how he manages all the drama.
What is the appeal of participating in a reality series?
People are really interested in watching people’s real lives. This show is a super-magnified version of social media. I have a big social media following on Instagram, so people already can follow my crazy life. This is just on another level, so getting to have the reality show platform is major. I’m thankful to be a part of that.
What is the appeal and interest in watching other people’s lives?
I’m a firm believer of “Go live your own life,” which I think I do to the max. When I was living in Montana, I was more interested in watching people’s lives in places where I wanted to be, like LA. I watched reality TV when I was there. I think people watch the lifestyle they want — to be at the big crazy parties in LA, and be part of that heightened, cool, celebrity crowd.
What can you say about developing the camaraderie with your costars? The show pivots on the tension but you nurtured the guys.
I take that role in my life. I have three siblings, and I was always the protector. I talk people, rationally, through their crazy problems. I’m glad it comes off like that in the show. I really try to be like that. I try to be levelheaded and steer my friends in the right direction. I got along with most of my costars, but there were a couple of hiccups. Me and Justin definitely have our moments; I can’t wrangle him in, but everyone else, I feel, I had a really good season with them. One of my favorite things about the show is that we have gay, straight, and somewhere in the middle. It shows LA well. People come out here with a much more open mindset, and I’m glad we get to show that whole spectrum.
Do you think any straight men are going to watch this?
[Laughs] I think it will appeal to gay community and the straight female community. I don’t know that straight guys will watch it. I don’t know that a lot of straight guys watch a lot of reality TV! [Laugh] I guess I don’t hang out with enough outside of the show!
How do you manage your own drama?
I feel I approach things directly and honestly. I might have been a little too direct [in the series], but that makes for good TV. You are a vamped up version of your own personality when you are filming. There are a lot of things in my real life that I would let slide, but for the show, I’m like, “I’m not got to let that slide today.” I’ve done a couple of reality TV shows, and I know it makes for good TV if you put it all out there.
You also have a sticky situation with Nick, your ex. I was also curious about your relationship status with him. What’s going on? Do you want to work this out, or are you really more focused on your job than a relationship?
All of it is true. All my relationships always lead to this same argument. Being a promoter, I’m really flirty and I’m texting people to invite them out and when I’m out, I’m a social butterfly and a lot of guys can’t handle that. They get insecure and jealous, and it has led to the downfall in all my relationships. So, it’s best for me to focus on my career, and have that take priority. I am a lover at heart; this is just part of my life at this point. I feel my story calms down over the show, but it is just rocky the whole season [Laughs].
You spar at the gym with MMA fighter Dan Yates, and it soon became tense because of your history with him, both as an ex, and as someone who was involved with Nick. Can you talk about this and the incestuous nature of WeHo gay men?
I feel West Hollywood is very incestuous with friend circles and extended friend circles, and at the end of the day, everyone ends up sleeping with everybody, and tensions run high. It’s rough when your friends are sleeping with your ex-boyfriend. It’s hard to handle and navigate. I try to do it the best I can. But it’s emotional. You weigh your friendships. When it’s an ex-boyfriend, you think: Do I really care about it that much?
What do you think the show presents, or represents, about your aspirational, glamorous lifestyle?
It is just living that upscale lifestyle. The more money you make, the more drama follows you, I feel. It’s fun — we get to throw more parties and live that extra fabulous, fierce lifestyle, but it comes with its drawbacks. Sometimes it’s weird. It’s different than living anywhere else. The age-old quote of “work hard, play hard” rings true in Los Angeles. We definitely work hard and play harder. I wouldn’t give it up for the world. I love it here. It does have a double-edged sword, but I’ll never leave.
“MEN OF WEST HOLLYWOOD” | Premiering on Crackle Original, January 20.