Many of The Challenge stars in the early days of the series arrived from MTV’s The Real World, which typically focused on roommates living together, partying together, and going through life’s struggles.
Once they got on The Challenge, the partying continued as they attempted to have some fun in an exotic location while also trying to win a bit of prize money.
One former Real World and Challenge star recently spoke about his reasons for stepping away from reality TV due to needing to get a handle on his addiction issues.
The Challenge alum says addiction caused him to leave reality TV
There have been many popular seasons of MTV’s The Real World, including the iconic New York, San Francisco, and Las Vegas seasons. However, according to Nathan Blackburn, his season, The Real World: Seattle, was second-most popular behind Vegas.
The season, filmed in 1998, featured Nathan alongside castmates Irene McGee, David Burns, Stephen Williams, Lindsay Brian, Rebecca Lord, and Janet Choi.
Real World: Seattle featured the infamous slap moment as cast member Stephen Williams slapped Irene McGee in the face as she was leaving at the end of the season, following their conflicts throughout the episodes.
Several cast members went on to The Challenge, including Nathan, who appeared on the show’s second season, the Real World/Road Rules Challenge, and The Gauntlet. However, he needed to step away from reality TV after Gauntlet due to his addiction issues.
“I left that environment back in ’04,” Nathan said on the Mike Lewis Podcast, adding, “the last thing I did with MTV was the first Gauntlet.”
“I was at the height of my addiction during that time. I’m in recovery now, but that was kind of the beginning of the end for me with drugs and alcohol addiction,” Nathan shared.
“It just took my life over, to be honest. The last show I shot was The Gauntlet, and I mean, I was up for three days doing cocaine the three days before we shot that and went and did the show, and I still kicked everybody’s butt,” Nathan said.
He talked about his turning point. After moving from Los Angeles to Colorado, Nathan started to realize his life was a mess, including him getting a third DUI, facing jail, and having thoughts of suicide.
Nathan reached out for help, and according to him, he’s now been sober for six and a half years. He called it a “long road to get there.”
He’s now married and heavily invested in his faith and helping others. Nathan is the founder of True North Retreats, described as “a place for men to unplug from the distractions of life and realign with God.”
Nathan was contacted for Challenges and Homecoming
Mike asked Nathan if he was still being called to appear on The Challenge after his Gauntlet season. Nathan revealed, “not at first.”
“I made an a** of myself like on The Gauntlet behind the scenes, partying and drinking with producers and castmates, but a couple years after The Gauntlet, I started getting calls again,” he said.
Nathan didn’t specify which particular seasons he was contacted for. However, he said he’d received calls rather recently too.
“I’ve gotten calls the past few years a lot as people at Bunim & Murray and other friends of mine have seen the turnaround and what I’m doing in my life and stuff now. Somehow I popped back up on their radar,” Nathan shared.
He mentioned that his Real World cast was also contacted about doing a Homecoming series for Paramount Plus, similar to the New York season. Unfortunately, Nathan said there were some “holdouts” preventing that from happening.
However, he also said another Homecoming is currently in the works, which he couldn’t speak about. So that should be exciting news for longtime fans of MTV’s The Real World.
For his Challenge career, Nathan debuted on the second season, Real World/Road Rules Challenge, alongside castmate Janet Choi. That season also had Beth Stolarczyk and Mark Long, who recently appeared on The Challenge: All Stars.
Nathan finished amongst runner-ups with Alton Williams, Mike Mizanin, Norman Korpi, and Coral Smith on his Gauntlet season.
He wasn’t part of any eliminations in his early seasons but earned over $14,000 in prize money. A return for All Stars would likely give him much more, and he hinted that viewers could see him again.
“I don’t know, maybe. If the phone rings, chances are good,” Nathan told Mike Lewis.
The Challenge: Spies, Lies & Allies premieres Wednesday, August 11 at 8/7c on MTV.