As we enter the summer of one of the worst recessions in history, you would think that stories about rich people doing outlandish things that most of us will never be able to afford would lose some of its luster. But as the recent success of NYC Prep -- a show about a group of high school students with more money than most investment bankers left in N.Y. -- illustrates, this is just not the case.
Enter Miami Social , which can be summed up in one sentence: The Hills for 35-year-olds, but, you know... with heart. Bravo's latest offering is about a group of 30-something Miami socialites who have it all: fabulous real estate, great jobs, a great group of friends, and never have a problem getting a cabana at the Gansevoort Hotel.
But where The Hills has yet to have an LGBT person appear on camera, Miami Social has three: the photographer and single mother Maria; the bitchy Ariel, who will put Kristin Cavallari to shame in the outrageous statements department (they both identify as bisexual); and the softer, more lovable Michael, who is gay. Michael is Michael Cohen, a celebrity journalist formerly with In Touch Weekly and now blogging for The Huffington Post. When I spoke to him on the phone from Miami, he still hadn't seen the show, but was definitely excited to see what the world would think about him and his peers and if his new TV stardom could get this hopelessly single guy laid.
Advocate.com:What are you up to today?Michael Cohen: Um, watching Bernie Madoff stuff and Michael Jackson, all the craziness. Seems like there's a lot of crazy going on.
Well there is going to be a little more crazy going on when your show premieres...Yes, there will be. Have you seen it?
I've seen three episodes, and I am already in.I'm so jealous. I haven't seen them.
You haven't seen anything yet?No, that's the crazy part. I was watching Real Housewives yesterday and then, like, our "supertease" came on and I was like, Oh my God . We had no idea everything was going to look like that.
But you were obviously a fan of reality TV shows as a celebrity journalist. How did you get involved in this project?Well, they were casting here in Miami, and I just thought... I felt like there were two things that interested me: one, Miami is like really, I don't want to say reinventing itself but, evolved, and there are so many people that work here and really have normal lives like you would in L.A. or San Francisco or New York or whatever, and I feel like I'm one of those people. I work. I have my things going on, and I was like, I think I would be a good representation of what's happening in Miami . So I was like, oh I'll call them. So I called the casting company when I knew this casting was going on and I was like, You have to have me on this show [ laughs ].
So they came, and they cast me, and then you know, it all happened. I was excited because there were a lot of people that went to the casting -- a lot.
So you had no interest in seeing yourself on TV but were interested in representing a normal life in Miami?Exactly. Also it's a new adventure, and I'm working on this project called The Style Lab, a new style website. You better sign up.
OK.It's like Facebook for fashionistas. So I'm working on this project and I thought, well, if this comes in with the story line, this will be amazing. I mean, what better way to get press for your company? Also I've been an entertainment writer, and there aren't many people in their 30s that you see on television that aren't train wrecks, and we're not train wrecks -- at least I don't think we are. We all have a little drama in our personal lives that I think everybody in their 30s has. There are marriage shakeups, or dating, or financial stuff, or kids, or what have you. I think that these are all very relatable things for people in their 30s.
I think your character actually comes off as genuine whereas the other gay character of Ariel comes off as a caricature, at least in the three episodes I have seen so far. You come off as yourself for better or worse, and I didn't feel like you were performing.I wasn't. You know, I appreciate you saying that, and I'll tell you why. There were so many times we shot that I did not get ready, you know what I mean. I did not like, try to be anybody I wasn't. I was really just being me and it's such a lame answer, but you know, I was really going through my life, through the motions of it. I wasn't scripting in my head or making sure my hair was cut or whatever.
So you would've gone and say, worked out with that trainer you find attractive anyway?Mark? Oh yeah, totally. There were times actually when they were like, "You need to go out more," and I was like, "Yeah, well I don't really like going out, so I'm not going to."
OK, so this whole group is supposed to be a group of friends on the show, but you all went out and auditioned for this. So you can't really have all been friends before.Actually, Katrina and I are pretty close because I wrote her wedding story for In Touch Weekly in 2004, so we go back a way. Ariel I knew around Miami. I wasn't, like, tight with him, but I knew of him. And I was friendly with everybody. I mean they're not like my best friends, but the thing with this group is that everybody always mixes with each other. Miami is like a big city with a small-town life and you wind up seeing kind of the same "power players" at different places. I really like everyone on the show. Of course, I have my issues with Ariel sometimes.
Yes, but obviously you guys didn't get together every week and have cocktails at the Gansevoort Hotel like you do on the show.No, we didn't do that normally. They had to get us together at least once a week.
You're actually really good friends with the photographer Maria in the show.I am. I love Maria. I think the show definitely brought us closer together because Maria and I are a little bit more raunchy... you know, we're both really real, like if I say something, she gets it, whereas Katrina will be like "Don't say that!" if I say something that's too dirty.
So none of this was really scripted then?No, no, no.
Because The Hills is arguably totally scripted.Right. That's the crazy thing; I mean... I don't know how the show plays out, but I know what's going on in everybody's life during the show and all our connections and everything, and you honestly can't even script something this good.
But they must get your reaction shots. Did they ever say, like, "Walk in this room again," or, "Can you guys say what you said again?"They'd say, "Instead of saying 'Oh, how's your daughter?' at least say, 'How's your daughter Angelica?'" Just so the person watching the show knows Angelica's name. I mean, that would be the extent of it. There was no, "Do this," "Say that."
So there was no, "We need to get it again. So do the same thing you did again?"It would never work. I have to say that the production company in this thing is amazing, and the producers that worked with us were amazing, and they really matched the producers' personalities with the characters' personalities. I'm not an actor, that's for sure. I can't fake, so there was really none of that. I think because there have been shows that are scripted or that people know are scripted, they assume everything is, and we really aren't.
It is unclear on the show just exactly what your job is?Well, I've left In Touch Weekly , where I was working, and I started writing a blog for the Huffington Post and I'm working on a book, a collection of shorts. And of course I started working on my website. So I'm taking all this stuff I know about pop culture and putting it into this Style Lab company, and it's slowly working. I made a career change and was actually in a career crisis on the show. I was like, I can't work at this celebrity magazine anymore, and I just wanted to kinda write and do this online project. I went to do it and the recession started hitting really hard when we were filming, and I had a potential investor, and you know things were kind of in trouble with the economy and it plays out in the show.
It seems like you have quite a bit of money. You're throwing this lavish birthday party in an early episode complete with party planner and you drive a Mercedes SUV. For a journalist you're certainly running with that Miami crowd pretty effectively.The birthday party was a fund-raiser for Diabetes Research Institute. I'm an activist for the Diabetes Research Institute. My very good friends, both their dads died of diabetes and I really saw the effect on them. But I can't always do stuff for them, because of travel, and this and that. I'm not a charity girl who's home every day who goes to the meetings, and I couldn't do as much as I wanted. So I said, I'll make my birthday party into a fund-raiser. I know at my birthday party on the show there was a little scuttle with George coming with his new girlfriend...
Yes, the arguably crazy model he is dating.Yeah, so I don't know if the DRI thing got eclipsed.
I didn't remember you being at a charity. The show makes it out like you're throwing a lavish birthday party for yourself.Did it look great?
I mean, it looks good. It looks fun. Of course I kept asking myself, What do these people do for a living? They seem to never be working.We all are. There's a lot of work behind the scenes. But do you really want to sit and watch me, like, go crazy at my computer? I mean, that's not sexy.
I suppose the point of the show is we want to see you party.Exactly.
Well then, what exciting things should we be looking forward to this season? Any romantic drama?With me, no. You know, when you hear me say in the preview "I'm pathetically single," it kinda stays that way. I just work. I'm 30-something. I'm single. I'm looking for love.
Well maybe, you know, when the show airs, you'll get some action.Everyone's like, "This show is definitely going to get you laid." I hope so.