For decades now, reality television has found new ways to shock us. It was MTV’s The Real World which set the foundation for strangers living in a house and cameras catching the ensuing chaos. It was Survivor that proved when one million dollars are on the line, people will claw their way to overnight fortune. And it was Jersey Shore, in all of its fist-bumping glory, that gave us hair bumps, drunken bar fights, and Snooki…but those shows’ heydays are long gone. We’re left with reality tv show reboots and the 145th season of Survivor.
But one show just might get us out of our long, reality tv slumber. Bravo’s Summer House has been a sleeper hit for the network; now five seasons in, its fans are more vocal and more invested. Ostensibly a version of the Real World, Summer House, too, puts a group of especially good-looking people in one lavish home (this one, in the upscale Hamptons) to mingle, fight, and learn something about themselves along the way. Carl Radke is one of three original cast members to survive all five seasons—though not entirely unscathed. A self-admitted “recovering fuck boy,” Carl has evolved in real-time, entering Season 5 a sober man determined to change his ways. Few reality shows, or television shows in general, capture such an evolution.
We talked to Carl about being part of one of reality television’s biggest shows on-air, iconic moments across the series, and the worst part of waking up with morning wood on national television.
Season 5 of Summer House premieres on Bravo on May 4.
You’re five seasons in now. Can you take me back to 2017 when Summer House first came together?
I actually worked in television right out of college and did some acting on the side. Lo and behold, I wasn’t very good at some of that stuff and I wasn’t making a ton of money, so I got into sales. Fast forward to moving to New York. I would go to the Hamptons, party, have a good time, [and] spend the money that I was making in sales. Then I met Kyle. Kyle was like, ‘Dude, we’re putting together a group of friends for this house we’d love you to be a part of.’
It feels like we don’t see a ton of your day-to-day life. Is there a lot that we aren’t seeing as viewers?
This has been something I’ve struggled with. My weekend behavior is very different from my weekday behavior. I’m a pretty smart guy. But [there’s] this perception of me as this party boy, losing his job, womanizing, you name it.
The cameras are on you 24/7 in the house. That’s gotta feel invasive.
As we’ve seen over the years, they show me farting, they show me getting out of bed with morning wood. Nothing is missed on those cameras. And, you know, there is a little anxiety sometimes the next morning, but I think that’s that’s the beauty of our show.
Is there a moment you wish you could take back?
Having sex with someone while cameras are there is a very weird feeling. I’ve had other moments at some dinners where I’ve been incredibly intoxicated that I actually don’t remember. Those are hard to watch.
Since you guys party so often, I wonder how you guys get a workout in.
I’d wake up at 7, stretch, go for a long run, and then do a workout with Kyle. We actually did some virtual workouts with a trainer. My fitness goal has always [been] to keep my six-pack, so I can basically measure how I’m doing by pinching the side of my stomach.
I wanted to go through some former and current cast members with you across the series and hear your thoughts on them now. Have you kept in touch with the Wirkus twins?
I do not. There’s no hard feelings. Lauren’s married. Ashley married and has a baby on the way. They’re exactly where they’re supposed to be. I know they’re living their own lives.
How do you feel about the end of your friendship with Stephen playing out on TV?
I’m still not talking to Stephen [and haven’t] since that season’s reunion. I mean, listen, I’ve grown a lot. From what I’ve heard, he’s made a lot of change in his life, too. My biggest thing was [that] he shared information on a TV show that didn’t deserve to be shared. I told Stephen drunkenly at 2am the morning. And now, people question my sexuality all the time. I’m a straight man. I think a lot of men have had interesting experiences in their past that are very troubling and hard to talk about me. Kyle and Stephen have have talked and they’re friendly.
Probably the most polarizing person on the show: Jordan. What was his deal?
I wish I could give you a great answer on this. I think Jordan has some other things that are going on that we don’t know about and that I can’t imagine are easy to talk about for whatever reason. My struggle with Jordan is that what you see is fake. I have not talked to Jordan since the last season.
Paige and Hannah have made headlines over a podcast they recorded together. I wonder if you’ve talked to them and what your response is?
Number one, I mean, humans make mistakes. I’ve made a ton of mistakes on the show. So I think for me, what’s been helpful is when you make mistakes, you own it. You hold yourself accountable. You apologize. And the most important part is [to] educate yourself. And as a group with a platform like we do, it’s important to have these discussions.
You enter Season 5 sober which is a pretty big deal. What changed?
I mean, a combination [of things]. Living in New York, a party-friendly city, [there] are a lot of late nights. I had a lot of friends of mine who expressed concerns. When you watch yourself blackout on TV or don’t remember certain things or take a beating on social media, you [have to] get yourself in order. I was sober from March until the middle of June. I went into the summer thinking I wasn’t going to drink, but I moderated. I was proud of how I handled that. In this moment, I’ve been sober for 20 days now.
What’s the best part of being sober?
I mean, have you seen this glow-up?
This interview was condensed for content and clarity.
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