Wife Swap is back, but don’t let the name fool you: wives won’t be the only spouses being swapped. When the show airs on Paramount Network on Thursday night, viewers will meet Terrell and Jarius Joseph, a Black gay couple who are also fathers to twins Ashton and Aria.
Terrell swaps spots with Nina Goss, a mother of eight who is married to Matt Goss. The two run a strict, Christian household where the man is the head of the house and the children go on chaperoned dates. Meanwhile, Nina gets to know Jarius and the two clash when Nina misspeaks about her philosophy on being gay.
Out spoke to Terrell and Jarius ahead of tonight’s episode to get their thoughts on whether the swap actually did anything for Nina and Matt and if they learned anything about parenting from seeing a different style.
When you signed up for Wife Swap, what was the worst thing you expected, in terms of what kind of family you might end up with?
Terrell: Being that I was the one — we knew from the beginning that I would be the one to swap — I said I knew they were going to place me on a farm somewhere. I thought I was going to be out on a farm with a family who did not believe in same-sex couples and they’d be super religious. That was the only thing that kept crossing my mind, that I’d be super uncomfortable. If you watch the show, that’s usually how drastic they go.
Jarius: For me, it was the same thing, because when they do the swap, it's getting to see another family from a totally different perspective. I immediately thought we’d be switched with a super religious family who was very against gay marriage and gay parenting and so for me, I thought it was going to be completely culture shock to our lives.
Did you have a conversation at all about who would swap and who would stay? What ultimately led to Terrell being chosen to do the swap?
Terrell: We got [the opportunity] through a DM on Instagram. A casting producer reached out. I work from home and Jarius goes into the office every day. I have the flexibility to check DMs so when I saw it, it was like “We have this opportunity for you.” I had to tell him they want us to do Wife Swap and I knew if we had to force him to swap, he wouldn’t have done it. I told the producers that it would have made for great TV if he swapped, but some of the things that I had to do — he probably would’ve walked off. We knew from the jump that I would be the one to swap.
There is not a lot of representation of Black gay couples on TV. When you agreed to be on the show, were you also thinking about what it would mean for you to be on TV?
Jarius: Yeah, I definitely think that we had that in mind. I think it’s really important for us to progress our community from a representation standpoint and show all parts of the LGBT community. And we’re such a vast community and we are made of so many different people, from color to personalities and things like that. But often times, we get shown in a very “extra,” kind of catty way. So for us, we really were excited to get the opportunity to show the family aspect of the Black gay community and how we interact with our kids and how we run our household.
Terrell: With us having a social media platform now, we try to share that positive representation through YouTube. Reality TV was just a way to reach the masses that much faster and promote our image. You can have a same-sex marriage and have children and it be a monogamous relationship. We’re hoping when the show airs that it reaches more people, that positive representation that’s much needed.
Terrell, tell me your first impression upon meeting the husband, Matt, and his large family.
Terrell: Let’s just say I was terrified. I had never been so uncomfortable before. The house itself was just a lot to take in and they were not there at first so when I heard the door open, my heart was racing, because I was like, “I don’t know how they're going to react.” I was the stranger in the house, so I wanted to give a good first impression, so I just remember smiling awkwardly. I’m just smiling so big.
Matt thought I was part of the crew, they had no idea. I was so terrified that it was just going to be a big blow up and the kids would just flip out. I didn’t know what to expect and you can see in the show, I’m walking around the house and some of the things I saw hanging on the wall, like their marriage commandments, I was like, “This is going to be different.” So, in short, I was terrified.
Jarius, very early on you were hesitant to let Nina hold your kids or kind of interact with them. Looking back on it, what was your hesitation about?
For me, I think the biggest hesitation just came from me not being able to really have a breakthrough with Nina so that I could truly get to know her as a person. Right off the bat, when we first met, she was kind of like, “I feel out of place,” “I feel like I can’t touch anything,” “Your house doesn’t seem lived in.” The first thing I can think of to do is to vet this person out before I hand my kids over to them. For me, we did go through actually losing a child so for us the importance of protecting our kids and their energy and making sure we have the right energy around us is really important. I just wanted to get a read on her as a person and who she’s going to be around my kids.
And it also seemed like she didn't want to get to know me and she just really wanted to be around the kids. It was like, “Let’s get to know each other and then we can get to know the kids!” The focus wasn’t on me and how we do things. It was just like, “You have kids, hand them over!” You’re here to walk a mile in our shoes, not just hold our kids the whole time.
Terrell, obviously the entire week you spend with families is shortened into only one hour of TV, but was there any member of the Goss family that you felt you bonded with during your time there?
Yeah, definitely. I would say D’Nae. During the swap, it was her 16th birthday and Nina had never been away from her on a birthday and she had recorded this video message for her. It was really emotional. I was allowed to connect with her at the pizza bar and I got to talk to her. The kids were amazing. I think that they kinda dimmed their light based on how their parents think. Traditional, biblical views of the man running the house. They just followed suit, but they were 100% on board with all of my rule changes. The only resistance came from Matt.
When you all finally met across the table, during the episode, Matt leaves and has a moment where he says he’s so frustrated that he wants to reach across the table and get physical with you for mocking his wife. What was it like to see that confessional later?
Terrell: I think they captured me rolling my eyes because Matt is very dramatic. I just felt like at that point, it was a lot of emotions and he overreacted. Watching it and seeing how he ran and said, it was completely different from what happened at the table. He had to go to the confessional and gather himself. But he never would’ve done that. He went a little extra for TV, is what I think.
The whole experience from the Goss family, I feel as though they didn’t care to ask. And I think that will be very evident in the episode. Nina didn’t ask about our lifestyle, she just assumed. Matt was the same way. We sat there and there was an awkward silence and I said, “Me and my husband, we have two kids,” and I had to start conversations because no one was talking. When we got to the roundtable, he didn’t even ask why that happened. They don’t have communication, and one of the things I was trying to change while I was there was that they had to have communication and it can’t just be how Matt feels.
Jarius, one of the most emotionally charged moments in the episode is when Nina compares being gay to eating dog food — what were you thinking in that moment?
Jarius: I didn’t know how to respond at that point because it was so out there. It was like, “Did I hear that right?” “Did you just equate being gay to eating dog food?” It was so out there, it really took me back. When I thought about it, it was like these comments and this thought process is what happens on the daily in our community. People make these outrageous assumptions and it’s really offensive. I don't think people understand the impact behind what they say and how it makes people feel.
Do I think she was malicious or trying to be offensive? No. But I think it’s a conversation that needs to be had. It’s something the other side does that we need to shed light on.
Terrell: I think the exact same. Watching it, you can see how it was almost like an “uh oh” moment when she said it and she tried to correct it. She just dug herself deeper. She tried to go back, but the worst part is that they don’t know it’s offensive. Like they wouldn't think it’s offensive. I don’t think she was trying to be malicious, but to be able to say something so offensive and not realize it’s malicious is the problem.
Terrell, was there anything you felt you did learn about parenting from your Wife Swap experience that you’d bring to your kids as they get older, like the Goss’s kids?
Terrell: It’s hard for me to say that I actually took anything away. I think it was definitely an experience interacting with older children. What I learned the most is that I want to have a relationship with my children to where conversations are had. If you notice, they say that she was big on family time and family dinners, but why would your daughter be so uncomfortable to tell you, “I want to date and don’t need to chaperone”? You think your family is tight, but they’re keeping secrets because they don’t feel comfortable. As I interacted with the kids, it opened to my eyes about when my children are older, the discipline levels, what’s right and what's not. It was very interesting to let me know what you can expect from kids when they get older and then how Jarius and I interact with our kids and how we plan to raise them.
Did either of you walk away feeling like Matt and Nina were truly changed by the experience?
Jarius: I do think that they learned something from the reunion and the overall experience, but it wasn’t shown. Nina and I had a part during filming where we were outside doing yoga and we had a breakthrough. Nina is a full-time mom, she’s a full-time nurse, she's a teacher and one of the breakthroughs that we had was, “Who are you as an individual person outside of all these things?” And she didn't’ really know who she was and I don’t think she got the support from Matt to be an individual or to do things that were beneficial for her. You can see a bit in the reunion, Matt says he can do more to help around the house and to allow her to have some free time, as well. I think that was one thing they might take away. As far as their approach to the LGBT community, I think Nina has alway been more open-minded. I think she was oblivious to the comments she made about our everyday struggles. Matt on the other hand, I don’t really think so.
Terrell: Just watching his comments, seeing him say that my parenting was “going cupcake,” or “This is how gays raise their kids,” he may not think he said anything wrong. I’m hoping that the kids took away something and Nina did say that she felt they could have more conversations about letting kids go on unchaperoned dates. But in regards to everything else, Matt was very apprehensive. He didn't’ feel like a man should have to do that. It was just very old school ways of thinking. I don’t think much outside of the unchaperoned dates really changed.
Wife Swap airs Thursday at 9 pm on Paramount Network.