Wednesday’s upcoming episode of Catfish: The TV Show isn’t about romance. Instead, it’s an eye-opening tale of how even celebrities are vulnerable to web deception.
MTV gave PEOPLE an exclusive look at the new episode, in which Rent and Death Proof actress Tracie Thoms enlists Nev Schulman and Max Joseph’s help to find a fan that went too far. Thoms shared how she formed a friendship with a girl named Sammie, after Sammie reached out over Twitter to help the star promote her film Raze. Unfortunately, Thoms eventually discovered that Sammie was creating multiple fake accounts to manipulate the actress’ emotions and get more attention. When Thoms called Sammie out on her behavior, the fan cut off contact.
Worried about Sammie’s well-being and wanting closure, Thoms went to Catfish. Thoms talked to PEOPLE about her Catfish caper and what she hopes fans and stars alike will learn from her experience on Wednesday’s episode.
What did you know about Catfish before being on the show?
I was a recent fan of the show when I wrote my letter to Nev and Max, but I was very aware of the premise and knew what it was all about. I think it became apparent to me what the show was, shortly after my experience. I would tell people about it and they would be like, “Oh my god, it’s like that show Catfish.”
Without giving too much away, what made you consider reaching out to Catfish with your situation?
I had no closure with the situation and no real way to get it. I also thought it was an interesting opportunity to explore this phenomenon of social media interactions between fans and actors.
A lot of the fans who interact on social media with the people they admire don’t understand that there are people who do things like this to celebrities. So celebrities have to be careful. And a lot of celebrities don’t realize, if they haven’t had an experience like this yet, that fans are capable of this kind of deception.
What do you hope viewers of this episode, especially fans, take away?
I’ve had experience with people online who want me to give them a certain amount of attention in a certain kind of way. Not only can we not always do it, but sometimes we’re just afraid to do it and the fans can take that personally. It’s really not personal. That distance between a fan and the person they admire is not personal.
I also would love fans to know that they don’t have to do anything like this to get attention. It’s probably not the attention they want.
Most important, doing this episode was never about shaming my fans or shaming Sammie. I just really wanted to understand and check on her, because we did develop a bond. What I do not want to happen is for people to bully Sammie. I’ve had to stop fights on Twitter already because of people bullying her, and it’s just so upsetting.
How can having this connection with fans through social media be positive for a celebrity?
It really gives us an opportunity to reach out to our fans. It’s very easy for me to give advice and answer questions, or be like “Hey, what’s up?” We can have a conversation.
The reason that a lot of people know me is from Rent. Rent naturally garners a very young fan base. It speaks to young people who are dealing with a myriad of issues, whether they feel marginalized because of their age, or their sexual orientation, or because they want to be an artist. It speaks to all those kids.
So there are a lot of kids that I talk to, and I like it. I like being able to help in any way I can. Often times I feel like I say things they’ve heard a lot, but coming from me it helps them get through it.
Has this experience changed how you interact online at all?
Yeah, I don’t interact with fans exactly the same way that I used too. I am less likely to have back and forth conversations on Twitter.
I hold myself back from being as personally involved with fans online, which makes me kind of sad. It wasn’t a decision I made, it was something I noticed a few months ago. I’m still there, and respond when I can, but I subconsciously refrain from being as open as I was.
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