They were put in a house together with five other strangers to find out what happens when people stop being polite and start getting real. And over 20 years later, Judd Winick and Pamela Ling are still keeping it real.
The Real World: San Francisco alums fell in love off-camera after meeting on the the third season of the hit MTV series — which premiered in the summer of 1994.
This summer, they celebrated their 15th wedding anniversary — a lifetime in reality TV romances which are known to fizzle out.
The happy couple — who live in San Francisco with their two children — discussed their relationship with The New York Times in an article published Friday.
In it, Winick reveals why he didn’t pursue Ling while the cameras were rolling.
“We were in the friend zone because she had a boyfriend and we were on a television show,” the 46-year-old comic-book writer and graphic novelist said.
It was a decision that he said ultimately helped the pair.
“I can’t imagine you’re completely you when you’re on camera,” he explained. “It’s when the camera stops that you finally get to assess.”
Ling — then a medical student and now a 48-year-old doctor and professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco — said she and her husband celebrate their “common joys.” Those include self-described geeky passions like Star Wars, Game of Thrones, and musicals like Rent, Avenue Q and Hamilton.
“We still love and get obsessive about things together.” Winick said. “She’s kind of shockingly nerdy.”
They’re also still active in honoring the memory and spreading the mission of their old Real World roommate Pedro Zamora — a AIDS educator who died of complications from the disease in 1994.
Zamora, who was gay and married his husband on the show, became the face of AIDS for millions of Americans.
“He changed everything, at least for younger people,” president Clinton previously said, of Zamora. “Not everyone had known someone who died of AIDS. Not everyone was comfortable even talking about it. There was so much ignorance and so much fear and still some prejudice [around HIV and AIDS]. Pedro did that show and for young Americans, and it virtually obliterated all of it.”
Winick and Ling oversee the Pedro Zamora Young Leaders Scholarship, which provides students committed to AIDS education with small endowments. “I only wish we had 10 times the money to give away,” Ling said.
RELATED VIDEO: President Obama and Macklemore Have Candid Conversation About Drug Use in New MTV Documentary
As for their secrets for a happy relationship, each stay away from the spotlight. Winick has found success with his graphic novel series Hilo — about a boy who crashes to earth. Ling, when not working, spends time singing with the San Francisco Choral Society.
“Embrace your differences or complementary characteristics,” Ling said. “I’m externally motivated, while Judd is internally motivated. I’m left brain, while Judd is right brain. I write science, while Judd writes stories.”
“Communication is key,” added Winick. “Know that you’re human. Know that sometimes it isn’t about you; it is the other person. And know that sometimes it is about you.”