Netflix’s bet to see whether TikTokers can become reality TV stars is already looking rocky after two of the influencer stars of “Hype House” publicly criticized producers of the series.
Larri Merritt (who goes by Larray online and has over 25 million TikTok followers) told fans on Friday, the day the series premiered, that producers made up a false narrative that he had attended a party after having tested positive for Covid-19. Merritt addressed the show while streaming on the live video platform Twitch, saying watching it made him want to cry.
“I do not claim any energy from the ‘Hype House’ show,” Merritt said. “I did not go to any parties with Covid.”
The show details the drama of its cast’s online and personal lives by following the remaining members of the once-buzzy TikTok creator collective Hype House, a group of nine influencers living in a $5 million Los Angeles mansion focused solely on creating content and building their social media careers. Such houses have become mainstays of the online creator community, which has grown rapidly in recent years and often thrives on arguments or rivalries among creators.
Another star, Chase Hudson, said Saturday on a livestream that even though he had a producer credit on the show, he had no idea he would be portrayed as a “villain.”
Netflix isn’t the first to be accused of manipulating reality for a reality show. Many popular reality TV shows have been known for creating sound bites and creating “villains” by editing audio in a practice known as “frankenbiting.”
But it is unfamiliar territory for influencers who have long held power over editing their own videos.
The Netflix series, produced by Spoke Studios and Wheelhouse Entertainment, follows some of the biggest TikTok stars in their late teens and early 20s. While the Hype House first gained traction at the start of 2020, its most famous members, like Charli D’Amelio and Addison Rae Easterling, had already left the group by the time the show started filming early last year.
In addition, while Netflix initially announced that the TikTok star Sienna Mae Gomez would be part of the cast, she was missing from the show’s final cut. In May, after promotional pictures featuring Gomez had been released, a third party accused her of sexually assaulting fellow Hype House member Jack Wright. Gomez denied the allegations, and Wright said in an Instagram post that “sexual assault is a serious matter that has real consequences,” adding that he encouraged “Sienna to get the support and help that she needs.”
Merritt said on his Twitch stream that he believed the decision to omit Gomez led producers to craft a new narrative around Merritt’s and other Hype House members’ testing positive for Covid-19 during filming even though they had previously claimed that they wouldn’t use his diagnosis on the show. NBC News hasn’t verified Merritt’s claim.
Merritt said some scenes depicting other cast members as they learned about and discussed his diagnosis were staged or manipulated in production.
At the beginning of the third episode, a title card reads: “After Larray tested positive for COVID, production was shut down for two weeks.” Scenes from the Hype House shown afterward include cast members complaining about the quarantine and calling Merritt a “liar.”
“It’s so weird to see people that claim they’re your friend talk about you on a show without even asking you about the situation,” Merritt said in his Twitch stream. Later, he asked fans not to send hate to anyone in the show, saying the producers misled them.
Merritt went on to say during the stream that multiple conversations were edited out of context after Gomez was cut from the show, leading to sequences that don’t make sense.
“Why would you tell the entire world I tried to party when I had Covid?” Merritt asked. “Y’all can clip that and send it to the Netflix production team. I want them to apologize for lying on my name.”
Hudson made similar claims. In an Instagram livestream Saturday, he said the show “fabricated” a narrative that the Hype House was paying the rent for the mansion he lives in in Encino, California.
“You could call my landlord,” Hudson said on the livestream, insisting that he pays his rent himself.
Hudson went on to say that producers painted him “as a villain” and gave him a producer credit, even though, he said, he had no knowledge or oversight of the storylines in each episode. Hudson, who dated D’Amelio, contrasted his experience to hers on Hulu’s “The D’Amelio Show,” a similar reality TV format that focused on one family.
“I talked to them. They had full control as to what was going on the show, what they were comfortable with,” Hudson said. “None of us had that kind of access to the show.”
Merritt, in the comments on Hudson’s livestream, praised him for speaking up.
Spoke Studios, Netflix, Wheelhouse Entertainment, Hudson and Merritt didn’t respond to requests for comment.