To go back, back to the beginning, Talan Torriero wasn't originally a main cast member on Laguna Beach, as the teenager had no interest in being on the 2004 reality series after appearing in several commercials, including a Yahoo ad with Al Gore, when he was a child.
"I really wanted to be taken more serious," Talan told E! News. "Remember, reality shows at the time were like The Real World, and I was like, 'I don't want to do that.'"
So, he continued, "My story is a little different than other people's. The reason I am not on the DVD box cover is because I did not shoot season one until about three-quarters of the way through."
Because he was friends with all of the cast members and they often spoke about him, producers "were like, 'We need you to be on the show,'" Talan recalled. "I was like, 'No, I don't want to be on the show.'"
Eventually, after being asked several times by production, Talan relented. "I was like, 'Screw it, let's do it. Let's have some fun,'" he said. "So then I had to shoot things as if they happened and then they would piece it back into the show because obviously some of these things happened earlier. That's why a little bit of my storylines got bleeded out. I was placed in."
Another reason why Talan may not have been as prominently featured as cast members such as Lauren Conrad, Stephen Colletti and Kristin Cavallari: The show was initially supposed to film at their high school, which ultimately was not approved.
"I played football and I was a jock and that was not cool at my school," Talan said. "So they thought that was really interesting. Like, we can show a different side of high school that no one sees. But they couldn't follow me playing football or that side of me."
After it was announced that a reality series would be filming at Laguna Beach High School, producers set up a table where students interested in being on the show could meet with producers during lunch.
"There were giant lines," Talan recalled. "Some people were acting like they were too cool, but secretly they were going over to meet with the producers."
Prospective cast members had to fill out packets that included questions like, "'Who do you have a crush on? Who are you in a relationship with? Who is the funniest person in the school?'" Talan explained. "So they could put the pieces of a puzzle together to create a narrative."
When Talan is introduced in the series premiere, Lauren Conrad explains in a voiceover that he is a junior that has hooked up with every girl in school "twice," setting him up to be LB's very own teen Lothario.
"I thought was crazy that they would put in a teen show as a voiceover," Talan said with a laugh. "It's funny because the way they introduced me was pretty much as an f-boy."
But he did admit that Lauren's statement wasn't untrue.
"You have to remember, I went to a high school where it was very small. My graduating class was, like, 180 students," he explained. "Because of that, there was a little bit what I would call incestual friendship overlap. I wasn't the only one, is what I am basically saying. There was really not a lot to choose from when you only have so much to choose from."
Looking back on his high school love life though, Talan stressed he was "a hopeless romantic," claiming girls were more interested in his "bad boy" best friend Jason Wahler than him.
"My biggest downfall was that I was the jock good guy," he said. "I would make dinners for girls at 16 years old and they would be like, 'Oh, that's so sweet. I'll hang out with you,' and then they'd be like, 'This is boring, I want to go hang out with the bad boy.'"
He continued, "So it wasn't like I was trying to be an f-boy, honestly, the girls were kind of screwing me over!"
Short answer: Yes.
Long answer: "I will say that before the show aired, there were already relationships happening, or hookups, if you will," Talan clarified. "I didn't hang out with Lauren until later, like in my second season or something. Kristin, junior and senior year, on and off."
Of course, Lauren and Kristin's revelations during their bombshell Back to the Beach interview about their respective hookups with Talan caused a millennial meltdown on social media. "I texted Lauren right after saying, 'Thanks for blowing up my entire social media today, I really appreciate it!'" Talan said.
Piggybacking off the piqued interest, Talan made a TikTok reacting to their confessions that went viral, lip-synching the words to Taylor Swift's "Anti-Hero." ("It's me, hi, I'm the problem, it's me," is playing in the background with the caption, "im the problem its me.")
"The point I was making was not like, 'Oh, look at me, I'm the man,' or, 'You guys didn't really know what was going on,'" Talan explained. "It was that people were so focused on the Stephen-Lauren-Kristin being like a real dramatic thing, but the reality is there were so many other storylines going on behind the scenes. Not even with myself, but with Kristin or even with Lauren. Lauren had other boyfriends while she was high school, some really cool dudes that I know that never wanted to be on the show or were on the show."
As the main three have stated, the romantic drama between them was definitely heightened by the show, something Talan also acknowledged.
But he gave credit to MTV for "making the right choice because America fell in love with them as a trio, even if it meant fabricating that drama between Lauren and Kristin because it made for good TV. But that wasn't what the real thing was. They were actually pretty cool."
In fact, Talan went so far as to compare Laguna Beach to The O.C., the teen drama that inspired the show in the first place.
"I know that's kind of a stretch here, but if you look at the love triangle as characters in a show," he said, "that doesn't mean in real life they were as involved as the characters in the show were." (At least we'll always have our "Team LC" t-shirt from Hollister.)
When Laguna Beach began filming, Talan admitted that the cast had "no idea" what to expect, with the response to the show being "much larger than we, and honestly, MTV anticipated at the time. I didn't think they were ready for something to get as big as it did."
The young cast quickly adapted to life on reality TV, according to Talan, who said they "were like seasoned pros" when they filmed the sophomore season.
"Someone would say, 'Hey, we need to go do this scene, you guys need to talk about something that's going to happen next week,'" he shared. "Like, we were doing pick-up shots. We were in full production, let's put it that way." (Talan recalled one scene in which he filmed an entirely fake phone call and was given lines so they could patch in the other end of the conversation in post-production.)
In addition to changes in production, Talan said the dynamic among the cast shifted as well.
"We had a better understanding of what the show was portraying versus what was actually happening in real life," Talan explained. "The first season, it was pretty natural to have some real-life drama as a result of what you're hearing in the show. But in the second season, we were like, 'We all know it's BS.'"
There was also the newfound fame the teens were experiencing, which was "crazy" at the time.
"I think our faces were on calendars and school lunch boxes, all kinds of things, which by the way, we didn't get any kind of compensation for," Talan said. "It was still really cool when you were a young kid. I think the first season we made $2,500 and I was like, 'This is crazy, I'm the richest guy on the planet!'"
Talan acknowledged that every cast member would give you a different answer as to how authentic their IRL experience was, compared to what made it into Laguna Beach.
"No one's answer is going to be less than a six or a seven out of 10, like 10 being fake, one being real," he said. "For me, it was probably an eight and a half, maybe even more."
So why is Talan's number higher than most? Well, he actually wasn't even enrolled at Laguna Beach High for the majority of season two, a revelation he dropped in a recent TikTok video.
"Only hardcore fans knew about it, where I actually left high school after my first semester of my senior year," Talan elaborated. "I moved to L.A. and MTV was freaking out. They were like, 'Dude, you can't do this.' And I was like, 'Dude, I can do whatever I want,' because I had a very particular contract where I could basically do what I wanted."
Talan would make weekly visits to SoCal "to film the show like it was a real show" before returning back to his life in Los Angeles, he called, where "there were paparazzi photos of me in cars with like Paris Hilton or Lindsay Lohan or whatever the hell was going on in my life at the time."
Looking back on the experience, Talan believes the show should have documented his real journey rather than have him pretend to still be in school.
"I think they learned their lesson," he said. "If you look at some of the most popular shows today in the world, like The Hills or The Kardashians, you can implement things that are happening in real life so you can give someone a behind the scenes. The storyline should have followed me to LA. I think it would have been far more fascinating. I know that The Hills was basically that."
Even though he was living in L.A. and hanging out with The Hills cast regularly—his first roommate was Frankie Delgado—Talan never appeared on the spin-off series.
"I would even be there when they filmed and just be over on the side and talk to the cameramen who had worked on Laguna Beach," Talan revealed. "It was very odd. To be 100 percent honest, I was never asked to be on The Hills."
But Talan does have two possible theories as to why he was never asked to appear. The first being that his inclusion "would've been a lot of Laguna all over again in a sense," and he "didn't really have a dramatic storyline with those people," Talan reasoned, admitting he would have just been "a floater."
The second explanation, however, is far juicier as Talan revealed he "pissed off MTV" after he was supposed to co-host TRL, only to purposefully miss his red-eye flight because his teenage self had different priorities at the time.
"Oh my god, I am going to sound like such a douche, but I was hanging out at the Chateau Marmont having drinks with some people," Talan detailed, "and I was like, 'You know what, screw it.' I think somebody else was hosting it with me, so I was like, 'They'll be fine, I don't need to go.'"
As Julia Roberts once said: Big mistake. Huge.
"Oh boy, was that a big deal," Talan recalled. "They were pretty upset with me for a long time. It was a bad move on my part. I was a a young punk kid, I didn't know any better."
So upset, in fact, that his decision to bail on TRL likely cost Talan his own TV show documenting his music career—think Ashlee Simpson's eponymous 2004 Newlyweds spin-off—with with the network. (Joe Simpson was his manager for a time, by the way!)
"The guy at the top was like, 'Oh, this is definitely not happening and I am so happy to kibosh this thing because of the TRL incident,'" Talan explained. "I'm not saying it would have happened either way, but he made it known, like, 'We are for sure not in the business of Talan Torriero.'"
"So I don't know if there was bad blood and maybe that's why I wasn't at all featured on The Hills even as a guest person or just because I didn't really have a storyline," Talan concluded. "It's probably a mix of both."
It turns out that the devil you may know already knows you, which is what Talan learned when a man in a devil mask approached him during a Halloween party at a Hollywood agent's home at the height of Laguna Beach's popularity.
"We talked for a good 10 minutes and he was telling me how much he loved the show and stuff and it was Leonardo DiCaprio," Talan revealed. "I thought that was pretty wild." He added that several celebrities he hung out with at the time—including Frankie Muniz—were fans of the reality series.
"They didn't have a high school life, they grew up in the industry, so to watch our lives unfold, for them, it was like experiencing what high school would have been like if they had been a normal kid," Talan explained. "It was fascinating having these people you admire admiring you. You're like, 'Well, I didn't do anything, and you did a lot more than I did!'"
On their rewatch podcast, Back to the Beach, Stephen and Kristin often talk about feeling like the producers were guiding them by sharing information that may not have been true or feeding lines, including Lauren's narration in season one and Kristin's in season two.
"I think that's messed up looking back," Talan said, "considering those producers were however old they were, and these are just young kids and you're basically like embarrassing them a little bit on national television knowingly."
But Talan said he felt "fortunate" that he wasn't one of the driving forces of drama on the show. "I just ran in my own lane," he explained. "Of course, I had my own drama in my life, but I stayed out of the television drama and, as a result, that's probably why I wasn't as prominently featured as Kristin, Stephen and Lauren."
He did acknowledge that he had several relationships that were never featured on the show, as did Lauren, but, Talan said, "It wasn't MTV's fault entirely, some people just didn't want to be on the show and that is totally understandable and admirable."
"I didn't go to traditional college, so for me, it was like college on steroids," Talan described of his time in Los Angeles. "I got it all out, I would say, in terms of partying and hanging out and having fun. It was just a blur, that time of my life, until I met my wife at 22."
Talan said it was "love at first sight" when Danielle walked into Big Wang's Sports Bar for her 21st birthday. "I said, 'Who the hell is that?'" Talan reflected. "I ended up talking to her and she said she was from Nebraska. I had no idea where the hell that was. Yet here I am, 14 years later, living in Nebraska."
Talan credited Danielle for "grounding" him, admitting, "I easily could have gone in another direction in my life. I could have taken a different path that was maybe more negative. Who knows where it would have taken me, but probably not in the right direction."
The couple , who have two children—Bronson, 5, and, Hudson, 2—is currently building the "dream home" in Omaha and Talan currently works "a normal old job" in growth marketing. "I love what I do," he said. "I'm a normal dude."
After his two seasons on Laguna Beach, Talan admitted that he "ran away" from the show's success.
"I did not want to be known as this kid from Laguna Beach on MTV, I wanted to be known as Talan," he said. "I didn't even know what that was, but I didn't want to be known as Talan from Laguna Beach."
Now, almost two decades later, Talan can positively reflect on his time on the show.
"I am an old man, I am 36, I have grey in my beard, I have wrinkles under my eyes, I am embracing it," he said. "I am not glamorizing it, but I am having fun with it, the way I wish I would have when I was a younger kid. Because it's a fun part of my life that not a lot of people get to experience."
Pointing to a specific "turning point" when it came to his attitude toward Laguna Beach, Talan said his perspective completely shifted after he became a father.
"You think about your life differently," he explained. "You think about it like, 'Oh, that was a cool thing I can share with my kids.'"
And Talan has already started showing Bronson some Laguna Beach scenes.
"Not because I want to show my son, he's only 5, I just know that in the next couple of years, the conversation is probably going to come up," he said. "Honestly, because I'm on TikTok and my videos are going crazy, but I also just want him to be prepared about what it is, what I did and things like that."
Given the chokehold nostalgia has on audiences and Laguna Beach's recent resurgence thanks to Netflix, one could see a network wanting to return to the small coastal town to reunite the original cast.
"I've always joked with Jason and some of the producers that we should do like, Spring Break Cabo," Talan said, "the way that Jersey Shore did Family Vacation in Vegas. The fact that we haven't done that is crazy."
But, Talan added, "It would have to be the right show. If they did Spring Break Cabo, it would be boring. We'd all be asleep by 10 o'clock at night, we're all married, there wouldn't probably be as much drama as you would imagine."
And even if they could find the right format, Talan isn't convinced everyone would be down to let the rain fall again.
"I don't think Lauren would ever do the show," he said. "Stephen, it depends, he would maybe do the show. I doubt it though. But I could see Kristin potentially doing it, but probably not. So if you take out Kristin, Stephen and Lauren, I don't think any network is going to back it."
"So I would say, would I do it? Sure, under the right circumstances," Talan continued. "Will they do it? Probably not. I just don't think that would happen."
At least we have the comfort of knowing we can return to Laguna Beach on Netflix.