Here is our exclusive interview with Matt Roloff, the star and father of TLC’s hit reality show, ‘Little People, Big World.’ Season Five, Part B premiered on April 5. New episodes air Mondays at 8/7 central.
Shockya (SY): When ‘Little People, Big World’ was first being developed, why did you and family decide to have cameras document your life and show it to America?
Matt Roloff (MR): We originally decided to do it primarily to educate people about dwarfism and to educate society about short people. It was really an educational thing. As the years have gone on, the goals have changed a little bit. Now it’s about giving back and we’re promoting our charities. Amy (my wife) and I both have different charities, helping people less fortunate than ourselves. We’re also still educating people at the same time.
SY: Did you think the show would become a hit since it first premiered four years ago?
MR: When we first started, we definitely had no idea that it would go on like it has. It surprised us. We thought it would be a couple of episodes, and then people would be tired of us. People seem to like what we do, though some might disagree with what we’re doing. But people like our approach to things. People can watch our triumphs and tribulations. We continue to have some following, so it’s sort of amazing to us. We still scratch our heads and wonder why people watch our show and laugh about it. Now it’s sort of become something we do. We don’t really look for answers anymore, we keep marching on.
SY: That’s good. Do you and your family get recognized when you’re in public?
MR: Yeah, we do, we get recognized. There are a lot of people that come up to us. There are other people that just observe us and let us go about our business. You can generally tell when people recognize you from the show. Being little people, we’re easy to spot anyway. There may be someone else from a television show that maybe has their dark glasses on that can walk through an airport. If you know our show and see us walking around, it’s pretty easy to make a positive ID on us.
SY: Have you received support from the dwarfism community since the show first premiered?
MR: I would say so. There’s always going to be some people in the community that don’t agree. But we don’t hear that. By and large we receive support. There’s an active community of little people that we’ve been able to make contact with. They do feel that our show has changed their lives, all positive. They feel like society does treat them a little more respectively and do understand what kinds of challenges we might have. There are always going to be little people who appreciate what we do, and some that are not. For the most part, we’ve been very, very pleased with the support.
SY: What do you hope viewers will learn about dwarfism by watching the show?
MR: I hope people will learn that dwarfism is really a metaphor to differences. It’s a really, really powerful metaphor. If you can get your head around that someone’s who half your height and walks kind of funny is the same as you, you can get your head around any kind of difference, including someone’s who’s blind or deaf or who is missing an arm or whatever. I think that a lot of people don’t realize that people who look different are still the same inside, have the same dreams and inspirations. I think our show shows that. They make fools of themselves sometimes, they don’t always make the smart decision. Sometimes they do, they do good. Sometimes I get things done, and sometimes I’m doing it wrong, I don’t get it right. I think that’s important for them to know.
SY: Do you have any concerns for your family’s safety since so much of their lives are broadcast on TV for the past few years?
MR: Yes. (laughs) We from time to time have security concerns that we have to work through.
SY: Has society become more accommodating to people with dwarfism since you and Amy were children, or do you think that people are still in the same mindset?
MR: No, I think people are more accommodating. I got a testimony from a young man that I met in an airport not too long ago. He’s 18-years-old, he’s a little person. He came up to me and said “I’m 18-years-old and I’m in high school. I love your show. Before the show I had a hard time getting a date. I had trouble getting invited to proms and parties, and now it seems cool to be a dwarf. Kids are warming up to me, and are coming up to me. I even got invited to the prom. Two young ladies even invited me to the prom!” When you hear a story like that, it does encourage us to continue on with the show.
SY: So do viewers like that make you want to continue filming the show and put your lives on TV then?
MR: It does encourage us, inspire us to continue, even though sometimes people don’t appreciate us. There are people who analyze every move we make, we do. If I’m shown on camera picking up a fork, for example, fifty percent of the people are like, “Why did Matt pick up that fork? What a goofball idiot!” The other half of the people are like, “Isn’t that nice, Matt picking up that fork?” Then the other half are like, “He was pointing it in the wrong direction.” You have to put up with all of that. It’s not that hard for me, I’m resilient and thick-skinned, but when you read stuff about your kids that’s not true, that’s difficult.
SY: You were once the president of Little People of America (LPA), a social and advocacy group. Are you still involved in LPA?
MR: I’m not very much involved. I’m no longer on the board. I don’t actively participate in the politics anymore, or the organization of it. I’m involved as a member, and as a participant in their wonderful programs.
SY: One last question. You also wrote an autobiography, titled Against Tall Odds, about your business ventures and your medical and social hardships. Why did you decide to write that?
MR: I wrote that because there seemed to be some interest in our farm and the different structures on the farm, and why we built it. We have kids, some tall, one dwarf (19-year-old son Zak). It was just a project back when I was doing computer software. It was actually a very rewarding project to put down all our stories. We met with a publisher, and they agreed to publish it. It was a do-it-yourself project. Thank you so much.
SY: Thank you.
Written by: Karen Benardello