WASHINGTON HEIGHTS — Don't worry, Washington Heights — you're not about to become the next "Jersey Shore."
That's the message one cast member of MTV's new "Washington Heights" reality series has for uptowners who are worried about how the show represents their neighborhood.
Jonathan Perez said the Uptown-based show, which debuted Wednesday at 10 p.m., is completely different from "Jersey Shore," and won't focus as much on partying and fights.
"People shouldn't fear," said Perez, 25. "We're not out to make the neighborhood look bad at all. MTV has the utmost respect for Washington Heights and for us.
"I told them it has to represent us in a good light or we can't walk in our own streets," he added.
The Dominican-Cuban Perez, who goes by the dual nicknames of "JP" and "Audubon," is the principal character on the show, which follows nine Washington Heights-based friends through a summer as they try to launch their careers in music, sports and fashion. Perez came up with the idea for the show two years ago and after getting his friends involved, pitched it to MTV.
"It's about us as friends trying to make it out of a place where no one really makes it out of," Perez said. "It's one of the hardest places to get noticed."
The key to the show, Perez insists, is that the cast members were already friends, unlike other MTV shows where strangers are thrown together.
"We're real," Perez said. "No one can come to our 'hood and tell us we're actors. I still live in my 'hood. That's the difference. We had the camaraderie before the cameras showed up."
"Washington Heights" will air 11 episodes this season, and Perez said that while the stories of friends will take center stage, the neighborhood itself will always receive attention.
"People are going to see neighborhood," he said, "and see things they never noticed."
But the reaction from uptowners was decidedly mixed.
Some viewers of the new show were happy to see Washington Heights finally make it to the silver screen, while others felt the show was typical low-brow MTV fare.
At a viewing party at APT 78 Cafe and Lounge on 191st Street and Broadway, a packed crowd applauded when the show's first scenes began, and cheered wildly when the café made a cameo later in the episode.
"It's nice to finally see Washington Heights getting exposed so people can see it," said Johnny Medina, 29. "To see it from the younger generation is a breath of fresh air."
"I think it's a good view for people who aren't from here," added Jill Hamburgo.
Others took MTV to task for featuring a fight in the first episode.
"I don't like it," said Jarrett Cousef. "t's about 10 percent Washington Heights and 90 percent MTV."
"It's not showing me anything new," added Frankie Garcia, 24, who was very down on the show's fight scene. "Let's talk about the artists. This is stuff you can find on World Star Hip-Hop."