NEW YORK, Jan. 8 (UPI) -- A New York actor is casting doubt on "Pizza Rat" and similar viral videos after revealing he was paid to appear in a "Selfie Rat" online clip.
The "Selfie Rat" video, which went viral in November after being distributed to various news outlets by a person claiming to be an out-of-towner named Don Richards, features footage of a man sleeping on a subway platform waking up to find a rat standing on his phone, which was on the man's lap.
"Richards" also shared a selfie the rat supposedly snapped by walking on the man's phone. The supposed bystander said the sleeping man sent him the selfie after the incident.
However, an actor named Eric Yearwood said he was the sleeping man in the clip and the whole incident was staged by a woman who creates performance art under the name Zardulu.
"She said she was a NYC-based performance artist and wanted help with a project and was going to pay me a little bit of money," Yearwood told Gothamist. "You get weird casting calls and stuff all the time, so I didn't really think too much of it, and when she described the project to me, it seemed pretty weird. Especially the part where there wasn't going to be any sort of revelation at the end of it. I would not be able to take credit for it and neither would she."
Yearwood said he was paid $200 to appear in the video with a trained rat.
"We maybe did about 10 to 12 takes," Yearwood told WPIX-TV.
"I feel like on the one hand I am more cynical than ever of viral content," Yearwood said. "Also I feel more hope and wonder for the world because I feel like Zardulu and the things that she's working on that its almost like something magical can happen wherever you go."
Matt Little, the man who posted the "Pizza Rat" video online, insisted the incident was not staged.
"My friend Pat and I saw a rat dragging pizza down the subway stairs at 3 a.m.," Little said. "If this woman [Zardulu] was involved, she'd have to have been one of the homeless people in the subway."
Zardulu declined to be interviewed by WPIX-TV, saying in an email: "Any discussion of my art would be like waking the world from a dream. I cannot imagine a more terrible thing to do."