When The Real Housewives of New York City (RHONY) premieres its 14th season this Sunday at 9pm ET, an entirely new cast of upper echelon characters will be further thrust into the spotlight as part of the Bravosphere.
After a tumultuous 13th season marred by allegations of racism among the cast as the longstanding franchise introduced its first Black cast member, Bravo and executive producer Andy Cohen replaced the group of legacy apple-bearing women with a new set of wealthy friends and potential foes. This season, cameras will follow the lives of fashion content creator Sai De Silva, model Ubah Hassan, luxury real estate developer Erin Lichy, former executive creative director and president of J.Crew Jenna Lyons, publicist Jessel Taank, and communications professional Brynn Whitfield.
Though Cohen admits, “We’re rolling dice here” when it comes to overhauling the cast, the reality TV mogul also told The Hollywood Reporter in the Q&A below, “We looked at so many people and we met people every way from Sunday before we wound up selecting this group. We took a lot of care in this, and I think it shows in who we actually chose.”
First and foremost, I want to ask about the actors strike, which is at the center of the entertainment industry right now. What effect, if any, will it have on The Real Housewives of New York City and other Bravo franchises?
We’re dealing with mainly unscripted shows here. I can’t really speak to it because I’m not in charge of programming at Bravo, but The Real Housewives of New York is wrapped, produced and finished and so it won’t affect it at all.
In terms of Watch What Happens Live, which is the only late-night show still running on TV now, what will be the new strategy in this current landscape?
It’ll certainly affect the guests that we have. I think that all talk shows are seeing that actors, people in SAG, they’re not promoting their films. So, there’s going to be some challenges in who the guests are.
Jumping into this new season of RHONY, you’ve said that this is the “right group of women” to reboot this franchise. How is this cast, in particular, an answer to the criticisms around the lack of diversity and interest in the New York Housewives series specifically?
What makes it the right group of women is they’re a cohesive group. We were looking for a group of friends, people who had existing relationships. Some of them know each other, some of them don’t. They’re funny, they’re fun, they’re aspirational, they’re fashionable. They live their lives. They’re opening up their lives in front of the camera. They’re all dynamic. They’re professionals. They, I think, represent a different New York than we’ve seen before. They are diverse. They live all over the city and it feels fresh and very vibrant.
Lizzy Savetsky was slated to be a part of the cast, and in November she announced that she was exiting, largely due to antisemitic attacks and backlash from fans. Can you speak to that at all?
I can’t really add to what’s already out there. We’re focusing right now on who is in the show and what the show is. That happened in maybe the first few days of production, and so I’ve said everything that I have to about that. On a lot of shows that we produce, we start the season with a group of people and sometimes people fall out for various reasons. It’s not entirely… what’s the word? Unique.
How much of a risk is completely rebooting the New York franchise? Is this a test run to see what other Housewives franchises might need overhauling? Is there a possibility of going back to the original formula?
This is going back to the original formula in that it is a Housewives show and it very much feels like that. We’re rolling dice here and I think we’ve got a team of people between Bravo, myself and Shed Media who’ve been doing this for a very long time so, we did not take this lightly. We painstakingly recast the show. We looked at so many people and we met people every way from Sunday before we wound up selecting this group. We took a lot of care in this, and I think it shows in who we actually chose.
Can you talk about then choosing to include the original cast in the Ultimate Girls Trip spinoff?
We were looking for content when Peacock was launching, and Girls Trip was something that we had been talking about for many years. It was not a new idea, it was not an original idea. We needed programming that would drive viewers in demand to Peacock. This was an absolute no-brainer idea of something that people really wanted to see.
Luann de Lesseps and Sonja Morgan also have their own spinoff, Luann and Sonja: Welcome to Crappie Lake. How did that come about?
I don’t have anything to do with that show. It was pitched to Bravo. I think it is absolutely brilliant. I think it’s hysterical and I think the timing is great because it gives fans of the last many seasons of RHONY the comedy that they’re looking for from Luann and Sonja.
Are there plans to keep the original New York cast in any other franchises beyond what’s been launched already?
As of right now I think we’re good. We’ve got Sonja and Luann on their show, and then we’ve got The Ultimate Girls Trip with the legacy RHONY women, and we’ve got this. It’s a pretty full plate. It seemed like the original RHONY women wanted to do a girls trip instead of filming in New York, and we listened to them. So, we’ll see.
Branching out to the overall Bravo-verse, Vanderpump Rules has completely burst as the first spin-off from The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. How has that success raised the stakes for the reality franchise and the expectations around new Bravo series?
I think that the only stakes it raises are that we are always reactive to personal stories going on in people’s lives that are featured on our shows, as we always have been. And I think this was an example of that. The last season of Vanderpump Rules was really emblematic of the type of nonfiction storytelling that Bravo has become known for.
Can you speak at all to the status of Raquel Leviss‘ participation in season 11?
Have Ariana Madix and Tom Sandoval filmed together?
I can’t speak to anything regarding what’s going to happen on Vanderpump Rules. We’re filming the show now, and we’re trying to keep it under wraps a little bit.
With the RHOBH cast, there’s been a lot of attention on Kyle Richards and Mauricio Umansky’s marriage. Cameras have been following them amid rumors of a separation and some viewers have suggested the storyline is made up to reignite interest in this franchise. What do you say to that criticism?
That’s a new one. That’s really stupid, is what it is. That’s too lame to even respond to, I think.
Have you talked to Kyle and Mauricio? Do you know how they’re doing?
I’ve been in touch with Kyle. I can’t really speak for her, but I’m certainly wishing her well.
Interview edited for length and clarity.
The Real Housewives of New York City airs Sunday nights at 9 p.m. ET on Bravo and streams on Peacock the next day starting at 6 a.m. ET
Andy Cohen Talks ‘RHONY’ Reboot, ‘Vanderpump Rules’ and Rumors “Too Lame to Respond to”