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Selling Sunset fans: it's back. The hotly-anticipated fourth season of the Netflix show is finally hitting our screens this month, so it’s time to be transported back to the Hollywood Hills for a sun-drenched dose of, well, drama.
Chrishell Stause, Amanza Smith and Mary Fitzgerald take centre stage, as we rejoin The Oppenheim Group's office on the corner of Sunset Boulevard and Sunset Plaza Drive.
If it weren't for the fresh faces, budding relationships and swanky new homes, it would almost be like we never left... Here's what happened when we asked Cosmopolitan's digital cover stars to share their behind-the-scenes secrets from Selling Sunset season four.
When actor-turned-estate-agent Chrishell Stause was approached to join The Oppenheim Group for a TV show, she assumed Selling Sunset would be fully about the houses. “I didn’t know what I was getting into,” she explains. “They pitched me the idea for the show, and I was like, ‘Oh, this will be fun.’ I thought it was all about real estate, so it’s definitely been a learning curve.”
The ‘learning curve’ 40-year-old Stause might be referring to is season three, when viewers watched her marriage to This Is Us actor Justin Hartley fall apart. Something which, although not her choice to include, Stause doesn’t regret. “I was going through a really hard time and didn’t want to be in front of the camera. I thought it was going to be a public humiliation. But it actually had the opposite effect - it gave my pain a purpose.
“Now, I feel fearless. I can’t think of anything worse to have to do on television, so from here, it’s all up. Any kind of drama I have with the girls... nothing will get to [that] place. If I can get through that, I can get through anything.”
Two years on from the split in November 2019, Stause is no longer single. In fact, she’s dating fellow Selling Sunset star Jason Oppenheim after going public with their relationship in July. “We announced it a little earlier than I would’ve liked to, because I felt like we were about to be outed by paparazzi photos. But I didn’t want people to think it was a mistake or they’d ‘caught us’ doing something - I wanted to be able to hold my boyfriend’s hand at dinner.”
Stause’s voice is full of love when she talks about 44-year-old Oppenheim. “We became best friends before anything, and I’ve never had that before. We know everything about each other and tell each other everything. We’re silly and laugh a lot. I love that there’s no need to try and pretend to be the best version of yourself. I recommend being friends with someone first - I’ve never done that before and it’s quite different.”
Sadly for us, their relationship won’t be shown in season four, as they started filming back in March. But there’s still plenty to look forward to. “Two new cast members join [Vanessa Villela and Emma Hernan], which definitely stirs the pot. You see me buying my new house, which is exciting, and I’ve got some celebrity clients including a basketball player and a Marvel actor. There are some awesome homes, too.”
There is also, of course, some drama with Christine Quinn - the show’s resident anti-hero. Stause explains Quinn is still blocked on Instagram, before divulging, “That friendship is best served with us being colleagues and trying to work together harmoniously. She’s burned many bridges at this point [with the cast], which is shown in season four.
“It’s hard, though. If something happens behind the scenes that breaks the fourth wall... We can’t mention the press for example, so there can be certain things people are hurt about that can’t be addressed on camera. But the show does a good job of encapsulating who we are and our personalities, and you can’t fake that."
Amanza Smith first dipped her toe into the real estate world six years ago, when long-time friend Jason Oppenheim set up his own brokerage. “I studied interior design at school, and he asked me to stage a house (when interiors are designed specifically for potential buyers) for him to sell,” she says. “It ended up selling with all of the furniture I’d picked inside. They loved what I had done.”
Fast forward to 2020, and viewers watched Smith sell her first house, after procuring her real estate license. “I technically can sell homes, but my passion has always been design. Season four sees me creating and selling furniture for the spaces I was decorating, as well as a big commercial project, so I’m less involved in listing real estate.”
New episodes of Selling Sunset also delve into Smith’s personal life, as the sole carer of her two children, Noah and Braker, who she shares with ex-husband Ralph Brown. “Viewers will finally hear what was going on with my kids’ father. A lot of questions will finally be answered. It was liberating to talk about on camera - I wasn’t trying to protect anyone’s feelings, except for my children. In season three, I kept a lot to myself, but after a year of not filming, I didn’t hold back, and it was easy for me to share everything exactly how I wanted to.”
Smith and former NFL player Brown married in 2010, before divorcing in 2012. While the couple shared joint custody for several years, Smith has recently been awarded sole custody of their children, after Brown disappeared in August 2019. She has not heard from him since. “It’s bittersweet [being awarded sole custody],” she sighs. “People were calling it a victory, but I wasn’t jumping for joy. It’s more of a necessity. The actual hearing was quick [because] Ralph didn’t surface - he wasn’t there to fight [for custody]. It’s been emotional, and when we wrapped season four, I thought, ‘I don’t want to talk about that man anymore.’”
What Smith is open to talking about, though, is mental health. “I’m grateful to have a platform to share my story, and help people understand it’s okay not to be okay 100 percent of the time. I am very open about a lot of things, and if someone can see somebody else on TV or living a glamorous life having dark days, it makes it more real and relatable. Talking about [bad] mental health is still so taboo, but once we start having these conversations, you realise lots of people struggle with the same types of things.”
As for The Oppenheim Group, Smith says we should anticipate some big changes. “Two amazing women join the brokerage - I’ve known Emma for six years, and Vanessa is now like family - and they both have stories to tell. Davina [Portratz] left the agency, and there are conversations around whether or not she comes back. And we need a bigger office!”
On any gossip that comes up, Smith adds, “I try to stay as neutral as possible, until things are shoved in my face to a point that I can’t hold it back anymore. This season gets a little deeper, and you’ll see how that unfolds.”
Mary Fitzgerald is not a confrontational person, but during her working day she has to be one. Originally from Indiana, a move to LA gave her an early lesson in wising up. “It took me a little while to not be so naive,” she says. “Here people have agendas and motives, and I didn’t understand [that] in the beginning. It took me a little while to get jaded.”
Years later she had to toughen up even more, when she and her colleagues became the stars of Netflix’s biggest real estate show. Fitzgerald and now-husband Romain Bonnet were subject to online abuse, and the “small town country girl” found herself in a peculiar situation - she was famous, yes, but more than that: she was surrounded by arguments and tension.
“I get uneasy with conflict. In my real life I just walk away from drama, I don’t deal with it. But in the show, we have to tell the story and we have to confront it... So, I do have to get into arguments and discussions with people - Christine [Quinn], basically - and on occasion I do feel my hands shake with unease like they did when we filmed the first episode.”
Over the years, Fitzgerald has settled into fame and grown with the show, giving fans an insight into her wedding and fertility journey. And, gradually, she’s learned how to cope with the strains of what’s expected of her. “Some days it’s a big glass of wine; [others it’s the] treadmill for short sprints. I got a punching bag and boxing gloves to help get the frustration out and then also a hot sauna helps. Some days I do all of them.”
Drama is not something we’ll be light on in the fourth season of Selling Sunset, Fitzgerald says, but she asks that viewers watch the show with a cautious eye. “Without giving too much away, I think people can be deceptive. So, in season 4 viewers are going to have to pay attention to what’s happening and put the pieces together, because there’s a lot of crocodile tears… With editing it can look like people actually feel sorry for the person.”
Fitzgerald adds of new agent Emma, “I think the producers found out she had a history with Christine.”
As previously noted, season 4 won’t show Jason Oppenheim and Chrishell Stause’s relationship. But Fitzgerald reveals she found out about their romance about a week after it started. “We were out together and I noticed the way he was looking at her was different, so when she went to the bathroom I confronted him. When she came back Jason said, ‘Sorry Chrishell, Mary knows’.”
One knock-on effect of the new couple is the way Fitzgerald is regarded by some. Previously, she had to put up with a storyline about Oppenheim favouring her over the other realtors, as they once dated. But now, “It’s already being put on Chrishell instead. That’s what people are saying around the office… Well, one person is.”
Mary has come a long way from the “naive” Midwestern girl who first moved to LA, but her commitment to Romain and her son Austin never changes. “Our families didn’t sign up for this, so I’m going to protect them. But, as long as it doesn’t negatively affect my family or my clients, I’m an open book.”
Selling Sunset season 4 lands on Netflix 24th November
Photographer: Nino Muñoz/Netflix @ninomunoz
Motion Design: Alice Cowling @alicecowling
Chrishell credits: Stylist: Andrew Gelwicks @andrewgelwicks, hair: Bradley Leake @hairbybradleyleake, makeup: Nicholas Wlodarski @kissedbynicholas
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