Mary Bonnet found out she was pregnant on-camera while filming season 7 of Netflix's "Selling Sunset."
When she learned she'd miscarried, Netflix's cameras captured the aftermath.
Mary and executive producer Sundee Manusakis tell Insider about what happens when reality TV gets brutally real.
Six episodes into the seventh season of Netflix's hit real-estate reality show "Selling Sunset," there's a moment so somber that the series has no choice but to bring its signature robotically upbeat pop soundtrack to grinding halt.
Mary Bonnet (née Fitzgerald) and her husband Romain sit on the couch in their home in silence with Mary's friend Amanza Smith. Cue the mournful piano ballad, and a feeling of dread.
"I just feel numb right now," Mary says to Amanza, who's there to comfort her friend after learning the news of her miscarriage. "I go from crying to just feeling numb."
The trio hug and wipe away tears. Mary explains what happened: she and Romain went to a doctor's appointment for an ultrasound. She was about nine weeks pregnant. There was no heartbeat.
In a show whose calling card is amusingly petty fights between outlandishly styled real-estate agents set against the backdrop of their aspirational Los Angeles lifestyles, Mary's storyline is an injection of a sobering reality: that 10% to 20% of known pregnancies end in miscarriage.
Sharing the news on-camera was difficult for Mary. But enduring unexpected loss as a character on a reality TV show was uniquely devastating.
"It's absolutely brutal," she told Insider. "To actually re-watch yourself and watch everybody talk about it and have to talk about it again to press and have everybody comment on it and weigh in, it's a difficult situation."
Below, Mary discusses the pain and power that came from sharing her loss with the world, and "Selling Sunset" executive producer Sundee Manusakis breaks down the delicate dance that is producing through a cast member's personal tragedy.
Mary waited to take a pregnancy test with the producers
At the beginning of each "Selling Sunset" season, cast members have conversations with producers about potential storylines. Mary, 43, had been open about wanting to have children with her husband Romain, 30, and mentioned they had begun trying to get pregnant.
"We've worked with Mary since season one, and it's always about building the trust with her and having those conversations with her," Manusakis said. "My first thing was, 'If you're trying and you're going to be taking tests, if you're feeling it in your body as a woman and you want to take a test on-camera for us, we would love that."
The couple was on vacation in Bali over the New Year when production started checking in about the potential of filming Mary's pregnancy journey.
"They knew we were going to start trying when we were in Bali. And so they kept calling me, asking me if I was or not, and I said, 'Well, I still don't know, but I am late. So I'm going to take a test,'" Mary said. "So they were begging me to wait."
Ultimately, Mary waited until she could take the test on-camera, and the resulting scene appears in the season seven premiere, filmed at the beginning of this year. The decision to share the initially happy news with the world was, at first, an easy one.
"My thinking is that unless it involves or affects someone else, like a friend or a family member that's not on the show, I'm willing to talk about it. If it affects somebody else, then I will hold back because they didn't sign up for this, I did," Mary said. "I didn't plan to announce the pregnancy as quickly as I did… I think the excitement just clouded my brain and made me not really think that one through clearly. But I'm glad I did it."
"Getting pregnant, that's the exciting, easy part," Mary continued. "I just really didn't even think it through that a miscarriage was a possibility."
Mary privately grieved while she worked with producers to figure out how to publicly address the loss
With the initial good news captured for the show, Manusakis and her team were eager to follow as much of the experience as Mary was comfortable with.
Production was scheduled to film a scene in March at Mary and Romain's house in which the couple would share photos from Mary's ultrasound earlier that day. Then Manusakis got a call from Romain telling them that Mary had lost the baby.
"Romain called them and said, 'You are not coming. The scene is canceled, and we're not doing this. We need time to process and grieve by ourselves," Mary recalled. "Of course, they still want to get the raw emotions and everything and tell the story. So, I did allow them the next morning. That can come off as production was not being sensitive, but they were actually very, very good and sensitive about everything."
For Manusakis, the key was balancing being empathetic with the needs of making a TV show.
"We were like, 'Whatever you need, we obviously would love to cover it for the show, but we know how sensitive this is. We want to respect your time," Manusakis said. "And she's the one that was like, 'You guys can come the next day and film the aftermath and where we're at with everything.'"
Production cut down the crew to only the most necessary people, and kept the scene intimate — just Mary, Romain, and her best friend of 20 years, Amanza Smith. The goal, Manusakis said, was to keep everything as natural and respectful as possible. "Whatever she was feeling in that moment, we were just there to capture it."
Grieving a loss privately while understanding that she'd inevitably have to address the miscarriage on the show was complicated for Mary. She acknowledged that production was accommodating, allowing her to skip events and opt out of more stressful scenes with the rest of the cast to give herself a break from the drama.
"They were very, very sympathetic. So I want to make that point first, because they did push," Mary said of her decision to let production film the day after she received the news. "I went ahead and agreed because I knew I'm going to have to talk about it anyway, and I'd rather just get it out of the way."
That's not to say that she doesn't have some regrets.
"I think I might have done it too soon, because I was so numb at that moment," Mary said. "It took me a lot longer to get over it and heal. I mean, I don't think you ever get over it, really."
Re-watching the scenes was traumatizing — but Mary knows it's helping a lot of people
Though "Selling Sunset" creator Adam DiVello's signature glossy production style forefronts glamour and often presents its cast members as heightened versions of themselves, Manusakis was committed to keeping Mary's storyline grounded in reality.
Despite it being so common, a taboo still persists around pregnancy loss.
"Something we said to her was, 'It hurts now and it's going to be something that's going to be with you forever, but it's something that you have this platform,'" Manusakis said. "So many women experience miscarriage. There's all of these kind of stigmas surrounding it. So for her to be able to open up and share her story, it's going to resonate with so many women that have also gone through the same thing."
In the days since the season seven premiere, Mary said she's already been flooded with messages on social media from fans thanking her for sharing her story. The responses, she said, have helped reaffirm her choice to disclose the news on-camera.
In addition to experiencing a septic miscarriage, in which the tissue from the pregnancy leads to a uterine infection, Mary learned through losing the pregnancy that she has a unicornuate uterus, a congenital condition in which a person has only one fallopian tube.
"It's going to make it much, much more difficult for me to get pregnant and carry a baby, which is another blow, but we're just going to keep pushing along," Mary said.
Still, she's optimistic.
"When the time is right, we're going to start trying again fairly soon. Hopefully everything will go better this time."
Read the original article on Insider