After a tenth season that set the reality TV world ablaze with Scandoval, Vanderpump Rules is back with season 11, as the West Hollywood friend group deals with the aftermath of the Tom Sandoval-Raquel Leviss cheating scandal.
Ariana Madix, whose decade-long relationship with Sandoval was upended amid the affair, told The Hollywood Reporter at the Vanderpump Rules premiere event on Wednesday that “there was almost zero life lived in between the reunion and when the new season starting filming, so at that point my mindset was just to be me — to be honest with where I’m at, what I’m feeling, if I’m having a good day, if I’m having a bad day, to just be me and not be worried how things are going to come across.”
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Sandoval said he approached the new season “like I was walking on egg shells” and on the very first day of filming in June — after the reunion was shot in late March — he felt like “you were going to step on a metaphoric landmine and explode. It’s tough, it was triggering in really weird ways emotionally.”
Lisa Vanderpump, who appears in as well as produces the series, joked that she “wanted to hide in the cupboard” when it came time to film again, and took on the role of peacekeeper when the group reunited with Sandoval.
“This season had to be me trying to facilitate some kind of cohesion and not being the one who was judging and pointing and shouting because he had everybody doing that, you saw it at the reunion. Me doing that, was I just going to be telling him something they’d already told him?” Vanderpump explained. “It was about trying to listen a little bit — I mean I still had to kick him in the ass, at some point I’ve kicked them all in the ass.”
Last season landed the series its first Emmy nominations (“That was hard losing that, that was hard. We all had our speeches ready and everyone’s like sit down, shut up,” Vanderpump joked) but this season will feature a key absence as Leviss opted not to return.
“Everyone else was pretty on board and game to do it and she wavered and we sort of got to the point of the season where it was pretty clear she wouldn’t be apart of it, but the group had kind of moved on anyway,” executive producer Alex Baskin explained of the behind-the-scenes situation with Leviss. As for if she will ever return, he added, “I think that ship has sailed on both sides.”
Also on the carpet, the group touched on some of the biggest current headlines, including the legal fight over Tom and Ariana’s house (Madix said, “I want my investment out of the house as quickly as possible” while Sandoval proposed “We’re going to take a saw and saw it right in half”), the status of the Something About Her sandwich shop (“We’re just waiting for all of the various agencies to check off our approvals,” Madix said as they deal with city regulations) and the group’s current relationship with Sandoval.
“For me, I filmed this show for eight years now and I think maybe two of them I tolerated Sandoval and the rest of them I never really wanted him around, so there wasn’t much of a difference for me,” Lala Kent said with a laugh. “But you will see a shift happen, I think that’s what’s going to be the most interesting about this season. I think people will be torn on how they feel.” She added, “I’m sure a lot of us want to light him on fire still but I think for some of us, we can be in the same room and feel a little indifferent.”
James Kennedy said the relationship “could be better, could be worse” these days, but if he was told he was going to take cast trips and actively film with Sandoval “I’d have been like oh hell no, but then it happens and we do it and we’ve got to get through it. That’s Vanderpump Rules, I guess.”
For his part, Sandoval said, “Everybody loves me — just kidding. I think I’m the person you hang out with and that person makes me sign an NDA, that’s where I’m at right now.”
Vanderpump Rules season 11 premieres Jan. 30.
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