The Real Housewives of Orange County may have celebrated its 10th anniversary in March, but the original series of Bravo’s wildly popular reality franchise isn’t slowing down anytime soon.
The realest ladies of the OC are back and better than ever for the show’s 11th season, which premieres on Bravo Monday night. We caught up with long-running cast member Vicki Gunvalson and some of her fellow season 1 ‘wives about staying in the game after a decade.
Season 10 ended last fall in spectacular fashion: With rumors swirling about the falsification of Vicki’s ex Brooks’ medical records, Vicki and the women all fell out over whether Brooks had been lying about his cancer diagnosis — and more importantly, whether Vicki knew about his deception.
“I didn’t want last season to end the way it did,” Gunvalson tells EW. “People had a very skewed reality of what really happened in my relationship and things, and I didn’t want it to end like that.”
In addition to the OG of the OC, season 11 will see the return of Tamra Judge, Heather Dubrow, Shannon Beador, and Meghan King Edmonds, all of whom are still estranged from the now-single Gunvalson when the series returns. So who does Vicki enlist as her plus-one when invited to the inevitable season-premiere dinner party? Another original Orange County housewife, naturally: Jeana Keough joins to be her moral support.
“I’m still doing a few episodes this year,” Keough says of her involvement in season 11. “It’s still a fun ride.”
Despite her unhappiness over last season, Gunvalson agrees: “There’s going to be a day I wake up and it’s too much, but for right now, it’s been a great ride,” though she admits that her choice to stay a part the main cast is a “huge decision for myself and my family” every year, and she’s grown weary of some of the drama.
“I think that people have gotten a little more ballsy, more aggressive than it was in the previous times,” Gunvalson says. “We are strong women; we do have opinions. And I’m okay with that, but I’m not okay with hurting people’s integrity or hurting people’s businesses or what have you. So that’s where there’s a line that has to be drawn — this is a reality show, and let’s keep it real.”
“It is reality, obviously,” adds former Real Housewife Lauri Peterson, but “it is a totally different game [now] — and I said ‘game’ and I mean it.” Peterson was a main cast member in the first four seasons and has occasionally appeared as a guest since. In the beginning, RHOC was about documenting the ladies’ family lives, but “it’s shifted to, now, the focus being on the Housewives,” she says, “and, of course, conflict.”
But Gunvalson is tired of conflict. “I’m not in it to win a fight, where four years ago, I wanted to fight until I dropped dead,” she says. “Now it’s kind of like, I don’t need to fight anymore.”
She might not have a choice. Her fellow castmates are holding out for an apology, and the addition of a new Housewife, Kelly Dodd, is sure to bring more drama to Orange County.
“They have that one girl — oh my god,” Keough tells EW, presumably referring to Dodd. “This girl walks up to me, and she says, ‘Hi, I’m the new Housewife!’ I said, ‘Oh, nice to meet you!’ She says, ‘I have an MBA…’ I was like, ‘Oh, that’s great! My daughter’s magna cum laude,’ or whatever. And she goes, ‘Yeah — Married But Available.’
“I’m like, ‘Oh…okay. That’s interesting,’” Keough says. “A little shock mixture — we were on this beautiful boat having this fun party, and this girl goes, ‘I’m married but available.’” Yep, sounds like the The Real Housewives all right.
The Real Housewives of Orange County returns to Bravo for its 11th season on Monday, June 20, at 9:00 p.m.