Here’s what: Bravo’s iconic clubhouse is getting a new look, but according to Watch What Happens Live host Andy Cohen, “it will still be really intimate.”
EW talked with the late-night host and face of the reality network about the move from a 22-seat clubhouse to a venue double its size starting in the New Year (see exclusive photos below). Filmed in New York City, the popular after-show began in July 2009 and now serves as the nightly news for Real Housewives fans and other Bravo watchers.
The expanded interview space features a larger bar, a fireplace, original audience seats from The Oprah Winfrey Show, oversized Lite Brite screens (per Cohen’s obsession), and a performance space for more dance hits, hopefully from the likes of Countess LuAnn.
The fresh and roomy space will be unveiled live on the Jan. 3 episode of Watch What Happens Life with Andy Cohen. The episode, which will feature celebrity guests Erika Girardi (The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills) and Kenya Moore (The Real Housewives of Atlanta), airs at 11 p.m. ET on Bravo on Tuesday.
EW chatted with Cohen about the new digs. Read the full interview and see the first look photos below.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: What was the initial inspiration to expand the clubhouse?
ANDY COHEN: We’ve been flirting with the idea of expanding the studio for some time. Here we are now with the possibility of a larger space upstairs from where we are now. So we just decided to go for it.
WWHL is loved for its intimate feeling, so how are you planning on keeping that while you expand?
People are starting to tweet me to say they’re really freaked out, like, “Oh no, we love the clubhouse, what are you doing,” but the integrity of the clubhouse will remain; it’s just going to be a little bit bigger. For me, I remember when we didn’t even have an audience, and then we added an audience. Even though it was only 22 people, the energy of those people in the room, it was so exciting for me to have them there and to have people to perform for, so now the idea that we’re going to double that room and have 50 people is really cool. But no, it will still be really intimate. We’re bringing all of our little tchotchkes upstairs. The show is the show, and at this point, we can’t bail on it.
A burning question for Bravo fans: How can they be in the audience? Is there any secret way to get in?
Not really. We’re trying to open it up and make it more user-friendly. People used to ask who those people were in the audience, and so each guest gets two seats, that’s four, our sponsors get four seats, that’s eight, then we’ve got the bartender who gets two seats, that’s 10, so that’s half the audience right there. Then usually we’ve got about six people who’ve been on charity auctions, ’cause we give tickets away constantly for those, so we’ve raised over $2 million at this point selling our seats. We’re going to try to figure out a way to make this work a little better though.
The new space features actual audience chairs from The Oprah Winfrey Show. How did you score those?
Yes! We found seats from the original Oprah Winfrey Show, and those are going to be our VIP special audience seats. I think we got four, and they’re real seats from the show. It’s funny though — we bought them online, they were just for sale!
What are some other new features you’re looking forward to unveiling?
So for Lite Brites, right now we have one of downtown St. Louis, which is my hometown, and then we’re adding one of the dancing bears from the Grateful Dead, and any Deadhead will recognize them to throw a ‘Hey!’ to the other Deadheads who watch the show. We’ve got a secret door for guests. We’ve got access to a roof deck. We’ve got a fake fireplace. It’s all good!
There have been some amazing live performances in the clubhouse, including from Countess LuAnn and John Mayer. Are there any similar plans for upcoming shows?
We want more Housewives performances but also more performances in general. We’ve had the Scissor Sisters perform, John Mayer, and Bob Weir performed this year, so we’ve had more low-key unplugged performances, and we’d love to amp that up a little bit.
What’s your must list for guests to have on in the new clubhouse?
It’s really the group that I always say which is Madonna, I was always hoping for Michelle Obama but it doesn’t really seem like that’s going to happen, there’s honestly a ton of people. Beyoncé, Justin Timberlake, and Chris Pratt I would love to have ’cause he’s never been on.
How about live reunions or reunion shows in general, like you did with The Real Housewives of Miami and Southern Charm?
You know what, that’s so funny that you say that, I had never given that a thought, but now that you say it, I think we’ll be way better equipped to do a reunion. I think that’s a really good idea.