[This story contains spoilers from the season 11 three-part reunion of Vanderpump Rules.]

The Vanderpump Rules producers surprised the cast when they gathered for the three-part reunion, which concluded on Tuesday night. The Bravo stars are sent the season’s episodes before they air. But, towards the end of the cast get-together, host Andy Cohen announced that the producers had actually held back the final few minutes of the finale so they could watch it together, and capture real-time reactions to the shocking San Francisco scene that saw several of the cast airing out their thoughts about Ariana Madix on camera.


When we talked at the beginning of the season, you spoke about the pressure that season 11 had to follow Scandoval. Now that we’re at the end, how do you think it measured up?

It was the hardest season that we’ve had to make. The group was really divided. We went back into production not too long after the reunion, so you saw where the group really was. I think it’s a super powerful end of the reunion and there are a lot of unanswered questions that are playing out in real time.

What surprised you the most about what the audience reacted to this season?

We weren’t terribly surprised by the audience’s reaction, but what they saw play out was completely real. You see that we really are documenting the relationships of a group of people and, as much as might want everyone to move on and move forward in the timeline of watching a show, you have to respect where everyone is coming from. The group went into the season with really challenged, damaged relationships and you saw what happened when they got together. The audience also shifted a little over the course of the season. At first, they were frustrated that we weren’t just moving on from this, and by the end they were more understanding of where Ariana [Madix] and Katie [Maloney] were coming from. But I think the passion that the audience has is a testament to the show and the investment this group of people still has 11 years in.

The cast was also tough on Ariana about moving on [after her partner Tom Sandoval’s affair was exposed].

This group has been through so many situations and scandals between them. I think it’s tough for some of them to appreciate that this is different. A lot of them had their own experience with moving on from something that was really difficult. And I say that in the context of their lives and the show, because they are one and the same with this group. So I think that’s why they struggled with this. And I also think the intensity of the audience’s reaction was difficult for them.

Part of what you see at the reunion is they all feel as though they were castigated by the audience to some extent for expressing what they did. It was difficult to have a viewpoint that was contrary. And then there is this really meta conversation we’ve gotten into about what it means to do the show. Your real life versus what you see. It’s an interesting dialogue at the reunion where you have one group that is saying, “If you sign up to do this then you have these interactions that become your real life,” versus the other side saying, “No. I’m signing up to be who I am and to do it in a way that feels right and authentic.” There just wasn’t common ground. But we as producers are always saying we don’t force people to do things they don’t want to do. And that’s what you saw. We cannot force group harmony, or even group interaction. It’s a collection of people who are proceeding through this in a way that reflects who they are and where they are in their lives.

Talk about your decision to intentionally hold back the final moments of the finale and have them all watch it together during the reunion.

I thought that was the way to go about this. First of all, not every cast member has been watching the show. [Madix says she hasn’t watched the season.] So I thought it was important to make sure they saw it. I also thought there would be a visceral impact if they had to experience it together on the stage. And that, if they all had to see it at once, that it was something they couldn’t talk about before they were there. So I thought everyone would be accountable for what they said. And then the editorial team did such a wonderful job with the montage and brought us back to prior seasons that I sort of had chills. When we were watching from the control room, we all got chills. It was a super emotional and a really charged moment.

There isn’t an official renewal yet on season 12. And because that finale was such an emotional look back, people are wondering it it could be the end of the show. Was that the intent?

No. No. Obviously there’s been a lot of speculation. People have written the show’s final chapter many times, and the show has continued. So just because it’s a reflective moment that clearly marks the end of one chapter does not necessarily mean that it is the end of the show. You see there is still a lot of fertile ground and developments in their lives, so I think it would be very premature that just because we really close the book on Scandoval in a lot of ways, because it was this moment that sort of blew up everything and that extended into the next season, does not mean necessarily that the show is over.

Andy Cohen explained why the show is taking a pause and not filming this summer, and Lisa Vanderpump called it a hiatus. Cohen said they often do this with the Real Housewives shows, to give the cast a breather to live their lives. Ariana is also hosting Love Island this summer, among other things. Are you taking a risk that by giving them space, some of them may not return?

We thought the break was the right way to go because, to your point, we would have run this back again fairly quickly and it’s clear that everyone needs time to reset. And we do that, as you said, on the other shows. I think we’re going to take a full look at what the group looks like in a period of time and figure out what we want to do next. And that may mean that certain people have to make decisions as well. We don’t want anyone to do the show if it doesn’t make sense for where they are now. Typically, we’ve shot in the early part of July, around there, so we would be in pre-production basically starting next week. And I don’t think that would be great. I don’t think that would have been enough time. So I think we as a show will gather ourselves and look at what we want to do, and that will be informed by what everyone individually wants to do. And then we’ll figure out what the path is going forward.

What have your conversations been with Ariana about returning? She recently said that she has to see if a return makes sense.

We’re respectful of her determining whether this makes sense for her. We’re still figuring out exactly what it is that we plan to do, and that will in part be informed by our conversations with all cast members, including her. She’s focused on a lot of other things right now. So we can have those conversations, but she’s busy. She opened up [sandwich shop] Something About Her and she’s doing Love Island and she’s going back to Broadway, so I think it’s hard to get too heavily involved in conversations before you’re talking about something that is a little bit more serious and concrete. But look, if we were to have come back in the summer, she’s booked and busy. And, good for her.

If season 12 does end up being a reset, could you see the show go on with some version of this cast? Maybe not all of them, and maybe some new faces to shake things up?

I think that’s definitely possible. I think all things are possible. There’s still a strong core there. So I could totally see some version of the bulk of the cast returning and then some notable additions. I think there’s plenty of life. What form that takes, I don’t exactly know. But that’s certainly very possible.

The audience is never privy to the cast’s post-reunion comments. Lala Kent, after the reunion ended, also sounded like she may be reevaluating. Is this typically how they sound after a reunion?

I’ve learned not to make too much of the moment right after the reunion, because that was so emotional and so cathartic that I think that spoke to what she was thinking at the time. I don’t think you could pin her down on just that. We definitely take note of it, but if we had to field the show based on people who were excited about running it right back after the reunion, we would have a very small cast! I’ve gotten a lot of post-reunion resignation notices in my time. And sometimes they reflect someone genuinely coming to an end, and other times they don’t. And they just reflect the moment. The next stretch of time will really tell all.

Ariana was in a much different place this reunion compared to last year. Watching her reaction to the final moments of the episode and telling Tom Sandoval she just wants him out of his life… what change have you seen in her?  

Last reunion was after she very recently discovered the whole clandestine affair that took place over many months. So you saw her show up to the reunion in a revenge dress, and part of her moving on from all of this was just her showing up that day and facing it all down, and I think she was incredibly brave and strong to do so. And then a year later, she’s been through a lot. I think she was not completely over it, because as you noted, this was only a couple months later. But I think she was emerging from the cocoon. That’s what you saw. She has accomplished a tremendous amount personally and professionally over the year and I think she is in a completely different place. She has a bunch of new opportunities and she’s going to have to figure out what she wants to prioritize, where her time and energy is going to go, and whether it makes sense for her to continue. And I think a lot of that will depend on where she is in a few months, and then what the outlook for the show is and who is involved.

Lisa Vanderpump Sultra1news how she walked away from Real Housewives of Beverly Hills to Ariana when telling her that sometimes walking away is what someone needs to do. That’s the most we’ve seen her open up about her exit.

That’s how raw the end of the reunion was. It made everyone on stage take stock of where they are and what they’ve been through. But, they’re also very different experiences. One of them was sharing a stage with someone who did something she simply cannot move on from and cannot forgive. And another was Lisa just feeling like she didn’t want to be in a situation with a group of friends at that point in her life. So, very meta on one hand, but I also think really important for explaining where everyone was coming from emotionally. There’s where you are in your life and where you are on the show. And for Ariana, the tough thing is that in her life she was trying to move on from Tom, and then she was part of a show where she came into contact with him regularly, whereas Lisa was just ready to cut that group out of her life and that just meant leaving the show. So, Ariana was more entangled.

As the showrunner also on Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, how many times have you tried to get Lisa back, even for a cameo?

I think that has sort of run its course, because I think that’s a show where Lisa and that group of friends has moved on. It’s one of those things where you can’t go back in time, that’s what I would say. But, it was a hell of a run!

The Vanderpump finale and reunion blew through the fourth wall. Does it make you nervous or excited that the show can blur that line more now?

I thought we needed to obliterate the fourth wall to tell this story. Because the dilemma was about the lines, if any, between your real life and the show. And for Ariana, that was spending time with someone she wanted out of her life for the sake of the show. So I do hope going forward that there is not that same distinction. And I don’t think there would be. These were extraordinary circumstances. So we’ll continue to break the fourth wall where we need to in order to tell the real story, but I don’t anticipate us heading down the path where the show is about being on the show. We want to stay grounded in the show being about everyone’s shared experience together as a group of friends. But there was no other way of doing it, because fundamentally this is what Ariana was talking about. She was saying: This is my life, this person is not in my life. And the argument on the other side was: Well, actually you’ve chosen to continue on the show, so he is in your life. You had to give voice to both those things. But I do hope we veer back to the more conventional way we made the show, where the focus is on what happens between them and not their existence on a show together.

Have you tried a Something About Her sandwich yet?

No! I’m trying to, but there are lines around the block! I’ll wait until it dies down a bit. But they look delicious. I did not get one at the reunion, i headed home and went to sleep!

Whether Ariana returns or not, is there more to mine from Tom Sandoval or do you think he has run his course?

I think there is a lot of story left to tell. I think it’s tough. We’ll see where he goes from here. He’s in a new relationship. He’s touring with his band. I think he’s figuring out what his life looks like from here. I don’t know exactly what that means. Look, he’s someone who provokes as strong a reaction as anyone right now, but it seems there’s a continual interest in what he’s doing. I wouldn’t say that he has run his course.

What did you think about his viral New York Times interview?

Oh, God. I think that was tough. In trying to tell his side of the story, he said a bunch of really regrettable things. And I think that all piled on this season. The net effect of that was that the audience had started to potentially feel like they wanted to give him another chance, and then had a really hard time doing that. So I think that all really worked against him. It’s the same thing time and again, there were a lot of unfortunate and self-inflicted things that certainly didn’t help.

Would you say you have a timeline on when you will start making some decisions on season 12?

We don’t have a definite timeline. It isn’t indefinite, but at the same time, we’re not under any version of the ticking clock. I imagine we’ll know more later in the fall.

Could you ever imagine Vanderpump ending here?

No. On the one hand, I can’t believe it’s been 11 years, on the other hand, it feels like it’s been 111 years. That show has had many lives and so I’m not so sure this is the last one. But it certainly to date has been a hell of a run.

How are the ratings?

Really strong. And that’s an indication that the audience interest is still there. I don’t think the audience wants to watch the exact same show we just made, they never do. We wouldn’t make that show, and that show might not work for the people who are in it. I think we will take a thorough look at what our options are and potentially then come up with a path forward that is fresh and different, but at the same time use the foundation of the show that has been so successful over the last 11 years. We don’t know exactly what that is, but we’ll figure out who wants to come back, how that makes sense, how that all stitches together, and how we can potentially continue the show but set it on a different course. But, that’s always what we’re charged with. This season, we sort of knew. The only mystery was whether Rachel [Leviss] was going to come back. But we knew we were going to continue telling that story. And why it felt like there was finality at the end of the season and then at the end of the reunion is because that story has been told. But that doesn’t mean that’s where the entire book ends.

You launched the spinoff The Valley and before it premiered, former Vanderpump stars Jax Taylor and Brittany Cartwright announced their split. It was like a mini Scandoval 2.0 in the sense that your cameras fired back up and a new trailer was cut. How surprised were you?

I’ve been more surprised before. (Laughs) I think we saw their strain over production on The Valley this year. I was more surprised by the timing of it, because I thought they would have made it through the show’s premiere or even the entire season. But I think they just simply couldn’t, because the tension was too great. It all sort of burst open when it did.

Do you foresee a similar conflict with Jax and Brittany on The Valley, or do you think they will be able to keep filming together?

It’s a little different. Because Ariana and Tom was so extreme. She had cut him out of her life apart from the fact that, as Lala pointed out, they lived together. It’s very different for Jax and Brittany because, among other things, they share a child. So they are still in each other’s lives and they do still have the same friend group. Ariana and Tom had the same friend group in an extended sense, but part of the challenge was they didn’t have the same friends within the same friend group. So that’s different with Jax and Brittany. They are more connected, whether they like it or not.

What are your future plans for The Valley?

We’re very encouraged by the debut of The Valley. I think it’s established itself in its own right. I know there’s a ton of speculation about [Vanderpump] transfers over to The Valley, but that cast is pretty full right now. I would imagine you’ll continue to see crossover like you have, but that cast is bursting at the seams. It’s not like we’re in need of additional cast members. Between Jax and Brittany, Jesse and Michelle and a whole bunch of other developments, we really have a great focus for that show and we’re exciting about running that back because, God knows, ff we had cameras up right now there would be a ton to cover, and there will be when we do.

What can you then tease about the next season of Real Housewives of Beverly Hills?

Beverly Hills is bananas. It is off to a great start. Obviously, there is a lot going on publicly in their personal lives, but there is a new fresh energy. They were all just on a trip together this weekend and it was all the things. It was bonding and healing and dramatic, and it shifted relationships in ways that aren’t expected. I could not be more excited about where it’s headed.

How are the new cast additions fitting in?

Boz [Saint John] is fearless, so she’s come in and she fits in. She’s very bold. And then Kathy [Hilton], obviously, is in her full glory, and is great and fun and wacky, as is Jennifer Tilly. So there’s a ton of fun. I think it’s really funny, and it’s also raw and real. Just really off to a gangbusters start.

What about the OGs, Kyle Richards and Dorit Kemsley, who have each gone public with their marital separations and who were fractured in their friendship when we last saw them?

There is a lot of water under the bridge, so I would say they’re figuring out what’s going on with them personally, but they both have very strong feelings. They have let each other know what they think out of the gate.

Coming out the 2023 strikes and other conversations around creating fair and safe spaces in the unscripted space, how has this past year prompted you to make changes on your reality shows?

Much was made about the new protocols [on NBCUniversal shows]. But the truth is that we’ve taken a really ongoing and progressive view of how we make the shows. So we’ve just continued to just make sure we’re being conscientious and responsible. There’s additional scrutiny, but we’ve continued to evolve as we’ve made the shows over the years anyway, so we’re constantly monitoring the safety, well-being and health of everyone involved. Notwithstanding some of the headlines or unfortunate things that do happen, I think that people would be surprised by the level of responsibility that is shown throughout the productions. A lot of the crews and the staffs have been on the shows for many seasons, so there’s an open dialogue with the group who is making the show and the cast in the show to make sure that everyone feels comfortable. We aren’t immune from the headlines, but there are systems that we put into place anyway and they all seem to be working pretty well.

Vanderpump Rules season 11 and its reunions stream on Peacock.