How Does Bravo Choose “Real Housewives’ Cast Members?

The Real Housewives of Orange County

The Real Housewives franchise continues to tear up the ratings for the last 12 years so it is natural to wonder: what’s the secret sauce to choosing the right women for the series?

Some cast members like Vicki Gunvalson from The Real Housewives of Orange County have significant staying power. Whereas others like Peggy Sulahian (who?) fizzle after a single season. While there may not be an exact science in selecting the cast, there is a method.

One Bravo executive shares the process they go through to not only poach new cast members but also determine who stays (and who goes).

The cast is first evaluated

While Bravo won’t cop to saying they “fire” any of the wives, they definitely do an inventory before the upcoming season. Bravo executive, Ryan Flynn told The Daily Dish podcast the review is a collaborative effort.

“It takes a village,” Flynn said. “It is definitely not a one-person decision. Every season always starts with who wants to come back? Who maybe doesn’t want to come back?” What do we feel like in terms of what might be missing [from] the dynamic within the group?”

So do cast members get fired?

THE REAL HOUSEWIVES OF NEW YORK CITY — “Reunion” — Pictured: (l-r) Ramona Singer, Sonja Morgan, Bethenny Frankel — (Photo by: Charles Sykes/Bravo)

Mystery surrounds the concept of whether cast members are fired (or not). The rumor mill churned when Carole Radiziwill from The Real Housewives of New York City was allegedly fired for her alteration with both cast member Bethenny Frankel and producer Andy Cohen.

Frankel didn’t help matters by tweeting, “Bravo has reasons for not asking hwives to return. It’s based on research & focus groups & YOU. Aside from 3 years I left, no RHONY cast member has ever quit. One saying they chose to depart & attributing it to me is fiction. It’s healthier to be truthful about a hard situation.”

However, Flynn insists the decision to leave the show is mutual. “Most often than not it is a mutual understanding and a decision and it’s not even so much of a we’re telling someone to leave,” he told Bravo’s The Daily Dish. “Everyone knows the time is just right.” What defines that ‘right time’ could be a myriad of things, according to the exec. “Whether it’s a first season Housewife that just didn’t click or never sort of found the rhythm, or whether it’s someone who’s been on many seasons who is just a very different person from when we started with them and their life is in a place now where it just maybe doesn’t make sense for us to be sort of in their lives every day.”

So how do they get new cast members?

Typically a current cast member is already connected to a potential new member. “We always start with the women, sort of the core group that we think is coming back,” Flynn says. “It’s always like, ‘Who do you know that we should know?’ Because it’s always best to have a real-life connection and to have that history.”

For instance, cast member Dorinda Medley from RHONYC previously knew Luann de Lesseps and Ramona Singer before joining the cast. “And I think we definitely see that on The Real Housewives of New York City,” Flynn remarks.Like it always felt like Dorinda [Medley] was there, because in a way she always was. It always felt like if you just turned the camera a couple of feet one way or the other, Dorinda has always been there. And so that’s why I think her inclusion has been so successful. It’s just so natural.”

But cast members still audition

THE REAL HOUSEWIVES OF ORANGE COUNTY — “Femme Finale” Episode 1318 — Pictured: (l-r) Gina Kirschenheiter, Emily Simpson — (Photo by: Phillip Faraone/Bravo)

The casting “tape” still rules. So new prospects are interviewed by the Bravo team to see if there is a fit. “There are interviews on tape,” Flynn says. “We’ve now gotten to a point where when we sort of narrow the list down, we’ll go do a home shoot, just sort of a slice of life. What does a day in the life look like for our top choices? You know [we] meet husbands, meet kids, meet friends…You know what does that life look like?”

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