Advertisement

‘Real Housewives of Salt Lake City’ Bosses Address Monica Garcia’s Uncertain Future: ‘It’s a Complicated Equation’

Note: The following story contains spoilers about Part 3 of “The Real Housewives of Salt Lake City” Season 4 reunion.

After 18 episodes of rumors, nastiness and online trolling, “The Real Housewives of Salt Lake City” wrapped up its fourth season with a supersized conclusion that left the cast bewildered and fans with one burning question: Will Monica Garcia return for more?

Part 3 of the Bravo reality series’ Season 4 reunion followed as host and executive producer Andy Cohen questioned Garcia and the other cast members — including Heather Gay, Lisa Barlow, Whitney Rose, Meredith Marks and Angie Katsanevas — about the explosive finale dinner in Bermuda. During the meal, Gay unveiled the shocking revelation that Garcia, who joined the cast in Season 4, was secretly running the troll Instagram account Reality Von Tease, a social media handle responsible for spreading rumors and leaked footage about former Housewife Jen Shah and the other cast members since 2021.

Monica Garcia on "The Real Housewives of Salt Lake City" Reunion Season 4 (Bravo)
Monica Garcia on “The Real Housewives of Salt Lake City” Season 4 reunion (Bravo)

Though “Salt Lake City” is no stranger to scandal in its four-season history — cameras famously caught the FBI’s manhunt of Shah before she was charged and eventually found guilty of wire fraud — the latest installment upped the ante as Garcia, who notably also served as an FBI informant in Shah’s case, was revealed to have spread rumors about the women she later befriended on national television.

The reveal sent shockwaves across the Bravo universe, with fans and even members of the cast left wondering how much Bravo producers knew ahead of casting Garcia on the show, as well as during production of the season. NBCUniversal current production SVP Noah Samton and VP Kemar Bassaragh insist that no one involved with the production knew Garcia’s secret until filming for the finale took place.

Still, they are hopeful that the “Salt Lake City” cast will come together and overcome the latest scandal. Whether that includes Monica remains to be seen. (People reported Tuesday that Garcia has exited the series, and Cohen said she would be “taking a break” on “Watch What Happens Live” after Part 3 aired.)

“I would very much like Monica to be back on ‘Housewives’ next season. But this is an ensemble cast with a group of friends, and it has to make sense,” Samton told TheWrap ahead of the premiere of Part 3. “You can’t force somebody in there who doesn’t make sense for the rest of the cast. So we’re trying to figure it out.”

TheWrap spoke with the executives about Garcia’s uncertain future on “Salt Lake City,” Gay finally addressing the truth behind her Season 3 black eye cliffhanger, and when the ladies might reunite to kick off Season 5.

TheWrap: What drew you to casting Monica this season?

Samton: We actually explored casting Monica for the prior season. So originally, we were talking about bringing her on [for Season 3], and for various reasons it didn’t end up working out. When we got back to casting this season, her name came back up again. We met with her for the second time. Kemar and I went to Salt Lake City and we met a few different women — we went with the production company, Lisa Shannon and [showrunner] Lori Gordon from Shed Media — the four of us met with Monica and she had an immediate presence. She was funny and quick on her feet. She had amazing, fascinating stories of her life that you heard on her first season of the show. We walked out of that meeting, and I was just like, wow!

Bassaragh: When we left Salt Lake, everyone kept going back to Monica. Because her presence is so dynamic that it fills a room, and when you leave, you’re still thinking about her. And that was one of the reasons why she was one of our picks for this season.

Samton: If you look at the history of “Salt Lake City,” one of the things that really sets that franchise apart is just the diversity of the cast — and that’s religious diversity, racial diversity. There are people from different walks of life with very different life experiences that have come together in Salt Lake, and Monica really felt like a completely different type than the rest of the cast in a really interesting way, that we thought she would be a really great addition to the ensemble.

Monica Garcia and her mother, Linda Darnell (Bravo)
Monica Garcia and her mother, Linda Darnell (Bravo)

Monica claimed during the reunion that she told producers about her involvement with Reality Von Tease during her first interview in the casting process, which Andy denied on the spot. When did the show learn about Monica’s role with the Instagram account, and what do you make of her comments?

Samton: We learned about it when that scene was shot in Bermuda. We got a call from the showrunner afterwards going, “Oh my God, you will not believe what we just found out.” We were shocked and to be completely honest, I didn’t even understand what they were talking about, because I’m not that big on social media. And they’re like, “Oh my God, this account’s Reality Von Tease.” And I was like, what is happening? But that’s when we learned about it. So, in terms of Monica talking to a producer about it at some point in casting, I don’t know, there’s [various] producers, casting producers that somebody might meet [during the process]. Maybe there was a conversation that was never relayed to anybody. I don’t honestly know what that story was.

Bassaragh: But I can guarantee if anyone at the upper level knew that this was the case we would have had a really serious conversation about it. I know that myself, the production company, the SVPs there, no one knew about it. So that’s the truth and when we actually learned about it. Noah and I just went like “what?” So someone had to explain it to us again.

Samton: They had to explain it to us like 25 times.

Other people in the cast including Heather and Lisa, voiced during the reunion that they thought Bravo knew the secret and cast her on the show Monica regardless. Have there been conversations with the cast about this topic?

Bassaragh: There had not been a conversation with the cast about the topic until we all knew what it was. And this was, like Noah said, when we found out after the scene was shot in Bermuda. That’s when we all knew what this was. So Bravo — Noah and I — did not know this going in, so we didn’t cast Monica based off that. We actually just felt like she was such a breath of fresh air when we saw her… We actually thought they would all love her and be great friends. That’s what I always say about Reality TV: We always have a beginning going into it, but we never have an ending. None of us could have ever predicted that this was going to be the outcome.

Samton: You would never cast somebody who was sort of on their way to being a one-season wonder, because it’s not a good investment for us. The amount of time and effort and money; the blood, sweat and tears that the producer pours into any cast member on the show; it’s much better for everybody involved if it’s a long-term investment. To risk that somebody may not be able to maintain ongoing relationships with the rest of the cast, we’d never willingly go into a situation like that.

How do you address the broken, or bruised, trust with the cast that stemmed from the aftermath of this season?

Samton: When something like that comes out, everybody’s paranoid and everybody asks a lot of questions. That happened and we had lots of discussions with producers, and we asked a lot of questions, and we were paranoid of what’s going on here. Who knew? Did anybody know? So it’s been an ongoing discussion in figuring out what everybody did or didn’t know. But I don’t actually think there is bruised trust. I think they understand what really happened and that this was not something that anybody expected.

Bassaragh: Yeah, because when you think about life in general, if something happens that takes you by a storm, you start asking questions, you’re trying to figure it out. And so the women were in that process of trying to make sense of what was happening around them. Anyone that’s on reality television that’s put in any situation always thinks like, “someone did something here.” So I think Noah and I are used to it by now. But a lot of times we are able to talk to them, calm them down, just let them know that we have nothing to gain from breaking this trust. So why would we put ourselves in that situation? I guess cooler heads prevail. They understood this was just a moment. But in that time, you have a lot of people questioning everything, just trying to make sense of it all.

Samton: There’s been 1,000 conspiracy theories from 1,000 Housewives about, “Oh, you guys put this in the show, or you edited this this way because you were trying to make me look bad or make this happen.” It’s a very vulnerable spot to be on television and expose your whole personal life to the world, and hand all this material over to producers and say, do with it what you will and then hope that you come out looking good. And as you know, there’s moments where not everybody looks good. So everybody’s always worried like “Was this done deliberately? or, why am I being targeted here?” So this is really nothing new in the world of “Housewives.”

Monica was caught lying several times during the reunion, including about how she approached producers to try to get cast on the show. What’s the status of Monica’s relationship with production?

Samton: I mean, we think she is amazing television and I am personally fascinated. I want to continue watching her. Not just as an executive on the show, I’m also a fan and I definitely want to see what’s next for Monica. This is a challenging situation because the other women still feel a certain way about her, they’re entitled to feel how they feel and they have been betrayed by her. I think it’s a very confusing situation, trying to untangle [this] before the next season. I would very much like Monica to be back on “Housewives” next season. But this is an ensemble cast with a group of friends, and it has to make sense. You can’t force somebody in there who doesn’t make sense for the rest of the cast. So we’re trying to figure it out.

Bassaragh: And let’s be real, this is not the first “Housewives” situation we’ve been in. We’ve been down this road with many, many Housewives — on “New Jersey,” on “Atlanta” — so it’s nothing we haven’t been put into before, but what we’ve learned is that people’s feelings evolve, people’s feelings change. And I know you’ve seen at the end of the reunion, where Andy says, “Well, time will tell.” Sometimes people just need a little time. We don’t know because we are all still on that high. So by the time next season comes who knows where these women will be? So it’s an open-ended question. It’s not a new challenge for us, but with time, we’ll be able to give a more definitive answer.

Samton: And remember, Bermuda may have happened months ago, but we just shot the reunion only about a month ago. So we shoot the finale and feelings are really on edge, and then people calm down a little bit. Then the reunion everything blows it up again, and then anytime something airs, it blows up again. So they’re all very much still going through this process right now.

You’ve previously told press that conversations are ongoing about the possibility for Monica’s return. How much does the other cast member’s refusal to film with her play into whether Monica could come back for Season 5?

Samton: That’s a complicated question. It definitely plays in but at the same time, they are not the ones who decide who goes on the show. I think if they were allowed to make those choices, you’d have very different casts on a lot of “Housewives” shows right now. It really is about how do we make this work? And what do we have to take into consideration, and how are we being fair to everybody involved? It’s a really complicated equation.

Has Monica herself expressed interest in coming back?

Samton: We’ve had conversations with her. I don’t want to reveal where she stands right now. I think that’s her business to share.

real-housewives-of-salt-lake-city-andy-cohen-heather-gay-whitney-rose-lisa-barlow-bravo-jocelyn-prescod
Andy Cohen, Heather Gay, Whitney Rose and Lisa Barlow in “The Real Housewives of Salt Lake City” reunion. (Jocelyn Prescod/Bravo)

The other big discussion in Part 3 was the story behind Heather’s black eye, and how she covered for Jen Shah for months, including addressing that she once insinuated a producer might have done it to her. How did producers address the incident with Heather? How is her relationship with production now?

Samton: We had those conversations many, many times. Obviously, there was a tremendous amount of concern from the production company, and the network, about one of our cast members waking up with a black eye. We want to make sure we’re on a safe set. We don’t want anybody else to get injured. Was it an accident? Was it a deliberate attack? There were a lot of questions and Heather was not comfortable answering them at that point. She was very evasive. I don’t think she was serious when she said maybe a producer did it. She was just trying to steer the conversation away from what she wasn’t comfortable talking about. And those conversations continued for months, they continued after the season wrapped, they continued when we were in post-production. There were dozens and dozens of conversations about it. And it was a pretty frustrating situation at the time. Nobody was thrilled with how Heather avoided the situation.

But in hindsight — and after she explained to everybody why she was quiet about it and why she didn’t reveal what happened — I think we understand that she went through a very difficult situation, and she wasn’t comfortable being open about what happened. I think you see that in that third part of the reunion. She was very honest there… One of the things that we always say about “Housewives” is that everybody makes mistakes, right? The best Housewives can ultimately own up to their mistakes. That’s what Heather’s done, and I think we’re moving past it.

Jen Shah famously released a statement from prison after the finale aired to disprove that she gave Heather the black eye. And she’ll surely have a lot to say after Part 3 airs. What is your response to Jen’s comments?

Samton: Jen was a fantastic Housewife, and she continues to prove why she was on the show in the first place. She has a very strong opinion and she sees the world the way she sees it, and she tells her side. She’s entitled to do that.

After this bombshell finale and reunion, where does the show go from here? Can the group move on from this?

Samton: I mean look, I’m a little scared because we have set the bar very high on this show. If you look at what’s happened every season —Jen getting arrested practically on camera and then ultimately going away. Then Monica — it’s like… How are we going to top that next season? That’s always our goal, to make it just as entertaining and fantastic TV. So we have a very tall hill to climb.

Bassaragh: But I have faith in our women, because something is going to happen. That’s life, but I feel like “Salt Lake City” is like Murphy’s Law, or whatever can go wrong will go wrong … So I feel like while we are looking forward, these women have always done a good job to band together. You can tell that they all have deep-rooted history with each other, so no matter the obstacles, they always seem to come out on the other side of it.

Monica is the big question mark with fans, but it seems like all of the Housewives were left unsure about what happens next. Is there any concern that anyone else won’t return next season?

Samton: I don’t want to get too far ahead of ourselves with giving away where we’re going next season. I think that the original women who started the show have really been through the fire, and I don’t think they’re afraid of anything at this point. Whoever comes back, I think it’s going to be another great season.

How quickly will cameras turn back on?

Samton: I’ll say this about it. There’s many things that make “Salt Lake” unique, but it is a winter show. Salt Lake City is a winter town, that’s the backdrop of the show. It looks beautiful in the winter. When the spring starts to roll around, it gets very muddy in town — they call it the mud season, as the snowmelt comes in. So we like to roll cameras while winter is still happening.

All episodes of “The Real Housewives of Salt Lake City” are now streaming on Peacock.

This conversation was edited for clarity and length.

The post ‘Real Housewives of Salt Lake City’ Bosses Address Monica Garcia’s Uncertain Future: ‘It’s a Complicated Equation’ appeared first on TheWrap.