After appearing on the past couple seasons on The Real Housewives of New York City as a guest, original Housewife Jill Zarin may be ready for a real comeback.
The TV star and fabric entrepreneur, who previously said she would be interested in returning to the series as a “friend,” said “nothing’s changed” in her plans despite’s Bethenny Frankel’s sudden exit from the series.
“All I can say is the they’ve started filming and I’m here,” Zarin, 55, told PEOPLE exclusively as she prepared to play in a tennis match with pro John Isner at the Brookfield Place Open in New York City. “I’m at the tennis event today. Watch and see what happens, as Andy Cohen says.”
Frankel confirmed she won’t be on the series for its upcoming 12th season in a statement to PEOPLE last week. She and Zarin infamously feuded on the series, but earlier this year, Zarin said their relationship is “definitely better than it’s ever been.“ (Still she added, “She doesn’t have time for me, and I’m sad about that.”)
When asked specifically about Frankel, whose exit leaves an open spot in the cast, Zarin shook her head. “You’ll have to watch and see what happens. I don’t know what to say,” she said.
A source told PEOPLE that Frankel’s departure was “a sudden decision” that occurred hours before filming for the new season began. Ramona Singer also told PEOPLE that Frankel “did not inform her costars” of the decision, but the source said “Bethenny reached out to many of her former costars Thursday night individually,” and “the conversations between her and the cast were nice and supportive.”
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The source added, “A few women had been previously testing for a spot, one of which is Leah McSweeney,” a 36-year-old friend of costar Tinsley Mortimer. Entertainment Tonight reported that McSweeney, a mother and entrepreneur, would join the series, but PEOPLE’s source said, “reports that she’s a new Housewife are very premature.”
Zarin, meanwhile, moved into a new apartment in N.Y.C. last week, which she told PEOPLE was “stressful, but we’re settled.”
Asked about her boyfriend Gary Brody, Zarin said things between the couple have been “hot and heavy,” adding that “everything’s great” and she’s “very happy.”
Brody helped her train to play with Isner, 34, she added.
“Thank god my boyfriend is an avid tennis player with me!” Zarin said, adding that the couple played three and a half hours of tennis the morning ahead of the match. “He worked me out this morning. We took this very seriously.”
Season 12 of The Real Housewives of New York City is expected to premiere next year.