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After 20 seasons and 14 years on the air, “Keeping Up With the Kardashians” took its final bow on E! last week.
Tonight, the Kardashian-Jenners will sit down with Andy Cohen for their first-ever reunion. But before the famous family tells all, Variety spoke to executive producer Farnaz Farjam, who worked on the series since it premiered in 2007.
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Here, Farjam shares some of the reality show’s biggest behind-the-scenes secrets and looks back on the show’s legacy and the family’s impact.
Caitlyn Jenner was not excited about doing a reality show.
When the show first started in 2007, Kris and Kim were the most excited. But Caitlyn Jenner — who at the time was the most famous member of the family — was not thrilled about being involved with a reality show.
“Kris and Kim were excited and they had lots of plans. Kourtney and Khloe were committed and they were going to have a lot of fun with it,” Farjam recalls of her first meeting with the family in Calabasas back in 2006.
“Caitlyn, at the time was kind of resistant and was kind of grumpy because she had started to lose some of her endorsements and speaking engagements because [the companies] started to shame her for doing this reality show,” Farjam reveals. “She was a little resentful because she thought it was going to hurt her current career. But by Season 2 or 3, she came around and was less resentful about the whole experience because other opportunities opened up. But initially, there were a lot of speaking engagements lost.”
Season 1 did not pay for glam.
Nowadays, the family members are the epitome of glam, even with their own billion-dollar cosmetics businesses. But when “KUWTK” began, production didn’t provide budget for the family to have daily, professional hair and makeup.
“Season 1, they didn’t even have hair and makeup every day. They only got it for interviews. “There was no real glamorous production,” Farjam says. “By Season 2, I figured out a way to pay for glam for them every day because it just became a thing.”
When the show started, the family flew commercial.
“Travel was coach for most and business class was only for Caitlyn and Kris — not even first [class] — although we once we took a flight that didn’t have business class, so we put them in first,” Farjam recalls. “I would say around Season 4, they renegotiated and then everybody had to fly business or better. By Season 7 or 8, we started having to take private jets. There was barely ever commercial flights, but once in a blue moon, you could get someone to fly first.”
Once the family got really famous, the production budget increased due to security. And nannies.
“I knew by Season 4 that they were really famous because you couldn’t walk around anymore. They were just getting recognized left and right. I started feeling it during Season 3, but Season 4 it got really crazy,” Farjam recalls.
The executive producer says that by Season 7, the family was so famous that the production budget increased, due to the need for 24/7 security. “We had to add so much security, just for everybody’s safety,” she says.
Another big budget increase came when the sisters started to have children. Child care became a necessity on-set because without nannies, the cast would be distracted and production would be interrupted.
“Eventually, to hold everyone’s attention, we had to make sure that their nannies were there every day because kids distract you all the time,” Farjam says with a laugh. “The lifestyle changed. Their whole lives evolved. You can just see it.”
Kendall’s rule was to only film with a boyfriend after they had dated for a full year.
The Kardashian-Jenners have been so revealing that most people know everything about them. But one part of their lives that has not been heavily documented is Kendall’s love life.
“I think what people don’t know is how Kendall interacts with her boyfriends because she’s never shown that on the show,” Farjam says.
“Kendall always had this rule that she has to be with someone for at least a year before she even would bring them into the series,” she continues. “It was so funny because her last boyfriend — not this one, but the one before — they almost made it to a year and I was going to make her show him, and then they broke up. I was like, ‘Of course! No!'”
Kylie was open to shooting most of her life — except for her pregnancy
Although Farjam notes that when Kylie was dating — before she met Travis Scott — she pulled back from production a bit. However, she says, she was “participatory for the most part, and she was really participatory during the time with Tyga.”
By the time she started to date Scott was when she shot her own show, “Life of Kylie,” which focused on her life.
“She was also very involved when Caitlyn came out,” Farjam says. “She was very supportive, and she was in a lot of episodes.”
But when Kylie became pregnant, she kept that a secret from mostly everyone on set.
“Here’s the funny thing about Kylie’s pregnancy,” Farjam begins to say. “She found out she was pregnant while she was filming ‘Life of Kylie.’ We didn’t know. She hid it from the cameras.”
However, later on, Farjam watched back the footage and identified the exact moment when Kylie found out that she was pregnant.
“Before I found that footage,” the producer says, “one of the family members told me she was pregnant but that she was keeping it a secret — and I thought they were trying to set me up and trying to find out who the leak was. I was like, ‘This person is lying to me and just trying to see!’ They used to do that sometimes, just to find out who was leaking.”
Who was leaking information to the press was not the “KUWTK” crew.
“Our crew was so trustworthy,” Farjam says. “There was one person who took a picture in one of the girls’ bathrooms and once we saw it, we fired her on the spot. Every time they accused someone on our team of doing it, I was very firm and said, ‘Absolutely not. This team would never ever do that because this is Bunim-Murray’s reputation and that’s not how we conduct business.’ Eventually, they would find out that it had nothing to do with our team, but when things would leak, of course, it’s natural for them to think the people who are watching them very closely could be the ones that are talking. But it wasn’t.”
So, who was it? Farjam is staying tight-lipped: “I can’t say who it was. But, you know, often, it’s people in their inner circle.”
The hours were long.
During the first three seasons, production was filming six days per week. After that, the show would shoot five days per week. A typical production schedule was shooting seven to eight months per year, but some seasons encompassed year-round shooting — though allowing weeks off for holidays.
This jam-packed schedule is likely what led to the family calling it quits after 20 season. In other words, they just wanted a break.
“Season 1 through Season 3, we rolled probably from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. unless we went out with them at night,” Farjam recalls. “Then, we would started around noon and shot with them until, like, 2 a.m. if we were going to Vegas or it was going to be a late night.”
When the cast started to have children of their own, the hours changed.
“Later on, as they had kids and wanted to put their kids to bed, they had more boundaries and wanted to be parents, we shot more from, like, 10 a.m. until 7 p.m., five days per week.”
Kourtney didn’t think she’d be a good mom.
“When I first met Kourtney, she never thought she was going to be a good mom,” Farjam, also a mother, recalls. “She never talked about wanting kids right away. She never wanted any of it. And then she got pregnant accidentally and Mason was born and her whole life and her whole perspective changed. She’s never loved anything more than she’s loved her kids. As she grew from all of her relationships and came into her 40s, she is now recognizing that her ultimate goal in life is happiness. She has become quite the free, fun spirit.”
The tabloids hurt Khloé’s feelings.
“Every time the tabloids say something about Khloé, it’s really hurtful,” Farjam reveals. “I think the tabloids can be really brutal towards her, and in a weird way, bullied her. In the beginning, they always made comments about how she’s not as pretty as the other two, and that was really terrible.”
Farjam praises the youngest Kardashian daughter for empowering women with body positivity, and showcasing her own journey to become her happiest and healthiest self.
“Khloe used to be a little bit more confident in the beginning,” Farjam says. “I don’t know why and I hope she gets it back because she’s so beautiful and has such a big heart and she is so thoughtful.”
The producer adds: “I think all the people beating up on her and commenting to her and saying things to her have kind of landed on her and it’s made her more vulnerable lately. Hopefully she’ll bounce back out of it. I feel like we all have his and lows in life and we get out of it.”
Kanye made sure that Kim’s proposal was a true surprise, even though cameras were around.
When Kanye West proposed to Kim, the celebration was documented during Season 9. But the surprise proposal truly was a surprise — thanks to West’s commitment to the process.
“Kanye actually had a lot to do with that. He was really, really smart. He reached out and said, ‘I want you guys to film this, but you basically have to do everything long lens.’ And then he wanted a camera down on the ground, once she knew, to give it that cool visual,” Farjam explains of the production.
Kanye flew out the crew and the family early and put Kim on a private jet but did not tell her where she was going.
“He took Kim to wherever he took her. She did not know where she was going,” Farjam shares. “She just kind of landed on that stage, and everybody was in the stands, and we just long lens shot it and we planted a mic on the stage. It was orchestrated, and everybody just kept their mouths shut so that she would be authentically surprised.”
Kourtney and Scott’s breakup was one of the hardest moment in the show’s history. Caitlyn’s coming out was another.
“When Kourtney and Scott were going through their breakup and Scott was kind of spiraling, that was really really tough,” Farjam remembers. “You’re trying to help, but at the same time, be mindful of Kourtney’s feelings.”
Another tough moment in the show’s 20 seasons was Caitlyn transitioning.
“I would say that Caitliyn’s coming out was super tough to navigate because you’re trying to be happy for someone who is coming out and be their authentic self but also be mindful of someone who is really hurt because they felt like they were blindsided,” the producer says, referring to Kris’s feelings.
Khloé didn’t want to air all of the tough times with Lamar Odom, out of respect for the NBA star.
Another tough breakup that was documented on the show? Khloé and Lamar Odom.
The producer moved to Dallas with Khloé when Odom got traded to the Mavericks, so she was there every step of the way.
“There were signs that there were things happening and it was just hard,” the producer recalls. “She was just trying to do her best and be supportive and help him out and we were trying not to exploit those things. We didn’t really come out with what was happening to Lamar, until he got pulled over [for a DUI in 2013] because we weren’t going to do that — some things aren’t their stories to tell. Just because they’re being affected by it, it’s not their story to tell.”
Kim and Kanye’s divorce, surprisingly, was not a very difficult subject to cover on the show.
While Kim and Kanye West’s divorce was addressed in the final episodes of “KUWTK,” the producer says that Kim truly took matters into her own hands.
“It wasn’t as hard as it was when I was dealing with Caitlyn and Kris, or Scott and Kourt, or Lamar and Khloé because Kim really kept that to herself,” Farjam says. “She didn’t even really go too far with her family when it came to that — she really did just handle it.”
Though Kim dealt with the divorce rather privately, the producer knew something was going on.
“Obviously, I’ve been watching them for 15 years,” she explains. “So, I can tell when somebody is struggling or going through a lot or has a lot on their mind or they’re behaving in a certain way to escape from something else. I could tell there were things going on. But I didn’t have to really navigate it because he didn’t really come around.”
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