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Now in its second decade, the Real Housewives franchise has touched on just about every issue imaginable from love, loss, addiction, racism, incarceration, even faked illnesses, so the bar is high for what makes a good season.
At a time where The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, once arguably the most entertaining bunch, spent nearly 20 episodes arguing about proper pet adoption protocol, the Real Housewives of Potomac proved themselves with an exhilarating fourth season that saw a crew member suing one of the husbands, previously unaired production footage treated like the Zapruder film, and a disappearance during an island vacation.
On the phone with EW, The Real Housewives of Potomac star Gizelle Bryant says “my DMs are full of people that are like, ‘Oh my gosh, I just binged RHOP. Where have I been?’ And my response is ‘Yeah, where have you been’ because we've been here, and we've been great I feel since day one.”
While season 5 of the reality series was originally supposed to air in April, it is now premiering this Sunday during a time where audiences have run through the shows they felt they missed, and are looking for something new. Here, Bryant helps EW give five reasons why audiences should catch up on the series, and watch the new episodes that she describes as “out of control.”
A group that sticks together
The Real Housewives of Potomac has the distinction of being the first Housewives series to have four original housewives last five consecutive seasons on the show. Upon learning about this achievement, Bryant playfully takes credit for it, saying it's "because they know that I have a hard time meeting new people.”
In reality, Bryant believes that she, Karen Huger, Robyn Dixon, and Ashley Darby have been able to last within the franchise longer than most Housewives because “we did know each other prior to the show starting, and so that chemistry you can't fake, and it's rare.”
The women’s ability to have a sense of humor about their drama also goes a long way. “I don't want to compare us to other franchises, but I feel we as a group are able to hear each other when there are issues and drama – to the point where we can then understand why one is mad at the other,” notes Bryant. “We listen, and then we give our commentary, but we just don't spend the season on one stupid issue and drive it into the ground because nobody can get over it. No, I think that that's silly in life. Life is too short.”
A side of the DMV area audiences haven’t seen before
Bryant feels confident stating “we literally did put Potomac on the map because no one ever thought about Potomac, knew where Potomac was, cared about Potomac” until the show came along.
Locally though, there was a backlash to the group of Black women, many of whom lived elsewhere, representing the wealthy Maryland neighborhood located just north of Washington, D.C. “Potomac is 95% white. So, for us to be kind of representing Potomac, at first it was tough. We didn't get the love when we were out filming,” says Bryant. “Nobody wanted to allow us their restaurant or their space, or their country club, but now we get all the love in the world.”
Now, with half the cast members in different area codes, different counties, and even a different state, the show is “less about the word Potomac, and more about just who we are,” according to Bryant. “When we film, we're all over the place. So you see a lot of this [D.C., Maryland, and Virginia] area.”
A unique set of views on issues pertaining to Black women
Upon first glance at The Real Housewives of Potomac cast, there were jokes within the Black community about the show being a light skin, “uppity” version of The Real Housewives of Atlanta, the first Real Housewives with a majority Black cast. With all the etiquette talk in season one, that criticism wasn’t too far off, but the show has grown to represent Black women of all different colors, ages, and backgrounds — a rare feat on television.
“We have somebody from like every decade in our group. So when we first started, we had Ashley, she was in her 20s, and then we had Robyn who was in her 30s. Me, I was in my 40s (or still am in my 40s), and then Karen, who's 80 years old,” jokes Bryant. “We can tap into a whole lot of age ranges as far as who's watching us and relating to what's going on in our lives," which she adds, “does help with the longevity of the franchise.”
Diving into subjects like interracial marriage, and what it’s like to come from privilege as a Black person, help the show stand out from the rest of the Real Housewives universe, but as the trailer for this new season shows, the new issue the women are unpacking is the implications that come with two members of the upper crust group, Monique Samuels and Candiace Dillard Bassett, getting into a physical fight that drew a number of headlines.
“When it first happened, I was shocked, appalled, disturbed, because we have prided ourselves in being able to talk about whatever it is, whatever issues we have, right? We use the words, we use our brains, we're all smart women,” explains Bryant. “But now, I'm happy that it opened the door for us to have conversations that are not only important to us, as the cast, but important to Black women everywhere. Black women have always been treated to be beneath society, and the lowest on the totem pole, and the hardest working but least important people under the sun. So, you know, it really allowed us to have great conversations that we wouldn't have had if those things didn't happen.”
A new housewife making history
Dr. Wendy Osefo, a political commentator and professor at Johns Hopkins University, is the newest addition to the show this season. As the first ever African Real Housewife, Bryant teases that Osefo “brings all kinds of Nigerian flavor.”
“We haven't seen that culture and their view on America and what it means to be educated here, and how they raise their children,” remarks Bryant. “And Wendy talks about all of this, so I hope that they show it because it's different from being Black [American], migrating here from Africa now.”
Bryant appreciates more than just what Osefo’s background brings to the show though. Her new castmate is also a member of her sorority, Alpha Kappa Alpha, and is further described by Bryant as “a breath of fresh air, because it's hard to join a group of women in this capacity that have been together for years. It's kind of like where do you fit in, and are you going to try too hard to fit in? And she didn't do that, she just came and was herself. She's very comfortable in her own skin, and I love a confident smart Black woman.”
A season that’s completely finished production
In addition to The Real Housewives of Potomac, Bravo is also currently airing The Real Housewives of New York and Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. Both series were able to finish filming, but have been forced to shoot their final round of confessionals via video conference with varying degrees of success.
Bryant says that will not be the case for The Real Housewives of Potomac. “We were pretty much almost all the way done with that. So we were able to not have to do the whole in-your-house [confessional], which I'm so happy about because no shade to anybody, but that looks crazy. I like the professionalism of us doing it the normal way, which is in the studio.”
All in all, Bryant says “I'm just happy that everybody has stayed with us and appreciated the journey and the ride because this is a roller coaster.”
To get on board, viewers can stream the first four seasons of The Real Housewives of Potomac on Hulu, and watch the new season premiering Sunday, Aug. 2 at 9 p.m. ET on Bravo.