As season 15 of The Real Housewives of Orange County approaches, fans of the original Housewives show can expect a certain amount drama from the cast, even without some of its OGs present. But thanks to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, this installment of RHOC will also be marked with a different kind of drama than its standard catfights and meltdowns because COVID-19 is the star of the show this season.
Filming for the new season began back in February, right around the time when shelter-in-place mandates began to go into effect globally but the United States largely remained open under the guidance of the Trump administration. For the women of the O.C., the coronavirus seemed like a faraway disease that had no impact on their day to day lives, and Bravo proceeded with production of season 15 as expected.
However, five or six weeks into production, the network and its production company Evolution Media had to stop filming. All of Hollywood essentially shut down during that time, with other productions of popular series like Grey’s Anatomy and Glow also temporarily closing up shop amidst the crisis. The O.C. Housewives were told that it wouldn’t be long before they were filming again — perhaps a few weeks at the most — but the truth is that no one was sure exactly when it would be safe to get back to work.
“We thought it was gonna be a two week break, which was fine,” revealed Housewife Emily Simpson in conversation with E! “But then that two week break ended up being like a five to six month break. So that was challenging.”
When the production was given the go-ahead to resume filming, things were very different for the women. In addition to routinely having their temperatures checked and being tested for the coronavirus, Simpson shared that the Housewives weren’t allowed to congregate as a group, often filmed in pairs to promote safety. Also, she confirmed, much of the filming took place outdoors.
Even as Bravo took serious measures to limit possible spread of the virus, there were a few concerning incidents that sparked conversations about the safety of season 15 production for RHOC. Kelly Dodd was stirring up controversy by questioning the effectiveness of mask mandates in Southern California: “No one is dying of the virus!” she falsely claimed in May, later clarifying that she meant in Orange County, where people were in fact dying. And in late July, shortly after filming had begun again, Shannon Beador revealed that she and her children had all tested positive for the coronavirus. To make things even stranger, a number of the Housewives still took a girls’ trip to Lake Arrowhead in the middle of the pandemic.
The oddity of this season isn’t lost on former cast members Tamra Judge and Vicki Gunvalson, who are being super critical of the show out of their own saltiness, but also because of the strange way the season might play out. Gunvalson teased that this season definitely would not be the same without her and Judge’s presence, hinting that fans of RHOC won’t be getting a full experience because "[the O.C. Housewives] are all fake bitches." However, a source told Us Weekly that if the full season is shorter, it would probably be because of the pandemic — not because of any drama between the ladies.
Whether we're getting 12 episodes of 22 this season, fans should be prepared for RHOC to be a very different experience this time around. Will it be safe? Who's to say? Will it be interesting? According to the season 15 super trailer, absolutely.