Nine seasons in and still going strong, Vicki Gunvalson and the show that started it all, Real Housewives of Orange County, return to Bravo for a season full of drama, exotic locales and oh yeah, more drama.
"It's extensive, it's extreme," Vicki told E! News of the new batch of episodes. "I think it's going to be a great season—new blood, new drama and new issues. A little bit of drama between me and Brianna, but also a new sense of peace for me. If I can get it…Lord knows I've been through hell and back with my surgeries and my divorce and all this s--t going on all the time!"
Still, after all these years, Vicki insits, "I'm always having fun. I can have fun in a box. Regardless of the show, I'm always having fun."
Vicki, who is the only remaining cast member on the reality show, just took home the Real Housewives Awards Lifetime Achievement honor. Over the nine seasons on the show, viewers have seen Vicki's kids grow up, her marriage to Donn fall apart and her business take off. It's been good times, bad times and all of them on camera.
"There are a lot of things you get out of being on a reality show. It helps your business. It gives me a platform to talk to other women about things I'm passionate about—whether it's finances or empowerment. And I think it can bring a whole new light to a hard life," Vicki said. "You go through a divorce or your kids leaving the house and you've got another sense of purpose other than just going to work every day. The experiences have been something I can't change, but a lot of it has been amazing."
Between seasons eight and nine, there was some turnover with the cast. Gone are Gretchen Rossi and Alexis Bellino and in their places are Shannon Beador and Lizzie Rovsek. Tamra Judge and Heather Dubrow also return for the wild ride. Vicki said the shakeup was "good."
"It was time for a change. Gretchen had truly worn herself out with Tamra and I, especially. There was way too much hurt that had gone on with her and Slade to me personally and then also to Tamra. So I think it was time because she wasn't having any type of collaboration with the other women and when you act like that, there's no show. You have to be able to work together. I wish her the best, but it was time for her to go and do her own thing. I just don't think you can be on a reality show with five or six women and not have a relationship with any of them. It's tough to do."
Even without Gretchen and Slade, the level of drama is still high in Orange County. In the new season trailer, it looks like the remaining Orange County veterans may be turning on each other.
"Well, Tamra and I have always been close and we'll be close long after the show. We've been through too much together. But yeah, it did kind of bond us and give us a sense of camaraderie," she told us. And what about Heather? "You know, I love Heather. But as relationships go, you're going to have some ebb and flow and have disagreements and differing opinions," Vicki said. "You know, we're filming a reality show—they want us to have different opinions on things."
Real Housewives of Orange County airs Mondays, 9 p.m. on Bravo.
—Reporting by Beth Sobol
(E! and Bravo are both part of the NBCUniversal family.)