Ariana Madix and Tom Sandoval are gearing up for what is likely to be a very memorable Vanderpump Rules reunion.
Tom, Ariana and their castmates were set to film the season eight reunion on April 3, but that shoot was scrapped due to the near-worldwide shutdown amid the coronavirus pandemic. While they don't know for sure, Tom and Ariana are under the impression that the cast will now shoot their reunion virtually, from their own homes, something The Real Housewives of Atlanta is doing this week. Ariana is skeptical about how the whole thing will go.
"I have to be honest, it's hard to really [think about it]," she admits. "I know that it's not, it's not that, oh, none of it matters, because yeah, these are our friends and things we care about and people we care about, but given everything that's happened [in the world] since, I mean, we stopped filming in August and so, you know, with everything that's been happening since January, February of this year, it's kinda hard to put a whole lot of importance on that stuff. So, it's gonna be a little bit of mental gymnastics to get into the swing of talking about it."
"I think it could go either way," Tom interjects. "I feel like people have maybe gotten, not everybody, but people have gotten more time to sort of look inward and … if anything, it could be making them stronger, in a sense."
"We all get caught up in life, we get caught up in these moments, whatever, and I think we all kind of have time to sort of take a step back, evaluate and really sort of realize what's important," he says. "So, in a sense, maybe it could make some of these friendships stronger, you know?"
A virtual reunion will have its own host of new things to troubleshoot, like the issue of speaking over one another while hashing things out; video chat technology typically follows the loudest voice, which means a mute button will be necessary to make sure everyone's heard. And, as Tom points out, the Vanderpump Rules cast has a habit of popcorn discussing issues, jumping from one topic to the next.
"I'm sure we're going to dive right in like we always do," Tom says. "Normally, we sit in those chairs for eight hours and hash everything out, but sometimes things get, like, we talk about something and then we talk about something else and we go back to it. … I think what we're really gonna try to do this time is to just sort of, like, hit a subject, hit everything about it from all angles, really talk about it, work through it and then move on completely."
If that turns out to be the case, then the season eight reunion might actually be quite healing, giving everyone a chance to say their piece, in full. Ariana jokes that if something comes up that she doesn’t want to discuss, she’ll just pretend her video chat froze until they move on. That trick would come in handy when having to address Jax Taylor. Both Tom and Ariana have had their issues with their longtime co-star this season, most notably Tom. Jax has said he regrets having him in or at his wedding to Brittany Cartwright, and spent a good part of the episode that showed their big day bashing Tom, who calls the whole ordeal “frustrating.”
"I'm not current -- not even a current, active friend -- but as a friend to him, seeing, like, such an amazing time like his wedding be overshadowed by him constantly talking s**t about me when it's, like, if you don't like me or care about me, I shouldn't be mentioned," Tom says. "And I'm annoyed with him for overshadowing his wedding with his hatred of me or whatever, that's frustrating to me, you know? I don't know. If I was Brittany, I'd be pissed."
Tom admits that he doesn’t know if he and Jax "will ever be exactly the same that we were," a sad turn for a friendship of nearly 20 years.
"I can't really predict what's gonna happen," he confesses. "All I can do is control myself. I can't control what he says on Twitter, or what he says about me."
"I feel like I'll know more once we have our reunion, you know, things will become more clear," he adds. "But yeah, it's been interesting. I've had a lot of time to think about those things. I just, I don't want to say anything just yet."
Ariana has her reservations about Tom and Jax patching things up. She's been honest that she has no interest in being around Jax after he bashed her publicly, questioning her sexuality and motives.
"I feel like in the world of this group and our show … if someone comes -- and not that he has, or not that he would apologize to you, right? Whether or not you take that as genuine, or whether or not you still have reservations, if you don't accept that apology and then, like, start hanging out with that person again, then you're always accused of having a grudge," she notes. "And then it becomes this whole thing, this saga we're all gonna follow of, like, will they be friends again?"
"It's very annoying," she continues. "I don't know if you can see that there's kind of like a cycle, and it's happened with multiple people on our show, but it's, like, this same cycle. It's so predictable and you know what? It's not about holding a grudge so much for me, it's about thinking about what is important and what, even in the best of times, what was that friendship like? What did you gain from having that person as a friend, emotionally? Mentally? And if you can't really say that there was a lot that you were, like, you know, why even go down that road again?"
That cycle is on display as this season winds down, with Kristen Doute at odds with Stassi Schroeder and Katie Maloney-Schwartz, collectively known as the Witches of WeHo. Parts of the friend group at the heart of the show seem to be fracturing beyond repair eight years into VPR, but as Ariana notes, that doesn’t mean they can’t all co-exist.
"I've actually seen some people on social media say things like, 'Oh, that just shows the show is fake, because these two people were at the same party and they're in a group picture together…' and it's funny, because what it is, is not that the show's fake, or that the people are fake, it's that regardless of anything ... everybody, I feel like, in this particular group of friends has the ability to kind of put stuff aside and come together," she says. "Everybody's usually able to just kind of, at least for that one night, have a good time and put it aside and just address it later, which is kind of mature."
That is getting a bit more complicated, though, now that the cast has ballooned to nearly 20 cast members. Much like the fans, Tom and Ariana are eager to see what happens after season eight; does the show's universe continue to grow and spend more time on newcomers, or will it focus back in on the OG group?
"A question that I think we all kind of ask a little bit is, like, where is this going?" Tom confesses. "But I feel like, you know, the truth will present itself. I feel like that will happen, and there could be some major changes following this season. We're just not exactly sure."
"I feel like there's something coming that I think that, you know, the audience and us, like, everybody will be happy with, that makes sense," he continues.
"I always feel like the most interesting stuff that you see is the really real stuff, and I would say the majority of the stuff you see on our show is that," Ariana adds. "If they just kind of follow that path, I think it'll lead to … the answer of how to deal with there being this much cast and all these stories. It is hard to follow, because you see a little snippet of something going on with somebody, but you don't get to see it maybe as in depth as in the past, because there's other people to follow."
Tom and Ariana admit they've been a bit frustrated watching the season back this year, because they know they documented a lot more of their life than what viewers are seeing on TV, including the creation of their book, Fancy AF Cocktails. It was a surprise to the couple that their passion project wouldn’t be a part of the season, seeing as the discussion around whether they should even do it in the first place was a major issue in season five.
"It's the biggest, most important thing I've ever done in my life, and we poured our souls into it for a year," Ariana laments. She's not sure why other cast members' similar passion projects, like Stassi's book, got screen time when hers didn’t.
"It is frustrating, but the hard part about that is is that we're not mad at Stassi for that," she notes, as Stassi doesn’t have a say in what makes it into an episode, either.
"So, the hard part is to kind of express that frustration without coming across as though you don't want that person to succeed, or that you don't want that person's projects to be shown," she says. "I think it's important for the audience to see that there are multiple women on our show who are passionate about things, who are working hard on things, who are succeeding. I think to have it look like maybe there's only one success story when that's not even true, or not even the case, is doing a detriment, too."
"I don't even care about promoting [the book on the show]," she adds. "I care more about people seeing how hard it is to do so, and how long it takes and what the process is really like. So, yeah, I'm really proud of all the women on our show and all the hard work they've done, and all the projects that they've put out there. ... I wish that we were able to see more of that."
Ariana and Tom also acknowledge that they wouldn’t have their book without the show, and it’s hard to explain that without breaking the “fourth wall” and acknowledging on the show that they're on TV. The couple says, the longer the show goes on, the more complications the fourth wall presents. Ariana says she was shocked to see the fourth wall acknowledged on the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills' season 10 premiere, when Denise Richards shouted “Bravo, Bravo, f**king Bravo” at the cameras, seemingly in an attempt to make footage unusable. RHOBH and Pump Rules are produced by the same company.
"People do that when they don't want something used, they will do that," Ariana reveals of the Vanderpump cast. "They'll go, 'Cameras! Cameras! Cameras!' to make the footage unusable."
"Over the years, that's happened at least a few times," she says. "So, to see them use that and kind of have that be part of what was going on, and then seeing, like, some of the other women in their interviews getting ready and being on the phone and being like, 'Oh my gosh, did you hear and you see…' That was compelling to watch."
ET video chatted with the couple, who is currently isolating at home in Valley Village. They're spending their days working on puzzles and adjusting to life with a new dog. They adopted a rescue from the I Stand With My Pack animal shelter, though she doesn’t yet have a name.
"There's ups and downs, there's good days and bad days," Ariana says of quarantine life. "I'm trying to get a little more back on track. In the beginning of all this, I was determined to be more productive, and then, I feel like everybody was pressuring, everyone is pressuring online and social media to be more productive. And then it made me feel bad. So, you know, I was like, if I'm not feeling it, I'm just gonna let myself not feel it, and just try to ride the wave, instead of forcing it to be this, you know, workout from home and, you know, do a live and all this stuff."
Ariana has been open on the show about living with anxiety and depression, something she's being mindful of in this strange time, too.
"Somebody asked me on my Instagram, 'What are you doing to stay positive during all of this?'" she shares. "And at first I started to type out this answer that was, like, 'Well, I'm trying to stay physically active…' and then, I deleted it. I was like, no. I don't even want to say that, because I might -- I'm not necessarily staying positive. And I feel like that kind of needs to be OK and for everybody."
As for Tom, he’s been spending his time "scheming" up new business ideas, testing out new cocktail recipes and working remotely with designer Nick Alain, the man behind the aesthetic of Lisa Vanderpump’s eateries, on an at-home bar that will feel like a legit establishment, with its own entrance and everything. The couple is also working on remodeling Ariana's closet and finishing decorating their new house. They have almost all the furniture they need (they’re still searching for the perfect dining table), so next up will be artwork, which can be tricky for reality TV stars, who have to get all their art "cleared" to be shown on TV.
Tom has also been filming Cameo videos with co-star Tom Schwartz to raise money for TomTom employees who have been unable to work due to California’s "Safer at Home" order, which called for the closing of bars and restaurants. Over a few weeks, the Toms were able to raise $50,000 for their staff.
"For the past few days, we've been -- It's actually been about five days -- we've been handing out checks," he excitedly shares. "We put 69 checks that we wrote … It was great, man. It was really -- it feels nice, because it's, like, with everything going on, you feel stuck. You feel like you can't do anything."
Vanderpump Rules airs Tuesdays at 9 p.m. ET/PT on Bravo, while Fancy AF Cocktails is available wherever books are sold. To see more of our chat with Tom and Ariana, watch the extended cut below.