Real Housewives come and they go, but behind all their exits is executive producer and Bravo's resident father figure Andy Cohen.
Real Housewives of New York City stars Sonja Morgan, Tinsley Mortimer, and Dorinda Medley appeared alongside Cohen and EP Lisa Shannon Sunday during Tribeca TV Festival's panel celebrating RHONY's 10th anniversary. There,they opened up about what goes into making the explosive show, and how it works when someone's time is up — ala Carole Radziwill after this most recent season.
"It's usually a conversation," Cohen said, as reported by PEOPLE. "At the end of every season, we talk to the women about what they have coming up and whether they want to come back. What they see for the future. Then we also look at the show and say, 'How do we want to change the show?'"
"I think part of the reason the entire franchise is successful is it's an ensemble show," he continued. "It's all about what's best for the group. What's best for the ensemble? How's it going to be different? Do we want to continue this conversation? Do we want to pivot into a new conversation?"
Medley explained that in her opinion, it's "rarely a surprise" when a Housewife leaves the franchise. "People sort of know," she said.
Shannon opened up about her state of mind in the biggest Housewives shake up in season 5 of RHONY, when Jill Zarin, Cindy Barshop, Kelly Bensimon and Alex McCord all left the show at the same time before being replaced by Aviva Drescher, Carole Radziwill and Heather Thomson, who joined alongside Morgan, Luann de Lesseps and Ramona Singer.
"I was out in the field for that first season," Shannon said. "It was three newbies and three veterans. And there was that polarizing divide between the women that, this is how we do it and this is how it's done. When you come on and you're new and you're by yourself, you just kind of have to defer. But this was 50 percent of the cast. It really was an interesting chemistry shakeup. And also trying to mentor three new cast members into what its like to open up your life and to really be free and be yourself. It was terrifying as a producer. I was like, 'I don't know if it's going to work.'"
Cohen added, "That was a scary time but also, it reenergized the show and took it into a lot of different directions."
As for the fan theories that whoever sits furthest away from Cohen at the reunion special is on the outs, Shannon explained it's a lot more complicated than that.
"It's usually whomever has the bigger story that season is going to be the one who sits next to Andy," she said, adding that they also take camera shots into consideration. "We take into consideration who will be fighting and conversing with one another across the couches. And we also take into account who who is sitting next to one another. If someone is quieter, not that anyone on this cast is quiet, we'll seat them next to someone more outspoken."
Cohen added that "some people are very concerned about where they are seated at a reunion," but Medley said she was more than content to be in the middle.
"It's sort of a weird thing. It's an honor to sit next to Andy at the reunion, but it's also scary," she said. "Closer to management is closer to the door. I like to be in the middle, that way I'm a little bit buffered."
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