In a recent chat with VH1, Shaunie opens up about her role as a producer on the LA franchise, how January Gessert was essentially informally auditioning in her guest appearance, and what she really thinks of new additions Duffey and Angel Love. The OG basketball wife also opens about her former co-stars Evelyn Lozada, Suzie Ketcham, and Jennifer Williams and how she’d love to have them all join Basketball Wives LA, if it was possible.
You are a producer on Basketball Wives LA and I think a lot of people want to know what kind of power you actually have. Can you explain your role as executive producer?
Shaunie O’Neal: It involves seeing all the cuts of the show before they’re final, before they air [and] giving my approval with other producers on the show. I have all say-so over myself. [Laughs] No one has any power over contracts, that legal stuff is what I know most of the power questions come from like, “Why is Brandi back?” I get that all the time, and Brandi and I are cool, I don’t wanna rehash that whole issue and cause any more unnecessary drama.
I know. I think that was our last interview that stirred up a lot more stuff about that.
It was old! Listen, it doesn’t even matter it’s just it was old and she brought it to current. Like, come on. We’re shooting a show here and this stuff is old but we’ll go right back to it again. But I can’t, nor can any of the producers on this show outweigh a legal obligation. So, if you rewind all the way back to when it was when [Brandi and I] weren’t cool that’s what it was, it was beyond a say-so it was beyond, “This should be, this shouldn’t be.” It’s about what’s on some paper, and what we’re obligated to do legally.
So with that said, did you know for sure that Brandi would probably come back in some capacity?
Yes, absolutely. I didn’t know to what extent but I did know. And again, I’ve said this a few times, in that moment of, “Thank you for your services,” I wasn’t necessarily firing her. I was letting her know [if] she felt like that I didn’t appreciate her, and I didn’t appreciate what she brings to the show, and I didn’t appreciate her sharing her stories, and that was all not true. I very much so did, and I didn’t understand what she needed from me. Besides a thank you, which I say to the ladies all the time, so I’m like, “What exactly do you need from me? I don’t know what it is.”
In my mind, when I said that, I wasn’t firing her but I was letting her know, thank you for your services and there’s the door if you’d like to use it, otherwise you’re welcome to stay and keep continuing doing what you do. But either way, it’s fine with me. Immediately after we shot that scene we talked about it and everything and it was just that thing in the air like, “Damn, was I just fired?” and my [mind] was like, “Damn, you can go if you don’t feel appreciated, by all means, you shouldn’t be here. Don’t be somewhere where you’re not appreciated.”
In the moment that you rehashed everything and got back to a good place, what did you think when Duffey started to cry when she was trying to defend Brandi?
I’m like why is she so involved and invested in this? Like you weren’t there, you don’t know, you watched it on TV like everybody else, and I don’t understand why you’re in tears and no one else here who was actually involved in this is. I was really thrown off like A: I don’t really think Duffey should have even been there at that meeting. She was a third wheel and she really had no place at that table cause she wasn’t one of the people that was there. She really couldn’t have a say so because she didn’t know anything [except] maybe what Brandi had told her, which she could have left that at home. I know she felt like I was dismissive, and I probably was because I’m like, “I don’t know you, so you sitting here talking about something I don’t really care about anymore on behalf of somebody that I’m cool with and I’m never seeing again is kind of a waste of my time.”
Well, speaking of Duffey, what did you think of Tami’s daughter Jazz’s Snapchat video where she said a lot of the Basketball Wives cast members aren’t really wives, and now some are married to agents?
I was able to laugh at it. I know Tami very, very well. And when I saw the video I actually laughed because I knew exactly what it was. It really had nothing to do with me. So I was like, I was good I thought it was funny. [Laughs]
What do you make of that criticism that the show gets sometimes, that there aren’t real basketball “wives” on the show?
At times, I agree. In this instance, I was not one of the ones that before, [and] it had nothing to do with Duffey as a person, I had never met her. I just read her bio and all that good stuff [and] I was not a vote for Duffey. I did not think that Duffey was qualified to be on Basketball Wives.
The vote went against me on this one because they thought that it brought a new angle [with] the agent side, and she’s this DJ and that whole lifestyle. I don’t think it really panned out on television very well. I think the fiancé ended up not really wanting to shoot and it just was flat. So her story didn’t quite meet up to the expectations that some of the production said, like, “Shaunie, it’s gonna work because of this, and, that, and the other.” I was like okay; teamwork makes the dream work, let’s roll with it. I totally agree at times [but] this is one of the times that, I never sit back and say, “I told you so,” but I’ll be like, “So, you guys see that didn’t work out so well, so what we gone do next?” [Laughs]
Is it hard to get women who are really married to NBA players or basketball players to sign up for the show?
It is, and I think it is because it opens up Pandora’s box. Like, you put yourself on television as a wife or whatever and it just opens up so much drama, so, I totally get it. I mean, hell, when I pitched Basketball Wives I was still married and I had no intentions of being on the show, I just was producing it and creating it, and that was it. But because it just it opens up all types of people, to start saying things or accusing you, or your husband. People just like to cause drama in other people’s lives, that’s what it is, and I think most of the times it’s the guy. I’ve had wives and friends, because I have plenty of basketball wives that are in my life currently now, still married, [whose] husbands are just like, they watch the show and they support me and everything but it’s just like, they wont let their wives be on it because it’s too much. I totally get that and I respect that, I mean, you don’t wanna rock the boat unnecessarily, just don’t do it. If it’s good at home, keep it that way because TV will change things.
What did you think of the addition of Angel Love to the season?
I really like Angel Love. I like Angel Brinks, too. I like both of them, but Angel Love, her story isn’t real big this season. I think, like I told her when we wrapped this season that I see good potential in her, she has a really feisty cute personality that I like. I think she kinda had to be under Angel Brinks shadow because Angel Brinks brought her in as her friend but she can branch out and be her own person, and I think that will happen with time.
So when you and Tami brought on your friends January Gessert and Lindsay Faulk for a lunch date, was that sort of an informal audition to bring new women into the fold?
It was. It was like an on-air audition kind of, because like I said I didn’t always agree with the casting and I didn’t think that it was working. Sometimes during the season [the cast] wasn’t clicking and I’m like, “Hey, this person is not working. Let’s see what we can do, let’s try to change it up.” I actually convinced them to do that scene because, maybe it works, maybe a storyline comes out of it, maybe it doesn’t but I just think it’s exciting to have some new faces. My friend’s personality is a little more like mine. Versus, Tami’s friend who brought January who, just, turned up. I didn’t think it was gonna go where it went. Which, it ended up being a good moment for TV but generically it was like an open, on-air audition. Will it go anywhere? Who knows? But it was a good couple of scenes. That moment that we shot at lunch was pure entertainment for me. It’s just funny because January is so very blunt and honest with [whom] she is, that’s its almost like, clutch your pearls.
The friend that you brought on is your real friend?
Yes, we’ve known each other for a very long time. We lost contact for some years but she was at my wedding so we’ve known each other for a very long time and just lost contact.
So, what is the biggest difference for you being on Basketball Wives LA now versus your time on the Miami version?
Aw, don’t bring that up! I miss that. These ladies are just a totally different cast. It’s so different, I mean I feel like Miami was so easy, we had Evelyn, Tami, and Jen, and Suzie and it was so organic. We didn’t have to, I don’t know, I just think these girls are younger. It’s a different dynamic. We would go shoot Miami and we didn’t have hair and makeup show up every single day. If we were going to the gym we didn’t have to, we would go shoot that scene and it would be real and it would work. Everything we’re doing on LA is real, don’t get me wrong, but it just seems more, “Hollywood.” And we’re in Hollywood, I get it, but it’s about being pretty on TV versus content. That’s how I feel. God love ’em, I appreciate every single one of them, I’m sure they’re gonna take my words and twist this all up but it’s just different.
Tami and I caught flack last season, and that was a lot of reason the ladies were mad at us because we would talk to them about Miami, and we would talk to them about how the shoot would be organic all the time. We wouldn’t get in a car and sit in silence for 15 minutes until somebody had something to say or talk to each other. It was just like either we were genuine friends or we were really mad at each other. That’s what happened, wherever it happened, it was like clock work. We would share some of our experiences and share some of our stories and if we were on vacation, yes we would shoot but when those cameras went down, we couldn’t wait to hang out with each other in real life and just be friends. Or if we want like, “She’s not going with you” or “Imma stay at the hotel,” all of it was just real, all day long, just consistent girlfriend stuff. We had each other’s backs and we disagreed. It was what it was, and I feel like LA doesn’t have that dynamic, at all. Like, we set those cameras off and nobody talks to each other. Me and Tami talk to each other, sometimes Jackie checks in, every couple weeks like, “Hey, girl how you doin?” but beside that, I don’t think anybody else really deals with each other, I’m sure Malaysia and Brandi [do] but that’s it. So it’s like, work, as opposed to Miami, where we were girlfriends that shot a TV show.
Do you think of any of those girlfriends would join the show? I thought that maybe one of them would join this season, either Evelyn, or Jenn, or Suzie.
Oh, trust me, I beg all the time. Evelyn, she really can’t with the places she’s at in her life right now. I mean as much fun as I have shooting with her, and there’s nothing like me and her shooting together and I miss it so very much. I understand where she is, and she has her own show on a different network so it just could complicate it. Suzie, we try for Suzie, every year but her kids are in Miami and it’s hard for her to just go away from them for three months at a time, if she had a TV show all the way in LA, so it’s logistics with her. And, although Jenn would probably come back in a heartbeat, we’ve had this conversation. That is way beyond my control that is a contract thing from her last season of Miami, so that part is out of my hands. I think we could get a couple; trickle here and there if that got fixed. I would love, love, love, love to have some of my girls back. Now, granted, I don’t think anybody on the LA cast would be very happy about that.
I think some fans miss seeing a group of friends, and it feels like they’re real friends.
I do too, and I know you guys have to feel that. Like everybody says, “I love the chemistry between you and Tami. I love your real friendship.” You feel it when people are genuinely friends with each other, and you feel me and Tami kind of forcing ourselves on this group of ladies, and hell, they’re almost forcing themselves on each other. They’ve been together a minute and they’re still not quite like a gel which is so odd to me. So, I don’t know, I don’t know what that is. But it is, as me and Tami always say, “This is work.” Like when we go to shoot this show, it’s real work. Cause you’re just like, really trying. Like, come on, girl, lets try to get some conversations, something going.
So, you had a spin-off , Shaunie’s Home Court, air recently. In an ideal world, would you leave Basketball Wives and just stay on as a producer and do your own show? Is that the plan?
I don’t have a plan. I started with Basketball Wives, and I will die with Basketball Wives, that’s my baby, its my franchise, that’s what got me to this spin-off. I would never abandon it. If someone at VH1, the powers that be, said, “Shaunie, we want you to completely do your family show,” would I do cartwheels on over to it? Absolutely, because that is probably the most fun I’ve ever had shooting anything ever so I would totally be fine with that and just do my EP but, yeah. And if they say, “Hey, we wanna keep it how it is and can you do both?” I’m all in. Whatever supports both franchises, I’m in.
New episodes of Basketball Wives LA air Sundays at 8/7c.