Early last year we found five intriguing women whose relationships with each other, and with the city in which they live, were the perfect combination for this exploration. We tapped into the life force of Washington with the wife of a White House photographer; a Harvard-educated African American fundraiser; a born and raised Washingtonian whose grandfather Arthur Godfrey was a broadcasting legend; a successful entrepreneur; and a model and founder of D.C.'s America's Polo Club. We knew this was going to expose a different social commentary from our other Housewives series -- provocative and engaging in a whole new way. My fantasy was that our group of Housewives would disagree -- ok, maybe even fight -- about politics. This was to be a new breed of Housewives.
The great advantage to a docu-series, rather than a scripted drama or comedy, is the unexpected. The axiom "truth is stranger than fiction" reigns supreme at Bravo. But therein lies the rub: you can't predict or prepare for the unknown. And that was the case in November, when late in our production cycle Michaele Salahi told producers that she and her husband Tareq had been invited to the White House State Dinner. The production crew filmed the Salahis' preparation and arrival at the White House gate, but left as the crew wasn't credentialed for the Dinner.
We learned the following day -- as did everyone else, including the other D.C. Housewives -- of the alleged "gate crashing" incident. At the core of the reaction was the question of whether or not the Salahis had been invited. But one of the by-products of the aftermath was continued false reporting that somehow the Salahis had used the State Dinner as a "stunt" to be cast on the show. The fact is that by November we had been shooting the series with Michaele and the other women for months. In fact, we were a few weeks away from wrapping photography on the series. Any idea that attending the State Dinner was an audition to cement participation in the show is preposterous.
It is the job of the legal system to decide if and how the Salahis may have broken the law. But our decision to include them in the series speaks to a very basic programming mandate, which is to present real people as they exist within their universe. Meaning, we do not editorialize on their actions, how they raise their kids, live their lives, spend their money, or treat their friends. We show them as they are, with awareness but without judgment. We let them be themselves, and let the audience draw their own conclusions, and -- like with real relationships -- sometimes the way people feel about a Housewife changes throughout the season. Whatever the feeling, we leave it to the viewer to decide. I think that's one of the reasons why people are so obsessed with not only the Housewives franchise, but virtually every other show on Bravo and why the shows are so compelling. Viewers tend to find something relatable, aspirational, comparable, and familiar, as they compare themselves or their lives to those onscreen. And, it frequently happens that the greatest satisfaction comes from simply being able to say, "I would never do that!"