By RODNEY HO/ email@example.com, originally filed Wednesday, September 14, 2016
Credit him or blame him, Steven Weinstock is a major reason why Kim Zolciak and NeNe Leakes are now household names.
Weinstock, co-founder and co-president at True Entertainment, helped launch "Real Housewives of Atlanta" in 2008 as one of the executive producers. He is also an executive producer of Zolciak's spin-off show "Don't Be Tardy" as well, which returns tonight for a fifth season on Bravo at 10 p.m.
"The audience loves that family," Weinstock said. "It's a very upbeat show." He said Zolciak will visit her husband Kroy Biermann's home in Montana. "It's really funny fish out of water, very Lucille Ball."
They also will address her medical issues over her heart, which forced her to leave "Dancing With the Stars" earlier this year. At the same time, her six kids are growing up and the younger ones are starting to develop their own personalities. He said audiences also really get a kick out of Kroy, who comes across as "a really standup guy who's passionate bout his family and his children."
Weinstock said he was approached by Bravo in 2008 because the network was seeking to expand beyond its Orange County and New York franchises. He suggested Atlanta and they began seeking some more diversity, as in African-American women. They found Nene Leakes, who led them to Sheree Whitfield and Zolciak, the only non-minority ever on the cast. "That was the core," he said. "We made a presentation. They liked it."
He knew that trio (on top of original housewives Lisa Wu Hartwell and DeShawn Snow) were magic. "They were real," he said. "They were engaged. There was authenticity to their relationships. They did know each other well. It had the right ingredients."
Of course, Weinstock had no idea the show would be a ratings hit from day one. It would eventually generate stronger ratings than the first two versions and continues to be the most popular version even as it enters season nine next month. (An official cast announcement won't be coming until later this month though at least one new full-time cast member is expected.)
He felt viewers liked these women's senses of humor, that they possessed a bigger comedic value than the others.
Season two brought in Kandi Burruss, who was already a former child star with Xscape who had segued into songwriting. She became another keeper for the show. "She has no pretentions," Weinstock said. "She says what's on her mind. She will take on anyone. She's not somebody who will follow the lead. And she's extraordinarily talented." She recovered from the death of an ex-fiance and met her current husband Todd Tucker while shooting "Real Housewives."
Season three came Phaedra Parks and Cynthia Bailey, two more cast members that remain on the show. "Cynthia is extraordinarily kind and good hearthearted person in addition to being beyond beautiful. I think nobody can throw a line like Phaedra. She has a great sense of humor and sharpness. She's the greatest counterpuncher."
After a less-than-engaged season four, the producers brought in Kenya Moore and Porsha Williams, giving the show a jolt of energy. "Kenya brought her own brand of getting into people's faces and keeping it real. She's involved in a relationship with lots of ups and downs. Porsha is growing up in front of our eyes. She's coming to terms post divorce and trying to find her own footing an dealing with her own demons."
He teased season nine in broad strokes. "It's going to be a great season," Weinstock said. "People are going through extraordinary situations. Kandi has a new baby. Cynthia and her divorce. Phaedra and her separation. There are unexpected turns of friendship. Connections we thought with people we didn't expect to happen. Sheree Whitfield is more in the show. We're really happy to have her back."
Whitfield was brought back last season after a three-season break in part-time fashion but could very well return full time.
Leakes, who officially left after season seven but made brief appearances last year recently said she is not coming back in a major fashion this season. "There's always a place for her," Weinstock said, "if she wants to be involved with the show. Her career has taken off. She is so busy so it has become more and more difficult for her. The door is always open."
The new "Celebrity Apprentice" hosted by former California Governor Arnold Schwarzeneggar is set to debut well after Donald Trump gets elected - or not - as president. The celebrities include Porsha Williams, who will be the third "Real Housewives of Atlanta" cast member on the show following NeNe Leakes and Kenya Moore. It debuts on NBC January 2, 2017.
Does she have an even remote chance of winning? No. Then again, she has managed to thrive on "Dish Nation" and that was certainly unexpected. So she could surprise us.
Kim Zolciak's husband Kroy Biermann was cut from the Atlanta Falcons during the off season after eight seasons. He was considered one of their core special team players. He signed with the Buffalo Bills in August but was cut earlier this month.
The 30 year old defensive end is now a free agent seeking a new job. Zolciak, in the meantime, fended off rumors this week that she will return to "Real Housewives of Atlanta" after NeNe Leakes hinted it in a Tweet. Zolciak is sticking with her spin-off show, thank you very much.
She left "Real Housewives" midway through season five, fed up with having to actually leave the house and go to parties to bicker with women she didn't particularly like.
Cynthia Bailey has purchased a new lakefront home for $960,000 outside of Atlanta.
She has also separated from her husband of seven years Peter Thomas, but no divorce papers have surfaced as of yet. He seems to be spending most of his time in Charlotte tending to the sports bar he has owned there since 2014. (He closed a bar in Atlanta in Grant Park the same year.)
Atlanta investor Tony Taylor recently sued Thomas for $150,000, accusing him of defrauding him of investment money on a nightclub Thomas opened earlier this year with Thomas' brother called Club 1.
WBT-TV reports that Taylor said he was promised active engagement for the club for $150,000 and 15 percent ownership. Then he said Thomas stopped corresponding with him and believes he was swindled.
Thomas responded on Instagram in defiance but not with any substance: