Taking a cue from Bravo's successful "Real Housewives" franchise, VH1 introduced viewers to its "Basketball Wives" earlier this year. Created by Shaunie O'Neal (ex-wife of Shaquille), the series puts cameras on the ladies who either are involved with pro basketball stars or have been in the past to see if their swanky, glamorous lives are really "all that." Season two, premiering this Sunday, then hopes to double the drama with expanded one-hour episodes as well as some new additions to the cast.
Our Jim Halterman rang up two of the wives returning for the second season - Suzie Ketcham (10-year relationship with retired NBA star Michael Olowakandi) and Jennifer Williams (wife of Eric Williams) - to talk about the challenges of having cameras in your personal life and what fans can expect to see with these new episodes.
Jim Halterman: Was shooting the second season easier since you had already been through the experience before?
Suzie Ketcham: I found it easier this year because I treated it more like a job. But I knew about what the hours were like and how hectic it would be. It was also harder because there was so much more drama and we filmed for a lot longer.
Jennifer Williams: It was somewhat easier shooting season two because you know what to expect but when we're shooting, it's very time consuming and you really have no life so that can be difficult. In season one, I was dealing with some really heavy issues so for that to play out in front of the cameras was stressful.
JH: After the first season and all the drama, did you ever think about not returning?
SK: Definitely. I really was on the fence about it because it really changed the whole dynamic between me and my ex. 'Is it worth it?' He wasn't happy with me during the show, I have two kids involved and we raise these kids together. I wasn't sure I wanted to do it. It's not easy. I don't think people understand everything that comes with being on a reality show.
JH: Is doing the show a way for you get a handle on the gossip? Is that one of the reasons for doing the show?
JW: When I first signed up I think people had a misconception about us and I just really wanted to show people that we just don't sit around and shop all day and go to the spa. We like to do that but it's not our life everyday. That's pretty much why I signed up to do the show. I also wanted to grow my business so I thought it was a great opportunity.
JH: In the course of shooting the show, what have you learned about yourself that maybe you weren't expecting to?
JW: I think I've learned that I just really have to be true to myself and my situation because whatever it is that they're trying to portray you just have to be true to yourself because it all ends up coming out. The camera just picks up on the realness so if you act like the situation is so great and it isn't, it will show.
SK: The first season I was the one who threw the drink and after that I thought 'Wow, I really shouldn't have done that! The poor girl!' I thought 'That is not me and I don't want kids to look at that and think that it's okay to be throwing drinks.' That's one thing I learned. Even though there are some thing that we might want to do for ratings or things to make the TV show great, I probably shouldn't do that. It is a reality show and people do think 'Wow, that's how she really is in real life!'
JH: So, that said, I saw in the preview clip that there are some throw-downs in the new season.
SK: There are some throw downs but I don't think there are any drinks thrown! I haven't even seen the trailer but I heard somebody gets hit in the face.
JW: There's a lot of drama this season but I think you will get to know the girls better because it's an hour now as opposed to a half hour and I think you get to really know each lady a little better. A lot of drama, there are some tears and you definitely have to tune in to see if I'm still going to be a Basketball Wife.
JH: How do you handle having the cameras being involved at times when there is very personal stuff going on? Is that a challenge?
JW: It's definitely a challenge and it's hard. You just have to be true to your situation. I think people can relate to my situation because everyone goes through ups and downs in their marriage so I'm just happy that I can show that it's not perfect. I don't think anyone's marriage is perfect and everyone deals with issues but it's definitely hard having millions of people seeing that but at the same time I think it was therapeutic because it forced me to deal with my situation.
JH: Suzie, in the first episode, Evelyn lays into you pretty good but how does that play out over the season? Do you two make up?
SK: No, we don't make up. I think we just both move on from it. I wouldn't put myself in situations where I would have to film with her or her friends. We really don't talk anymore. I relate to her a lot as a person and even to this day I wouldn't say anything bad about her. I think she's a good person.
JH: You also start this season single, Suzie. Are you dating?
SK: I'm still single. I went on a couple of dates on the show with this guy who is pretty young... very young. [Laughs.] I'm really just trying to focus on me and on work. I was with my ex for ten years, which is a long time, and you kind of lose yourself when you're with someone for that long. For me, I felt like I needed to do something for me for once.
JH: What have you learned from the other wives and what they've gone through?
JW: I definitely learn from everyone around me. I think you kind of pick and choose what you take from people but I feel like we've all been in a similar situation. Shaunie just went through a divorce and she's happy and came out on top. So that's good for me to see that perspective. It's like if I'm not with him, it doesn't mean I won't be happy. We have some new additions on the show - Kim and Julie - and they've been married, I believe for 14 and 17 years so that's good for the show to have the different perspective. I take from everyone and I think you just have to use it all wisely.
JH: I hear Gloria, who caused a lot of trouble in season one, is back for this season. What can you tell me?
JW: Gloria has a couple of appearances and when Gloria is around there's always some kind of trouble brewing. We'll have to see how it all plays out.
SK: I think I'm the only one that is friends with Gloria and it changes the dynamic between me and the circle because none of them like her, which is fine. Gloria is okay. She's a good person, she's fun and she's nice. I had problems with her at one time but she apologized and we made up and I learned from that. She comes back and it's good.
"Basketball Wives" returns for season two this Sunday on VH1 at 8:00/7:00c.