How ‘Selling Sunset’ Creator Adam DiVello Created A Reality TV Phenomenon—Just Don’t Ask Him About Christine
Adam DiVello is one of the founder fathers of docusoaps, a genre of television that melds together the melodrama of soap operas with the messiness of reality TV. His first solo venture, “The Hills,” quickly became canon.
His latest series, “Selling Sunset,” is the first of its kind on Netflix and follows a group of real estate agents at the Oppenheim Group and their wheelings and dealings along the Sunset Strip (and occasionally Los Feliz). The third season, which premiered on Aug. 7, even got Chrissy Teigen talking.
In a phone interview with Variety, DiVello opened up about the show’s origins and hinted at what’s to come. However, when asked about Davina Potratz and Christine Quinn’s antics, and the widely shared perceptions of the pair as villains, the producer was reticent, then was quickly cut off by a publicist.
I am part of the group that found and devoured “Selling Sunset” recently, so I’m new to the game but I’m invested.
Awesome. I’m glad you went back and watched seasons 1 and 2. For Netflix, they love when people go back and watch the first season.
I feel like a lot of people have been doing that with the show.
That’s amazing. It’s gotten such a snowball effect. It’s a lot of fun because it doesn’t happen often, as you know. In this business it’s not easy to achieve. So I’m very, very grateful that it’s getting the attention that it’s getting.
So what is the timeline for the seasons? When was everything filmed?
Season 2 and 3 were filmed concurrently — then they split it up into two seasons.
If you get the greenlight for season 4, how do you plan on shooting amid a pandemic?
We don’t know. We’ve all been scratching our heads about that. Netflix has other shows that are in production or are ramping up, and I think that we’ll have to follow their protocol. We have a really small crew on this show, believe it or not. It’s typically under 40 people so I don’t think we’d have a problem social distancing or keeping six feet apart from one another. Our cast, they’re rarely that close and if we have to spread their desks out six feet then [we will]. Obviously we’ll take every precaution there is and we’ll just take our time and do it when the time is right.
Who was the first person cast on the show?
So we met with the entire cast all at once. We met with Jason and Brett, and the only person that wasn’t there was Chrishell. It was Jason, Brett, Heather, Mary, Christine. Davina came in after the fact, after we had started shooting. Jason brought her on to handle the luxury condos and the apartments. She was the last one cast, so to speak. Chrishell was really the new addition that was brought on to the agency once we decided to make the show.
How did you get Brett and Jason to agree?
I saw an ad that they took out in a magazine — they took a full page ad out. I won’t say which magazine. I ripped it out of the magazine and I threw it on my development executive’s desk and was like, “This is a show. Get us a meeting with these people.” And Jason was very hesitant at first. He’s friendly with some of the guys on “Million Dollar Listing,” and I think he had been on that show a couple of times. He didn’t want to be on one of those salacious type of Bravo shows. So he took the meeting with me and I convinced them that we wanted to really do something different and didn’t want it to be just nothing but catty and fighting. We wanted to make it feel very cinematic and make it a lot more about the homes. He took a chance and said, “Let’s do it.’ In that very first meeting he said to me, “Why is this show going to be different than a Bravo show? and I said “Because I want to make it for Netflix.”
So you don’t think that “Selling Sunset” is salacious?
No, I wouldn’t say that. I think we set out to make a show that just looks and feels a little different than some of the other shows that are out there.
I know that Tarek El Moussa can’t appear on the show due to contractual obligations. Will he ever make an appearance?
You have to wait and see.
Why didn’t we see Justin Hartley in earlier seasons of the show?
I think it was just contractual. We certainly asked many, many times. I think it was just his contract with NBC.
Do you think you’ve given Davina the villain edit?
I really wouldn’t want to comment on that.
What’s the status of Davina’s $70 million house?
I think it’s $75 million, right? It’s a lot of money. I will tell you I’ve been in that house — it’s so stunning. I mean our cameras couldn’t even capture just how palatial of a property it is. You honestly just feel like you’re in some resort in some other country. It’s mind boggling. Every single home you’ve seen on our show, I’ve been in and that’s one of the ones that truly blew me away. I couldn’t believe it. I could have spent all day in that backyard.
What is Adnan Sen like in real life? Is he similar to how he appears on the show?
He’s not actually, he’s a really nice guy. He just comes across like that I think because of the accent. He’s obviously dealing with Davina on a work situation, but we’ve met with him separately on many occasions and he’s a very nice man and his wife is very sweet as well.
How many takes do you typically do for a scene?
If we have to do a walk-up or a walk-away, we’ll do those a couple of times if something gets in the way or something happens. We typically just get everything as it happens. If there’s a technical glitch and we need somebody to repeat something, certainly we’ll have them repeat it.
Is everyone on the cast a licensed real estate agent?
Our agents are licensed, yes.
Can you speak to the rumors that Christine’s scenes were cut up because she was hamming it up too hard as a villain?
In an interview, Christine said she was kicked off the press tour for being too candid. Can you speak to that?
[Before DeVillo can answer, a publicist on the line cuts him off and says, “Sorry, no Christine questions.”]
I’m sure there are growing security concerns about viewers trying to locate the homes.
I mean there’s not much we can really do, to be honest with you because the homes are listed on the Oppenheim website. If people want to find out where they are, it’s on their website, you know? It’s kind of out of our control.
How has your relationship with real estate changed since the show?
I’ve always been a real-estate junkie. I will admit that. I love real estate. I am on the websites all the time looking at homes. I own my own home and I’m happy with it, but I am always looking for the next one and I’ve always been obsessed with it.
Will we ever see any “The Hills” alum buying or selling a home?
Never say never. If they come knocking, then we’ll film it for sure.
This isn’t about Christine, but did you partake in any Botox during her Botox and Burgers event?
I had a couple burgers, no Botox.
How has social media changed the reality TV landscape?
Chrishell was going back and forth with Chrissy Teigen the other day on Twitter. It’s amazing because Chrissy Teigen is watching our show and talking about it and Chrishell is talking back to her and now there’s a conversation. Then CNN just ran an article about how Maya and Davina were defending the show to Chrissy Teigen. This is CNN level news now.
This interview has been edited and condensed
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