Washington and Judy Ho talk to ET about the new season of their reality show, navigating tragedy and new beginnings.
The Ho family is back for season 2 of HBO Max's House of Ho, which chronicles the multigenerational clan's lavish Texas lifestyle, and the ups and downs in their hectic personal and professional lives. While the first season introduced viewers to patriarch Binh and matriarch Hue, who built a multimillion-dollar real estate and banking empire, and their grown children, Washington and Judy, as they try to live up to their parents' exceedingly high expectations, the new season -- premiering Thursday -- peels back the layers and aims to go deeper into the fabric of the Ho family.
In season 2, Washington charts his journey to stay sober while re-evaluating his career, while Judy enjoys engaged life with fiance Nate Nguyễn as she undergoes IVF in an effort to become pregnant. Joining the party are single roommates Bella and Kim Ho, Washington and Judy’s cousins, and independent-minded Vanessa Kon and Tammy Gee, Nate’s sisters, and their respective partners, Carlton Kon and Tran Nguyễn.
"I'm excited for everyone to catch up with us. Hopefully we have a lot of fans from season 1 that are returning. And now that HBO Max has so many more subscribers, I'm sure we'll have a lot of new fans, but I'm excited for everyone to catch up with us and what's going on with our family," Judy told ET over Zoom recently. "I got engaged and I'm going through IVF, and me and Nate are still together."
"Leslie and I are doing great, and I can't wait for the world to see how great we're doing," Washington teed up.
The Ho siblings looked back on what they learned about the feedback they received or came across from viewers tuning in to season 1, and how that may have affected how they presented themselves in these next 10 episodes.
"Season 1 we didn't know what to expect. I didn't know how the producers were going to edit us. I didn't know what the reaction would be. But overall, the feedback that I got personally was pretty positive," Judy shared. "And what I learned was that I should just continue being authentic with what I'm going through with my life because I know there are a lot of other people that can relate and are going through something similar. Now I'm on this motherhood journey and I know there's a lot of other moms out there that are going through the same thing."
"After watching it myself, the biggest thing that I learned was that you have to be yourself. Be as authentic as possible and no matter how tough the journey -- going through my sobriety and being able to self-reflect -- was that the only way to be is real," Washington said, before praising his sister, Judy. "I was inspired by my own sister. She did such a great job. She was so real. And my wife who had to put it all on the line and be as genuine as possible about our marriage, about our struggles."
Though they both acknowledge they were comfortable sharing their journeys in the new season, with experience having cameras capture their every hiccup and accomplishment, there were still challenges they faced throughout filming.
"The biggest challenge was for me, I was like, 'Hey, do I continue on my journey and open up and share my personal struggles as an Asian person and as a male father, a husband? Do I really want to be that vulnerable?' Because the comments I got from season 1, it wasn't the best comments most of them, but I'm thankful for them," Washington looked back. "I'm thankful for, without that, I wouldn't be as inspired to get better and I'm really looking forward to seeing what the fans react to on this season."
"For me, it was sharing my IVF journey because before we had started filming, we had our first transplant and it was unsuccessful. By the time we were filming the first episode, we had heard the heartbeat and every appointment that I had during filming, the odds were against us. So I was always afraid that if we received bad news and I would have to live that out publicly, the disappointment," Judy admitted. "We had already been through IVF for almost a year by then, but the ups and downs were really hard. Thankfully everything worked out and now we have a baby."
But not everything was fair game in the new season. Last February, during winter storm Uri in Sugar Land, Texas, Judy's fiance, Nate, suffered an unspeakable tragedy when his three young children he shared with his ex died in a fatal house fire along with their grandmother. The tragedy is subtly addressed over an emotional family dinner within the first three episodes of season 2.
"For Nate, I feel like he wasn't ready to share personally too much what he was going through. And in our relationship during that time, I was just trying to be the one that could be his rock, be his person, be someone that he could always come home to. Just whatever he needed, I was there for him," Judy said. "During filming, I didn't want to focus too much on that because I knew it was too hard for both of us. So for us, focusing on the IVF was something that gave us hope at the time, but that's always something that we turned to and thankfully it turned out exactly how we wanted."
As Washington continues on his sobriety journey, he also has a bit of a professional crisis, testing the waters on different career paths in his 40s. "My No. 1 job is being a father and a husband and trying to provide stability for my family. And most people might shy away from career changes at 40 years old, but me being sober now, I feel like I'm starting to find my footing and I might be a 20-year-old person trying to find his way and find his career and what suits his family," he said. "The lifestyle of a car salesman, working on the weekends and late nights, the long-term output that I would have to put out to own a dealership didn't outweigh the time that I could be with my family."
"That's so difficult to show the world because there were moments when I felt like I failed, but I feel like to be... I mean, going through recovery is so tough. I'm Asian. I'm male. I have nowhere to run. I don't have many friends that I can relate to, that I can talk to, but having hope is something big for me," Washington said, as he previews his dabble into the music industry. "For me, it's music. That music inspiration that I could do anything that's possible."
As for what they hope viewers take away from watching House of Ho, both Washington and Judy said it's to take away the stigmas of divorce, mental health and sobriety, among other things, that greatly impact Asian American communities.
"From the first season, how I shared about my divorce, especially in the Vietnamese culture, it's very frowned upon to divorce. And if anything, my parents would not have wanted me to announce that on TV. If we were not on the show, they probably would have been ashamed of me for going through that and they would probably tried to hide it from their friends," Judy said. "I feel like the Asian community is always about saving face and showing your best side and only talking about the good things, and anything that's not worthy of sharing, they just brush it under the rug."
"By sharing our experiences, other Asian families can feel more comfortable that it's OK to share these things -- that we're all going through them," she added. "And personally, that's the feedback I've gotten. I'm really appreciative of other people who have reached out to me and comforted me or I've inspired them to go through their own journey."
Added Washington, "As an Asian male, especially born into a business family, a lot of the ways we celebrate is drinking, partying, entertainment. I'm very proud of myself that I could step out of that and inspire other Asian males that's not the only way to celebrate. I'm so happy and proud that I have such a great family, a great production team, a great network that supports my sobriety. One of the greatest things that my team at HBO Max did was provide me support throughout filming, and that was just something huge for me."
"For all Asian males out there, we can make music. We can be in the mainstream. We shouldn't be afraid. My kids might want to be in Hollywood and be in acting, in the arts one day. But at least now they can come to me and ask me how I did it or how did we create this show," he continued. "For all Asians around the world, we're not supposed to always be the lawyer or the engineers or the doctors. And if you're not, it's OK. That's my message is that it's OK to be yourself, be human. It's OK to fall. It happens. We are not perfect and no one else is. Love yourself, love your family, love your community and we'll all be OK as long as we're not being Hos, right?"
The first three episodes of House of Ho season 2 drop Thursday, Aug. 25 on HBO Max, with three episodes premiering Sept. 1 and the final four on Sept. 8.