Katie Maloney-Schwartz has picked up some new hobbies in quarantine: Real Housewives binge-watching, LEGO building and podcasting.
The Vanderpump Rules star launched her show, You're Gonna Love Me, a few weeks ago. The concept is pretty simple: give people -- Katie included -- a chance to show the human buried under all the labels people attach to them.
"I'm taking from experience of being on the show and getting put into boxes and labeled as certain things that I didn't feel was truly who I am at the core -- I mean, yeah, I do have moments. I can be mean, I can be a b***h, but I'm not 'a b***h,'" she shares with ET over video chat.
Katie's time on Vanderpump Rules has been punctuated by many friendly feuds, exchanges of low blows with her husband and appearances from her alcohol-induced alter ego, Tequila Katie. While there have been plenty of positive moments, too, it's those dark-sided scenes that stick out to viewers and inform the public's view of the 33-year-old.
"There's a lot more to me, and I was thinking about how many other people who are in the public eye, on reality TV or just public figures, deal with the same thing," she adds.
"If we would know them a little more deeper on a personal level, even if it's just little details of their favorite memories from childhood, or what they were like in high school, I think is really fascinating to me," Katie continues. "I wanted this to be really, like, a human experience, just diving a little deeper, opening up your mind and trying to put your opinions and judgments aside. I really love talking to people and getting to know them and challenging my opinions."
So far, Katie has welcomed guests like The Skinny Confidential co-founder Lauryn Evarts, with many more on the way, including breakout comedian of the pandemic, Ziwe. The podcast has been a helpful distraction from thinking about her reality TV future. Katie admits she doesn’t know if Vanderpump Rules will be coming back to TV.
"I have no idea," the Bravo star confesses, shrugging her shoulders. "Every day, I'm being like, 'Maybe today we'll get the phone call!' But, no… I'm hopeful. They haven't canceled it, so there's hope still. At least there's not, like, anything definitive in that regard."
The future of the series is up in the air for a number of reasons. One, Vanderpump Rules focuses on the comings and goings of the staff (and former staff) of Lisa Vanderpump's eateries, including Sexy Unique Restaurant (aka SUR), which have all remained shuttered amid the coronavirus pandemic, despite Los Angeles allowing restaurants to operate with outdoor seating. As the You’re Gonna Love Me host points out, "It's hard to have a sexy unique show without a Sexy Unique Restaurant."
The pandemic also makes production tricky, with a number of health and safety restrictions now in place for both cast members and behind-the-scenes crew. With a cast of nearly 20 people, it wouldn't be possible to film group scenes. Though, should the show come back, that cast will be a little smaller. Bravo fired Brett Caprioni, Max Boyens, Stassi Schroeder and Kristen Doute from the show before season 8 even finished airing in June. The move came after past racially insensitive actions by all four former stars resurfaced online amid the Black Lives Matter movement in the wake of George Floyd's death.
Cast members have come and gone from Pump Rules over the years between seasons, and their exits are rarely explained onscreen (i.e. Vail Bloom, Billie Lee and more). Max and Brett's departures would likely be treated similarly, but the same just isn’t possible for Stassi and Kristen. Both were main cast members since season 1 and integral to the ongoing story of the show. Together with Katie, the women were "the Witches of WeHo," a trio that weathered the ups and downs of friendship as they grew into adulthood.
"I try to picture and think about it, and it's so weird," Katie says of what the show will look like without her two longtime friends. "It's weird. Yes, it's definitely gonna feel different and look different, but it's not like they're not a part of my life, you know? So, it's gonna be weird to have this part of my life that was very much on the show not on the show anymore."
Katie says she hasn't wrapped her head around how the group will explain Kristen and Stassi's absence, and how both women are still very much a part of the friend group at the center of the series. It’s worth noting, that won’t be all up to the cast to explain; production will have a say in how it’s handled. "We'll cross that bridge when we get there,” she sighs. "Again, I don’t even know if we still have a show."
Season 8 ended on an almost series finale-like note, with each of the show's main players exiting TomTom -- the bar Katie's husband, Tom Schwartz, co-owns with Tom Sandoval and Lisa -- to a dramatic, slowed-down version of the show’s theme song.
"I remember watching it and thinking, this looks so final, what the hell? I cried," Katie admits. "Like, this is really heavy. Normally our seasons always end on a happy note. It all works out, Lisa's like, you know, 'We're all friends. We gotta stick by each other…' and it's like this full circle kind of thing, and this time it was, 'Oh, s**t.'"
Katie wrapped season 8 on a sour note with Kristen, their friendship reaching a breaking point over some complicated, on-and-off-camera drama involving how Kristen handled her boyfriend, Brian Carter. But, somewhat unexpectedly, the two reconnected after Kristen was let go.
"Yeah, it's crazy. I didn't know what it would take for Kristen and I to come back together as friends, but I guess it was this," she offers with a laugh. "It's a bummer."
Katie doesn't feel comfortable speaking on Stassi or Kristen's behalf; Stassi will break her silence on what went down in a live interview on The Tamron Hall Show set to air next week. The last Witch standing fully understands why Kristen and Stassi were ousted from the show, but also can't help but feel like the audience is getting the short end of the stick. Just weeks after news broke she was fired, Stassi confirmed she was expecting her first child with her fiance, Beau Clark.
"Seeing Stassi through this huge part of her life -- it's massive, becoming a mother and being pregnant," she notes. "I'm sure people would've loved to have been on that ride."
There's also something to the idea that Stassi and Kristen could've used the platform of the series to face their past mistakes, and show viewers that change and growth are possible. In fact, Lisa told ET, if she had her way, she would have kept both of them on the show to do just that.
"I think they're just trying to focus on the future and what that looks like for them, trying to stay positive and not look back," Katie says of her pals. "Look forward and do the work we're all doing. … They're taking it in stride and definitely holding themselves accountable."
When Stassi and Kristen’s fate was declared, viewers quickly questioned why Jax Taylor wasn't also let go, with his past tweets and behavior called into question, too. When asked if fans might see Jax go on the journey of holding himself accountable and doing the work to become an ally in a potential season 9, Katie can’t help but laugh.
"There's only one Jax Taylor," she says. "He's his own breed."
Katie says she's been having lots of conversations with her friends -- Jax, Stassi and Kristen included -- about the Black Lives Matter movement, and hopes those chats can continue onscreen. She says it’s their responsibility as public figures to shine a light on what’s happening in America, especially police brutality. In season 8, both Katie and co-star Ariana Madix were the only two of their friend group to take offense to an arrest prank some of the guys played on Tom Sandoval on camera.
"I think it's about being aware of our privilege and trying our best to understand," she says. "It's just about holding everyone accountable, and [having] conversations about how we're doing that in our own lives…. sharing your experience and how you're working through things -- not that it's about us. It's our responsibility to do the things that we can do to make change, ultimately."
The conversation will likely also pop up on future episodes of You're Gonna Love Me. It seems safe to assume more of Katie's co-stars will appear on the pod. Episode 1 featured her one-time nemesis, James Kennedy, and a recent one was with her husband, Tom Schwartz. The pair, who call one another "Bubba," admitted that they're tracking Katie's cycle in hopes of getting pregnant on that episode. Katie has a (joke) pregnancy pact with three of her Pump Rules castmates, Stassi, Lala Kent and Brittany Cartwright. Stassi and Lala are both currently pregnant, but Katie says that’s not adding any additional pressure on her and Tom.
"I cannot put pressure on myself like that, you gotta just let it happen when it happens," she shares. "It'll happen for me when it does, but in the meantime, I love hanging out with [Stassi and Lala] because they're like, 'Should we get dessert?' I'm like, yes! I love hanging out with pregnant people, ‘cause they love all the food and it's amazing."
Katie has also covered diet culture on You’re Gonna Love Me, getting candid body positive advocate Sarah Nicole Landry about her struggles with body image in the public eye.
"My main focus through all this is just to be healthy, not to be a certain size or weight or look a certain way, but to just be healthy," she says. "It's a relationship that you have to work on every day."
Katie's weight has been a topic of conversation for years now, her co-stars and viewers chiming in with unsolicited opinions about her body. Earlier this year, Katie revealed she had lost nearly 30 pounds after reevaluating her relationship with dieting. She says facing criticism, and even compliments, about her body because she's on TV has been both good and bad for her self-image.
"I think it's hard to be criticized and have your body be criticized for things that you can't necessarily always help, but I just don't think it should be anyone's business to talk about someone's size," she offers. "Telling a woman when they lose weight that they look amazing is not good for them, because they think, OK, what if I gain weight? Then am I not looking amazing? What was wrong with me before?"
"I think people are really insensitive even when they’re trying to be complimentary," she continues. "I just don't think they’re understanding the language behind it and how it affects someone. So, having my body always be a topic of the conversation everywhere, online and on the show, was really hard ... but having gone through that has helped me now."
Katie hopes her podcast continues to be a space for open dialogue on typically taboo subjects. Rihanna, Chrissy Teigen and Monica Lewinsky are all on her list of dream gets for the show.
"[I want to talk to] people who aren't necessarily the bad guys or the villains or the b***hes, even the ones you think are so sweet and perfect -- they're not all sweet and perfect. No one is all good and all bad," she says. "It's about finding that middle. Like, what's the worst thing you've ever done? Or something you've got in the most trouble for? I don't want to make them look bad, but I think it's about people having new thoughts and opinions on somebody."