Meredith Marks might be The Real Housewives of Salt Lake City's "ice queen," but she's ready to let her walls melt down a little bit and share some reality on reality TV. Meredith's marriage to her husband of more than 25 years, Seth, becomes a central story in season 1, starting this week, as Meredith reveals she and Seth are separated.
"Seth and I have had a long history of separations and reconciliations over the years," the jewelry designer confesses to ET over video chat. "It was not something we were ever public about, because our children never knew -- we were separated, we had dated other people at times -- our children did not ever know. We were always living in the same home. Becoming empty nesters kinda put us in a place where we were really forced to evaluate what path we were going to go down."
"People question, is reality TV real? And there is nothing more real than what I went through on the show," she shares. "I'm getting a little teary saying it even. It's real and it's intense and you'll see it all play out. Yeah, it was daunting and … I had really not told any of my friends, and my children just found out when they left the house, which was probably six months or so before we started filming."
Meredith says her and Seth's 2019 separation was their most serious separation to date, as it was the first time they actually lived apart, in separate houses. She says by season's end, viewers will get resolution when it comes to her marriage, whether that be divorce or deciding to stay together.
"This is really the time where the kids are gone and we can now be in our own homes and sort of try to figure out what direction we want to go. Can we make this work? Or can’t we?" she ponders. "Should we move forward with the divorce? Should we be seeing only each other? Should we be dating other people? Should we separate?"
It's worth noting, Seth petitioned for divorce (and then dismissed that filing) before RHOSLC cameras even went up, and the couple regularly poses together on Instagram.
"Seth and I met, we met when we were 23 years old," Meredith notes. "We have grown up together, so no matter what happens between us, we are always, like, childhood friends almost, in a weird way."
The Marks have ground rules for when they're separated, and Meredith advises other couples to do the same if they're looking to evaluate the state of their marriage: "If there's a question mark about what your rules are, set them straight. It's a lot easier that way, when you kinda are thinking one thing and the other person is thinking the other, and it's sort of murky and unclear, that's kind of a recipe for disaster, and things just escalate."
Meredith admits the hardest part of figuring out the future of her marriage was telling her and Seth's kids about their marital troubles for the first time. The couple is parents to three grown children: Reid, Chloe and Brooks. She says if she could go back in time, she would’ve been honest with them sooner.
"It's a very emotional thing because you sometimes look back and you say, 'Maybe I could have done this differently, maybe I could have done that differently. Did I screw this up? Did I screw that up? Is shielding my children from all this a horrible mistake all along?' You know, you just start to question every choice you made, because these are all life-changing, huge choices that don't just impact me. They impact my entire family … and that's the process I've been going through, reevaluating my decisions, all my choices, and questioning them."
Adding pressure to an already stressful situation was Meredith's choice to sign herself up for reality TV. While she's navigating her personal troubles, she's also navigating a relatively new group of friends who all have questions about Meredith's personal life. As teased in the season 1 trailer, co-star Whitney Rose questions Meredith and Seth being affectionate in front of the group, when there are rumors floating around that Meredith is seeing someone else.
"That was something that was very upsetting for me," she says. "To be throwing things out there when you don't know if they're true or false, you don't know what's going on, you don't know what's rumor, is upsetting, very upsetting."
"There's a lot of conversation that went on about me behind my back," she adds. "I'm very curious to see who's responsible for what."
Meredith credits her son, Brooks, with being her "pillar of support" while she was balancing both home and friend drama. The 21-year-old took a semester off from college to work on his own line of athleisure wear (which both Meredith and co-star Jen Shah sported in the premiere) and to be around for his mom as she took on the challenge of Housewives.
"Brooks, really a big part of the reason he did come to Utah for the winter was to be there for me, because he knew I was really going through a hard time and, you know, starting a television show at the same time you're going through all of this is a lot, to say the least," she says. She does concede, though, that reality TV cameras entering her life may have played a small role in his decision to hang out with her in Utah for a bit.
Brooks was arguably the premiere's breakout star, a badge of pride for Meredith. Fans will get to see Brooks put together a fashion show before season’s end, which Meredith teases as an "absolutely iconic" event.
It seems safe to say that RHOSLC will provide viewers with iconic moment after iconic moment. The premiere alone introduced two unprecedented feuds in the world of Real Housewives, the first being Jen and Mary Cosby's falling out over hospital smell and a double amputation.
"I would imagine that's a first for many, certainly a first for me," Meredith quips. "So, obviously I knew that there was an issue and that there was a conflict between Mary and Jen -- there was nobody who wasn't aware of it, let me just put it that way -- but I don't I don't think any of us really realized the level that it had escalated to. … So the whole thing, it was a bit surprising where it went and I guess it makes a lot more sense to me now why they were so angry at each other, because I didn't really get it to be honest."
In the coming weeks, viewers will see Meredith pulled into the orbit of Jen and Mary’s fight, with Jen seemingly wanting the ladies to pick sides (aka, her side). As Jen so eloquently put it in the trailer, "You're going to go with Mary, who f**ked her grandfather?"
"What I can say that's just true of me and in life in general is, I don't believe that anyone should dictate who someone else can or cannot be friends with, that's just not my vibe,” Meredith muses. “I believe that you could be a supportive friend to people who may not care for one another, and that's how I've lived my life, usually very successfully. I've been friends with a lot of people who don't care for one another and I don't engage in nasty conversations about the other, that's just not my vibe. It's not my energy."
Then there's the "I don't know her" issue in the group, between Heather Gay and Meredith’s BFF, Lisa Barlow. Lisa claims she doesn't remember Heather from their time together at Brigham Young University, though she does have a (vague?) memory of Heather being a “good time girl” who liked to break the school’s strict honor code, an allegation to which Heather takes much offense.
"That one, I think I can't really comment on without going too deep into too many things I probably shouldn't be discussing right now," Meredith offers. "I have to kind of bite my tongue on that one. I don't know how I can go down that path without disclosing things I shouldn’t be talking about yet, but we’ll get there."
"You will see tensions running through the course of time with everybody," she promises. "This is just the beginning."
Meredith says she finds herself in some of her co-stars' crosshairs this season, too, but won't name names. Half of her wants to keep the mystery alive as the season unfolds, while the other half is waiting to see if her assumptions about her friends (or maybe, frenemies) are proved true by what plays out on TV.
"I think there may be multiple liars," she proclaims. "There's one that is 100 percent confirmed for me, because I caught a multitude of lies, but there's still some other things that aren't adding up. So, I think that there's probably at least two liars out there. I don't know who the second one is, but we shall see and, again, if I'm wrong on the first -- which I'm 99.9 percent sure I'm not -- I will own it and apologize, but there's definitely a lot of lying."
Meredith says this friend circle was her first time spending time with so many women at once, and she quickly learned that her one-on-one experiences with her castmates looked quite different from the group gatherings.
"I was actually pretty much shocked by everyone at some level about something I'll be honest," she says, but qualifies that by saying it's more about true colors shining through than finding her co-stars to be two-faced.
"I mean, there's definitely some two-faced stuff, too -- don't misunderstand me," she adds. "I'm not denying that."
Meredith says she’s already making "a long list" of issues she hopes to resolve at the reunion, which won’t film for months.
"There is a lot to button up," she says. "I don't know how we can possibly get this reunion done in a single day. I think it should be a week-long affair. I have a lot of issues, and just knowing what I do know, what's gone on in between all the other women, I’m barely scratching the surface with my issues. There are way more than what I have alone, so it's going to be interesting and telling."
"I'm going to be watching along with the rest of the world trying to decipher who is a friend and who's not," she adds.
Meredith says her tagline, "Jealousy is a disease, to which I say, 'Get well soon,'" is a direct message to more than one of her co-stars: "Jealousy brings out an ugly side of people."
The mom of three says she's always dealt with jealousy, but Housewives took things to a new level. There was a learning curve to the tense arguments that are commonplace on the franchise.
"I guess for me, by virtue of my business, I am traveling a lot ... and I think a lot of the time, before the s**t hits the fan, so to speak, I'm already on to the next city,” she postures. "That didn't happen here. It’s like, you gotta deal with it -- and that's fine. I can hold my own. I'm not a pushover by any stretch, but I do demand that people speak to me with a certain level of respect and self-control, and if they are not going to do that, I am going to leave. I will not allow somebody to yell, scream, and swear at me. That is not acceptable."
The teasers for the season show Meredith storming off a few times, once while declaring, "I'm disengaging." She says she's waiting on pins and needles to see how those moments translate to the small screen.
"Obviously, any heated moments with the women, I may not particularly enjoy," she says, "but that won't be as trying for me as watching arguments with my family. That will be difficult."
Meredith says she already got a pit in her stomach just seeing flashes of her and Seth's arguments in the sneak peeks that are out so far, so she’s bracing for impact in the coming weeks. Still, a small sense of relief washed over her once episode one was out in the world. It was like ripping off a Band-Aid.
"There's a lot of anxiety …. 'cause you don't know what it's going to be like and you don't know what you're going to be received as by the rest of the world, so it's definitely a little bit daunting to say the least," she shares, admitting that she's well aware of her Dorit Kemsley-style accent of many origins. She chalks it up to a subconscious habit of picking up others' vocal inflections, and says the more she drinks, the more British she becomes.
"I feel a huge sense of relief having the first episode out," Meredith adds. "It was amazing for me to just be like, check that off. Done."
The Real Housewives of Salt Lake City airs Wednesdays at 10 p.m. ET/PT on Bravo. If you’re craving even more time with Meredith, then set a reminder for 9:30 p.m. ET/6:30 p.m. PT this Wednesday, Nov. 18, because viewers can join an exclusive live stream on Xfinity X1 and Flex to interact with Meredith and all of her co-stars! The 'Wives be spilling season 1 secrets and answering fans' juiciest questions ahead of episode two.
The event, hosted by Bravo’s Daryn Carp, will unfold in Xfinity’s new Watchwith app on X1 and Flex, and promises to bring Housewives fans closer to their favorite ladies, enabling live engagement with them via onscreen interactive features such as audience polling, live tweets, emojis and more.