The Oppenheim Group broker addresses speculation that the Netflix hit is staged, defends the show's 'villains' and teases season 4.
Jason Oppenheim understands that opening his business to reality TV means criticism is going to come his way, and he's fine with that. What he's not OK with are lies.
Jason's show, Selling Sunset, returned to Netflix for seasons 2 and 3 this summer and quickly became the breakout unscripted hit of 2020. With that came lots of speculation about how real the reality show is, which isn't totally unexpected. Adam DiVello produces the series; he also produced The Hills, which ended its initial run on MTV by pulling cameras back to reveal that the final scene was shot on a Hollywood studio backlot. That ending was fine for the cast of The Hills, whose main pursuit was fame. But for Jason and his co-stars, their focus is on the real estate business at the heart of the show, a business the 43-year-old and his twin brother, Brett, worked hard to build.
"I think it's the highest compliment really, because I think this is what’s happening, [people] see a show, and they see these beautiful, fashionable, successful women driving these beautiful cars around, these beautiful homes down the Sunset Strip, in this cool office and they're like, 'There's no way this is real,'" Jason surmises. "I think if the show was bad and boring, they would be like, 'OK, it's a real show, but it's boring.' I think the opposite is going on. They're saying, 'OK, the show is awesome, but there's no way it's real.'"
"But I encouraged people to obviously do their research," he adds. "We opened the doors in the end of 2014 and almost everyone on the cast and in this brokerage has been here since 2015, maybe 2016."
As fans binged Selling Sunset's new episodes, a number of skeptics popped up online, calling into question the show's authenticity. Chrissy Teigen tweeted that she was asking around to see if anyone had actually heard of these people in the Los Angeles real estate scene, and the cast of Bravo's Million Dollar Listing Los Angeles fired shots at Jason's agents on Watch What Happens Live With Andy Cohen.
"I've never seen any of those people in real life," Josh Flagg said, though both he and Tracy Tutor admitted to knowing the Oppenheim brothers.
"The boys are great, they’re super successful and rightfully so," Tracy offered. "The women on the show are beautiful, engaging in their show … and if you notice, some of their Instagram handles really focus heavily on real estate." That's a clear dig at the realtors, many of whom post glam, influencer-y pics rather than photos of houses on their social pages.
"It certainly doesn't bother us," Jason says of the shade. "We know all of [the Million Dollar Listing agents] extremely well, so that parts a little awkward. But listen, they're really successful agents and we do a ton of business together … I consider them all good friends, beyond just colleagues."
Jason, Brett, Christine Quinn and Mary Fitzgerald have all actually appeared on MDLLA over the years, which is why Jason doesn't fully understand where the not-so-nice comments are coming from.
"Maybe it can't feel good when they're being asked about our show when they probably want to be asked about their show, but I think the facts speak for themselves," Jason says. "I tell the team, I'm like, 'Guys, the more hate, the better the show. We are definitely doing something right.'"
Jason released all of his agents' license numbers, the dates they earned them and the dates they joined the O Group in the midst of the heavy speculation that the ladies were all just cast to be on the show. The only woman who was not a part of the team before the show was Chrishell Stause, who is also a working actress.
"I put in a recommendation for them to look at her, because I wanted her at the brokerage," Jason explains. "I guess you can call it 'casting,' but she was a good agent who had been licensed for many years and had been practicing for many years. I didn't have to train her. I had already known her … I would have liked to have Chrishell on at the Oppenheim Group regardless."
On top of viewers questioning the women's real estate expertise, fans also want to know if everything playing out on their screens is to be believed. It was recently uncovered that Mary and her husband, Romain Bonnett, were legally married long before the show started production, yet viewers saw them get engaged during season 1 and have a wedding in season 2. Jason, a longtime friend of Mary's, says even he was unaware of the secret marriage.
"My understanding now, it was a technical marriage at a courthouse," he offers. "I mean, the wedding -- for all of us -- was the wedding. I don’t really care if they signed documents before or after the wedding, I don’t think that’s really atypical, really, and didn’t shock me. I read some stuff like they staged the wedding. … That’s a little disrespectful to say to someone, 'Well, your wedding wasn’t real.' I certainly didn’t fake crying at her wedding with her sister."
Then, there's a viral TikTok by a woman who claims her house was used on the show for a totally staged scene, in which Christine and Heather Rae Young were locked out ahead of an appointment.
"The house was for sale. I had it listed with Jason, not Christine. I’ve never met her," the TikTok user explained in a second video. "She's never been my agent. The whole thing about her not being able to go inside, she’s locked out, she doesn’t have a key, she can’t even reach her client is scripted. Bottom line is, she’s never had the listing but in the show she was pretending like it was her listing and that’s misrepresentation of facts."
"I'm sure she's trying to get some publicity there," Jason says in response. "I know that woman, we had the listing of her property at the time. I don't know if it was her husband or partner or what, but there was a gentleman that owned a corporation and the corporation owned that house. And I went back and looked at the listing contract, he signed it and she signed it. I think she made something of the fact that she doesn't know all the agents. That is completely normal. I have agents working on all my listings and I would say most of the time, the owner has not met one or certainly not all of the agents, so to me it was a non-issue. I didn't even understand it."
Jason is adamant that nothing on Selling Sunset is staged or faked. Of course, production does plan out moments, but he claims they're all organic.
"Let's say I was going to have a talk with Davina [Potratz], or Mary was gonna talk to Chrishell or something like that," he explains. "Production might say, ‘Listen, guys. Can we hold off on this until tomorrow or whatever?’ So that's not fake or staged by any means. That's simply delaying something. But they've never asked anyone -- and certainly not me -- to act a certain way or to do anything that's not real."
Jason also points out that what viewers see on TV is a truncated version of life at the Oppenheim Group. They film thousands of hours of footage, which is cut down to eight 30-minute episodes a season.
"Let's be honest, it's not like the drama's going on eight hours a day in the office," he says. "I would, you know, dismember myself. So, you’re getting, production’s doing their job in making a condensed version of our lives."
That condensing means some nuances of who these women are get lost in the edit. The audience has labeled both Christine and Davina as "villains," with tons of hate comments flooding their social media feeds daily. Jason says to give them some grace.
"Christine, she can be polarizing and it comes across," he admits. "I think Davina can have a kind of rough honesty to her, and I think that comes across, but I certainly think that the type of vitriol out there is totally unwarranted. I mean, these are good women. You know, and good people and good friends."
Jason says Davina is definitely "misunderstood" and is not a villain at all. He wouldn't keep a bad person employed at his company.
"I wanted Davina to be at the Oppenheim Group well before she even joined many years ago, because we had done many transactions together," he says. "We were on the opposite side of several deals, both myself and my brother did several deals together, luxury condo sales, and she was a very impressive, very professional woman. We became friends, I’ve been friends with her ever since. She is a consummate professional -- I think that she has an honesty about her that I think can be misconstrued and I think that, you know, perhaps misinterpreted. I would certainly say she’s a good woman, for sure. There’s nobody at this brokerage that I wouldn’t say that about."
According to Jason, nothing any of the women have done on the show -- which has featured quite a bit of bad behavior -- has made him think twice about employing them.
"These are all very close friends, many of them are considered my best friends," he says, "and I think there's a positive and negative to working with your best friends. … But at the same time, I'm way happier working with my best friends and in kind of a living room office environment, so the goods far outweigh the bads for me."
Jason does confess that he wasn't keen about doing reality TV at first, even turning down a number of offers before Adam DiVello knocked on his door. Even then, he tried to pass. But now, he says he's incredibly grateful for what the show has done for the business and the lives of everyone at the Oppenheim Group. He's expecting news on a season 4 pickup to come soon.
"I have no doubt we will be doing many more seasons with Netflix," he teases. Season 4 likely wouldn't start production until 2021, which will be more than a year after season 3 wrapped (the finale was shot in December 2019). There is speculation that a fourth season would focus on a brother vs. brother brokerage battle after Christine revealed to ET that Brett had left the Oppenheim Group to start his own company, the similarly named Oppenheim Real Estate. But Jason says Christine's making the split out to be way more dramatic than it actually is (which really shouldn’t surprise fans of the show).
"You have to love that woman," he says. "The press has certainly enjoyed the idea that is, I think, that his license is hung independently, but we’re still working together. He’s not starting another brokerage and hiring agents and competing. That's not actually happening and we’re still working together. We might get into -- honestly, it’s more semantic to the point of being boring. I don’t think we’ll cover it, so who knows?"
At the end of the day, it was more of a backend, business decision for the twins. The brothers are also still considering launching a Miami-based outpost of the Oppenheim Group, which would be fronted by Maya Vander. Amid the coronavirus pandemic, Maya has permanently relocated to the East Coast, which means she might not be a full-time cast member on season 4, but could eventually star in a spinoff, say Selling South Beach?
"I mean, there’s nobody better for it," Jason gushes. "The woman, I trust her. She’s been at this brokerage since it opened. She’s really experienced and, again, I have a lot of trust and respect for her, so she’d be the woman for it."
Jason also has a lot of trust in Mary, and the cast often accuses him of playing favorites with her because they used to date. On the show, Jason has looped Mary into a number of deals in front of the women, and he has no plans to stop doing it.
"I run my business appropriately, and I think if the other women want to pretend that I’m favoring Mary because of our history, I think that that’s a disrespect to the work that she’s doing, because quite honestly, she’s bringing in a ton of business to the brokerage," he says. "The woman is killing it. She's bringing in a ton of business and she deserves to be rewarded."
As for showing more of his personal life on the show moving forward, Jason says he's perfectly happy blending into the background ("I have the best gig!"). While he would like Selling Sunset to explore his and Brett's history as lawyers on the show, he's fine with avoiding the drama (save for the whole bachelor party ordeal that sent Mary into a tailspin over trusting Romain, which Jason actually pins on Brett). There is one thing he wants to capture on camera in season 4, though: proving that the Oppenheim Group-branded wine isn’t as bad as the cast makes it out to be!
"I'm gonna buy six or seven bottles of good wine, 30 to 50 bucks a piece," he says. "I'm gonna do a bottle of Oppenheim Group wine, we're gonna do a blind taste test and everyone's gonna see! I'll do -- if it ends up in the bottom third, I will fully admit that this wasn't a good vintage for our brand. However, I want judgment to be reserved until the blind taste test occurs."
All three seasons of Selling Sunset are now streaming on Netflix.