The 'Shahs of Sunset' star opens up to ET about how his friendship group fell apart, all while he was falling in love.
Get ready for Shahs of Sunset’s most Shah-king season yet.
"It's crazy, we have all grown, some closer some apart," Mike Shouhed tells ET. "It has been a very dynamic year for us, a lot of great things have happened, but a lot of bad ish has happened, as well."
"I can guarantee that this is the best show that Bravo has, or will have, on air -- ever -- is going to be this season of Shahs," he adds. "Come find me if you don't think so."
It's been more than a year since Shahs last aired an episode, and in between seasons, the group seemingly fell apart. As reports popped up that the new season was filming, rumors started circulating that Mercedes "MJ" Javid wouldn’t appear on season eight. The longtime star of the show was pregnant with her first child, and even suggested to ET that she was ready to walk away from the group. After she gave birth to her son, Shams, her relationship with her Shahs cast only seemed to get worse, with MJ alleging that none of them reached out after her difficult delivery. Not long after that, Reza exposed, via Instagram, that MJ actually underwent an emergency hysterectomy at the time of Shams' birth, something MJ had yet to share herself.
“MJ was going through a very hard delivery for her baby and she was not supposed to come back, because she did not feel like this was what she wanted to be a part of," Mike says, confirming those rumors that MJ quit the show. "She was so focused on her baby and, in the meantime, there were some rumors spreading about Reza and [his husband], Adam, and their relationship."
Those rumors pop up in the season eight premiere, when Destiney Rose confesses to Mike that her and MJ's friend, Ali, alleges that Adam plays strip Jenga with other men, among other things, when Reza is out of town.
"As soon as I heard, I said, 'Reza, I need to talk to you,' and that is when things just kind of went downhill," Mike shares.
"MJ wasn't there to kind of give her side of the story, so everything was brewing and it exploded, and by the time MJ felt good enough to come back, the ish had already hit the fan," he goes on to tease. "I can't even call it boiling, it was like Breaking Bad, boom!"
In the teasers for the season, things appear to get physical between Reza and MJ when they finally come face to face.
"I have never seen Reza so furious in my life," Mike recalls. "He's a big dude, and I'm a pretty strong guy, and I was trying to hold him and I couldn't, because he was in so much rage, and you are going to see what transpired to get him there. It's really crazy, and everyone is going to have to watch to see. I've got goosebumps just talking about it."
"This is the second time it's gone down in our friendship, in our years of friendship," Mike says of Reza and MJ turning on one another. "A few years ago, they got into a big fight and they made up, I actually sat them both down at Jerry's Deli, I remember like it was yesterday, and we squashed it. Like the economy, relationships are cyclical, they go up, they go down. They just hit a rough patch, and this patch was really rough. Like, Titanic rough. And, as badly as I want to say that I'm hopeful they will be friends again, you just have to tune in to see how everything went down, it's kind of a blur to me. I was there, and I experienced it, and I was still like, what's going on? What has happened?"
Mike has his own issues with Reza, which will also unfold in season eight. Reports of an alleged lawsuit between the two men surfaced last year.
"The guy is just, he's just very emotional," Mike says of Reza. "He has a lot of demons that he has been dealing with, and if you are not with him, you are against him. I'm a Libra, I like balance. I like love, friendship, and harmony, and he likes, like, cutthroat, are you with me or are you against me? And it's like, I can't be with you, because I don't know the full story yet. I can't make a judgment without understanding exactly what has happened."
The cast appeared together at BravoCon in November, looking like the best of friends onstage at Watch What Happens Live With Andy Cohen, leading fans to think they had worked through all their issues. But Mike cautions, looks can be deceiving.
"At the end of the day, we are professionals, right?" he notes. "We had to put on our big boy pants, and big boy clothes, and act as if we are professionals, and put our differences aside, because we are there for the fans."
While the Reza drama will be a through line of season eight, Mike promises there is a lot more on top of that.
"It's not all drama, it's not all craziness," he shares. "We are a group of friends, and we do love each other very much … at the end of the day, there is a lot of funniness, a lot of craziness, and babies and new relationships."
Mike is in one of those "new relationships." Right off the bat, viewers will meet the new lady in his life, Paulina Ben-Cohen. She's the first Persian, Jewish woman Mike has dated.
"I am in love," Mike declares. "A friend of mine in Las Vegas had a friend who was really good friends with Paulina, and knew that I was single and that she was single and was like, 'Dude, she's Persian, she's Jewish, you've got to freaking meet her!' And I was like, all right. I am down to have some fun, and we went on a date and I just looked at her and, in my own mind, I was like, I am going to marry you one day."
Mike says that feeling grows "one hundred times" each day, a 180 turn for the 41-year-old. He famously declared that he would never get married again after the demise of his first marriage to Jessica Parido. Mike and Jessica split up after a cheating scandal proved too hard for their relationship to overcome. Paulina has also weathered a divorce.
"I even told Paulina I am never going to get married again, and she said the same thing, she said I am never going to be married again, especially to a Persian guy," Mike recalls. "I'm like, oh, damn! OK, are you sure you want to go on a date with me?"
"When you meet the right one, you just know," he adds. "I am falling more in love with her every day that I'm with her, because I just realize more things about her that are so lovable."
On one of their first dates, Mike tried to impress Paulina by taking her out for sushi. When they were on the way to the restaurant, Paulina asked Mike to change their plans and go to Taco Bell, because she had a "craving" for it.
"We sat at Taco Bell for three hours," he shares. "Come to find out, she is vegan and she didn't want to tell me, because she didn’t want to scare me, a Jewish Persian girl that is vegan. I'm like, OK, that means I am never going to have some Persian food? We just sat and talked, and she told me everything, her story, her looks, her personality, I just fell in love with her … she just got me. It was cool."
Mike says this relationship feels different from his past romances, many of which ended because Mike was on the lookout for something better.
"People don't cheat unless they are in a relationship they are not happy in," he says. "Me and my ex-wife had a lot of issues, and the cheating happened before we were married. We were dealing with a lot of fighting and we were barely talking, let alone intimate. Just constantly at each other's throats, and that led me to look for love in another relationship or another situation, and I am not that person I was anymore. I broke my own heart, I broke my ex-wife's heart. I destroyed two families that came together to be as one that was separated. So, I would never do that again, because I don't ever want to feel that guilt that I harbored for so long."
Mike says he and Jessica are cordial, but don't talk often. The last time they were in touch was after Jessica welcomed her first child and shared pictures with Mike. And, speaking of children, Paulina shares two with her ex-husband, which means Mike is taking on some stepdad duties.
"I never thought I could love two babies that were not my own offspring as much as I love them," he gushes. "Like, when I come over to Paulina's house, they rush to see me, ‘Mikey! Mikey! Mikey!’ Regardless of how hard of a day I had, they give me life and they give me energy again, it's so amazing to watch them grow up and, at six and four, the way they communicate, like, dude. I wish I was as smart as you two when I was that age. Like, the 6-year-old negotiates with me to get chocolate and candy and sushi and I'm like, how do you know already?"
"I love these two like they are my own, I want one or two or three of my own," he adds. "[Paulina’s] young, and she makes me feel young, and we are going to try, let's see."
Babies may come before Mike and Paulina’s wedding day. While they both talk seriously about getting married, they’re in no rush to get down the aisle, or even get engaged.
"We haven't talked about that yet," Mike admits. "We love each other very much, and I definitely want to do that, but right now I have so much going on, and massive projects on my hands, and I need to kind of coddle those and make sure that they are OK, and take the next step and fully -- marriage sounds like such a wonderful idea, and we have glamorized it, but if you are really in an amazing relationship, you really don’t need to have that paper to make you feel like you are going to be with the person for the rest of your life."
Mike is cautious about sharing his and Paulina's love on TV because it is so special to him. He admits that her parents had no idea they were filming for the show until the trailer dropped, adding that they "weren't very excited" about Mike being a part of Shahs. But, he better brace for impact. Within the first few beats of the premiere, Reza makes a joke about Mike being a little bit of a reverse gold-digger. Apparently, Paulina walked away from her first marriage with a lot of cash.
"I have got plenty of money, my friend, I don't need hers, believe me," Mike fires back. "I am building a massive project in Hollywood that will spit off a lot of money to me, and I have my CBD line, [Au Sante], that is just kicking a**, so the last thing I ever look for in someone, in what someone can bring to me other than their heart, their soul, their mind, love and attention -- I don't need anyone’s money, thank god. So, Reza, unfortunately, projects and that may, unfortunately, be his projection, even though I know Adam doesn't have much. So, why would he think I would be any different than him? That is on him."
Shahs of Sunset’s new season premieres Sunday, Feb. 9, at 9 p.m. ET on Bravo.