The 'Southern Charm' OG weighs in on all things season 8 with ET and reflects on celebrating one year with girlfriend Paige DeSorbo.
"I was very surprised by each of them," the Southern Charm star confesses to ET. "I just didn't see Naomie, this person that dated me -- it was a while ago, but still -- ever being with Whitney in that way, because whenever we were together, she had an opinion about Whitney. And there's significant age gap. It's just bizarre." (For the record, Naomie just turned 30 and Whitney is 54.)
"Basically, I felt like I was in the circus, or the house of horrors, where I was just like, things can't get more crazy than this," he recalls of getting confirmation of the pair's make-out session while the cast was on a group trip to Auldbrass, a Frank Lloyd Wright-designed property in South Carolina. "Confirmation" is a key word here, though; Craig says Austen Kroll's big reveal about Naomie and Whitney wasn't that big at all, because whispers about the two were already going around Charleston.
"There had been rumors around town, obviously, because Charleston's not that big," Craig explains. "So they had been spotted having coffee in the morning, and a couple times near her house."
"When Austen told me, I couldn't stop laughing," he admits. "And [Whitney and Naomie] basically told me, I needed to get serious about it, and I was excited for everyone. I thought it was going to be great for the show."
Craig appeared upset over the news, but he says his reaction was one, not as dramatic as it appeared on screen and two, more about Whitney not being upfront about the situation than the situation itself: that he and Naomie were officially dating.
"The reactions weren't based on a make out," he says. "But I hope to God and you get to see that [in upcoming episodes], because I think some more information comes out next week, which should be pretty funny."
"I think you'll get to see this develop -- hopefully -- because they filmed a lot together," he adds, "and I think it's fantastic."
The Whitney-Naomie reveal came just before a campfire that turned into chaos, as Shep Rose relentlessly ribbed Craig about the state of their friendship and the Sewing Down South founder's "sensitive" attitude. So far, season 8's been a season of growing pains for Craig, Shep and Austen, with Craig growing tired of (or maybe out of?) the "Peter Pan syndrome" that defined Southern Charm's earlier seasons.
"I'm only where I'm at today because I had to cut some negativity out of my life, and people that weren't pushing me forward," Craig shares, "and that's OK. Daymond John, I talked to him one time and he said, 'If friends are pulling you down, then you don't owe them anything,' and there was a time that Shep was pulling me down and I wanted to go in a different direction. And that direction was fine for him, it just wasn't for me."
"I just started to do more stuff, and my time wasn't spent with Shep anymore," he continues. "And then Austen went down a weird path last summer. I think he disappointed himself, he disappointed me, and I had some serious issues with trusting him. So I just needed to take a step back and find positivity."
Craig's referring to Austen's antics on network sibling Summer House. He inspired nearly a full season of drama with one weekend appearance on that show, in which he simultaneously romantically pursued housemates Lindsay Hubbard and Ciara Miller.
"Austen's a sweet guy, he just does dumb stuff sometimes," Craig offers in his friend's defense. "His intent is usually in the right place, but he just shoots himself in the foot. But he's doing way better than he was. Well, yeah... I mean, he's in a much better place. How the heck can anyone explain an Austen? I love him to death, but I never know why he does half the stuff he does."
Reports recently surfaced that Craig and Austen were going into business together, opening a restaurant in New York City. Craig clarifies that they're simply silent partners in an eatery that some of Craig's friends already had in the works -- and the decision to bring Austen into that opportunity only came after Craig says Austen proved his value, as a friend and partner.
"When we started to hang out again .... there was some unfinished business," Craig says. "So Shep and I, if we ever try to talk about anything real or our past, we're going to butt heads because the only reason we get along now is we've accepted that we don't agree on anything."
"I mean, I'm not going to call you out if you don't bring it up, and I'm fine with how I feel you've treated me in the past," he continues, "but the second he tried to take credit for where I'm at in life now, or Sewing Down South, is where I drew the line. I was like, 'No, I'm not going to sit here and listen to that stuff. In my opinion, you tried to tear me down for a long time.'"
That said, Craig says "we really do love each other," just those friendships are evolving.
"The boys are good, and we do a great job of bouncing back," he surmises. "Like I said, Shep and I just need to agree to disagree and we're good. But he was also in a tough-- I think on that trip is when him and [girlfriend Taylor Ann Green's] issues kind of started to really break out of the privacy of their own home, and there was a lot of stress and pressure happening there."
Shep and Taylor recently ended their relationship, and viewers will seemingly see the lead-up to that decision in the back half of season 8. Sneak peeks show the cast questioning why Taylor stays with Shep, as revelations of possible infidelity and verbal abuse come to light. Even so, Craig says the split came as a shock.
"Taylor loves Shep for Shep, which who knew we were ever going to find someone that really loved him for who he was, or who he is?" Craig reflects. "I didn't think that the breakup would get this serious. I was pretty certain that they would make up. But it appears to be a little more real of a breakup than I saw coming. So it's a little strange."
A breakup everyone saw coming unfolded last year on the show, as Austen and his on-again, off-again girlfriend Madison LeCroy parted ways. The aftershocks of their breakup continue to echo through season 8, though, with Madison poking at her ex, and Austen bringing up his feelings about her (largely hatred at this point) often.
"I know that Madison likes to mess with him," Craig notes, "but I think we're past the leading on and him liking her. That's been gone for a while now. Now it's more of just like, I know I can flick you and piss you off, and that's what I'm going to do, because it makes me laugh."
And in a surprise twist, Craig's forged a friendship with the hairstylist.
"I mean, I don't think [Austen] likes it, but Madison and I have been friends for a long time," Craig explains, "and her and I's dispute was over someone that I was dating at the time. So once that person was removed, Madison and I were able to be buddies again."
Craig's referencing his ex-girlfriend, Natalie Hegnauer, who upset him when she hung out with Madison in secret.
"I mean, to speak frankly, it's not why we're friends, but I'd much rather be allies with Madison than enemies," he deadpans. "I mean, I don't need to ever do what I did last year again."
By "last year," Craig means his explosive argument with Madison at the season 7 reunion, where he exposed an alleged relationship (well, at least DMs) between Madison and former MLB star Alex Rodriguez, who was engaged to Jennifer Lopez at the time. A-Rod denied even knowing Madison, though.
Craig's currently gearing up to film the season 8 reunion, though he says he's not sure what to expect. Viewers are anxiously awaiting answers about Leva Bonaparte's apparent fallout with half the cast (fans have been tracking her choice to unfollow many of her co-stars on Instagram), and so is Craig. He says her reasoning remains unclear to him.
"I think unlike last year, where I had some business to discuss with other people, some stuff to get over off my shoulders, I think I will be on the receiving end of that this year," Craig predicts. "I'm good with everyone. If I saw anyone on the cast right now or in our friend group, I would give them a hug, but I don't think that's how everyone else feels. So we will find out when you guys do."
Reunion comes around the same time Craig celebrates one year with his girlfriend, Summer House star Paige DeSorbo. She's made regular appearances on Southern Charm, and Craig's been visiting the Hamptons this summer to film for season 7 of her show. The two also filmed season 2 of the crossover spinoff Winter House earlier this year.
"I think I've only had one one-year [anniversary] in my life, and I forgot it because I was young and stupid," Craig says. "So this is my first, official one-year anniversary, and I'm going to try to do something special. I think that would be nice. But yeah, we were just talking about it last night, because we were like, what's the protocol? And I kind of played dumb and I was like, I don't know, what are you supposed to do?"
Don't expect a proposal, though. At least not yet.
"I think that's going to be around a year and a half to two years," Craig teases, "but you'll get to see a little bit of that on Summer House this year. That's what's funny though, with TV and with social media, it seems a lot longer than it's been. It's about to be a year -- which is great! -- but there's still some progression and growing, and we still live in different cities. So I think there's still more to watch to see us figure out our future."
Southern Charm airs Thursdays at 9 p.m. ET/PT on Bravo.