'Vanderpump Rules': Tom and Ariana on Returning for Season 9 and How Show Will Address Cast Exits (Exclusive)

Tom Sandoval and Ariana Madix video chat with ET as they get back to filming 'Vanderpump Rules' without a number of OG cast members.

Back to life, back to reality... TV. That might just be Tom Sandoval and Ariana Madix's motto as the pair returns to filming Vanderpump RulesBravo just announced the show, which appeared to be in a state of limbo as the coronavirus pandemic surged on, will return for season 9, with production resuming this week. It's been nearly two years since the Pump Rules crew last shot the show. 

"I don't want to speak for anyone else, but I do think everyone is really looking forward to us all spending time together again," Ariana tells ET over video chat, "and I do think that the overwhelming sense that I get from everybody is just a very positive feeling. I think everyone's really excited, excited to celebrate birthdays, excited to just have a fun summer."

"I'm excited for TomTom to open back up," Tom adds, referencing the West Hollywood bar he co-owns with his best friend, Tom Schwartz, and their show's namesake, Lisa Vanderpump.

"I do miss being out, being in the mix," he says. "It's a feeling that you can't really get doing other things, like, especially when you're at home by yourself. So, I'm really stoked to be doing that, for things to be up and running again. Obviously, it's a little nerve-racking, to be filming this show. You know, it can be very happy at times. It can also be very, give you a lot of anxiety. So, we are slightly experiencing a little bit of that right now, leading into filming. But I feel very confident that this is going to be another great season. We always -- you can't plan anything out. It's just a list of things that aren't going to happen. You just have to go with it."

The COVID-19 crisis forced TomTom, SUR and Lisa's other restaurant businesses around which the show is based into temporary closure (or, in the case of her Beverly Hills eatery Villa Blanca, permanent closure), with no clear reopening date in site. Now, more than a year into the pandemic, California's reopening more and more, paving a way for production to resume on a show that, at its heart, is about a workplace. 

"After speaking to pretty much nobody besides my dogs and [Tom] for the last year, I've become, like, do you remember Salad Fingers, the old YouTube series?" Ariana asks. "Like, that's me speaking to people now. Like, I'm so out of the loop of how to carry on a normal conversation and not sound like a complete weirdo."

Some of the cast got a preview of what shooting season 9 would be like this spring, when cameras temporarily went up to capture the lead-up to co-stars Scheana Shay and Lala Kent giving birth. Soon after announcing the show's return, Bravo premiered what had been shot as "sneak peeks," two scenes, one featuring Lala, her fiancé Randall Emmett, Tom Schwartz and his wife, Katie Maloney, and one featuring Tom Sandoval, Ariana and Scheana. 

"So basically, they did want to just capture that moment before Scheana and Lala both gave birth, because by the time, you know, we start filming this month, they've had their babies," Ariana explains, going on to shut down online rumors that the footage was shot by Randall, a film producer/director's crews, with the idea he could sell it to Bravo should Vanderpump Rules return. 

"They wanted to capture that moment," she reiterates. "There's really only just that tiny little thing, and then we start this month and I think it's going to be explosive."

Lala and Scheana welcomed their respective daughters, Ocean and Summer, in March and April, becoming the first moms -- other than Lisa -- on the Vanderpump Rules full-time cast. Tom and Ariana say they're not quite sure how the two outspoken women becoming mothers will change the group's dynamics, if at all.

"I have so many friends that have kids and family members who have kids and they're always the same person," Ariana notes. "I do think that when something like that, so monumental in your life, happens, your priorities do change. So, we'll see, you know?"

"I mean, I'm looking forward to seeing that and being a part of that journey," Tom jumps into add. Scheana and Lala aren't the only new moms in the Pump Rules circle, though. Stassi Schroeder and Brittany Cartwright also welcomed their own babies within the last year, but their journeys won't be a part of season 9. Bravo let go of Stassi and fellow OG Kristen Doute last summer after past racially insensitive actions the pair took against former co-star Faith Stowers resurfaced. A few months later, Brittany and her husband, Jax Taylor, announced their departure from the series, which was seemingly not their choice. On top of those four, season 8 newbies Brett Caprioni, Max Boyens and Dayna Kathan are also not returning. 

"Of course it changes things and we obviously don't know what to expect," Tom says of the rather large cast shake-up. "It's going to be a little bit different, but we're just going to live our lives."

"We're just going to lean into it and have a lot of fun," Ariana says. The couple isn't yet sure how the remaining cast will address all the exits on camera. Many of the returning stars are still close with the likes of Stassi, her husband Beau Clark, Kristen, Brittany and Jax.

"That's not up to us," Ariana says, noting that it's up to the show's producers to decide how to acknowledge the missing players. It will be hard to just ignore their absences. 

"We'll address it in our own way," Tom says, "and probably just quickly move on, you know?"

"I mean, we have tons of people in our lives that they don't show on the show," he notes. "Like we, have a lot of friends and, obviously, family members and stuff. There's only a certain, really, amount of people that they follow and everybody else, it's just, they're in the background." 

James Kennedy and his girlfriend Raquel Leviss round out the returning cast, which for now is the Toms, Ariana, Katie, Scheana, Lisa and Lala.

"We got some nice things, nice big things, coming up, Ariana and I," Tom goes on to tease, "as well as me and Schwartz definitely have some things. Obviously can't talk about them just yet, but you'll see. And it's going to be interesting. It's going to be fun and it's going to be intense. Here we go."

Tom and Ariana have stayed busy in the lead-up to Vanderpump Rules' return. Tom has a new horror anthology film, Scare Us, set for release on video on demand this month. 

"It's a really cool, different, unique, fun movie," Tom shares. "It'll be fun when it comes out, but also, it'll be a nice Halloween movie, as well."

The pair has also kept their mixology skills on point, creating a series of mocktails designed for the morning after a night of heavy drinking. In honor of Cinco de Mayo, Tom and Ariana crafted "The Fresh Start Margarita."

"Every time that you have a night of celebration, you need that post-party help," Ariana explains.

"It's nice and light and refreshing," Tom says. "And you kind of need that the day after when you're struggling."

Check out the full mocktail recipe here: 

4 oz. Water
2 Alka-Seltzer Lemon Lime Tablets
1 tsp. Lavender Honey
1/2 tsp. Ginger Syrup
2 Cucumber slices, as garnish on rim
1 Lime slice, as garnish on rim
3-5 Ice cubes

Fill a glass with 4 oz of water. Drop in the Lemon-Lime tablets. Once the tablets have fully dissolved, add lavender honey to the mixture and the ginger syrup, stirring with a spoon. Add your garnishes to the rim, then drop in 3-5 ice cubes. Last, but not least, drink and feel the relief!

Vanderpump Rules returns to Bravo later this year.