‘BBW’ EP reveals behind-the-scenes drama

     

     

    Shaunie O’Neal is arguably the most popular executive producer of VH1’s hit reality franchise, “Basketball Wives,” but as she’s made clear, she’s not the only one working behind the scenes on the series.

    She shares her executive producer title with others, including Sean Rankine, who’s worked on “Making the Band,” “Real World,” “College Hill” and other popular reality shows.

    Although he’s mostly behind the camera, fans of the show have seen Sean on screen when he’s found it necessary to pull two scrapping women apart and keep them from scratching one another’s eyes out on camera.

    While Shaunie has been vocal about her thoughts on changes that need to be made to the series to offer more positive depictions of Black women, Sister 2 Sister wanted to find out how others on the show deal with the negative comments, sporadic violence and reality TV’s increasing popularity.

    Check it out below.

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    Tracy: At times, you’ve had to physically restrain members of the "Basketball Wives" cast to keep them from fighting. Have you put any protocols in place to try to keep the women from becoming violent?
    Sean: In any situation where you are dealing with people and their real lives, you have to be prepared for the unexpected. There are multiple variables at work when you are dealing with people’s lives and emotions. The one thing about our cast is that NOTHING is staged or scripted, so what you see is what you get. If there is something that strikes a nerve or touches close to home, you cannot be sure of what the reaction will be. As a production, we do not want to see anyone get hurt, so we have a number of measures in place to ensure everyone’s (cast and crew) safety. As you can see, I take it seriously. I am nearly famous for my cameos as someone that intervenes during heated situations.

    Tracy: Have you ever feared for your own safety?
    Sean: I have never been in fear of my own safety on this show. On a few other shows….maybe.

    Tracy:  NeNe Leakes said that reality shows ruin relationships. We’ve seen the relationship between Jackie Christie and Laura Govan end and now Evelyn Lozada and Jennifer Williams are apparently no longer speaking. Do you think reality TV is to blame?
    Sean: I think that Ms. Leakes is definitely entitled to her opinion on the subject. In some instances, it may very well be a contributing factor. No one except those in the troubled relationship can really, truly identify the issues that lead to the demise of a relationship. I know that as it pertains to “Basketball Wives,” we are observers and nothing more. We are documentarians of what is currently evolving within our cast members’ lives. It is not our place to insert ourselves within [any] relationship, nor would my staff want to. This production is staffed with professionals of the highest caliber and they respect boundaries fully. I will say that some relationships may be flawed and the intensity of the schedule and the camera time may expose issues that are lying just below the surface. Also, when the shows air, true feelings that partners were not aware of may come to light.

    Tracy: How do you respond to those who criticize the shows because there aren’t many actual wives on them?
    Sean: First thing to point out is that when we started shooting the show, Shaunie and Jen were married and Evelyn was engaged to be married very soon. Meeka [Claxton] was also married while on the show and now so is Kenya [Bell]. We also have Jackie and Malaysia [Pargo] on our Los Angeles cast. When people criticize the show based on semantics, I have to say that they need to have a bit of perspective. While a title may be taken literally, things are open to interpretation. Some people have focused on the word ‘wives’, but I ask them, “What is the definition of a wife?” It’s a woman that shares her life with her mate over a prolonged period of time. Granted, there are those on our show that have not gotten the “piece of paper” and there are those that have. However, I would like to point out that in many states, the amount of time that some of these women were in relationships with their players does constitute ‘common law’ marriage. For example, Evelyn was with her significant other for 10 years, as was Suzie [Ketcham]. Shaunie, Tami [Roman], Jen and Kenya were legally married. Nevertheless, these women were integral parts of their players’ lives. In the end, it’s just a name. Just because you name an SUV “Durango” doesn’t mean that the city from Colorado is rolling out of dealerships around the country onto the highway.

    Tracy: A lot of reality stars like to blame the editing for the way they’re portrayed on a show. How do you respond to that?
    Sean: I think that our editing process is very fair and true to form. We edit for time and not content. What happened is what you see. As a producer, I am a firm believer of staying true to events as they transpired. It doesn’t serve anyone to make stuff up. Some cast members may not agree, as they have encountered situations where their actions have been called in to question. It happens. If you didn’t do it or say it, it wouldn’t exist. My team is very upfront with our cast, and our women live life out loud. They are real women with nothing to hide or to concoct, which is far more than I can say for other folks out there.

    Tracy: What’s the hardest part about following people around trying to tape their lives?
    Sean: The hardest part of documenting people’s real lives, is being sensitive to what is going on around you. We have experienced some amazing highs and lows in the "Basketball Wives" series. We have seen birth and death and everything in between. It gets pretty raw and you have to know when to pull back or keep going. The one thing is that our women have opened up all areas of their lives and nothing has been off limits. Just as human beings, sometimes you have an inherent nature to want to stop rolling or look away, but we are dedicated to this process. I know that we have definitely shared both cheers and tears on every season. Some days can be harder than others, depending on what is happening.

    Tracy:
    Do you prefer a show like "BBW" in which you have to hop more from one location to the next, or a situation like "College Hill" in which all the cast members lived in one space?
    Sean: I tend to like shows for their subject matter rather than the way that they are shot. Having a variety of locations on "Basketball Wives" adds spice to the daily routine. However, unless you are shooting a show like “Big Brother” or “Solitary,” every show has a range of locations. We have been to some great places on this show, though. I like to be able to say that I have shot in Spain, Italy, Hawaii, NYC, Miami, L.A., and countless other places. We are very lucky.

    Tracy: How do you respond to criticism that the shows exploit the stars and reinforce negative stereotypes?
    Sean: I don’t think that in this day and age anyone that participates in a reality series or docu-soap can rightfully claim exploitation. The screening process is vigorous and the contracts are very clear. If this was 1992 when “reality” was just coming into existence via shows like “The Real World” and “Road Rules” — two shows of which I am a proud staff alum — you could perhaps cite some ignorance to the processes or outcome. It’s 2012. This is a vehicle for entertainment and furthering your prospects in some instances.

    —Tracy L. Scott
     

     

    Here’s more:
    Does reality TV affect stars’ love lives?
    Will Shaunie O’Neal diversify ‘BBW’?
    Shaunie O’Neal irked by double standard
    Sherri Shepherd, Tami Roman agree to disagree over ‘Basketball Wives’

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