Exclusive Interview with Alex McCord and Simon van Kempen from Couples Therapy
Alex McCord and Simon van Kempen are appearing on Season 2 of Couples Therapy. Last week’s episode heavily featured the couple, and with all the comment and questions on the Blog I asked Simon if he’s answer some questions for us.
Before we get to the questions, I wanted to share what Simon wrote in the email about LuLu’s blogging the show: ”Thank Lulu and her husband for doing the Couples Therapy blogs. Having both a wife & a husband writing has added to the Venus/Mars context of any (heterosexual) married couple.”
I’d like to thank both Alex and Simon for taking the time to answer our questions. As you will see, they gave thoughtful, thorough answers to our questions. They also gave a gentle reminder (in the JoJo and Tiny question) that much of what we read in the tabloids is rumor – beware of “unnamed” sources. With that – please enjoy the interview.
Questions were from me (NoMoreDrama -NMD), LuLu and LoveMamaEarth (LME) who was watching the show and commenting as I was putting together the questions.
NMD. Let’s start with a silly question. I have to ask about the Speedo. After all the grief you got about wearing a Speedo on The Real Housewives of New York in Season 1, didn’t you think twice about being filmed in one on Couples Therapy?
Simon: When we packed, all we knew was that we might be in LA for as long as 21 days and would be filming 24/7. I didn’t know whether I’d need a Tuxedo or Speedos, so I took both and just about everything in between. I took several pairs of board shorts and in addition that pair of Speedos, as, well ….. you just never know. When Courtney & Doug left the house, it was hot, I felt like a swim and I thought I’d make a statement about attire that’s appropriate for the venue; in this place a swimming pool, and I did. Did I also guess that that footage would probably end up being used on air? Damn right – may as well use some of this Reality TV experience I’ve gained while I am still in front of the camera!
Alex: I think the world would be a better place if more men felt comfortable enough in their own skin to wear speedos.
NMD: How long were you in the Therapy House?
Simon: We were in LA for just under three weeks and in the house for a little more than two weeks.
Lulu: Did Dr Jenn behave differently in her therapy once the camera was off?
Simon: No, that’s one thing I can say for certain, the Dr Jenn you saw on screen was same as the one that we always saw. Remember the cameras were always on in every session from beginning to end and she, like us, had really no idea at that time what footage would make it to air. In addition, all the rooms including the bedrooms had 360 degree cameras mounted in the ceiling, that were recording 24/7. The only time we were free of cameras was in the bathroom and even in there, there were microphones taped to the ceiling to listen in!
Alex: Agreed, and I’d open that up to say that almost everyone behaved exactly the same way throughout.
LuLu: Was there more animosity between the rest of the cast and “Dourtney” than was shown?
Simon: Not really, most of it made it to air; generally we all just tried to co-exist and they only really got up our goat in group. In this week’s episode, I’m guessing based on the previews, you’ll see an argument between Doug & me that occurred just after they returned from exile. Prior to that when Courtney was out of the house (she could only be on set 7 hours each day) Doug would hide in his room and had very little interaction with any of us.
Alex: Nope, you saw the worst of it.
NMD: We (people commenting on the site) were a little taken aback by Dr. Jenn’s behavior after “Dourtney” left the house. She seemed to be blaming you (the other couples) for her inability to get through to them. What did you feel at that time about her behavior? How do you feel about it now that you’ve had a chance to watch the episode?
Simon: In the very first group session on Day 1, I had a go at her about them being cast on the show, and presumably as it was too close to the 4th wall, wasn’t shown. Given Alex & I had four years of Reality TV experience, we were wise to the many tricks producers have up their sleeves. Fortunately, the casting (and perhaps return) of Dourtney was the only trick played by VH1. In that first post-Dourtney session Alex was damned pissed with Dr Jenn and forcefully said her piece. I was more dismissive when I said something like “OK you’ve had your little ‘Lord of the Flies’ experiment, can we move on now” which upset her, but I do think blind Freddy could have predicted what transpired with the house splitting 8 to 2.
NMD: Does Alex regret stuffing the dollars in Courtney’s outfit?
Alex: Given everything that happened before and after…no. Did we all regress to being 17? Yes. If we had it all to do again, would it play out with a similar level of intensity? Yes.
NMD: JoJo and Tiny were on the show with you. They’ve just announced that they are getting a divorce. Have you kept in touch with them since the show stopped filming? What is your reaction to the news of their divorce?
Simon: I’ve not seen that confirmed and I’m more than aware that the internet is always rife with rumors that aren’t true, and therefore won’t comment more than that.
Alex: Please remember that just because a gossip website announces something, doesn’t mean it’s true. You can’t say that “they announced it” unless they actually did. Unnamed sources could be anybody saying anything.
LoveMamaEarth: Is therapy harder when the parents are deceased? Were there things you would have liked to discuss with your parents (like Alex got a chance to talk through with her mom)?
Simon: I won’t go into it here, but I had a child hood trauma associated with my father’s death when I was five that irked me for years. I left Australia in 1986 and since then have not had a great deal of face time with my Mother, at least not face time when such memories can be discussed. However when I traveled to Australia alone in 2007 (during filming for RHoNY Season 1), for my Mother’s husband’s funeral, I broached it with her then. I’m not sure her answer changed my viewpoint on it 37 years after it occurred, but perhaps now that I am also a parent, I can appreciate that she made a decision that at the time she thought was best. I was 5 when my father died, which in of itself doesn’t make therapy harder, but it causes you memories one would rather not have.
LME: Did Alex’s breakthrough with her mother help your relationship?
Simon: No, at least not yet. As those scenes have only aired recently, I suppose that’s still a moving issue. I was thrilled that her mother joined Alex in LA. Alexis had filmed in Season 1 RHoNY but her scenes at Francois’ 4th birthday with us & Bethenny were cut, as having Alexis on film would have been counter productive to the ‘story’ Bravo were constructing around us as the ‘wannabe outsiders’.
Alex: It’s probably all relative in the long run, but there have definitely been wonderful conversations that Mom and I have had following the filming as well as the airing of those moments.
LME: In the end, did having Courtney as part of the group hinder or help with your progress? Did you feel Dr Jenn was helpful overall?
Simon: I don’t think it hindered but it most definitely didn’t help. If anything their presence sucked up a lot of oxygen and meant we wasted time discussing them when we would have been better off discussing important things.
Alex: They really tried to hijack the group process, but in the end (speaking for us anyway) we got what we needed. There was plenty of time that they weren’t around due to Courtney being off-set and Doug hiding while she was away.
LME: What was the hardest thing about being in the lime light? What was the hardest thing about losing the lime light? And were those things different for Alex?
Simon: When we burst onto the scene in January 2008, we did so via a 30 min RHoNY preview that Bravo then aired incessantly until the first episode aired in early March. That preview contained just 22 minutes of footage and about four minutes was on each of the five cast members and their families. Each four minute segment utilized the most stereotypical footage of each wife, as well as footage that, particularly without the benefit of context, made each look foolish. At least that was the case for four; as the show was being edited and put together one cast member was hand picked by Bravo to receive the Greek Chorus edit and to her credit she ran with it and still is!
Once that preview aired and then as the season progressed we suddenly went from not being recognized to effectively having no privacy whatsoever. If you’re a highly paid film star you can probably afford to deal with those consequences but first season of Reality TV shows then paid a pittance and as such we’d lost so much for so little but you can’t turn the clock back.
I’m not sure we’ve lost the limelight yet, whatever that is, but when we do I’ll let you know. If we do nothing else on television, I think it’ll take about three years to fade from memory. Then maybe we can do another VH1 show – ‘Where Are They Now!’ 😉
Alex: Whether as an actress or a reality personality, I’ve always barely tolerated the “limelight” part of it. Although I love the actual work of broadcasting, making movies, TV shows and theatre, the public appearance part of it really gives me hives. While it’s fair to say that many people enjoy walking red carpets and attending parties, I don’t like that part of it. BUT, until we re-invent the industry, it’s part of the gig.
NMD: What’s next for Simon and Alex?
Simon: That chapter’s still being written, but if Couples Therapy is the last Reality TV show we do, I’d rather have it on my epitaph than RHoNY. Putting aside the D&C freak show side of it, this show was a truly moving and positive experience for Alex, me, Alex & me and Alex & her Mother and that’s something I can not say for our time on RHoNY.
Alex: I remember having a heart-to-heart with one of the Couples Therapyproducers, who said they hoped we’d have a corrective experience with CT, and I think we absolutely did. I’m really enjoying covering pop culture for various media outlets (currently doing the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills for Celebuzz ( See it here ) and writing. I have also really enjoyed the various Mom’s panel projects for outlets like Café Mom, and a new show that will begin airing later this month – as soon as I get the press release for that I’ll share it with you.
Thanks again Alex and Simon! NMD
Some additional comments from Simon (from the comments)
Simon van Kempen says:
Sue, I’m more than aware that I’m not your favorite person but two things. I am actually much prouder of CT than RHoNY and whether that’s biting or not, it’s a fact and I am sure you’ll find that Alex is, as well. As for your other assertion that I “forget that it was his (my) wife, NOT HIM (me), who was one of the “stars” of RHONY.” let me quote from a book written by Bravo called “The Real Housewives Get Personal”. In it is written the following: ‘ “We had just gotten a pitch for a show called Manhattan Moms, that featured Simon and Alex on it. It was meant to be a show about raising young kids in New York City and getting them into private schools,” says Bravo’s Head of Programming and Host Andy Cohen. The show wasn’t right for Bravo, but Alex and Simon – as a package – were perfect.’ (see page 103)
That IS the reality of our casting situation. Alex and I were cast together and while the show that we signed up for morphed into RHoNY, we didn’t know that until the end of the first season’s filming.
Simon van Kempen says:
As for the 3 or 4 years comment, it is true that RHoNY is airing everyday on UK television and not a day goes by without several people tweeting me about it. Just last week it was the tennis match and this past weekend, the marriage equality march. Maybe that’s not ‘the limelight’ of which NMDLynnFam asked, but the reality is these shows do continue to air for several years and I’ll continue to nicely respond to those on Twitter, from whichever country, who ask about the show. To ignore these first time viewers, who through no fault of their own are only seeing the show several years after it premiered in the USA, would be rude.