Tom Sandoval and Tom Schwartz Were 'Uncertain' About VPR's Future amid Costar Exits and COVID-19
Bravo's Vanderpump Rules was renewed in April for a ninth season
"When this was all happening, I felt obviously there was some uncertainty," Sandoval, 37, tells PEOPLE while promoting the costars' partnership with Daily's Cocktails for the brand's Daily's Poptails launch. "But I think overall, as we talked to production and everything, across the board people were like, 'We want this to come back in some way, shape or form.' We've just got to figure out how [and] when."
"Especially when other things started shooting in limited capacity, I think that this was one that [Bravo producers] were for sure wanting to bring back. And we were obviously hopeful and optimistic," he adds, noting that he doesn't believe anyone "really lost hope as far as it not coming back."
Schwartz, 38, adds that the cast remained "cautiously optimistic" while waiting on the season 9 renewal news, which was announced in April.
As for whether they ever contemplated their own futures with the show, Sandoval says he did debate the idea at times. But for the most part, he was still "really excited" about returning to film.
"This time off sort of gave me a time to take a breath, relax, sort of figure out a little bit more about myself and who I am," he says. "When we're filming the show, even though we have principal filming for three and a half months or so, then we're doing interviews and then we're traveling and doing press. All of the sudden, it's like, now we're going to start filming in a month. So you feel like you don't really have a lot of time off to where you can chill and kind of get a sense of yourself. Having over a year off, I feel much better, much more comfortable in my own skin."
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Schwartz, for his part, agrees with his fellow TomTom co-owner that the extended hiatus proved to be "great" in the long run. That being said, he says there was "never a moment in the past eight years" where he wondered whether he'd leave the show.
"We've had so many great times, so many great memories that we'll always cherish. Well, and some memories we prefer not to remember, of course. … But we've never taken it for granted," Schwartz says. "[We're] perpetually grateful for the opportunity that we have been presented, and we love our production company. But like Tom said, this was a great time to just stop and take a moment and self-reflect and appreciate everything that's happened, and just take a nice breather and enjoy some of the simple things in life."
"I had some great moments with just [my wife] Katie [Maloney] and Tom and everybody throughout quarantine," he adds.
Vanderpump Rules, which premiered on Bravo in 2013, experienced several setbacks after its eighth season wrapped last year. Original cast members Stassi Schroeder and Kristen Doute were fired last June alongside newcomers Max Boyens and Brett Caprioni for their past racist actions and social media posts.
As Jax Taylor's own controversial behavior surfaced, he and his wife, Brittany Cartwright, announced their departures in December. Newcomer Dayna Kathan additionally revealed this April that she would not return after just one season.
The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic also resulted in production being delayed, and the Toms' bar, TomTom, temporarily closing alongside SUR. Bravo confirmed last month that Vanderpump Rules is officially returning and that production would begin in May.
Filming the series amid the pandemic has naturally invited its own set of challenges. "You can't be going into packed places anymore, so there's that. I think the whole cast has been double-vaxxed for a while now, but we've still got to get COVID tests," Sandoval says, to which Schwartz adds, "It takes a little getting used to, you know? I forgot how to talk for a second. I feel like I need to be re-socialized, but it's been really good so far."
Sandoval and Schwartz are also busying themselves with the Daily's Poptails launch. The new item is a wine-based, frozen alcoholic popsicle that comes in three flavors: strawberry, watermelon and green apple.
According to the longtime best friends, it's the perfect treat to enjoy during the summer season.
"It's obviously something we're totally into when we have gatherings at our house or if we're going to the beach, or something like that. It just seemed like a perfect sort of partnership, especially to do right as the summer's first starting to take off," Sandoval says.
"Whenever I hand them to people, they're like, 'What is this?'" Schwartz adds. "They're intrigued. And they're delicious. They're not too sweet, but they have great flavor. They're great!"
Season 9 of Vanderpump Rules is expected to premiere on Bravo this fall.
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