Three seasons into Basketball Wives, and Shaunie O’Neal is still fighting to strike the right balance with the show. When I spoke to her at the reunion taping recently, Shaunie had recently been dealing with some criticism of the series, and I was curious about how she sees the drama both onscreen and off. And as for the biggest problem of all this season (drama, thy name is Meeka) when we asked Shaunie about the now-infamous Rome trip, she told us “I just never should have invited her.” Read on for Shaunie’s take on Tami and Meeka, Evelyn and Jen, and how she doesn’t consider herself the leader of “the circle.”
This season has been the most all over the map, there was such a huge spectrum of tender family stuff combined with major drama.
Being in it, and being a producer, what do you prefer? Are you happy when there’s drama because it makes for good TV?
Well, I definitely prefer no drama for me. But I think it’s only normal to have a bunch of women together that much and the drama just happens, it’s nothing that’s planned or set up, it just happens. As much as I’d rather that it not happen, I expect that somebody’s going to disagree, somebody’s going to have an argument, there’s going to be something. And I prepare myself for that but if I had to choose, I’d definitely rather have the happy times.
Even as a producer, do you think having a happy show would get as many viewers?
My whole thing is, there’s a way to balance it. Like with Evelyn and her dad, people loved that, they loved to see that it wasn’t a fight but it was still dramatic and pulled at your heartstrings, so I do believe that because people love seeing drama, by sprinkling in the good stuff gives it some type of balance.
Are those positive moments intentionally inserted in there to force that balance, or do they occur naturally?
Both. The meeting between Evelyn and her father, for instance, was something Evelyn wanted to have happen in her life and we were like, that’s real and we should capture that moment, so it’s something I express to production all the time, let’s capture our kids graduating and our dinners we have and the real life stuff that we do in our normal lives in the midst of the fighting.
Do you think all this talk about “the circle” is accurate, that there’s a core group of you, Evelyn and Jennifer and do you feel like the leader in the social group?
I wouldn’t say that socially there’s a leader. I guess you could say me, Evelyn, Jen, and I think Tami, too, make up that core. The four of us probably see eye to eye a lot more than anyone else, so we would be the core four, but there’s no leader. If there’s some issue, something that needs to be talked out, I think I’m always that person people come to, I don’t know why, it’s just the dynamic of our relationship.
You’re just the calm one.
Maybe so, I’m the one that’s like, “Listen, you need to bring it down before you react.” I’m that person and they know that, so I think they like, run it by me when they’re about to blow. Sometimes things on the show happen so quickly, though, like in Rome when Evelyn came to me about Jen, we left that conversation where she was upset, but she wasn’t as upset as she was outside, it got to that moment and she went in a whole other direction. Tami and I were like, this is not how we talked about dealing with this. It doesn’t always happen like we want it to, but when you get to the point when emotions and adrenaline are rushing, it goes to the left quick.
When you heard the tape of Jennifer’s radio interview, did you think Evelyn reacted appropriately, or was Jen in the wrong for saying what she said?
I think Jen probably said a few too many things. But in her defense, I don’t think she meant them maliciously or mean, she just was talking. She meant what she said and she felt that way, but should she have said it on a radio station? Probably not. But I know she didn’t mean to hurt Evelyn or Chad, I just think she chose a bad place and time to say it. As far as Evelyn, I think that interview was icing on the cake for things that had been brewing. It wasn’t the first time Jen had made some off comments about her and Chad’s relationship and I think Evelyn felt it and that interview sent it to a different place. It had been brewing for a couple months.
Did you think the trip to Italy would cause so much drama between all the ladies?
I definitely didn’t think it was going to cause all that drama between Evelyn and Jen. It was a little weird between them, but nothing that would ruin a trip, and they were able to function. We were just having girl time and it was great, they never crossed my mind. But the Tami-Meeka part did cross my mind. I still thought, I know Tami and I know how she can say how she feels, sometimes three or four times, but you know, she still wants to go and have a good time. I never thought it would get as intense, and the Meeka stuff started to get under everybody’s skin. It went from Tami’s “I don’t like you” to everybody being annoyed because she was changing up her story. I just never should have invited her. I thought she’d let her guard down and let us know who she really is because at this point all we heard was stuff from each other about “She said this to me and she said that,” and I thought, let’s give her a chance, but it kind of panned out to be what we thought it was.
As soon as you saw Tami’s hand go up and make contact with Meeka’s face, were you just like “What’s happening?”
That all happened so fast and it was so loud that we couldn’t hear what was being said and you couldn’t hear the volume of what was being said, so we didn’t know if Tami was hollering at her or what, but I did see Meeka’s hands in her face which, we all know Tami, do not put your hands up, don’t do it to Tami. My first instinct was “Put your hand down! Please!” but then the next thing I know, it was hand on face and I was screaming “Tami! No!” That’s all I could think: “Tami, don’t do it!”
Did you have a chance to form your own opinion about Meeka?
I didn’t spend a lot of time with her, I experienced her on a few occasions, but the most time I spent with her was in Rome and that’s when I figured out that she was a little sketchy. Before that, there were a few question marks, like “Why did you just say that?” or “Why are you talking about that person?” but I still gave her the benefit of the doubt, but when we got to Rome and things started catching up to her and she was mixing up what people said it was like, this friendship is not gonna work. I knew she was not going to mesh with any of us. I just don’t find her to be an honest person at all and I think her intentions, I don’t know exactly what they were. We have a mutual friend outside the show who let me know that she wanted to come on and be this star and shine, but the way she chose to do it, not so much. All of us could probably take a vote right now and never want to see Meeka again and that’d be just fine. After Rome, none of the girls would film with her. I think they got Suzie to do that one scene with her when we got back.
Was it like “Poor Suzie, we need her to do this”?
Suzie is the person that WILL do it. She won’t say no, she’ll just be like “Ohhkayyy,” she just is that person. And we’re like “You don’t HAVE to, you do know that, right?” and she’s like “I feel bad.” I think she felt bad for feelin’ like she got Meeka’s butt kicked, but Meeka got Meeka’s butt kicked because she should have shut up.
Do you think Meeka calling out Suzie for talking too much is like the pot calling the kettle black?
Tami would have torn Suzie a new asshole if she found out that Meeka had been talking about her and Suzie didn’t tell her. It’s like I said at dinner in Rome, the loyalty still lies at this table with the five of us. Bottom line is, Evelyn and Tami or whoever can hate each other at that moment, but if you come in and talk about one of them to us then that’s going to be a problem and I think she doesn’t get that.
Is it safe to say that if there’s a season four, Meeka won’t be a part of it?
I’m hoping not.
How does Meeka compare to Royce as far as people not wanting to deal with her?
It’s two different kinds. Royce for me is just a roller coaster as far as who Royce is. Season one, she was that fun girl, a little sister type, season two she was still fun but with attitude, and I think once we went to Madrid and I spent more time with her, I wasn’t really feeling her. The comments she made about it being a free trip and and stuff, I just thought it was tacky. And then when we did the reunion she was really a different person, and I think I said that. “I don’t know who that person is right now.” And I guess we did get the real Royce. Madrid combined with the reunion was enough for me not to be around her. I don’t know which person she’s gonna be on which day, so I just choose not to be around it. I don’t hate her, I just don’t want to be around her.
You’re the person everyone wants to know everything about since you keep your life so private, will you show more personal stuff if there’s another season?
I’m not opposed to doing it now but the logistics of the show is what makes it hard. My personal life happens in LA. My kids are here, my home is here, my man is here. So when I go to Miami it’s to spend time with my friends and handle my business and that’s what you see. If the cameras come to LA, you’d see more.
Would you make an appearance on Basketball Wives L.A.?
Probably not. I’m taking a backseat to the L.A. show and just focusing on Miami.