Chrishell Stause knows how this works. Born into an impoverished family in Kentucky — but not at a Shell gas station, as some have claimed — she became a working actress when she was cast as a series regular on ABC’s All My Children in 2005. Now a luxury real-estate agent, the Selling Sunset star has spent her life hustling her way through two incredibly competitive industries with a big warm grin. In conversation she’s soft and sweet, but as we chat about the making of the show’s fourth season, it’s clear Stause has no naïveté about how the reality-television sausage is made. She’s well aware of why conflict is needed to heighten a story, but seems to lament the lack of control this allows her to maintain over the situations she finds herself in.
Amiable as she is, Stause has had a hellish few years: She lost her father to lung cancer in 2019 and her mother to the same disease in 2020. In between those events, she began a very public divorce from Justin Hartley, a fellow actor who has already remarried one of his former co-stars. Any one of these events would be enough to destabilize someone, and while it’s impossible to know just how okay anyone is, there’s a sense that Stause is used to picking herself up and dusting herself off. Thinking about her, I can’t help but be reminded of Kenneth the page from 30 Rock, a lovable, bubbly southern boy who can roll with any punch, and whose unflappable positivity stumps corporate shark Jack Donaghy at every turn: “In five years, we’ll either all be working for him or be dead by his hand.” Personally, I welcome my new Chrishell overlord.
This interview has been edited and condensed.
What’s a real-estate or architectural trend you just hate?
I do not like the super-modern homes that look like these cold — I really think they look like jail cells, because they’re just concrete boxes. It’s supposed to look really masculine and modern, but to me it just looks like an empty mall. I’m not into that, and it’s very popular here.
I got sent an early manuscript of your book and I’ve already started reading it. I learned in the first few pages that the story of you being born at a Shell station is incorrect. Can you elaborate?
It’s so funny. I was not born in a Shell station. I hate to disappoint people that think I was. My mom was getting car work done, and an attendant at the station was helping her and keeping her calm. Obviously she couldn’t drive to the hospital then, so the ambulance came. I made it to the hospital, but she wanted to name me after him. He worked at the Shell station, so she just thought “Chris, shell” — let’s stick them together. And you know, Chrishell was born, quite literally.
Have you seen the final cut of season four?
I just did. It’s always so nerve-racking before I know what’s going out. We really get no say. We’re like, Buckle up, here we go. I think it’s our best season yet. I was very pleasantly surprised. Of course, it gets messy, as you know.
Yeah. Did anything surprise you when you watched back and got to see people’s interviews?
There’s a group of us who are so close and I feel like it’s pretty predictable. We love each other. We have each other’s backs. But of course, there’s always going to be those little comments — and I’m sure it goes both ways — where you’re like, Um, I didn’t know you felt that way.
I think there’s a husband at one point who definitely looks like he’s trying to earn his own peach and he takes a big dig at me. That was a little surprising. There’s a moment in the office with Jason that looks like he’s kind of jealous and I don’t have any memory of that happening. It’s funny to watch from a bird’s-eye view. When you’re in it and living it, you miss some things.
I noticed some of the partners getting involved this season. What decisions go into whose partner gets involved? When you were married to Justin, he wasn’t on the show.
I think it’s their own personal decision. There might be some cases in which it wasn’t a right fit, but for the most part, it helps tell our story and who we are. I think [the producers] would welcome that. But not everybody wants that. It’s not suited for everyone’s job, so it makes sense that not everybody’s dying to jump in there.
As an actress, how much do you feel like you’re performing when you’re filming the show versus showing your real self?
There’s some parts in season four that, when I watch it, I’m like, Gosh, I wish I dialed it down a little bit. But that’s real. And sometimes when something is under your skin, it’s like, honestly, that really is me. There are other times where we have to dial something up, and it comes from being in the position we’re in. In real life, if I had an issue with someone, I wouldn’t put myself in a position to keep needing to talk about it or needing to beat this dead horse. But we have to be in the same rooms and scenarios multiple times, so that’s really what amps it up. They like to get the pot nice and hot and then throw us all in it.
One of the moments that upset me the most this season was when Robert picked you up on the boat. How did you avoid throwing him into the sea?
Oh my God, that was so uncomfortable. It’s still uncomfortable, ’cause I’m like, Oh my God, he’s going to see this. It really truly was awkward. Those are the moments where now at least it’s funny — I mean, it’s funny until I have to run into him, I guess. But in the moment, it seemed crazy. And then he wouldn’t let me out. It was a lot of not-great stuff. There was a little bit of like, Whatever side of the boat he’s on, I’m going to the other side.
So the big news is you and Jason are now an item. Can you talk about your decision to go public with that?
We really enjoyed being able to not go public with it right away. We were trying to keep it private and see what it was. Relationships — you never know what it is in the beginning. You don’t need a whole bunch of random people’s opinions on top of it. But then we were going on a trip to Greece and normally you would share a room with a girlfriend or something — rooms are really expensive there — and I had to explain, like, “Uh, I can’t share a room with you, Amanza.” She was like, “What’s going on?” So our group that was going on this trip ended up knowing. Then in the confines of going out — it’s the most romantic place in the world, we’re going to Italy and Greece — it started to feel unfair that I couldn’t just hold his hand at dinner, do the simple things. We had been together for a couple months and we were like, Let’s just get it over with. You don’t care about people’s opinions when you’re traveling to Greece and Italy.
Did you worry about it changing the dynamic at the office? People were already complaining about Mary being the favorite.
Of course I thought about that, but at the end of the day, I am in the office and I know the dynamic of the group that comes into work. We’re there working together whether the cameras are there or not. For the most part, it’s a really supportive group, but also, we’re so busy. If you are a real-estate agent on a TV show, you get more listings than you can actually do in a day. I have to give away listings and referrals constantly. If he was like, “Please take this listing,” I would say, “I can’t.” Maybe in a different time that would have had some benefit, but now it really doesn’t and the people who work there know that.
I wanted to talk about Christine. In the finale, you were talking about her trying to ruin your life. In that moment, what were you thinking of specifically? Emotions were running so high, but I felt like I was missing part of the story.
And you were, because unfortunately, with our show, when things happen in the press sometimes, they don’t want to break the fourth wall and we can’t say things clearly. I felt that way when I watched as well. I’d rather just be honest and tell you: She tried to plant a false story when I was going through my divorce and I had to have both sides confirm that it wasn’t true and then threaten legal action. And this was right after my mom died. It was a lot on my plate and kicking someone while they’re down and trying to spread a rumor that I was hooking up with someone. Both parties knew that is not what happened.
They had to pull it, but to try and even put that out there at a time where everybody was wondering what happened and I lost my mom — to me that’s so below the belt. I had to spend thousands of dollars in legal fees and this isn’t the first time I dealt with something on this level. She did it again recently, trying to say that me and Jason were happening before, and it’s just not true. You can understand how that really could take someone down and ruin them when everyone on the internet is trying to figure out what happened. She takes it as an opportunity to fill in some blanks that were blatantly untrue. It was many steps too far for me.
Christine spends a lot of time talking about how she wants to move forward and doesn’t want to deal with this anymore. Were you surprised by that?
I’m not surprised by it because if anyone knows when the camera’s on, it’s her. We deal with a different side of her when the cameras aren’t on. Nothing she does on-camera surprises me.
I was gonna ask whether you thought she had the ability to redeem herself, but it sounds like she’s still causing trouble.
I think some accountability would go a long way with the group. I don’t think it looks good that a bunch of people are at their wit’s end and then it’s one person over here. But it’s also the bed that you made. If you came to people and said, Listen, I did that. I was in a bad place and I messed up, I think that would go a long way. But there’s been none of that, and then continued behavior. I get it, the viewers want us to get along and they want this to go away and I couldn’t possibly feel more of the same way, but when you get into the minutiae of what has really happened behind the scenes, it’s a tough bridge to rebuild.
I interviewed Davina recently, and she expressed that she was a little surprised to realize that people were still so mad at her. I asked her if she had any questions she’d like me to ask you, and she said, “Ask her how she feels about what she said about me.”
I feel like I say a lot of how I felt to her when we talk about, and I stand by everything I said. I would have been okay not bringing it up, but if we’re going to bring it up, then let’s do it. And I also prefaced with where we are today. I told her, “That’s not where we were. I hadn’t seen you after that happened. I then didn’t speak to you or talk to you. And then of course, now you’re coming back in and we’re mic’d up and now you want to apologize.”
I just want people to be real and I want you to be the same way off-camera that you are on-camera. It doesn’t sit well with me if they don’t match. So that’s where I was coming from. I stand by everything I said. That’s how I felt. I feel like we have come a long way from that because I don’t want to sit in the drama. She was literally [just] at my Friendsgiving. She didn’t say anything about it, so I didn’t. But in real time that’s how I felt.
That’s interesting. I didn’t realize she was going to see you.
You just stirred the pot, Anne.
Vulture has reached out to Christine Quinn for comment and will update accordingly.