[dropcap]Oklahoma[/dropcap] has been called home by many big names in sports, music and movies. At 9 p.m. March 20, the world will meet the newest brace of Sooner celebrities – a “ride-or-die” group of Oklahoma City area residents ready to show the nation the sassy side of the state.
Sweet Home Oklahoma, the Bravo network’s latest reality television offering, will follow a whip-smart (and smart-mouthed) circle of friends living in the well-heeled enclave city of Nichols Hills as they tackle this thing called life – together.
See the first TV preview of the upcoming Bravo series. Warning: Strong Language.
“This is a light-hearted show about long friendships,” says Jennifer Welch, one of the show’s stars. “We all have a sharp, witty, wicked sense of humor and have overcome a lot of adversity using those things.”
The show’s cast members aren’t just eager to show the nation how true friendships can save the day, but also how Oklahoma City defies expectations in many ways.
“Oklahoma City has definitely grown over the course of my life,” says Lee Murphy, a longtime compatriot of Welch’s and another star of the show. “I love that it’s growing and progressing so much. We have a hidden gem.
“We all went through some mental gymnastics, asking, ‘Is this right? Wrong?’ We finally just trusted where Bravo wanted to take this,” Murphy says of doing the show. “It just sounded fun. I have three school-age boys, and that was a definitely a consideration. I also have a full-time job and support my family 100 percent, but I loved everyone we spoke with at Bravo. We were really excited to do the show.
“It’s not lost on us that there are people that don’t agree with us or the choices we made, but that’s life in general. We can’t please everyone. I’m so proud of this show. I’m proud of what we’ve done. It portrays our friendship very truly and in a fun way.”
The group’s path to the series began in summer 2015, when Welch received a Facebook message from a casting agent asking for a Skype interview related to a possible reality show about Welch’s interior design business.
“I did it more out of curiosity,” Welch says. “I thought, ‘What harm is there in a Skype interview?’, not really thinking it was for real.”
Development of the show evolved rapidly after initial conversations. Rather than focusing on Welch’s professional endeavors, it was eventually decided that the docu-series would follow the lives of Welch and her merry group of bandits. When a producer from Bravo flew into OKC, Welch says she couldn’t have been more surprised.
“They were not at all what I had in my mind of what a Hollywood producer-type would be,” she says. “I think that was the first surprise. I’ve never worked in television and we don’t have a big TV community here. I think in my Oklahoma brain, I had a stereotype in mind. What I had in my head and who they turned out to be were the antithesis of each other. After that it moved really quickly.”
Welch’s ex-husband, Josh, is also her co-star on Sweet Home Oklahoma. He describes his ex-wife as his “baby mama and the love of my life.”
“Lee is my sister-wife who I try to torture with love,” he says of Murphy, “and Pumps [Angie Sullivan] is my oldest friend from college and law school who shares my same absurd sense of humor.”
Once a premier Oklahoma City attorney, Josh Welch has often struggled with addiction, which culminated in resignation from his law practice and the breakup of his family. Sober for one-and-a-half-years, he speaks frankly about his troubled past.
“We know there will be criticism of the show, and social media can be really cruel at times,” he says. “We accept that, by putting ourselves out there, but want to make sure that people know how much we love our state and the people in it. We all have real-life problems, and I have dealt my entire life with addiction. The show is an honest portrayal of myself as a recovering drug addict, and I’m very honest about it. I always say that the theme of the show is that we attack life and all of us keep laughing, in part to keep from crying.”
Sullivan says she has “known Josh since I was in law school. We weren’t in school together but traveled in the same social circles. Josh was using during that time, and when I would see him out he would kiss me on the cheek. Every time, there would be slobber all over my cheek. So my roommate and I dubbed him ‘slobbery mouth’ and would try to avoid running into him.”
Sullivan says that when she was on the fence about participating in Sweet Home Oklahoma, her oldest child strongly encouraged her to do it.
“He said, ‘Mom, 99 percent of the people in the world never get an opportunity like this. You did.’ I thought about that a lot and realized I would always wonder what might have happened if I passed on the opportunity.”
Nevertheless, Sullivan says, her top priority is protecting her children and their privacy as the show commences.
She describes her initial reaction to the show’s green light as shock, which led to excitement.
“I hope the show exhibits the wonderful things about this state and the people who live here,” she says.
The Other Side of the Sooner State
Natural disasters. Draconian legislative sessions. Snowballs on the U.S. Senate floor. Like it or not, Oklahoma has a national reputation, and it’s not always sterling. But the stars of Sweet Home Oklahoma want to change all that. The group has been described by Bravo as people unafraid of “challenging the conventions of conservative society,” and, according to the stars, they are eager to do just that.
“I think the nation would be surprised that not all of us are climate-change deniers,” Jennifer Welch says. “There are blocks of people that cringe when our senator [James Inhofe, wanting to disprove global warming] throws a snowball. I’m surrounded by many open-minded people who believe in science. When that happened, we felt the same way as the rest of the nation did. The rest of the country will be surprised that there are progressive people here and we fight hard for it as much as people on the coasts. The notion that we’re rubes with guns, climate change is a hoax, ‘Drill baby drill’ – sure, there are sections of Oklahoma like that. But there are parts of California like that, too.”
Josh Welch adds: “People’s perceptions of Oklahoma as a fly-over state with pastures and horses are misguided. OKC is a very sophisticated city with a lot of progressive, intelligent people who live here and we try to capture parts of that in the show.”
Sullivan, agreeing whole-heartedly with the Welches, says that regardless of worldviews, Oklahomans are never divided.
“I think people assume Oklahomans are not cultured or are ‘redneck,’” she says. “That could not be further from the truth. Oklahomans are diverse in their thinking and ideas. I think what makes our state unique is the fact we have so many different philosophies, but people care about each other regardless of differences.”
Murphy says: “Oklahomans are not ‘typical.’ We are strong and resilient. With the nature of our up-and-down economy, people have had to develop that strength and grit. I think the people have developed a huge sense of humor. Our weather, our phenomenal Native American populations … people are always pleasantly surprised when they come here. People are blown away by the kindness people have, and how fun we are.”