Andy Cohen reveals how he kept Jill Zarin's surprise cameo on 'Real Housewives of New York' a secret


Andy Cohen didn't tell former star Jill Zarin that she would be appearing in the recent teaser for the upcoming season of "Real Housewives of New York." Why? Because he suspected she would tell everyone before it was released and ruin the surprise.

"Jill is a Yenta!" he explained to me this week. "She likes to talk, and I didn't want her telling anyone that she was in the super tease."

SEE ALSO: Bravo's 'Summer House' cast on cringeworthy moments, social media backlash and whether they'd do a second season

It was a strategic move by the self-proclaimed "know-it-all reality producer" that ultimately paid off: The show was almost immediately trending upon the teaser's release last week and Zarin's unexpected appearance created major buzz for the upcoming ninth season, which premieres on April 5.

As if it weren't already abundantly clear, Cohen is an expert at what he does and, well, he's doing a lot right now. The 48 year old is gearing up to host the upcoming reboot of "Love Connection" three months after the release of best-seller Superficial and a month and change after overhauling his late-night talk show, "Watch What Happens Live With Andy Cohen." Oh yeah, and he also hosts his own SiriusXM show, RadioAndy and is the executive producer of "The Real Housewives" franchise.

I sat down with Andy Cohen at 10Below Ice Cream, where he was promoting his partnership with Marie Callender's for Pi Day, to talk about Jill Zarin's cameo in the "Real Housewives of New York" trailer, what he thinks of one-season-wonders, reconstructing the "Watch What Happens Live" Clubhouse and what we can expect from "Love Connection."

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Check out my full conversation with Andy Cohen below:

As you mention in your books, you're very big on fitness and working out. Are you intense about watching what you eat, too?

I never like to deprive myself! I just ate a huge amount of pie and ice cream, and I happen to be working out later today. But I firmly believe in enjoying yourself and doing it in moderation. Obviously, you can't sit at home and eat sugar all day and not work out, but I have a very active lifestyle. I just believe in combining pleasure with pain.

And letting yourself indulge a little bit.

Yeah, exactly. I will never not enjoy myself.

Which brings us to your collaboration with Marie Callender's and 10Below for Pi Day. Why did this partnership feel like a good fit for you?

Well, you know what? I love pie! I really do. And I also love chocolate chip cookie dough. So, it was just amazing that I found Marie Callender's at exactly the right moment, which was when this chocolate chip cookie dough pie was coming out. It's fun because 10Below is really cool, and they're partnering together to celebrate Pi Day. When I started talking to Marie Callender's, they asked if there was anything I would want to pair this with, and I was talking to them about things I love and I was like, "I love dark chocolate, I love English breakfast tea ... " And I never in a million years thought they would be able to make English breakfast tea ice cream, which they paired with this pie for my own special flavor.

What's cool is that, even though we'll be snowed in on the East Coast [on Pi Day], you can have a Marie Calendar's pie no matter where you are. You just go to their website and they'll tell you how to pair it with different things. It's pretty easy and user-friendly. I don't cook, so this is perfect. I can defrost a pie and pair it myself! They make it easy, so it's perfect for someone like me. I could never work with something that isn't user-friendly -- otherwise I'm a fraud!

Plus, everyone has good memories attached to eating pie.

100 percent! It's fun and, frankly, the idea of being snowed in on Pi Day at home with my pie ... forget it! It will be perfect.

Your third book, Superficial, came out in November. Did it surprise you which tidbits from the book people latched onto in the media?

Yes and no. I know from "Watch What Happens Live" that there are things that are said that you guys latch onto -- and I love it! -- and I kept saying to my editor and my PR person, "I wonder what the things are that people are going to latch onto..." And, funnily enough, there is stuff in the book that went totally under the radar and then there is stuff in the book that got overblown with attention.

So, the trailer for the upcoming season of "Real Housewives of New York" came out last week...

It's really good, right?

Oh, I died when I first watched it. How much you do have your finger on the pulse of the public's reaction to these big moments?

I definitely am checking Twitter when stuff comes out to see [what people are saying], but you also have to take it with a grain of salt. Some people will say, like, "Oh, my God! This season looks so boring!" And I'm like, "Uh, you're judging this season based on two minutes? That's ridiculous!" The trailer was trending on Twitter immediately when we released it.

I think Twitter is generally a pretty good focus group, but on the other hand, you have to take it with a grain of salt because sometimes people will complain on Twitter about something that will end up having huge ratings. It's not always commensurate, but I think it's an interesting way as an executive producer of the show to monitor what people think.

What can we expect from Tinsley Mortimer, the new Housewife this season?

She's trying to rebuild her life! I think what's interesting with Tinsley is her friendship with Sonja. They coexist as roommates, but she still manages to work her way in with the rest of the group even though Sonja is like her den mama, basically. [Laughs] But, after a few episodes in, she and Sonja and Ramona are at Beautique picking up guys! The results are hilarious.

Of course they are. [Former Housewife] Jill Zarin also unexpectedly popped up in the teaser.

Yes! You didn't see that coming, right?

Not at all! Can you tease what we can expect from her?

Well, she only appears once or twice. It's fun, and it's great to have her back! Look, I love Jill, and she's obviously part of the reason the show is as successful as it is. She's an original, and I told her 1,000 times, "Do not tell a soul that you're doing this! Keep your mouth shut!" But, it's going to be great. The truth of the matter is that we didn't tell Jill that she was in the super tease, because we wanted it to be a surprise to everyone...

Including her!

Including Jill! I think it was better that way, actually. She emailed me that morning, and she was like, "My phone is blowing up! I had no idea!" It was great because, you know, I didn't want Jill ... You know, Jill is a Yenta! She likes to talk, and I didn't want her telling anyone that she was in the super tease. I just wanted it to come out [in the trailer].

We talked a little bit about Tinsley joining the show, and she's replacing Jules Wainstein, who was only one the show for one season. I'm curious about your mentality around the women that are one and done. Do you feel as if they were miscast?

I never really feel like anyone is miscast. Look, we had a great season last season, and Jules was a big part of it! First of all, her situation changed. She split up from her husband, and there were extenuating circumstances with that. I think there could've been a moment where Jules came back [for another season], but I just think it's dependent on the women and what's going on in their lives. I thought we had a good season with Jules.

As someone who watched Bravo religiously, the recent "Watch What Happens Live" revamp made me pretty nervous. It was hard not to become attached to the intimacy of the show.

I think a lot of people were scared we were going to blow it up or get rid of the Clubhouse.

But it doesn't feel different! If anything, it's enhanced. Do you feel the same way about it?

I'm happy to hear that! I was almost embarrassed -- not embarrassed, I was worried -- when I saw the new Clubhouse. We kept saying "We're moving, we're moving!" and it looks so similar to the other Clubhouse, so I was scared people were going to say I was The Boy Who Cried Wolf, or something. That was purposeful, though. We wanted to keep the integrity.

The great thing for us eight years into the show is that the Bravo Clubhouse actually means something to people, and we didn't want to screw with the authenticity of the show. For us, though, we moved to the floor upstairs, and we have real green rooms now! I mean, I was sharing space with the audience and now we have an actual choreographed situation and there are just different things that have changed that you don't notice at home. Plus, we have, like, 14 more seats in our audience, which makes me feel like I'm Johnny Carson. [Laughs]

Lastly, let's talk about the upcoming reboot of "Love Connection" that you'll be hosting. How will it be different from the original show?

I'm really excited to say that I'm working with Mike Darnell and Mike Fleiss. Mike Darnell from "American Idol" and Mike Fleiss from "The Bachelor," who are two of the greatest reality TV producers in the history of the genre. I don't want to reveal exactly what the new beats are right now, but I'll tell you ... I was in L.A. a couple of weeks ago when we did a run-through for all of the producers. It was me and a woman who had been on dates -- we had legitimately set her up! -- and, after it was over, we had a notes meeting with the producers. And, look, I'm a know-it-all reality producer: I've been producing television for 25 years, I've been an EP on "Top Chef" and "Project Runway" and some of the great reality shows. But, I will tell you that listening to the notes that the team behind "The Bachelor" and "American Idol" had for what we were doing, I was like "Whoa! That's a good note, that's a good note..."

The reason the show worked is that it's a he-said, she-said about a first date. First of all, that is the perfect thing for me to be involved in, because it's exactly the kind of material I like to mine for. Second of all, the integrity of what the show was will still be there, but there are some twists that update it and make it interesting. The set looks like this huge new love spaceship, but then, there's the white couch! I'm really excited, and I'm shooting them all at the end of March during a hiatus for "Watch What Happens Live." It's 15 one-hour shows, and there will be two dating pods per hour. There's a really fun twist that the team has come up with for the end, too.

Will there be gay couples featured on the show?

For sure there will! Every permutation of couple [will be featured]. We're even going to set up a pet with a reptile! [Laughs]

This interview has been edited and condensed.

Marie Callender's created a limited-edition pie-infused ice cream creation that will be available to anyone who goes to 10Below Ice Cream's Lower East Side location on the first day of Spring, 3/20.

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