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Jill Zarin Said Her 2011 RHONY Firing “Felt Like A Death”

More than a decade after her four-season run ended on The Real Housewives of New York City, Jill Zarin is returning to television. This time, she’s starring in Peacock’s The Real Housewives Ultimate Girls Trip: Ex-Wives Club among a cast of all former Housewives, including Dorinda Medley, Phaedra Parks, Eva Marcille, Vicki Gunvalson, Tamra Judge, Brandi Glanville, and Taylor Armstrong. While promoting the new series, Zarin looked back on her 2011 RHONY departure in a recent People interview, simply stating, “The show went in a different direction, and my life went in a different direction.”

Zarin had much more to say, however, after Bravo announced in September 2011 that she would not return for RHONY Season 5. The network had terminated the original cast member’s six-year contract after just four seasons, per The Hollywood Reporter, and Zarin made no secret that she’d been fired. “I’m not embarrassed about it. I didn’t do anything wrong,” she told THR months later in a January 2012 interview. As part of a cast shakeup, Alex McCord, Kelly Bensimon, and Cindy Barshop were also let go, with only three of her cast mates — Luann de Lesseps, Ramona Singer, and Sonja Morgan — asked back for Season 5.

In the interview, Zarin also explained she was already “preparing story lines” for Season 5 when she got a phone call from her producer in early September that “Bravo had made the decision to let the four of us go.” The network announced new cast members Aviva Drescher, Carole Radziwill, and Heather Thomson shortly afterward. Zarin said she was “upset” but appreciated that executive producer Andy Cohen called her later with an explanation of sorts. “He said they wanted the series to go in a different direction and that last season ended very dark — which I find ironic because they could have controlled that,” she added, dispelling “absolutely untrue” rumors of salary disputes. “I filmed many happy scenes that the network canned.”

Despite that conversation, Zarin appeared on an October 2012 Watch What Happens Live episode and asked Cohen point-blank why she was fired from RHONY. “We were looking to shake the show up,” the host answered, noting the “many times” they’d already discussed the matter. “The viewers were the ones that, to us, dictated that they wanted something to change.” He also cited the RHONY Season 4 reunion as being “incredibly toxic for everyone involved.”

In response, Zarin shared that her firing “felt like a death,” telling Cohen she was “heartbroken” afterward. She also said she felt like he had played favorites and sided with Bethenny Frankel in their televised feud, casting Zarin as a villain of sorts.

Two years later, Zarin still didn’t seem satisfied with Cohen’s reasoning and offered another theory about her dismissal during an Oprah: Where Are They Now? segment in February 2014. Explaining that she had taken a sleeping pill one night in 2011, the Jill Zarin Home founder recalled sending an email to her producer and “three out of the five Housewives.” The email said she planned to leave RHONY and go out “on top.” The next day, she “kind of got cold feet” though and nixed the idea, but apparently Bravo had already caught wind of the email.

“I shed a few tears because when anything ends, it seems so final,” Zarin said on the OWN series. “I honestly have no idea really why I was fired because nobody will tell me the true answer. I mean, at the time I was told they thought the show had gone so dark that it couldn’t recover and they needed to change the cast. I don’t think the fans agreed. ... Let’s be honest, I was perfectly suited for this show.”

Now, Zarin’s getting another turn as a Housewife on RHUGT Season 2, and with Bravo working on an RHONY legacy series, she may be back on the network again before you know it.