Netflix found its latest reality TV hit with Bling Empire, a series about an extremely wealthy social circle in Los Angeles. You know, private jets, couture clothes, a distinct lack of actually working. But their wealth isn't the aspect of the show that's unbelievable. Instead, it's the interactions between the cast that will make you wonder if Bling Empire is scripted.
If you've watched the show, you'll remember the scene where Kim Lee and Guy Tang finds a penis pump in Anna Shay's bathroom and throw it out a window for everyone to see. You'll also remember Kevin Kreider and Kane Lim travelling to South Carolina to find Lee's estranged father. On her behalf. Without telling her. Or what about the whole Kelly Mi Li and Andrew Gray relationship and all of its drama? It would be really nice if some of that was fake.
In an interview with Entertainment Tonight, Lim explained the history of the show, saying that he and Mi Li thought it could be cool to do a reality show in light of the popularity of Crazy Rich Asians. (Kane claims his Singaporean family provided part of the inspiration for the novel.) Lim said he's known Mi Li for seven years and Christine Chiu for five or six. Mi Li and Kreider met when she contacted him on social media and found out that he was about to move to LA. At this point, Lim was introduced to Kreider and they became friends, which is why on the show they've known each other for about a year.
"[Kane] introduced me to everybody else that Kelly knew, and they were telling me, 'Oh yeah, we want to do this reality show too. We have this other producer, who's going to do it. He helped produce the Kardashians. He's on his own and Kelly knows him,'" Kreider explained in an interview with Entertainment Weekly.
That Keeping Up with the Kardashians producer is Jeff Jenkins. He's now one of the executive producers of Bling Empire, along with Ross Weintraub and Brandon Panaligan. Mi Li also has an executive producing credit, while Chiu is credited as a producer.
Chiu explained in an interview with OprahMag.com that while she wasn't friends with the entire cast initially, "There was a natural budding friendship that occurred. I think that we're all closer now than we were two years ago."
Meanwhile, in his own interview with OprahMag.com, Jenkins said he already knew Chiu and Anna Shay going in, and was friends with Gray, which lead him to Mi Li. "My first thought was, 'I wonder if these women have other Asian American friends that could actually constitute an 'ensemble cast,'" Jenkins said.
The producer also spoke about the penis pump moment. And while it seemed like one of the most scripted parts, it wasn't. "It was 1000% real and unexpected and insane, absolutely insane," Jenkins said. "If viewers laugh as hard as Brandon and I laughed when that took place, then mission accomplished."
Another unbelievable scene occurs when Kreider sees a hypnotist as a way to connect with his biological mother. (Kreider is Korean and was adopted by an American family.) Kreider says this was all real. "I didn't expect any of that to happen. I thought I'd have to fake this or something," he told Entertainment Weekly. "I didn't think regression therapy did anything. I didn't even really know what it was. I'm in a relaxed state on my back, and all of that stuff came out."
There is, of course, editing at play, too. For instance, if you look at the timeline of when Bling Empire was filmed, there are scenes from earlier episodes that happened after ones that appear later in the season. It's clear that these moves were made to benefit the storylines.
On top of that, Chiu has admitted that she was a little performative in her scenes.
"While it was very difficult to share such intimate stories and our personal journeys, and even more for me to play up my mischievous side for your viewing pleasure 😜🙈 — the end game is absolutely worth it," she wrote on Instagram. "You, us, together, we are having important conversations about infertility, adoption, acceptance, identity, family, friendship and more and advancing the path for cultural diversity in entertainment arts."
So, while the show is not scripted — if we believe everything the cast and producers have to say — it was in the cast and crew's best interest to make the show more exciting, and that's just what they did.