Over its five season span, Summer House has brought a wealth of freakouts, hookups, hijinks, and hilarity to the always lively Bravo Universe. With 2020 and the COVID-19 pandemic, times got tough for everyone with the global pivot to quarantine. But the hard-partying denizens of Bravo’s runaway hit weren’t going to let the lockdown check their yen for drinks and drama at the door. And they didn’t, reconvening in Summer 2020 for the filming of the show’s fifth season as a “quaranteam,” cooped up together inside a sprawling Hamptons mansion that became their combination party house, living space, and multi-tiered workplace for a wild few months of relationships, situationships, hookups, hangouts, and alcohol-fueled antics.
Cast member Hannah Berner was onboard for all of it. In this exclusive Nicki Swift interview, Hannah reveals her history with Bravo and how she was cast, describes the climate inside the house, and the fallout from her tumultuous connection with fellow cast member Luke. Hannah even gives us the lowdown on just who in the Summer House cast is an auntie, and who’s actually a niece. Take it away, Hannah!
From Summer House fan to Summer House resident
So here we are, Summer House, Season 5. It’s full of instant viral moments seemingly already.
When you put a bunch of big personalities in the house, you’re going to get quality content because no one can leave. You can’t just walk away. You have to address all your feelings and confront everyone all the time.
It writes itself every second of the show, right?
So you were a fan of the show before you became a cast member. How did that go down originally? How did you end up being cast in the show?
I was a big fan of Bravo. I actually hadn’t seen Summer House, but I love Bravo. I love Millionaire Matchmaker. I love Vanderpump Rules. It was just a great way to get out of my own head. Then I was working for a media company and I interviewed people from Summer House and I was becoming a little bit of a personality in the comedy New York scene. So I think when they were looking for new people, they wanted natural relationships and I had known some of the cast members and they were like, “Hannah has no filter and she’s outgoing.” I’m one of the cast members who was originally from New York City. I grew up going to Shelter Island. So I was talking to my parents and I’m like, “It’s kind of like my life,” except I didn’t party as much in the Hamptons. I would just golf with my grandpa, but this was just like a natural fit. I love that they show my career during the week because I was starting podcasting and doing stand-up, so I was like, “F*** it. Let’s see what happens.”
It was honestly fun. I feel like there’s some things in your life that you’re like, “This could be a terrible idea, but it also could be a great idea.
Hannah Berner on how COVID affected Summer House
I think that because we’re all out here in COVID year two, that the escapism that a show like Summer House offers all of us, I think it’s been almost amplified during Season 5. Do you feel like you’re catching that on social media chatter and that sort of thing?
Yeah. Well, I think season four really popped off because everyone had just started being quarantined and everyone was stuck with nothing else to do. Now it’s been a whole year and we’re still here. I can’t believe it.
I know. It’s nuts.
I think the house really let people kind of, you acknowledge that there’s COVID but you remember you can still get crazy drunk and fight with people if there’s a pandemic. So we just set the show, you can do whatever you want.
It’s one of the free things that the pandemic allows us to do is be crazy towards each other.
But people are definitely hot, hot, hot. You do tons of pop culture. I feel like there’s some stories that have gotten so much traction that I don’t think would have in a normal life. Like the Hilaria Baldwin story, obviously it’s insane. But I feel like if people weren’t in front of their computer 24/7, bored, it wouldn’t have gotten the popularity that it got.
We’re all in a global cabin fever situation.
So everything else gets amplified because of it.
At the end of the day, I am entertainment for people. So if I can make people at least think and reflect on their own life or feel better about their own life by watching my mistakes, that makes me happy.
How getting fired from her dream job gave Hannah Berner creative freedom
You did a bunch of stuff with Betches Media, right?
That outfit has really expanded its horizons in recent years. Do you think that you would envision launching your own brand like that on your own time, outside of the stuff like Summer House?
Well, I called it Betches Bootcamp. I was writing a hundred memes a week and I was pitching brand partnerships, but all in the specific Betches brand voice that I helped to cultivate. Then I started tweeting my own voice. At the time, Betches wasn’t sharing stuff from within the company, but other meme pages started to repost and I started to get a lot of traction. I got 40,000 followers alone. Summer House came as an opportunity and I realized I’ve hit a glass ceiling. I actually got fired there.
That’s one version of the glass ceiling. It’s a shattered ceiling.
I was like, “Well, this is the universe telling you there’s more.” It was my dream job. I was like, “I’m going to do this forever. I love them so much.” But then I realized, “Oh, instead of pitching brand partnerships for a massive company and you’re not getting paid a lot, you could do that for yourself.” Then I was creating my own videos because the team was very small. It was just me and a video guy who would help out. So I was like, “This is easy to then do it for myself.” But I also realized I don’t have role models that I’m like, “Oh, I like their path or their business.”
I feel like it’s restricting to what I want to do. I don’t want to put myself in any type of box. People were like, “Are you a meme page?” I’m like, “If I get sick of doing tweets tomorrow, I’m not going to be a meme page.” I just go where like what’s bringing me joy where I feel the buzz is, the creativity. I just love trying to connect with people over humor. So that’s why I got into stand-up, but who knows? I might get into comedy acting one day. So Betches’ business model’s amazing, but I seem a little messier for myself, like I don’t know what’s going to happen.
Building the Hannah Berner brand
Let’s say you start the media empire, Hannah Berner’s the boss. What’s the perfect name for your empire beyond just Berning in Hell, the whole overarching universe that you’d create?
Oh my God. It’s hard because people just knew me as being Berner. Then they saw that I was on Summer House and they were like, “What the? It’s too connected.” Then when I do stand up, it’s like I’m Hannah Berner. Then I also have my sporty side of that. I was a tennis player and everyone just called me Berner. Luke, the guy on Summer House calls me Bern Dog, which I hate, but I haven’t thought about it. My LLC is just Berner Productions.
I do think that it’s important as an entrepreneur to have, especially in this day and age, multiple sources of income, because you don’t know when tomorrow people decide Instagram sucks or people decide they don’t want to listen to podcasts anymore or people decide that there’s going to be a pandemic and you can’t do stand-up. So I really just tried to put myself in a lot of different things.
Now that you are, speaking of platforms, a Bravo-lebrity, you’ve made it. Having spun off Summer House into Bravo Chat Room, which is super cool, do you feel like now that you’re on the other side of the camera so much that you’ve learned more about the Bravo universe, such as it is, from kind of like the industry side?
I definitely see how they market it in terms of what storylines people are obsessed with and how things can get over simplified too, obviously, Summer House is a whole week then it gets down to one episode and then it’s like, “What are we talking about that in that episode?” But I also think on Chat Room, what’s interesting is that we know what it’s like to be on camera. There’s a lot of talk shows where they talk about it, but they don’t. So we have an interesting element of behind-the-scenes tea that if you listen, you understand where it’s easy to think these people are one- dimensional, like something happens and they’re like, “You’re an a**hole!” But we try to think deeper and be like, “You know what? Maybe she’s ticked off about production.” There’s always things that you can try to see past because you know the game.
Hannah Berner plays Aunties & Nieces with the Summer House cast
When you are on there, on Chat Room, it strikes me anyway, that you do know the game, but you’re engaged with it. You’re having fun with it. It’s an interesting dynamic between those two pushes and pulls.
It’s kind of like who becomes commentators for the sports games, former athletes? You got to know the inner workings of it to really be insightful.
One of the funny bits that I like on Chat Room is the nieces and aunties.
I love that one.
Right. It’s so funny. It’s kind of catty, but it’s fun. It’s fun to characterize.
As a New Yorker, the way I show affection is making fun of people. So if they can make fun of me, I immediately feel just so connected, and the show wouldn’t be what it is if [we] didn’t feel like we could really bust each other’s b***s because then it would just be awkward the whole time.
Totally. So applying that scientific method, who is an auntie or a niece on Summer House Season 5?
Oh my God. This is fun. We’ll just start off with the obvious. So Kyle is an auntie.
That one I could gather.
But even when he drinks, he’s also like, “Now we’re drinking! Now we’re having fun!”
He’s like, “Let’s go to the pool!” Right.
His mullet is when he fully goes full auntie mode. Carl’s become an auntie this season.
Yeah. Because he’s not tying one on as much anymore.
He’s become self-aware, reflecting on himself. So we love that. As you can tell, it’s a spectrum, so we love that kind of new auntie energy from Carl. It’s funny because Lindsay, I think she would like to be auntie, but I think deep down, she’s a niece. She wants to have an organized list of her mature life, but it’s like … She loves drinking and messy fighting and that’s niece behavior. I think Amanda, because she’s with Kyle, she has to be more auntie and she has to show him that she’s going to be mature and wake up early and take care of the kids one day because that’s, I guess, a vital part of their relationship. But she does have niece qualities when she’s with the girls. We bring her to niece level. Then, Danielle is auntie for sure because she has the 9 to 5. So she’s very into her Zoom calls. We would joke, we’d be trying to like go on Instagram or like, “Danielle’s on the internet on a Zoom call.” Then Luke is just like on his own planet. He doesn’t know what an auntie or a niece is and he’s just existing.
There’s a new definition of outside of the realm of aunties and nieces. Right?
He doesn’t understand what they are and it’s okay. We let him do whatever he wants. Then Paige and I are just the ultimate nieces. I also think Ciara, who is the newest cast member, she comes in and she’s trying to sift who is she fitting into? I don’t want to give anything away, but between you and me, that girl’s a niece. She’s the one who, you know you’re connecting with someone when someone does something and you make eye contact with them and you both roll your eyes and you’re like, “Oh, we’re on the same page.” But it’s like, at the end of the day, I never wanted it to feel like this co-working space that there’s no HR. I wanted it to be fun. I didn’t want it to feel like prison with a pool. Some people were a little more structured.
From party house to workplace and back again
It strikes me that part of the fun of the premiere of Summer House Season 5 was how we know these people as partiers and it’s like all of a sudden, the house has to pivot to be like many workplaces at once.
Well, you definitely understand us more because you [get] to see the side of us that is like, “Oh, I’m happy. I’m letting off steam after the weekend.” After the weekend, I got to go home, shut the lights in a dark room, call my mom, talk out everything I did, reflect on it, come back in a new, mature place. Now, you can’t go anywhere.
It’s like you have to share your party selves with your work selves. I guess it’s got to affect the dynamic of both as a cast and as people, because you’re doing it all live in front of one another. There’s no escape.
You definitely start to see some tension, a lot of egos in the house, about what people actually are doing with their careers. Even the first episode, Paige and I were getting shade.
There was a great cutaway.
I was like, “Don’t worry about me. Don’t worry about me.”
You were in bed checking your phone while everybody else is working and it’s like the suggestion that-
Like people on Zoom calls and I’m like, “I could be on Zoom calls, but I got fired. Now I’m making the best of it, so go f*** yourself.
Hannah Berner explains her 'whole weird situationship' wth Luke on Summer House
Old Lukers is back now with Ciara, as you mentioned. There seems to be a confrontation coming, if the Summer House Season 5 trailers are to be believed, that you and Ciara did some note-checking on Luke. You like to confront, I think, and that’s a good thing. You can just sit him down-
It’s probably because my first summer I was so scared of confrontation, but I also felt like everyone’s like, “Oh, you didn’t know that he was playing you?” It’s like, “No, no, no. I know when a guy is being a f***boy and having sex with you and not texting you back.” This was a whole weird situationship that I was caught up in and I was trying to explain when I was like, “Oh, we dated for so long.” It wasn’t me bragging. It was like somehow, I found myself in a girlfriend situation that I didn’t sign up for, where when I say he calls me every day, it was like he’s telling me I’m the person he calls when he [has] any kind of emotion. I was the closest person in his life.
I was like, “How did I get here? I didn’t sign up for this.” So when he’s calling me three times a day during quarantine and we have at least some kind of special connection that I’m very confused about. Then he brings a girl, he doesn’t tell me about it. I’m not about to get mad at her. I was like, I just need to sit her down and be like, “Clearly, I’m just being part of a story and I’m being manipulated in some type of way.” So she is so enlightening to show me and I know people in the past were like, “He’s manipulative. He’s manipulative.”
Right, like Paige DeSorbo?
Yeah, but at the time I was like, me and Luke had this agreement of trust, where we actually cared about each other and understood each other and if a guy doesn’t like you, why is he calling me all the time? I’ve never had a straight guy call me all the time if he has no feelings for me.
You felt you fell backwards from situationship into structural girlfriend-ness without realizing.
Without any of the perks. I thought I was pretty upfront at the beginning being like, “You are perfect for the most fun summer fling.” Then you get to know the person and you’re like, “Okay, I’m here for you.” The next thing you’re like, “Holy s**t. I’ve invested so much time into this person and then they’re going to treat me like complete crap and literally act like he’s never met me?” Like he’s never met me. So I sat her down and I asked her everything I needed to know and she was surprised at some things too, so we both-
The note-comparing worked both ways between you.
One thing that you would have probably in common with Ciara if there was no Luke at all, is the cats. She loves cats.
It’s funny. I was going to say, not that I haven’t gone up to people randomly and said, “Do you like cats?” But she was wearing a cat ring.
Right. So you were perceptive.
I think at one point I said, “Cats are my purpose.” I just love animals, but it’s funny because when she came in, you don’t want to have negative emotions for someone. You don’t want to have jealousy. You don’t want to have hate. So when I saw that she liked cats, it takes a very specific individual to be proud of liking cats. So I was like, “Oh my God, I really like this about her.” I think Luke thought that he would walk in. I think he’s probably never had one or what kind of stupid plan he had in his head. I was like, “We are two way smarter girls than him.”
What antics may come in Summer House Season 5
All right. In the early going of Summer House Season 5, I feel like your “being attacked by a little, blonde leprechaun moment” has become the first kinetic repeated thing online of Season 5. It’s crazy.
It’s so funny because people were like, “Put it on a t-shirt.” I’m like, “How does that relate to anything going on? But still. It’s so funny because I don’t even remember saying that, but I remember in the pain, I was trying to find light. I was just trying to make someone laugh. You know when you’re crying and people are just looking at you awkwardly?
Sometimes you keep swinging for the fences and it keeps striking out, but you’re like, “Well, I’m going to keep going for it.” So through the tears, you come up with a little blonde leprechaun and look what happens. Now it’s all over the internet. So we’ll look for that on a t-shirt.
“Little blonde leprechaun.” It’s crazy.
It seems like after you sat down and talked it out with Lindsay about the drama from over the last winter, right? It feels like it’s in a better place going forward.
Yeah. Well, Lindsay and I, when we get bad, we get so bad. But she gets activated a lot. But she’s also good at deactivating. So I realized the conversation really wasn’t going anywhere at that point and she was just like, it wasn’t working. But I just wanted it to look like, “I don’t not like you. I don’t know how we got to this place, but we have to be stuck together for six weeks, so let’s just rewind.”
You ended it on essentially saying, “Well, I’m going to still make fun of you, so I’ll give you a hug.”
She’s someone whose brand is based off of getting activated and going f***ing crazy, so you can’t get mad when someone jokes about you being crazy.
That’s well said. So some of the other flashes in my mind of the upcoming antics to be seen on Season 5 include what looks like a roller-skating party happening in the backyard. Is that exactly what it was?
That’s exactly what it was. It was violent.
More of a roller derby than a roller-skating party.
But to be honest, because it was quarantine, we had to think of a lot of fun things to do. I’m not necessarily that person. I like to play my tennis. I like to go in the hot tub. I have my routine. So they throw on the roller-skates and it was a bloodbath, alcohol and people who’ve never roller-skated life. We were roller skating on this thing that was bumpy. Like you hit a bump and you were just done, in the grass and just tear your ACL.
Even in the ad, it looks like it’s like a glorified wet banana surface or something. You’re on skates with costumes and booze. It’s like Bravo better work on you getting their physical therapists in line.
We definitely signed waivers.
Well, we can’t be more excited about what’s to come next on the show. It’s fun already and like I said, we’re all out here in COVID with nothing else to do. So we really appreciate you taking the time to talk to us today.
I appreciate it. Thank you so much for having me and yes, the season does not disappoint. I promise.
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