At the opulent home of Gio Helou, one of the stars of addictive new real estate series Selling The OC, it’s casino night — and glamour doesn’t come much blingier than this.
Croupiers stand to attention at hired roulette tables, the champagne flows like a river and the guests — his co-workers — are all gussied up in black tie, accessorised with bronzed limbs, lily-white teeth and spidery lashes.
But this being a spin-off of Selling Sunset — the hit Netflix series that took us into the multimillion-dollar Hollywood homes sold by the Oppenheim Group’s equally jaw-dropping ‘realtors’ — it wouldn’t be a work night out without everything quickly going belly-up.
‘Honey, it’s not gossip,’ glossy new Oppenheim agent Alexandra Jarvis informs her colleague Polly Brindle, just seconds after relaying some gossip.
Selling The OC centres on the goings-on at Oppenheim’s newly opened offices in California’s Orange County. Polly Brindle, 36, (pictured) has only been a real estate agent for a year but closes big deals
‘Don’t “honey” me,’ bristles Polly, the show’s lone Brit.
‘OK, dear,’ intones Alexandra, as Polly exits. ‘It’s not how I envisioned the night going,’ Gio admits.
‘Do you guys want to put together a list of acceptable words and let me know?’ asks Alexandra, managing to keep a straight face.
‘Jarvis is honestly the most condescending, stuck-up b**** I’ve ever met,’ remarks Polly — within earshot of Alexandra’s fiancé. ‘Sorry, I know that you’re going to marry her. Hats off to you.’
If you thought Selling Sunset was highoctane, then Selling The OC — which centres on the goings-on at Oppenheim’s newly opened offices in California’s Orange County — is its little sister on steroids. And with a UK recession looming and energy bills rising, it is providing a timely bit of escapism.
The show opened last week with a peek into an eye-watering $106million listing in Laguna Beach, complete with ocean views, glassbottomed spiral staircases, a retractable roof and a 360-degree rotating bed (the commission on this sale alone is $3.18million).
There is speculation Rose ‘sleeps around’ to secure listings
While these properties are understated compared with the LA homes in Selling Sunset (‘celebrities tend to have their second homes here in Orange County,’ explains Polly), they are nonetheless show-stoppers. ‘Living walls’ teeming with thousands of plants are de rigueur, as are ‘water walls’ flowing from as high as 40ft, not to mention the almost obligatory infinity pools, customised wine cellars and home movie theatres.
But it’s the drama between the realtors — dressed as if they’re heading to Harry’s Bar rather than a house viewing — for which millions are really tuning in.
There are tears, tantrums and colleagues trying to seduce their married co-workers. At one point there is even an accusation that an agent (gasp!) sleeps with developers to get listings. And 36-year-old Polly Brindle — whose marital revelation is one of the show’s more jaw-dropping moments (more of which later) — is at the heart of much of it.
The stunning model-turned-realtor hails from Barnoldswick in rural Lancashire (population 11,000), not known for its billionaires. ‘It’s way up north, very picturesque and has a very small-town mentality where everyone knows everyone else. It’s a very down-to-earth place,’ Polly says.
Polly with her boss, California real-estate magnate Jason Oppenheim, who says ‘she has done so well so quickly’
So what on earth will Barnoldswick residents make of the show?
‘They’ll find it mental,’ she replies. ‘They’ll be like, “I don’t know how you can deal with those people.” And sometimes,’ she admits, ‘I don’t.’
We meet for breakfast at the Oppenheim Group’s sleek offices in the seaside hamlet of Corona del Mar, one of the most affluent in the area. Besides the fully stocked bar (handy after those workplace tiffs), there is a steel pool table that used to belong to pop icon Adele.
Polly breezes in bearing a box of calorific doughnuts (she’s definitely a Brit) and while her Northern accent is faint, it still mystifies her fellow agents, who at times look at her as if she’s speaking.
She discovered photos of her husband with other women
‘They misunderstand me so often, they made a point of putting it on the show,’ she says. Lauren Brito, a fellow agent, ‘acts as a speed translator’ for the rest. They include Alex Hall, the glamorous ringleader, who, judging by her outfits, is unable to find a dress in California that can corral her ample bosom, and Kayla Cardona, a single mum who becomes embroiled in an awkward attempted smooch with fellow agent Tyler Stanaland.
Gio Helou, he of the disastrous casino night, makes an early play to become the show’s resident villain (‘On a confidence scale of one to ten, I’m a f****** 15’; he also drives an orange Porsche), only to spoil it all by having his ’n’hers pedicures with his mother Lisa, also an Oppenheim agent.
The handsome Sean Palmieri admits: ‘I’ve dated girls, I’ve dated guys. As of right now, I think they’re both equally crazy,’ though he, like the rest of the men, tends to largely stay out of the bust-ups. Which leads us neatly to Alexandra Jarvis and Alexandra Rose, the show’s Gucciclad Goneril and Regan — Shakespearean anti-heroines with the unnerving ability to kill the atmosphere of any room they walk into.
It’s fair to say that Polly and Jarvis, as she’s known, don’t get along (Polly declares her ‘the worst person in the world’ in the first episode).
SELLING THE OC (L to R) Austin Victoria, Polly Brindle and Tyler Stanaland. Although Polly has only been a real estate agent for a year, we see her trying to close a deal on a threebedroom fixer-upper property in Balboa Island, one of the most exclusive enclaves in Orange County
‘From day one of working here I tried to be friendly with her and she completely ignored me… six months later, when we’re filming for the cameras, she wants to chat.’ Polly rolls her eyes.
‘Evidently, we don’t get on as personalities and we’re not compatible as friends, which is fine because there are 20 people in this office and you can’t be best friends with everyone.’ Isn’t it awkward, though, walking into an office after yet another set-to? ‘Not for me.’
For their part, the Alexandra insist the others must be jealous of their achievements (‘We’re both eagles,’ Jarvis tells Rose. ‘Eagles fly alone and birds fly in flocks and they’re a bunch of birds.’)
Certainly, the duo swoop in on some of the office’s most impressive listings, closing the deal on a $20.5million property and earning $615,000 commission in the process.
That achievement is swiftly overshadowed by speculation that the gorgeous Rose ‘sleeps around’ to secure big listings.
‘But what isn’t shown in the show is that she came up with the rumour about herself!’ says Polly. Why would she do that? ‘Maybe she wanted screen time. I don’t know…’
All of which only fuels the theory that the show, along with the original, must be scripted. ‘But it absolutely isn’t,’ insists Polly.
‘Sometimes we’ll have to re-do scenes, like when I fall over walking onto a boat. But we’re not told what to say and it’s 100 per cent real. If anything,’ she says with a laugh, ‘they’ve minimised the drama.’
Although Polly has only been a real estate agent for a year, we see her trying to close a deal on a threebedroom fixer-upper property in Balboa Island, one of the most exclusive enclaves in Orange County. There are holes in the walls, broken floorboards and a horrified buyer who baulks at what appears to be a lavatory situated in the kitchen.
Polly Brindle, Lauren Brito and Brandi Marshall from SELLING THE OC. At 24, Polly married her husband, a model and poker player eight years her senior, and a year later they moved from London to Los Angeles
Yet Polly makes the sale at $2.7million, earning a commission of $81,000. ‘That was pretty mind-blowing,’ she admits. ‘That house would have gone for about 25 grand back home.’
Barnoldswick is certainly a far cry from the sun-drenched beaches of Orange County. Polly grew up in a four-bedroom semi with her older sister Ellen, younger brother Harvey and parents Geoff, an architect, and Clare, a taxidermist. ‘I actually have two taxidermied birds my mum made, which were,’ she admits, ‘very difficult to smuggle into the States.’
At 15, she was spotted by a modelling scout and a year later, she left home and moved to Paris, then Milan and Barcelona, working for the likes of Virgin, Dior, Aston Martin and Marks & Spencer. She even filmed a commercial for Lancôme with Julia Roberts.
‘During a break on the shoot, I was standing at the grazing table filling my face with M&Ms when this person behind me said, “I love your dress” and I turned around and it was [Julia]. I was so starstruck, the only thing I could think of saying was, “I love your teeth”. She just looked at me and walked away. It was hideous.’ Rather more pleasant was winning a small part in the 2013 film Rush, opposite Australian heart-throb Chris Hemsworth. ‘I got to snog him for two days.’
At 24, she married her husband, a model and poker player eight years her senior, and a year later they moved from London to Los Angeles ‘to have beach babies and live the American Dream’.
She loved married life and loved ‘being the perfect wife. I was making dinner every night for 7 o’clock, doing the laundry and on top of that, being the breadwinner. But I was happy to do it. The plan was to have four kids in total, three by the time I was 30, the white picket fence, everything. I was on track to do that and it was the perfect marriage,’ she says, ‘right up until the moment it wasn’t.’
As she reveals in the show, just five years into the marriage, her perfect life fell apart when she found pictures on her husband’s phone of him ‘with two women’. The shock is still palpable.
‘Until that time I never suspected anything and I’d never snooped on him,’ she says, ‘but he came home from a trip that time and certain things just weren’t adding up. I asked to see his phone and he’d deleted everything, but my brother is a computer genius and he’d given me software that could retrieve deleted information.’
She recalls little else of that moment — ‘I think I blacked out’ — but everything unravelled from there. ‘He wasn’t the person he had claimed to be, which was devastating to me. I wasn’t an idiot — I knew that if I was seeing these photos, it couldn’t have been the first time it had happened and he admitted that too. But I didn’t want to know the details; I was done. I took my vows seriously and I’d got married for what I thought would be the rest of my life. And as I come from a broken home [Polly’s parents divorced when she was 12], I never wanted that to be me.’
The couple didn’t have the children they’d planned ‘and now I’m so glad,’ she says, ‘as it would all have been so much worse. But there was no coming back from that. Two days later he was back in England and I literally never saw him again.’
But that was only the start of her problems. As Polly was the U.S. visa holder, ‘I had all the financial responsibility, so I was left with two leased cars under my name and was renting a four-bedroom house that was more than I could afford by myself. I had four years of legal wrangling [with her ex]. He owed me money from the house we had lived in in London and I needed that money to start all over again, so it was a battle.’
Though she had been modelling ever since she moved to California, ‘I lost a lot of weight after the separation and I couldn’t model at the time because I just didn’t look good,’ she says.
‘No client wants you to represent their product when you look visibly distraught!’ Yet moving back to Britain wasn’t a consideration. ‘I just thought: I’ll be in the same financial and mental state I’m in over here, only in worse weather, so I’ll stay here and make it work on my own.’
She turned her hand to a multitude of jobs including waiting tables at West Hollywood’s Sunset Tower Hotel and managing a boutique architecture firm.
‘I thought it was the most boring job in the world,’ she says, ‘but it means I can now read plans and understand construction lingo and I know all about permits, which proved invaluable to me.’
When the pandemic hit in 2020, ‘it gave me the full stop I needed to think about what I was going to do next.’ She moved to Orange County and, while studying for her realtor’s licence, happened upon the Oppenheim Group’s new office, then under construction.
‘I thought: “I know, I’m going to work here!”, so I contacted Jason [Oppenheim, who founded the company and runs it with his twin brother Brett] and we met up. I hadn’t even watched Selling Sunset until I was hired. But when he mentioned they were making a new show, I thought, “I’m down for this.” I’m not a wallflower, so I thought I’d probably be a good fit.’
Jason, the show’s compact dynamo, who appears to spend as much time mediating between squabbling agents as he does running the business (the Oppenheim Group has made almost $2billion in sales and he is believed to be worth around $50million) admits he’s ‘always worried when I hire people without much experience. But Polly is focused, hard-working, ambitious and smart and she’s done so well so quickly. She started from nothing and she’s setting an example to everyone’.
In a neat illustration of that, Polly reveals she inked her first real-estate deal over oysters and martinis at the Sunset Tower Hotel — where she had waitressed only a few years previously.
Laser-focused on her work, she has little time for dating and has been single for 18 months. ‘It took me a long time to heal,’ she says, ‘and I’ll never trust anyone 100 per cent again. But that’s fine: it means I won’t be that vulnerable again.’
So is part of her motivation for starring in the series to show her ex-husband the fabulous new life she’s leading without him, selling multimillion-dollar properties, wearing Versace and sashaying around Orange County in her Manolo heels? ‘Absolutely not,’ she insists. ‘I honestly wish him nothing but the best and just hope he doesn’t hurt anyone else.
‘Saying that,’ she adds, ‘success really is the best form of revenge.’
- Selling The OC is on Netflix now.