Nine years into Southern Charm, and Craig Conover seems to be the only guy to escape the Peter Pan syndrome curse of Charleston, South Carolina.
“I’ve spent the last year really cutting my drinking, trying to get healthy, trying to become, instead of the ‘fun boyfriend,’ maybe the father of someone’s child,” the 34-year-old tells ET from inside the flagship store for his brand, Sewing Down South, on the city’s famous King Street.
The impetus for Craig’s self-imposed self-improvement would be his girlfriend, Summer House star Paige DeSorbo. The pair just celebrated their two-year anniversary, a milestone some fans thought might be marked by a proposal. At one point, Craig thought that, too; but part of maturing has been letting go of an imaginary timeline and leaning into the real one.
“I think I had a lot more growing up to do than I realized,” he says. “I’ve only ever had rom-coms to base relationships off of, you know? You start dating, there’s a conflict, and it works out and you get engaged, and everyone lives happily ever after. I’ve learned that that’s not the case.”
“Look, I’m a romantic at heart. I can’t wait for that day,” he admits. “I think me working on myself has really helped me see the relationship in a clearer way, so I think we’re closer.”
Viewers will see Craig and Paige discuss their future on season 9 of Southern Charm, a conversation he confesses can feel “too repetitive” now that their relationship spans across three shows, having also appeared together on Winter House. The two won’t be on the upcoming third installment of that spinoff, seeing as it filmed at the same time as Southern Charm.
“We are a younger relationship,” Craig notes, “and we see on Summer House and on Southern Charm, there are relationships that kinda rushed into stuff and didn’t have it all figured out and, at the end of the day, we do have a lot to figure out.”
One of those relationships Craig is referencing just imploded unexpectedly; Paige’s Summer House co-stars, Carl Radke and Lindsay Hubbard, called off their engagement just months out from their planned November nuptials. It will play out on season 8 of that show, likely to premiere in early 2024.
“Basically, the end result of two months of being at Summer House was leaked,” Craig says. “So you guys have this end result without seeing how they got there, and I think that when you see the summer, you’ll have a little bit more of an informed opinion about what happened. But, you know, that’s what you want to avoid. You want to make sure that you’re doing things in a way that hopefully ends up right.”
“I was shocked as everyone else,” he continues, “but I think you’ll see, when I’m there, I’m like, ‘Guys, everything that you guys are trying to figure out, we’re trying to figure out before we get engaged.'”
Carl popped the question to Lindsay on season 7 of Summer House, a proposal that proved problematic within the house, as multiple castmates questioned whether the couple was truly ready to take that next step. In hindsight, it’s all a bit of a cautionary tale.
“You can either have the quick excitement, fairy-tale romance or you can focus on this sustainable relationship,” Craig says, “and [Paige] has definitely slowed me down in those points.”
Craig promises fans will get a clearer picture of where he and Paige are headed after season 9 of Southern Charm, which features more Paige than season 8. In fact, Craig says she plays a pivotal role in the cast’s reaction to the revelation that Austen Kroll and Taylor Ann Green hooked up following the season 8 reunion. It seems like a violation of both bro and girl code, as Austen is good buddies with Taylor’s recent ex, Shep Rose, and Austen is a former fling of Taylor’s so-called bestie, Olivia Flowers.
“Everyone is focusing on the Shep and Austen betrayal,” Craig shares, “but everyone forgets that Taylor and Olivia were best friends, and so Paige helps kind of call that out and be like, ‘Guys, Olivia is probably devastated at this moment…'”
“You get to see people put in situations that you’ve never seen before,” he teases. “I mean, some people will side with Austen… maybe. Some people will find themselves sympathizing with people like Shep, that they never thought possible. Then, you get to see how people in the friend group are dealing with their own– and that’s not the only [scandal]: the trailer left out so much!”
Speculation starts on episode 2, unraveling a mystery of truth and lies that will play out through season’s end.
“What’s incredible, at least for all of y’all and everyone watching, is it all happens on camera,” Craig says. “You’ll get to see us play detective in something that we really don’t want to be detectives of.”
“You’ll see it all,” he promises. “I don’t think there’s going to be a lot of questions that people have that aren’t answered, and what’s great is that Paige is down to hear a lot just getting to be like, ‘You guys are nuts.'”
The saga takes twists and turns Craig couldn’t have predicted, especially when it comes to the “perpetrators’ reactions.”
“If you think the obvious thing would be, like, ‘Oh my gosh, I’m so sorry that I did that,’ that might not be coming,” he previews. “I think you’ll see Shep really try not to be mad at Austen, because he thinks it will make him look weak, but then he’ll come yell at me. And I’ll be like, ‘You’re not mad at me!’ So, you’ll see that type of stuff, same with Taylor, you know? I think she’s really confused.”
There’s one person MIA from season 9, who Craig wishes were around to weigh in on all the hookup happenings: Kathryn Dennis. The OG Charmer exited the series after last season, following a few turbulent years trying to navigate a complicated child custody situation with her ex (and fellow former Southern Charm star) Thomas Ravenel.
“It’s tough, because that’s my gossip buddy,” Craig laments. “You know, that’s my confidant. Like, when all this crazy stuff was happening this year, that’s who I wanted to go to and tell and so, we do miss her. And you know, Shep and I, we filmed with her at the very end of the year, we just got drinks and just kind of filled her in. I don’t know if we’ll see it or not.”
“But we hope that, I think if things go well, and she really continues to work on herself, there’s an opening there for next year,” he adds. “So I think the ball’s in her court. But, man, I could’ve used her, and I think just, she’s not scared to say what she thinks. … Kathryn would’ve been brilliant for that.”
In Kathryn’s place is a slew of newcomers: Rod Razavi, Rodrigo Reyes and Jarrett “JT” Thomas. Craig calls JT a “professional thorn in Austen’s side.”
“It drives Austen crazy on two fronts, ’cause me and JT actually get along, and we’ve known each other for a while,” he explains. “If it were up to Austen, we wouldn’t have a friendship. I think Austen’s gonna be a little, probably, surprised and disappointed that you will see me and JT hanging more than he probably likes. But JT, you know, he’s not scared to call people out for their stuff, right or wrong. He’s going to bring it up, and it’s nice having someone like that when it’s not about you.”
Southern Charm airs Thursdays at 9 p.m. ET/PT on Bravo.