Tom Schwartz has his “rose-colored glasses” back on when it comes to reality TV — but that doesn’t mean he isn’t hesitant to start filming season 11 of Vanderpump Rules in the wake of Tom Sandoval and Raquel Leviss’ affair. 

“I’m always slightly terrified when we start a new season. We’ve been through so much with this group and we’re a volatile crew,” Schwartz, 40, exclusively told Us Weekly on Friday, June 23, while promoting his new Fox series, Stars on Mars. “We’ve always been a volatile group of friends. I don’t think I’ve ever had an argument outside of this group, to be honest. We have a lot of history together and there’s been trials and tribulations, but it comes from a place of love.” 

The reality star added that while he’s “scared” for cameras to pick back up for the new season, he feels like all the drama between the Pump Rules crew is always “earned” – and he’s “grateful” to be part of a show that’s spent more than a decade on air. 

Schwartz initially faced backlash after news broke in March that Sandoval, 40, had a months-long affair with costar Leviss, 28. Schwartz — who hooked up with Leviss at Scheana Shay and Brock Davies’ wedding in August 2022 — came under fire when he revealed he knew about the cheating scandal but didn’t tell Sandoval’s then-girlfriend, Ariana Madix, about the infidelity. (Earlier this month, Leviss revealed on part 3 of the Pump Rules season 10 reunion that she and Sandoval hooked up for the second time at the same event.) 

Schwartz later made headlines once again when he asked for empathy for his business partner and BFF amid the drama. (Schwartz and Sandoval are co-owners of L.A.-based restaurants Schwartz & Sandy’s and TomTom.) 

“First of all, Ariana, love you. I know you don’t love me right now, but I still love you. And also, Tom, I know the whole world hates you. But I’m not going to abandon you, old buddy. I’m not going to abandon you,” the Minnesota native said during an April appearance on Watch What Happens Live With Andy Cohen. “He knows he’s a monster for what he did. If you see him, maybe give him a hug. Even if he doesn’t deserve it, give him a hug. He’s down bad.”

Madix, 37, for her part, confirmed that she was no longer on speaking terms with Schwartz because of his continued loyalty to her ex. 

“I don’t think you are a [co-conspirator] but I will not have mutual friends with him. So I am not your friend anymore,” Madix, who unfollowed Schwartz on social media in March, said during the season 10 finale of Pump Rules. “I was his ride or die and defended him — to you even. Trying to get him to go five days without drinking so he could get his sperm tested so we could have embryos because if he really wanted that down the road I wanted him to have that. I wish I didn’t miss him but I feel like what I miss isn’t real.”

This time around, Schwartz has a different plan of attack when it comes to dealing with the group’s drama. “I feel like I’ll be a little more stoic moving forward, Maybe I waffled a little bit at the beginning of [Scandoval],” he told Us on Friday. “I retreated within.”

Following the explosive season 10 reunion, which aired earlier this month, Schwartz has claimed that he’s “taking a break” from the feuding after facing so much scrutiny for his longtime pal’s actions. 

STARS ON MARS: Tom Schwartz. ©2023 FOX Media LLC. CR: Brook Rushton / FOX.
Courtesy of Brook Rushton / FOX

“My friend had an affair that just happened to sweep the nation and it’s incredibly messed up, but the thing is, I’ve become mired in it. It’s become a huge source of just angst in my life. I’ve been in this extended funk,” he said during a June episode of Stars on Mars. “He made a big mess. And then you know, he left it for us to clean up back at the businesses. And it’s hard for me not to be resentful of him.” 

Another thing Schwartz will be changing for season 11? Taking more “pride” in his “appearance.” 

“I feel like I’ve rocked Mumus for half of the duration of Vanderpump Rules, you know? I’m kind of a scrub by nature. I like to be cozy. But maybe now that I’m single I need to polish u my act a little bit,” he joked to Us. “I’m gonna do that. I’m gonna step my game [up] and try to be a little more suave. A little more debonair. … I’m gonna get the makeover that I intended to do last year.” 

Schwartz credits his newfound confidence to Stars on Mars, which premiered on Fox earlier this month and follows celebrities in a simulated space station on the red planet where they live, eat, sleep and strategize while facing physical and emotional trials. Telling Us that he feels like “Tom 5.0” after participating in the competition series, he shared that he’s become “more stoic” and “a little bit more ready to take on whatever life throws at me.” 

“I think I have my rose-colored lenses back on. I think this was a reoccurring theme last season, last year, last few years, is trying to get my Schwartz back,” he shared. “I think I learned doing the show going to ‘Mars,’ that it was always there. I just needed to, like, dig it out, refine it, and I kind of am doing what I set up to do, which is falling in love with myself all over again.” 

Schwartz noted that Mars also taught him a few lessons he’ll be bringing into the Pump Rules universe. “I did shovel a lot of s—t and we ended up having to repurpose that for fertilizer,” he said. “And I don’t know, maybe there’s a metaphor there. Maybe there’s something I can glean heading into the next season. I’ll leave it at that.”

Stars on Mars airs on Fox Mondays at 8 p.m. ET and is available to stream on Hulu the following day. 

Reporting by Christina Garibaldi