‘RHOP’ star Ashley Darby gives an update on relationship with Luke Gulbranson

Seven seasons in, it’s safe to say Ashley Darby knows her way around Potomac.

From Karen Huger’s “bar of soap” jab to Candiace Dilliard-Bassett’s knife toss, Darby has been on the receiving end of many infamous "Real Housewives of Potomac" moments, priming her for any and all drama that comes her way.

The Real Housewives of Potomac - Season 7 (Paul Morigi / Bravo)
The Real Housewives of Potomac - Season 7 (Paul Morigi / Bravo)

Darby stars alongside castmates Gizelle Bryant, Robyn Dixon, Dr. Wendy Osefo, Mia Thornton, Dillard-Bassett and Huger…and if the group needed more drama, Thornton’s childhood best friend, Jacqueline Blake, and "RHOP" OG Charisse Jackson-Jordan joined the group as friends this year … only adding more chaos to the "P."

TODAY caught up with Darby to hear the latest on Season Seven…and what’s to come.

Darby gives an update on her separation and her sons

When viewers first met Darby during Season One of "RHOP," she was 27, kid-free and embarking on her reality television journey … a much different Darby than the one viewers witness today.

In the seven seasons since, Darby has evolved majorly, becoming a mother of two and separating from her husband all while staying at the center of the show’s drama.

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Darby tells TODAY.com, “when I started the show, I was so much younger. I just thought about how much I’ve changed, and my life has changed. Now I have two toddler kids, and the way they’re growing is incredible.”

“They have just developed this bond that it’s amazing to watch. Even if Dylan doesn’t fully speak, somehow Dean understands him and they are two peas in a pod. It’s amazing,” Darby continues.

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For Darby, sharing her journey has offered challenges, but she explains that the best part of the experience has been “the response I get from fans who say they can relate to me or they find some sort of comfort in me sharing my story.”

“You have to show your real life, everything you’re going through and things that you may even be somewhat ashamed of or feel like you’re gonna be judged for. You’re really thrusted into it, you can’t run away from it. I’m thankful for that. I’ve had to confront a lot of things,” Darby explains.

Something Darby is confronting this season? Her relationship with ex-husband Michael Darby, whom she is separated from, as Virginia law requires separation for a year before divorce.

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Darby has shared her journey to buying a family home with Michael amidst their separation, which Darby tells TODAY.com has “so much emotionally attached to it.”

Darby continues, “it symbolizes the breaking up of my family, not just the change of my residence. The change of my homestead, and my heart. That’s really been the most challenging part for me through all of this.”

Darby was traveling to see Luke Gulbranson during her interview 

If you know anything about Darby, you know that she’s no stranger to "Coffee & Love"…. and it’s safe to say that her coffee isn’t the only thing heating up now that she’s a single woman.

After revealing on "Watch What Happens Live" that she is attracted to "Summer House" star Luke Gulbranson, Darby and Gulbranson were spotted hanging out at BravoCon in October 2022 … sparking rumors of a romance that spans the Bravo-verse.

On Thursday, Nov. 3, Gulbranson appeared on "WWHL" and said that he had texted Darby to ask about what he should wear to the taping, signaling that their romance was still going. Since, the pair has been spotted together in Washington, D.C., and social media sleuths have spotted Darby making TikTok videos from Gulbranson’s New York apartment.

Darby tells TODAY.com that she’s seen Gulbranson “four times” since BravoCon. In fact, Darby was on her way to New York to see him during TODAY.com’s interview with her.

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Darby adds, “it’s been about two months now that we’ve been talking, so we’re just taking it slow and getting to know each other and talking on the phone more than anything else.”

“He and I are very different, being from Minnesota and D.C. We have different cultural backgrounds. We have different interests, he’s the on-the-go mountain man and I’m a pretty city girl. So it’s really cool how we’re able to share a lot about ourselves and even in some of our differences, we find so much commonality,” Darby continues.

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Darby wishes Thornton apologized during the cast trip 

One of Season Seven’s biggest storylines has been the ongoing feud between Thornton and Osefo, which Darby has found herself in the middle of.

During the cast’s trip to Miami, Thornton made negative allegations about Osefo’s business practices with Peter Thomas, former husband of ex-”RHOA” wife Cynthia Bailey who’s popped up on “RHOP” this season, and the drama exploded from there, with Thornton throwing a drink at Osefo in a heated moment.

Since the episode aired, Thornton publicly addressed her actions, taking accountability for her part in the drama and apologizing to fans.

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While speaking with TODAY.com, Thornton doubled down on her apology, but Darby tells TODAY.com that she wishes Thornton would’ve apologized sooner, “(or) at least by the time we had dinner (on the trip).”

Darby continues, “I just think that it would have meant a little more to me if she had done it more so in that moment. I know that hindsight tends to be 20/20, but it would just have felt more genuine if she made more amends while we were in Miami.”

Darby thinks Dixon deserves ‘the benefit of the doubt’

During the Osefo vs. Thornton drama, Darby found herself at an opposing viewpoint than her friends Dixon and Bryant, as Darby supported Osefo, and Dixon and Bryant seemingly supported Thornton.

While speaking with TODAY.com, Dixon said that she wanted Osefo “to stop (going back and forth with Thornton) because I didn’t want her to do something that she would regret that jeopardized her job or her reputation,” a statement that’s gotten a lot of heat on social media since her interview.

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Darby tells TODAY.com, “Robyn is not a malevolent person. I don’t think that she wants harm to come to Wendy, but I also think that Robyn wanted there to be some sort of proof to substantiate her claims because Robyn feels like Wendy doesn’t see the side of her that Robyn sees.”

Darby explains, “I do sort of understand when she says I just wanted Wendy to know that this would be potentially bad for career, and that it just didn’t look good for her. Overall, I can see that, but it certainly didn’t translate that way. I think that it’s also because there was so much tension between them anyway, that even if that was Robyn’s intention, it would be hard for me or many of us to see that. So if Robyn says that, I do give her the benefit of the doubt that she means it.”

“Certainly in that moment, honey, when things were flying, when RDZ was going and when that was all happening, it was very hard for me to be there with her,” Darby continues.

Darby apologizes for her comments about Thornton’s feet

After Darby’s allegiance to Osefo caused Thornton to tell her that she’d need to find other accommodations for the rest of the cast’s time in Miami, Darby reacted in a confessional that caused quite the stir.

Darby said, “I don’t know where the hell Mia found this audacity to bring her size 13 shoe over here and actually tell me what I can and can’t do as a full grown woman.”

PHOTO — THORNTON SEASON SEVEN CAST PIC FROM NBCUMV 

When TODAY.com spoke with Thornton, she responded, “They shouldn’t talk about everybody with big feet, because at this point, people are getting offended because there’s a lot of big footed women in this world.”

Some have accused Darby of body-shaming, an accusation that’s been repeatedly thrown around between the Potomac ladies, including from Darby herself towards Dilliard-Bassett for her repeated comments about her physical appearance.

Darby tells TODAY.com, “I can see how it is offensive. Mia makes comments about herself, and I guess because she does it in jest. In hindsight, I shouldn’t have said that.”

Darby explains, “I’m not intending to make Mia feel bad about herself. [...] If anything, in that moment, I was pretty heated because I don’t know if anyone knows, but literally I almost fell out of the car when she decided to storm over, open the door and berate me like I was a child.”

“I can understand how it can be offensive, and I am sorry for that,” Darby concludes.

Darby explains why she can’t get on the right track with Dilliard-Bassett

Once sparring partners, viewers have seen a different side of Darby and Dilliard-Bassett’s relationship this season, as the two have had light-hearted moments that possibly signaled a new era of friendship for the ladies.

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As rings true in many housewives friendships, the peace didn’t last for long, after Darby told Dixon that she got a confusing Instagram DM from Dillard-Bassett’s husband, Chris, seemingly inviting her to his place of work for a night out.

The Real Housewives of Potomac - Season 7 (Aaron Davidson / Bravo)
The Real Housewives of Potomac - Season 7 (Aaron Davidson / Bravo)

On Episode Nine, Darby seemingly threw Dilliard-Bassett under the bus, after revealing to the group that Dillard-Bassett said that Huger “was dating other men” outside of her marriage. Dilliard-Bassett immediately denied the claim, and a flashback was shown of Dilliard-Bassett making the claim from a few episodes prior.

As to why Darby and Dilliard-Bassett can’t seem to get on the same page and be the duo fans are asking for? Darby tells TODAY.com, “what we mostly fight about is men … where things really went off the rails with me and Candiace was her talking about my marriage. Now similarly, we’re in a situation where how she feels about some information about Chris has caused her to have feelings toward me.”

“So it just seems like maybe if we can extract the men from the equation (of conversation), Candiace and I can find some common ground. ... I think some time has to pass for the things that she said about me and the things I’ve said about her to sort of heal over a little bit. It’s like a scab, and then we pull the scab off. We just need to let it heal and don’t fool with it. I think it’s possible. I just don’t know when it will happen,” Darby explains.

Darby adds her two cents about the Huger drama as well, saying, “that definitely is going to be delved into more. Some people may have some evidence and more comes to light that brings more attention to the discussion. Of course, the grand dame answers accordingly.”

Darby says the fallout between Thornton and Blake is ‘heartbreaking’

A hot topic on social media is the yet-to-be-seen fallout between Thornton and Blake, who have been best friends since childhood.

The midseason trailer signals a dramatic moment between the pair, as a crying Blake yells at Thornton, “I would never sleep with your husband!”

Dixon and Thornton shared their thoughts about the conflict when interviewed by TODAY.com.

Dixon said, “I definitely think one is really wrong, and it’s not going to be good for her when people see it play out.”

Thornton said, “We’re sisters, sisters fight. I’m the oldest sister so I pick on her. It’s been our relationship since the beginning of time.”

“I don’t know exactly how things are panning out. ... Hopefully, I’m not going to be the one that doesn’t look good, but hey, maybe we’re going to continue on with this record, Thornton continued.

Darby tells TODAY.com, “it’s hard for the other ladies in the group to hear what happens to Jacqueline and Mia considering they have been friends for like two decades.”

“To see what’s transpired between Jacqueline and Mia is really heartbreaking. Certainly, it is going to be harder for one person than the other. What will be more interesting to me is what comes to light after that is shown because there’s obviously a lot more that can be discussed and will be discussed,” Darby continues.

Darby plays ‘RHOP’ rapid-fire

Darby answers rapid fire questions about the rest of "RHOP" Season Seven.

On who causes the most drama: Darby & Bryant

On who brings the most receipts: Dixon. “The speaker was a mic drop,” Darby says.

On who she feuds with the most: Dilliard-Bassett

On who she wishes she was closer to: Osefo

On who she has the most to say to at the reunion: Everybody. “It’s going to be an interesting day for the girls,” Darby explains.

On who she wants to be seated next to at the reunion: Bryant and Dixon. “We talk so much, we hang out, they’re my close friends. I think people group up sometimes as mean girls, but honestly, for me, a defining moment was when I had my son Dean, both Robyn and Gizelle went so far out of their way to support me and be there for me when I was dealing with my postpartum depression. I’m not sure if any of the other girls were there for me like that,” Darby says.

On the feud she wishes would resolve itself: Dixon and Huger. “In a perfect world, we all would chum it up and have some coronas together, but I’m not holding my breath,” Darby says.

On what to expect for the rest of the season: “I’ve been doing this for seven years, so I kind of know what to expect … but there were so many surprises, so many relationships that I thought had no resurrections and somehow survived,” Darby explains.

This article was originally published on TODAY.com