Bethenny Frankel’s shocking departure from ‘RHONY’ came just before production on the new season began. Leah McSweeney has already joined the cast, but isn’t Bethenny’s replacement.

The Real Housewives of New York is looking for a new cast member with Bethenny Frankel, 48, abruptly announcing on Aug. 21 that she’s closed her chapter on the Bravo reality show. The series has already cast Married to the Mob streetwear fashion CEO Leah McSweeney, 36, but she’s not Bethenny’s replacement. “The new cast member Leah McSweeney was brought in by Tinsley (Mortimer) who is her only connection so far to the cast. She was not brought in to replace Bethenny as she was already joining with or without Bethenny, ” a source close to the production tells EXCLUSIVELY

“The two are very good friends and everyone felt that Tinsley needed to have someone in her corner more and that’s really why Leah is a great, natural fit. Tinsley is happy to have her, especially with Bethenny being gone now. Leah is also really good friends with Meghan McCain so it’s totally possible she could appear,” our insider continues.

With Bethenny’s sudden departure, the show is hunting for a fresh face for season 12. “Production began this week and they will now be looking for another cast member to spice things up now that Bethenny is gone. So the goal now will be to add someone fast, but it needs to be the right fit. As usual, all of the ladies are throwing names into the hat. The ladies are now in the Hamptons to film,” the source adds.

Bethenny shocked fans when she revealed to our sister site Variety that she was done with RHONY. “I have decided to leave the ‘Housewives’ franchise to explore my next chapter,” she said in her statement. “It’s time to move on and focus on my daughter, my philanthropy and my production partnership with Mark Burnett, producing and starring in shows which represent a shift in the conversation for women. With the changes in modern culture, I want to highlight the strength, confidence and unstoppable power that women have. My experience at Bravo has been an incredibly magical ride. I am so grateful to them for highlighting my entrepreneurialism and allowing me to pave the way for many women to achieve their goals. I am excited for my future. The best is yet to come.”


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