Luann de Lesseps and Sonja Morgan learned a lot about themselves while filming their new Bravo reality series, Luann and Sonja: Welcome to Crappie Lake. In it, the Real Housewives of New York City alums head to the small town of Benton, Illinois (population: less than 7,000), to help revitalize the community after the pandemic wreaked havoc on the local economy.

“It reaffirmed my belief that Luann and I both work really hard and that we don’t give up,” says Sonja, adding that the experience strengthened their relationship. “Luann and I were already like an old married couple, but this proved just how good we are together.” Here, Luann, 58, and Sonja, 59, talk to In Touch’s Fortune Benatar about branching out, learning to fish and their guilty pleasures.

Why are you like a married couple?

SONJA: We can spend quiet time together and not have to fill the room with noise and conversation. And we can be annoyed with each other but still be there for one another.

How has your friendship gotten stronger over the years?

LUANN: We were friends before the Housewives. Sonja was afraid to come on the show. Then she saw me and Ramona [Singer] do it, and she was like, “Oh, I can do that.”

SONJA: At this point, we’re family.

You’re about to do Ultimate Girls Trip: RHONY Legacy. Why has your cast been so successful?

SONJA: Andy Cohen said it best: In the best franchises, the girls really are friends. We have a trust level.

LUANN:I saw a producer last night who said, “You girls are the best be- cause you have your fights but you’re funny and you’re not after each other’s livelihood.” There’s drama and bickering, but it’s not dark.

How did this spinoff come about?

SONJA: One of our producers is from Benton, and he wanted us to help because the town went through so much during the pandemic.

How do you feel about comparisons to Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie on The Simple Life?

LUANN: The Simple Life was a fun show where you see these girls like a fish out of water going to a small town. But we’re working with the mayor, we build a playground and do a full-on variety show with the townspeople. There’s more action.

SONJA: We do some great things for the town. We live a luxurious lifestyle now, but we both come from small towns.

You even convinced Paula Abdul to come help! What was that like?

LUANN: It was great to have her. She’s iconic. The girls were freaking out when we surprised them.

Did you meet any potential love interests while filming?

LUANN: The guys were a little rough around the edges, but with a little polish they could be contenders.

What did you learn?

LUANN: I learned that in some places in this country, even if it rains it doesn’t get cooler — it gets warmer. It was one of the hottest places I’ve ever been. And I learned I can catch a catfish!

SONJA: We learned that the people in Benton are wonderful. They’re not there because they have to be there; they love being there. We grew a lot, and we left with our hearts full.

Luann and Sonja: Welcome to Crappie Lake premieres on Sunday, July 9 at 9 p.m. on Bravo.

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