Tom Schwartz and his Stars on Mars castmates didn’t actually leave Earth for the Fox reality show, but he still felt like he’d gone to outer space.
“The moment I felt like we were actually on another planet the most was when we had to go out and we had to erect the communication tower and reattach the satellites and everything,” the Vanderpump Rules star, 40, exclusively told Us Weekly ahead of the show’s Monday, June 26, episode. “There was a full-blown dust storm, and we had it in our mouth — like we couldn’t breathe. It was chaotic. That moment in particular, I truly felt like I was on another planet. They did a great job of creating, you know, a realistic environment.”
Schwartz is one of 12 celebrities competing on the series, which debuted earlier this month. The contestants participate in various challenges designed to simulate a mission to Mars to see who can survive the longest on the Red Planet.
While producers couldn’t actually send the show’s stars to Mars, they at least tried to replicate the look of the planet by filming the show in Coober Pedy, Australia. Located in the state of South Australia, the remote town is known for its red deserts and opal mines.
“The whole experience was almost like psychedelic — otherworldly,” Schwartz told Us. “It’s about as close to Mars as you can find on planet Earth. I was so charmed by the whole city. A lot of the places they have were underground there because it’s so hot, so by necessity they have, like, these cool underground bunkers, underground homes.”
Another element that helped Schwartz suspend his disbelief was the fact that he and his costars couldn’t use their phones during filming. “I’m averaging eight to nine hours screen time right now, full transparency,” he told Us. “I’m not proud of that. I was excited about the idea of disconnecting a little bit. It might have been the most fortuitous time for a retreat like this, a little sabbatical, a little adventure in my life. So, it was a welcome retreat, and honestly, it was kind of a gift from the gods.”
Schwartz noted that he felt a bit of “guilt” leaving to film Stars on Mars so soon after the opening of his bar, Schwartz & Sandy’s, but the “spirit and camaraderie” on set helped him get over that quickly.
“All of a sudden everything didn’t seem so bad anymore,” he explained, adding that he’s kept in touch with several of his costars. “Within a day or two, I had acclimated to life on Mars, our habitat. And you know, I sort of fell in love with it.”
He went on to note that filming the show helped him learn how to “thrive” on spontaneity. “I needed a good dose of levity and adventure,” he explained before referring to his divorce from Katie Maloney and the difficult process of getting Schwartz & Sandy’s up and running. “The past few years, I floundered a little bit. … I kind of feel like I fell apart, but coming up here, it gave me a fresh perspective on everything.”
Stars on Mars airs on Fox Mondays at 8 p.m. ET.
With reporting by Christina Garibaldi