Starring in a show called “Island Life” doesn’t seem like it’d be a stressful experience, but Lauren and Don Ross learned firsthand that living in paradise actually requires a lot of hard work.
Lauren and Don grew up on Marco Island but met when they were both living in condos in Naples. After getting married, the couple soon tired of condo life and decided to return home to the island.
“We decided we wanted to be in a house and not have neighbors so close and have a yard for the dog,” Lauren said. “At the time we only had one dog and then when we decided we were going to buy a house, I splurged and got a puppy without telling Don,” she said with a laugh.
So the couple and their two dogs set out to find a house close to both sets of parents and Lauren’s family’s restaurant, Mango’s Dockside Bistro. Their first step was reaching out to realtor and family friend Mary Bartos.
“She’s been a really good friend of the family for a lot of years,” Lauren said. “She comes to the restaurant a lot with her family, at least two times a week for lunch or dinner.”
When they met with Bartos, they learned that she had a big surprise; HGTV had contacted her about filming an episode of “Island Life” on Marco Island. “Island Life” is similar to HGTV’s hit show “House Hunters,” except all of the houses are, of course, located on an island.
Bartos asked the couple if they wanted to be on the show, but Don doesn’t like to be in the spotlight, and Lauren wasn’t too sure about it either, so they turned down the offer.
“Originally we said no and she had actually chosen another couple that was going to be on the show,” Lauren said, “but then somehow it ended up not working out so she approached us again…and I talked my husband into doing it.”
But if they had known what was in store, maybe they would have stuck with their original answer.
“It was a lot more work than we thought it would be,” Don said. “There were three very long days of filming and I worked two 12-hour days at my job in between, so I was exhausted the whole week.”
“You do over 30 hours of filming that gets crunched into a 30-minute show with commercials, which is just crazy,” Lauren added.
Despite the long days, the two still had fun during filming…although sometimes one of them had more fun than the other.
“The crew wanted to film us boating and originally they asked Lauren to jump off the boat into the water, but she didn’t want to be in a bathing suit on national television, so I took one for the team and I was the one who jumped into the ocean off the boat,” Don said. “Believe it or not, the water was very cold, and they kept doing different takes while I was in the water, so I was in there for longer than I would have liked. And Lauren was just laughing on the boat sipping on a Corona.”
At the end of it all, they said they’re grateful for the experience of being on the show, and even more grateful that it helped them find their dream home.
“We walked in and I just knew,” Lauren said.
The Ross’s episode of “Island Life” airs at 9:30 p.m. April 23 on HGTV.