“This is the first time that I’ve let Twitter get to me a little,” Charley Walters told me via Zoom last week. “Normally I don’t even look at it, but for whatever reason for this one I wanted to and I think it’s because there are so many more people watching the show now,” he explained. And he would know — this is the CW3 Public Relations CEO’s third time appearing on Bravo’s Below Deck as a primary charter guest, but he’s never had an experience with the online backlash the way he has this time around. Hell, even I called them “nightmare charter guests”, yet he still reached out to me on Twitter, which led to our discussion and this piece, to let viewers in on what they didn’t get to see.
Charley, who I found to be very open, friendly, and chatty, can also be seen as a guest during Season 5 flirting with deckhand Bruno Duarte, and Season 6 in Tahiti (he also appeared on the 2015 Bravo series Friends to Lovers), but he said, “I can never believe in the few times I’ve done this, the amount of people that react to it is exponentially bigger each time.” He admits that his tweet spree after last week’s episode was him “getting a little bit defensive, I guess,” but he went on to explain, “It’s hard when you’re getting literally hundreds of ‘I hate you, this guy is a piece of s-h-i-t.’ I don’t even swear. You’ll never catch me swearing on the boat. I won’t even do that on Twitter, but to hear people say that about me that don’t even know me, I’m like, come on, guys. At least Google me and find out a little more about me before judging. But I get it, it’s what they see, it’s all they know.”
Well, we also know a little more after this week’s episode, which showed Charley and his group leaving a much larger than expected tip of $25,000, of which he explained, “It’s because I legitimately felt bad for them at the end. As the charter went on, we learned more and more what happened before and I didnt know that until the last day when I had a conversation with Captain Lee. And then I realized we were going to look really bad because we were so hard on them and so I was like, you know what, we gotta give them a big tip. So I did and hopefully they appreciated that. I got some nice messages from the crew saying ‘Thank you so much, we don’t even know if we deserve that,’ but I feel like they did because they worked so hard and they turned it around by the end.”
Charley admits that it “took them until the last day,” but that he and his friends were happy with the service (and that french toast!), even joking around by rating their days on the boat according to starfruit chunks in the shape of stars that they were served during that last breakfast, with the crew earing five starfruit stars by the last day, but, “They don’t always show the cute stuff.”
No, they don’t. While each charter group usually spends around 48 hours on the yacht total, their once-in-a-lifetime experience is edited down into about one and a half episodes, with each episode totaling 44-minutes — so roughly one juicy hour out of a 48-hour journey makes it to television. For Charley and his group, their two days and three nights aboard the MY Seanna has been chronicled over the end of Episode 1, the entirety of Episode 2, and the beginning of Episode 3 this season, the show’s seventh on the air. Throughout this time, he and his friends are seen jumping behind the bar to make their own cocktails after waiting for an inordinately long amount of time as the interior crew adjusted to their responsibilities during the first charter of the season, and their first full day on the boat. The guests also popped into the galley to cut up their own cake for dessert; they made repeated, and some might say awfully annoying requests when it came to breakfast omelets, and they got into a shouting match across the dinner table which of course spilled into the guest bedrooms on the yacht.
With the exception of Captain Lee and bosun Eddie Lucas, the rest of the crew came aboard the boat and the show for the first time ever, a fact Charley says, “I did not know until we showed up at the dock.” It’s part of why his demands seemed so sky-high: they’d always been accommodated in the past with former chief stew Kate Chastain. “Kate and I had a total system down for these theme parties. She’s so into them and we had done it a couple times so I would tell her in advance what we were thinking of doing and we would already have some plans going before I even got on the boat. So I was assuming that would happen again but it was not the case. And sure enough, I had happened to plan two of our most complicated theme parties ever. She said she loved it but she just wasn’t ready,” he said, referring to new chief stew Francesca Rubi.
Chef Rachel was also seen crying tears of frustration in Episode 2 as the overly specific breakfast orders came in, another element Charley and his guests were unaware of, which is customary for charter guests to be in the dark, but that doesn’t mean it didn’t shock him once he watched the episode. “We gave so many compliments to Rachel, we were constantly complimenting her throughout. When I went back to the kitchen, I was genuinely trying to offer her an extra set of hands. Every time she came out to present the meal, she looked totally flustered, so I was like, let us help you with this, we’ve given you a nearly impossible task so let us help.” He maintains that he was unaware that going into the galley to cut dessert himself was a “really no-no thing to do,” and went on to say of the chef, “She’s awesome though, her food is overall really good and I hope people get to see that the rest of the season.” Charley was especially complimentary of the feast she prepared for their first night on the boat, that was requested to incorporate dishes from countries all across the world. “Especially with limited time to prep and limited supplies, the food was excellent that night,” Charley confirmed. “And the drinks were too. Elizabeth did a really good job, making these really eclectic drinks from every country. She did her research.” And it turns out there was some method to the madness: Charley is a producer of the Gold Meets Golden event which pairs celebrities and Olympic athletes, and the international dinner theme was in honor of what would’ve been the upcoming 2020 Olympics.
As far as that nightmare of a breakfast goes, Charley maintains of the chaos simultaneously taking place in the galley, “We had no idea, we just kind of assumed it was like any other charter. One thing I tell my guests is, you guys go for it, order what you want, if you want something special they have to get it for you. That’s something they always tell you, they want you to make your orders extravagant and picky. I wasn’t there for the omelet orders so I didn’t know how crazy they were. I actually found that funny when I was watching, how much my guests were getting so picky about this. But when I saw, I felt so bad because we didn’t know she didn’t have the right pans,” he said of the lone chef working her butt off to prepare their orders.
He also explained, “I had been on MY Seanna more than anyone else on the boat. I did feel a sense of entitlement like, how can you not have your stuff together? I know what I’m doing, and so I’m gonna step in and show you how it’s done because no one else is getting the job done and I want my guests to have a good experience.” Though there wasn’t much he could do when it came to the broken jacuzzi on board. “When you go on these yachts, one of the most luxurious things is you wanna go up at night and use the jacuzzi. We’ve done that every other time. I kept saying, are we gonna fix this? We weren’t even able to fill the jacuzzi. I think there was a [moment] where Shane was trying to pour boiling water and obviously that wasn’t gonna work but that was a fun dumb blonde moment for him.”
But we shouldn’t really be surprised by all the drama, because as Charley explained, “When they invite you back it’s because [they’re] saying we like something about you and it’s usually because you bring some level of drama.” Even getting on the boat this time around was a bit dramatic, as Charley explained they only had weeks instead of months for the group to prepare for the trip. “I had to really throw it together,” he said. But ultimately he stated, “When you go on these shows you know what you’re getting into. So it’s ok. We know what we’re signing up for. And they do a really good job of it and that’s why the show is successful. I’ve just learned to have a tough skin about it and know that no matter what.”
Let’s also be real here: this group was on a totally baller vaca and we’re simply watching from home (in the middle of a pandemic, no less) so of course there was bound to be some FOMO from viewers. “You’re on a vacation, you’re really having a great time, you give them so much material, especially our group, and I know by now what they’re gonna choose, and there’s nothing we can do about it, just roll with it.” Which is the same attitude he’s trying to take about his own social media profiles right now. “People are now watching my Twitter and anything I post right now will get attacked. It’s kind of fun,” he laughed. “Based on what they saw, I try to look at it from their perspective and I’m like ok, I would probably hate me too.”
Plus, Charley has had his fair share of fun on the show before. He reminisced about joking with the crew during his Season 5 departure and skinny dipping during Season 6’s Tahiti adventures. “We do have a really nice time and people are like, is it worth this for you to go on national TV and make a fool of yourself? And it’s like, that’s not what we’re thinking about, we’re going on this because is a really great luxurious trip, and we always have a great time. My friends and I walk away from it, especially Tahiti, it was such a great bonding experience for all my friends. That was my favorite of all three of the charters. That’s a place I never would’ve gone. My grandfather was in the Navy and he always told me, whatever you do in your life, you have to go to Tahiti one day because it was his favorite spot. I don’t think I would’ve gotten to go to Tahiti if Below Deck had not invited me. There are all sorts of other reasons why we do this, one of them being, when else am I gonna get to do this?”
Charley also revealed that he keeps in touch with a lot of the crew members, saying, “I just talked to Elizabeth this morning, she’s my favorite new crew member for sure. Elizabeth, to me, is the strongest crew member so I hope she gets some more credit. She’s gorgeous inside and out and she’s a wonderful person.” He’s also a fan of the new chief stew saying, “Francesca is great. I know that they’re gonna learn by the end. Captain Lee likes them and he’s the holy deciding factor. We text all the time and he’s so sweet to me. There’s nothing Captain Lee has ever said bad about me on the show except maybe ‘Charley is a handful,’ which, yes, Charley is a handful. I would encourage people to listen to the captain, he’s the guy in charge and he knows what’s going on.”
“People can judge as much as they want,” Charley continued, though he also added, “I would encourage them if they really care, look me up, I do a lot of good. I work for the Paralympics, I do a lot of charitable work, and so believe it or not, I do have a good side to me. Anybody who knows me that watches the show is like, this is hilarious because this is so not you. But I understand why other people don’t have the greatest impression of me.” That often manifests in airport encounters (“Especially in the midwest,” he noted) with people starting a conversation by saying, “Oh my god, you’re that jerk from Below Deck,” but as soon as they chat for a few minutes, Charley says they tell him, “‘You’re not like that at all,’ and I’m like, ‘Exactly, thank you, tell your friends.’”
Another misconception he’d like to clear up is that his lifestyle is not all rich and famous. “People seem to think that I’m some super-wealthy person who lives in a mansion. I’m not. I live a pretty modest lifestyle so the idea of getting to go on a yacht like this is something I wouldn’t otherwise be able to do. It’s not like I’m spending money and going on a bunch of yachts all the time. No, this is a lucky experience for me and so I’m like, I don’t have as much money as you think!”
However, he is rich in friendships, though he admits that after the screaming match with his friend Shay who he says “brought some extra drama that we weren’t counting on,” the group was “really upset with her for a while after because she took it to another level.” Charley was ultimately pleased with the friend group he put together and explained, “I went for a diverse group, for one.” This included his pal, comedian Ashley Ryan who is one of the first trans guests to appear on the show. “I know the show has dealt with the trans subject before but I don’t think in terms of guests, so that was fun.” She was the one that made the Transylvania reference, and what didn’t make it into the edit was a short comedy routine she performed for the crew.
Charley was also sure to compliment the production crews aboard the boat (“they’re genius) and the drone that also flies above, capturing shots of the yacht, and couldn’t help but smile thinking of the gorgeous rainbow they got to witness before docking the boat. So what are the chances we could be seeing Charley on the show again? “I don’t know. I have to decide after this if I think my reputation can handle it,” he laughed, while admitting it’s also “time for new fresh faces. This has been three good runs.” No matter what anyone on Twitter has to say about it.
Below Deck airs Monday at 9pm ET/PT on Bravo.