There was a time when Kyle Richards was best known for being Paris Hilton’s aunt. These days, though, she’s a personality in her own right, having starred on four seasons of “The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills,” the latest of which premieres tomorrow evening.
The “Real Housewives” franchise features wealthy ladies caught up in a whole lot of drama, and the Beverly Hills cast just might be the wealthiest and most dramatic of all. We got Richards on the line from California to ask her about all that drama — and just how “real” this show actually is.
What’s the weirdest thing about having your personal life filmed?
It’s actually not weird to me at all. I don’t know why. People always ask me about this. I think maybe it was growing up as a child actor. But you immediately become close with the crew, we just kind of all got along and bonded. And they know all the most intimate details of your life, I mean they know everything. So it doesn’t feel weird, they end up becoming a part of your life. So that’s why it doesn’t feel like an invasion at all.
So you become sort of immune to the cameras, like they’re part of the scenery?
Exactly. You know, when we’re filming sometimes, Sean — the sound guy — will be there with the boom, and Portia [Richards' daughter] will be, like, wrapped around his leg, like he’s one of the family, you know? (laughs)
When you were first approached to do the show did you have some reservations?
My first thought was, ‘Oh no, I don’t want to do that.’ I never wanted to do a reality show, or a soap opera. [Calls to someone in the background] Hold on, Portia! It kind of sat on the table because it wasn’t a definite go anyway, so I had time to think about it. And then, after a while, I was just like, ‘Well, OK, let’s just go for it and look at it like an adventure.’ Sorry, hold on one second. No, Portia, that’s not the shampoo, that’s the conditioner. (laughs) Sorry, she’s still learning to read so she doesn’t know which is the shampoo.
Anyway, so eventually I just thought, you know, well, who knows where this will take me, just go for it. And people would ask me, you know, why would you open yourself up to this, why would you put your lives out there? And I didn’t really get what they meant and then once I got involved and all this drama and people saying things about you that aren’t true, and people thinking that you’re someone that you’re not — then I was like, ‘Ohhh, that’s what you were talking about!’ Hellooo! (laughs)
You seem to be, for lack of a better phrase, one of the more “down to earth” women on the show. Do you make a concerted effort to appear that way?
I don’t even know that it was an effort, I think it’s more just who I am. You know, a lot of these reality shows, people come in and they’ve never been in the spotlight and they’ve never been exposed to this world. And I think growing up as a child actor, Kim (her sister) and I didn’t think it was really a big deal, and that’s why we come across the most, like, 'it’s just another day,' or whatever. But I definitely make a conscious effort to be like that with my kids.
There’s a ton of drama on this show. How much of it is real, and how much is sort of put on for the sake of the cameras?
Unfortunately, all of it’s real. I wish I could say that it was scripted because it would make my life a lot easier! First of all, they choose women who have very strong personalities and are very opinionated. And then, the whole backstory that you don’t see is that it becomes a competition. I think some of the women take advantage and try to kind of, like, take any opportunity they can to make another woman not look good. And that creates a whole other dynamic that the audience doesn’t know is going on. That’s kind of my theory on it because I can’t even put my finger on why it gets so bad sometimes. (laughs)
Do you ever watch yourself and cringe, or wish you’d behaved differently?
Of course, absolutely. In seasons one and two, there was so much stuff going on between my sister and me that the audience didn’t know, and didn’t know the backstory. And I felt really hurt by my sister. And the audience didn’t see those things, or know that. So they saw Kim as someone who was sick and a victim. And I’m like, ‘Oh, I thought I was a victim, too.’ Like, how are they not getting why I’m angry! So that was hard. But it was an eye opener, and it changed our relationship a lot, for the better.
Be honest. Who is your favorite cast member?
Are you trying to get me killed?! I always laugh when people ask Andy Cohen that, because he can’t answer that, he’ll be killed.
Andy Cohen is awesome. Do you get to hang out with him a lot?
Yeah, at all the press events and when we do his “Watch What Happens Live” and the reunions. But he’s a busy man. He’s not around when we shoot the show. I adore him. He’s so funny and vivacious. He’s really smart. I think a lot of people don’t realize that he’s our boss.
I think that “reality” TV is sort of a misnomer now, so many of these shows are scripted. How much of yours is “real”?
I think there are a lot of misconceptions about reality television. One is that I think people think that the cameras are there from the minute I wake up to the minute I go to bed at night. I used to think that, when reality shows first came out, you know, like “The Osbournes.” I thought the cameras just lived there. But that’s not the case.
And as far as things being real or not real, ours is very real. I can’t speak to other reality shows, I know there some scripted "reality" shows, where they put you in situations. Ours does not operate like that. They sit down with us before we start shooting the season and they say, ‘OK, what’s going on in your life right now and the next few months?’ And we say, ‘Oh, you know, my daughter’s graduation’ or ‘I’m opening my store.’ And they write down all the things they want to cover, and the things they don’t, and they do that with all the women and we just go from there.
Are you real friends with other women now, when you’re not filming?
Well, some of us! (laughs) Some of us hang out together. Every season is very different. Last year some people were not in the group, and others of us would go out together. And, this year, things have changed and the group dynamics are very different.
Camille [Grammer] was in the news recently for claiming that her ex-boyfriend assaulted her. Did you reach out when you heard that?
Oh yeah. Camille and I speak. Taylor and I speak. I speak to these girls all the time. And I was obviously speaking to Camille because she had the cancer diagnosis. She told me before it came out, what had happened. I’ve been checking on her. She’s had a very rough month, to say the least, between the diagnosis and the surgery, and now this. She’s not having a good time right now.
Have you met all the other women, from the other “Housewives” casts?
I think almost everybody, yes. I meet them at the Bravo up-fronts [industry events when new shows are pitched to advertisers].
OK, well maybe you can answer this one without being killed. Who’s your favorite member from another cast?
NeNe Leakes. She’s fun, she’s a friend of mine. So whenever she’s in town we go out. We have fun and she makes me laugh. I have to say, she’s my favorite.
Who seems the most crazy?
Um, you know, none of them seem crazy to me. But, entertainment-wise, I love watching NeNe, and I love watching Teresa on “New Jersey.” To me, she is very entertaining.
What’s one thing about the show you want people to know that they probably don’t?
That it really is real! That, sometimes, as bad as you think it is, it’s even worse behind the camera! (laughs) I guess I’d say that.
"The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills" premieres Monday, Nov. 4 at 8 p.m. on Bravo.