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[07/30/09 - 12:07 AM]
Interview: "The Real Housewives of Atlanta" Co-Stars Lisa Wu-Hartwell & Kandi Burruss
By Jim Halterman (TFC)

It's a given that "The Real Housewives" franchise on Bravo is not going away anytime soon. The most recent installment (New Jersey) not only garnered big ratings but also created quite a buzz with the explosive reunion show. So, while attention is still high, "The Real Housewives of Atlanta" return for a second season beginning tonight. After an equally drama-filled first season, how are NeNe, Sheree, Kim, Lisa and new Housewife Kandi doing in this new crop of episodes? Our Jim Halterman talked to Lisa (Wu-Hartwell) and Kandi (Burruss) to find out what fans can expect as the franchise continues from the Peachtree State.

Being the new girl on the block, Kandi said that while filming wasn't too difficult in the beginning, things didn't remain that way. "It seemed like I was working more days than everybody else. But they were like 'everybody needs to get to know you. You are new...' or whatever. And then when we got towards the end of the season, things just got so hectic, even as far as our personalities being able to get along and everything."

Kandi did have at least one thing in her head when she first joined the cast � be herself. "I did not want to just go too hard and say crazy things when I first met either one of the ladies because, well, me personally I am [the kind of] person that when I think it I say it most of the time. And I know sometimes that does not come off very well so I was like okay, I am not going to do that. I do not want to tick anybody off when I first meet them."

While Lisa may be the veteran of the two, she shared that despite having an idea how she wanted to be portrayed this year, one thing helped her forget about the presence of the cameras. "I would have to say initially you go in and you are like 'I am going to try to have self control.' But when the cameras turn on and you have a glass of wine that is out the window. So, you can only be yourself and hopefully people will like that."

In hindsight, Lisa did admit to having some regrets about the first season, including one heated exchange during the Atlanta reunion. "I said I would flip Kim over the couch. But, really, in retrospect, if I had another week to think about it, I probably would have taken those words back. But, you know, the wounds were fresh. There are a lot of people that are not...if you were living your life in front of millions of people, I am sure there is some behavior you would love to take back. We do not have the liberty to take certain things back. We react right away because the cameras are there. It is not like we can say 'oh take that off.' So it is kind of too late and you are like 'Why did I do that?' But, I am just being me and I am human."

Speaking of Kim, it is no secret that she received much scrutiny for her supposed passion for singing while also smoking like a chimney. Since Kandi happens to be a Grammy winning songwriter/singer, did she and Kim get a chance to talk music during the new season? "I watched the season last year," Kandi said, "[and] I thought, 'Wow is she for real?' because I am on the outside looking in. But when I got to meet her, and it was like she was really broken down from last season from so many people dogging her, her self esteem and everything was kind of shot as far as where it came to the music...so when she asked me for my help, I did help her out and you will see that this season."

Lisa also said that there are differences between how audiences saw her portrayed last season. "Last season you would see me in my business mode and being the entrepreneur on the show but this season you will see a sensitive side. So a lot of people thought I was a robot like she actually sleeps? They will [now] say that 'Oh she actually cries.' I do not know what the heck is going on. I am like the weeping willow this season. I am crying and it just - I am very vulnerable so I do not know how I will take watching myself cry and opening myself up like that."

Since one of the appeals of "The Real Housewives" shows is when the women fight (sometimes literally), Kandi said that things got a little rocky with a fellow member of the cast. "We bumped heads," she admitted, "but for the most part...I pretty much got along with everybody. So I would not say that I am coming on and just causing drama, but I did have a moment. Yes, that is what I would say; I had a moment towards the end of taping that just kind of got out of control. I mean they showed it on the commercials. NeNe and I we bumped heads so...our personalities kind of clash at times."

Other than their relationships with each other, the ladies also have relationships with family, spouses and fiances that are fodder for the producers to examine. For example, Kandi's engagement to a man that her mother has been very public about disliking is a part of the new season. Kandi explained, "My fiance does have six children. And that in itself is a big problem with my mother. And some certain things like I did not know going into the relationship that he had that many kids. So she felt like there was some deceit. And, just other things. You will definitely see like most of the reasons and everything that she is talking about on the show. But she is not happy at all. Like it is an ongoing battle. Even after the show stopped taping my mom just really started going hard. After the cameras went away it just got worse."

Lisa also voiced her feelings about the double standard in terms of race as portrayed on reality shows. "It is sad that there is always going to be a double standard. But, I mean, it is reality. I have spoke about this before. You look at Hugh Hefner and the Playboy bunnies [and] people look up to them. And they are like, 'Oh my God! That is the Playboy bunny!' But you get another guy that is an African American and he is doing the same thing and he has girls in there, then they would be considered probably prostitutes. It is just the way that it is. And, I mean, it is reality. A lot of our show we have a lot of entertainment. There is some drama. But, hey, we take the good with the bad. But, you know, ours is always considered drama."

Do the Atlanta Housewives watch the other series in the popular franchise? "I actually liked some of the girls on New York so I did watch them every time I got a chance," Lisa said. "But New Jersey did keep me entertained. I think it was just the fact that they were genuine and they were being who they are and they were not apologizing for it."

"The Real Housewives of Atlanta" kicks off its second season tonight on Bravo at 10:00/9:00c.





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· REAL HOUSEWIVES OF ATLANTA, THE (BRAVO)









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