Behind every great woman, there's an even stronger man. For "The Real Housewives of Atlanta" star Lisa Wu Hartwell, her rock is her hubby of nearly three years, Ed Hartwell, former linebacker for the Atlanta Falcons. When it comes to dramality TV, Hartwell has never favored the limelight, but he'll weather any storm for his leading lady. ESSENCE.com caught up with Hartwell to discuss the high drama surrounding his wife, his relationship with Lisa's ex-husband Keith Sweat and his wish for the second season.
ESSENCE.COM: Hey, Mr. Hartwell, how does it feel to live under the microscope of America?
ED HARTWELL: When I was a linebacker for the Atlanta Falcons, people always asked me why didn't do shows like "MTV Cribs." I've never been into allowing folks to see everything you're doing, because then you put all of your business out there. After Lisa told me this show was something she wanted to do, I wanted to support her because it's her line of work as a [burgeoning] actress and screenwriter. Our decision to be on the show gave us great exposure for our businesses. If I had been approached, I probably would never have done it, but I don't have any regrets. We have so much going on; it didn't really interrupt our lives.
ESSENCE.COM: Was there ever a moment that you had to put your foot down and tell the camera crew to chill because they were too invasive?
HARTWELL: Yes, one time and that's when Lisa was sick. The crew came by and shot her, but after that taping I had to rush her to the hospital because her fever was a 104 and they wanted to film that but I told them no. Another day, there was going to be a hurricane and I called Lisa and told her to come home. I know she's doing a show, but I'm her husband and I want her home safe with me.
ESSENCE.COM: A real man puts his foot down for his woman! So even after all the drama that has gone down between Lisa and Kim, which the blogosphere believe is staged, you have no regrets?
HARTWELL: No, and it's not staged. Unfortunately, it's as real as it gets. It's not staged. I think it's crazy because a lot of things that they are saying are lies. Did Lisa make a phone call to Kim? Yes. Did she threaten her life? No. [The ladies] are taking it way too far but eventually the truth will come out because there are only so many lies that you can continue to tell other people [before] they start mistrusting you, and after a while you lie so much you begin to forget your own lies, which has been happening. In the end, you ruin yourself and your reputation. It's all catty. I know Lisa doesn't do drama either, but she got dragged into it because she's human and was offended.
ESSENCE.COM: So do you think your wife did the right thing by defending herself?
HARTWELL: I told her that I had to deal with this stuff all the time when I was playing ball, as far as all the negative comments. I told her to speak from the heart and give her rebuttal and leave it alone. If she didn't speak on it, people will assume that it's the truth if you remain silent. Lisa's response was never to bash but to set the record straight and say her peace. The more she keeps it going, she will give Kim what she wants and that's more attention. It's not worth it.
ESSENCE.COM: Well, let's end it here. How is your relationship with Lisa's sons, Justin and Jordan?
HARTWELL: Me and my sons have a great relationship. I tell everyone I have three sons. They call me dad; I never say my stepkids, they are my sons. Every kid is different but they are both wonderful children. My eldest son is about to turn 14 and I have conversations with him that I can't have with Justin. Jordan wants to train, so now we're both training.
ESSENCE.COM; That's great that you're involved in their lives. Do you have a good relationship with their father, Keith Sweat?
HARTWELL: Not at all. The reason is because [when I started dating] Lisa there was a lot that I had to stop from happening. I had to lay down the law, man to man. Have I tried to work out some things and put our differences to the side for the sake of the kids? Absolutely. I don't like to play games.
ESSENCE.COM: Blended families can be difficult to have. Now, back to you: Last night, we learned that you aren't returning to football. What made you change your mind?
HARTWELL: Football, I love it to death, but it takes a toll. Watching my sons play football is a treat, but it's a short career. At 30 years old, I'm considered an old man in the game. Football players need to remember that the day you start playing you should be thinking about your future and what's going to generate your next income. [They should start] implementing a game plan from Day One. I played for eight years until I suffered a knee injury. Although I got calls and the Raiders wanted me, Lisa and I decided I was needed here more so we're running our businesses together and I have some businesses I'm working on myself.
ESSENCE.COM: Are you looking forward to living under a microscope for a second season?
HARTWELL: Now that I know how they run things, I think the second season will be a lot easier. I'm looking forward to it, and I hope everything works out and that we can have both Justin and Jordan be a part of this family experience. People would be able to see that we are a family and spend time with them as much as we can. Right now, the schedule has been crazy with all that's going on but the boys visit us every other weekend and any additional visitations that she and [her ex] agree upon and holidays. Having them on the show next season would mean a lot to me and Lisa.