When it was announced that Kim Fields was joining Real Housewives of Atlanta, a collective, ‘What, why?’ could be heard (and read) around the world. But the veteran actress welcomed the puzzled reactions and saw it as fans being protective of her.
“I felt like that Kim Wayans character on In Living Color who would keep saying, ‘Don't nobody talk bad about Miss Jenkins,’” she says. “I was really thrilled with everyone's reaction because I felt very respected and protected.”
Fields spoke with ESSENCE about her motivation for joining the franchise, getting to know her castmates, and what advice her famous friends have given her about becoming a reality star.
Do you think people felt like a reality show is beneath you?
I felt like people didn't really see my brand and this brand lining up. You're still going to get everything you've come to know about the show: love, hate, whatever. From a career standpoint, honestly, I was really excited to try something new. I've been blessed to be doing this for nearly 40 years—next year is my 40th anniversary in the industry. In terms of the big answer to why did Kim do this, I also was really intrigued by the idea of understanding the importance and finding the value of the female social circle. I have friends that I've grown up with or colleagues who became tight friends; I have moms that I'm friends with, playdates and school and that sort of thing, but the idea of having just a social circle of friends that you just get together for brunch or mani-pedis or little trips and things like that, that was a foreign to me.
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That's interesting. To a lot of people, you’re Kim Fields, of course you’ve got a social circle.
Yeah and there's a difference between friends that I've known since I was a child and we grew up together and colleagues of mine who became close girlfriends. I haven't made a purely social circle a priority since the late 90s. Because I'm so fulfilled in everything else I do and who I am, I didn't register it as any sort of a void.
A lot of women will say, ‘I don't watch reality shows because they're trashy,’ but shows like Real Housewives continue to break ratings records so somebody's watching.
A couple million somebodies, yes. If you circle back to Bravo's tagline, it’s ”Watch what happens.” [People] are watching what happens with a group of friends, and sometimes living vicariously through them and finding the relatability. This is the heightened version of themselves and the heightened interactions of their same types of friendships. As Kim Fields if I'm able to show, okay, what happens if we handle conflict this way? What happens if we handle drama this way? What happens if we are not turned up to 12 all the time? What happens if you actually think for a moment somebody's not coming for you? [I hope] to be able to offer some different types of conversation.
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How much did you know about the women in the show before you signed on?
I knew of them. I try not to let certain things that I heard influence... I feel like I had a real blank canvas when I approached this. For the last eight years since my son Sebastian was born, and now with Quincy being almost 2, my world is inundated with kid programming, family programming, that sort of thing, so I haven't even caught up on my stuff in a minute.
How's it been going since you did the show?
There's a lot of finding your way and navigating through the water, from the mechanics of this particular show, to learning the preexisting friendships and interactions. Then, just finding your voice in all of that and staying true to your voice. It's not like it's a kumbaya thing; we have, as I call them, speed bumps. There's definitely oil and water. We ain't going to mix, but as long as you be a grown woman about it, then we're good. That's life.
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Any advice from your famous friends? Have you talked to anyone about being on a reality show?
Everybody's been really supportive. My family, friends and friends who are also in the business have been supportive. I’ll be going through the airport and folks are hollering out, ‘I'm on your team. I'm on team Kim. Don't nobody better not mess with you.’
In one promo for the new season, you say something like ‘Your husband can't be your best friend.’ What did you mean?
In that moment [on the show] what I was saying is the idea that your mate can be your best friend in the place of other friends is not real. That's not at all to imply that you can't share any and everything with your spouse—you should if that's how you guys roll. That’s how [my husband] Chris and I roll. But, sometimes your man is like, ‘I'm not trying to do that with you. Go get you some friends.’ That's where that was coming from.
Season 8 of Real Housewives of Atlanta premieres this Sunday at 8pm ET of Bravo.