It's been almost a year since viewers watched The Real Housewives of Atlanta go at it. Recall that when we last saw NeNe Leakes, she and on-again-off-again friend Kim Zolciak had been fighting over an incident in which Zolciak accused Leakes of choking her. Twice.
The last several months have been even more tumultuous for Leakes, whose son was arrested and whose marriage to Greg is said to be on the rocks. Two days before the Season 3 premiere (Monday at 10/9c), Leakes was antsy about not having seen the first episode. But it's the mark of a true housewife that she wasn't nervous about which of her antics the cameras captured so much as eager to be up in everyone else's business.
"They were supposed to send the episode already. They better bring me that damn tape," she said. "I always run upstairs when I get it and pop it in because I want to see what happened, too. We don't always see what the other girls are doing. I don't get to see what's going on with Sheree's life or Kim's life when I'm not there. So yes, I want to know!"
Leakes spoke with TVGuide.com about her bizarre relationship with Zolciak, her family drama, why she no longer talks to former Housewife Lisa Wu Hartwell, and online reports that say she has a new nose.
TVGuide.com: In the premiere, you invite Kim over to your house for the first time in months. You hire a chef, you put on a fancy dress, you keep the wine flowing. This is the same person who called the cops on you. If not for the show, would you be friends?
Leakes: Kim and I, you know, we're cool. We've known each other for a while and our relationship has just gone through changes over the years. We have highs and lows. Both of us have a lot of energy, we're both really outspoken and have very big opinions. Sometimes that can get you into trouble in a friendship. I wanna just tell her like it is, and she wants to tell me like it is. Then one of us will get offended and get mad, and then we argue of it, but we always come back around.
TVGuide.com: But she called the cops on you. Who extended the olive branch after that?
Leakes: You know, time heals. We just knew that with time, we'd be fine. I never said anything to her, she never said anything to me. We'd see each other around, and we wouldn't speak. And then as time went on, we would say," Hi." And slowly, it just came back around. Time heals. It was like, "Oh girl, get over it." "I'm so over it." "Let's go out and have a drink." We have a love-hate relationship. Being friends with Kim is like having a boyfriend that you love, and then you hate, then you love. She's hilarious. It's all over the place with her.
TVGuide.com: Even though you haven't seen it yet, I can also tell you that the first episode shows you and Dwight coming to blows. What happened there? What did we miss in the off-season?
Leakes: What everyone doesn't know is that we don't talk on a regular basis. We were never the kind of friends that call each other every day ... He and I were never that way. I know it may have appeared differently on the show. I did really like him and respect him, but one of the reasons that we hadn't talked for a really long time is I felt that he had been doing things that weren't worthy of a friendship.
TVGuide.com: You mean the deal between Dwight and Greg. (In the premiere, Kim tells NeNe that Dwight had been saying NeNe's husband Greg had asked him for a $10,000 loan; Greg denies it.) Does the truth of that situation come out?
Leakes: I think so. I'm pretty sure. I know we address the issue. I am very clear today about what happened, but at the time, I was not. You guys will see.
TVGuide.com: At this point, are you at all self-conscious of the cameras being there when you're throwing down ... or breaking down?
Leakes: I am totally, completely used to them. That can be a problem because you do forget the crew — who become like family because they're in your home all the time — are holding cameras. They're not your friends. You're there saying everything on your mind, and then you think, "Oh my god, he is not your friend. He's going to put this up for the world to see. Jesus." I remember in the first season, I was a little bit uncomfortable. I had to tell myself, "Love me or hate me, I have to just be me or this isn't going to work out." To be honest with you, I hate it when I've had to go off on someone. I hate that the cameras have captured me going off.
TVGuide.com: This season you deal with your son being arrested and your marital problems with Greg. Was it more difficult to keep filming than it has been in previous seasons?
Leakes: Yes. I go through a lot this season, emotionally, in my personal life and with my children. I think you're going to see me go through a lot with my family. I will say that one thing I am is a very good mom. I'm not like a lot of moms today. I was raised strict and I'm pretty strict with my boys. Also, you guys have never seen Greg and I really disagree; you'll see a lot of that this season. It was tough though. Really emotional scenes are draining. If you are crying and having an emotional moment in front of the camera, those are the times I want to run out of the damn house and cry by myself. It's just hard when you know people are looking.
TVGuide.com: How are you and Greg now?
Leakes: Greg and I, you know, we're still husband and wife. We're still married. No matter what happens, we will hopefully be friends.
TVGuide.com: How do you feel you've come off on the show?
Leakes: I feel like I've come off as an outspoken woman. Sometimes I think I've come off as confrontational. But I feel like it's been pretty fair. Those are parts of me.
TVGuide.com: There are two new housewives this season, Phaedra Parks and Cynthia Bailey. Cynthia's not in the premiere, but Phaedra is. So far we know she's a hotshot lawyer — and she's got some strong opinions about you already.
Leakes: I knew Phaedra before. I didn't know her personally, but we are from the same home town. We went to the same high school. I'm a little bit older. When we were in school — and I can say this because she told me this herself — she would say to me, "I've always looked up to you. I've always admired you." I was very popular in high school. Once she was on this show though? She never really talked to me or spoke to me. It was strange. She had nothing at all to say to me. I felt like there was some type of jealousy there. ... I will tell you I had heard that Phaedra always thought she was always glamorous or fabulous, I guess. I never saw that. I heard that a lot when we were filming, that she thought she was a diva and a "real Southern belle." I was like, "Well, we're from Athens, Ga.," so I don't think she's a Southern belle." She's country.
TVGuide.com: Do you keep in touch with Lisa now that she's off the show?
Leakes: No, I don't talk to Lisa at all. I didn't get to know her until the second season. We were really cool, even though ... Look, I'm a very good judge of character. I should win a damn award for being a good judge of character. I get you right away. I get it. And so, as Lisa and I hung out more, I got her. That's all I can really say. I got her. I got who she was. I was OK with who she was, but we could not be good friends. We could be friendly, and work together and even have a drink together. But as far as me crying on her shoulder or telling her secrets, I wouldn't.
TVGuide.com: There's lots of talk about your new nose online, but you have yet to address it. Will it come into play this season?
Leakes: There have been lots of rumors. A lot of what you may have heard is just that. I speak very openly about it on our show, both what I have done and what I have not done. I tell it like it is. I don't have anything to hide. And for the record, I am not against plastic surgery. I believe that any woman that wants to do anything or fix anything that bothers her — if she's doing it for herself — I'm all for it. I've heard that I've gotten a lighter complexion, as if I've bleached my skin. I think that is so stupid and ludicrous. For those who want to bleach their skin, that's fine. I just didn't bleach mine. I'm a black woman. I don't want to be anything but a black woman.