Candiace Dillard is back for her second season on "The Real Housewives of Potomac," and she kicked off the show's fourth season with a major milestone: She married her longtime love, Chris, in a wedding fit for a princess that was attended by all of her co-stars.
For Candiace, having her wedding come so early in the season had an unexpected, positive side-effect for her. As she told AOL's Gibson Johns during an exclusive sit-down interview this week, getting married put the other drama in her life, both with her mother and her cast mates, into a harsh perspective.
"All of a sudden, it was like, 'No, I don’t have the energy for this toxicity,'" she recalled feeling after her wedding. "A lot of my growth comes from when I got married. There was such a shift mentally and spiritually. I was like, 'I can’t be this emotionally broken, depleted person because I’m having all of this drama with my mom.' I can’t be that for my husband and our marriage. There’s a shift that happens with me that almost creates more tension with my mom."
In addition to continuing to work through her relationship with her mother, Candiace says that this season, we'll see the ups and downs of her friendship with Ashley and how that intersects with the sexual assault allegations against her husband, Michael, which will also be a major plot point this season.
Check out AOL's full interview with Candiace Dillard below, where we talk about her wedding, her difficult relationship with her mother and the changes that she saw in herself during her second season on "The Real Housewives of Potomac."
First of all, congratulations on getting married! What was it like watching your wedding back in the form of an episode of "Real Housewives"?
It’s so weird, but I’m also thinking that I’ll be able to go back and watch this for the rest of my life and, if I ever have a child, they’ll be able to go back and look at it. It’s a really unique documenting of your wedding. Watching it the first time, I cried. [Laughs] I’m the resident crier. Being able to go back and watch it was really special, because you forget things. So, just reminiscing and being like, "We’ve come a long way since then," was nice.
Was there anything from your wedding that you didn't know about until you watched the episode? You said on "Watch What Happens Live" that you didn't hang out with your cast mates that much that day, so surely there were things you missed.
I didn’t know Karen Huger was late to my wedding, honey! We all have a little late bug, so I didn’t hold it against her. I gave Gizelle a pass, because she had that whole situation going on [with Sherman], and then Robyn is always late to everything, anyway, so I was just happy she was there with Juan. I also liked what she said about it: “As long as we’re late together.” That was cute.
This is your second season as a cast member. Was your mentality different this second go 'round?
You know what’s so funny? I feel like as a Housewife, you go through the entire living of your lives during filming, then we go on a break and there’s this period where we get started again when it airs and, in my mind, I’m already a season 2 vet with the season being done. But, remembering that the audience is still getting to know me and sees me as Candiace in her first season and just adjusting my thinking to that and realizing I still have to be patient, takes some time. There is a lot of growth that happens with me and there are many colors of me.
It takes more than one season for the audience to get to know a new addition. That being said, what did you learn from your first season? Did you have something you wanted to do differently?
I definitely did it differently, honey. I learned, for sure, that I have to be my own biggest advocate. I’m naturally a loyal person, but I think that at the end of this season I learned that I need to be loyal to Candiace first and loyalty to others should be secondary. There are some things that transpired that showed me a different side to some people.
Going into season four, I was just ready to show more of myself. I came off more timid than I am, and some of that is just about walking into a new group of friends, and I was just a sponge my first season while I was getting to know everyone, their personalities and their ticks and quirks. Going into season four, I knew more what I was dealing with.
Looking at your friendships with all the women, which one requires the most work? Or which is the most difficult to navigate?
The most difficult to navigate would be Ashley, and you see some of that in season four: The ebbs and flows of it all. Another relationship that requires some work is [mine with] Gizelle. We got to a really good place, and you’ll see that. I’m very open, but I’m also cautious and I approach everything with the understanding that I’m loyal first to me.
With Gizelle in particular, and she would admit this, she is the hardest person to win over as a new addition to the cast.
For sure. Honey, she gave me no rope whatsoever. I understand Gizelle more now. Looking back, I get it more. I don’t like new people all the time either, because it’s a lot of work and you have to let them borrow some of your energy. She’s been through a lot in her life, and I understand why she has a wall up. I gave her some grace this season, and we are able -- it’s active -- to get to a good place as friends.
Going back to Ashley, considering that she was your entrée into the show, why don’t you think it always totally works between you two?
One, I think that I misread her in the beginning. My take on Ashley when I first was getting to know her on the show was that she was more of a free spirit and a bohemian chic yoga girl with zen moments. That was my impression of her. And what I learned throughout seasons 3 and 4 that that’s kind of the opposite of how she is, and she actually harbors a lot more anxiety and stuff in a different way, and it affects the way she’s able to connect with people. I went into our friendship last season just open. I’m an open person! I want to get to know people! I’m a women’s empowerment person and that was my genuine approach, but you’ll see some things that show it wasn’t that way for her.
A big aspect of your experience on the show has been putting a spotlight on your relationship with your mother, and we see a lot of those difficult conversations. Is it hard to watch those back and let the cameras see that stuff? Has having to air out your differences on television made your relationship stronger?
What you’ve seen so far -- the argument about my half-brother and the wedding -- I forgot the cameras were there in those moments, because they’re so raw and so real. I was in such a panic just managing my emotions. A lot of my hope was that, by allowing my mom to see herself on camera, she would be unable to deny or thwart the mirror that I try to hold up to her. So far, it’s not really been working. She is who she is, and she’s an old queen, so no new tricks for her. It’s forced me to grow, though. I have to do something different.
I’ve also said that a lot of my growth comes from when I got married. There was such a shift mentally and spiritually. I was like, "I can’t be this emotionally broken, depleted person because I’m having all of this drama with my mom." I can’t be that for my husband and our marriage. There’s a shift that happens with me that almost creates more tension with my mom. She’s like, "You’re married now, guess you can’t call your mother no more!" It’s like, "No, I will call you. But it’s midnight and I’m in bed with my husband."
So there really was a distinct change for you when you married Chris?
It’s weird, because I didn’t expect that at all. It happened really quickly, and I’m getting chills thinking about it. All of a sudden, it was like, "No, I don’t have the energy for this toxicity."
Does that carry itself over to your friendships with your fellow cast mates, too?
It managed itself a bit differently with them. With my friends on the show, it became something where I don’t have a space in my life -- my mom is my mom and I have to deal with her -- but you choose your friends and, if I’m going to be friends with you, I’m going to demand loyalty, authenticity and no B.S. Don’t come at me with no bulls--t. I don’t have space for that. If you come at me with that, I’m going to try to pull authenticity out of you. With certain folks who demanded certain things of people, when it’s their turn to be in the hot seat, it’s all of a sudden they were clutching their pearls and saying it’s none of our business. That’s not authentic.
What has your experience been like with social media since joining the show? How do you manage connecting with fans while also getting criticism from people?
I have had my hand slapped a few times by my bosses, because I’m spicy and that certainly translates to social media. I consider myself to be very well-read, I was a communications major, I wrote for national publications … so I can write a word, and I can give you the most scathing thumb thug you’ve ever heard, but it was too much. My husband had to take my phone. I’ve had to pull back in that way, and I try to only focus on the positive now.
What can you tease for me about the rest of the season? I know there are a couple of trips, and a lot of friendships are shifting this year.
This is a trite thing to say, but this really is the best of “Potomac.” Everybody reaches a new echelon of enlightenment. There are some shifts in friendships, but the backdrop to that is going to be fun to watch. There’s drama with Michael and Ashley, Monique and I, Gizelle and Karen -- I call them Thelma and Louise -- and Robyn and Juan are getting their groove back. Our first trip is so rich and full of culture and history, and you get to learn more about Gizelle, which I personally really enjoyed. It was really nice to get a snapshot of who she is. Our second trip is a lot of fun, we get to be naked and bond outside of the confines of Potomac. [Laughs]
You mentioned the allegations against Michael Darby, Ashley's husband. That must've been a difficult thing for everyone to have to film through. What was your immediate response? How were you there or not there for Ashley in that tough moment?
Immediately, we were all reeling about it. And it was like, “Is this real?” Once it was confirmed, it was sort of a, “What do we do now?” From my perspective, Ashley and I were not in the best place and we had not really found our connection, so I didn’t feel like it was appropriate to reach out and be in her business. That was one arm. On the other arm, admittedly, I was like, “This is what you get for being messy and having allegedly handsy, grabby people doing handsy, grabby things, allegedly.” It wasn’t a fun place to be for any of us, because we were on an international stage. It was international spotlight that shines a lot on all of us, and we’re all forced to speak on someone else’s scandal.
I also felt and felt a sense of sadness and sympathy for Ashley. In watching her maneuver through that, it felt as though she was putting up a brave front while also knowing that this is a part of their reality. She sort of has to uphold the face, because this is the moneybags. She really wanted a baby, and I’m really glad that she’s having her baby, but I wonder about the future of their relationship.
"The Real Housewives of Potomac" airs on Bravo at Sundays at 8 p.m. EST