As the coronavirus outbreak in the U.S. has kept people at home, TV has helped many pass the time. And for a certain segment of viewers, “The Real Housewives of [Insert City]” has become the quintessential, and most essential, self-quarantine companion — as much as Michael Scott or Meredith Grey have been.
The 10th season of “The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills” premieres Wednesday on Bravo, bringing a steady supply of new content for loyalists. While principal shooting on the series wrapped before widespread social distancing measures were implemented, adjustments had to be made to complete the season. The cast — Kyle Richards, Erika Girardi, Lisa Rinna, Dorit Kemsley, Teddi Mellencamp, Denise Richards and new cast member Garcelle Beauvais — had to shoot their last round of confessionals over video conference with producers.
In the midst of all that, the women spoke with The Times about their time at home, which includes doing their own makeup, viewings of “Little Fires Everywhere” and, yes, “Tiger King,” and comfort foods like mac ’n’ cheese and turkey sandwiches. The following interviews have been edited for clarity and condensed.
From “Vanderpump Rules” and “Real Housewives” to “Love Is Blind” on Netflix, our guide to the reality TV to stream in quarantine has something for everyone.
Richards, the sole original cast member, has been open on the show about her struggle with anxiety. And despite the daily dose of harrowing headlines these days, she’s been relatively OK, she says, because her family is under one roof. She’s been staying at her Encino home with husband Mauricio Umansky and daughters Farrah, Alexia, Sophia and Portia.
How many video chats are you doing these days?
I’ve done a couple Zoom birthday parties. I did a Zoom Passover dinner with my family. And just catching up. I have a Zoom cocktail hour with some of the housewives tomorrow. I’m laughing because normally when I’m talking with with friends and stuff I don’t have any makeup on, but because I’m doing press for the show now like my own hair and makeup [person], which I normally [am] anyway. But now I’m like a lighting person now, a camera operator, I’m an IT person.
The fact that I can set this up and do all this, I’m feeling like I have a new career.
I’m curious about this housewives cocktail hour — is everyone invited or only some invited?
This one only some... What can I say?
When did you start to realize this was something serious?
As soon as I started hearing about this coronavirus, I got really nervous. I went online and bought all my family masks, which now, we save those for the healthcare workers, but at the time nobody was doing that. I could buy one and so I started flying with a mask and making my husband and my daughter fly with masks. And they were like, “You’re so ridiculous.” And I’m like, “Sorry, but I’m telling you, I know you think I’m crazy, but we’re not flying without masks.”
I had one event to go to like a week and a half before this whole [staying home] thing started. And I said to my husband, “Don’t shake any hands.” And he said, “I’m not going to do that; that’s rude.” And I bumped into Lisa Rinna and Harry Hamlin and Harry was like, “I’m only doing fist bumps” or whatever. That night, from that event, like, three people I know ended up getting the virus.
You mentioned buying medical masks before officials discouraged doing so. But you’ve since donated masks to healthcare professionals. Talk about that.
We started seeing how the healthcare workers didn’t even have the proper masks. They were wearing trash bags in that photo that everybody saw. It was heartbreaking. My partner, Shahida [Parides], from my clothing line, Kyle X Shahida — she was able to help me get 8,000 N95 masks, so I was able to purchase those. And then Andy Cohen was able to help me get in touch with Gov. Cuomo’s office in New York. My husband and I donated to the New York hospitals, and then I had a lot of masks here for the L.A. hospitals, so I reached out to [my cast members]. And I just said, “Listen, ladies. I have these masks and I want to know if you would like to donate 5,000 masks to L.A. hospitals that are most in need as a group. Immediately, everybody across the board was like “Yes, yes, yes, yes, thank you, we’re in, we’re in,” without any hesitation... When you’re on a reality show, people watch and they’re like, “Oh my God, all they do is have parties and fight and this and that.” But we’re real people who actually care about what’s going on in the world.
Are there any TV shows, movies, music or books that you’ve caught up on during this time?
I’m a big reader. Even though I produce television and I’ve been on TV my whole life, I’m not a TV watcher. I like to read books, But now that I’m here, I’m like, you know what, I’m going to become a television watcher. I started watching “Hunters” on Amazon Prime. I started watching “The Stranger” with my daughter. I have shows with different kids, which is kind of fun. “Little Fires Everywhere” — I’ve been watching it with my daughter Sophia and we’re like, “Don’t watch it without me.” But I do love reading, and I put on Instagram the book I was reading [“Then She Was Gone” by Lisa Jewell] and so many people bought it and I want to check in with them and say, “What do you think of this book? And now let’s go on to the next book” ... sort of like an informal Kyle’s book club.
How do you think “Housewives” will be different after this?
When we started the show a decade ago, we were just coming out of the recession of 2008. And I can remember ... there was so much focus when you’re on a lifestyle show. Everybody was uncomfortable. I can remember they would always ask in the interviews: “How much was this? How much did you spend on that party?” I was not raised talking like that. You’re asked these question in your interviews and you’re like, “I’m not talking about that; I don’t want to talk about that.” Of course, as time goes on, things got back to normal in the world, but now I do think it’s gonna be different. People are really going to be struggling and I know that people probably look at our show and think that, “Oh, you guys, you don’t know.” And, obviously, everyone has different levels of it, but we have a lot of friends who have lost their jobs. And a lot of people that we know live month to month and they are really struggling and they’re really scared.
Girardi was two weeks away from completing her run as Roxie Hart in “Chicago” when Broadway went dark over coronavirus concerns. She’s been staying at her Pasadena home with husband, attorney Tom Girardi.
What’s the average day for you right now?
I was expecting a break after “Chicago,” but certainly not something like this where it’s like everything is ground to a halt. I’m at home. Tom and I spend a lot more time together. He’s obviously on the phone running the firm and doing things. It’s definitely different — scheduling when to go grocery shopping. It’s just a complete 180 of life. There are days when I’m motivated and days when I’m not motivated. I woke up at four this morning for I don’t know whatever reason... Sometimes I’m OK, and then I get anxious.
I know that everyone says you should be using this free time to be creative and yeah that’s great — and I get behind all of that, but at the same time I’m a little lost. As I sit here, I can see many things that I should be doing, but I don’t. Did I start “Tiger King” like the rest of America? Sure. Have I finished it? No.
Are you turning to any comfort foods in this time? We all remember the classic moment when you guys were camping and you ate pumpkin pie and Cheese Whiz.
I haven’t been super-indulgent. Last night’s key lime pie was probably the first sweet thing that I’ve had. I miss getting in my car and going to Starbucks at six in the morning. I miss all of that freedom that we took for granted.
We made homemade chicken soup, penne bolognese. I’ve been making a lot of turkey sandwiches, that kind of stuff. And just easy things. I’m never going to be a gourmet cook. Nobody’s ever going to marry me for my cooking, I can tell you.
You see everyone on Instagram making bread or trying out these recipes and I’m like, “I can’t even find half the ingredients.”
Yeah, where are they getting these ingredients? I’m waiting outside of Vons. Where are [they] getting all theirs? ‘Cause I’m not.
How does it feel to be launching a new season during all this?
I hope that people will tune in and maybe we could take them out of their reality. I don’t know that our reality show can compete with the reality in people’s living rooms right now, because I have a feeling that there’s a lot of really good reality TV happening right now in people’s homes. But hey, we made a show seven months ago that I think is great. We have a lot of fun. And the first episode is good, so we’ve been told.
Because the world is so serious and people are losing their lives [I was worried] that perhaps we may come off as shrill and tone-deaf. That’s why I encourage people to remember that we shot this months ago, pre-pandemic. Obviously, things feel different and look a lot different.
In what ways do you think the show will be different after quarantine?
I wonder how we will make another show. How will we film next season? What does that look like? When will it happen? What will it be? Is it limited contact? I have no idea. Those things I’ve thought about; I’m sure the network has as well. Who knows what it ends up looking like? How are we going to have these interpersonal relationships, if in fact we need to keep 6 feet apart and we need to wear masks? How long does that last? There’s so many unanswered questions. I mean, not just for us about making a TV show, but for the whole world.
Rinna credits her husband, actor Harry Hamlin, for taking the threat of the coronavirus seriously early on — helping to keep the family’s grocery store needs to a minimum. She has been staying at her Beverly Hills home with Hamlin and daughters Delilah Belle and Amelia.
How many pies has Harry made so far?
You know what, he hasn’t made any pies. He’s making dinner every night. He’s cooking for us, which is a godsend because if he didn’t, I would starve. I’d literally starve. So that’s a good thing. The kids are baking a lot. We’ve had so much baking going on: cinnamon rolls, brownies, lemon cake.
What’s your average day like right now?
I have somewhat of a routine, at this point. There’s a friend of mine that does this class called Torch’d. His name is Isaac Boots. I get up to do his eight o’clock class because he does it live from the Hamptons at 11 a.m. And that has really been a fun thing for me look forward to, to be honest, because I’m not great at exercising by myself. I like a class.
And then, usually I return emails, kind of do business stuff, take care of the dogs, empty the dishwasher. I probably just did five loads of laundry yesterday and Harry was so funny, he goes, “Do you guys actually wear all these clothes?” I said, “Yes, we do.” First of all the washer broke, the dishwasher broke, and we had a leak in the basement for the water heater. And Harry fixed all three. First of all, we’re protecting Harry at all costs. If [he] got sick, what would we do?
We thought that Delilah had it, and so we quarantined her in her bedroom for the last five days until her test came back. Thankfully, she doesn’t have it. It was negative. But listen, we got to keep Harry Hamlin healthy at all costs because he goes down, we all go down.
With the scare with Delilah, were you freaking out? Was it hard to get the test? Talk about that experience.
Yes, you freak out when you think that somebody has it because she had all the symptoms, and we spoke to two of our physicians — ear, nose and throat, and her pediatrician, which we still have. We haven’t quite moved on to a regular doctor yet. Anyway, they both listened to her symptoms and they were both convinced that she had it. That was on the weekend. And so by Monday, we had heard there was a test out at a pediatric hospital or something, but she had to go there and she had to sit there and the doctors didn’t want her to do that. So then our ear, nose and throat doctor said come down. We drove into the alley, nurse came down, Delilah had to literally do the test on [her]self, stick that thing up her nose put it back in a tube and then give it to the nurse who’s like all covered up. And Harry wanted to be tested too and they wouldn’t test Harry because he didn’t have any symptoms. So, what I will tell you is tests are not that available, and it is hard to get them. And I think that’s a problem.
What have you been able to catch up on? What are the shows that have hooked you? What movies?
I love documentaries and so I watched “Tiger King,” obviously — one of the greatest things ever. I love all those kind of, you know, crime documentaries: I love a good “Dateline,” I love a good “48 Hours.” And then I’ve been watching like art documentaries on, like, Julian Schnabel, and [Jean-Michel] Basquiat, and I watched this really cool one on Peggy Guggenheim yesterday; some really interesting things that I really loved. And one on Mapplethorpe, an HBO special, that was so fantastic. So I’m watching a lot of that and I feel like I’m getting a little art history.
Have you thought about what your first outing will be?
My first outing will be the hair salon and a bikini wax, that’s for sure. Those are the things I need the most. You know, that’s the problem. The hair salons — you’re not going to be able to get in because that’s going to be everybody’s first [stop]: the hair salon, the plastic surgeon. I mean, really, let’s be honest. In that order!
Have you been doing some of these video conferences with your friends? Happy hours or game nights?
None. I cannot be bothered. I watch everybody do it. I hear everybody gets on and does cocktails. I’d rather drink alone.
Beauvais was preparing for her debut season as a cast member of “The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills” and was in preproduction on a film she co-wrote when everything came to a halt. She’s been staying at her San Fernando Valley home with twin 12-year-old sons Jaid and Jax.
Did you panic shop in the early days of this whole thing?
When I first went to the market it was normal; you get the things you need and then you leave it. When we heard that we might be on lockdown, I went back to the store and it felt like immediately things were gone. That’s what made it more frightening to me because then you realize, “Oh my God. If we don’t have the essentials that we need, then what?” So then it became ordering on Amazon, and then after a while it says, “unavailable.” And that was really tricky, so what I tried to do is just buy the things that I know will last a long time. Freeze things. With two 12-year-old boys that are constantly eating, that’s a challenge.
How would you describe the experience of having your sons do school at home?
I always appreciated teachers and always thought that they were underpaid and underappreciated. More than ever, these people should get more money than some movie stars. What’s interesting for me is, because my boys are 12 and [at] their school all the students have a laptop, they’ve been able to connect with their teachers and connect with their friends to learn. I stopped helping them with math in third grade. That’s when I tapped out. I was like, “Circle it and bring it in the morning and ask your teacher.”
What’s been the hardest adjustment?
The hardest for me is not being able to meet a friend for lunch, go out for sushi. I think those socializing aspects — having a girlfriend come over with her kid, and we could just hang out in the kitchen and have fun and talk. That kind of connection, I really, really miss. What’s been a saving grace for me is that we’re all doing the same thing. It’s not just me. But, yeah, connecting is what I miss the most. And going to Starbucks and getting my tea. I missed that. When I go to Ralphs to go grocery shopping, there’s a Starbucks there and I’m like, “Oh my God, I’m so happy to see them there.” They think I’m nuts.
Do you find that you’re having moments of reflection? Where the scope of it all hits you, and you think about the people on the front lines who are putting their lives at risk during this time?
The people that are in the front lines ... you don’t think of grocery store clerks, or you don’t think about the UPS people that are delivering. And now we have a different understanding of that and how appreciative we are. The last time I went to the supermarket, I had a mask on, and as I waited in line to go in at some point I was just so hot and it was uncomfortable but I kept it on. When I got out of the grocery store [and] I took it off, I was so happy to be able to breathe and then I thought, “You know, the people that are working at the grocery store have it on for 8 to 10 hours.” So it just gives you a different appreciation. I make sure that I say, “How are you? How are you holding up? Thank you for what you’re doing.” I think if nothing else, that’s what this was for: We appreciate people more.
What TV have you been watching?
“Little Fires Everywhere” — I’m obsessed and I wish they would just put everything all out at once so I don’t have to wait for Wednesday. “Love Is Blind” ... I’m not a real binger, but that one, I couldn’t get enough of that because I really loved the concept. Being single, sometimes I think we put too much pressure on what someone looks like. And it’s not everything, you know. You can be a great-looking guy but if it’s not the right fit, it’s not the right fit. So I love the concept of that and I have to confess “90 Day Fiancé.” And I love “Pillow Talk” [a “90 Day Fiancé” reaction show featuring past cast members].
Kemsley was working on some new ventures, including becoming a partner in a Buca di Beppo near her Encino home, when concerns about the coronavirus rippled across the country —"That obviously has been massively affected by all this,” she says. She’s been staying at home with husband PK and kids Jagger and Phoenix.
You’ve joined TikTok and have kept busy posting videos during quarantine.
I’m not one of those very technical people, so those kinds of things I kind of step away from. It took me a long time to get onto Instagram and social media. I get, like, scared of doing it. I don’t embrace it, really. But TikTok, I had seen a lot of it. And you are obviously looking for fun ways to spend your time. And then my friend Kyle Richards had done this TikTok with her husband where they were answering questions and I thought it was so cute. And so it kind of pushed me to join. I spoke to the kids about it. They were there and present when my husband and I were doing it, and then they said, “We want to do it, we want to do it.” I said, “OK, let’s make it a family affair,” so then we learned a few dances we did together.
What entertainment are you consuming right now?
One of my favorite things to do is to watch shows with my husband. We love “Homeland,” and that’s on right now so we’re like, can’t wait for Sunday. We did watch “Tiger King,” because I don’t think I could have not watched with all the coverage. You almost feel like you’re in an alternate universe, if you haven’t seen it. We love “Blacklist.” We’re getting back into “Ozark”; we sort of were not into it and then some people said this last season is so good, so we’ve gotten back into that.
The cast is shooting their final confessionals from home. How has that been, doing your own lighting, makeup and hair?
I love glam. I don’t have a problem with it. I’m not one of those women that’s like, “Oh, I don’t want to do my face today” or “I don’t want to do my hair.” I don’t like to not feel put together. So I do enjoy it and, in fact, most days, if I’m honest, I do it regardless. Maybe not a full face, but there’s always something, because I just feel better. Obviously during the interviews and things like that, of course, I’m going to take it up a notch. It’s also good time to kind of experiment, you know, and have a little fun doing it.
Some people have embraced the video conference, dressing up as if they are going out with their friends. Have you done any of that?
No, I haven’t had the chance to do that. Some of the girls and I have talked about doing a Zoom where we have a cocktail and we kind of chit chat. We haven’t had a chance to do it yet. My husband has done one of these like Zoom parties; I still haven’t done it yet. Mostly my Zooms are meetings, conference calls. My kids, well, they’re on spring break now, but during school, we have to Zoom every morning with the class. That was the first time I actually learned about Zoom; [it] was for my kids’ school. I’ve done FaceTime with a lot of the moms because the kids miss one another.
How often are you talking to Boy George?
We’re on FaceTime with him every single day. My husband speaks to him about 10 times a day; even my kids will say, let’s call Uncle George. He’s in the U.K. so there’s a time difference, obviously. There’s not a day that goes by where they don’t talk.
Is there an indulgence that you’re missing?
Definitely a massage. Oh my God, I’m dreaming about a good steam, a good sauna and a good massage.
Richards was in Madrid shooting the medieval drama “Glow and Darkness” when production shut down over concerns about the coronavirus. She’s been staying at her home in Malibu with husband Aaron Phypers and daughters Lola, Sam and Eloise.
Are you finding that you’re finally doing household tasks you’ve put off?
I’m finally able to organize closets and clean the baseboards really good and go through the girls’ things. I’ve embraced that.
Is there a dish you’re making more than usual?
Yes, macaroni and cheese. I even posted on my Insta story that I made it for breakfast one day, which I never do; it’s so gross that I would even do that. But I it was good. I’m like, “Girls, do you want macaroni and cheese?” And they’re like, “Mom, for breakfast?” Breakfast of champions, kids. Here you go!
I love it. What’s your recipe?
A box and the powder and the butter and the milk. Trust me I’m not doing a fancy one with the organic cheese and all homemade and stuff. It’s out of the box.
Have you turned to YouTube or Instagram for any DIY tutorials?
I did buy a box of dye, like, highlighting stuff. And then I thought, you know what, I’m gonna screw this up. What if my hair falls off or something? I don’t know. I was like, “Actually, I’ll wait.” It’s been good giving my hair a break.
Have you come to learn something about yourself in this process?
Yes, that I think that it’s good to slow down. We all are so used to going nonstop and having everything right now and being available all the time. The good in this is to just to slow down and just take a moment.
We’ve seen headlines that the big drama this season involves you and former “Housewives” cast member Brandi Glanville. How much of what we read are we going to see this season? How was it to be at the center of the drama?
This is the 10th season and a lot of times it’s someone’s turn to maybe be the target a little bit, and I think this season I was a little bit and that’s OK. It’s part of the show. It’s a reality show. But I think people just watch it and have fun with it. It’s entertainment. We’re all home dealing with all this stuff. There’s a lot of things going on in the world. And if we can bring any light, especially now with what’s going on, then that’s so amazing.
Mellencamp had just given birth to her third child when she started sensing the gravity of the coronavirus — friends wore masks while visiting her in the hospital, she says. She’s staying at her Los Angeles home with husband Edwin Arroyave and kids Cruz, Slate and baby Dove.
Talk to me about what your average day is like right now — obviously you’re caring for a newborn and you have kids.
Every day is different, especially now that like there’s press for “Housewives” and all that kind of stuff and I have my business as well. I have 50 people that work for me, so it’s constant. I also have a newborn and have my kids and I’ve learned that through this process, like, there’s no such thing as balance. Some days are going to be fully skewed one direction and some days are going to be fully skewed the other. I’m lucky that I’ve been able to communicate with my husband and we’ve been able to work this all out, but I mean, it’s impossible. There’s certain days where our kids are in school and they’re supposed to be on these Zoom calls and everything’s different. I think about the families that don’t have enough computers that they can all be on a Zoom call or don’t have Wi-Fi. It’s a constant eye-opening situation; we’re all just doing the best we can.
How has it been having your kids attend school from home? What have you realized?
To know that my first-grader is smarter than I am — like, the math is such a joke. The amount of time I have spent on YouTube, trying to figure out how to do math, is unheard of. The first week I was like a crazy person; I thought it had to be perfect — every little detail perfectly played out. And I was making our family nuts. Finally I was like, “You know what, we’ll figure it out. I taught Slate how to log on her calls herself so that I could focus with Cruz. And then Dove has a little bit of colic so she likes to be in your arms. A big thing for us is to try to stick to certain parts of our routine. Like, at three o’clock, we take our dogs on a little walk so we’re all together at the same time. We have a lot of slumber parties.
What’s been your approach about how much to tell your kids, who are fairly young?
I’ve learned that the news is not helpful for any of us to have on and take us down those rabbit holes. There was a moment, at the beginning, we were just watching so much of the news and Slate and my son [Cruz] said to my husband, “Dad, can we please turn this off? Like, we got it.” That really hit home. We know the information we need to know and then we can check back in. But just having it on kind of put us all in a weird mind space. There’s so many awesome ways for, you know, adults and kids to connect right now. My kids are in a play right now, virtually. Every Tuesday, 4 to 7 p.m., they’re on their Zoom practicing their play. My daughter got her part yesterday.
Have you done a car parade yet?
I have not done a car parade, yet. But we were invited to one a couple days from now. I am not a crafty mom. I already warned the mom. Like, “Hey Casey, don’t be expecting this huge thing on the side of my car that we’ve decorated for days.”
What indulgence do you find yourself missing the most right now?
The biggest thing I’ve missed is just to able to go and do whatever I want, when I want to do it — whether I want to run to Starbucks or, you know, I’m going to go deposit these checks at the bank.
What TV have you consumed?
Of course I watched “Tiger King.” I started watching [“The Real Housewives of New York City”]. I watched a show, I think it’s on Netflix, called “Spinning Out.” It’s really good. And “Little Fires Everywhere” — I’m obsessed.