Denise Richards
Denise Richards

My conversation with Denise Richards was one of those odd experiences where you try to merge the sensationalized tabloid image with the real person before you, and the two just don’t seem to meld. It’s a surreal paradox that never ceases to amaze me, yet it happens often in my line of work.

Beneath the headlines and the high profile relationships that seemed to implode with a disastrous thud, Denise Richards is a suburban divorced mother of two young girls, trying to balance work and parenting as she moves on from the heartbreak of losing her mother and the dark cloud of media scandal. Denise revealed to me a woman who is ready to put her troubles behind her and move on to the personal rewards that we all tend to reap after overcoming adversity. Older, wiser and by appearance’s sake not at all worn for the wear, she has thoroughly embraced the notion of trying new adventures, with her family and friends beside her for support.

Denise Richards adores her daughters, enjoys quality time with her father and pines for the values of her hometown. She also has a penchant for wild guys who want to settle down and have a family. If you want to turn Denise Richards on, get the hot tub going and put some reality TV on the tube. (Allison Kugel): You may hear crying or barking. There’s a dog and a baby here today, and it’s kind of a zoo.

Denise Richards: I have both, so I understand (laughs). Good. So what’s different about this season of your show?

Denise Richards: Last season really focused on trying to get through some difficult times that I was going through, and this season is focusing on moving forward and having fun, and taking risks. It starts out with us moving out of our house and moving closer to the beach, and close to my girls’ school. It’s focusing more on my career. We film me going to Sundance [Film Festival]. I have a movie there that I’m promoting. We go to my hometown of Chicago. The Kidney Cancer Association in based there. That’s what my mom passed away from and I do a charity event there. You also hear me sing at the Cubs game, which everyone heard, but you see behind the scenes of all of that. I did a Funny or Die video. We filmed me doing the video and we filmed me doing Dancing with the Stars. So it’s a lot of fun. We shot over a longer period of time. You see my dad move forward and getting out there and dating again for the first time since 1970. Is your dad still living with you?

Denise Richards: My dad still has his house in San Diego and he comes up to my place whenever he wants, but more so when I’m working. He helps me with the girls a lot.

Denise Richards with Her Father, Irv, and Daughters, Lola and Sam
Denise Richards with Her Father, Irv, and Daughters, Lola and Sam Tell me about dating life. I know you’re out there dating now. What’s it like to be out there dating, and where are you meeting guys?

Denise Richards: It’s not like I’m dating up a storm (laughs)! But when I do, I meet them through friends, just like anyone else. Everyone else is on and Jdate, so I would assume that’s not you.

Denise Richards: No, I can’t do the Internet dating. What does a guy have to do to get a second date with you? How do you size them up?

Denise Richards: Someone who’s just respectful and fun, and confident. I’m a package deal. I need someone that’s great with kids and wants kids. I don’t care what they do for a living, just a good guy, and I’ve got a high bar set because of my father. He is a great dad, and he was an amazing husband to my mom. Are you over the bad boy thing?

Denise Richards: I wouldn’t say I like bad boys, because when I met Charlie he wasn’t bad. He was reformed. I mean, I met him when he was sober and he had a job, and he wasn’t doing any of the things we all heard and read about. Richie Sambora is not a bad guy. He’s very career oriented. He’s a great dad, he’s not a partier. I like men that are sexy and have a bit of an edge, but I wouldn’t say I like bad boys. So you like a combination, someone with an edge who’s got a good heart.

Denise Richards: Yeah, someone who likes to have fun and is spontaneous, and enjoys life. Would you date an accountant or a school teacher?

Denise Richards: Well… if he had a little wild hair in him once in a while, yeah (laughs)! (Laughs) Ok, that’s fair enough. Give me tips on juggling parenthood and career?

Denise Richards: Prioritizing. I’m still trying to figure it out myself, but I’ve definitely turned down jobs because it would take me away too long from the girls. There are jobs that I’ve had to turn down, but it’s so worth it. I’m never going to get these years back with them and I’m a single parent, so I especially need to be there for them. There are times where I’ve had to cancel an amazing event at the last minute because my daughter had a fever. It was either leave her home with the nanny and go to the event, or stay home with her and be with her, and I choose to stay home. I put them first, always.

Denise Richards and Maksim Chmerkovskiy on Dancing with the Stars
Denise Richards and Maksim Chmerkovskiy on Dancing with the Stars I can’t do the nanny thing. I had one and I kicked her out after two days. I couldn’t deal with it.

Denise Richards: It took me a long time to find a good one. That’s why thank God I have my dad! I’m here in New York, and this would have been too difficult of a trip to bring them. I feel like I can focus on my work because my dad’s home taking care of them. Do you follow other reality shows?

Denise Richards: I love the Real Housewives series. Which one is your favorite?

Denise Richards: I love all of them, but obviously right now I’m totally into the New Jersey girls (laughs). They’re funny, I love them. I love the New York one, I love Orange County and I love Atlanta. I love the whole series! I’m so glad that when one ends they roll into another one. What do you think of the Bethenny/Kelly feud on The Real Housewives of New York City?

Denise Richards: You know what, everyone loves drama and they got their drama. It makes for entertaining television. Have you been following the Jon and Kate Plus 8 saga?

Denise Richards: Yeah. To be honest with you, I’ve been judged so much, so it’s hard. I know how often cameras are around me and my girls. We’ve got set hours. It’s not like people think. It’s not 24/7, cameras camped out inside our house. I don’t know what their situation is; it’s hard to tell. On the other personal stuff, I feel for them and it’s not easy, especially because they’re not actors. They did this show with their children and they got very popular from it, but it’s hard overnight to jump into that sort of lifestyle, and all this media attention, and a lot of it is negative. It’s very difficult. What advice would you give to Jon and Kate Gosselin?

Denise Richards: Do not read anything! Live your life. What I did during the toughest time that I faced in the media was I truly lived in a bubble. I wouldn’t read anything. Anyone that was around me, I said, “I don’t want to hear anything.” Because then you make decisions based on what may be written and what people are going to think, and that’s not the way you want to live your life. I just had to re-focus and think, “You know what, I’m a mom and aside from anything else I need to be there for my kids,” and that’s how I got through that. And it will pass. Trust me. Take it from someone who knows (laughs)! You will get through it. (Laughs) Tabloid hell does end.

Denise Richards
Denise Richards

Denise Richards: Yeah, it does. And they’ll be on, unfortunately, to someone else who’s going through another horrible situation. But to just stay true to yourself and what you believe in, and don’t read anything. Are you continuing your work with The Kidney Cancer Association?

Denise Richards: I am. Kidney cancer is very rare. Of everyone who has cancer, only 3% have kidney cancer. There is no cure. My mom, unfortunately, found hers too late and she lost her life to it. Anything I can do to help, I’m definitely there. Do you think you might do some type of benefit, or something, in Los Angeles?

Denise Richards: We are definitely trying to figure out what we can do. They’re a small organization. They need all the help they can get, and we’re in the process of different things. Any thoughts on California upholding the ban on gay marriage?

Denise Richards: I am all for gay marriage. I think it’s all about love, and it’s treating them like second class citizens in my opinion. I think everyone has the right to marry whoever they want to marry. It’s not about politics, it’s not about religion. This is about love, and I think California needs to get with it and let everyone marry who they want to marry. What qualities did you gain from growing up in Downers Grove, Illinois? How did the place shape you?

Denise Richards: When we went back I saw this, and I was so happy to see it, [that] people really value their family and their friends. They love get-togethers, and even when we went back there and we looked at our old house, they invited us back for a dinner and drinks. They’re just very kind people. You always go back to your roots, and I think that’s part of it; just being loyal and kind. What prompted your family to move out to California from Illinois?

Denise Richards: My dad worked for the phone company and he worked outside. There was one winter where he was watching some show, like a Battle of the Network Stars, where celebrities compete outside. And my dad thought it was pre-taped in the summer and it wasn’t, and he thought it was impossible that these people were wearing T-shirts. So he got the newspaper and everyday looked at the weather report in California and said, “This is bullshit!” He went out there with my mom and said, “We’re moving.” And so he got a job transfer because he could not deal with the winters. That’s how we moved (laughs).

Denise Richards with Her Daughters, Lola and Sam
Denise Richards with Her Daughters, Lola and Sam That’s hilarious. I’ve gone back and forth between New York and California more times than I can count. I’m in New York now and my family is here but I’m like, “This is bullshit. I just want to get my ass back to Los Angeles!”

Denise Richards: I love living in California. We live in a nice little town, and I have a lot of great friends. We have access to a lot of things and you can’t beat the weather. When you’re filming your show is there any part of your life that you will not allow the cameras to capture?

Denise Richards: So far I’ve been pretty open. Believe me, I’m sure there’ll be a time, if I do decide to do another season, where that would happen. But they’re respectful. They don’t try to push it too much. What does your ex-husband now think about your daughters being on camera for the show? Last season, I know he was kind of up in arms about it.

Denise Richards: He was actually very supportive this season. He saw how little they were on last season, as did a lot of people who gave me a lot of flak for it. There are nice moments that I will have forever. I never would have gotten a video of my daughter saying their Nana was their angel. Stuff like that. They’re in it very little and as a parent I’m so proud of them, and think it’s very cute. I don’t think my girls are exploited. If they like being around me it’s because they get to be with me, and if they want to be filmed great, if they don’t they walk away and I don’t care. But Charlie is actually very supportive this season. Everybody I’ve spoken to who is doing a reality show, they always say the same thing, that it’s footage they’ll get to have for themselves, almost like home videos in a way.

Denise Richards: Yeah. And when they’re older they’ll love that. What’s the difference between a documentary and a reality show? It seems like what used to be called a documentary is now a “reality show.”

Denise Richards: I’m not sure. The two episodes that people responded to the most last season were the one where we were dealing with my mom’s death, and also the season finale when I was promoting my show in New York. People got to see the inside of that. I think a lot of viewers [will] see me on The Today Show but they wonder, like, what goes on when you leave The Today Show, and before you go. People liked that, from just the response that I got, and that’s kind of what I wanted this season to feel like, and give people a lot of insight. Dancing with the Stars, twenty-two million people watch that show. That’s a huge fan base, so I wanted people to see my experience on that, and that’s the tone I took with my show. Did they capture the rehearsals for Dancing with the Stars?

Denise Richards: Yes, the rehearsals, me driving to and from the show, when I got voted off, all of it. Anyone that’s a fan of that show, I think will really enjoy that particular episode. How did you feel those moments before you would go out on stage live to perform on Dancing with the Stars?

Denise Richards
Denise Richards

Denise Richards: The first time I was really nervous, but then I enjoyed the experience. It’s one of the few shows you can really watch with your family. Whether you’re two years old or eighty years old it’s got a huge demographic and I think that’s why that show is so successful. And people love to see celebrities out of their comfort zone and struggle, and be relatable. It was a fun thing for me to do and also to instill in my daughters that it’s ok if you’re nervous, it’s ok if you’re scared, you’ve just got to keep trying no matter what the outcome is, no matter if you win or not. I think that was an important lesson that I was able to give my kids. Were they in the studio audience or home watching you on television?

Denise Richards: No, they’re too little. They had to be, I think, seven if they were our [child], and other children had to be sixteen. What’s your guiltiest pleasure?

Denise Richards: Well, right now my guilty pleasure is watching The Real Housewives of New Jersey (laughs). And my guilty pleasure lately is watching The Hills.

Denise Richards: I’ve never seen The Hills. I’ve got to see what it’s all about. Here’s the question I ask everyone lately, when you go swimming do you just dive right in or do you have to check the temperature and put one body part in at a time?

Denise Richards: I have to swim in ninety degree water. I like bathwater!

“Denise Richards: It’s Complicated” premieres Sunday, June 7th at 10:57pm ET/PT on E!