It's become common for reality show stars, if they end up as the bad guy in the editing room, to embrace the role. If you can stir the pot without inciting calls to the cops or physical violence, you become a valuable commodity. Not so for Cat Ommanney, the British import to the Real Housewives of Washington, DC who became a lightning rod on-camera for a series of social faux pas in early episodes of the show and off-camera when the marriage that brought her to Washington dissolved. In a conversation with Washingtonian.com, Ommanney was frank about her missteps and clearly distraught about the role she's been assigned by the media. But she also told us about why she's excited about her move to 14th Street, and what she's learned about reality television editing and when not to wear a Sarah Palin outfit to a costume party. This interview has been edited for clarity and length.
I've spent a fair amount of time in both the UK and Washington. What did you find to be the differences between the social scenes in England and DC?
If I’d known about the differences like you, I probably wouldn’t have said half the things I said because I didn’t realize I was offending people with my brash, rude British sense of humor. I never mean to offend people or upset people, it’s not in my psyche….Someone asked me the other day if I learned anything about myself doing the show, and I definitely did, because I speak my mind before I think about how it sounds and how it’s reflected and how I’m portrayed, and if I were to do it again, I’d definitely put a filter on because I never mean to upset anybody or offend anybody, much less really, really get people upset.
Washington does have a large international community. Did anyone who moved here from abroad help you figure out the city? Were there things you learned along the way?
I should have been given ten years to give my head around DC. Closed doors is an understatement. I didn’t realize how much of a fish out of water I’d feel….I wish I’d gotten a crash course in DC, which I didn’t, because I always imagined DC as before I arrived there as being like New York or Los Angeles, big city, skyscrapers. Everyone’s so say the right thing, do the right thing, do the right dinner parties, it’s all about power and politics, which isn’t of interest to me. It’s not my bag.
Definitely don’t go dressed up as Sarah Palin to any Republican party. That’s Thursday [the episode that will air tonight].
How do you think editing affected the way you appear on the show?
I take on Edwina Rodgers, she’s really a lovely lady. I liked her, and I had fun with her, but of course they take our laughter out of the scenes to make it look like we’re having a ridiculous conversation….I sent an email to Andy Cohen the other night saying if you think your New Jersey wives are out of line, wait ‘til I get on the air. There’s got to be a villain on every show, but I never imagined myself to be set up to be the villain, but maybe I shouldn’t have been so short-sighted. Who better than the Brit? Let’s edit the Brit to make her the bitch, the rude, loud-mouthed racist, let’s make her out to be everything and maybe she’ll end up okay. I did get on with all the women and the show, except Michaele. You are who you are. You have nothing to hide. You have nothing to hide. But in Washingotn of all places, it took me a while….When I look at the first three episodes, and I’m having lunch with Mary, and she’s glaring at her daughter, Lolly, who is serving us, and they make it look like she’s glaring at me.
Are you coming back to Washington?
I love Washington. Considering I’ve said closed doors, I think I’ve managed to hunt down the coolest, loveliest people in Washington, and I have good friends there now….I’m not a suburban woman, I’m either in or I’m out. I’ve just moved temporarily, I don’t know how long for, to a place on 14th Street that I love. It’s more my kind of places…Desperate Housewives in Chevy Chase [where she lived with her ex-husband] was never my style. You couldn’t walk out the door if you didn’t have a stroke of makeup on and spandex and a dog. It wasn’t really my scene. 14th Street is really more my scene, being downtown where people are….I’ve got to say, I’ve always had a lot of gay friends, and known a lot of gay men, and there’s a lot of bars and restaurants [she's got good things to say about the Gibson in her new corridor, and likes the Four Seasons further afield] and fabulous gay men on 14th Street, so I’m at home.
How are your daughters holding up?
They’re great. They’re just incredibly beautiful children, and I’m very lucky to have somehow been able to produce such lovely girls. They’re magical. They’ve had their first two or three days in their new school. There are these reports of Cat’s shipped her girls back to the UK, and it’s the biggest bullshit I’ve heard in my life. They’re in boarding school in the UK, which is what they’ve always wanted to do. I’m missing them massively. It’s what they wanted. It’s not necessarily what I wanted.
And are you doing all right?
As of episode five, people start seeing a little bit more of me. I rang the producers and said I can’t believe you made me to be this absolute nightmare bitch, racist cow from hell, and they said you’ve got to hang in there. Hopefully America will see that. I am the lion from the Wizard of Oz, knocking on the door for courage…. I’ve put on a brave face, but it is incredibly hurtful. Losing my husband, and my family, and everything else, to be portrayed as this woman is incredibly challenging.