Phaedra Parks Knows Exactly Why She’s the Breakout Star of ‘The Traitors’

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Phaedra Parks on 'The Traitors.' - Credit: Euan Cherry/PEACOCK
Phaedra Parks on 'The Traitors.' - Credit: Euan Cherry/PEACOCK

Longtime Bravo fans know Phaedra Parks is — and always has been — a star. But thanks to her standout performance on Season Two of The Traitors, the rest of the world has also discovered an important fact: Phaedra is made for television.

The hit Peacock show features reality TV stars from various shows, including Survivor, Love Island, the Real Housewives franchises, and The Challenge, to compete in a murder mystery-esque game for a cash prize. Among the 20 cast members, three are designated Traitors who secretly work to try to eliminate everyone else. Viewers know who the traitors are, but the rest of the cast, called Faithful, do not. If one Traitor can make it to the end of the show undetected, they win all the money; if all the Traitors are eliminated, the remaining Faithfuls split the prize.

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During the first episode of the season, Phaedra was selected as one of the Traitors — a role she quickly proved she was born for. Working alongside Big Brother‘s Dan Gheesling and Survivor‘s Parvati Shallow, the trio started the season on a successful run of banishments. But after Thursday night’s episode, Phaedra was the only remaining Traitor. Despite turning out unbeatable fashion looks and even more iconic one-liners (lest not forget “Lord, not Ekin-Su,” and “I do too much ’cause you do too little”), the former Real Housewives of Atlanta star has managed to largely go undetected and skirt suspicions from her fellow contestants. The viewers, on the other hand, can’t seem to keep their eyes off the star.

Rolling Stone caught up with Phaedra to discuss her triumphant journey on The Traitors thus far — and how she is just getting started.

What made you decide to join the cast of The Traitors for Season Two?
Well, they approached me to do the first season, and I had a scheduling conflict. I told them, “Try me later.” Long story short, when they came back the second time, it was literally three days before I had to leave to do the show. I sort of wavered and thought, “Can I do this?” Because I only had three days. I’ve got preteens and a teenager, I’ve got a million businesses, and I was like, “Can I get everything set up to leave in three days?” My parents said, “Tell us what show this is for,” and when I said, “Some show in Scotland called The Traitors,” they were the biggest fans. They said, “Oh, you’re going. You call them back tomorrow morning and tell them you’re coming.” The next day, my parents were at my house at 10 in the morning with their bags and said, “What do you need us to do to get you ready to get out of here?”

Three days is not a lot of time to prepare!
No time whatsoever. I was like, Oh, my God. [Sharon Vuong, executive vice president of alternative programming] called me that Thursday night at 10:45, and she said, “Can you leave Monday?” I said, “Monday? Next week?” She said, “Yes.” I said, “Whoa.”

What did you expect going into this experience?
I really thought it was going to be a revival of Dynasty. I thought it was going to be Dynasty meets Survivor. I asked producers, “What is my inspiration for my wardrobe?” and they said, “It’s a spiral staircase, a beautiful landscape, a wonderful castle. Think of Joan Collins in Dynasty.” So I was like, yeah, that’s me.

Was the experience different than what you expected?
It was totally different because the only time I was given a Dynasty moment was going to breakfast. From then on out, it turned into Survivor. I have never played a physical game. The most physical I get is lifting a champagne glass and putting on my lashes, so for me to be in a forest, trying to find my way back to the castle, and fighting with bugs is really out of my comfort zone. But last year, I said it was going to be my year of “yes,” so, of course, I did accept the challenge. I did everything I could to participate to the best of my ability.

Why do you think you were chosen to be a Traitor?
I mean, I am a lawyer. I just think it made an interesting little twist because last season, it was the gamers that were the Traitors, and to throw a Housewife in the mix is definitely interesting. We were very different from gamers. We’re not competitive like that. We want to win “Best Outfit,” not really “Strongest Man races.” So, it just added a different experience.

Do you think viewers underestimated the Housewives?
Goodness, yes. They think Housewives are definitely not [capable]. People who don’t watch our shows would definitely think we would not be able to compete with true gamers because that’s just not really in most of our comfort zones. Now, you give us an argument, and we’ll win that, honey. But to be in this scenario with these people that literally have won Big Brother, Survivor, and The Challenge, that truly understand strategy, you know, that’s not what we really do.

Are you watching the new episodes each week?
Yes. And now I’m seeing that Dan was even dirtier than I thought he was. He was plotting against me, and I had no idea. But watching it back, it’s really good because I see what people were actually thinking, so you get a little more insight. When you’re there, you only know your circle, and there are definitely little factions of groups in the house.

Well, you’ve proven to be the strongest Traitor, that’s for sure. Why do you think you managed to outlast Dan and Pavarti?
I feel like they were playing based on their experience as gamers. I was really playing based on my experience as an attorney, mortician, and a Housewife. What I have learned is that what people will always take away from any experience is how you make them feel, and in all of my jobs, my job is to make people feel very appreciated, understood, and acknowledged. I just used the skill set that I know from working every day. You just do more listening than talking.

I spoke to executive producers Mike Cotton and Tony Ireland, and they mentioned how impressed they were that you always looked so flawless and put together in the morning after filming late into the night as a Traitor.
Let me be very honest with you: I literally only got maybe two and a half hours of sleep at the most per night, but beauty is my thing. Beauty is my name, so I will never show up not ready to compete in the beauty category. I don’t care if I get 20 minutes of sleep, honey; I’m putting in the eye drops, the lashes, and, honey, I’m curling my hair. I can always make time for that. I would hear people in the car saying, “Look for the person who looks the most tired. That’s the Traitor.” There was one day when Janelle [Pierzina] showed up, and she looked a little worn, and some of the guys said, “Oh, it’s gotta be Janelle; she looks crazy.” That let me know that I had to make sure no matter how sleepy I was, I presented my best self.

Were you ever nervous that the Faithfuls would hear you and the other Traitors sneaking down into the dungeon after everyone went to sleep?
Well, you have to be a little nervous. When you get ready to go to bed, everyone goes to bed one by one. [Producers] call your name and say, “Say goodbye to your friends. It’s time for you to go to your room and go to bed.” Once you get to your room, there are secret doors all throughout the castle, and you’re whisked away.

Your hilarious one-liners have been turned into so many different viral memes. Have you seen any of them?
Oh my gosh, I love them. I giggled so much. When I was on Housewives, it was reported that I was one of the most memed characters, and for it to happen again with Traitors is amazing. All of these memes are so funny, and I just chuckle. I love them. I really try to repost every one that people post, but I definitely am tickled by them. I love the TikTok about me and CT [Tamburello] being in a rom-com.

The Traitors has truly become appointment viewing every Thursday. Why do you think people are loving this show so much?
I think Season One was obviously very good. I went back and watched it. But I think this season, the casting was just unbelievably good. You’ve got people from all different walks of life, unlikely characters who are being merged together. I would have never met CT, but for this show, right? I definitely would have never met Dan, Lord knows, but for this show. You’ve got the gamers, you’ve got Maks [Chmerkovskiy] from Dancing With the Stars who was incredibly fun to work with. He’s so funny. Then you’ve got the whole Bravo crew, the small gang of girls. You’ve got Pilot Pete, honey, who is a quintessential Bachelor, and he’s running the castle like The Bachelor. I think it works because you’ve got very strong personalities who are used to being the kings and queens of the castle, and when you put that dynamic together, it makes very, very hilarious and good TV.

Are there other unscripted or even scripted projects that you would be open to after doing something like The Traitors?
Yes, I love this space so much. I can’t do Survivor. I can’t do anything that will make me vulnerable to bacterial vaginosis or anything like that. I’m a glamper, honey. I cannot do anything in the true wilderness. However, this was so much fun to me. I would do it again in a heartbeat. This is my favorite thing I’ve ever done when it comes to TV, hands down. I would do it over and over again because I really enjoyed the mind games and the competition. I love to travel, and I also like meeting new people. This was everything that I like to do bottled in one.

It looks like things are shaking up on Real Housewives of Atlanta — Kandi Burruss recently said she’s not returning to the show. Would you go back to the show?
Honey, they are shaking, honey. Shaking like shake and bake. I actually spoke to Porsha [Williams] right before I started interviews [today]. Never say never. I mean, I was on the show when it was the best of the whole franchise, and I would love to see that happen again because Atlanta can be great. They just need great talent, and they haven’t had that in a few years.

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