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'You can say whatever you like'

Lisa Rinna says the over-the-top glamour and below-the-belt drama of “The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills" is the real deal. She should know. The always-busy actress is one of two new members of the cast of the snarky TV reality show’s new season.“It’s really quite spontaneous,” she says. “There is no script. You can say whatever you like.”Rinna, 51, has done a little bit of almost everything in television since acting in shows such as “Fiddler on the Roof” and “Hair” in the early 1980s at Medford Senior High School. NBCUniversal’s “media village” (

nbcumv.com) posted a bio of Rinna that begins:“Raised in small town Medford, Oregon, but always dreaming of a more fabulous life, Lisa has used her exotic looks, infectious energy and savvy business acumen to become one of the most recognizable faces in Hollywood.”Gushing aside, Rinna’s face is indeed a familiar one. In addition to the new season of “Housewives,” she’s launched a fashion collection, Belle Gray by Lisa Rinna, on TV’s QVC and plans to return with a new collection in January and February. In the meantime, she planned on coming home to visit her parents in Medford for Thanksgiving.“We’ll probably visit friends and go to our old haunts,” she says. “Jacksonville, Ashland, the country club for brunch. And there’s a great health food restaurant on Main Street in Medford.”Soap fans may remember Rinna as Billie Reed, the free-spirited character she played on NBC's long-running soap “Days of Our Lives” nearly 20 years ago. Speaking of soaps, she also played love-to-hate-her Taylor McBride on Fox's “Melrose Place.”Her list of credits includes ABC’s “Sing Your Face Off," the reality show “All-Star Celebrity Apprentice,” “Veronica Mars,” “Entourage” and the Lifetime Original movies “Sex, Lies and Obsession” and “Another Woman's Husband.” From 2002 to 2006, she hosted her own TV talk show, “Soap Talk,” for which she earned four Emmy nominations in the “Outstanding Talk Show Host” category.She also has written three books, “The Big, Fun, Sexy Sex Book,” “Starlit” and “Rinnavation.”The fashion thing is far from being a new wrinkle. Rinna owned a boutique in Los Angeles for a decade, selling her clothing.“It’s a great, comfy, California-chic vibe,” she says. “We sell sizes from extra-extra small to 3X. I design with another designer and QVC, and we come up with samples. It’s a collaborative job.”

Rinna is married to actor Harry Hamlin, who is currently seen on TV’s “Mad Men.” The couple live in Beverly Hills with their two teenage daughters, Delilah Belle and Amelia Gray. Rinna and Hamlin have worked together more than once, in the TV series “Harry Loves Lisa,” which focused on their family’s hectic Hollywood lifestyle, and in 2007 on Broadway, when Rinna starred as Roxie Hart in “Chicago” alongside Hamlin, a gig she calls “a dream come true.”

More recently, she’s released a series of exercise DVDs for Warner Home Video called “Lisa Rinna:  Dance Body Beautiful,” and served as Anderson Cooper’s co-host on his daytime talk show.  

“I’ve been fortunate to do so many things,” she says, adding that she really can’t compare television acting with Broadway or reality shows.

“It’s like an apple and an orange and a banana,” she says. “They’re all tasty and they’re all different.”

She says she’s mindful of the challenges of raising teen daughters, but she doesn’t think Hollywood presents a special challenge.

“I don’t think it matters where you live,” she says. “The access kids have on their phones is massive and worldwide. We make sure the girls stay as grounded as you can get girls to be. You just have a lot of faith.”

In fact, she says one of the nice things about the “Housewives” project is that it allows her to spend nights home with her daughters even as it satisfies her itch for doing live TV.

“I love it,” she says. “Moments happen that you can never plan. Part of it’s terrifying, and part is exhilarating. I feel really lucky.” 

Reach Medford freelance writer Bill Varble at varble.bill@gmail.com.

Lisa Rinna