TORONTO - As a former correctional officer for a Dallas maximum security prison, Robin Reichman thought she had the thick skin needed to withstand the drama between the wealthy stars of "The Real Housewives of Vancouver."
But when the single mother of two joined the reality show for its second season, which debuts Tuesday on Slice, she was shocked by how affected she was by the tension between cast members.
"What I didn't expect is it hitting home so hard, like I was going to carry it home with me once the cameras were off," the 46-year-old said in a recent telephone interview from Vancouver, insisting "nothing's scripted" on the show.
"The ups and downs that you do when you go through a breakup — it's the same thing when women fight and you're ugly with one another.
"I'm not a malicious, mean, evil person, and so when I would see one of the women getting their feelings hurt or whatever, it affects me really deeply."
Reichman is one of three Vancouverites who joined the series for what Slice bills as an "explosive" second season, alongside the seemingly ever-feuding season 1 stars Jody Claman, Mary Zilba and Ronnie Negus.
Also new to the series is Russian-born Ioulia Reynolds and Oshawa, Ont., native Amanda Hansen.
Christina Kiesel and Reiko MacKenzie, who were in the first season that Slice calls "a massive hit" for the station, are not in season 2.
Asked why she signed on, Reichman quipped with a laugh, "Because I'm nuts."
She then explained she thought it would open doors and get her mind off two major heartbreaks: The end of her 17-year marriage and seeing one of her twins die just three days after being born.
"I just didn't want to spiral down in a depression and get fixated on what happened and what ruined my marriage," said Reichman, who is described as living "a country chic lifestyle complete with two nannies" (she even has a Prada saddle for her thoroughbred horse).
"I figured this would be distraction enough and maybe something good would come out of it.... The show did distract me of the reality of that.... But I have to say that it added more drama, just in a different area of my life."
Reichman didn't let cameras film her children but in the first episode, she does reveal to Negus — who was a friend of a friend prior to filming — that she lost a child.
She had mixed feelings about sharing such a personal story with viewers but wanted to let them know that a huge part of her life is her children, she said.
"I thought also it was important that people know emotionally I have room to freakin' lose it, because I haven't really had my breakdown yet," she added.
"I kind of almost wanted to put that out there almost as an early justification, if you would, for perhaps my instability that I may show on camera."
Hansen is also a single mother, with three kids aged six, eight and 11. A recovering alcoholic and self-proclaimed sex addict, she said she bought a one-way plane ticket to Vancouver at age 19 — with money she'd earned at a factory job — because she was "dying" for a change of scenery.
Now, the 34-year-old lives a cushy lifestyle as she goes through a divorce and tries to start up a Kombucha tea business.
Hansen said she joined the show on the suggestion of Claman's daughter and fellow cast member Mia, who felt it would present possible career opportunities for her after being a stay-at-home mom for 11 years.
She said her family members were worried being on the show — in which wine and cocktails often flow at social gatherings — would affect her sobriety, but that wasn't the case.
"I don't think the show makes it that much more difficult, because it's just challenging anyhow," said Hansen.
Reynolds, 27, is an arts dealer who's married to a wealthy venture capitalist almost 20 years her senior. She's touted as "a Russian-born beauty with a fiery temper and a quirky sense of humour."
She said she was originally chosen for the first season of the series but didn't do it because it conflicted with her work as a stock broker in New York.
But when she saw how successful the first season was, she felt it a great opportunity.
"I had fun with it," she said. "Of course it was difficult and a lot of work, drama, but it's a once-in-a-lifetime experience."
In the first episode, the three new cast members congregate with the season 1 stars for a barbecue at Negus's house honouring health-care workers who helped save her daughter's life.
While the mood at the event was more compassionate than catty, a promo for future episodes shows much backbiting and blowups between the housewives at swanky events and dinner parties that often end early because of the feuds.
"When we're sitting down having dinner, we never quite make it to the entree," Reichman said with a laugh. "That's why we're all so damn skinny."