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A Look Back on Kyle Richards' American Woman TV Series Inspired By Her Mother

The RHOBH cast member executive produced the one-season sitcom loosely based on her mother's life.

By Joshua Espinoza
Alicia Silverstone, Mena Suvari Cast in Kyle Richards' TV Project

Kyle Richards’ entertainment credits go way beyond the Bravo-verse, including the short-lived American Woman television series, which found Kyle in a new role as a producer.

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In 2015, The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills mom began developing American Woman. Set in the 1970s, American Woman was a comedy-drama TV series that was loosely based on her late mother, Kathleen Richards. It starred Alicia Silverstone as Bonnie Nolan in the leading role as the posh divorced mom.

Kyle has been very vocal about the pride she felt in making the show, despite the family rift it ignited, with Kathy insisting it portrayed their mom in a "bad light."

Kyle Richards Explains the Inspiration for American Woman

Kyle spoke about American Woman in a 2017 interview with The Daily Dish, more than a year before the series premiered.

American Woman is the pilot I just shot, and it just got picked up for 12 episodes,” she said. “It is my first job as a television producer. I’m not in front of the camera — at all — and it is inspired by my life growing up in the ‘70s.”

“We wanted to really feel like you were in the ‘70s and not having a costume party,” she continued. “The ‘70s was my favorite time: the music, the clothing. It just feels like kind of a crazy, reckless time.”

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Alicia Silverstone on starring in Kyle Richards' American Woman

Alicia Silverstone spoke to As If magazine about what it was like to play a fictionalized version of Kyle's mom, Kathleen, in the series.

"I wasn’t familiar with Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, so I didn’t know who she was. What I did know going into that room was the show was about a woman’s mother who was very eccentric. The stories I was told about this woman sounded fantastic and very wild, and for her time she was a trailblazer in how she handled things alone, which women did not do in the 70s. Back then, a woman couldn’t get a loan out on a house in her own name, she needed to get a man involved. I just love the line in the pilot where my character says to her husband, 'if you would just give me a little bit of money, I wouldn’t have to ask you all the time.' She was entirely dependent on him."

The series tracked Bonnie's evolution after she leaves her husband and embarks on a journey of self discovery and navigating being a single mom. When speaking to As If, Alicia addressed playing a complicated fictional person based on an equally-complicated real person.

"What I find interesting about this character is Kyle loves her mom. When you talk to her, there’s no sense of damage done, which is kind of bazaar to me. She has such love for her mother," Alicia said in the interview. "[She was] terrified of embarking on this new life as a single mother. When I was in this meeting, I wondered when I would have to start my tap dance. When do I need to convince them that I am the best person for this part? I cried when I left the meeting because I knew I got the job!"

The series also starred Mena Suvari, Cheyenne Jackson, and James Tupper. 


Were Kathy Hilton and Kim Richards involved in American Woman?

Collage of Kathy Hilton with Kyle Richards at the Elton John AIDS Foundation's party and Kim Richards at a TV premiere.

Kyle previously confirmed her older sisters, Kathy Hilton and Kim Richards, were not involved in the project, which caused some friction within the family.  

“I don’t think my sisters really understood what it was in the beginning,” she told The Daily Dish. “I was like, ‘It’s not a reality show, it’s a scripted show inspired by [our childhood].’ The first announcement said it was a dark comedy, which kind of implied it could be sketchy or something. There’s moments, obviously… I didn’t have a traditional upbringing, which is very obvious in the show. But you know, it’s just going to be a fun show. I’m not here to torture anybody.”

How American Woman affected Kyle Richards' relationship with her family

Kyle Richards and Kathy Hilton Finally Talk About the American Woman TV Show

During the RHOBH Season 8 reunion, Kyle admitted she and Kathy were still “not great” and it was largely due to American Woman. When asked if she and Kathy were on speaking terms with Kathy, Kyle told Andy Cohen: “Honestly, not right now, and that’s why I’m looking forward to her seeing American Woman, because I think she’s gonna look and say, ‘I read the situation wrong,’ and then we’ll go from there.”

About two months after the American Woman premiere (June 2018), Kim insisted she and Kyle were on “good” terms. However, there was still some tension between Kyle and Kathy, who expressed her objections in RHOBH Season 11 Episode 14.

"It really put mom in such a bad, bad light," Kathy told Kyle about the series. "I just wouldn't do that without talking to you."

Kyle insisted American Woman was a "love letter" to their mom and was not biographical. "If it was a real story about mom and us, I wouldn't have done it, but it wasn't," Kyle replied. "I liked the idea of something in the '70s and seeing a single mom and how they didn't know how to navigate, you know, without their husband."

Although Kathy and Kyle would endure several ups and downs in the following years, they appear to be in a much better place these days.

American Woman gets canceled after one season

Kyle Richards smiling in all black at Neon Carnival.

American Woman was canceled in the summer of 2018, just two weeks after its Season 1 finale. Kyle announced the news via X (previously Twitter): “You guys … your comments are so nice and supportive. I can’t thank you enough,” she wrote. “You’ve made me feel even more proud of the show we made. It makes me happy knowing you came on this journey with me and ended up loving [American Woman].”

She expanded on the cancelation in an Instagram post and expressed hope the show would continue on another network (it did not).

“Thank you so much for watching [American Woman] and for all your support,” she wrote. “All of you have been so supportive and cheered me on and I am so appreciative. I’m so proud of the show we made and am so grateful for the talented team of people it took to create it. We put our hearts & souls into it. So many of you have expressed your love for the show. Maybe we will find it a new home.”

Kyle Richards remembers her mom, Kathleen Richards

While it's been over 20 years since Kathleen Richards died of breast cancer in 2002, she remains an important figure in Kyle's life. While appearing on the March 27 episode of the Let's Talk Off Camera with Kelly Ripa podcast, Kyle opened up about her childhood and her relationship with her mom, Kathleen. During the conversation, she shared how her daughters' bond is very different than the one she developed with her siblings,  Kathy Hilton and Kim Richards, as a child, mostly due to the choices her mom made while raising them.

“They [my daughters] could not be more different than my sisters and me,” she said on the podcast. Kyle continued by revealing “some mistakes” her mom made by constantly comparing Kathy, Kim, and her to one other. “I do remember her like saying, ‘Why don’t you do this like so and so?’ To Kim, ‘Why don’t you do what Kyle does?’ Things like that,” Kyle said on the podcast.

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