'Real Housewives of Dallas' star Stephanie Hollman talks all things season 3 (Exclusive)

'Real Housewives of Dallas' star Stephanie Hollman talks all things season 3 (Exclusive)

Stephanie Hollman has settled into her role as a Real Housewife.

The "Real Housewives of Dallas" star is currently in her third season on the Bravo hit, and she continues to learn more and more about herself and her cast mates, which has allowed for their franchise to get "better and better" as time goes on.

Hollman is also opening up like never before, as evidenced by her emotional conversation with LeeAnne Locken about their suicide attempts earlier in their lives. Last season, such a connection between them would've been unfathomable, but it was Hollman's realization that "sometimes the way to connect with somebody is to share how you’re not so different."

Stephanie Hollman recently stopped by AOL to talk about her newfound connection with LeeAnne, finding herself through her time on "Real Housewives" and the constant drama of "Real Housewives of Dallas" season three.

Check out our conversation below:

Now that we're several episodes into this third season, how are you doing? What have you noticed that viewers are saying about it?

This year has been exciting, because the fans have really embraced the show. We have some of the nicest people that watch it, so for me it’s been such an incredible response. It takes a few years for people to watch you and feel like they know you, and I feel that now from the viewers. It’s a different vibe this year.

People are attached to the "Dallas" cast now, and you've kind of solidified your places in the Housewives universe.

We have finally paid our three-season dues, where people are like, "They’re here to stay!" It’s going to get better and better. It was a fun season to film. It was very dramatic, there were so many incredible moments and for me it’s the first year that I actually feel like I’m friends with all of the girls, which makes a difference. It also makes it harder, so when someone messes up you’re like, "Aw, but I do like her!" But I feel like there is something in every single one of the girls that I like and admire and that’s a really nice way to feel, because I haven’t always felt that. Sometimes it’s like, "I don’t know you that well," and honestly, I haven’t given all the girls a chance.

You're starting this season off on a completely different note than last season, when you and Brandi weren't speaking to one another. Now you're back to being best friends. Talk to me about that difference coming into this season.

Last year going into filming, I literally felt like I was going to have a nervous breakdown, because I was so scared that I was going to mess things up with her to the point where there was no turning back. I do think that in friendships, if you don’t work on it and you’re not careful, you can get to where there’s so much hurt that it’s impossible to recover from it. That was really hard. So, this year, I felt that as long as I was friends with my soul sister, Brandi, everything else would be so much easier, because that and my relationship with my husband and children are my most important ones.

And to make things even more positive, you helped her adopt a baby right before filming began!

It was so cool, because it was so secretive -- she was deciding what they wanted to do, and it was cool that I got a front row seat to that whole experience. It was really special.

Was it hard to watch the negative reaction to the adoption? Surely part of that was because it was an over-the-top unveiling, but what was it like seeing that?

Honestly, it always bothers me when something so amazing happens for somebody -- like a baby or a wedding, those are life-changing, beautiful events -- no matter how it was unveiled, they should be happy. I know there’s a shock value, but I don’t think people realized that the adoption wasn’t final [yet] and that’s a scary thing to go through, because you don’t want to get your hopes up. You never know. Brandi just wanted to take it in, because she didn’t have a nine-month pregnancy to come to terms with [having another kid]. I wish people had been more supportive because it was about her and her family. At times, it didn’t feel like that.

That leads into you argument with Kameron over "bashing" Brandi's adopted child. It felt more like a fight about the words not the intention of those words, as LeeAnne pointed out on the show. Do you think her feelings were warranted or was it just more of a misunderstanding?

Kam felt left out and, looking back, I can see things a little differently, but in the moment I was just like "Oh my God, this girl is making it so negative." She was making it about herself and not the baby, and I wish that people had just surrounded Brandi with love, and we could’ve celebrated the baby and not what she should’ve done differently. That bothered me. I never lose my cool, but I just saw my friend defeated, so I did.

And you were almost even more invested because you were so involved in the adoption.

Yes. I was so invested and happy for her, and she was having a hard time getting [her daughters] adjusted, so my heart broke for her. I just sat there and I was like, "This is so sad, this should be the most amazing thing in the world." Maybe I should’ve said the word "badgered" instead of "bashed," but it shouldn’t be about the word.

Like you said, you’re in a good place with all the women, but the person you’ve made the most strides with is LeeAnne. You two had an incredibly emotional conversation at D'Andra's anniversary party about your suicide attempts earlier in life. Talk to me about that moment.

I don’t know why, but I tear up every time I talk about it. It was very organic. I was sitting there having fun with her, and I realized that we never gave each other a chance. We had our walls up so much and sometimes the way to connect with somebody is to share how you’re not so different. It was a great moment, and she’s the only one that I would’ve had that moment with.

I was terrified when [the episode] came out, and I cried for a week straight, because that happened, it was shameful and then [my family] never talked about it. My mom and dad would a little bit, and they were terrified. Every time I had a tough time, my dad would come sleep on my couch to make sure I was good, and I just always felt so bad about it. I felt very weak about that time in my life, but with that coming out, I had people message me saying that they had written their suicide notes and then decided not to [go through with it], and it was just super powerful. Also, I feel like I mourned that time, and I told that 22-year-old version of myself that it’s okay. Instead of hating her, I surrounded her with love and said, “I honor what you went through.”

It also shows that, yes, "Real Housewives" normally functions as fun escapism, but it's also a huge platform that can have very real impacts on its viewers as they watch you go through difficult things.

It’s true. It was more than I thought it would be. I thought that people would judge me, but I’ve never been surrounded by more love and support in my entire life. It was kind of amazing, that the worst moments of your life you can get the most love, and I didn’t think that would be possible.

Well, I commend you for sharing your story on such a public stage -- that takes a lot of courage and strength.

It also makes you feel not so alone. I had hundreds and hundreds of people write me telling me that they had gone through the same thing, and it just tells you that you’re not alone. It’s good to put a face to depression and mental health, because it [can be] a very nasty word with a bad stigma, and it’s something that I’ve dealt with my entire life and I shouldn’t be ashamed with it.

Are we going to see your connection with LeeAnne carry into the rest of the season?

I’ve realized that in the past, I’ve been her judge and jury. She does bad, and I’m judgmental and it’s not somebody that I want to be. Maybe the best way for me to help her is to support her like I do my other friends. When she falls, instead of kicking her when she’s down, I just want to be able to say, "You’re better than that and I still believe in you." I want to be that person with her, and I haven’t been like that [in the past].

And now you also have this undeniably positive experience with her that proves you can get along and see eye-to-eye.

This year I did watch her, and I feel like there are times when she falls and she goes back into past behavior, but I really saw her struggling and holding herself accountable and doing things in a different way. Those are big milestones and change is hard. It’s a lifelong journey, and I think if you want to change and you’re willing to change, you deserve a happy life. Thats what I want for all the girls.

What was it like watching the drama between Brandi and D'Andra unfold? You technically weren't involved and you stayed out of it.

You’ll see this with me a lot this year. I really try to get involved only when I feel like I need to get involved, but also stay out of it when I feel like they can handle it on their own. People can quickly feel ganged up on, and I often fight other people’s battles. I am the queen of doing that, and I always thought that loyalty was fighting a battle with someone, but I tried not to do that here. It’s easy to do interviews and say the wrong thing. I’ve been there. It’s a learning experience, but I always felt like it was something they could work beyond. Brandi wanted an apology, and D’Andra was confused and they saw it differently. When you know better, you do better, and now D’Andra knows that’s a hot spot for Brandi.

I interviewed Cary last week, and she said that a lot of friendships will change this season. Do you echo that?

There’s a shift in friendships -- some good and some bad. I’m interested to watch, because there were some friendships that made me sad to see, because it brought back things with Brandi and I. It just made me sad in the moment, but it’s definitely not three-on-three, like it’s been in the past. I like that that’s gone. We’re all this group of women trying to figure life out, and it felt very authentic.

How has Dallas' reaction to the show changed since season one? At first, it seemed as though some of the society people weren't interested in associating with it.

People are so nice to me, and I have the same core group of girlfriends that I’ve had for forever, but I’ve never really bought into Dallas society. I wasn’t raised that way. I’ll do events, but it’s not what I’ve strived t be part of. I don’t want to be someone I’m not to try to fit into a mold that I was never meant to fit into. You can lose yourself in that way.

When season one came out, it was really hurtful, though, because people that I thought were my friends kind of turned their back on me because they didn’t want the show in their city. Looking back, though, it was the biggest blessing because they were never my friends to begin with. They were very fair-weathered. It was only for the good times, but real friendships are the good and the bad. It’s good to realize who people really are, because life is short. Why waste it on people that aren’t true friends?

We've had you in for interviews during all three seasons of "Real Housewives of Dallas," and you've truly stayed true to yourself throughout this whole process, but I also feel as though you've evolved and learned from this experience. How have you changed since becoming a Real Housewife?

I may be one of the few people that can say that this has personally been one of the most amazing experiences of my life. I’ve learned that I should fight more for my feelings and that my feelings should be valued. Before, during the first two seasons I was always the first person to apologize. I’ve tried to put myself first, because you have to. It’s also made me have a stronger marriage, because now I have something that’s my own and not just living my husband’s dreams. I did feel that a lot before. I was the mom and I took care of everything, but I would sometimes get jealous of his career, because I felt left out. This is something that’s mine. I have also learned to appreciate qualities in myself. I don’t think that my kindness is my weakness; I think it’s my strength. I really do, because anybody can be mean. But I’m proud of the fact that I’ve never tried to ruin somebody. You can do this and stay true to yourself and not hurt families and others. That’s the thing that I’m most proud of.

Tease what else we can expect during the rest of the season.

There are a lot of deep things with all of us that people can rally around. There is a lot of drama. Our cast trip is insane, which is what I’m more excited to watch. I also always love the funny parts and having fun with Brandi. There’s a lot of humor, which is what I love most about our show: It’s funny and I think it sets us apart from other franchises. It’s comic relief. It’s a show that you can laugh with, cry with and think we’re crazy. It gives you everything.

"Real Housewives of Dallas" airs on Wednesdays at 9 pm EST on Bravo

This interview has been edited and condensed.