"I love telling this story," the RHOP star gushes to ET over video chat. "So, I'm an actor. I've been an actor for many years … but I've been waiting, as all actors are, for their big break, for their 'moment.' I would say to whoever would listen, ‘You know what? It's fine, because Netflix is going to call me. When Netflix calls, I'm dropping everything. I'm going to wherever Netflix takes me,’ not really ever thinking that something would come of it."
Well, the call came and Candiace snatched the opportunity to play Sunita Chanel, a snooty reality star with fake, blue contacts and an even faker French accent. Candiace says she pulled inspiration for her catty character from Eartha Kitt and, of course, some of her Housewives co-stars -- but she won’t name names.
"She's ridiculous," Candiace says of her sitcom alter ego. "So honestly, it was easy to pull from any number of Housewives who live in the clouds and are crazy and ridiculous at any moment in time. So, I was able to draw from just the Housewives sphere as a whole."
The episode sees Candiace and Brandi’s Sunita Chanel and Heidi facing off against Kenya, a little bit of art imitating life for the Celebrity Apprentice alumni (Brandi and Kenya), who famously feuded on the NBC reality show.
"So, when I realized that it was going to be the three of us, I almost immediately was like, oh dear, what's this going to be like?" Candiace recalls. "But they were both consummate professionals. They were great. We worked well together."
"I don't think I felt any tension, any beef, pork, or chicken," she quips. "You almost couldn't have tension. It was very light and easy. We were so focused on delivering our lines and the showrunner and the crew is reacting to us and laughing at our craziness in the scenes."
"It was very much like, ‘You can get through this. It's not going to be like this forever. Fans move on quickly. And when they move on, it will be incumbent upon you to use the clean slate wisely. And focus on things that you have going on,’" Candiace shares. "I have taken that advice, working on music, doing other things in the acting realm. So, it was very, like, big sister-like. Just, 'You can get through it and you will make it to the other side.'"
Family Reunion proved to be a bit cathartic, too, as Candiace’s character gets into a physical altercation of her own. The 34-year-old knows some might find the moment hypocritical, but she calls it therapeutic.
"Well, No. 1 ... this is fiction," she notes, "and that's the beauty of fiction is that you get to tell someone else's story, and someone like crazy lady Sunita Chanel, she is multilayered because you'll learn something special about her and who she is versus who she wants to be. And I think that in and of itself is a lesson because a lot of people, some in the Housewives, the Bravo-sphere, do struggle with figuring out who they are versus who they want to be."
"So I was excited to be able to play that role," she continues. "And I think for me in moving forward, and even in my therapy sessions about how to get past a wild season, like season 5, I was encouraged and I embraced the idea of, how can I make light of a really heavy situation in a healthy way that's not offensive to anyone and that doesn't stir up too much crazy controversy? And I feel like the best way to do that and to wave at the haters is to prance onto the Paramount lot, and do my thug fizzle at Family Reunion. And that's what I did. And I'm really proud of this episode and the show."
The "I See You" singer says getting to act opposite a childhood idol like Tia was the cherry on top of an already amazing experience.
"I was like, I was clutching my pearls,” Candiace admits. "It was all so much. No, of course I grew up watching Sister, Sister. There were quite a few fun, family Black shows on television in that era… and then they kind of went away, and what I love about this show is that it is contributing to the resurgence of wholesome Black television that you can watch with your family."
"I get chills now just thinking about it," she says of shooting the show. "I've never been in a room where the writers' room was an all-Black writers' room. That was a first for me. Everybody in the room, for the most part, was a person of color."
"I actually just saw today, Marsai Martin put out a statement saying that she does not want to make television or art that highlights Black pain, and I felt that," Candiace adds. "And I feel like Family Reunion is that show. It shows that Black families, that Black people, as units and as individuals, are not monolithic, that we come in all different shapes and sizes and our families are multi-layered and multicultural, a lot of the time, and that needs to be shown. And that's what I love so much about this show."
Candiace is ready and waiting for a call to come back for Family Reunion Part 4, but in the meantime is (seemingly) filming season 6 of RHOP. While the Bravolebrity refused to confirm her involvement, citing that Bravo has yet to announce the show’s renewal, she did hint at where things are headed after Monique's exit from the franchise.
"I would hope that we could come together as a group and find a way to healthily and happily move forward and make room for new drama," Candiace offers. "I'm so over season 5 and talking about season 5 and what happened in season 5. I would want a season 6 to be a new chapter for our group."
"I definitely think that that announcement was a load off of all of us," she says of Monique’s choice to quit the show. "Season 5 was dark. It was very heavy and it took on a life of its own, right? It became bigger than all of us, even, I'm close to several of our producers and it affected everybody, not just the cast, but everyone."
"It was hard and it was very dark," she reiterates. "So, anytime you have a dark cloud, when that cloud is removed, it obviously lifts the morale of the group and allows a space for us to move forward. And it's just up to us to take that path and move forward. And I would hope that if we're coming back that that's what we're able to do."
Monique appears to have more to say on the matter, though, as she’s set to release her Binder Time Stories series on YouTube and Patreon over the next few weeks. The videos feature fairytale-style stories about characters inspired by Monique's RHOP co-stars, all pulled from the binder of receipts she brought to the season 5 reunion. When asked what she makes of the webisodes, Candiace coughs up a curt, "I don't care."