Most people know Kim Richards as the combative, often out-of-control star of the reality TV series “Real Housewives of Beverly Hills.” The real-life sister of Kyle Richards, half-sister of Kathy Hilton and aunt to Hilton sisters Paris and Nicky has spent more time on TMZ and in the tabloids than anything else — including for a pair of arrests for public intoxication, resisting arrest, trespassing and battery on a police officer, and a second for allegedly shoplifting at a Target store in the San Fernando Valley.
But long before Miss Richards, now 52, was tabloid fodder, she was an adorable child actress. She was the precocious Prudence Everett in the classic sitcom “Nanny and the Professor,” and went on to be Disney’s first big female star by headlining “Escape to Witch Mountain,” “No Deposit, No Return,” “Return to Witch Mountain” and “The Whiz Kids” series. As a teenager she turned in memorable performances in “Tuff Turf” and “Meatballs 2.” More recent adult work has included performances in “Black Snake Moan” and a cameo in the big-budget “Race to Witch Mountain” remake.
At The Hollywood Show, a quarterly fan fest autograph event in California, Miss Richards talked about her early acting days and how gardening is her therapy.
Question: What is the most common thing fans say when they meet you?
Answer: They just talk about my career, their favorite show, their favorite memory. And they ask what are my favorite career memories, which is awesome because I get to think back on my favorite shows and the great memories I had making them.
Q: Do you have a favorite memory from when you were making “Nanny and the Professor?”
A: A couple. I was growing plants. We were making a garden. The whole set was covered with flowers. I just remember everywhere I looked, there were these beautiful flowers. I’m not gonna say that that is the reason I love flowers and roses and gardening so much, but it may have been the start of it.
On a day where things are kind of “not the best,” you will always find me in the garden planting. It’s therapy for me.
Q: What is the strangest thing a fan has ever asked you to sign?
A: You don’t want to know. [laughs] I’ve had some really weird requests.
Q: Do you have any good memories from doing the “Witch Mountain” movies?
A: My favorites would be working with the animals and their trainers. Although that may not be fair that I’m leaving out all the [humans] I worked with. [laughs] Working for Disney and working with these animals was such a big thing for me. The trainers always let me be hands-on.
Q: You were one of the first Disney kid stars. Do you look back fondly on that time?
A: Yes, I do. I look back on my career and I’m so thankful.
Q: Do you feel like you missed out on childhood?
A: People ask me that a lot. Yeah, I didn’t get to do this or I didn’t get to do that. But there were so many other wonderful things that I did get to do.
And I’m super grateful to my mom. I think sometimes “stage moms” get a bad rap. My mom really worked hard in helping me with my career, and when I look back, I have some really amazing memories and experiences as a child actress.
Q: How did you end up in “Black Snake Moan”?
A: I got a call that said, “John Singleton is looking for you.” I said, “John Singleton. I know that name.” My sister Kyle was like, “Um yeah, Kim!” And then they told me it was for a film called “Black Snake Moan.” At first I just said no. Then they told me who was involved: Samuel L. Jackson, Christina Ricci and Justin Timberlake. I said, “I don’t know. I’m kind of happy with retirement.” My sister Kyle said, “Are you kidding?” Then my sister Kathy called and said, “You’re doing this!”
Q: What did you think of the remake of “Witch Mountain” that you had a cameo in?
A: After “Black Snake Moan” I got a call on my cellphone. The voice said, “Hi, Kim, it’s [director] Andy Fickman, and I’m doing a Disney movie.” I thought it was a joke. I said, “OK buddy, talk to you later.” He said, “No, no, no, I really am doing a Disney movie.” I asked, “Do you actually have an office on the Disney lot? Are you really working for Disney?”
When he finally convinced me he was Andy Fickman and he was doing the remake of “Witch Mountain,” I went in and met with him. We talked about the script and having me do an extended cameo.
Q: Did you enjoy making that film?
A: It was a great experience from the very beginning to the very end. On the first day I came in to work, everybody stopped, and Andy got up on the thing and said to the entire cast and crew, “I want you to all know that we are all here today working on this film because somebody did it right the first time.” They really made me feel honored.
Q: What are you working on now?
A: I’ve been doing some reality [TV]. That’s kind of what I do now. Although any good script that come along, I’ll look at it. I did do some guest spots on a few shows. Which I love to do. I’m gonna be a grandma!