From past winners of Survivor to a former Bachelor, the reality star power on Peacock’s The Traitors is unparalleled, but one contestant has emerged as the undisputed showstopper of the second season: Phaedra Creonta Parks, Esq.—former Real Housewives of Atlanta housewife, lawyer, mortician, author, furrier, businesswoman, activist, and now, possibly the most iconic “traitor” to play in the castle.
Since The Traitors functions as basically a glorified, high-stakes game of Mafia, you could be forgiven for assuming that a contestant from a competitive “gamer” show, like Big Brother or Survivor, would be the player to root for, but to do so would be a mistake. In the seven episodes since Parks has graced our screens as one of the titular traitors, she’s proven herself to be a master strategist and a ruthless killer—not only dexterously navigating the complicated dynamics of the cast and successfully murdering “faithfuls,” but winsomely charming her cast mates and viewers at home in the process.
Indeed, the most memorable moments of the season so far have come from the warm and witty Parks, who’s famously quick with a one-liner; her dramatic lament for a fallen faithful (though she played a part in her murder) has become one of 2024’s first truly hilarious memes, while her round-table rebuttal of Dan Gheesling, a fellow traitor and two-time winner of Big Brother, has already gone down in reality TV history as one of the most legendary reads by a housewife of all time. With the season now at the midpoint, we caught up with Parks to talk about the art of being a traitor, her many careers, and whether or not she would ever return to RHOA.
TIME: Your read of Dan at the roundtable last week has already become internet legend. What did you think of his strategy as a traitor?
Parks: He was horrible. No strategy at all. The strategy can’t be to not play the game, you have to get in the game. So I just really wondered how he won Big Brother. I was very confused after playing with him because he only wanted to kill all the handsome men and I really like handsome men. But I guess, you know, I am a straight woman, so handsome men would be my delight.
Which of your fellow traitors annoyed you more, Dan or Parvati?
Dan was just very weird. He wasn’t really annoying until that roundtable—it was just strange, like people that drive cargo vans with no windows. I was annoyed during moments where Parvati accused the housewives of being a gang, because we are just beautiful women who live luxurious lives and we are wealthy. She didn’t understand our lifestyle. But as a person, I really liked her. But I had no context for them as gamers. I only do the Bravolebrities.
Do you stand by recruiting Parvati as a traitor?
Well [sighs], I guess so. I never regret anything, so I stand by it.
Do you feel like people underestimated you for being a housewife or coming from Bravo?
I’m sure they did. As housewives, we just have needless drama, drink champagne, shop, and spend lots of money. So it’s totally different than running across the field with a 50 pound bag. I think people thought we wouldn’t have any strategy besides being catty and mean girls. And some are definitely mean girls, but I think I’m nice.
Did being a housewife uniquely prepare you for this experience?
I have lots of jobs. But I think being a housewife makes me understand people’s human nature and the need to survive, shall we say. They will do anything, throw anybody under the bus, at any cost, so it is good training because if you could survive housewives, in particular Housewives of Atlanta, honey, you could go to the Vietnam War and come out with a win.
I did want to ask you about your training as a mortician and if that helped you with murdering people as a traitor.
Well, when they come to me, they’re already dead, so I really don’t murder people, we just sort of put them back together. However, being in the business gives me an insight on people, because you get people at the worst of times and you understand how to comfort people having horrible moments of grief.
What prepared you more, being a mortician or a lawyer?
I think being a lawyer. I can do any roundtable because we are trained to listen succinctly, rebuttal people’s allegations. The training calls for you being a performer, but also to be calm, cool and collected, no matter how much you want to jump up and kill them. Instead of killing them with your hands, you kill them with your words.
What do you think is more harrowing, braving the roundtable and possible banishment or facing a housewives reunion?
Oh, a housewives reunion, honey! Oh, a roundtable has nothing on five mean bitches, bleep bleep!
Which housewife would you like to see on Season 3?
I think Marlo [Hampton] would be excellent. For my ladies in New York, I think the Dorinda [Medley] would be great. Out of OC, Vicki Gunvalson would be awesome. Salt Lake, Heather Gay would be fantastic.
Was there anyone that you were most excited to meet?
I only knew three days before I left that I was actually going to do it. I had no idea who was in the house, but I was super excited to see Maks from Dancing with the Stars. I think he’s the best dancer ever—he was hilarious, so entertaining. And Peter because I love The Bachelor. I am Bachelor Nation all day long, so seeing him, I just was going crazy. Those were two people that I was like, “Oh, my God, I have arrived.”
Who did you think was the most underrated player going in?
Probably Sandra. She’s very under the radar—quiet, sweet, but she’s a real killer. She’s obviously queen of Survivor. She is quick on her feet and she knows how to do those challenges and she she knows her way around those games.
Does everyone sleep in the castle?
So how do you get to the traitors turret without anyone knowing?
You want to know the secret? When you go to your room, you’re locked [in]. You can’t get out and there’s no way to see outside of the door. There’s no peepholes.
And you can’t hear anyone else?
No, the castle’s huge, just fantabulous. You go into that room and you’re in there until they allow you to come out, so you can’t just roam around the castle on your own. However, the traitors are whisked away, unbeknownst to anyone, through trap doors. It’s a lot of trap doors in that castle. It’s very spooky, mysterious! And you get that wonderful velvet robe!
Who had better outfits on The Traitors, you or Alan?
Well, I don’t dare compete against Alan because he was definitely giving us fashion, but I think I was sort of neck and neck with him. He had some beautiful outfits and, you know, I packed in three days, so he had a little more time than I did.
What is your one-word review of Parvati’s headbands?
Who had the worst manners on the show?
I think pretty much everyone agreed Kevin. He ate with his mouth open. He just did not understand that you chew with your mouth closed.
A lot of people believed there was a sort of housewives solidarity, including Parvati referring to you all as a “gang.” What was it like for you to compete with your fellow housewives?
Well, I always considered it us against them. I would have been delighted if any housewife won because the Bravo universe is a family, so I’m never going to be jealous of family members. You know, CBS is coming to NBC Universal, so they’re in our house, so we should win when we’re at home.
What compelled you to choose CT as your “castle daddy”?
CT was really a gentleman—he’s an alpha male, but great at the competitions. I met him during our first drive up and he was such a good guy, so nice and so level-headed. I’ve never watched The Challenge, so I didn’t know this aggressive, crazy, fighting, beer-drinking person—I met a father, a married man. He was so kind and he helped all the ladies and I’m always a damsel in distress, honey, so he kept me from killing myself a few times, I think. So, that’s how we connected because these nails [gestures to her very bejeweled manicure] were not made for tasks, they were made for beauty.
Why do you think this show made all the players so emotional?
When you’re in a closed castle, there’s no contact with the outside world at all. You reminisce, you’re in your room by yourself, so you just have time to think, but it’s definitely a mind game. When it came to Shereé and I, we’ve been through so much together, ups and downs, from teenagers to really grown women, being on the housewives together. She’s been there for our weddings, for my baby showers, huge moments in our lives. So that’s what made me emotional when it came to her, because she’s really seen my life full circle. So it was beautiful to share this great moment in this castle without this lush landscape with someone who really truly knows you.
What player surprised you the most?
As the game unfolded, Peter surprised me a lot because he started running the house like The Bachelor and that was surprising, but I guess that was his context on how to play the game. Kate was interesting as well. Very interesting.
Why did you think when Dan threw out your name at the roundtable? What was going through your mind?
What an S.O.B. I was just like, “Wow.” I was disappointed because I played very fairly with them and I told them in the turret, “I intend to play this game fairly, I am going to support this alliance of traitors, we took an oath.” And I believe in oaths, you know, I’m a lawyer, so I’ve taken an oath to the court. So when we said to Alan that we would protect each other and not reveal other traitors, I took that seriously. But I guess when you are carrying your cross up the hill, you’ll do anything to save yourself. But he was already dead, so I don’t know why he wanted to bring me with him.
You’re already on Married to Medicine. And you came from the top housewives franchise, Atlanta. What made you want to join the The Traitors?
To be very honest, my parents love the show, so when they called me that Thursday night at 10:45 p.m., my mom happened to hear me talking about this show. She said, “What’s the name of it?” And I said, “It’s The Traitors.” She said, “That’s my favorite show, you gotta go, this is the best show in the world,” because she has watched every single one of them from the UK to Australia. She said, “Call them back tomorrow, say ‘Yes, ma’am.’ We will come and help you.” That was the turning point. I just love to make my parents proud. They are loving watching on the show. They think I’m doing a great job and they don’t always think that about some of the other shows I’ve been on.
There are big changes happening with the cast Real Housewives of Atlanta cast. Do you think there’s any chance that you will be back?
People ask me that all the time. I was on there for eight years. Don’t regret a moment of the show. However, it was during the heyday, when it was the best of the franchise and then I left and it turned into the Titanic and it sunk. But now it looks like there will be a reboot and I’m very excited because I want to see it become what it was. The cast I was with was the best show on the network. So I would love to see a return to its glory. I would never say never, but if I could help them get back to being the number one franchise, I would love to see them back on top.
Was being on Traitors more challenging than other reality shows you’ve been on?
It’s so different, but hands down, it’s the best television experience I’ve ever had in my life. I don’t know if it’s because it challenged me in a new way. I love to meet people and I love to meet strange people—and there’s a few strange people on the show. I am always of the mindset that every opportunity is presenting a new opportunity. Whether I win or not, I’ve met these people, made new relationships and it’s something out of my comfort zone and I can mark it off my bucket list. I would have never done it had I known they were gonna make me crawl around the cemetery. I tore my meniscus while I was there. It was very physical.
Can you give a housewives tagline to your fellow players, Bergie, Parvati, and Dan?
Oh Lord. Let’s do Bergie first. “I might be a baby, but this baby is definitely Bergalicious.”
Could we do Parvati next?
“Don’t let the headband fool you, I’m still the Black Widow.”
What about Dan?
“I might have won Big Brother, but I will definitely not win the The Traitors.”