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SallyAnn Salsano on the Changing Reality TV Industry and Returning to ‘Jersey Shore’

The creator of the MTV hit explains what has changed for the Jersey Shore crew since “GTL” entered the vernacular

Vinny, Pauly D, Deena, Snooki, JWoww, and Mike from the ‘Jersey Shore Family Vacation’ cast Photo by Dave Kotinsky/Getty Images for MTV

Reality TV mastermind SallyAnn Salsano joined Bachelor Party in March to discuss her latest projects and, most importantly, weigh in on the revival of her smash hit Jersey Shore. From the enduring appeal of “gym, tan, laundry” to the “heroic” nature of the reality TV star, Salsano gives Juliet Litman a peek at what to expect from Jersey Shore Family Vacation and how the reality TV industry has changed in the decade since its predecessor first aired.

Listen to the full podcast here. This transcript has been edited and condensed.

On the Jersey Shore Revival

Juliet Litman: Jersey Shore is coming back with Jersey Shore Family Vacation. I’m super excited. How did the filming go for that?

SallyAnn Salsano: I gotta tell you, I am still coming off of it. I came back, I got the flu, a root canal—it literally took the life out of me. It was—for anyone that doubted whether they still have it, the answer is yes. And it is amazing. They are just amazing. I laughed for 30 days. I have never laughed so hard in my entire life.

Litman: What is the main difference? I mean, Jenni and Snooki are moms, and they’ve all obviously changed in the last nine years. What’s the biggest difference between filming the show now and the original season back in the summer of ’09?

Salsano: I wouldn’t say much. It’s great. They’re almost just better.

Litman: Is it still a “gym, tan, laundry” situation? Are they still doing that on a regular basis?

Salsano: Yeah, they are the same people.

Litman: That’s incredible. So did Jenni and Snooki bring their kids?

Salsano: No.

Litman: So no partners or spouses or kids or anything like that.

Salsano: Nope.

Litman: How much were they getting stopped on the street in Miami?

Salsano: Oh, there were so many paparazzi and so many fans. It was amazing.

Litman: Do they party with them still? Do they party with strangers?

Salsano: One hundred percent.

Litman: What’s more surprising: the fact that Snooki and Jionni are still together, or that Vinny has a six-pack?

Salsano: I would say Vinny having a six-pack. [laughs]

Litman: I think he maybe changed the most, as far as I can tell as an outsider.

Salsano: I don’t know how to describe it. It’s just insane to watch. Because it seems like so much time has gone by, and then it feels like it was four minutes ago.

Litman: I’m excited for the show to come back because I feel like my friends are coming back. That was the power of that show: Their connections you could really feel as a viewer, and it made you feel like you were part of their friend group, as well. That’s why I’m excited for it to come back, among other reasons. I just need some Snooki.

Salsano: I love them so much it hurts me. I don’t even know what else to say. I love them.

Litman: Were you on set the whole time?

Salsano: Every day, all day.

Litman: Wow. How much do you talk to them while filming is happening? Because on the Real World, they’re not supposed to talk to the camera people.

Salsano: I mean, yes and no. I’m not telling them what to do, but when we see each other we [say,] “Hey, what’s up?” We hang. When we’re not shooting, which is never. But if Snooki’s in the bathroom blow drying her hair, I’ll go sit down and chat with her. We all hadn’t seen each other. It was crazy.

Litman: So it’s like a real reunion, like with college friends.

Salsano: Yeah, they were saying to the camera guys, “Oh my god, look at you! You have grey hair; you’re so old!”

Litman: So you brought back the same crew as well?

Salsano: Everyone. We went full OG.

On How the Perception of Reality TV Has Changed

Litman: Is it harder to cast now that people who are of the age that can be on these shows are so familiar with the genre?

Salsano: It is and it’s not. I think it’s the press and stuff that’s kind of like, “Do you watch reality TV or scripted? Do you do this, or do you do that?” If you ask an average person on the street, “What are your three favorite TV shows?” They could say Scandal, then they could say Housewives, and then they could say something else. They don’t break it down by—and then they say like Match Game. They’re not like, “Oh, but that’s one game show, one scripted ...”

Litman: They’re not checking boxes.

Salsano: I think to people today it’s just TV. Reality TV isn’t reality TV anymore. To me it’s just TV.

Litman: Right. And I guess also if you watch it on streaming, or through the MTV app, it’s just a different experience than setting aside time for Jersey Shore or setting aside time for Party Down South or whatever.

Salsano: I agree. I don’t know, I just think it is what it is. I interview kids, and they’re just like, “I want to be an influencer.” All right, well then fuckin’ do something.

Litman: That’s such a weird, weird thing.

Salsano: Well, the problem is kids are sitting on their couches or their bed and putting on eyeliner and making millions.

Litman: They don’t have to do much to get the big bucks.

Salsano: Yeah, so I think it’s a little bit of a false thing. Everybody can’t do that because then it won’t be special. But I do think there are so many different ways to advertise and to reach people, which opens up a whole new door. The culture is: You can be anything you want to be. And that’s true and not true.

Litman: It’s a different approach, also. The exposure that comes from being on reality TV is probably a little bit less intimidating in some ways because there are just more avenues to expose yourself. If you have an exhibitionist type of personality, you can find a way to be an exhibitionist. You don’t necessarily need to be cast on a show. You could just start SnapChatting and see what happens, basically.

Salsano: Exactly. I also think being a reality TV personality is heroic […] because I think if you want to be an actor or an actress or something, you’re putting yourself out there with someone else’s words, with not your look, and not with what came out of your closet. And with someone else telling you what to wear and how to do your hair. I think to be a reality TV star, you have to be extremely strong, because you’re putting yourself out there and you’re basically saying, “This is it. This is me.” Not, “Do you like my character? Do you like this story line?” But everyone is judging you, your decisions, day to day. Even down to what you’re drinking or eating, or making for breakfast.

Litman: Yeah. Absolutely.

Salsano: And then if people are rejected ... it is personal. Like, they don’t like you personally.

Litman: It is actually a referendum on you if you get a lot of hate online or people are critical of you.

Salsano: Right. As [opposed to] where it’s like “Oh, that role, people didn’t really accept the role the way that they could.” It’s not a role. People didn’t accept you personally. So I actually give people a lot of credit, but I think one of the hardest things to do is just to go out there and be yourself. And I feel like there are not enough accolades for that, and I always say to people, “Do not worry about what America thinks. Think about your immediate family and your five best friends. Are they going to watch this and go, ‘Oh my god, that’s so you?’ Or are they going to watch this and be like, ‘Oh my god, please. If that were me you would have killed me.’” Because if you’re not yourself, then don’t bother.