In 2009, a reality show centered on eight people in the New York/New Jersey club scene world of Italian-ethnic “guidos” known as Jersey Shore emerged. Little could anybody imagine that the often very controversial and almost irresistible show turned into a giant global guilty pleasure. It has become one of the pop culture cornerstones of this current era, having an effect on everything from professional wrestling in the case of popular guido character wrestlers like the WWE’s Zack Ryder and TNA’s Robbie E and Cookie to foreign versions like the Oh Oh… series in The Netherlands and Geordie Shore, a British version of the show created by MTV themselves that airs there.
One of the people responsible for its success is 24 year-old Sammi Giancola, nicknamed “Sammi Sweetheart”, and known for her often tumultuous relationship with on-and-off boyfriend and cast mate Ronnie Ortiz-Magro. The guidette herself told us though that she never saw the huge success of the show coming.
“I had no idea,” Giancola recalls, “I’m from Jersey. I lived at the Shore my whole life, so it was pretty much me just living my life and I never thought that I would be doing such amazing opportunities and meeting such cool people, just celebrities that I never thought in a million years I would be where I am at today.”
We asked Giancola if she notices the cameras that constantly film the cast almost everywhere they go season after season.
“No,” she replies, “The cameras, I don’t even know they’re there and I’m so comfortable in front of them. It’s kind of scary, but I don’t even know they’re there.”
Traditionally, shows like MTV’s The Real World, which was the first to be coined the term “reality show”, have a constantly new and often mostly forgettable cast with every season. However, Jersey Shore’s surprised expectations with a cast often too larger than life to ignore from the miniature, poof-sporting spitfire Snooki to the often troublemaking & arrogant, yet charming Mike “The Situation” to the blowout-sporting DJ Pauly D. Sammi says that the key to the show’s success is the cast being given the ability to remain as themselves.
“You never know what can happen during each season,” Giancola says, “We don’t know what’s going to go on, but I think that’s what makes our show different is we don’t have other people coming in all the time.”
“We are who we are and we still are doing what we love to do and I guess each time, we just happen to make different scenarios happen, I guess, I don’t know,” she adds, “We’re just ourselves and I think that’s why a lot of people could relate to us. I think that’s why we keep doing it every year.”
That kind of popularity has thrust Giancola and her fellow cast mates into unprecedented levels of out-of-the-box instant celebrity. We asked her how she manages to maintain such a down-to-earth world around them on their show despite their now enormous celebrity.
“We try to live our lives as private as we can,” Sammi explains, “Of course, you’re going to have fans out there now that know we are, but what’s really cool about our filming is they try their best to make it look like it’s normal living our life before we were, I guess, who we are. So they try their best to keep it as real life as possible.”
Sammi talks about how she feels about her many fans.
“Oh, I love my fans,” Giancola says, “They’re all so nice and so positive and they’re all crazy. One time I was walking on the boardwalk and this 14 year old got on his knee and pretend-proposed to me. And I’m like, oh, my God, this is so funny and so cool at the same time. All my fans are awesome.”
The key to keep making a reality show like Jersey Shore vital week after week is to take hours and hours of footage and have it all manage to adhere to an entertaining narrative. Giancola says having her life be played out for entertainment on TV is not always the most pleasant experience.
“Oh, I’ve had some rough times,” she says, “Definitely throughout the seasons, I’ve definitely had some rough times. But I know who I am as a person and I know that I lived in that house and you guys sometimes have only seen an hour a week an episode, so I know you know the whole story of what goes on.”
“It is what it is,” Sammi continues, “I definitely just take it and roll with it. Each week, if this happens, that happens, you just have to move forward and that’s just what I do.”
Sammi was asked if her experiences in past seasons, particularly the aforementioned back and forth with on-and-off-again boyfriend and co-star Ronnie has had an effect on the way she lives her life.
“Yeah, I think what’s really cool is I can actually watch myself on TV and kind of learn from each experience that I go through,” Giancola believes, “So I think every time I watch myself on each season, I grow as a person to change in the future.”
The instant celebrity exposure of Giancola and her fellow cast has led to immense opportunities from hefty fees from promotional appearances to merchandising deals on everything from books to fragrances. Sammi herself has capitalized herself by creating her own fragrance known as Dangerous.
“The perfume was something different that not everybody had in the beginning,” she says of it, “I wanted to do something that really represented me as a person. It’s dangerously sweet, just like me. The scent has almond and vanilla, so it’s very sweet and airy and very light, you’ll love it. And you can get it at Dangerousperfume.com or at Mandee’s stores. It’s something that I’m extremely proud of and I love it. The scent is amazing and it’s definitely a great pick.”
Sammi says she was amazed by the experience of creating the perfume line.
“It’s so surreal,” she says, “I was just working on another perfume and a men’s cologne and I was able to go to perfume factory and actually really see how it’s all done and there’s so many different scents and so much work and oil and all these different smells that go into making a perfume.”
“And you can choose from so many different smells out there,” Giancola says, “It’s so surreal. But that was probably the most amazing part, was going to the perfume factory and really being involved in how perfume is made.”
Giancola was asked about whether the cast talks about the different opportunities they each have received from the success of the show.
“I really think everybody does their own things and what they like to do and we’re all really supportive of one another,” Sammi says, “I support my cast members in everything that they do and I think that’s just how it is with us. We’re all really cool with one another.”
Sammi told us about what amazing moments viewers would expect from the now fifth season of Jersey Shore.
“The amazing thing is we went from Italy straight to Seaside, so we’re all really comfortable with one another and you’re going to see us all have a lot more fun,” Sammi says of it, “Of course, there’s going to be drama, but you’re going to see all of us get along and really just enjoy ourselves and it’s kind of a light season, it’s not going to be so dramatic or it’s so intense, it’s more emotional and it’s more fun.”
We asked Sammi what cast member ends up in jail this time out.
“Oh, you never know,” she replies, “With us, you never know who’s getting arrested, who’s in trouble, who’s doing crazy stuff. With us, it’s just a whirlwind of stuff.”
We then wondered if one of those things included ambulance arrivals.
“I mean, we’re crazy, so you can only imagine what goes on,” Giancola replies.
Sammi was asked what the plans are for Jersey Shore in the future.
“I have no idea what tomorrow will bring,” Giancola replies “I really have no idea if there’s going to be a season six. I hope so. I can do this forever. I love doing it. I love my cast members and I just love the Jersey Shore.”