It’s been another wild and ratings record-breaking season of MTV’s Jersey Shore. Below, co-creator and executive producer SallyAnn Salsano (a Long Islander who spent summer weekends partying at Seaside Heights herself) exclusively spoke to EW to answer our burning questions: What’s coming in tonight’s finale, what we should expect when the gang goes to Italy next season, and why one planned Shore spin-off will be like The Hangover and the other will be like Laverne & Shirley. Let’s get to it:
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Ronnie and Sammi’s epic fight was the showstopping moment of the season. As the producer, what was your reaction?
SALLYANN SALSANO: I spent more time with Ronnie crying than I know what to do with, and I had to drink enough water so that I didn’t dehydrate. I genuinely love these kids and I get attached and involved in their world. As it’s all going down, it’s as real as it gets. I’ve been at that age where nobody can tell you what to do. We’ve all been in that relationship, or had a friend in that relationship, where they need to come to that realization on their own and there’s nothing you can say or do. They’ve seen [their behavior] on TV, Sammi saw him in Miami, they show up in Seaside, the same stuff is going down — at some point you say, “All right, she likes this.”
Do you find it difficult to maintain a balance between being a producer on the show and advising them? On one hand, it’s great drama for TV, but on the other, I’m sure you get to the point where even you’re like, “You guys aren’t right for each other.”
You guys see seven minutes of [fighting] a week, I’m seeing 14 hours. And what I’ve found is once you say something out loud you’re on the hook for it. So it’s not so much advising them as sometimes throwing it out there as a question during the interviews: “How did this go down? How do you see it? How do you think I see it?” And sometimes by them talking it out, then it becomes real. Their feelings for each other are so strong that it sometimes overrides right and wrong.
Can you talk about the decision for Sammi to leave and come back? The impression I got from watching the show after Angelina left is that there’s a rule that once you go you couldn’t return.
No. With Angelina it was different, because she wanted to go at the end of the first season and then in the second season she wanted to stay, but she literally didn’t have a friend in the house. At some point you have to look at what’s organic to the story — you don’t stay in a beach house with a bunch of people who don’t like you. With Samantha, she needed some space, she needed to get away and be with her mom. At the time she really didn’t know if she was going to come back or not.
After some initial drama, Deena got along well with everybody for the rest of the season. Was that a good thing? Will she be back?
Yeah, all signs point to Deena to coming back. The intention was for her to get along. In season one, Deena called Snooki all the time. Snooki — what I would call “four ex-boyfriends ago” — spent two summers with Deena at the Shore hanging out. There’s a long history there.
Are you going to add any new cast members next season?
No, we’re happy with our cast.
What do you think of The Situation saying he’s only going to stay on the show another year and then he will do movies?
I honestly wish nothing but success for all of them. You just gotta do the chicken and the egg theory.
Between the backed-up toilet, Snooki’s poop talk, the underwear, it’s been a very scatological season. Was that too much or just being realistic?
It’s what they’re like. They waited five days to call Danny to fix the toilet. I wouldn’t wait that long personally, but, you know, it’s not my house.
What do you think about the commercials starring cast members of Jersey Shore airing during Jersey Shore?
That’s not up to me. It doesn’t matter what I think.
I thought you might have an opinion about it.
I think the cast is very good when they are themselves in [the show’s] setting, and that’s where they shine.
Let’s talk about going to Italy next season. What do you think that will do for the show?
I think it’s going to be fun. Just getting them there will be an entertaining thing to watch. I have fun watching them go to a grocery store in America. I think there everything will be fun. Communication will be funny. It’s a culture that they’re interested in, and I think it’s probably different than they think it is.
Do you have a sense of the popularity of the show over there? Will there be hoards of gawkers like at Seaside or will they be able to skate a bit more under-the-radar?
You don’t know. I was shocked in Miami how crazy it was in season two. I don’t know what to expect. The show airs in Italy and does well, but I don’t know the culture, whether it’s the same to just show up and stand outside [the house].
Will they have jobs in Italy? And with them being financially well off, does it get a little odd to have them working a summer job on the show?
I’m not planning on changing the show at all, just changing location. Everybody can relate to the summer job, and at the end of the day they haven’t really changed as people and they all come from working families.
Spin-off update. The Pauly D show is about him working in the clubs — is that finished?
That was so much fun. I never laughed so hard in my life. Both [the spin-offs] feel very different from Jersey Shore. If you’re a fan of the Shore you’ll still like them, but they don’t feel like rip-offs. It’s funny to see them in their own world. It’s Pauly in the clubs and his home-life with his best friends, his posse. His head of security, his manager — those are his childhood buddies that helped him get his first gig at sweet 16. This guy is getting paid $50 grand a night to DJ and he’s still got his same people around him. It’s awesome. You know when you watch a bunch of guys who’ve known each other forever razz on each other? Like in The Hangover? That’s what they’re like all the time.
And the second one, starring Snooki and JWoww?
That’s another one we were in stitches the whole time. I always call it Snooki and JWoww Save the World. It’s just letting them loose in the regular universe. JWoww wants to move out of her house where she lived with her boyfriend, Snooki has to get out from her parent’s wing, so they move in together — we’re not buying them a house. It’s real. They’re really buying it. This is all new to Snooki — buying toilet paper, and paying a bill — things that seem normal to you and I are completely foreign to Snooks. The two of them alone is completely hysterical. They have a Laverne & Shirley kind of thing.
MTV is also deciding whether to renew Skins, which, like Shore, confronted controversy during its first season. Any opinion on whether MTV should renew it?
I’m like a 14-year-old girl: I watch the network as a fan. I like the show. I’ve never been a network executive and I don’t know all of the millions of things that go into those decisions. But for me personally? I’d love for it to go on.
Can you tease to the Shore finale?
Everything you thought about every person comes true. You see everybody’s true colors in a good and bad way. You’ll see some resolution. Normally, the last episode is getting everybody out of the house and saying goodbye. But this episode ties up some loose ends. And then for the [March 31st] reunion, stuff has completely changed. There’s definitely new video, and Ronnie and Sammi are an interesting segment to watch, and there’s interesting stuff with Snooki and Vinny. Sometimes in a reunion it’s just a recap, but this time you’ll get new information that connects the dots, and there’s a lot of stuff that ends up coming out.