After that jaw-dropping trailer, Real Housewives of New Jersey fans are more than eager to take in everything the latest season has to offer. During an EXCLUSIVE interview with HollywoodLife, new “friend of” to the cast, Traci Lynn Johnson, teased some juicy details ahead of the drama, promising an “explosive” season with plenty to look forward to.
You’re the first “friend” of the RHONJ ladies since Danielle Staub left the series at the end of Season 10. Did you feel like you had big shoes to fill?
I think probably for most of the cast I was a welcome addition from Danielle [laughs]. When Melissa [Gorga] approached me [she said], ‘We’ve been friends for so long I think you should come and hang out with these girls.’ Quite honestly I’m so happy I did because not only did I get to further cement my bond with Melissa (we’ve been friends for the past 8-9 years), but also I formed such great relationships with the other ladies on the cast — most of them, anyways. I feel like it was such a great opportunity and I’m really grateful for it.
How did your husband, [Former New York Giants running back] Tiki Barber, feel about you joining the show? Was he all for it or did he have some hesitations?
You know what, most people would think Tiki would be like, ‘There’s no way I’m doing it at all,’ but he had so much fun with Joe Gorga! He was like, ‘Any chance to hang out with Joe more I’m all in!'”
Who would you say you got along with the most while filming and who did you butt heads with the most and why?
I obviously get along best with Melissa. We’ve been friends way before filming so she’s watched my children grow up — she knows a lot about me. But I really clicked with Margaret [Josephs] and Dolores [Catania], they’re just such good souls. They will 100% tell you like it is, but they’re both mature enough to realize [that] we may have differences of opinion and we can live with our differences and still be friends — we don’t always have to agree. Which I love because I’m not one to back down from my opinion but I also don’t want to fight with you every turn just because you don’t agree with me.
Some other women I get into tiffs here and there with and some more explosive arguments … Teresa [Giudice] mainly [laughs]. She seems to be a catalyst of a lot of drama on this season. We’ll have to wait and see how it unfolds and there are some moments where I scratch my head and wonder why.
What can you tell us about the cast trip to Nashville? How fun was it and did that trip become a catalyst for more drama that followed?
Nashville became a large catalyst for continued drama to even occur but honestly, other than those Teresa moments in Nashville, the rest of the trip was so fun and so needed. It was at the end of a long summer with these women and I really think a lot of them let their guard down and really enjoyed everything that the city had to offer and we just had so much fun, we [had] so many different and fun experiences that I would never do if I just traveled with Tiki there.
It was a really great chance to bond with them more and to get to know the women better. What is a Jersey trip without some drama?
In the trailer, it appears as though Teresa and Margaret’s big fight goes down there — what can you tell us about that?
Definitely at dinner what started off [as] a conversation with Teresa and I that was pretty civil […] Margaret jumped on in and it seemed like within seconds the table was being flipped on us and it was like a table flip 2.0.
How did the fight make you feel? Did you take a side, and if so, whose?
I think I definitely took a side during that moment but quite honestly, I was in shock. I never in my life have experienced grown women acting like that. This was something that should have been in high school [laughs]. It was a total shock to see that even happen. I [was] definitely taken aback. And poor Margaret, her whole dress got ruined!
You’ve been friends with Melissa for years, so where do you stand on her on-again/off-again feud with Teresa?
It was more difficult being around Teresa more than before. I met Teresa a couple times at things for Melissa’s children and at different events that we’ve all attended, but I never really got to know her. Now I felt like I really needed to defend Melissa and figure out […] sometimes Teresa can be pretty hypocritical in what she expects from her brother as opposed to what she actually delivers to her brother, too. Her actions don’t always coincided with her words.
So, I felt like this season it was a great opportunity for me to see first hand these stories that Melissa does tell me and to experience them myself. And in that way, it was easier for me to be more empathetic toward Melissa, too.
What do you think is the core of the Melissa-Teresa feud? Do you think it’s because of this triangulation with Joe because he and Teresa have that close sibling relationship?
I would love to say that there’s a core to this feud but I think it’s just year after year different things get thrown into the mix. [They’ll] settle one score that they have but then, three months later, something else happens. Then they just dreg up all the rest of the drama that’s happened in the past so I think the real core of the issue is they just can’t settle and be done.
It kind of feels like the familial drama is consistently brought up because something deep is never really resolved.
If something deep has not been resolved and they don’t know what that is the cycle is just gonna continue until that one core issue is resolved between them. And I hope it does soon because I know it breaks Joe’s heart every time he fights with Teresa because he loves his sister so much.
If asked to return for another season, would you? Why or why not?
I would definitely return! It sounds like such a silly answer but everyone, from my two daughters who loved being with Jennifer [Aydin’s] children and Jackie [Goldschneider’s] girls to my husband loving being part of the house husband crew … I think the girls are so genuine and amazing to be around. It’s such a fun dynamic when we’re all together and all in a good mood which, you know [laughs]. But it’s just a great opportunity to hang out with your friends.