Teresa Giudice, Real Housewives Of New Jersey

No Danielle? No problem! Despite the departure of series antagonist Danielle Staub at the end of Season 2, there's no shortage of drama ahead for the Real Housewives of New Jersey. Case in point: the reality show's third season premiere (Monday at 9/8c on Bravo). The episode welcomes two new cast members — Teresa Giudice's sister-in-law Melissa Gorga and cousin Kathy Wakile — but keeping it in the family comes at a high price as a fight breaks out at a baptism. Giudice talked with TVGuide.com about how her sister-in-law and cousin joined the show, the tension with her brother, Joe, and the "heartbreaking" portrayal of her family this season.

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It's made clear in the first episode you don't get along with Melissa and Kathy so how did they come to join the show?
Teresa Giudice:
I got the phone call from Bravo. I didn't even know that they were going to be on [the show]. I was like, "Wow." It was weird because I was talking to my cousin, and she never told me. I saw my brother a month before we started filming and there was no mention of anything. So I was pretty shocked.

Do you think Bravo approached them specifically because of the tension within the family?
Giudice:
I heard through the grapevine that they wrote letters trying to get on the show. Last year at the reunion show when I pushed Andy Cohen, Danielle had mentioned my sister-in-law's name, but they cut that part out. I was shocked. It was weird — Danielle is talking to my sister-in-law?

Knowing your strained relationships with Melissa and Kathy, did you ever consider not coming back to the show?
Giudice:
They always say, "Don't mix business and family together." That's my take on it. Not that I didn't want to come back — I never expected what was going to happen. Not in a million years did I expect that to happen. I was like, "All right, let's just do this." ... My brother and I were like best friends and even when Joe and Melissa got married, I was so happy for them. I asked Melissa to be Gabriella's godmother. If I didn't like her, I would have never done that. I was thrilled for them. But after that, things changed. I was also very close with my cousin and then, I started working and started doing the show and things change. I guess that's when she started becoming close to Melissa. That's fine, I have four daughters. I have a lot going on.

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Was there a part of you that hoped filming the series may help bring your family together?
Giudice:
I didn't know what to expect just because I was shocked that they didn't tell me they were in it. That was weird to me from the beginning. .... It breaks my heart for my parents, for my children, it's not the way our family is. It's devastating to me.

A lot of people assumed there would automatically be less tension this season with Danielle gone. How has filming been overall?
Giudice:
Danielle was a stranger and this is family, so it's harder to me. You'll just have to see how it plays out throughout the season.

In the season premiere, your sister-in-law, Melissa, says that you are no longer close with your family because you consider cast mates Caroline Manzo and Jacqueline Laurita to be your family. Do you agree with that?
Giudice:
To me, that's really immature because that's not the case at all. Jacqueline and Caroline are my friends. We do a show together so of course we're going to get a little bit closer, but my family is always my family. They need to step it up too. I'm always making the first step, but it takes two to make a family. It takes both sides. I've gotten busy too. Now I'm a working mom. My brother is always used to me doing everything. He's always used to me putting him on a pedestal. He never put me on a pedestal and I'm fine with that. But now, to make a relationship, you have to meet me halfway.

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How is the dynamic between all five Housewives considering your tension with Melissa and Kathy?
Giudice:
[Caroline and Jacqueline] are just meeting them now. I'm not the type to go up to them and say, "Don't speak to them." Of course they are going to interact with them. But they're my family, so I know the history. Jacqueline and Caroline are newbies to my family.

Was there ever a point where you thought about walking away from the show because of the tension within the family?
Giudice
: The most important thing is my parents and my children and I don't want to hurt them in anyway. What my brother is putting out there is so not what our family is and I don't want to show my children this. This is not how my family is. My daughter Gia turned 10 this year and she's pretty smart. She's like, "What's going on, Mom?" She knows that I'm not doing anything. So I'm just trying to keep everything positive for my daughters, this is not what I want them to see. That's the most important thing to me is my daughters; how I raise them and for them to see good things in life, not things like this.