The strained relationship between Teresa Giudice and her brother, Joe Gorga and his wife, Melissa, is no secret to Real Housewives of New Jersey fans. Just witness the violent post-christening brawl in the Season 3 premiere and the dramatic letter Teresa sent to her brother two episodes ago. But the worst part is that for all the hostility caught on camera between brother and sister, there's even more drama off-screen. "Anything that you're seeing is not half of it," new cast member Melissa Gorga tells TVGuide.com.
After years of friction, Melissa (and her and Teresa's cousin, Kathy Wakile) joined the Bravo reality series in its third season. But while the cameras might have served to bring the two sides closer together physically, so far, they haven't been much of a band-aid emotionally for the two families. "I think she was very upset when we got on the show because this was her thing and she didn't want us to be a part of it," Gorga says. The mother of three also talked with TVGuide.com about her burgeoning singing career, why she really never meant to attack Teresa on the show and her sister-in-law's "transparent" efforts to change.
How has it been to see yourself on the show and the fan reaction?
Melissa Gorga: It's been kind of crazy. I'm not really used to it. Everywhere I go, I get spotted so it's a new world for me.
Do you feel you've been portrayed fairly on the show so far?
Melissa: I'm going to have to say the first one or two episodes I was a little disappointed with and I felt that they were heavily edited. And they were. I get it because they wanted to come out with a bang. I do feel like the more you get to know us and know my family, you're going to see more of the real us and more of the real me and the real Joe. They're definitely edited, but I feel like now as I'm watching, I'm seeing more of who we are.
How did your family react when you first started talking about joining The Real Housewives of New Jersey?
Melissa: We didn't want to do it at first, and Joe was definitely saying no to the point where it was pretty much a no. Then, he took that I do sing into account and that it is a huge opportunity, and we kind of thought maybe we could outsmart them. This will be fun. They will show all the good parts and nothing bad will come out because we're too smart for them. ... I guess we were wrong.
Teresa has told the press that you and Kathy approached Bravo about joining the show and not the other way around. Is there any truth to that?
Melissa: What happened was, I was really just driving in my car on a Friday afternoon when they called me. They just said, "Hi, its The Real Housewives of New Jersey producers. We're from Bravo. We want to interview you." I have no idea how they found me. I think they found Kathy on Facebook. Neither of us pursued it, wanted it, were looking for it — it just kind of fell into our laps. Bravo is smart, they figured it out. They heard through the grapevine that there was some type of tension. ... They caught on to it.
How has it been to hear what Teresa has been telling the cameras and her friends about you and Joe and to hear her side of the story?
Melissa: Every time I watch it, I kind of cringe and I'm like, "Oh, come on." I can't control what she films or what she says, whether she's going to say the truth or not. I have no control over that, so it's extremely difficult because you have someone sitting there trying to put a taste into America's mouth about who we are because, the truth is, they know who she is. They don't know us. They're going to take what she says and use it against us and judge us on it when sometimes it's just not true. It stinks because you're stuck in this spot where you just have to let it air and hopefully, as they get to know you more, you prove yourself.
Do you have faith that your truth about your and Joe's relationship with Teresa will come by the end of the season?
Melissa: Yes. I know it was said. I know that it was filmed so I don't know what they're going to choose to air and what they are going to choose not to air.
Did you have a plan about how to address the issue going into filming? Did you expect Teresa to say so many things to the camera about her thoughts on the situation?
Melissa: I knew she was going to go in and say, "I don't know what everybody is talking about. Nothing is wrong and I don't know what everybody is talking about." Once that happened at the christening, I felt the need to explain why my husband feels this way and why he acted that way, because I didn't want everyone to think this is just the way we are and that my husband was a raging bull. I wanted everyone to understand that it was very hurtful for him and it was really a lot of feelings that have been held in for years and years, long before The Real Housewives of New Jersey even came into play. The story just started to come out by itself. I didn't want to go out there and say, "I'm going to go on this show and attack Teresa." I never, ever had that in my mind at all. As you can see in most of the scenes, I'm not trying to attack her. I'm really not. There's so much dirty laundry that if I wanted to do that, I could. I really don't do that. I tippy-toe around most of it. My intentions were not to attack her in any way.
In the last episode, Teresa made a distinction between her old self — who threw out your cookies and things like that — and the new Teresa. Have you seen a difference?
Melissa: I think maybe she's trying. She's trying to be a new Teresa, but Teresa is Teresa. You cannot change a person. A leopard does not change their spots. ... You can say what you want to the people, but I feel like it's very transparent and everyone sees right through it. I know I do. I see certain times where she is acting a certain way, and I just wonder: Does America see it or is it just me?
Do you think shooting the show has changed your and Joe's relationship with Teresa?
Melissa: You're going to see us take a trip to Punta Cana so you will see fun times and you will see our relationship take a turn for the better at some points. I'm not going to deny that it's a roller coaster though and that we go up and down, up and down.
Viewers are also going to get your pop star side as you start pursuing a singing career. How long have you been singing and trying to go professional?
Melissa: I have been singing my whole life, but never professionally. It's just something that I always loved. ... This is a great stepping stone for it. I have had the talent my whole life. I have always been the girl who can get on the stage and not be shy. I'm so excited that they captured this all, because it's a little biography for me as well because I have to see the steps I had to go through to make this happen.
Are you ready for the inevitable comparisons to the many other Real Housewives-turned-pop-singers?
Melissa: Of course, I'm waiting for it. I'm ready for it, and I hope I prove everyone wrong.
The Real Housewives of New Jersey airs Sunday at 10/9c on Bravo.