Dina Manzo on Table-Flipping Teresa: 'That's Not the Woman I Know' (EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW)
The former 'RHONJ' defends hot-tempered Giudice and opens up about her latest career move: acting.
At 41, Dina Manzo is reinventing herself.
After a brief stint as one of the Real Housewives of New Jersey, Manzo has landed the role of Allessandra on NYC Brand Productions' soap-within-a-soap dramedy Tainted Dreams, news that Celebuzz broke exclusively last week.
In preparation for the new gig, Celebuzz spoke to the Jersey wife about her future endeavor, including how she got the gig in the first place.
How did your role as Allessandra DiGiacomo on Tainted Dreams come about? I’m a friend of [the creator] Sonia Blangiardo, and we’ve worked together before. I also worked with [My Big Gay Italian Wedding star] Anthony Wilkinson, who is playing my brother on the series. Anthony and I have a natural chemistry together, so Sonia picked up on that and wrote the role with me in my mind — which is funny because my character is kind of a bitch! [Laughs] But I think she’s a bitch with a good heart.
Would that describe you? [Laughs] When I’m at work, I can definitely get my b**** on. It’s going to be fun.
Have you acted before? And, if so, how cool is it that your first role was written specifically with you in mind? I have not acted before. This is my first official acting gig, so I’m very excited. As a little girl, I wanted to be a back-up singer. I never wanted to be in the spotlight but I knew I wanted to be a part of it. So, I either wanted that or to be on a soap opera. I would have loved to have been a [recurring or supporting] player on All My Children or One Life to Live, so I could just be a part of Erica Kane or Viki Lord’s lives, [respectively]. And now it’s happening!
Is acting a new long-term career goal? I don’t know. What’s funny is that NeNe always wanted to pursue an acting career. For me, [this role] just came to up. Once I get into it, I’ll see if I like it and, if I do, I’ll pursue it. I love and respect the whole industry from production to the writing. Even with my own show, I’m fascinated with the production realm of it all.
We really admired you for leaving Real Housewives of New Jersey; it was a very brave move. Do you regret leaving? Or are you happy you invested in your own catharsis by focusing on your real, not reel, life? I don’t regret it, and I’m so happy I did leave. I had to be true to myself. Everyone thought I was crazy walking away from a super-successful show, and all the red carpets you’re invited to. But it wasn’t me. I wasn’t going home from work every day happy — and that, to me, is very important. I have my own show now on HGTV [Dina's Party]; I’m starring on Tainted Dreams; and my charity, Lady Bug, is nationwide and very successful.
It was nice, albeit shocking, to see you back on the series this past season. Were you nervous — even though you only appeared in a few party scenes? I was super-nervous! I had my reasons, which I will keep to myself. It had nothing to do with anything happening on Housewives; it had to do with my foundation, LadyBug. I do support Teresa [Giudice] behind the scenes. I mean, I go to all of her events. I had asked [the producers] not to mic me, but one thing led to another, and when you drink you some Fabellini, well, one thing leads to another. [Laughs] It is what it is, and I can’t do anything about it now. In hindsight, I would have gone to support Teresa, but I would’ve refused to wear a mic because they did twist my words.
Are you surprised you and Teresa are friends? Do you think Teresa is misunderstood? We liked the Teresa we saw on Celebrity Apprentice. I’ve known Teresa for over 15 years, and the Teresa I know is the one I saw on Celebrity Apprentice. Housewives is somewhat produced and -- I hate to say it -- set up to put you in a [contrived] situation you normally wouldn’t put yourself in. Would I go to a dinner with Danielle Staub? No, but I had to [contractually] attend that dinner. The Teresa I know is misunderstood. She is somewhat quiet. She’ll go out and have fun with you, but, in 15 years of knowing her, I have never seen her flip a table before. I have never seen an ounce of a temper from Teresa. In these Housewives situations, it brings out the worst and the best in people. There’s a log of egging on behind the scenes.
Do you watch Real Housewives of New Jersey now that you’re not on? I don’t watch [regularly], but I did watch last season when it was on a rerun at 2 a.m. because I knew I’d be on the season so I could follow [the storylines]. To be honest with you, I love Beverly Hills and New York; they’re both fun and fascinating for their own reasons. But watching Jersey, well, it gives me anxiety for several reasons. Even if I didn’t know everyone on [the show], the franchise would still give me anxiety because there are so many women being hurt. The other franchise, it’s more about the women insulting each other or whatever. But on Jersey, it’s about families being hurt.
Tell me about your charity, Project LadyBug. We help children with cancer and, to me, there is nothing better than helping children, who should be running around playgrounds, not hooked up to machines in hospitals. Anything we can do to make their day easier, we do. We do everything from paying for their birthday parties to renovating complete hospital wings to incentive programs, which give kids a gift after every chemo session. We’re all about turning a negative experience into a positive one. I hope one day we stop losing these children. No parent should lose a child.
Will we see you back on Real Housewives in 2013? Or are you over it? I said I wouldn’t do it this [upcoming] season because of all the wonderful projects I’m working on this year; but I can’t help it if the show keeps me a part of it. Listen, this is something I signed on for a few years ago and they’re allowed to use my image or name. Rumor has it I’m coming up this new season again. It’s just funny that I left the show a couple of years ago, yet I’m still the topic of conversation!
You mean you’re coming up in the new season as conversation or are you appearing on the show? No, I’m not gong back on. But, like I said, I do support Theresa and if there is a party, I may show up to support her but I won’t be mic’d this time! I’ll be in the background, I promise!
-- Written by Nelson Branco