Throughout the first three seasons of Bravo's "The Real Housewives of New Jersey," Caroline Manzo has been the mother hen. Housewives have come and gone -- including her younger sister Dina -- but Caroline has remained the most level-headed, stern-voiced, big-hearted member of the cast. However, her image seems to have taken a hit going into Season 4 (premiering Sunday, April 22 at 10 p.m. ET on Bravo).
When viewers last saw Caroline on "The Real Housewives of New Jersey" Season 3 reunion, she was arguably the most emotional and upset we'd ever seen her ... and fellow original housewife Teresa Giudice was at the center of it all.
The cast -- which also includes Caroline's sister-in-law Jacqueline Laurita, who seemingly refused to attend the reunion, and relative newcomers Kathy Wakile, who is Teresa's cousin, and Teresa' sister-in-law Melissa Gorga -- was in the midst of filming Season 4 when the reunion taped. Though Caroline famously once said that her family is "thick as thieves," there was a lot of bad blood amongst the New Jersey housewives. Viewers sadly learned that Caroline's relationship with Dina had been strained and, as Caroline recently told HuffPost TV, that remains true to this day.
Below, the New Jersey native opens up about whether or not she and Dina will be able to patch things up, what went wrong with Teresa, the topic that she knows will lead her to "cry a lot of tears" while watching, why the ham game is retired and the reason why she'd stop doing the show.
Your family always seems to genuinely have so much fun together. And with each season, we get a little bit of insight into the silly things that you do together, like the ham game and Chris' Cajun voice. What can we look forward to this season?
I don't know. There's so many crazy things we do. There's a million different voices and I don't know what they'll capture, but the Cajun voice has never gone away. When the phone rings and it's Christopher, it's like, [imitates Cajun voice] "Hey Mama!" So that is still very prevalent. As far as anything else, it's something we don't think about, it's very natural to us. What the camera captures, I'm not sure, so I guess we'll find out together!
But the ham game, that's retired.
It's retired because now, they pay rent and they have to pay for their own ham. It cracks me up because I always said to them, "Wait 'til you pay for your own ham." And now, it's like hilarious because I'll hear one of them say, "Why'd you order that movie? You didn't need to buy that movie. It costs X amount of dollars." So they're very conscious now of the money they spend on silly things, like ham that they're gonna throw. They got their big boy pants on now.
In the Season 3 reunion, when viewers last saw you, things were very emotional and heated between you and Teresa. And you mentioned that you should have taken your own advice two years ago and taken her out of your life. What did you see in her that made you say that?
Oh, you know, just behavior patterns that you don't agree with; philosophies on life that you don't agree with. And you give people a pass a lot. Time after time, you attribute it to a bad day or a large age difference. And then, after a while, you start to realize, "Wait a minute. It's more than that." Things that I just let slide, for one reason or another, they just started to get compounded, and then you realize this is a pattern and it's in somebody's DNA, if you will. And then you make a decision.
Was Teresa even a friend of yours to begin with?
Teresa was and still is Dina's friend. The viewers make assumptions that we were best buddies, but no, she was part of a group, an ensemble that we traveled with. So my relationship with her was very different than it was with Jacqueline or than it was with Dina -- especially Dina. She was a friendly acquaintance: Yes, I stood up for her, and yes, I protected her because it's human decency to be that way. If you know someone and they're in a situation, of course you want to help them out, of course you want to protect them when they need it. It's just the right thing to do. It's just the right way to behave. It's kind of like love-they-neighbor policy. But the relationship between Teresa and I was never that deep. I did respect her as human being and as a person, but we never were girlfriends where we hung out and went to dinner and went shopping and talked on the phone. That never was a relationship that she and I shared.
It always did seem like you two were in very different places, with your kids moving out and she was still having kids when the show started.
It has nothing to do with who she is or who I am; I am a lot older than her. I am in a different place in my life than she is and that's all it is. It's just a matter of there not being that much in common between us to have that deep of a relationship. It's not a matter of me feeling that I was better than her or that I didn't like her; it's just a matter of us being different people in different places in our lives.
In the trailer for Season 4, we see you tell Teresa that you can't even look at her. Is your relationship with her at a point now that it's not even salvageable?
You can never say something's never salvageable, but when you're sorry you have to mean it. You have to be genuine in what you say. And if you're not genuine in what you say then don't waste your words. The story's gonna be told throughout the season and I hope people at the end of the season will have enough information to form their own opinion. And when they form their own opinion, I'm very well aware that some people are going to say, "I agree with Caroline" and some people are going to say, "I don't agree with Caroline." But that's what makes the world go round. So right now, where I am, is pretty much where you saw me last, but you'll see the story play out in the season and who knows where we'll wind up.
Going back to Season 1 and instances like that dinner with Danielle, when everyone defended Teresa, do you have any regrets?
Not at all. That's how I felt in the moment and I stand by what I said and what I did, absolutely. I don't have any regrets. I would only regret something that I did in a thoughtless manner. I was reckless with Kathy and Melissa when I first met them. And I felt badly afterwards and I owed them an apology, and I made sure that apology was made nationally. I'm not ashamed to say I did something wrong and I acted badly.
And now, most viewers of the show know -- from the Season 3 reunion and the Season 4 trailer -- that Teresa has driven a wedge between you and Dina. When I first saw that, it broke my heart. How are you two now?
It's the same. And if it breaks your heart, can you imagine how I feel? I remember the day she was born. I decorated her cradle. I remember when my mom told me she was pregnant with her. I'm 11 years older than Dina. She's more than my baby sister, but again, I have never shied away from anything negative and I've said many many times, "Look at the footage." We fight. I'm one of 11 kids. We fight all the time. And a fight can last a day, a week, a month, a year, who knows? But we always come back, and Dina will be back.
It's not just me. If it were just me, I would have to look and say, "Okay, Caroline. What'd you do? What'd you say?" And I don't know and I still don't know, but I'm going to leave it at that. Whatever beating I take in the press and through the court of public opinion, I'm willing to take that beating because I won't hurt my parents. I don't want to make this into something bigger than what it should be. It's a very personal thing. It's a very hurtful thing. But in time, we will mend and quite frankly, the only people that I have to worry about what they feel is my family. And I will always behave in a manner that will make them proud and I'll show my kids that sometimes, you gotta take a little beating in life to do the right thing. I'm willing to take the beating.
And speaking of your family, how has this affected them? Has there been any point where they wanted you to bow out of the show?
No, never. Never never never never. You'll see my brother get married on the show this season. You've seen a couple of my other sisters, my mom, my dad. We're a huge family. We're a very passionate group of people, but I swear to you, the day this show affects my family life in a negative way where I have to worry about a relationship ending because of a television show, I will be gone faster than a blink of an eye. Because at the end of the day, that's all that matters.
So there's never been a point where you've considered leaving the show?
Listen, it's like any other job in the world. You have your good days and you have your bad days. I have had some amazing opportunities and done some amazing things because of this television show. And I will forever be grateful to Bravo for it. And I've had some really crappy days because of the show. But, guess what? People go into work and have amazing and crappy days. That's life. But the minute it affects my role in my life as Albert's wife and my kids' mother, I'm gone.
What can we expect as the lighter moments of what seems to be a very drama-filled Season 4?
We had a lot of fun on our trip to California. Just stupid, slapstick, kind of make-no-sense comedy. Like real belly laughs. I look forward to watching my kids and what they're doing in their lives because it's just a "proud mommy" kind of thing. I think this year you see a lot more of the guys and they're funny. And they kind of get us through a lot of nonsense, which is great.
What can you tell us about what's going on with Ashley?
Right now, she's living in LA. She's been there about eight months and she's doing well and she's learning what it takes to survive on her own. She's had to make some sacrifices and adjustments. And I think her relationship with Jacqueline is stronger than ever. It's good to see her grow up the hard way and she's gonna take her lumps, but, you know what? That's good. That's positive. She will grow from this and be a better person because of it. So I think she's in the right place right now. She's probably in the best place she could be.
It seems like every season there's a moment that gets very emotional with your daughter Lauren, usually centering on her struggles with her weight. Are either of you ever worried about talking about that on national TV?
That was Lauren's decision to make. I will never ever put my children in a position where they have to talk about something that they're not comfortable with. And she has found through her journey that so many people are saying, "Thank you for having the courage to put it out there because not many do." And I will say that over the past year, Lauren went into a dark place that had me very, very worried and that story plays out. I couldn't be prouder of her. She's still on her way to finding out who she is, but you're going to see some pretty deep moments with Lauren this year … I'm sure I will cry a lot of tears watching it because there's no pain like the pain of a parent when their child hurts.
When was the last time you saw Danielle?
Oh my god. I don't even know. It was probably the reunion [for Season 2]. I don't know anything about her life now. It's something, someone that passes through your life as many other people have, and I don't even think about her. I don't want it to seem like I'm saying that in a negative way; she's just not a part of my life. I don't know where she is, what she's doing and listen, live your life. That's fine.
Who is your favorite non-Jersey housewife?
They're all such amazing personalities and I'm not just saying that to be politically correct, but they all have something about them that cracks me. Lisa Vanderpump comes walking in and she's dressed to the nines at 2 in the afternoon. She cracks me up. I don't even know. She's always on. And then you have the Atlanta girls with their one-liners that have me rolling on the floor. You wanna insult somebody, you call one of the Atlanta girls cause they do it in style. It's hilarious. And the New York ladies are such Type A personalities that having a conversation with them, you need a Xanax after, and you're cracking up laughing because they're funny. So I can't say I have a favorite because each one offers me something that I get a kick out of.
Well, being from New Jersey, I have to say you all hold a special place in my heart.
Thank you. You get us. We're a special breed.
"The Real Housewives of New Jersey" Season 4 premieres on Bravo on Sunday, April 22 at 10 p.m. ET.