‘Real Housewives of NJ’s’ Dina Manzo on Haters: ‘I Don’t Care What People Say’

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Dina Manzo (Alex Martinez/Bravo)

The original cast member is back and says she’s better prepared for the reality show this time

After literally walking away from Bravo’s “Real Housewives of New Jersey” on Season 2, Dina Manzo returns for the show’s sixth season, which premieres on Sunday.

Her arrival doesn’t come without some drama. It has been widely known that Dina and her sister, “RHONJ” original castmember Caroline Manzo, had been estranged for years. And now, Dina is back and Caroline and their sister-in-law Jacqueline Laurita aren’t. That’s enough to have tongues wagging — even though Dina has said that she isn’t responsible for her family members’ departures from the series.

“I’ve learned that even when you do the right thing, people will find something to talk about, so I’ve gotten a lot thicker skin than I used to have and I don’t let anything bother me much anymore,” Dina told TheWrap.

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She continued, “I knew there was going to be some, you know, negative things said about me coming back and to be quite honest with you, I really don’t care what people say (laughs). So no, I mean, it’s unfortunate that people have to say stuff but it doesn’t bug me or get to me the way it used to.”

When fans see Dina again, she has come to peace with still being married to her estranged husband and her daughter Lexi is ready to strike out on her own. She’s good friends with returning (and legally challenged) castmember Teresa Giudice and ready to meet the new gals this season, Amber Marchese and identical twin sisters Teresa Aprea and Nicole Mauriello.

TheWrap: What’s your thought process like when you were asked to come back?
Dina Manzo: Not for nothing, I’ve been talking about it every season without a paycheck [laughs]. You know, I was in a totally different place than I have been in the past. I’ve always been welcomed back. Teresa and I, you know, have gotten close again, so it was kind of like, it wasn’t as shocking or jarring as it had been in the past. I never thought I’d go back and this time it was like, “Yeah, you know what, it kind of makes sense.” It was kind of an easy decision.

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Bring us back to when you left the show originally. What’s different now?
I’m always as true to myself as I can possibly be, and that’s what I felt, what it was I wanted to do then, and I don’t try to do everything everyone else wants me to do. It was obvious at that point I wanted to leave, I wasn’t enjoying myself, it wasn’t something I wanted to be a part of anymore. And now I just feel like the show definitely needs to go in a different direction and everyone’s ready for it … I think the hurtful kind of stuff that’s behind the scenes really hurts. I think that there’s too much of that and I think everyone’s ready for a fresh change, so I was confident that that’s how it would be this season. So, it was a different feel. So you’ll see this season, there’s a lot of unexpected twists and turns, but also there’s a lot of feeling of Season 1 when it was kind of like just following people and seeing their interactions with each other and how interesting that is. So, I think the viewers are really going to love this season, they’re going to have a throwback feeling of season one when everybody fell in love with the show.

You are estranged from Caroline and Jacqueline. Do you think that it’s going to be tough to win over their fans this year?
No, because I never did anything bad to them that the fans should not like me for.

You know how it is.
I do, and if that’s how they’re going to think — I can’t change their mind, that’s fine with me. But, you know, it’s not like I hurt anyone and I’m confident with my reasoning behind everything and I never ever said a bad word publicly about them, so if anyone’s not going to like me for that reason I think it’s pretty silly. I don’t think there’s teams to be had. I think there’s a misunderstanding but nobody hates each other.

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Lexi is so grown up. Will we see you dealing with her growing up this season?
You’ll see a lot of that this season with her. You know, when everyone filmed with their family, Lexi is my family, obviously my husband was never part of it, is not a part of it this season, so my single scenes with my family are just me and Lex, so you’ll see a lot of us together and you know, the process of how we’re handling everything, and I think that fans like that connection that we have.

All eyes will be on Teresa’s legal problems this season. How do you handle your relationship with Teresa while she’s dealing with this stuff? Do you give her advice?
No, I don’t.  I keep on telling everyone the honest truth. I don’t know anything about the case, the details, I don’t want to know. I’ve known Teresa since we were 20 years old and that’s the Teresa I know and love and care about. I’m here as her friend, just to cheer her up and go out and go to lunch with the kids and do fun stuff. I’m not that friend that’s prying into her legal business, so I think she likes that about me. It’s like an escape from all of the other people prying into her life and she knows with me she doesn’t need to worry about that, it’s all lighthearted and fun.

You hinted earlier in our conversation that there was going to be lots of drama between the new girls. How do you kind of relate to the new women that are joining and how do you feel about them? How would you describe them to the audience?
You know what, I think it’s a mix of everything the audience loves. They have no idea how funny they actually are. Their one-liners are great, they’re entertaining, but also it’s funny to watch as the veterans, the new girls kind of take everything very seriously, so a lot of stuff gets really blown out of proportion and it just all comes out of nowhere. Like, just when you think you know the storyline, there’s just a curveball that gets thrown in. For me, I think part of it, I was constantly on my toes, what was coming next, so I think the viewers are going to have the same feeling. But it’s going to be extremely entertaining, but a good case study in human nature too.

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Do you think you still have another season in you?
Um, yeah. I mean, I really haven’t even thought about that yet. I don’t think Bravo has even thought about that, they wait until the very end, but as far as this season went, I mean, the end obviously we were all emotionally, physically drained, so the end got a little much, but you know, you get some time off to regroup and ground yourself again and if I was asked back, you know, I would consider it.

“The Real Housewives of New Jersey” returns Sunday at 8/7c on Bravo.