SallyAnn Salsano Talks Switch From ‘Jersey Shore’ Guidos to ‘Blue Collar Millionaires': It’s About the American Dream

“I think it’s like if you take ‘Dirty Jobs’ and ‘Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous’ and combine it, it’s this show,” the 495 Productions CEO tells TheWrap of CNBC series during new edition of “Office With a View”

Last Updated: July 15, 2015 @ 2:35 PM

Even though SallyAnn Salsano has produced a string of hit reality shows like MTV’s “Jersey Shore,” she acknowledges that it can be a stressful experience.

“We’re not on a soundstage with actors. It’s just kind of a free for all,” Salsano told TheWrap. Nevertheless, the founder and CEO of 495 Productions relishes the chance to roll up her sleeves and get into the grunt work on her shows.

In fact, that type of work ethic is the basis for Salsano’s newest show, “Blue Collar Millionaires,” which premieres on CNBC July 15 at 10pm/9c. The show follows real people with not-so-glamorous jobs who have nevertheless made themselves a fortune.

“The thing about ‘Blue Collar Millionaires,’ it’s one of the first shows that encompasses the American Dream,” she said. “And it also goes to show that work ethic goes above all else.”

The reality TV maven spoke with TheWrap about what she looks for when deciding to produce a show, her hands-on approach to her work, and the moment she knew “Jersey Shore” was going to be a hit.

What are the biggest challenges in producing a reality show?
When you produce a true reality show, I think that’s the challenge in and of itself. You’re dealing with normal people. You’re dealing with normal life stuff coming in the way and you really can’t always plan for everything. Especially when we were shooting “Blue Collar Millionaires.” You’re dealing with people who are doing cement or digging trenches or doing outdoor work and weather conditions can ruin a shoot. We’re not on a soundstage with actors. It’s just kind of a free for all.

What was the inspiration for “Blue Collar Millionaires?”
It came from the fact that I think, “Never underestimate what people earn.” I was raised in a very blue-collar home, and I will tell you that I think I had a much better life than a lot of my friends whose families had more money than us. I think because it’s a different mentality of not living above your means, saving and squandering, and I think if you look at it from “What I’ve put into it is what I’ll get out of it,” that’s what a lot of people take for granted.

What can people expect when watching it?
The thing about “Blue Collar Millionaires,” it’s one of the first shows that encompasses the American Dream. And I think it’s like if you take “Dirty Jobs” and “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous” and combine it, it’s this show. Because it’s like yeah, you may shovel shit for a living and people will judge you, but at the end of the day if someone paid you $5-10 million to do it, would you?

And it also goes to show that work ethic goes above all else. I think it’s underestimated that if you put in enough of your own time and resources and heart, you can make it happen for yourself. And a lot of people will wave the college flag, and I went to college and I’m not saying it’s a total waste of time, but if you also get into something that you love and can still make a great life for you and your family, I think that’s what this show’s about. It’s about being passionate, taking risks and getting your hands dirty in order to be rich.

How hands-on are you as a producer?
Annoyingly hands-on. I was just on the phone with one of my production guys in the Dominican Republic about placement of a bathroom that we’re building outside. I get into the nitty gritty of it all. Some networks would say it’s good. If you work for me you would probably say it’s super-annoying.

Where did the idea for “Jersey Shore” come from?
I grew up going to the Jersey Shore. Some would say I’m probably a guido. So I think it was a little life imitating art, art imitating life. There was a woman who worked at VH1 at the time and she called me up saying, “You’re the biggest guido I know. You’re making a show on guidos.” And I fought it and was like “No, I’m not.” But finally I gave in and thank God I did.

Is there pressure on you now to produce a show as popular as “Jersey Shore?”
It’s always like that. Every network says to you, “Oh my God, I want you to make our ‘Jersey Shore!'” But at the time we didn’t know we were making “Jersey Shore.” But also, you have to be willing to take a risk, because we know what we did to make that show. So when we say, “Great, here’s what we need to do,” and everyone goes, “Well we don’t want to do that,” I say, “Well I don’t know what to tell you then.”

What do you look for when deciding whether or not to produce a show?
I look for something that I don’t know how it’s going to end. I know for me something should have a clear start, middle and end. But for me, if I could tell you what the end’s going to before I start, I’m not interested. Because I think in reality TV in order for it to be good you have to expect the unexpected. If I can tell what’s going to happen the whole way through, so can the audience.

When did you know “Jersey Shore” was going to be a hit?
That show, night one, we were like “Holy God.” It was just off to the races. Just the characters were so fun to watch. And the people on the East Coast were like, “Oh my God, this was so me when I was a kid!” And other people were like, “There are people like this in the universe?” So I feel like the combination of that is really what made it good.