You may not know SallyAnn Salsano’s name, but you definitely know her shows. From Jersey Shore to Party Down South to Floribama Shore, Salsano has been introducing us to some of the quirkiest characters on TV for more than a decade. The queen of reality TV partnered with CMT for her newest show, Bachelorette Weekend, which documents the work and play of Bach Weekend, a Nashville-based company that delivers over-the-top experiences for brides- (and grooms-) to-be…and their friends. And while the show highlights Nashville and its insanely popular bachelorette party scene, at the heart of Bachelorette Weekend are the people who work there—CEO Robbie, sales director Rosa, photographer JJ, COO Rachal and party planners Nicole and Liz—a team of dedicated, hilarious and lovable crazies. Just the type of cast Salsano likes best.
Salsano talked to Sounds Like Nashville about her love of Music City, what makes this cast so much fun to watch and her real-life experiences with reality TV.
Nashville is the hottest destination for bachelor and bachelorette parties, but not everyone knows that. How did the idea for Bachelorette Weekend get on your radar?
I got a call from CMT, who I did Party Down South with, and it was legitimately one of my favorite networks I’ve ever worked for. I just love them top to bottom. They’re creative, they’re kind, they’re respectful. They are grateful. It is like they are just what you want in a network. They said all the girls in our Nashville office are talking about this thing—about this surge that’s happening in Nashville—will you check it out and see if it’s anything? I love when people do that to me because me and my entire team are constantly just trying to like find the next thing.
And how did you meet the crew from Bach Weekend?
My team and I divide and conquer, get on the phone, and they start talking. I’m like, I think that there’s something here. So we Skype with them because I like to see what people will look like onscreen. CMT was like, “We’ll fly your gang down, spend two days with them and tell us if there’s a show. If you think there’s a show, we’ll make a show.” So we go down there, we meet them and they’re amazing. The rest is history.
Had you been to Nashville prior to the show?
I was there about 10 years ago. We had done a season of Design Star for HGTV in Nashville and then we jumped right over and did Nashville Star. We were there just shy of a year. We were obsessed. Everything [in Nashville] is so nice. I love it there. People go to Nashville for a reason. They wanna live it. They wanna have the experience. The music there, the food there. It is such just a great town. It’s literally unbelievable. I love it so much. By the way, the music in those bars [on Broadway], it’s so my music. It’s like America in the best way possible.
Do you have any favorite Nashville spots?
I love Kayne Prime. I am not a steakhouse person, but my friend-slash-showrunner was out there when we wrapped. She’s like, “I’m taking you to a place that is so good you’re gonna die.” We went to Kayne Prime. It was wonderful. But there’s nowhere to get any good pizza by the slice. I feel like if I were to make a contribution to Nashville, as a human, and for society, I would move there and open up a late night slice place. Does everyone that’s Italian there hate money? Like, get out there, swing a slice, get it done. One night—late—we were desperate for pizza. We found this place in [East Nashville’s Five Points]. PizzaReal. It’s the best pie—so good, amazing.
How did you get your start in TV?
I’ve been [doing this] about 24 years. I was an intern for Sally Jesse Raphael and Howard Stern. [Production] isn’t even what I went to school for. I got an internship at Sally in the accounting department, and all I wanted to do was not be in the accounting department. I fell in love with [the creative team] and they fell in love with me. That was my first job out of college. I was there five years. Then my boss [at the show] left for LA and wanted me to come. I talked to Sally about it and she was like, “How about I’m making this not a choice for you? I’ll fire you, so you don’t have this decision to make. You’re gonna get stuck here, you’re gonna be in a rut. You’re so young. People your age are not doing what you’re doing.” She was like, “Get out of here and go make something of yourself. Make me proud. So you’re fired, but can you stay till the end of the season?”
What was it like moving to the Los Angeles from the East Coast?
I was still living at my parents’ house, sleeping in a twin bed. I literally lived like The Jersey Shore cast. I was Vinny for all intents and purposes. That was so my life. I was like Vinny crossed with Snooki. I moved from my twin bed and just started working in L.A. I did a lot of stuff at Fox—crazy specials like celebrity boxing and surprise weddings. My first real reality job was The Bachelor. I was there for the first five Bachelors and the first three Bachelorettes. I did Trista [Sutter]’s wedding and then I peaced out. I hopped around a bit.
How did you go from hired gun to the boss?
I kind of created my own little thing by accident. I was working on a show with a different production company on it, and the network said to me, “Hey, why don’t you bring this back to L.A. and get an edit space and set it up yourself?” I never thought anything of it, and then when season two got picked up, they were like, we want you to do it. All of a sudden…
You have a gift for bringing together a group of people we as viewers really shouldn’t like. Whether that’s the Jersey Shore cast or Party Down South. Yet, we fall in love with them and we root for them. How do you do it?
I don’t know, but I do, because I love and hate them all, in the best way possible. It’s funny, I was just with [the Jersey Shore cast] back in Atlantic City [filming Jersey Shore Family Reunion], and I said to them all, “I love you all so much in edit, but when we’re here together, there’s often days it’s questionable.” And we all crack up. But I love them all so much. You know what it is? We’re all human, and the thing is, we like to think, I’d never do that, oh my God, I would know no one that would do that, I can’t believe they said that, I can’t believe that happened. But really we can all relate. Because you were [at some point] either that person or you were there the night your friend went totally crazy. It just wasn’t on camera. So, I think it’s really important when you have a show to make sure you’re showing everybody as they are. Everybody has great days for the most part, and everybody has a couple of bad days. But in the end, we all recover from our bad days.
Has there been a moment on any show that shocked you from behind the camera?
The thing that still gets me every time—cause it was so out of left field, it was like a Monday night, and we went out—was that night Snooki got punched in the face [in Jersey Shore season one]. It literally was the craziest thing I’ve ever, ever seen. ‘Cause it was out of nowhere, there was no build. Normally you’re like, uh oh, I smell something brewing, but she was just ordering a drink and the camera happened to be on her.
What was it like getting that cast back together for the new MTV series?
Heaven. They’re great together. There’s something about all of them—they’re all amazing individuals—but there’s truly something about all of them together that just makes them better.
Do you think the Bachelorette Weekend cast will resonate with viewers like your other casts have?
The cast is so good in the office, so [the show] is like half about them. It’s the inner workings of that office, life in Nashville and the dynamic of all the people that work there who are amazing—they’re really funny. And they’re young people trying to make it. I really related to that hustle. The thing about Robbie [the owner of Bach Weekend] is he feels like no matter how much money you make, you deserve to have a good time. He and the girls are private concierges, wrangling all this. Robbie and the girls at Bach Weekend are really in charge of giving them the best “last night out” of their lives. Robbie is a little bit Charlie’s Angels and the girls—Liz and Nicole are young girls putting their everything into this to make it work, but they’re funny. They’re a little Snooki and JWoww [from Jersey Shore] in their friendship. Like, don’t judge me, join me.
Bachelorette Weekend premieres Thursday, Aug. 2, on CMT at 11 p.m. EST.