Interview: Chris Manzo Talks ‘RHONJ’ Beginnings And Shows Once Again Why We Just Love Him

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The Real Housewives of New Jersey simply wouldn’t be the same without the Manzo family. Chris Manzo, the youngest son of Caroline and Albert, has a lot to do with that. Whether it’s playing Santa, throwing ham, or showing up before a charity run with a helmet on, Chris can always make drama take the back seat on any given episode with his one liners.

Like when is the only time he would actually run? ‘Put a burger in front of me or a murderer behind me.’ And a nice photo opportunity at the finish line wouldn’t hurt either.

So here’s to some laughs with Chris and how much hard work he’s put in even before the launch of BLK water. I got the chance to chat with the RHONJ and Boys to Manzo cast member on the very first day of shooting, how Boys to Manzo came to be and what he appreciates doing most with brother Albie. Check it out.

What was your reaction when you first heard your mom Caroline was going to be a housewife for the Bravo series?

CHRIS MANZO: I honestly thought no one would watch it. I said, ‘who the hell is going to watch a show about my mother? My family is so boring–I’m trying to get out of the house. I’m 17, 18 years old. That’s the whole phase where everyone sucks and everything.’ [Laughs] I remember the day before the show aired I said if we were to go to dinner, do you think anyone would ask for my picture?

That must have been so weird to think.

Yeah, she was like, I don’t think so. [Laughs] My father was actually the only one who saw it coming. He said you’re out of your mind. It’s going to be great. People are going to watch it. I remember saying to myself, and my brother and I were saying, it would be cool if mom makes it past this season because she’s so not the housewife profile. She’s great and I love my mother, but I mean all I had to compare it to at the time was Orange County and she is so not that. And if that’s successful than we’re going to be awful. [Laughs] But it worked out really well and I remember saying to Al if we could make a couple of appearances and get to talk that would be really cool to show our kids one day! So we had no idea where we would be right now.

Do you remember what the first day of shooting was like? 

It was definitely less intense back then. It was a little bit more free where they would actually say, ‘Okay if you’re in town great, if not no big deal.’ I remember calling the producers or they would call me saying ‘Hey Chris are you around? We’re shooting your mom all day.’ And I’d say, ‘Oh no I’m down at the shore all day.’ Okay, no big deal. Now, they would go crazy. [Laughs] They might not want me in every single shot but I at least have to be on call or something. We do film a lot. There are just days blocked off for just filming and whatever happens, especially with my brother and myself. But we usually have to be pretty readily available to make sure we’re there if they need us. That’s been the biggest difference since season one. I don’t think anyone, especially the producers, expected my brother, my sister and I–all the kids really between Ashley and the kids–to have any kind of response. I guess that’s going off of what they’ve only seen with Orange County at that point. It really took off big after that.

Do people treat you differently now that you’re on television? What’s it like to have a camera following you around?

The taping doesn’t bother you. It gets to the point where you’re around everybody so much that I’m not looking at the cameraman, I’m looking at Bob. He films the show. When the camera goes down we talk to him about his life and we know everything about him. So it used to be–there’s a strange man with a camera, this is the weirdest thing I’ve ever seen. So the taping definitely hasn’t bothered me. What has changed…is the people who watch the show. The amount of people who want to come up to you and to be honest; 99.9% is positive. We live in a young city in Hoboken. I mean I think the average age is 30 or something like that. And there’s over 150 bars over one square mile so [Laughs] there’s a lot of ways that something can go wrong in Hoboken and knock on wood, thank God it hasn’t. People have been really receptive to us and they like having us around. The local businesses, restaurants and bar owners are really just friends with us at this point. People don’t really bother us. Yeah, people talk about us but very rarely do people go out of their way to try to make us miserable or something like that. Also you get what you give. We respect everyone that comes up to us and tells us how much they love the show and everything. We’re happy to speak with them for hours and take pictures. That stuff doesn’t bother us at all.

That’s awesome how nice everyone’s been. What was it like leaving the Brownstone and heading to Hoboken in general?

I did work at the Brownstone. I was there six days a week, 15 hours a day. I did everything from dishwashing, to busing tables, to valet manager. All the way up to banquet managing and booking parties. I did everything there. It became extremely inconvenient to still stay at the Brownstone and kind of unrealistic. And we found ourselves getting involved in newer things, brand management and different beverage companies…We are really invested financially, not just financially but time in BLK which is our bottled water. We also have a wine, vodka and tequila items that we’re pushing and selling and marketing in our everyday life like real people. [Laughs] Wicked Wolf I worked at two or three weeks really max before things got busy here, just to help pay the rent.

Do you go back just to hang out?

Yeah, I love bartending. I love dealing with people. I love talking and just being a part of it and being active. If I have a couple days off and have nothing to do maybe I’ll do a Monday night football over there or something just to have fun.

Where do you want to see your company go in the future with Albie?

Far Stephanie! I want it to go very far, far, far. [Laughs] We are doing amazing actually….Have you talked to Al yet? Reserve a couple of hours for him to talk to you about it. [Laughs]…Our water is called BLK though. It’s naturally black water. It’s got tremendous health benefits to it. We are helping sell a wine called Levendi from California. They’ve been around for 10 to 15 years but they don’t have much of an east coast presence. We

are also helping launch a new vodka called Krome and our tequila we’re also helping market and sell is called Tributo. They all have amazing stories behind them. I don’t like to say endorse because it really is our day-to-day job. Everything we get behind is really the best of the best products. We don’t like to say ‘Okay, well we’re behind this so drink it.’ We know the beverage industry. We know the food industry and restaurant management just as well as people way older than me because the way that I lived at the Brownstone is pretty hardcore. I put in a lot of long hours there so we’ve been using a lot of those tools…[Laughs] Right now I’m looking at my brother bringing in a box of flyers for BLK. We literally do everything that we can and that comes from the Brownstone where we learned from.

I love it. They’ll be interesting to try! Besides work, you’re just so quick and hilarious on Real Housewives. What do you like most about the show?

I’m not huge on the drama obviously. It’s entertaining and I get why people like it. The first season and second season, I just wanted to scream because I’m looking at this person, Danielle, just trashing my mom. And I couldn’t handle it. It’s really hard to watch. Hopefully next year…it’ll be more family oriented, which is what the Manzo’s are all about. Having fun with each other. And my favorite thing to hear when I talk to a fan of the show is that we take them away from the drama. The drama’s great and everything but there needs to be something that breaks up the day. We hear that we bring that and it is the best compliment that we could get.

I completely agree! You are definitely the best family for comedic relief. Let’s talk about your web series Boys to Manzo that you’ve filmed. Are you hoping it becomes a television show?

You always hope for the biggest investment you could get and as far as filming something, that would be the best option to make it on TV. If Bravo wants to take their time on it and really think about it, obviously they know what they’re doing. Just like the beverages, I would never want to get behind something that wasn’t the best. And we could take the honest answer. If they were to say the web series is great but it’s not for TV, it wouldn’t bother me one bit. I would say let’s do some more web series and have some fun. If we’re the best web series we’re the best web series. If we’re the best TV show, that’s even better. As far as what I want, I want to be the best at what I’m doing.

I really hope something happens! How many episodes did you do? How did it start?

We only did five. We filmed a lot but not everything makes the cut. A lot of it makes no sense in the story line. Say my mother’s running late and they have the cameras on, we’ll just play around and we just rip on each other and joke around. [That’s how] Boys to Manzo was born. The producers saw and said this makes no sense on Housewives but its got to work somewhere. They called me and said a web series was coming out and I was like, ‘Why? Who is going to watch that?’ But it did really, really well. And once you watch it you don’t realize how much fun you have with your roommate and your brother.

What do you, Albie and Greg like to do on your downtime?

We are so simple. We are not huge club people. We’ll go out and have fun but we have our little Hoboken family, which consists of a couple of friends we have and my sister. On weekends you could find my brother and I spending a lot of time with our cousins CJ and Nick, Jacqueline’s sons. We spend so much time with them because growing up Al and I had a great relationship with our cousins, our older cousins, and they coached us through life and taught us everything, especially with my dad always working. He’s the best father in the world but it was tough. My older cousin Joey lived with us for two years. I used to remember every single weekend he would be with us. He wouldn’t be with his friends in high school or college he was always teaching us how to play basketball and doing all kind of fun things. Al and I get a kick out of being with CJ especially because he’s older and we can talk to him, but Nick is my godson. Cutest, cutest kid.

That was the greatest when you played Santa for him.

I’m glad you asked! I do that every year without a hitch but it was the camera light that was outside that exposed me! But that’s another thing I got from my cousins.

That’s such a great tradition. Greg was saying how you guys watch the same shows. Do you have a personal favorite?

I really watch everything on Bravo. Not to sound cheesy but you pretty much meet everyone on the network…I totally get it now. You get addicted to every show. True Blood. I watch Shameless on Showtime. It’s a really great show. I don’t watch much religiously. I’m a big On Demand guy. I watch the History Channel and A&E. The only thing I watch religiously is Bravo.

What’s the most embarrassing song on your iPod?

Anything from Glee. I’m such a Glee freak.

Greg was saying that! Any soundtracks?

I do.

Is Dianna Agron still your celebrity crush?

Yeah. I love her.

So what are your three things Bravo fans wouldn’t necessarily know about you?

Definitely my familySports, I’m a big New York and New Jersey sports fan. Hmm, what else? Mom, what else? Oh, food! I’m a food freak. It’s really everything. I’m a big frying and marinading guy. I’m always experimenting…I like going to restaurants and try to copy whatever’s there. I make the best pork chop in the world!

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