When people first started talking about MTV’s Jersey Shore, it was always about Snooki or The Situation. And floating around in the background, getting little attention, was Vinny. What kind of nickname is that? A former political aide who spoke of law school, Vinny Guadagnino came off like he was possibly too smart to fit in on this show. But he seems to have solved that brains/brew dichotomy this season, jumping headlong into the antics and hedonism with everyone else. Fresh off of filming season three (back at the Jersey Shore), Vinny spoke to us about how he got comfortable, and why he’s shelved that whole law-school plan.
Everyone is saying that you’ve come out of your shell this season. Why’d you lay so low last year?
In general, I’m just not a dramatic person. That’s just my personality. I wasn’t outlandish, I wasn’t with my friends. I wasn’t comfortable. I was getting used to being away from home, on the show, living with new people. By the time I got used to all that, the season was over. It left me in a comfortable position [for season two]. It’s not like I changed characters or anything like that. It’s just that the first time around I was adjusting.
What were you doing before the show?
I was in college for four years: I first went to SUNY New Paltz and then I went to CUNY CSI [College of Staten Island]. I did political science, and I was going to go to law school, so I was studying for my LSATs and hooking that up. That’s when somebody sent me the casting thing. It happened right when I graduated; the first opportunity that really came my way.
You used to work for a politician.
Yeah, I worked for a Staten Island state assemblyman [Democrat Michael Cusick].
Do ever feel like you can’t show that intelligent side on the show?
I straight-up told [MTV] when they picked me that I went to college, and I wouldn’t dumb myself down. I eloquently described to them how to party at the Jersey Shore. I definitely didn’t — and don’t — hide [that side of me]. But it’s not really about showcasing where we went to college, or law, or poli-sci. We don’t even have a TV, or a radio, or cell phones. We don’t even talk about current events. It’s not like they don’t make us talk about politics, it’s just that we’re in this cocoon. Even if I wanted to, I couldn’t talk about politics. It’s just about having fun. There’s so much drama, we wouldn’t have time in that hour to sit around and talk about religion.
It seems like you’re not as into doing endorsements or club appearances as the other cast members.
I think that people who have more of a story around them — a nickname — they are definitely segueing into other things that would get them endorsements, magazines, this show or that show. Pauly does the D.J.’ing thing. Me, I’m on the opposite side of the spectrum. There is no gimmick to me, there is no nickname. It’s just Vinny. I’m starting to shape my career. I’m interested in acting, more than anything. So I want to dedicate that time to getting coached and getting auditions. But it all has to shape around my long-term goals. An endorsement now might mean that I may not be able to get on a show in a few years, and I don’t want to do anything that will blow that chance.
Do you worry that you’ll be put in a box, given what happens on the show?
Fortunately, for me, I think that if I keep being myself, I’m in a position where people understand that I’m on the show, but I am not the show. I’m Vinny, and just like any other model is a model before they are an actor, or a rapper is a rapper before they are an actor, I don’t see why I should be criticized for being on a show where I got my beginning from. But I don’t think that’s going to happen. It comes down to whether you are good or not.
Were you really considering law school at Harvard or Yale?
I said that if got into Harvard or Yale with my LSAT score, then maybe I’d give up on the reality-TV career, but this was back when the show just started. But I didn’t, obviously. It was good enough to get into a good school, but my score was nowhere near that. But the next day after saying that, all these headlines said “Vinny is going to Yale or Harvard!” When I wanted to go to law school, I didn’t really know what lawyers did, and I still didn’t want to be a lawyer. I just wanted the degree, and that still stands. I think it’s very prestigious to have a law degree. You can go into politics, the FBI, Wall Street. I would never rule that out. But I don’t want to be a lawyer. I have a lawyer now, and I see what he does, and it’s not for me.
Some reality-TV stars have gone into politics after their show ended.
What is American politics? You have to be smart, but it’s all campaigning — if people get a good vibe from you, if people recognize that you have a good head on your shoulders, and if people trust you. When you’re on the show and you’re out there in public, people get all of that. It’s like you’re campaigning for yourself with whatever you want to do. And I can definitely see politics as one of [those things]. You open up your soul to America.
So you’re not planning on going on another reality show, like the ones where they take celebrities and cram them in a house together and make them do challenges?
[Laughs.] No, honestly, I never pictured myself on a reality show. You would never see me auditioning for Rock of Love. Not that I’m saying anything bad about them, but there is a certain type of reality person, and then there’s me. Which is kind of a contradiction, since I’m on a reality show.
How do you think the rest of the cast is handling their new fame?
Everybody loves the moment. Usually reality shows are a one-season thing, see ya later. Then you have to try to manage your way through life. That’s how it normally is. Then people go back to school, working. I’ve seen people who were in movies who are waiters now. It’s the same thing. But we’ve been given a rare opportunity where we have a couple of seasons, and we’re on one of the biggest shows on TV. We are all pretty smart kids; you don’t see that, but we’re not idiots. We can transition the opportunity we’re given and transition it to something else.