Karen Gravano and her daughter Karina Seabrook aren’t stressing over the fact that some people would love to see their new show get whacked.
“Made in Staten Island,” which premiered on MTV Monday night, explores how a group of young adults, some with ties to mob families, attempt to stay out of trouble as they go about their lives in the New York City borough.
Its star is Seabrook, 19, whose grandfather is Salvatore “Sammy the Bull” Gravano, a former Gambino crime family hit man who famously testified against mob boss John Gotti. The reality TV show is being produced by Seabrook’s mother, who starred on VH1's “Mob Wives” from 2011 until 2016.
While “Made in Staten Island” attempts to show how these young adults are trying to escape “the street life,” there are many who aren’t convinced.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio is one of them, and not long ago he took to Twitter and accused the show of “peddling stereotypes in a shameless ratings grab.” A petition on Change.org has also been created in hopes of having “Made in Staten Island” canceled or its name modified to remove the borough. It has received over 8,000 signatures so far.
“So many people out there are so judgmental, and they want to judge, whether it’s an individual or a television show before they even get to know the people,” Gravano, 46, told Fox News. “And this show is actually anything but glorifying. You see kids that are actually going through everyday struggles and trying to overcome adversity … They’re trying to overcome the stigma of situations that their families have been put into.”
“We’re not trying to represent a whole Italian-American community or stereotype anyone,” she added. “If I came out and tried to do a television show about Staten Island and everything was a bed of roses that would be false. Because in life, no matter where you go, there are definitely struggles and trials and tribulations that everyone has to go through in life.”
Her daughter Karina says all she got was the downside of “the lifestyle.”
“Growing up, I never had the relationship with my grandfather that I wished I could have had,” she admitted. “Because all my memories were going to visit him in different prisons and jails. And he was always away. I could never just pick up the phone and call him for advice — or anything. And he was missing at holidays. I never looked at him as anything else other than my grandfather.”
Salvatore Gravano, 73, was released from prison in 2017 after surviving most of a 20-year sentence for overseeing an Arizona ecstasy ring, AZCentral reported. He was serving concurrent terms for drug-related convictions on federal charges in New York, as well as state charges in Arizona. Under his federal conviction, Salvatore faces lifetime parole and will remain under Arizona supervision until March 2019.
Seabrook said it’s an opportunity for her to finally bond with her grandfather.
“Today, I’m just very happy that he’s finally home, and he can really guide me in the way of what not to do,” she said.
Gravano’s own upbringing was completely different from the one her daughter Karina had. But she insisted the title of mob princess came with a heavy price.
“I grew up in the heyday of the mob,” she said. “Everything about that lifestyle was glorified. And I lived the high life of it. I had nice houses, jewelry, cars, vacations. [My daughter] Karina lived the downside of it, where she’s visiting family members in prison and had missing people she loved in her life. Not just my father, but her father went to jail, my brother went to jail."
“Growing up, I wanted to be bad because I felt like that’s how you’re accepted," Gravano said. "That’s the way I felt growing up — people respect you when you do wrong. And I’m trying to teach Karina she’s the opposite. When you screw up your life, it affects you for the rest of your life. If there’s anything I want Karina to learn is from my mistakes. I want her to be better.”
Gravano said her father initially wasn’t thrilled she decided to participate in “Mob Wives.” The New York Times pointed out one of Gravano’s most memorable scenes during her time on “Mob Wives” was when she flipped a table and attacked another woman during a heated argument, grabbing her by the hair.
However, the patriarch has seemingly warmed up to the idea of his granddaughter’s involvement in “Made in Staten Island.”
“At first, especially when I was filming ‘Mob Wives,’ he wasn’t really into it,” Gravano explained. “This show is a little bit different because it’s highlighting situations that young kids deal with. … It’s edgier than anything you’ve seen on MTV. … And my father supports the concept of this show. I think he’s a lot more confident in Karina because she’s not as hotheaded as I am. … I guess it makes for good reality TV, but for a father watching a daughter go crazy on TV, he doesn’t always like it. But with Karina, he’s like, ‘She’s definitely sharp, she’s very classy, she’s opinionated.’ He really respects that about her.”
“So he supports the project, he definitely does,” added Gravano. “And he supports the concept of it, the idea behind it.”
When it comes to creating entertaining reality TV, drama is inevitable, but Seabrook is determined to stay out of trouble — whether cameras are rolling or not. And she welcomes critics tuning into so they can see – and judge – for themselves.
“I’m honestly not nervous at all,” said 19-year-old Seabrook. “I know a lot of reality TV highlights the drama, the going out and the partying but… I kinda stay away from all that because of seeing my mom go crazy like that on TV. … Even in real life… I don’t even pay attention to drama like that because I’m just the type to laugh at it or brush it off. It’s all irrelevant to me. … I know drama is inevitable, but [this show] is more so what we’re going through. It’s not a lot of drama and fighting.”
“It’s not ‘Mob Wives,’” she chuckled.
"Made in Staten Island" airs Mondays at 10 p.m. on MTV.