By Emily Mitchell
Back in 2004, Bill Rancic won the first season of The Apprentice and was working for Donald Trump, while Giuliana DePandi was busy reporting the latest celebrity news on E!. They met at a red carpet event and began dating. In 2007, they married in Italy. Now, this entrepreneur from Chicago and his pop culture queen working in L.A. are making their marriage work cross-country with the world watching. Their new reality show, Giuliana & Bill, airs Wednesdays on Style beginning August 5.
When I caught up with them, we talked about the reality show kiss of death, overexposure and difficulties the camera caused in their relationship. We also discussed the challenge of maintaining credibility in their careers. They had plenty of positive things to talk about, like their goofy and supportive families, the Italian language and Twitter.
Giuliana, was “Giuliana & Bill” an idea pitched to you, or did you always want to do a reality TV show?
Giuliana Rancic: We actually had a wedding special that aired on Style, where they came to Capri and covered our wedding. It was the highest-rated special ever on Style, and I think they realized they had something that the viewers really liked. So they approached us about doing a reality show. We were definitely hesitant at first because you always hear about the reality show curse — which is not a myth. Look at Jon and Kate! So we were hesitant, but we kind of just started doing it because we had a really good experience doing the wedding special and we knew that the people at Style were really cool and everything. So we said, “Let’s try an episode and let’s see how it goes and feels.” We did one episode and it was fine. We just kind of went with it. Bill and I are pretty open people to begin with. We had fun and we kept it going, and it’s been really fun.
Bill, what are your biggest fears on opening up your life to the world? Are you worried about overexposure?
Bill Rancic: I’m not so worried about overexposure. We are having a lot of fun doing it, so hopefully the viewers are able to translate the amount of fun we’re having. And they’ll have fun watching it because our lives are definitely unique in the fact that we travel between Chicago and Los Angeles on a weekly basis. We both have busy careers, and creating a marriage that works takes a little bit of tweaking and putting ingredients into the recipe, and I think we figured it out.
Are you concerned about your credibility as an entertainment journalist?
Giuliana: It was a concern of mine, but I have always kind of done things in an unconventional way. Like even when I started at E!, I was always doing things that no one was doing. I was asking risque questions on the red carpet. I was producing crazy segments that nobody had done before. And then I would do them and they would do well, so [E!] would have all the reporters kind of follow that model. I’ve always done things that weren’t conventional, and am a bit of a trailblazer in that sense. I’m not trying to be cocky or anything, but I never go follow other people’s leads. I just kind of always want to do my own thing. So with this, yeah, I definitely thought about that, but at the same time it’s just so my personality to not let things like that hold me back. And I take risks. I’m just kind of a risktaker, so I’m hoping that it won’t hurt me, it will only help me.
Bill: I just don’t know how it would effect your credibility. I mean, if anything, it makes you more approachable for the celebrities because they get to see you in more than just one dimension. So if anything, I think it would enhance it.
Giuliana: I think it’s more [about] losing credibility with the viewers because the viewers are watching me every night and I’m more serious and reporting the news and then suddenly they’re seeing me dancing at a club with my friends. Does it hurt my credibility as an entertainment journalist? I think that there’s no mold for it anymore. I hope that I’ll set a standard for some younger, up-and-coming journalists that, yeah, you can do your job everyday, but you can also have a life, and show that life to people. And they’ll embrace it.
What limitations, if any, did you put on filming? Are there things we won’t see?
Giuliana: Not really. Here’s the thing, if I can be honest. The first week it was hard. It was definitely bumpy the first few days of shooting because we started and it caused some tension in our relationship. We are saying [to each other], “I can’t believe you said that” or “I can’t believe you said that”, cuz it was very open, very personal stuff. And we had to have a heart-to-heart. We said to ourselves, “If we are gonna do this show, [we] either gotta go big or go home.” You either gotta let it all out, and let the viewers see it all, or you gotta forget it because there is no middle ground with a reality show. You either gotta do it, or you just shouldn’t do it. So we just realized early on, we’re like “Is our marriage strong enough? Is our relationship strong enough to let ourselves be exposed like that?” And we decided, yeah, it is. Our relationship is just incredibly strong. We’re not just husband and wife, we’re best friends. And we love each other and respect each other to death, and we’re not going to let a show tear us apart. I interview celebrities and I ask them personal questions for a living. That’s how I make my bread and butter. And I figured, I’d be a hypocrite not to let people into my personal life. Because that’s how I make my money, trying to get to celebrities’ personal lives. So that’s how I figured I could do it for the viewers. Like, okay, if this is what they want to see, we’ll show it to them.
Can you describe your crazy families? What makes them so kooky?
Bill: Well, I think you’re going to be seeing both families. But you know, Giuliana has a very unique family because they came here from Italy. So certainly there is a culture barrier. For example, we go to visit Giuliana’s family in Washington, D.C., I don’t speak Italian, and quite honestly her parents don’t speak English, so we have that barrier that we have to overcome. It’s pretty amusing how we are able to get past that hurdle.
You are learning Italian, right?
Bill: I am learning Italian, yes. I have hired an Italian tutor to try and work with me and try to get me up to speed on the language.
Giuliana: Because my parents speak very little English, yeah. I was born in Naples and we moved to America when I was a kid. I have never spoken a lick of English to my parents. We only speak Italian in our home. So when Bill comes over it’s just a lot of “sdkjhfhdfkhskfjlih”. It’s just a lot of Italian, and poor Bill is sitting there like, “What the hell is going on?” And so it’s just funny. It’s like Bill’s family is from the Midwest, like the Midwestern family from the suburbs of Chicago, and they kind of come face-to-face with my family that’s like the hardcore Italians [who are] pretty much off the boat, and they love each other. But it’s kind of funny.
Giuliana, what do you appreciate most about Chicago?
I love Chicago. I love the people, probably first and foremost. They are just friendly, they smile and say hello to you when you walk down the street, and that’s not necessarily what you get in Los Angeles. I love the environment, the nightlife, the social life. Whether it’s day or night, when we walk around downtown Chicago, it’s like there is always energy. People are out, people are social. People just know how to live and have a good time. It’s one of the few cities in America where it feels like they are working to live, not living to work. Like they go to work, and then they’re always at a happy hour, they’re always at a dinner, they’re always out at 2am at a bar. They love going out and just living life to the fullest, and I just love the energy of Chicago. It’s a beautiful city. It’s like a mini New York. It has all the best qualities of New York in one city. I had never been to Chicago before I met Bill and he introduced me to Chicago, and that first weekend it was amazing. Bill was so sweet. I arrived, and he put me up in a beautiful hotel in a suite. In my suite he had a gift basket waiting for me, and it had all the Chicago things in it. It had a Cubs shirt.
Bill: You’re giving away all my secrets, DePandi!
Giuliana: Sorry, I’m giving away all his secrets. And it was like, “Welcome to Chicago! I hope you love my home as much as I do.” And he took me on a ride on his motorcycle. He has a beautiful motorcycle. And we took a ride around Chicago, and went to the game. And then that afternoon we sat on Lake Michigan and ate Giordano’s deep-dish pizza. And it’s so awesome, you know? And I fell in love with the city that weekend. And it’s my favorite city in the country. I wish we could shoot E! News from there everyday and have a studio there, cuz I would never leave.
Do you have any criticisms?
The only thing is I’m cold in 70-degree weather. I get cold very easily. I’m one of those annoying people. But Bill always gives me his jacket or whatever he has to do to keep me warm, so that’s probably it. It’s pretty much everyone’s criticism of Chicago. It’s just the winters, that’s all.
So Bill, what do you like about L.A.?
Bill: Well, I guess you could say I’m not particularly fond of L.A. I’m loyal to Chicago. I mean, L.A. has great weather and certainly the fact that my wife’s here makes it much more appealing to me, but Chicago is my home. I have three older sisters and eight nieces and nephews, and my mom and all my buddies that I grew up with. And I mean, that’s my home. And you know, no matter where you are, home is always where you’re from. And to me that’s where we are gonna hopefully raise our kids and grow old together.
Giuliana: But Bill, one thing you do love is [that] we are very outdoorsy. So what’s pretty nice about L.A. is that we go hiking every weekend that we’re here. We go run on the beach in Santa Monica. We just moved by the beach. So we go running about seven miles on the beach together. And it’s just a great city to be outdoors, but I get his criticisms about the city. I do get it. And we definitely tackle that in our show. We have a whole show devoted to me trying to get Bill to love L.A. And that was quite an experience. So, we do definitely do the outdoor stuff, but we do prefer Chicago. Hands down.
You are building a dream house in Chicago. Can you tell us about that?
Bill: I built it already. I renovated a 110-year-old brownstone on the lake, in the heart of downtown Chicago. It’s a real beautiful home, but you’ll have to tune in to see. There’s a twist, so I can’t finish my answer.
You both have Twitter accounts. What do you think about the Twitter revolution?
Giuliana: I love it! I’m obsessed with Twitter. It is such a great way to communicate with fans and viewers. And I love it! I’m on it constantly. I love it because the fans love it. And whatever they love, you know, I’m happy. If I can get closer to them in any way possible and hear their needs and wants and what they want to see more of on E! News, or if they want to know where I got the dress I was wearing. It’s just such an awesome vehicle to communicate with fans, so I’m a huge fan of it.
Bill: I think it’s great. I think the world is changing. We are seeing the revolution right before our eyes. You know, we are seeing big business getting involved. I was just in New York at a big business summit. All the top CEOs and companies were talking about how they were getting active with Twitter and all the social networking sites. So it’s definitely on everyone’s radar, which is impressive.