In a new interview with ET, the 'Jersey Shore' star recalled the moment he stood up for his worth -- and nearly left the show.
In a new interview with ET, the longtime reality star, who rose to fame as an original cast member of the hit MTV series, recalled the moment he nearly walked away from the show over his salary.
"The whole cast was in New York City and we were just on a high from Jersey Shore and the ratings of the first season," he described to ET's Rachel Smith. "We were all in a room and I guess the MTV lawyers or that representation handed out contracts and the contracts were the same from the year before and our contract from the year before was a couple thousand dollars for the season, for the whole season and we worked at the T-shirt shop."
Continued Sorrentino, "Once they handed me that contract, I just looked at it and I just knew something wasn’t right. I knew that we had created a TV show that was groundbreaking, It was new, it was fresh, and I didn’t think that it could be duplicated. They said, 'Sign on the dotted line or we're gonna replace you, and in that moment in my life, I felt, I don’t know, I felt like I knew my worth and I took the chance and I said, 'Go ahead and try to replace me,' and I walked out the room."
The risk ended up paying off. "Next thing you know it, a couple weeks later, we got like a million-dollar raise and that’s probably a big turning point in reality TV obviously for the kids getting paid that much and, just in general, just continuing the show that's a cast-driven show that’s been on for about 15 years now."
According to Sorrentino, he ended up being paid six figures per episode, escalating every season to upward of almost $200,000 per episode. He appeared on all six seasons of the original Jersey Shore, but life wasn't a reality TV breeze for the breakout star. As he's addressed publicly in the years since, Sorrentino secretly battled substance abuse while appearing on TV and served eight months in prison in 2019 for tax evasion.
"If you read the first page in the book where I’m sitting on my family's couch and it's Christmas and I had just made about $5 million -- my brother, who was my manager at the time, he comes over to me and he says, 'You had an amazing year. You made about $5 million. It’s time to file,' and I’m sitting on the couch, I’m swiping, I’m basking in my famousness. I got a Ferrari outside and then he goes, 'Or maybe we'll get -- you can get 'em next year,' and I thought to myself, 'We'll get 'em next year,' and that one decision on the couch high.. a couple years later, about three, somebody would come knocking at the door and that person would be Uncle Sam and he wanted his money."
He has since turned his life around, completing his prison sentence, celebrating eight years of sobriety, reuniting with his castmates on the revival series, Jersey Shore: Family Vacation, and marrying his college sweetheart, Lauren, in 2018. The couple has welcomed two children, son Romeo and daughter Mia, and are expecting their third baby in March 2024.
Now at this place in his life, Sorrentino felt it was the right time to share his rollercoaster story in his upcoming memoir, Reality Check: Making the Best of The Situation, out Dec. 19.
The best part of his sobriety? "Probably every day when my family, my wife and my kids, we have a group hug," he said, "and the smiles that I see, you know, it’s just, it's all worth it -- all the pain, all the struggle, all the sacrifice -- it’s all worth it."