Soon after her VH1 reality hit Mob Wives concluded its first season last summer, executive producer Jennifer Graziano began looking for a way to extend the brand.
“I wanted to build out a franchise similar to the Housewives franchise,” says Graziano. The first series, which concluded its second season March 11, follows women connected to the New York Mob.
Mob Wives Chicago has been shooting here since December and premieres in June on VH1. New York-based Left-Right Productions is the production company, as on the original series and brought the shooting crew here from New York.
Through STORY, Los Angles based director, Robert Rugan and, New York DP Pete Konczal shot the show’s live action show open and also shot print and motion scenes for the show’s promos.
“Chicago was the next best place, being another city with rich mob history,” Graziano says. Mob Wives Chicago is now the second series for Graziano’s JustJenn Productions, which operates out of the Weinstein Company offices in New York.
“I talked to friends about people they knew and started the casting process,” Graziano says. She was looking for women with Oufit ties, plus “pizzazz, a knack for storytelling, very animated and lively, can excite an audience.”
Four women “wedded” to a subculture
The cast, officially announced last week, includes Nora Schweihs, daughter of reputed hitman Frank “The German” Schweis; Renee Fecarotta Russo, niece of slain reputed triggerman John Fecarotta; Pia Rizza, daughter of Chicago cop and convicted Outfit bookmaker Vincent Rizza; a Leah DeSimone, daughter of so-called Outfit “associate” William “Wolf” DeSimone.
“The show title, Mob Wives, has a broad definition,” Graziano explains. “It means they’re married to a mindset, a subculture, not a literal interpretation of having to be somebody’s wife.”
Graziano grew up connected. Her father, Anthony “The Little Guy” Graziano, has been in and out of prison since the early ‘90s on various charges stemming from his activities with New York’s Bonanno crime family. (He did time in Minnesota with Frank Schweis).
Graziano’s sister Renee is featured in the New York series.
Graziano says Mob Wives Chicago mirrors the format of the New York series, following the women to their homes, restaurants, nightclubs and salons. The main difference, she says, is “that laid-back, Midwestern feel.”
Still, “all the women have same fire as in New York. They were all raised with the same code of ethics.”