The Real Housewives of New Jersey has always kept it real -- from births to surgeries, financial downfalls, divorces and legal trouble -- but according to Margaret Josephs, season 11 might just be the series' most real year yet. The current cast is going on a three-season streak, with the main lineup of 'Wives remaining intact since season 9 -- a feat in the reality TV world. The more time the women of the Garden State have spent together, the more connected they've become, and the more involved they are in each other's lives and daily dramas.
"We fight, we make up, we all do care about each other in the end," Margaret notes to ET over video chat. "Even if we argue, we see each other for 12 months a year."
Season 11 filmed amid the coronavirus pandemic last summer, with the women exiting isolation to spend time together in a pod of sorts. The extra time away from each other raised the stakes.
"It is such authentic, emotional drama I think no one even knew what to do,” Margaret teases. "I think production was, like, in shock. That’s all I can just say! They were like, who are these people? Do we even know them?"
"I would say it's one of my best seasons, for sure," she adds. "You know what? No one physically attacked me, thank the Lord."
That would, of course, be a reference to Margaret's season 10 tussle with now-former castmate Danielle Staub, who yanked Margaret's ponytail during a shopping trip. Danielle parted ways with the show after last season's reunion, but she's keeping tabs on season 11, going live on Instagram every week during the episodes to add her own commentary -- and stirring the pot from afar.
"I think it's sad and desperate to hang on to something that was never hers," Margaret offers of Danielle’s new social media habit.
During episode 2, Danielle floated her own theory about the fight between Teresa Giudice and Jackie Goldschneider over rumors about Jackie's husband, Evan, cheating, which Teresa brought to the attention of the group. Teresa and Jackie met up at Margaret's house ("neutral territory") to hash things out, but things quickly went left.
"Oh my god, Margaret," Danielle scoffed. "You know this came from her. Look at how she’s chewing her food -- I guarantee it. That’s why Margaret’s pacing in the background, that’s what’s going on right now, guys. Now I figured it out. Margaret’s always underneath it, behind it. That’s why they filmed at her house, ‘cause she’s the source."
"How funny is that?" Margaret asks, noting she didn't see Danielle’s commentary because the former Housewife has her blocked on Instagram. "I mean, she’ll throw any s**t at the wall and make it stick. She's insane. Yeah, I think my face was obvious -- I was the source of the rumor? When Teresa said it, I mean, I was in shock."
Margaret was the second person Teresa brought the gossip up to after her sister-in-law, Melissa Gorga, told her to shut it down. Margaret also advised Teresa to stop, but she didn’t and the whole ordeal snowballed when Jackie made an analogy about Teresa's daughter, Gia, in an attempt to prove a point to the OG star about how hurtful repeating unverified rumors could be to someone.
"Because the analogy that happened I think then she felt vindicated," Margaret surmises of why Teresa doubled down on the rumor story. "She was like, 'Oh well, look what she said about my daughter!' And for some reason I think that made her feel vindicated just for whatever reason and she didn't have to apologize right away."
Episode 3 picks up in the middle of the debacle, with Jackie sitting out the girls' trip to Lake George, New York, in order to avoid Teresa, and Teresa maintaining that she’s in the right. Margaret promises resolution comes sooner rather than later, but it may not be satisfying for the audience.
"To me, it's never based in fact unless you have proof," she explains. "There’s no pictures, there's no receipts, there's nothing like that. There is a resolution but it's not based in fact."
"I'm team fix this and team I stand on what's right," she adds. "I don't think it was right of Teresa. I think she was absolutely wrong. That doesn't mean she's not my friend. Obviously, these are my friends and when any of my friends do something wrong, I want them to apologize and make it right. I don’t turn my back on good people, but she really went below the belt."
Once the Jackie-Teresa drama subsides, new drama emerges. Fans are in for quite the show when the women and their men head down the shore for a beach escape that sounds anything but relaxing. As first teased in the trailer, argument after argument breaks out at one shoreside dinner, with Margaret unleashing on her husband, Joe Benigno.
"You’ve started a f**king s**tstorm," she screams. "You f**king dragged us into this, you f**king idiot!"
"The men are worse than the women are as far as I’m concerned, with their gossip," Margaret offers of what leads to that moment. "They have loose lips, they drink -- and my husband is not always eloquent and says the right things when he's drinking -- and he says some things that he doesn't mean. It doesn't come across right, it’s misinterpreted, and I tell him all the time, do not speak out of turn when you're drunk."
"He caused a very big problem and hurt some people along the way," she continues. "I will hold anybody's feet to the fire, even my own family members and my beloved Joe, and I held his feet to the fire and it was not pretty."
Margaret won’t reveal who Joe causes an issue with, but Jackie seems like a prime contender based on other snippets seen in the trailer from that same night.
"Jackie has a rough season," Margaret admits. "I don’t want to see her ever hurt for no reason."
The shore dinner also features an explosive fight between Teresa, her brother, Joe Gorga, and his wife, Melissa. The couple tag-teams the OG RHONJ star, with Melissa flipping a cheese board in Teresa's face and Joe banging on the table, screaming at his sister for seemingly taking her ex-husband’s side over his. Per Margaret, Melissa and Joe find themselves in the hot seat multiple times this season. In episode 3, Jennifer Aydin brings some more gossip about Joe to the table, revealing that Teresa's friend, Michelle Pais, confessed to her that Joe owes Michelle's husband thousands of dollars for unpaid work.
"It's inaccurate and, again, not true at all," Margaret says. "Anybody who comes with something from 18 months ago? It’s obviously not true. I think It's crazy. My husband, Joe Gorga and Frank [Catania] work together every single week and there's never been one issue with them. Money flows freely between them and so I just think this comes out of left field. … It wasn't very authentic or believable."
There is deeper drama beyond these seemingly fabricated stories, though.
"There's a lot of deep, personal family things amongst everybody," Margaret shares. "I think people are gonna be surprised about Melissa and Joe. I think she gets a hard time saying, 'Oh, that's not true…' This is it. It's very, very real and it was painful and I think that’s upsetting."
"No one ever sees me fight with my husband and there are stories that I reveal about my life that people don’t know," she adds, “and so everybody has some deep emotion."
Those untold stories from Margaret’s life came to the surface through the writing process of her new memoir, Caviar Dreams, Tuna Fish Budget, out April 13. (ET got an advanced read and it's one of the juiciest Housewives books of all time!).
"It caused some things that they didn't know about, that my mom didn't know about," Margaret says of the writing process. "That's emotional. Not friction as much as pain, emotional pain."
Margaret calls writing the book "very therapeutic and emotional."
"There's so much about me ... that people don't know. People don't know I got on the show when I was 49," Margaret notes, sharing how much of her story hasn’t been shared on RHONJ. "I had a very different upbringing that I didn't realize was so different, until I went to therapy."
"It was a crazy, fun life," she adds. "I think it made me who I am -- and I could have gotten, literally could've been a drug addict or a stripper any day of the week, easily. I say I was raised by wolves, and I think it’s a story to be told, because a lot of things have happened to me that have happened to other women. Be it the sexual harassment, being taken advantage of, not being able to have a voice, it's a different time now and I want people to know that it's OK. There's no shame in it, that you can speak up about it. That where you start in life doesn't necessarily mean where you're going. That you can reinvent yourself at any given moment, and I think that's an important message, especially to women because I think women come from a place of guilt and feeling embarrassed, and it's hard to make yourself happy."
"You know, if you don't make yourself happy first, you can't make anybody else happy," she notes. "You're not going to be good for anybody else. So, I think there's like a lot of great life lessons in there that I've learned."
Of course, there are more Marge life lessons and learnings to come on The Real Housewives of New Jersey, too, like more on her love for iced coffee, which has become a bit of a running gag just two episodes into season 11.
"I never thought people would be so obsessed with that!" Margaret cracks up. "But I do drink a lot of iced coffee, and when we go on trips it’s like, what would you like? I'm like, iced coffee! Iced coffee!"
Of course, ET had to know the Macbeth Collection designer's go-to order.
"If I'm at a Starbucks -- I go in -- it’s iced coffee, pumps of mocha with coconut milk," she confesses. "That's if I'm at a Starbucks. My house is, I do my ice coffee out of the refrigerator that’s STōK … it is unsweetened and I do funfetti creamer in a red wine glass with a straw, 'cause I get all my drinks in a glamorous glass because I don't drink."