According to conventional wisdom, most people can’t have it all. But, if there’s one person set to challenge this theory it’s Jaime Primak Sullivan. Sullivan is one savvy businesswoman. As founder and president of Bridge and Tunnel Entertainment, a PR and strategic marketing agency, she’s worked with some of Hollywood’s finest. She’s also a prolific screenwriter with two movies in development; a horror film she sold to Relativity Media, and a comedy at Thunder Road Pictures.
But, that’s just the icing on her proverbial cake. She’s happily married to a husband she adores; she’s the mother of three darlings under the age of seven; and she’s the consulting producer and star of Bravo’s latest unscripted comedy, Jersey Belle, which chronicles the life of this straightforward Jersey girl living amongst the most prim and proper southern belles. We were grateful to speak with the super-busy mom about her start in the biz and her upcoming show.
So, you’re from New Jersey. How did you get started in the entertainment field? When I was a kid, I wanted to go to some of the cooler restaurants and nightclubs in the city but I wasn’t old enough. So, I would trade out with the managers of these places. I would say if I market your club to the bridge and tunnel crowd, which is anybody who has to take a bridge or tunnel to get into the city, Brooklyn, Bronx, Queens, Jersey…,will you let me and my friends in on a Saturday night? And, that’s how I started. I began doing, what I consider PR when I was a kid for some of the nightclubs in New York City, and built quite a name for myself. Soon, one person would ask if I would do a favor then another person would ask, and before you knew it I was doing PR full time, and I started Bridge and Tunnel Entertainment.
Years later you met your husband. Tell us about that encounter. I was in Alabama for work and he bought me a drink. I was 26 and he was 40 so there was a big age difference. He asked for my phone number, but I said no because I was dating someone. Then a year later I went back to Birmingham and back to that cafe, and if you could believe it he walked in. We talked for a while and he asked if he could take me out to dinner and I said yes. And, I called my mom after that dinner and I said, ‘I have good news and bad news. The good news is I think I just had dinner with the man I’m going to marry. The bad news is he lives in Birmingham, Alabama.’
So fast forward, you now have this new show on Bravo, Jersey Belle. What made you want to not only produce, but star in an unscripted show? Getting a producer credit for a first year show is almost impossible so I think it lends itself to the hard work I’ve put in to this industry for twelve years. But, I wanted to do it because everyone was saying to me, “You should do a reality show because you’re a Hollywood publicist and you live in Birmingham.” And, I thought well that’s not really funny. What’s funny is that I’m a Jersey girl living amongst the most proper, appropriate community in the world and I’m not appropriate at all. I don’t know anything about etiquette. I don’t know what fork to use and I don’t care…I will never be the one who has monogram towels. I’m a Jersey girl. We don’t do that stuff. That to me was what was funny.
Video Credit: Bravo
How did you sell this idea to Bravo? I love Bravo and I thought if I can sell this show to them then it works. So, I went to Authentic, a production company that has a great relationship with Bravo, and I knew they would get my character and wouldn’t try to change me and the show in any way, and they didn’t. They said Bravo‘s going to love it because it’s fresh and it’s fun and it’s funny, and they’re looking for a comedy. Bravo‘s got drama pegged. So, I said let’s take a chance on a comedy and they did and they loved it.
Do you think Bravo was interested because it’s a fish out of water story? Yes, exactly. Because we’ve seen the south like on Duck Dynasty or Honey Boo Boo, but we’ve never seen this south. We’ve never seen Mountain Brook, Alabama, the tiny kingdom; the most appropriate, beautiful place in the southeast, through the eyes of a Yankee. Very few people get to see that part of the south anyway so to see it though the eyes of someone who doesn’t fit in at all? This show is not making fun of the south. This show is making fun of me.
What are some other things that you’ll highlight on the show? We deal with all kinds of women issues, divorce, infertility, friendship, work, guilt. And, I take some of the girls from Alabama with me to New Jersey, which is always fun because you see the reversal fish out of water. And, I desperately want a fourth child and my husband and I deal with that and I think people will appreciate what happens in a marriage when one wants one and one doesn’t, and how you make that decision and who ends up resentful, and how do you solve that? My family from Jersey comes to Alabama, which is great television. The whole thing is so much fun; it really is.
Do you forget that the cameras are there? You don’t forget that the camera is there. My show is so authentic that it wouldn’t matter if the cameras were there or not because we were saying what we were saying and doing what we were doing regardless.
Do any of your celebrity clients make guest appearances? Yes, a lot of my clients make guest appearances. Everybody was so supportive and was willing to do whatever they could to help the show because they believe in me and they know that I do good work. I just really love what I do and feel very lucky to not only to do what I do for a living, but to see this show come to life when I had dreamed about it two years ago, and I made a cold-call to a production company and now to see that it’s going to air on television…for me, just because I know the process and know how hard it is to actually get a show on television. I’m so unbelievably proud.
How do you do this all and stay balanced, especially with three small kids? People ask me how do I do it all… I have to be honest with you. Some days I don’t do it all. Some days I’m barely hanging on. Some days I literally shut off my computer, walk out of my office and I go to Starbucks and sit outside and drink coffee and cry because I feel overwhelmed. I feel like I’ve bit off more than I could chew. I feel guilty that I’m in New York on a press tour and my daughter’s graduating from pre-school. I mean, I have missed, but I have also shared. The days that it all goes well I thank God every night for my healthy children and for whatever I was able to accomplish that day.
And, remember you can always start fresh the next day. Amen. I always say that… There’s always tomorrow. The other thing is I’ve never been afraid to ask for help. Women these days take on a lot and we feel like if we ask for help we’re weak, but I’ve never been that way. I have no problem calling a girlfriend and saying, ‘I’m on deadline, can you type while I talk because I can’t focus on what I’m doing’ …I was at Wendy Williams one time and they called me from my daughter’s pre-school to tell me that she leaving a little girl out for whatever reason, which is not Olivia’s spirit at all, and was heart-breaking for me. So, I’m hiding in the corner of the green room while Wendy Williams’ producer is talking to my client, Chris Klein, about his segment and I’m in the corner saying, ‘Why did you do this? You have a Christian heart… I’m so disappointed…’ and when I hung up I said to Chris I’m so sorry, and he said “No way, good on you. You’re a publicist and you’re a mom and you had an issue and you addressed it, and that’s exactly what I would want you to do.” Some days work better than others.
It helps that you have a supportive husband. How did he feel when you approached him about this show? Well, you know, I discussed it with my husband before I made the phone call to Authentic because there was no point in getting myself excited if Michael wasn’t going to be on board. So, I said to him I have an idea for a show and there’s a lot of things that has to happen for this to work. Like, they have to let me be a producer…but I have really good agents and I believe that I could get this done, ‘Will you support me, if this is the show? It’s Jersey Belle; it’s a comedy, and this is exactly how it’s done.’ And, he said, “Yes, If that is the show I will be apart of it, absolutely.” I believe rejection is God’s protection, and if it was not going to be meant for me… If it was not the right thing to do, it never would have happened.
Based on this Jersey Belle’s track record, the show will not only be entertaining and fun, but another coup Sullivan can add to her lengthy list of accomplishments.
Jersey Belle premieres on, Monday August 4th 2014 on Bravo at 10/9c.