It takes a village to bring a television series to life -- and when Teen Mom 2 returns in 2017, viewers will get to see the hardworking people behind the scenes in front of the camera. New year, new look!
In honor of the network's hit program breaking the fourth wall like Teen Mom OG, MTV News spoke with the producers who work closely with Kailyn Lowry, Jenelle Evans, Leah Messer and Chelsea Houska. The foursome -- JC Cueva (Kail), Kristen Schylinski (Jenelle), Amy Rhodin (Leah) and Mandi Venturino (Chelsea) -- opened up about favorite moments they have shared with the young parents, how they would describe their relationships with the cast members and what fans can expect to see this season. Without further ado, let's get started -- and don't miss Teen Mom 2 every Monday at 9/8c beginning January 2 (and catch up on last season right now on MTV.com and the app):
When did you first start working on Teen Mom 2?
Schylinski: I first started working during the second season of 16 and Pregnant, back in 2009. I produced a couple of episodes. When Teen Mom 2 got picked up, I worked with Jenelle and Chelsea as a field producer for the first couple of seasons. It became too difficult to work with more than one girl because there was so much going on, so I transitioned to working with Jenelle full-time during the third season. I became a co-executive producer last season – my role is to primarily be with Jenelle, then I go to any of the other girls on an as-needed basis.
Rhodin: My experience is a little uncharacteristic for a producer -- I actually started directly out of college as an assistant to [executive producer] Dia [Sokol Savage] in 2011. I was studying journalism in college and wanted to do something different. I’ve been involved with 16 and Pregnant, Teen Mom OG and the last two seasons of Teen Mom 2 in every capacity with the girls. I became Chelsea and Leah’s associate producer during Season 5. I was with Leah a lot during Season 6 and transitioned into being her field producer.
Cueva: I began working in April 2015, but this was my first season on Teen Mom 2. Previously, I was on Teen Mom OG, and I worked with Amber and Farrah.
Venturino: I was hired in September of 2015. I’ve always been with Chelsea. When I first started, I was a segment producer, and I had Chelsea and Leah. For Season 7A, I was with both, and for 7B, I moved over to be Chelsea’s sole field producer.
How would you describe your relationship with the cast members and those closest to them?
Venturino: Chelsea is fantastic; we get along really well. We got close when we were filming aftershows last season, and we just clicked really well. She is super welcoming -- there is always a dessert made, and she will make [the crew] extra dinner. She makes you feel like you’re a part of the family. She will text me randomly, not even to talk about what’s happening with filming. We are friends.
Cole is super sweet -- he really is that sweet in person. That is the one question I get all of the time, and he really is that nice of a guy. Most of the time I deal directly with Chelsea, but if Chelsea is unavailable (or experiencing pregnancy-related sickness), he will step in and say that I should talk to him. It’s something that I admire about him -- he’s so protective of her. We get to spend a lot of time together during the reunions, and he’s really chill when the cameras aren’t around. He’s a bit more reserved when we are filming, but he’s great.
When we found out that I was going to be field producing the upcoming season, I really wanted Adam to feel like he could come to me and talk to me. I wanted him to feel like he was being heard, because I know he has felt that he’s portrayed negatively and no one tells his side. I approached him to establish that relationship. One of the first conversations we had was at the reunion for 7A, and I thought we had a good conversation.
I have a texting relationship with Randy. If I need something from him, I text him and I will usually get a response and a snarky GIF.
Cueva: I think I have a really good relationship with Kail. I was a new person coming in; her previous field producer had been with her for years and years. I had big shoes to fill, but I think I did a good job. I joke around with her a lot. She likes me as a person, but she hates that I have to be a producer sometimes. We get along really great, and I think she respects me.
Jo is great. Jo and I got along from the very beginning. He’s very laid back and easygoing.
When I first got to know Javi, he was overseas. I would FaceTime him, but it was a little awkward at first because there was no face-to-face interaction. I got to meet him in person when he returned home after being deployed. But Javi is easygoing, and we get along very well.
Rhodin: First and foremost, Leah sees me as her producer, and I see her as the dynamic person whose story we're sharing. At the same time, because we’ve known each other for so long, we've built a really strong relationship. I’ve been there for some of the hardest moments of her life, both on and off camera, so there is a lot of history. On the regular, however, Leah is a sweet 20-something girl's girl, so we talk about everything that friends talk about daily -- boys, clothes, stresses, all off that. Her three girls are a serious girl squad full of lots of love and laughter, and our crew has a blast just following that hilarious foursome around. But at the end of the day, things aren't always perfect -- so when it comes to sharing her story, we have boundaries and trust and have to openly communicate about how we will tell this story in its most truthful way.
Corey is one of the funniest man’s man you will ever meet. He is all boy all the time – but he’s also the dad of three amazing girls, and he’s been surrounded by some pretty dynamic women these past seven years. We are also pretty close, but I know when he doesn’t want to talk about things. He has a normal work day, and he works very hard for his kids. We do not talk every day, but when we do, it’s about important matters.
Jeremy is our wild child. He’s a West Virginia, hardworking guy. You never know what you will get from him, and I take Leah’s lead with him. He can relate to the crew because of traveling and how that affects one’s family.
Schylinski: My relationship with Jenelle is extremely professional. I think we are very close in the sense that we have been working together for so long, we can really finish each other’s sentences at this point. But I think that our relationship is built on trust and mutual respect that’s taken years to build. Jenelle is a very closed person in some ways, and it takes a long time to really get to know her. Now she’s very open with me and tells me everything that is going on in her life. Jenelle has always been very respectful and is very professional. She is so respectful with the crew, and that is very impressive.
Barbara, or Barbarino as I call her, is a character. Barb and I are very close. Barb is a very emotional creature. We have a very strong relationship -- I talk to her a couple of times a week.
David is amazing with the children -- he is so great with them. He adores Jenelle; he is constantly doing as much as he can for her.
What is a favorite Teen Mom 2 moment you produced?
Venturino: When Chelsea surprised me and told me she was pregnant, of course (relive it in the trailer above). That was such an amazing moment. It made me feel good that she felt we were close enough to share that moment with me. For me, that was an awesome moment.
Rhodin: Seeing Ali and her progress over the past few years, as hard as it’s been at points, it has also been really amazing. We go to a hospital every six months in Ohio, and it’s an incredible facility. The doctors make every family feel comfortable. Ali has an incredibly rare disease, something that I’ve learned about as we go. They have no idea what the future holds for her, but the best part is seeing Ali on a day-to-day basis. Whether she’s using her wheelchair or not, or running around with her sisters, just seeing her enjoying being a kid is so much fun. Seeing Ali use her wheelchair for the first time and seeing her light up -- she thought it was a fun toy. But she also knew that it was serious and important for her, and that was a really amazing moment.
Schylinski: My favorite moment in this entire series was when Kaiser was born. Being in the delivery room was one of the most special moments of my life. Her epidural actually didn’t work -- it was leaking, so it didn’t actually take. So she’s going into labor and she’s screaming that she wants a C-section. None of us realized that her epidural didn’t work, and she gave birth to Kaiser naturally. And she was such a champ. It was one of the most beautiful moments of my life, especially seeing how happy Jenelle and Nathan were post-birth.
Cueva: This was one of my earlier shoots and we’re in the middle of the scene, and all of a sudden, her dog vomits. And she starts freaking out, and it stinks up the room. Her friends were there, and she was cleaning it up and gagging. And I was like, “Oh my God, is this what my season is going to be like?” I love when something unexpected happens like a dog pukes.
How often do you speak with the girls when you are in production?
Cueva: Kail is your typical millennial -- she doesn’t like talking on the phone. I would say 95% of our conversations are through text message. She likes her space, so I do my best to give her that. I talk to her at least three to four times a week when we’re in production. When we’re not in production, I would check in on her once a week at least -- to find out what’s going on, to say “hi.” We have built a friendship, and Kail does a good job of understanding that I’m a friend and producer.
Rhodin: Leah and I speak pretty regularly; we have a specific system for when we’re planning shoots. She’s pretty organized, and she likes to know what we’re filming on those days. I’m an important part of her life because this show is an important part of her life. When it comes to knowing what’s going on, she lets me know and we have fun with it.
Schylinski: When we’re filming, I speak with Jenelle probably a couple of times a day. We’re constantly texting back and forth. When we’re not filming, I probably speak to her every week or every other week. This is why I’m a television producer -- because the relationships you form with people become a part of your life.
Venturino: When we’re filming, I try to give Chelsea a bit of space because filming is a lot for her sometimes. For example, we’re flying out tomorrow, so I texted her today and said, “Hey, just want to remind you we’re flying out tomorrow. But now I won’t text you until tomorrow to review the schedule.” I try to give her a day or two in between so she doesn’t feel bombarded. But when we’re not filming, we talk almost every day. If it’s not every day, it’s every couple of days. It’s always just to see how the other person is doing, or she’ll text me a sonogram or a video of the baby kicking. We talk a lot -- we are very close.
What was your reaction when you heard the series was breaking the fourth wall? Do you like being on camera?
Cueva: Coming from Teen Mom OG, I had already appeared on camera. I’ve done scenes with Gary. I was trained old-school -- I was trained to be on the other side of the camera and not show my face. It is not my favorite part of my job, but I do really like the edge it can give me. I’m not pretending I’m not in a room. I also think it’s better for the audience because they know there are cameras present; they know that there are producers. It helps me tell the story better sometimes, because if I have a question, I can just jump in and ask it. I don’t even think about it, I just do it.
Schylinski: I was nervous when I found out Teen Mom 2 was breaking the fourth wall. I couldn’t believe I actually had to be on camera! It’s stressful because I try to be neutral. Now that I’m filmed, I understand so much more of what the girls go through on a regular basis because you’re second guessing yourself and contemplating how you should react. This is not my story – I have to be as non-reactive as possible, and that is not easy.
Rhodin: When we first broke the fourth wall, it was pretty weird. The hardest part is actually telling the cameraman to turn the camera on you when something is going down. But like the cast has said a million times, you forget that the cameras are around. It was a bit difficult to get into the flow -- but all in all, this is getting as real as it gets.
Venturino: I was really excited and kind of skeptical at the same time. It obviously works for Teen Mom OG. But sometimes when shows take that leap to break the fourth wall, which a lot more shows are doing, the fans don’t respond well to it.
I was always interested in working in television. When I was in high school, I always said I wanted to be on camera. And then going to college and starting to work, I was behind the camera. I’m not against it. I don’t hate it. I’m still getting used to it; sometimes. I forget that the camera is on me. I have to control my facial expressions sometimes.
What can fans expect from the cast members this season?
Venturino: Fans will see that Chelsea is more open than she has been in previous seasons. She’s more emotional this season. You get a better glimpse of her relationship with Cole -- they are planning a wedding and then they are pregnant. Everything gets put on hold, but they are still super excited for the baby. Fans will get to see how happy she is and how amazing her family is doing.
Cueva: I think that they will see Kail open up more. We dig a little bit deeper and get into what is really going on in her head. She hides what she’s really feeling, and we will get more insight into her emotional side.
Schylinski: I think Jenelle is growing up a lot. I think she’s becoming a lot more mellow and less reactive. I think she’s really getting her life together in a big way: She just bought a house and land and she's developing that, and she’s building her family.
Rhodin: I think this will be Leah’s most lighthearted season, which I think is much-deserved. But it’s still Leah’s world, and there are so many characters and dynamics and emotional moments. As lighthearted and as healthy and strong and independent Leah has become in the past year, the drama won’t ever end. I hope people are ready to see a new side of her.