Filming American Gypsies

Written by Executive Producer, Toby Faulkner

Being invited to document the life of any contributor is always a privilege, but when they’re Rom, you realize what an honor you’ve been granted. This is whole race of people who have fiercely guarded their privacy for thousands of years… and now we’re being granted access. I hope it’s as amazing to watch as it has been to film.

So many of their traditions can be seen in other cultures across the globe, that I think anyone watching can recognize themselves or their family in the Johns.

It’s fascinating that there’s a whole race of people who live and work among us, but who we know so little about beyond hearsay and gossip. Rom are in every county in America, but do you know a Gypsy or Roma person? Many don’t admit to their heritage for fear of prejudice. It’s a sad and shocking admission.

So much of the Romany culture is oral – passed down from family member to family member. With so few written records, I’m glad that in some small way we can help this one family tell their story and in doing so educate the audience watching at home. Believe you me; this family is way more skeptical of us Gadjo (non-Gypsy people), than we are of them. Let’s hope by the end of this series, we can inject some reality into everyone’s perceptions while still presenting an entertaining hour of television. We can but try.


Catch the premiere of American Gypsies: Rivals at War on Tuesday, July 17th at 9P et/pt.


  1. Nick
    July 11, 2012, 9:47 pm

    If the best that you can come up with is this show with people beating each other and trashing cars, maybe you should just down your network.

  2. L.Booker
    July 12, 2012, 9:17 am

    Ok!? Here`s what I want to know!Why are you ruining your reputation on a culture that seems to think they are above the law of the country they live in!?!?!?I will not watch this show,or any other show that seems to suggest this behavior is acceptable.Please Nat Geo,stop giving these anti Americans a platform for their anti-American culture!

  3. Hootie
    July 17, 2012, 1:22 am

    There are many, many Different American Rom families and tribes, the Johns of New York are only one of them and they have a reputation of being very Rough people.

  4. Geja
    west virginia
    July 18, 2012, 1:19 pm

    One of the worst shows I have ever seen and I am 70 years old. The American court system has its faults but if the alternative is shouting at each other and threatening people across a table full of geriatrics, I’ll stick with what we’ve got.

  5. unknown
    July 18, 2012, 7:27 pm

    i am a real gypsy and its nothing like that at all this is just people who decided to get together and make money its all fake we are nothing like the mafia it we don’t tell fortunes its pathetic and their last name is nothing to do with a gypsy

  6. Chad
    San Antonio,TX
    July 19, 2012, 9:37 pm

    I can’t believe NATGEO would stoop so low to show the reality lives of classless, un-American, un-patriotic, liars, thieves and conartists. If I wanted to watch this trash, I would watch the Kardashians and Ryan Slimecrest on the E channel

  7. Stephan Demeter
    New York
    July 19, 2012, 11:49 pm

    This is a awesome show and this is true anyone that leaves bad posts are just jealous that there family was not exciting like the johns family. I commend Nicky and bobby for finally doing something to show America how the gypsy people roll. I am a American married to a gypsy and I am one of the most fortuniate people in the world. I wish them all the best. Love u tina, nicky, bobby, joe, jack, eric and Robert. I alway knew Nicky looked like joe peshi.

  8. Josh F
    July 20, 2012, 1:50 am

    It really bugs me seeing Nat Geo of all channels running this reality TV garbage. I tune into Nat Geo to learn, not watch this trash.

  9. Alan Sewell
    July 21, 2012, 10:55 pm

    Complete trash. I’m shocked Nat Geo would run this type of program.

  10. Crystal
    July 23, 2012, 9:49 pm

    Horrible show! I love NGC but this show is ridiculous!

  11. PJ Mitchell (a Rom)
    Tampa Bay
    July 24, 2012, 7:57 pm

    Wow.. so much hate and anger, so much.. and people wonder why gypsies are the way they are with everyone else in the world?! Do you THINK we want to hide from other cultures, do you really think we want to have to handle our own affairs within families? WE are not above the law, we pay taxes, we get parking tickets, some of us who commit crimes go to jail, we even vote! A lot of us have educations (I am working on a PhD in chemistry). Anti-American? Tell me, what do YOU think a native american would say to anyone and everyone else who lives here? Every culture is different, and every culture has differences within them. THATS American. People say they watch because they want to learn? So.. learning about other cultures (regardless of how different they are of YOU) isn’t learning? Wow.. no wonder America is going to hell in a hand-basket..

    Growing up in this culture, I have to admit that some of the things that are portrayed here are embellished.. thats just the nature of television. It has to be taken with a grain of salt. Anyone who watches reality TV and things its actually 100% true is a fool. The scenes of them ransacking someone elses psychic shop is for dramatic effects. This does not happen, as even within the Gypsy culture this is seen as wrong.

    Just because its on TV doesn’t mean its always true… TV is a mix of half-truths and half-lies. How about people try to have a bit of an open-mind and less hate and anger? Maybe everyone in this world will be a bit better off? But what do I know.. I’m just a dumb, anti-American, trashy, lying thief of a gypsy…. with a degree in chemistry from a top university.

  12. Jason
    July 27, 2012, 7:09 pm

    Horrible TV…. I hope Nat Geo drops this garbage.

  13. dorothy
    san antonio texas
    July 31, 2012, 12:41 pm

    first of all Nat Geo i wish u talked to more gypsys befor you did this show ,becase not all gypsys are the same,im a gypsy im 60 years old,what u put on net geo is only about the Johns of New York .there what we call gypsy trash,dont want them around the gypsys becase there are so differnt and wrong,did they tell you about there wifes they do sugerdads,no gypsys wanna be them or live like them,theres so much there lieing you about the gypsys,they are talking only about there self,dsigrace to all gypsys,i watched nat geo most of my life and loved it & still do but these guys really mised you up,i belived everthing you put on tv was all true but now i dont know ?????????????

    July 31, 2012, 11:13 pm


  15. Tyler
    August 7, 2012, 9:05 pm

    Yeah, come on NatGeo! What is with this garbage? It really is a mindless show. Why are TV channels drastically changing? Syfy shows wrestling now. All these stupid reality shows makes me turn off my TV now, but that’s probably a good thing because I used to watch a lot of TV.

  16. Marty
    August 7, 2012, 11:50 pm

    It seems like a lot of Tarot card reading going on for a living. Are those shops the scamers that ‘offer’ to remove curses over a great deal of time for a huge sum of money?? I was shocked when those old geriatrics ordered one of them to give a huge chunk of change to a guy who ran a ‘business’ too close to his. How do these gypsies come up with all this money? to pay damages to other gypsies?? Tarot readings are usually a lure to get a person to pay more and more money. I think there are a lot of other cultures I would have been interested in knowing more about than this one. Geez, Nat Geo!! It’s a big world, is this the best you can do. I don’t see the males doing any real work I might add.

  17. Dmitriy
    August 11, 2012, 12:54 am

    Get this trash off the air.. I just deleted Nat Geo from my ch lineup

  18. JoAnn
    August 11, 2012, 12:05 pm

    My comment is that I love your show so much being Italian I can relate to the family thing in the way of respect In all do respect no disrespect i just think Bobby is so sexy and gorgeous he makes my day when I see him on that show all the best Bobby and the rest of your family GREAT show JoAnn.

  19. Phil
    el paso, tx
    August 21, 2012, 7:39 am

    I cannot imagine how a respected organization such as National Geographic can produce such shows as “American Gypsies,” etc. in which groups of people about which little is known by outsiders are portrayed in the most sensationalized and non-typical light.
    For centuries the Rom have been looked upon as roguish Mafia-types, with flaming hot tempers and a predilection to mayhem. This show only fans the flames of anti-Roma prejudice. A true Romani kris (court) would blackball this family that cooperated with the gazho (non-Rom) producer to portray Rom as a violent group of people for money.
    What’s next? A reality show called “American Beaners,” in which Mexicans are portrayed as a lying, thieving, treacherous lot, with hot women and spouse-abusing husbands?
    This show ranks with “My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding,” in which the scantily-clad females are NOT Romani–they are Irish Travellers–gazha (non-Romani females).True Romani females are modest in both dress and manner.
    The inaccuracies in “American Gypsies” are legion–the grandmother tells the granddaughter that she has the “gift” –the gift? The scenes of the Romani court (kris) are so staged that even a well-read gazho could see it–in the first place, the kris is conducted “Romanes” (in the Romani language) and outsiders, even a camera crew, are barred.
    Nat Geo, why not do a series on the actual life and culture of Roma as it is. When “My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding” aired, there arose incidents of violence against Romani people in England. All over Eastern Europe, Roma are being physically attacked and even killed by nationalists who have always hated the Roma. Why not do a “reality show” based on REALITY. Woliv murro Rromano them (I love my Romani people)!

  20. Amanda
    Mobile al
    August 28, 2012, 9:59 pm

    Well I like it at lest ppl will know who we are now.

  21. Lisa piazza
    August 29, 2012, 3:44 pm

    I think it’s a great show, it’s what TV is supposed to be ENTERTAINING. It seems most of the people who posted forgot that. And entertaining it is. These people seem awfully emotional over it. They might not be the same as every gypsy family but I think it’s a realistic depiction of gypsy with a new York back round. I have grown up in a neighborhood were gypsies live nd they seem pretty much the same in many ways, nd own the neighborhood psychic shop. The guys walk in groups together nd the women stay at the shop. The ones I know also buy auctioned cars to re-sell. Anyway if u don’t like it don’t watch it but don’t bash people. Or try to get geo to remove it nd take it away from all the people that enjoy it. Stop being so emotional.

  22. christian - minority
    August 30, 2012, 1:08 am

    OK.. I found the show entertaining until I saw them abusing an animal… disgusting….

  23. Jinko
    September 2, 2012, 9:22 pm

    This should not be on the National Geographic channel.

  24. Christine Manfredi
    United States
    September 3, 2012, 1:53 am

    I can’t help but feel furious when I watch Nickie’s tantrums and his insistence his stroke damaged father not be given rehab by gaje, a racist word for Americans. I think when folks come to America, they agree to follow American laws.
    I believe ignorance might possible kill the old man, not the stroke.

    I believe when folks become Americans, they are Americans FIRST, and their religion and ethnicity second. Everyone of us came from somewhere, and everyone of us carries our cultural memories, practices in our hearts, but we choose, as Americans, to let this sharing enrich us, not divide us.

  25. Christine Manfredi
    September 3, 2012, 2:01 am

    PJ Mitchell, I don’t think folks think all Gypsies are bad, violent, thieves. This show has not done any good for perceptions of Gypsies. The BBC show, Big Fat Gypsy Wedding, shows a lot more of the positive aspects. I just don’t think Americans like to feel so disrespected when we gave out-liers a home. All racism and hate speech is unbearably ugly, and I think we are responding to that ugly speech.

  26. Tracy
    September 7, 2012, 7:14 pm

    I really like the show!!! I find them very interesting and I love learning about other cultures. I feel why people are responding in a negative way is because of Nicky’s (non-American ) mouth. When he went to his brother (ERIC) and said that thing about the AMERICAN FLAG …I knew he [messed] up! So did his brother!!! But on a less serious note,we know why Nicky is so over the top loud and obnoxious . Because of his drinking,I cried my eye’s out watching Tina and Nicky at the grave yard because I know from my own family how hard this disease is to beat. Good luck and God bless you Nicky!!!

  27. Tracy
    September 7, 2012, 11:25 pm

    Bobby, most of the time you are giving ,thoughtful and reasonable but I don’t agree with how you acted on the kids birthdays. This is one time I’m taking Nicky’s side. I felt really bad for Nicky trying his best to scrap enough money to get his son a car. Justin seems like a very sweet kid and if it’s tradition that he get a nice car on his 16th B-day .Let me ask you this,shava why did you turn the attention on You and you son? Don’t get me wrong if you want to buy your son a car that is perfectly okay but….why did you want to hurt your brother and make it about you? You could have gave (Chris& Samatha) the car before or after the party!!! Your anger for Nicky is understandable but when it comes to your nephew you should have stepped back my friend. Your own brothers said it was wrong along with your other nephew Val. I know how Nicky has done you over your girl’s acting,businesses and family traditions. but don’t hurt (Justin) that was his day. Such a sweet kid cute dimples !!!

  28. Tracy
    September 8, 2012, 2:07 am

    I want to know more about the wives ,I see only 2 of the brothers that are married which is Nicky and Jack .We find out about Bobby getting a divorce . What about Eric and Joey? Are they divorced? Or do their wives want no part in filming? If divorced who then runs the business of fortune telling? The men? You need to tell more about how this works, meaning if a divorce happens WHO RUNS THE SHOPS? Just want to say this Joey is fine,I want to see more about Joey !!!

  29. anonymous
    September 9, 2012, 1:24 am

    This is a fake show with actors. Gypsies and their culture are nothing like this. Real gypsies wouldnt allow for this stuff to be filmed. They make them out to be trashy and mafia like…

  30. allan
    October 2, 2012, 12:53 am

    I’m so tired of these “reality shows” that are so obviously scripted with terrible acting and fake fight scenes. I’m really disappointed Nat Geo would air something like this. Stick to the fact based educational programming that has made your channel successful. Leave the trash fake reality shows for other networks.

  31. liliana
    October 3, 2012, 5:28 pm

    I LOVE IT! I get to see different cultures. National Geographic does an excellent and I am a big fan of the Gypsie people 🙂

  32. Roberta Kagan
    Chicago, Ill.
    October 16, 2012, 6:50 pm

    I am half Romany. It is true that for many years our people have been very private. They have also been looked upon in a very negative way. I am a writer. I write a great deal of my novels with a tender and honest insight into the Romany culture. If you are interested in knowing more about my people, please take a look at my books. You will find them under Roberta Kagan on Amazon. I recommend the book “The Heart Of a Gypsy.”

  33. Linda
    November 9, 2012, 2:26 pm

    I am a fashion designer and have made thousands of wedding gowns and ballroom dancing gowns. I would love to design and make the gypsy’s wedding gowns. I know it would be so much fun helping them get the gown of their dreams.

  34. Daley
    December 6, 2012, 10:34 am

    Can you imagine a show about white Anglo Saxon americans talking about keeping there culture pure and not mixing with other races or cultures?.. We wouldn’t call it interesting, or culturally entertaining. Maybe racist?? Amazing what you can get away with when you class yourself as a minority.

  35. Mark
    February 27, 2013, 11:19 am

    Phil big fat gypsy weddings didnt pretend to be roma and where have you heard there was wide spread violence? That’s a total lie what is the truth roma are taught the they stole a nail to try to prevent Jesus being executed and God told them from then on they could steal off anyone except themselves and are taught as children its ok to target weak non gypsies specially elderly or disabled. Theyre a huge worldwide crime problem. Although not many will admit this it is totally true theyve stolen trillions from widows to contact dead husbands…..

  36. Rae
    Mesa Arizona
    May 14, 8:19 am

    Ok so the thing about the nail being stolen and us getting a free pass to steal from elderly and disabled I don’t know were that came from because although every different Romani family has a different way of passing down their culture, I was never taught that it was alright to steal from elderly or disabled and if it was necessarily adamant that I grifted it was a person who could take very good care of themselves and are usually snobby, rude judgmental and deserve it. But if you must grift it isn’t done without karma coming to make u reap what you sow!! Everyone of your actions are paid for with Karma reacting. So it’s not like that, and some gypsys are born with gifts I was and I read tarot , and palms , tea leaves and fishbones and I have never told anyone what they have just wanted to hear, some things are true and some aren’t it also depends on were your bloodline came from, mine are Romanian and Hungarian, from along the Carpathian Mountains so yes we are very superstitious and secretive we don’t go on national television or anything of that nature