Editor's note: Sweet Home Alabama debuts Thursday (July 14) at 9 p.m. ET/PT on CMT.
Devin Grissom, a student at the University of Alabama, is smart, beautiful and urbane, yet she's still a small-town girl who holds tight to her values. In the new CMT series, Sweet Home Alabama, she's looking for love among 20 men -- half from the city, half from the country.
"I definitely went into the dates very, very clueless," says Grissom. "And I was just thrown into this environment with somebody else, and we had to form real relationships. I feel like when people start watching, they're definitely going to be able to tell that. I mean, I'm not an actress at all, and so I couldn't fake any of this. It would be a terrible show if I was trying to act it out."
Grissom grew up in Cordova, Tenn., and recently returned to her home state to visit with CMT.com. In this interview, she shares her tips for a strong first impression, her favorite sports teams and the experience of seeing her face on a giant billboard.
CMT: What made you want to do this show?
Grissom: I have grown up watching The Bachelorette and The Bachelor. I love these types of shows. I mean, every girl pretty much does. But at the same time, I was kind of worried about how things would be portrayed -- if things would be a little too risqué, because I'm definitely big on my values and I want to stick to that. But the thing is, the people that I've met through this ... were so nice and genuine about everything, and wanted me to be so comfortable with the whole situation.
Usually on a date, it's just the two of you, and here you've got cameras following you. Does that change how you behave on your dates?
I barely knew these guys at first, and the only times that I got to see them was while we were on camera. I mean, it's hard to initially get to know someone and feel like you have a relationship when you're being followed by 15 people. It's definitely not a conventional way to date. But as it progressed and I got to know them better, sometimes we completely forgot that there were cameras at all.
Did you notice a difference between city boys and country boys?
There definitely were differences in the appearances and the way they looked and the way they carried themselves. I feel like the city guys were definitely just so confident about themselves, but really when it came down to being on the dates with them, there really wasn't much of a difference. The city guys were just as respectful as the country guys, which was the main thing that I was thinking would be different, but really I was pleasantly surprised.
What have you learned from being around all these men at once?
I've learned not to judge anyone by stereotypical things. I told myself I was going to be completely open-minded and get to know everyone as a person and not judge them by anything. I definitely tried to do that to the best of my ability. I was pleasantly surprised by how much I had in common with some of these guys that on initial meeting, who I would probably dismiss any other time. So I definitely learned not to judge.
One of your dates was Snooki's ex-boyfriend. What was your reaction?
When I was meeting all of the guys, I walked out and they were all standing there. I was getting everybody's name, and right when I got up to Jeff Miranda -- we call him "Jersey" on the show -- he said, "My name's Jeff. I'm Snooki's ex." That's how he introduced himself. I was like, "Really? Why did you tell me that right off?" But like I said, I was going in open-minded, and I wanted to get to know him. I wasn't going to judge anybody by their ex. I wouldn't like it if anybody judged me by my ex, although my ex is not a reality star.
How did the men behave when you weren't around?
There were definitely rivals in the house. And city versus country comes out a lot. I'm not an expert on that because I don't know what happened in the house. I'm going to be seeing the real drama with the guys when everybody else does. So it'll be interesting to see exactly how they were when they weren't around me. ... I know that there were definitely lots of fights and definitely lots of drama that went on, but I don't know specifics or anything.
What is next for your career and personal life?
I am finishing up school. I have about a year left until I graduate. Then, hopefully I will get a job in PR. I want to work for a sporting team or something with sports, because I am a sports fanatic.
Do you play sports?
No, I don't play. I'm terrible athletically, but I love anything to do with football and basketball.
Do you have favorite teams?
Oh, yes. Well, obviously Alabama. "Roll Tide," all day long! I'm obsessed with Alabama football -- anything to do with it. I am on top of that. I'm a Memphis Grizzlies fan in the NBA. And for NFL, I follow players more than I follow teams, but I'm really into the fantasy league because I'm pretty much a fan of all NFL teams. I follow the players on each specific team.
Do you have favorite players?
Tom Brady. Julio Jones. Mark Ingram is next year. He's going to be playing for the Saints, so I'm really excited for that. Pretty much any Alabama player I follow that goes into the NFL.
Do you have dating tips for women and men?
Oh, gosh, OK. For women, I think it's important to be really laid-back and not too clingy. I feel like that's a complete and total red flag for guys when a girl comes into a date being way too girly. I definitely sometimes have more of a guy personality than a girl personality. So I try to go into dates and just talk about them. Guys love to talk about themselves. They definitely get an ego boost and a confidence boost anytime a girl wants to know about them. Those are things for girls. And for guys -- don't overdo it. That's the main thing for me. I don't like when guys try too hard. Sometimes on first dates, they try too hard to impress. I'm definitely the type of girl that's impressed by more of a laid-back situation and just being ourselves.
How do you feel about seeing the show?
This isn't me acting in a movie. It's me being myself and being vulnerable in front of however many people. So it's definitely scary. I'm excited for it, and I'm ready for it to premiere. But at the same time, it's kind of nerve-wracking. I'm more excited, but I'm kind of dreading it at the same time just because it's definitely me. I'm putting everything out there for everybody to see.
Did you see your billboard in Nashville?
Yes! It was so strange to see the billboard. We took pictures in front of it. I was looking up, and it was just huge. My face was there, and I was like, "This is not real right now." It literally did not feel real. I mean, two months ago, I had no idea. If somebody told me I would be sitting here right now, I would've laughed in their face because it's unreal.