It takes a lot more than a few blisters and calloused hands to shake the men featured on the History Channel’s reality hit, “Big Shrimpin’.” The show follows Dominick Ficarino of Bayou la Batre, the iron fist and business mastermind behind Dominick’s Seafood, and his crews on the Miss Hannah, Miss Ashleigh and Miss Barbara as they fight the seas to keep the domestic shrimping industry afloat.
Here, Ficarino discusses his team’s big Hollywood break.
How did you get your start in the shrimping industry?
I’m a fourth-generation shrimper. As a kid, I used to come in after school, clean up the equipment and do a little bit of everything.
I went to Spring Hill College for freshman year and left the night before finals. I started packing my clothes, and my roommate asked me what I was doing. I told him that I was going home. He said, “Tomorrow, after finals?” I said, “No, right now.” I told him I knew I was probably a fool, but if I stayed and took those exams, that meant I was coming back to school in the fall. I was pre-med, and I hated it. I said, “I’m going to go be a businessman.” The day I left, I knew I was going to work, and I was going to work hard for the rest of my life.
How did the idea of “Big Shrimpin'” come about?
I got a phone call from the film company back in November. I thought it was a joke at first; so many of us play jokes on each other. They said they wanted to come sit on the dock with a camera crew and interview me and all my fishermen as they come in.
The guys start showing up, and they’d all been out 30 to 35 days and looked rough as the dickens. I said, “Fellas, I don’t know if any of you guys are interested in interviewing with those boys on the dock, but they’re from Hollywood. Y’all want to try out for a movie part?” They lined up so fast; there must have been a hundred of them. So we got to interviewing, and there it went.
How did it feel to have cameras falling you around?
Every day, first thing when I got out of the truck, there goes the microphone and the crew. We spent a total of 18 weeks on camera. It was strange. Very strange. The first couple of days wasn’t so bad. But when we got ready for the first episode, I came out to give a speech and I thought I was going to have a heart attack. I had been dealing with a producer and a camera or two each day, but I busted out that back door and there must have been 25 sets of cameras set up out there. And I was thinking, “Oh man, this is for real.”
Throughout the course of the show, many people described you as ruling with an iron fist. Is that an accurate description?
I felt like I was probably a bit bland on camera compared to what I normally would be. You could say I’m pretty hardcore. But you got to rule with an iron fist. They know how I am. Somebody’s got to be a boss. You got to be a leader. And if you’re not willing to bear down on them, don’t take the position.
In your experience, how “real” was reality television?
They follow you around all day, and if they feel like there is something they missed, they’ll ask you to repeat it. Other than that, everything is real. It’s our daily life. It really makes you stop and think while your working, but you just go about your way and get used to them.
Now that the show has aired, do people recognize you in public?
Oh, yeah. I was going to Academy before Christmas and as soon as I cleared the door, I hear, “Mister, mister!” I turned around wondering what I had done, and this guy hollers, “I don’t want to make a fool out of myself, but are you Dominick from ‘Big Shrimpin’”? It’s everywhere we go. Everywhere.
How does your family feel about your new “celebrity” status?
With all these people following me, [my wife] Loraine says she going to shoot me if I don’t get rid of this mustache. I think she’s had enough of my stardom.