The Jersey Shore star and the Younger actor (who actually plays a tattoo artist on the TV Land show) have teamed up to host a new MTV series, How Far Is Tattoo Far?, in which pairs of friends, family members and couples are tasked with designing tattoos for each another. The twist? They can’t see it until it’s permanently inked on their body.
And for Tortorella and Polizzi, both 30 and heavily tatted themselves, it was match made in TV heaven.
“The second Nicole and I were in a room together, it was just this instant bond,” Tortorella tells PEOPLE. “We feel like we’ve known each other for a lifetime. Our souls match.”
“We’re very emotional,” Polizzi adds. “We cry a lot at the reveals. And we scream. We’re very dramatic.”
With the help of some of the most creative and talented tattoo artists in the industry, the series will follow the blindfolded duos as they learn the stories behind the designs that are now on their bodies. The process is “highly stressful,” the hosts say.
“We’re both intense empaths,” Tortorella says. “We feel everything that these people are going through each episode. It’s almost like we’re getting the tattoos, too.”
Tortorella says the show has essentially become a “psychological think tank.”
“The psychology behind this is really what keeps me the most invested,” he says. “Because you have these people come in, and whether they’re lovers, family members or best friends, they know each other really, really deeply.”
“And then they f— with each other,” Polizzi explains.
“Well, some of them,” Tortorella says. “Not everybody has f—ed with each other. We have some really positive, emotional pieces as well. But that being said, even the stuff that’s ‘negative’ or jokey, in a sense, there is still some sort of therapeutic medicine in the tattoos, which is just fascinating. Let’s just say people don’t have much of a filter when it comes to imagery. They’re really going for it.”
“Seeing these people go on these journeys within the hours that we have them, they go through every single emotion possible,” he marvels. “From so excited when they get here to complete emotional breakdowns and everything in between.”
The show is based on the hit international format, Just Tattoo of Us — but according to Polizzi and Tortorella, the U.S. version will be quite different.
“The first thing that I said when I agreed to do this was, given our socio-political landscape here in the United States, I don’t want to go on this show and just start degrading women,” Tortorella says. “I don’t want to throw ‘slut’ on someone’s a—, like they did in London. We can’t do that here right now — we just can’t.”
“Luckily it hasn’t gone down that road,” Polizzi says.
“This show is so much more than that,” Tortorella says. “We’re really not trying to divide people, we’re not trying to break people up.”
“And we always make sure everyone leaves on a positive note,” Polizzi says. “Like, ‘Can we just hug it out? You guys got through what you needed to, and I’m sorry you have this tattoo for the rest of your life.’ “
In fact, Polizzi and Tortorella are even thinking about going through the process themselves.
“We’ve been talking about it,” he says. “Now that we’ve shot the entire season, I feel like Nicole and I could pick tattoos for each other that would be really positive and meaningful. We know how bad it gets up there. And I would never do that her.”
“Me neither,” Polizzi says. “But I would scare you and pretend I did!”
How Far Is Tattoo Far? premieres Thursday at 9 p.m. ET on MTV.