Serendipitously timed to a moment when many parents are stuck at home and in constant search of things to keep their kids entertained, “Lego Masters” has proven to be a bright spot for dark times, showcasing skill and passion and creativity in a family-friendly competition show package.
And that’s exactly how it was always intended, even before a global coronavirus pandemic made that more necessary than ever, says executive producer Anthony Dominici. It’s a show meant to bring families together and keep them entertained — maybe even inspire a little creativity along the way.
“I think people are always looking for something they can watch with their kids whether there’s a pandemic or not, but especially now, people are looking for ways to entertain themselves, have kids work on projects and stuff like that, and this show is actually kind of perfect for all of that,” Dominici said in an interview with TheWrap. “So, in a way it’s sort of nice that we’re airing right now, because I’ve had a lot of friends call me and tell me, ‘It’s so great to have something to do and something to watch.'”
Wednesday’s finale will see the final three teams — husband and wife duo Tyler and Amy, longtime friends Mark and Boone, and new partners Sam and Jessica — compete in the show’s biggest build yet, a 24-hour final sprint for the $100,000 prize and the title of Lego Master.
“We have some wonderful surprises,” Dominici said. “It’s emotional, the builds are incredible, and it didn’t end up how I thought it was going to go. It’s great, but it’s really different from how I thought it was going to be.”
“Lego Masters” is hosted by Will Arnett and produced by Endemol Shine North America. Read TheWrap’s full interview with Dominici below.
TheWrap: Have you found that airing while people are stuck at home has affected how people have watched the show?
Dominici: I think so. I think people are always looking for something they can watch with their kids whether there’s a pandemic or not, but especially now, people are looking for ways to entertain themselves, have kids work on projects and stuff like that, and this show is actually kind of perfect for all of that. Will has been doing a few of these call-outs through the “Lego Masters” website asking kids to do challenges based on the episodes, and people are posting all sorts of things. So, in a way it’s sort of nice that we’re airing right now, because I’ve had a lot of friends call me and tell me, “It’s so great to have something to do and something to watch.”
When you were first looking at adapting this format, what was your sense of the show and how it would appeal to viewers?
It’s something for everyone. It’s hopeful, it’s celebrating creativity. There are so many different types of Lego builders. There are kids, what they call AFOLs — adult fans of Lego — and all these communities that can somehow get together, whether it’s online or in person, and build. So that’s what really appealed to me. People can express themselves through this show, and it can be aspirational in many ways, as well. I’ve been lucky enough to work on, generally, shows that I want to work on, and it’s really nice to be a part of something where you can leave the kids in front of the TV and feel comfortable with that. Before this I did “Making It,” which had a similar sort of vibe. I’m just personally drawn toward projects like this and luckily from the beginning, everybody was on the same page about what this is and how to approach it. There’s a little bit of irreverence and naughtiness — not really, but like a naughty kid — and that’s just the voice of Will, who is awesome. It was kind of a perfect fit. His tone sort of fit right into it. Thankfully, we pretty quickly found the voice for what we wanted this to be and that very much came from Will.
Before doing the show, what was your experience with Lego?
When I was a kid, I played with Legos all the time. I wasn’t in any way pro like these people are, but I was a huge fan. And I have a nephew and we play and build things together. But that was really my only entree into this genre. I honestly didn’t know that there were all these communities and all this lingo and acronyms and all this stuff. I had no idea. But it’s all pretty much right there for you online, so it was a pretty quick ramp-up in terms of learning what the skillsets needed to be and all of that. From there, we needed to figure out a process for how we wanted to do the show. Ultimately, it was really driven a lot by fan sites and talking to a few experts and our judges and a few consultants, just about what works. We have some builds that are completely engineering builds, like the bridge challenge that we did and in some ways the building challenge. Others are completely sculptural. It just encompasses so many different aspects. We can do something for one episode, then we can do something about characters in another episode, and that’s what we got really excited about. We tried to tick as many boxes as we could, where it’s always another level of difficulty with each episode. So we kind of based it on that, but then also what would be really cool to watch. [Laughs.]
How do you approach the casting process for a show like this, where the skillset is such a major component?
Our casting team, who is really wonderful, they sent out to all the different communities, they went to a bunch of these Lego conventions all around the country. So we started there. But we also worried that the Lego community might not trust what this is. Like maybe they think it’s a reality show so that means we’re going to make fun of the people who do this. So we really wanted to make sure that we were very clear that we wanted to celebrate this. We’re not here to set up fake drama or set up these reality tropes. We just want to get the best possible builders here.
We flew out our finalists, maybe like 50 or so teams, and then gave them tests. Because sometimes a person can be a great builder but it’ll take them a year to finish their project, literally. You know, after school or after work or whatever. Whereas we needed to know that these folks can actually deliver something on time. They don’t know the challenges ahead of time, so when Will gives them the brief on stage, that’s the first time they hear about it. It’s not like they can draw it out ahead of time or use computers to help design their project. They’re doing it freestyle, in real time. So in our casting process we had them do some of that and we had them doing certain technical things just to make sure. Can you build this? Can you build that? Can you build a sphere? Because if you’re at the level that we’re looking for, you have to be able to do a lot of this stuff. Some of that we gave them ahead of time so that they could study up, but ultimately we were really lucky to find a super diverse group of people from different cities and different backgrounds, with really diverse build styles. So hopefully we can show that this is for everyone. If you turn on the TV, you can be like Wow, there’s someone like me up there and connect to what they’re doing on top of their build.
The show isn’t shy about sending up its own genre and poking fun at certain reality tropes, but where do you find the line on that kind of stuff? How do you know how much is too much?
It really comes down to our gut feeling in the edit. Will is incredible and very early on he realized that reality is different than a scripted show. We had a lot of conversations where we told him, you’re free to try stuff. We can just try things out and decide in the edit. Because even though we’re filming for 24 hours or 18 hours or whatever it might be, the show is 43 minutes long. So we’re cutting down hours and hours and hours of footage for each builder. Even if he tried something that we thought would work but didn’t, we could make those decisions in the edit. And then, we knew that Will could be irreverent in some moments but there are things that are still sacred. Eliminations, for example, we really don’t mess with that sort of stuff, because we want to honor what we’re all here for and not just be making fun of everything. But then there are times where we’re like, let’s just goof around and have a good time.
That moment in episode five when Aaron and Christian’s building comes down is obviously devastating, but it’s also great television. Was there some small part of you that was hoping it would happen?
Oh boy. That’s a tough question. [Laughs.] Of course! I hate to say that. But it’s inevitable, honestly, when you’re going that tall. And in that same episode they were having this bro-off, or whatever you want to call it, with Mel and Jermaine where they were like “No man, mine is gonna be taller.” And Mel kind of called it. Obviously we’re not rooting for anyone to fail, that’s never our process, but of course. There’s not a lot of drama in a build show like this and that’s what you’re waiting for. What is that moment and do you have a camera on it? So, yeah. Plus, everyone has experienced that moment where you’re building something and it breaks on you, or your little brother shows up and knocks it down or whatever it may be. Other than stepping on a Lego, having something come apart in your hand is the other universal Lego experience.
On the flip side of that, you have an episode like the bridges episode, where everyone really exceeds expectations. How real was that?
One million percent real. We though maybe 300 pounds. Maybe. We honestly had no clue what was going to happen. There’s stuff of us behind the scenes like, Where are we going to get these weights from? We’re literally taking the counterweights from our equipment to put on these bridges. It was crazy. That was the craziest day. That was my least favorite to film, but my most favorite episode at the end of the day. Oh my god, I was losing my mind.
What can you tease about the finale?
We have some wonderful surprises. We have some people show up in the finale that are really fun and who the builders aren’t expecting. We get to learn a little bit more about them through that, which is really cool. And then what these builders come up with, in basically no time, is so cool. We have them do this project where someone who works for Lego, like Jamie and Amy, would take a month to design a project. But we give our teams an hour. So that’s really cool. I think there will be a lot of great surprises in that episode. It’s emotional, the builds are incredible, and it didn’t end up how I thought it was going to go. It’s great, but it’s really different from how I thought it was going to be.
The Season 1 finale of “Lego Masters” airs Wednesday at 9/8c on Fox.