LEGO Masters is back in the US for a second season. The premiere airs next Tuesday, June 1. A couple of weeks ago, select fan media were invited to interview several personnel involved with the show, including Will Arnett, who returns as host.
Read on to learn about how Will approached season two, what his favourite building challenge was last year, what keepsake he has from the LEGO Masters set, and more, after the break.
(note: some mild spoilers are in this interview around the challenges – especially if you haven’t seen the promotions for the show)
Have you become a bigger LEGO fan since season one, especially with the lockdown?
Well yeah. Last year during the height of lockdown, I ended up building a bit more with my sons. That was right when season one came out, too, so I think that spurred it on – plus we were at home. Season One came on, and so my boys wanted to build more. So for a while I was doing it, and then it fell off. Weirdly enough, and this is a total coincidence – we cleaned out a closet recently and I found a bunch of sets from the LEGO Batman movie so we got them out. Then this morning, I ended up getting coaxed into building the Batmobile by my stepson. So at 730 this morning, I’m about to do all these interviews for LEGO Masters season two and I’m sitting at my kitchen counter building a LEGO Batman Movie Batmobile and I’m thinking: My life is LEGO, all the time.
Was there a particular set you worked on with your sons that really stand out to you?
Actually what we ended up doing last year was when I was building with my son, Abel, who’s now 10, he had a lot of his builds that were taking up half the dining room table. He ended up taking apart a lot of sets that he built, and we started just basically free building with each other. We ended up with challenges but it was more like, build a vehicle, and so we both start to build the vehicle reusing pieces from these sets, and that became the thing we were doing for a while. Now he’s got this whole landscape with a mishmash of characters and minifigs from various sets, and they’re all poised like they’re in a battle against each other, which is pretty hilarious. So there was never like one set, other than what I did this morning, so randomly, that we built.
What are you most excited for people to see in season two?
What was crazy with season one, we were just figuring it out as we went and we had some good builders. At the end of the season, we had really the cream of the crop with Tyler and Amy and of course Mark and Boone. Mark and Boone were really strong right from the first build consistently throughout the season. They had with the roller coaster that didn’t work and I was so bummed for them in that moment. If that if their thing had worked, they would have won that first challenge, and they were in the top or winning virtually every challenge. They were super, super strong, Tyler and Amy were super strong as well. But we only had a few teams that were super strong in that way in season one. Season two, because of people like Tyler and Amy, and Boone and Mark, we got six or seven really strong teams in season two. And it was because of these guys in season one that other strong teams out there said “We want to go out and do that.” We had a bunch of really really strong teams this time, and that made it super competitive.
There were a lot of changes between seasons one and two – more teams, more bricks, dealing with COVID. What did you learn from season one that you were able to bring to season two?
Certainly you’re right in that the circumstances were much more challenging this time for season two. It was a challenging time for everybody. We were lucky that we were able to go back and start shooting again in the spring. We did have fun – the first season we had 3 million pieces, we added an extra 2 million for good measure this year so we had 5 million pieces on set, which was super crazy. I think we did a lot of things right maybe by mistake in season one, and we kind of got lucky. But we also learned that that LEGO has this power. I was telling someone the other day that it’s really about the relationship, it’s not just about the building, but it’s the relationship with the people who are building with each other. Focusing on how much goodwill there is around LEGO and the memories of building, as smaltzy as that sounds. The feelings around building LEGO with the people that you build with is so good and so positive, and we learned to focus on that. I think that we did that this year especially since we have so many teams of siblings, it brought that to the forefront.
How do you see your role as the host of LEGO Masters?
I’ve been thinking about this leading into Season Two because season one it was – I’d never done anything like that before and never hosted anything. I was learning on the job as I went. I realized that my job is my role is to be just a cheerleader more than anything. I’m there because I want the teams to do well. I want to be the conduit for the audience, their way in to talk to the contestants and to deliver the info about whatever the challenge is. Then through the episode, walking everybody through the challenge to help just grease the wheels, if you will. But ultimately, at the end of the day I want to encourage the teams to do the best they can and to try to keep it light too. You forget that the teams are playing for a lot of money, and potentially more opportunities in the LEGO community. So it gets tense sometimes. I always felt like it was my job to try to keep things moving, keep things light whenever I could. And to remind people that we’re there to have fun.
The relationship you have with Anthony Dominici (showrunner) is important. How does that come out in the show?
Anthony is one of our executive producers on the show, he’s our showrunner and does such a great job. He’s worked in this world before, not in LEGO but he’s worked in competition programs. So he knows the things that work, he’s worked on shows where they focus on the negative and he’s worked on shows where they focus on the positive. I think that he really understood early on how important it was to focus on what makes LEGO so good, the positive nature or the vibes that exist or surround building with LEGO. He really helped me access that kind of cheerleading vibe and would constantly help point me in that direction. That was something that was really important in season one.
You’re also an executive producer of the show. What’s your role behind the camera?
The show came to us, obviously. The show has been done a couple of times in a few different places including in the UK, and they’ve done it brilliantly in Australia. My friend Hamish Blake is the host down there and he’s an awesome and super funny guy. I actually called him for a little bit of guidance before we started season one. I said, “You’re so good at this, what can I expect, or what should I do more of, or less of?”, and he was really helpful in that way. So when this came to us, when it came to me, it was an idea that was already fully fleshed out. But as an executive producer, it’s important for me to help shape the show to be able to just say, “I want to go more in this direction. I think that this episode we should do more of this or we should focus on that”. I’m at the very end of the process. Right before I become host, I can guide what I think that we should focus on in certain circumstances. There are a lot of us, a lot of cooks in that kitchen. Thankfully, everybody’s on the same page with regards to wanting to make the best version of the show we can. We had a couple moments in season one where it was tense or people didn’t get along. I wanted to show people making up. I didn’t want it to be one of these gotcha shows where we watch people argue on TV. I got no interest in that kind of negativity, there’s too much negativity out there in the world as it is. When I go on YouTube I want to see win videos – I don’t watch those lose videos. I want to see people winning because it makes me feel better and that’s what I want to bring to LEGO Masters wherever I can.
Last season it looked like it was very emotional for you and the judges seeing teams leave. Did that get any easier in season two?
That is a good question. I think that what really bonded all of us in season one was the fact that we were the pioneers. We were going out there doing it for the first time so when it was time for people to go home, it was hard. Because it was, “Oh no, we’re all out here doing this and now we have to cast somebody out and send them out into space.” They weren’t going to die, of course, but we had to accept they’re not continuing on this journey with us. In season two, you accept that but there were still moments. There were a couple of teams that when they left were really tough. Because they’d done a good job and they ended up having to leave. There were good teams who had a bad week, or didn’t do something, or missed something technical. And as a result of the rules, they had to go home. That was really disappointing because you thought, “Oh, if it hadn’t been for that thing they would have been in the final.” We had a bunch of sibling teams this year, I think five sibling teams, and watching them, they get really emotional with each other. And Brick Master Amy, was, well, forget it. She’d lose it and then she’d turn to Jamie and me and then it was over.
Where do you draw inspiration for the role that you play on the show to bring out people’s personalities in the middle of competition?
I have a lot of fun with the contestants. We ended up having so much fun season one and we had a lot of laughs. The contestants were so game and open to laughing and goofing around. I was so clumsy in Season One but that was okay. It was guys like Boone that made me feel comfortable and be like “okay, we can just really have fun here and have a good time.” They were so relaxed for people who were doing the show. Boone, I would challenge him to sing all the time. It was never rehearsed, I would just go, “Sing a song!” and he’d just start singing. That was really helpful in figuring out what my voice was going to be in the show.
What kind of challenges can we expect this season?
We had more engineering feats this season. In the first season we did the bridge, which was one of my favorite challenges. That building challenge was so bonkers because two of the bridges withstood over 1000 pounds and that was amazing. This season we have an earthquake challenge where teams have to build a skyscraper and we shake it. For another we got this huge fan that blew 60 miles an hour and the teams had to build a windmill that could withstand that. It was nuts, and then of course we dropped stuff from the balcony. We blew stuff up. The craziest one we did was we gave teams a cliff, and we gave them 10 two stud pieces sticking out that were anchored to the wall. This cliff they could roll to their station to build on, teams had to build a castle as far out as they could just from those 10 bricks. Two of the teams didn’t even use all 10! They built over six feet out castles. That was super impressive. Those teams took quite a lot of time before they started building because they were really trying to understand the engineering of it. I remember we let them build for a while after I gave them the challenge. They started drawing it up and then we go out for lunch. When we came back two of the teams were already way out. I was like, “No way. I wouldn’t be able to do it in 10 years, and they did it in four hours.” It was insane what was going on. So that was cool.
We wanted to do stuff that we hadn’t thought of before. We do have engineering stuff but also a lot of creative stuff. We had team we did a fashion show and teams had to build a hat. And as simple as that sounds, it was really complex and really really tough. Some teams struggled with it. They had to wear it backstage and walk out on the runway. The hats had to have certain dimensions to qualify, to be big enough and to have a brim and all this stuff. It was really really tough for some teams. One of the hats collapsed, almost killed Jamie and me, it fell forward. So we really made teams do really different stuff.
Another was we had puppet show where teams had to build a puppet, then work with another team with their puppet, and then do a puppet show. The teams had to play the parts and do the puppeteering and the acting. And we had a world class puppeteer here who’s worked a lot with the Muppets on set. He was operating my nemesis, Billy, who’s the puppet version of me, who was on for a couple episodes and we were constantly battling. Billy was a real smart mouth.
I don’t care what kind of LEGO building you’ve been doing, if you consider yourself a hardcore LEGO builder, you were not prepared for that.
What input did you have to the challenges?
Our challenge teams are really really good at coming up with challenges so by the time I started looking at it, these guys have ideas I’m like, “Yeah, that’s a really good idea.” I’ve talked about this with our producing team and when it’s appropriate, I’d love to get some of these builds outside and get them out in the world, so that they don’t just exist inside the LEGO Masters bubble that we’ve created. I’d love to see people interact with some of the builds and having the challenge be interactive with the public. I think that that would be really really cool. Maybe with the elements to see what they can withstand. So we’ll see. Of course, we live in strange times, but hopefully that’ll become a reality sooner rather than later.
Did you try any of the challenges yourself?
No, no, no. These guys are so good that I’m so embarrassed to build in front of them. If they ever came to my house and saw this stuff that my son and I worked on – well my son’s actually pretty good. But I’m so bad at it.
Did you keep anything from the LEGO Masters set as a memento from either season?
Yes. I shouldn’t say what it is, but I kept a golden brick.
An alien comes to earth beams you up to a spaceship where you must live the rest of your life continuing to work on just one of your past projects, which would you choose and why?
Oh my gosh, that’s terrible. We know the aliens are already here, right? We all know that. I would probably say the podcast I’ve been doing for the last year or so. I would probably do that because I could get to do it from home, Plus I’m doing LEGO Masters and the show’s coming out. That’s another one I would do too, I’m gonna say I have to be able to do two at a time. It would be the podcast and LEGO Masters because LEGO Masters is really fun. Being around it, doing the challenges, doing what I get to do, to just go and cheerlead the teams while they come up with awesome stuff, and then just have a bunch of laughs. Who wouldn’t want to do that forever?
All photos except the cover picture: FOX
Many thanks to our friends at The Brothers Brick and BZ Power, with whom we conducted this interview.