Week 9 is done and now we’re down to four teams. I for one am happy that we’re getting back into a regular rotation of episodes, having the breaks due to the All-Star Game and the Olympics, while understandable, was also really disruptive. So, for those who haven’t seen the episode yet, don’t click on the link. For those who have or don’t mind knowing, see a quick recap and the interview with the exiting fifth team after the break.
**Edit: Final build pictures added below**
The producers are coming up with great challenges for the teams. For the first time in the US show, builders had to spend the first part of the challenge building alone. Teams were separated by a large wall down the middle of the studio. One half of the team had to build a land creature, the other half had to build a sea creature. After that part was complete, the teams had to combine the builds to come up with a unique species, and create that character’s world.
Unfortunately, FOX did not provide pictures of the completed builds this week, otherwise, right here I would show you the winning build of Caleb and Jacob, which was the combination of a lobster and a chameleon. (If I do get access to the pictures, I’ll include them. Edit: see below.) It was the first win for the twins, and shows their growth as builders as the season has progressed.
The judges had an unenviable job, but at the end of the day, the team of Dave and Richard were sent home. I found this to be a bit of a surprise; Dave and Richard had won three challenges and really looked like a team to beat. On a personal level, I was sorry to see them go – any team that manages to include the Fibonacci Series in a build on national TV wins extra points from me.
It seems you were sent home because of a difference in interpretation of the challenge. What are your thoughts on that?
Richard: It’s weird. I think the issue for me was how my build can be interpreted. The challenge that I had was, “Okay, I’m gonna create coral.” It’s wacky and crazy. Is it a creature, or is it an environment? That was something that I was grappling with a lot. So, what came later on in terms of the twist in the challenge, I was able to put some of that stuff behind me. But ultimately with the way the result of our creature was interpreted threw me for a loop. It was very noticeable. The coral was very present. It was misinterpreted as a penguin, I think they saw a penguin but that’s not what we were calling it. We called it Poco the entire time, and even a lot of the recaps tend to say penguin in it. It’s not a penguin, it’s a Poco. It’s a new creature, it’s a Poco. It’s not like it’s a penguin and coral. That’s why you have Poco. I think that was a misinterpretation to an extent.
Dave: It’s a very layered question. I know exactly what Richard is talking about. One time we said to the Brickmasters, “We’re gonna make a punk rock penguin,” and that was it. That’s how the edit was made. Every other time, we referred to it as Poco. Penguin and coral put together, a portmanteau. We’re known as a team for thinking differently from other teams. We built the exoskeleton tower, totally different than what everybody did. We leave the wheels completely uncovered on the car, and nothing gets stuck. We think about sound as well as motion. And those are just the challenges we won. I mean, you can talk about so many other builds but also thinking differently. What we always wanted to do was think differently, to think outside the box. I will admit, I’m somebody who keys in on certain things when the Brickmasters talk. They may have said “mash up” a lot of times, but what I keyed in on was they said “We want a creature we’ve never seen before, and bring us into their world.” So, when we’re putting the coral on top of the penguin, and then it’s infusing down his body into different parts of his body, he has become something new. He’s not a penguin. If you look at that penguin, it’s nothing like what the final build ended up being. It was two totally different things. Building in a vacuum was not good for me. I didn’t enjoy building that penguin by myself. I was like, “What am I thinking? I’m building black and white in front of Amy! This is not a good choice.” It needs to be something else, but when we came together, you could see the two things becoming something new, and to us, it was a new character that you’d never seen before. This was not a penguin anymore. You don’t see a penguin. We made a character, because we know from watching last season, the Brickmasters love characters, they love storytelling. Ultimately, we didn’t get rewarded for thinking differently, and I respect that opinion. This is the way that the rules are interpreted. As a teacher, I’m always looking for kids who are trying to think creatively and look for different solutions and I think that that is something also important in life.
You won three challenges. What was your reaction to having to go home this week?
Richard: That’s a very layered question, and my first answer to that is that this show doesn’t allow you to rest on your laurels. Our production schedule didn’t allow us to be able to relax and just have a break and revel in a victory or revel in being safe. We just had to just think about the next day and the next build. For us, that’s not the easiest thing because our builds are so different. We couldn’t say that we’re going to want to do something similar to what we did in the previous build for the next one. So we had to just completely wipe the slate clean and just start fresh every time. It was really difficult to do that. It’s like playing sports. When you have a game, you have a moment to enjoy that victory and just be proud of yourself. We’re just constantly trying to push ourselves to be better, and to do bigger or do something stronger, and also anticipate the unknown. There were so many curveballs, things that we couldn’t expect, so honestly we just had to have a positive state of mind.
Dave: We put ourselves in every build. It’s hard to be disappointed when you do that. Because if you really put what you believe down in brick, then you’re not going to be disappointed that you didn’t do a good job because you know that you’ve represented yourself and you’re true to yourself. I think that was one of the things that made it easy to say, “The Brickmasters might not have liked our build as much as they liked something else, but we love it just as much as everything that we’ve done.” No matter what, at the end of the day we’re so proud of every single build we did. No matter if it fell forward or didn’t have enough coral on it. We love it. It’s fine. We think it’s great, and hopefully other people see that too.
Richard: And I’m gonna say just real quick that I was so happy once I was able to work with Dave again in that challenge. There was something missing, building alone. When we picked back up it was like we started the season over. It was weird, but we hit the ground running and we had so much to talk about. I’m really happy that things went the way that they went.
What are some of the details from your builds that we didn’t get to see on the show?
Richard: Honestly, I may have missed something in the most recent episode in land and sea, I don’t think there was enough screen time on the environment of Poco. Maybe there was a flash of a section, but I don’t think we really got to see the 360 degree view of everything. There are a lot of elements in there, down to the fish bones in a bucket that we made for Poco. There was an amp with cords going into the guitar. I think the scale of the guitar was just as impressive as the wingspan of Poco. You know, when you really look closely at that build, there was a lot to notice. There was a really great brick wall around him to show that it gave that vignette type of feel, but on a really big scale.
Dave: I think that also, not just the environment, but a lot that was cut out of that build was how the coral texture had spread onto the feet, how it spread onto the chest, how there was even some on the beak, but that just wasn’t part of the cut. In the first build, the parade float had so much more going on than what was shown. From the way that the letters spun, and the design of the letters was based on the flags of New York and Chicago. The chefs had movement – although it ultimately did fail just as it was coming around the corner – they were waving the toppings on both the pizza and the hot dog. We made sure that hot dog had every single Chicago style topping on it. And the skylines in the back… there was so much detail in that build, and we really put everything we had into it because you’re on LEGO Masters, when are you going to get a chance to do that again? So you might as well throw everything literally on the table.
Richard: Another thing that I think was really important was in the hero shot episode was the amphitheatre that was built behind the urban blight. The goal was that once the building exploded and fell apart, you would see a little amphitheatre with minifigures in the back, now enjoying the music being played by our hero. There was a lot more focus on the explosion and not the aftermath of the explosion, which was just as important. Because every story has a beginning, middle and end, and the end was this happy, joyous, melodic, harmonious balance between men and nature. I want to make sure I have our wording right because that was essential to our story because we had such a difficult minifigure.
Can you walk us through the puppet challenge and what the design process was?
Dave: So, again we needed to consider how much LEGO weighs. We learned our lesson on that one. There were two strategies: people had rods, or people had bust puppets, and we went with the rod. But instead of putting it in the head or holding it way down low, we put it right in the torso, because anything you try to hold up that long above your head, you’re gonna get tired doing it. It’s heavy, and holding up for a long time gets really heavy. There were so many parts of the head. It’s hard to talk about everything. One choice was making the skin smooth versus making the body textured. We’re both huge Muppet fans. We had talked so much about the Muppets before this episode, before we even knew about this challenge. We were talking about our favourite Muppets. I actually talked to Anthony Domenici (executive producer), because I knew that he had worked with the Muppets before. I had asked him, “Tell me about your time working with the Muppets and why you think Rowlf is the best Muppet”, because I think Rowlf has the best mouth and I just wanted him to confirm that. Then all of a sudden we had this puppet challenge. It was unbelievable. But I love that puppet. It was so fun. It was so fun to make a full body puppet. I think it would have been great if we could have kept the legs at the length that we originally had them at, but we really had to shed weight, because it was getting so heavy.
Richard: And I did not want to put all that pressure on Dave to hold it up while I was trying to read the script. At one point it was going to be both of us working the puppet, but I think we would have lost something in the process with us trying to spend too much time on the performance so we did the best we could.
A theme in the challenges was either building them to be destroyed, or in this one, taking apart two different builds and combining them. How did you handle those different kinds of builds?
Richard: It was pretty seamless for us to be able to incorporate the coral into the penguin because we knew instantly, where it could go and how much we can use so that it could have a fair balance between both creatures and making this hybrid. So, once we got the coral on you felt like, “Alright, let’s just make this environment and make this crazy cool story that was going to really wow people.”. The goal was to bring everyone into the creature’s world, but also that world should be so robust, and I felt like it was pretty seamless in the beginning. The scale of mine was paled in comparison to Dave’s. With five hours and having never built coral before I was like,”Alright, I’m just gonna do what I can and I want to get all my touch points.” I wanted to be colourful. I wanted to be movable. That was something that was not really highlighted. It’s an afterthought, but there was some movement in the coral, it was colourful, it had its own style and texture to it, and it was unique.
Dave: I think that when you watch LEGO Masters Season One and it’s all about the twist, and you watch LEGO Masters Season Two and it’s all about what limits can you push LEGO to. Neither one’s right and neither one’s wrong. They’re just so different, and pushing the limits is something that our team was constantly about. We tried to think outside of the box on so many challenges. So, pushing the limits of LEGO was like pushing the limits of creativity so I appreciated it. Maybe they didn’t all have to be all in a row. (laughs) Maybe we could have mixed it up a little bit, but it was fun. It was super fun. But when else are you gonna get a chance to do some of these things? I don’t have a pyrotechnic guy at my house wiring up my LEGO for me. I don’t have a giant fan. This is the only time this is ever going to happen. We should be so excited about these opportunities.
What are your art influences?
Dave: For me, the influence is really life experiences. I like to look at what’s happening around me. There are spheres of influence around all of us, so you have your people who you live with in your home, there are people in your neighbourhood, there are people in your city, there are people in your state. It just goes out from there, radiating out, and the things that happened to me in my life is where I draw my art influence from. But I also look to the LEGO community and I want to see what’s being done there. Because you can’t just build in a vacuum. I think one of the most important things about working with Richard, that we never built in a vacuum. We always collaborated together and our builds were better because of that.
Richard: I totally agree with Dave. For me, I find art in everything. Coming from New York, and constantly surrounded by art – my son wants to be an animator when he gets older – so I’m constantly looking at things that he’s inspired by: cartoons, different drawing styles. Art is in everything from composition to colour to details. Coming from New York, I’ve always been surrounded by street art and graffiti and I’ve always appreciated fine art. In terms of composition and texture, I’m a huge fan of Piet Mondrian. The colours are really very much like what LEGO does with a lot of their primary colours. Dave and I talked so much about composition and art styles in our builds. That was a focal point for a lot of what we did. You can really draw inspiration from so many different corners of life and be able to make those connections to spark connections in our builds.
Which model that you built in LEGO Masters is the most personal to you?
Richard: They’re all really personal. I think we went into every build with that intention. We wanted to make them a reflection of us and a reflection of something that was personal or sentimental to us. Even down to the puppet’s shoes and things like that. There were the things that even people weren’t able to see, like the shoes. But I love the Clark style of desert boot or the Wallabies. There’s always a little taste of reality in the things that we do. We want our builds to live in the real world because they come from the real world.
Dave: I don’t think you can take this work of nine builds, and pull it apart because it tells a story of who we are as people, and what we believe in both on a personal level and on a social level. None of these builds, I don’t think either of us could say is the most personal to us because each one is a different part of us. We’re complex people. We’re all complex people, and you can’t just say one build was a personal build, they were all personal builds for us and I think that’s one of the things that set our team apart.
Richard: We also couldn’t do one build without doing another one. There are so many things that we learn from one build going into the next build and things that we didn’t want to do from the previous one in the next one. There were so many learning experiences in each episode and so we’re grateful to have grown. I think our entire body of work shows growth.
Dave: When you’re building something – I learned this from one of my favourite podcasts – it talks about film directors and how each film that a director makes, their subsequent film is a reaction to what they had done before. So each one of our builds is a reaction to what we had done in the previous build, and that’s why you really have to look at it as an entire body of work.
Prior to going into LEGO Masters, how would you have classified your own building style and how well did that translate to being on a reality show?
Richard: For me, I think my building style was just more about efficiency, and not so much specific things. I’m a collector of sets and someone who is still learning how to build original creations. I was learning through this entire process. So, for the most part I would say my storytelling and my efficiency in building was really the crux of what I brought to the show.
Dave: When I think about building LEGO, I never think about competitive speed building which is what LEGO Master is. For me, building LEGO is about taking time to think about what I want to build. I’m very much a person who processes things in my mind. I don’t build digitally, I don’t draw things out, but I’ll go to bed, and I’ll wake up the next morning with it, because I’ve been thinking about it. I’m always thinking about whatever I’m building, and I kind of build in my head in advance. But on LEGO Masters, you can’t do that because you just have to start building. The clock is running and you just have to build. It was a totally different way of building, but I think we were really successful at it. I think time really wasn’t much of an issue for our team. It was more sometimes we didn’t have enough time to think in advance, and have enough time to adjust. But I’m still proud of every single build we did and I think they’re all great.
What advice would you give to your pre-LEGO Masters self?
Dave: My advice to my pre-LEGO Masters self would be really consider how much LEGO weighs, and how much it weighs if you put it on your body.
Richard: Yes, I think that’s a life lesson right there. Knowing how much you can handle and just being realistic with what you can put on your plate. I think we were a little overly ambitious sometimes. To answer your question, I think if I could tell myself something different, I would pay more attention to the math that’s involved in LEGO. I would be more conscious of how many rows of studs I would have to go over, and then how that applies even to sculpting. That’s something that I think I overlooked on some occasions. I think it’s really important to pay attention to where you are in your process. When you’re building, you have your head down and you’re just like in a tunnel and you’re just trying to get this thing done. But then sometimes you forget that you have to pace yourself. You have to be aware of where you are with each brick that you put down.
How did you handle having to come up with novel creative ideas one right after the other in such a short period of time?
Dave: I think one of the keys is just the way that we communicate with each other and that we trust each other. Even though we had never built together before LEGO Masters, we had spent a lot of time talking on the phone leading up to it, a lot of time just learning about each other, and learning about how the other person thinks. On our days when we could, we would go for walks together and just talk about things, whether it was about the show, or about our personal lives, or maybe watching the NBA All Star game together, just making connections. Because we could make those connections with each other. It meant that you could throw out any idea, and find a way to make it work. For example, when we got the violin guy, Richard started talking about environmentalism. That was one of the touch points that we came into the show with, that he wanted to do an environmental build. I was thinking, what does the violin guy have to do with environmentalism? He explained it, and I trusted him, and we made it work. It was a really successful build, but that trust in that communication is what made our creativity flow.
Did you have a mission when you started the show, and did you accomplish it?
Dave: The moment when they said that we were activist friends was probably the moment that I felt like we did it. It was very early on, and that let us know that they accepted us for who we wanted to be on the show and didn’t force us to be something. They didn’t make us activist friends. We are activist friends. We care about things, and we’re friends through that activism. The fact that we were allowed to do that through our builds, through our storytelling through who we are as people really meant a lot. We’ve gotten so many comments on social media but also when we go to conventions or events, people say, “I see what you’re doing. And I appreciate it and thank you for doing that.” And that almost means more than anything else.
Richard: I wanted, when people saw our builds, that they saw a little bit of themselves in it. Coming into the show, I’ve never built with anyone before, so I didn’t want to just hog this opportunity for myself and just go crazy. Just make a bunch of space stuff and things that I grew up doing. I didn’t want to do the same thing that I was used to seeing in LEGO. I wanted to do something that had never been done before, and I think that’s the stuff that really attracts me to LEGO as an adult now. I can see my world through LEGO and I can see I can apply LEGO to so many other things that I wasn’t aware of and didn’t have the capabilities to. This was an opportunity to just go where we were never able to go with the resources that we had, and we’re really, really proud of what we’ve done and the platform to be able to speak without a filter.
Dave: I talked to my son last night (after the episode aired) and we were talking about, “Well, you didn’t win, Dad.” And I said, “You’re right. I didn’t win, but sometimes it’s not about winning, it’s about what you do on the show, and what other people are learning from what you’re doing.” I listed off the things that we talked about on the show. We got black lives matter on TV. We talked about redistribution of wealth. We talked about helping the earth. We talked about being a good parent. We even talked about LGBTQ+ rights that didn’t make the cut, but it was all in there. And sometimes that’s more important, and he was like, “Yeah, but if you had the money we could have also helped people, too.”
Richard: (laughing) Yes, thanks to (Dave’s son) for reminding us!
Now that the show is over, are you going to continue building together?
Richard: First of all, I’ve never been to any of the LEGO conventions. I know of them, I’ve just never been to any. I have so much more that I want to learn as a builder, other people I’d like to meet, but I want to meet those people through Dave. When we were going into the show, there were so many there were so many people that he was familiar with. He was telling me about some of their really great work and I was just really fascinated by this whole world that I was just getting accustomed to just through writing about LEGO. I want to really continue on forward. Dave and I talk every other day and it’s not just about LEGOs, so I’m happy that I have like a friend and we have new experiences and new adventures to have together.
Dave: How often do adults make new friends? Like lifelong friends? It doesn’t happen especially once you have kids. You don’t make friends like this very often and to have gone through this experience together is special. Anybody who has been in a creative situation knows how stressful it is but also how much you can get out of it. And we not only got great builds out of it but we got a great partnership out of it. There’s no reason this partnership should end because over the last nine weeks, we’ve been doing many builds. I might be doing the build, but I’m running things by Richard as I’m doing it and he’s doing the writing to go with it. It’s that combined effort. It’s not just what you build. Anybody who does LEGO knows you’re presenting, not just your build, but you’re thinking about how to present it, what the words are, it’s all important. All of that goes together to make it part of a story that you’re telling through your builds. So, this is definitely a collaboration that’s going to keep happening.
Richard: Oh yeah, I can’t wait.
Many thanks to our friends at The Brothers Brick, BZ Power and True North Bricks for their collaboration on this interview.
All photo credit: FOX
Final build pictures: