LEGO MASTERS USA host Will Arnett reveals how he approached the show’s second season, and teases some of the very unique challenges we can look forward to seeing.
We’re about to head back into the Build Room for the first episode of LEGO MASTERS USA Season 2, which kicks off tonight on FOX at 8pm ET / 9pm PT. But first, LEGO Fan Media have been catching up with the contestants, judges and returning host Will Arnett, who’s given us some idea of what to expect from another action-packed season of competitive brick-building.
How did you approach the role of the host?
Will: Our showrunner [Anthony Dominici] has worked in this world before. Not in LEGO, but he’s worked in these sort of competition programmes before, 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. And 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 surrounding LEGO. He really helped me access that kind of cheerleading vibe; he would constantly help me point my boat in that direction. That was something that was really important. And that was Season 1, and we were just figuring out how to do it.
To say that you’re just the host of the show is obviously a vast oversimplification of that role. How did you see your role from your perspective as host of LEGO MASTERS?
With Season 1, I’d never done anything like this before. I’ve never hosted anything. And so I was kind of learning on the job as I went. And I realised my role is to be just a cheerleader more than anything. I’m there because I want the teams to do well. I’m the conduit for the audience – their way in, to talk to the contestants, and to deliver the info about whatever the challenge is, and then to walk everybody through it. To grease the wheels, if you will.
But ultimately, it’s just 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 in the LEGO-verse, so it gets tense sometimes. And I always felt like it was my job to try to keep things moving, keep things light whenever I could, to remind people that we’re there to have fun.
In addition to being a host, you’re also an executive producer on the show. Can you tell us about your role behind the camera and how you’re helping to put the show together?
The show had been done a couple of times in a few different places. They did it in the UK, and they 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 1, and said, ‘Hamish, 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 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; in this episode, we should do more of this, or let’s focus on this.’ I’m at the very end of the process. And right before I become host, I can guide what I think we should focus on in certain circumstances. And that’s just my role. There a lot of cooks in that kitchen. Thankfully, everybody’s on the same page with regards to wanting to make the best version.
What are you most excited for viewers to see in Season 2?
In Season 1, we were just figuring it out as we went, and we had some good builders. And at the end of the season we had really the cream of the crop with Tyler and Amy. And of course Mark and Boone were really strong right from the first build. But we only had a few teams that were super strong in that way. We’ve got six or seven really strong teams in Season 2. And it was because of Mark and Boone and Tyler and Amy that there were other strong teams out there like, ‘Oh, these guys are good. We want to go out and do that.’ So we had a bunch of really, really strong teams and that made it super competitive.
We also had more engineering feats this season. We have an earthquake challenge, they have to build a skyscraper and put it on this thing and we shake it. We got this huge fan that blew 60 miles an hour. It was nuts. And then we of course dropped stuff from the balcony, we blew stuff up.
What were the lessons that you learned from Season 1 that you were able to bring to Season 2?
The circumstances were much more challenging this time. And we were lucky that we were able to go back and start shooting again this spring. 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. Just having access to so many pieces.
I think we did a lot of things right – maybe by mistake – in Season 1. And we kind of got lucky, but we also learned that LEGO has this power. It’s not just about the building, but it’s the relationship with the people who are building with each other and focusing on how much goodwill there is around LEGO, and how much the memories of building – as schmaltzy as this sounds – the association of feelings around building LEGO with the people that you build with is so good and so positive. Having [five pairs of] siblings really brought that to the forefront.
We also wanted them to do stuff that we hadn’t thought of before. We do have some engineering stuff, but also a lot of creative stuff. We did a fashion show and teams had to build a hat. As simple as that sounds, it was really complex and really, really tough, and some teams struggled with it. It had to have certain dimensions to qualify, so it had to be big enough, and it had to have the brim and all this stuff, and you had to walk out on this catwalk and do a fashion show. As ridiculous as it sounds, it was tough. One of them collapsed and almost killed Jamie and me.
We have a puppet show, where teams had to build a puppet and then work with another team with their puppet, and then do a puppet show and play the parts and do the puppeteering and the acting. 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. We had a really world-class puppeteer who’s worked a lot with Muppets for years and years. And he was operating my nemesis, Billy, who’s a puppet version of me who was on for a couple of episodes, and we were constantly battling. It was a real smart mouth.
Were you able to emotionally shield yourself a bit more this time round when teams were sent home?
That’s a good question. I think that what really bonded all of us in Season 1 was the fact that we were the pioneers. We were going out there and doing it for the first time. So when it was time for people to go home, it was hard because you were like, ‘Oh no, we’re all out here doing this, and now we have to cast somebody out into space.’
They weren’t going to die, of course, but it’s like, ‘Oh, they’re not continuing on this journey with us anymore.’ Once you kind of accept that… but there were still moments. There were some teams in Season 2 where it was tough. There were good teams who had a bad week, or didn’t do something technical, and as a result of the rules, they had to go home. And that was really disappointing because you thought, ‘If they paid attention, or if it hadn’t been for that thing, they would have been in the final.’ And that was tough. We had a couple of those this year, weirdly.
We also had a bunch of sibling teams this year, and they get really emotional with each other. I mean, Brick Master Amy was losing it all the time, and she turned to Jamie and me, and then we’d be like, ‘Oh my god.’
How much input did you have in creating the challenges? Did you ever go off into a corner with some of the bricks and start tackling one of the challenges yourself?
No to the second part. 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 the stuff that my son and I worked on – my son’s actually pretty good, [but] I’m so bad at it. But our challenge teams are really good at coming up with challenges. So, so by the time I started looking at it, I was like, ‘Yeah, that’s true. Good idea.’
One of the things I would like to do when it’s appropriate is to get some of these builds 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 have the challenge be interactive with the public. I think that would be really, really cool. Of course, we live in strange times, but hopefully that will become a reality sooner rather than later.
Have you gotten more into LEGO during lockdown?
Last year during the height of lockdown, I ended up building a bit more with my sons. We were at home when Season 1 came on, and so my boys wanted to build more. So for a while I was doing it, then it fell off, but weirdly enough – and this is a total coincidence – we cleaned out this closet and I found a bunch of sets from The LEGO Batman Movie, because they’re here at the house, of course.
And so we got them out last night, and then this morning, I ended up getting coaxed into building ‘just the Batmobile’ by my stepson at 7.30 this morning. So here I am, I’m about to do all this stuff for interviews for LEGO MASTERS Season 2, and I’m sitting at my kitchen counter and I’m building a LEGO Batman Movie Batmobile. And I’m thinking like, my life is LEGO all the time. I mean, you guys know. And it’s great, it’s fun and he’s happy, and I’m happy doing it.
Did you keep any mementos from either season?
Yes. I shouldn’t say what it is… but it is a golden brick.
Catch up with all our LEGO MASTERS USA Season 2 coverage through the links below:
Jamie and Amy