High stakes are a core tenet of excellent reality television, and Fox’s best competition show offers nail-biting drama in the form of a tiny, plastic toy from childhood: the Lego brick.
The nostalgic pastime is far from lackadaisical. Lego Masters keeps the adrenaline pumping as lifelong Lego enthusiast contestants, known as builders, compete to win the title of Lego Master through a series of challenges — from building wearable hats to creating builds that can withstand earthquake-level shakes with only Lego bricks. The final Lego sculptures, which are nothing short of awe-inspiring, will leave the casual viewer believing that they’ve stumbled across a new art medium, and the Lego devotees scheming to have their chance to wow the world with their brick-building genius.
While the acute technical skill and tender storytelling behind each build bring viewers closer to the builders, the show is lucky enough to be anchored by Hollywood’s most affable host, Will Arnett, and two real-life Lego masters, judges Amy Corbett and Jamie Beard. As designers at Lego, the two bring their expert brick knowledge to the table — along with their discerning eye. Between Beard and Corbett, no detail is missed (and think of how small some of these details can be with Lego!) and the seasoned builders, along with the audience, are left sweating.
On Zoom from her home in Billund, Denmark, Corbett is just as delightful and sharp as she comes across on camera (and even shows genuine interest when I pull out my own build: a colorful bouquet of Lego flowers.) Her background is as on-brand as it gets, including Lego builds and a small plaque with the Lego Masters motto, “Get your brick on!” Life reflects art, and so on.
Watch new episodes of Lego Masters every Tuesday at 8 pm EST on FOX.
This show is a Lego lover's dream come true. All the builders on the show have lifelong obsessions with Lego. Was that the same for you? Have you also been a lifelong Lego fan?
I'm not quite the same story as the contestants. I, like most people, or at least most people in Europe, always had the bucket of Lego bricks in the playroom. Always played with Lego as a kid. Actually, it was something that me and my brother would play with together. I think that was great about Lego, was that we would build whole worlds across our living room, and we'd make these stories that would last for days. Much to my parents' dismay, because it would be spread over several rooms.
But then, as I got older, I kind of grew out of it. I didn't really feel there was something for me. I felt there were other toys that were more relevant. My brother kept going on his Lego passion, and I didn't really play with it as much. It wasn't until I got to university and realized that toys were really my calling that I got back into it, and realized that Lego would be an awesome place to work. Then I set out a little bit on a mission to create more toys that I would have enjoyed playing with when I was that little girl who grew out of Lego.
What was it about toys that excited you and made you want it to be your career?
I had always really enjoyed being creative, and making and designing things. I thought for a long time I wanted to be a fashion designer, but I also really enjoyed maths and science. When I found a course that combined the two, I thought, "Great. I can combine my two passions."
But some projects you get at university are really boring and really technical, especially when you're studying engineering. I think after a couple of years, I did this project about keeping your fridge fresh. I was like, "Wouldn't it be fun if you had these little people in your fridge, and they were super cute, and they were keeping your fridge fresh?" It was a family product. I had a lot of fun doing it, and I realized you can make any brief you get fun and playful. I think in the final few years, everything I did I made a playful design. I realized, "Okay, this needs to be what I do forever, because this is when I'm happiest. This is also what I'm good at." Toys were the natural thing for me, and where better than at Lego?
Have you done builds to this scale before, kind of like what we see in the challenges? Is that something that you've done on your own?
I've done lots of different builds, and I do some builds for fun, but most of what I do is really designing playsets and products for other people to build. Most of those are not to that scale at all, so I also am blown away with every challenge, how big the builders can go, how amazing the creations are, and how much imagination goes into them. But I'm certainly used to working on a smaller scale myself.
This is your first TV gig. How has that been for you?
It was certainly a baptism of fire to go from the office, behind the scenes, in Lego HQ in Billund to suddenly being in a Hollywood studio, having someone fix my makeup, and then, "Okay. On you go, guys! Go do your thing. Go judge." There's 14 cameras surrounding me!
But I think it was a lot of fun. We had a great team behind it. Luckily, we had such a great cast of builders as well, so there were always amazing builds for us to critique and judge. It was a steep learning curve, for sure, but we had a lot of fun doing it. I don't know if you can see, but, in season two, I certainly felt a lot more relaxed. Jamie and I felt like this was our place. We knew what we were doing. We're just ready to have fun in season two, where in season one we were really like, "Okay, which camera shall I talk to?" And learning as we went.
What's the hardest part about being a judge?
The hardest part is sending people home. There's no question. It's really hard to come to that decision between Jamie and I of who we're sending home, but I think it's even harder to tell the contestants because people put their heart and soul into that, and everyone has done an amazing job just to get there.
We're sending people home for doing great builds. We're never saying, "Your build is awful." "Your builds are great, but it's just not as good as the person next to you," or, "It's not exactly what we were looking for in this challenge." I think I will never, ever get used to sending people home. With season two, I thought I would maybe be a bit numb to it. No, I still get emotional every time. It's so tough.
How involved are you and Jamie in the challenge ideation process?
We're involved at several points along the way. This show has actually been in several countries as well, so there's this huge bank. Jamie was involved, I think, before the show even rolled out anywhere. Jamie was involved in the first ideation of, "What could be cool challenges for TV?" They have this huge bank of ideas.
Then when we get into production of the show, the team starts testing out some challenges. Then they're like, "Okay, brickmasters, these are the challenges we're thinking about, how are we going to compile them together? Do you think this is the right way to…?" Then we start tweaking them. We have the general idea of, "Okay. We want to do a fashion challenge. How's that going to look? How are we going to tweak it?"
We want to make sure that how it's going to be judged is built into the challenge. We do have a lot of input into making them, and tweaking them, and fine tuning them towards the end as well. I wanted to do a fashion challenge since we talked about it season one. We really were like, "Is it going to work? Is it not?" I was so happy when we made that one and it went so well.
Let's talk about the Golden Brick. Is it real or are we just dealing with a painted prop?
I feel like this is a secret I shouldn't reveal. Actually we had a real gold metal brick ready, and it didn't look good and shiny on camera.
We had to go back to the plastic brick that had a much more shiny effect. Actually, it is an authentic Lego plastic brick, because it gave us the best sparkle and effect on the camera. But we tried! We tried to make the real gold one to see. We were like, "That's going to be the coolest thing." Then you're like, "On camera it doesn't look like it!"
What is it like working with Will Arnett as the host?
It is so much fun. He cracks so many jokes on camera, but I think he cracks even more jokes off camera. Jamie and I always reminisce of the times when we actually could even manage to do a take, because even the cameramen are doubled over laughing because Will's made a joke. They're like, "Come on. We need to keep rolling," and everyone is just in hysterics. He's so much fun to be around, and makes jokes all the time.
He's also got this real relaxing presence. The contestants can get so worked up, and worried, and panicky, and he's like, "Okay, guys. We're going to calm down. We got this. You got this." We call him the cheerleader on set as well. When he's not making us laugh, he's cheering everyone on.
That's very apt. He is such a natural host, and so funny, and just brings a very good energy to the show. He really knows how to communicate with each group on a very special level, which I think adds a tender element to the show.
He's so good. Especially if Jamie and I go and throw a curveball, and, "We don't think this is working very well," then he can always come back in and cancel that. We're very thankful for that.
How do you recommend people get into Lego? Is it different if they're a child versus an adult? What's your suggestion?
There's lots of different ways. I think the first thing I would always say is, try and find something you're passionate or excited to build to start off. If you're going to start by building sets that are pre-designed Lego sets, then I think start by building something you're passionate and excited about, likewise if you want to build your own creations. Then also building our sets that exist is a great way to learn. I think sometimes people are like, "I want to build my own creations," but if you build some cars that we have, then you can really learn the techniques of how to build a good car, and you also have the parts to build a car.
You can then start freestyling. I think, build what you're excited about and passionate about is the biggest thing I would say, because that's when building's fun, when you actually care about what you're creating.
Personally, what's your favorite Lego to work with?
It's such a plug of my own line, but I'm such a big fan of Lego Dots. I wear the bracelet every day not just because it's the project line I work on, but just because I love having a creative tool that I can have, and a creative outlet on my outfit every day. I love redesigning and matching them.
Also I'm really excited about the Lego flowers. Took me a long time to get my hands on a set. Cannot wait to build them. I do enjoy building some of the bigger Creator Expert sets, some of the modular buildings and things. I have a lot of fun building them as well.
This might be a controversial question, but as a fan of the show, I am very curious about what made Mark and Steven winners over Zach and Wayne's squid and whale? I went on Twitter to see if anyone felt the same way and there were people being like, "What happened? We want to know why!"
Good question. This was a hot debate on the set as well. Jamie was encouraging people to go big, but the challenge wasn't just about building the biggest thing. I think that is something across Lego Masters. It's not just about the biggest thing you can build every time. I will put that out there. It was huge, and it was amazing, but the competition is not always about building the biggest thing you can create.
It was an awesome build. I think, especially on the camera, when you see it, it is huge, and it's done so well. But the details and the storytelling in Mark and Steven's is what really pushed it over the edge for us. They really leaned into their imagination. They created a whole world. I think you couldn't see on camera the amount of details in there. They were like, "We've got this new world. We've got gnomes in it. The gnomes can't drive cars, so they're going to fly on butterflies. Okay. The island's hanging this way, so where are the houses going to go? We have to have the houses dangling down." I think that that storytelling, and detail, and imagination that they put into every single detail of that build really captured Jamie and I, and showed another side of them that we hadn't seen yet in the competition.
I think it was this 360 storytelling, and the amount of detail they had in there. Which was maybe hard for you to see on camera, compared to the scale of the whale. But it was a very close one. They were both absolutely incredible builds.
The stakes were very high on that build!
Very high. I know. The Golden Brick episodes are the ones that Twitter blows up on. People are much more passionate about the decision those weeks.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.