In episode four of LEGO® Masters USA, teams competed to build epic movie scenes featuring blockbuster genres. Following appearances by celebrity guests and a major twist, one team went home. Sadly, that team was Manny and Nestor. True North Bricks, The Brothers Brick, Brickset, and BZPower caught up with Manny for an interview following the elimination.
How did you first get into LEGO?
When I was three, turning four years old, my mom and dad bought me the LEGO Castle from 1986. After that it was just history. My parents bought me LEGO every Christmas, every birthday, and for 30 years it has been the same thing. They’re still buying me LEGO, even as an adult. It all started when I was four years old.
You mentioned your first set was a castle from 1986. Do you remember which castle?
Um… it was LEGO System, a grey castle from ’86-’87. I forgot the name of it, but it was the first LEGO set that a received as a kid.
Could it have been Black Falcons Fortress? It was grey and had a black turret in the back.
You know what, you’re probably right. I think that was it.
Did you go through a “dark age” as an adult where you stopped building and then got back into it?
Good question. I’ve been asked that before, and the answer is yes. I’d say college, when I was interested in other things besides LEGO. There was a time between ’02-’05 where I wasn’t really into LEGO. I was a senior in high school, going into college. I got my girlfriend pregnant, then I had my daughter. So, yeah, there was a “dark time” in which I didn’t buy LEGO, or I wasn’t as enthused with LEGO as in other periods in my life.
What brought you out of your dark age?
Again, I had a daughter, so it was only right to bring LEGO back out. You know, that childhood toy that I had, it was only right to introduce that to my daughter. That’s what did it, I had my daughters, and that brought me out of that “dark age” of not playing with LEGO.
Have you ever been to a LEGO fan convention, or are you planning on going to one in the future?
I attended BrickFair in New Jersey back in 2015. I plan on attending Brick Fest Live in Philadelphia in April and I think Brick World is in the works in Chicago. I’m also planning to attend BrickFair, Virginia in August and BrickFair, New Jersey in October.
Has building LEGO always been a team effort with your dad?
Me and my dad also have a different relationship outside of LEGO. We own a RV servicing company. As far as LEGO is concerned, we get together on weekends or family events. When there is a birthday or a holiday, my parents usually keep a bin of LEGO out for their grandchildren. I’d also say that on weekends we engage with LEGO and we get together and make it a family thing.
What has the reaction been like from your friends and family to you being on the show?
Good! Everybody’s surprised, everybody’s happy and proud that I made it on the show. In the whole casting process, I’m sure 20 people didn’t apply. I’m pretty sure thousands of people applied. From that, being selected and being given the opportunity, I am surprised and I’m proud of myself for being able to accomplish this. That also goes for loved ones, family, friends. You know, everybody truly supported me throughout the whole thing. Everybody’s proud and very happy for me. And, they’re very happy for my dad. They’re proud that we were able to do something in our family. Everybody’s really happy with it.
What was your interaction like with the other contestants on the show?
We actually had a close relationship. I had a close relationship with Mark and Boone. Mel and Jermaine were great. But, as far as everybody, all the contestants, we had a great relationship. We really didn’t step on each other’s toes. We let each other live and express ourselves in the best way. Everybody was very accepting and very loving. I’d say we had a great relationship. Me and my dad, we got along great with everybody, especially the production team and cast. I think we all got along pretty well.
What was your favorite food that they had on the show for you?
You know what? I can’t pronounce half the lunch menu that they served [laughs]. The food was phenomenal, but I can’t pronounce half of it because it was too fancy, or too gourmet. But it was delicious. The food was awesome. I enjoyed it and so did my dad. I think we both shared plates, and we both picked at each other’s plates.
What would have been the perfect challenge for you on LEGO Masters?
To be honest, through the casting process, we were asked to build Santa’s workshop in New York City. When I presented this to my dad, he showed me a picture of the New York Washington Square Park. I told him, “I’m going to build that; we’re going to build that.” He thought we couldn’t because of time. We only had a day or two to build it. I’d say I’m the type of person that if you present a picture to me or you give me any idea, I will build it in LEGO. There’s no “no” in there.
If anything, I excelled even more within each challenge. I actually did listen to the Brick Masters, Jamie and Amy, and I applied their advice within all the challenges. Given the opportunity to continue competing, I would have dominated. But, in terms of me on the show and the challenges that I did, I believe that I did great. I wish I would have done the Mega City challenge. I wish I would have gotten to that part of the show. But anything that has to do with building, or anything that has to do with any technical functions, like power functions, I would have excelled at. Give me a picture, and I will build it with LEGO basically. [laughs]
In the Movie challenge, if you could have picked the second theme to go with your Western genre, what would you have picked?
We did the take of reaching for the popcorn a few times. The first time we reached the popcorn I grabbed Western. Then we had to do a second take, and they asked us if we were comfortable grabbing a different genre or grabbing the same one. My dad asked me, “do I want to stick with Western?”, and I said, “yeah, we’re gonna stick with Western.”
That’s a good question, thinking about it now, if I were to have picked something different. I don’t think so. I think my mind was already made up on Western the first time that I picked up the popcorn. I really wasn’t expecting the twist, you know? We did awesome with just the first movie theme, but the fantasy was a nice treat – it gave the creator the ability to enhance the story and the movie in whichever way you want it. If I were to have picked a second genre, I would have gone with Thriller, but that would have been too easy, you know?
Chris Miller and Phil Lord (writers and directors of The LEGO Movie) selected your second theme for the challenge. What was it like interacting with them, Will Arnett, and the other guests on set?
It was a delight. Having those directors there. I mean, they are the LEGO Red Carpet. They created The LEGO Movie, so to actually be in their presence was a treat. I think it’s safe to say that for everybody who was on set. To have those two members of the LEGO community there and to be in their presence – it’s a big deal. Taking their advice and criticism, obviously you know it’s good criticism. So, having them and all the other guests was just amazing. Will Arnett, the host, he was a delight too – a real funny guy. I remember his kids were there on set too; and seeing that and how he interacted with his kids was a great feeling.
What would you have done differently in the challenges you participated in?
What would I have done differently? Not get blindsided so much by the cameras and the lights and all that, you know? I think there was a time in the first day or two or three, that I was just blindsided by everything. I didn’t focus enough, and I was too busy trying to please my dad, listen to my dad’s advice, directing my dad, and having him helping me out.
So, I think I would have just concentrated a little bit more. I believe we excelled with Adventure Mountain. We put a whole lot of us into that challenge. If anybody heard Brick Master Amy, she said put a lot of you in your builds on the first challenge. We had the Puerto Rican kiosk, and we had the waterfall because of family. We’re heavy on water, we love the ocean and stuff like that.
Same thing with the last episode. Rusty Trails, was a combined effort between me and my dad. I think I would have just focused a little bit more on the instructions of what the Brick Masters wanted and what the challenge really entailed. Again, this is LEGO, and this is creative, and we are LEGO artists. So, to be honest, I wouldn’t have done too much different. Just focused a little bit more and concentrated on what I was doing and building.
What was the most difficult aspect of the challenges aside from the time limit?
Listening to my dad. [Laughs]
I would say if you were planning to build something with a certain element. You can plan something with certain parts, but once you get to that brick pit, and those pieces are no longer there, things tend to get real scary after that. So, that was the most challenging part throughout the whole building process. If you were building something, and you finally decided to change your plans and wanted to build something else, you needed to go find those pieces and hope that they were there so you could do what you wanted to do. If the pieces weren’t there, then you had to figure out how to do it to the best of your ability.
What advice would you give to a future LEGO Masters contestant?
Be imaginative, be creative with LEGO, and you know – the possibilities are just endless. LEGO isn’t something that you just stop – you always come back to LEGO – whether you have a dark age or not, you always come back. So, if you have that creative mind, to create and make, do it. Don’t put any limits on yourself and the possibilities are endless with LEGO! So, to any future LEGO Masters out there – just keep building with bricks – don’t stop or have a dark age! [Laughs.]
What is your number one takeaway from LEGO Masters?
My number one takeaway from LEGO Masters was growth. That’s the best thing about LEGO, it is a very creative toy; an ingenious toy with which you can create, break down, and re-build. What I got out of this, especially doing it with my father, was a closer bond with my dad. I got to see my dad in a new way. What I got out of it, again, was growth. Growth with the relationship with my father, growth in the relationships with the rest of the castmates and production team. Experiencing all that for the first time, and doing it with my dad, definitely got me prepared for other things in life. I’m really, really in debt and really thankful.
Where can we follow you and your future LEGO creations online?
@viva_lego on Instagram. That’s primarily where I have all my LEGO creations and all my MOCs. That’s actually how they picked me up for the show. That’s it, that’s the only social account that I have.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
Me and my dad – again, we had such an amazing time. Trying to be part of the show was amazing. To be honest, for all who are listening, I wouldn’t have been able to do it with anybody else. The relationship that we have as father and son is just so dynamic, and I wouldn’t have been able to be on the show or done the show if it wasn’t for him. So again, this was a team effort, even though I am the enthusiastic fan and my dad is a part time builder. But again, both of us together on the show, we did our best, we had an amazing time. We just enjoyed every moment of it. We couldn’t thank LEGO enough for providing all those LEGO bricks. We had a good time.
Tune in later this week for more!
Manny and Nestor brought a touching LEGO® story to the show. Their bond was inspiring and really shows the generation-spanning appeal of the LEGO® Brick. Ultimately, struggling to build a cohesive story saw them leave the show. Who will be next to go? Find out Wednesday night at 9:00 pm ET on FOX. I hope you enjoyed the Manny interview, be sure to leave your thoughts in the comments below or shout out on social media.
Until next time,
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