Following their third episode elimination from LEGO® Masters USA, True North Bricks had the opportunity to catch up with Tim and Zach for an interview about their time on the show. Along with fellow Recognized LEGO® Fan Media outlets Brothers Brick, Bricks King Podcast, Brickset, BZ Power, and TalkBricks, we got the lowdown on the father-son duo’s experiences and advice. We Zoomed with Time for nearly half an hour, while Zack sent in some supplementary recorded answers to questions. Read on for more, or click here for ongoing season two coverage.
Until next time,
What made you decide to try out for LEGO® Masters and what was the audition process like for you?
Tim: In the first season, we started going through the application process. And then we found out there’s certain age qualifications that you have to hit, and Zach was 17. So, for season two we started going back through the application process. As for why we decided, it’s just been something that I felt like we could connect over and spend time together, and that was the core of the decision. Originally, that’s why we did it.
Zach: I agree, plus it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity, so why not at least try?
Can you share some of the details of your builds that didn’t get featured in the show?
Tim: Thank you for asking that. In episode one, we did the four seasons in Michigan. Our family loves the outdoors. We love the activities going on outside. As you go around the float, I’ll start with winter. That was the back corner that you really couldn’t see. We had an ice skating rink there, because in Northern Michigan we’re big on the ice game thing. Will and I had a little bit of dialogue about which (professional) hockey team was better, Toronto (Maple Leafs) or Detroit (Red Wings).
Moving forward, there was springtime, and we had a fishing area. We had a lake, so we took half of a minifig and stuck it in the lake. Then there was summer. June is my wife and I’s anniversary. We often go up to Mackinac (Island) because they have a lilac festival. We had a brick-built carriage with horses since in Mackinac there’s no cars. We built lilac bushes.
Then we had autumn – we do a lot of hiking and absolutely love being outside because of all of the beautiful colour that we get up here in northern Michigan. The interesting thing you couldn’t see on TV was the tower. In northern Michigan we have a lot of cities and towns that are Alpine themed, and they have sister villages over in Switzerland. So, the clock tower in our build was themed upon the Alpine type building that is all over northern Michigan. Zach built a really cool base for it. When Jamie came over, he said it was really great. That never made it onto TV but it’s really cool. Zack built the middle tower, all of the mechanisms, and the moving parts and features. I focused on the three seasons and building up the different scenes. The float was actually my idea because I am usually the creative one and Zach is more technical, which is how we played off each other.
For the second build, as soon as we picked up our mad scientist, our evil scientist, right away Zach came back to the stand and he’s like, “Dad, I know what we’re going to do. I’ve got the idea, I got it down.” And immediately he laid out, “We’re going to do these two vials and they’re going to blow up here. And we’re going to do a factory and then we’re going to call the scientist Doofenshmirtz.” He had all these other really cool things. He had the idea immediately, so we started building right away. And I was confident about that. I said this on the show too. I was confident about the vials because I understood where that was going. We didn’t quite get the wall to fall as you saw. We were really disappointed about that but it’s just part of the show. So, we really had a great time, especially those first two challenges. My favorite was the first build. Zach’s favorite was the second one. So that’s kind of how we split.
What was your strategy for this last challenge?
Tim: When we look at the division of labor, frankly, in this one, it was the height and the amount of time. It was: “We’ve got to put bricks down, and we’ve got to focus and divide out and manage the time.” You heard Jamie give an idea when he said, “Well you’ve got 25% of your build done, and you only have 25% of the time left”. Actually, all of the contestants were thinking along that exact same line. We were all kind of gauging how things are going up. I think it was around the three-hour mark where we were at two feet, and we’re like, “We’ve got to get another two feet up here, and we’ve got to make it aesthetically pleasing. It can’t just be blocks going up.” I was feeling the pressure. It was: “Oh crap, here we go. Zach, I’ll build the inside, you keep moving on the outside.” It was crazy all that was going on.
Last week the challenge was about building to fail. This week it was the opposite. How did you switch mindsets between challenges?
Tim: Well, we don’t do this kind of stuff. Normally, you don’t build to break, and you don’t build to shake. You just don’t do that. So, from a mindset component, the one thing that I knew, and this is why I was very confident about the vials, is I knew the blow up had to be controlling the gas. And if we could control the gas, I could control the break. I have a little bit of a pyro background from when I was working on stage. So, I knew a little bit about how to control the gases, but not a lot. And the other thing I’ll tell you, when we do our pyro testing, we test it like ten times to make sure that it’s going to work the way it’s supposed to. So, I was confident about the vials just because it was a small, contained area. I wasn’t confident about the other stuff.
When it came to the shake, frankly, none of the teams knew. I mean, we all talk big talk, but I’ll just be honest, none of us really knew what we were doing. We’re like: “Well, I think this is going to work.” You heard Philip and Maria about ball joints and tires. We were just like putting stuff everywhere. It was a lot of fun to experiment, but it’s just not something that you normally build. So, all of the things that we’re doing, whether it’s the build to break or build to shake, or even the parade float, it’s all a mindset of what is the challenge? What are the rules? What are the parameters? We’ve got to manage our time, and we’ve got to just work through and make sure that we overcome and at least provide a MOC that works.
In hindsight, what would you change about your last build?
Tim: I’ve had this question a lot. It’s hard to express, when somebody is not on the show. They don’t understand the pressure, the amount of pieces that you have, and the amount of time that you have. You make decisions and you make things because of time. For example, in our situation, and you saw this specifically, Jamie came up in the show, he pointed and said “that’s your weakest area.” I was like, “I know, but I don’t have time to fix it!” So, would I do something differently? Yes, but I didn’t have time to do anything differently. I would love to go back if I had an infinite amount of time and build something incredible. There’s nothing I could do differently because we did the best we could with the amount of time we had, the pieces we had, and the rules that we had to play within. I’m not a regret type individual, I don’t have regrets. We just played full out. I would make the same decisions again.
Was there a particular challenge you were looking forward to that you didn’t get a chance to do on the show?
Tim: Well clearly, we didn’t know what challenges were coming. We had no idea what was happening until we were on the set, ready to go. I don’t even know how to answer that question because I just don’t know what the challenges are. The only thing that I really would have liked to have more of, if it was possible, is to show the banter that we have between our contestants. They showed a little bit of it here and there, but it was only like 1% of the connection that we had. It’s hard to show this on TV. I think the first build we were next to Jack and Dawn, and we just were clowning and bantering back and forth. The next one we were next to Philip and Maria and then Randall and Syreeta. That banter, I wish we could share more of that, because that’s what bonded us together as contestants. We were racing against the build, competing against the build, but we really weren’t competing against each other.
Where do you get your design inspiration from?
Zach: I’m a castle builder. So, I like looking at all the LEGO® castles and think, “Oh, that’s really cool how they built that! I want to build a castle with that architecture.” Then you can look at the older style buildings and that type of stuff. I also look at nature.
Tim: I like building from a perspective of, do I have a connection with that location, am I building something that resembles somewhere I have been or have I had some experience in this area. Then bring that in and build something that is going to connect me with past experiences or trips or something along those lines.
What’s your favorite piece or go to technique that you like to use?
Zach: I put cheese slopes on everything. I don’t know why, I’ve noticed I just do it. I don’t think that I’ve built a large build, or any build, in a very long time that didn’t include a good amount of cheese slopes. I don’t know why. I just like how they look, and they just round things off nicely. It’s probably almost our signature.
Tim: I’ve always been a fan of SNOT pieces. That’s the one thing that I’ve always done. I mean, I’ve got to use this in my illustration, this is a Lowell Sphere (shows one). I love using this as far as making sure that you’ve got the right pieces in the right places. SNOT makes it possible to build a circle or sphere out of square pieces, and it’s really cool.
What was your reaction to competing against the other talented builders on national TV?
Tim: Man, you’re asking an authenticity type question. In all transparency, I don’t feel like I am worthy to compete against these guys. When I look at their builds and I look at what they’re doing, I’m like, “Dude, these are really awesome builders.” So, when you’re looking at the LEGO® Masters, I’m humbled to be able to call myself that. When I look at some of the stuff that they’re doing, they’ve got insane amounts of talent. It’s a little bit of imposter syndrome. When I step onto that court and I know there’s a lot of good players, some people that are really great that didn’t get on, it was almost like, “Why me?” Just being real with you, there’s a feeling of imposter syndrome.
Which of the other teams did you bond with the most?
Tim: Certain things that happened – we were next to people so we had more time to be able to spend with them, or we were riding with them in a van, or we were connected somewhere in the greenroom – that allowed us to have a little bit better connection. So, for us, Philip and Maria, obviously they’re from Michigan, and so we immediately connected because we’re all from Michigan. Jack and Dawn – Dawn’s from Michigan we immediately had a connecting point. But there were others. Randall and Syreeta – we were actually with them because we were driving partners and we were able to actually spend some time with them and have some banter back and forth with them.
How long have you two been building together and do you have any favorite builds?
Tim: When Zach was three, he was trying to steal his brother’s LEGO®, all the sets. His first memory is at seven, when we started buying a bunch of different sets, Star Wars or things like that. At about seven when we started to build together. By age 10, he was saying: “No, Dad, I don’t need you anymore. I’m going to put this set together.” So, he quickly advanced. Then about seven to ten years ago, is when we made that transition from set builders to MOC builders. That started by us asking: “What do you want to do, Zach? Because you got sets, you got everything else.” He said, “Well, how about I just start putting stuff together?” So, we bought some bulk LEGO® and we started sorting it, separating it, organizing, all that stuff. He started building towns and houses.
The very first big MOC that Zach built was a long bridge. He hates it when I tell the story. It was a very, very long bridge. I was like, “Dude, that is freaking awesome.” He pretty much did almost all of that by himself. He is so OCD that he started counting the studs. And he was one stud off. It was out of balance by one stud. The next day, he tore the entire bridge down. His mother and I are like, “Why?” But he did it because it was one stud off. But we started building MOCs. The biggest MOC we did was a castle. It was two tables, four feet by eight feet. We would show that down in BrickWorld. That was 2019, I think, when we did our first display in BrickWorld.
What was the biggest lesson that you learned from being on LEGO® Masters?
Tim: Can I redirect this question in just one way? It was a confirmation of a lesson that I’ve been learning for the last five years. Because as I look at my life, there was a time when getting knocked out at any point time would have been a hit to my own core, my value, my confidence. The confirmation that I have at this moment is the work that I’ve been doing to train my mindset, to focus on the positives, to adjust, and be able to overcome things. The lessons that I’ve learned there were reinforced while I was on the show. Because if you don’t focus on the next opportunity, or the next advantage, or don’t focus on the fact that my value comes from within, not from outside, then it’s going to be a struggle no matter what you do.
If you could advise future contestants on LEGO® Masters, what would you say is the best quality to have on this show?
Tim: Mindset. 100% mindset. I don’t even have to think about that. It’s all about your mindset. See the thing is, when you’re in a competition, you’re in life, or you’re in business – it doesn’t matter the arena that you’re playing in – it all comes down to what’s going on between your ears. It’s always about your mindset, because you can only control what is going on inside and you could only control certain things. You can control your emotions, you can control how you’re feeling about some things, you can control what you say. I can’t control the time clock. That clock is going to run no matter what. I can’t control what the rules are. I can’t control what pieces are always available. I can’t control a lot of those things, and yet in our lives we attempt to control everything outside of our control when in reality we need to be controlling what’s going on internally. We need to control what’s going on inside of our minds. That is the absolute key, and it’s more than just being a contestant. It’s how you live your life. You’ve got to live your life understanding that you control what you can control.
Zach: I would get to know your partner. If you haven’t already built with your partner, building with your partner and knowing what is going on, kind of having the give and take of a building relationship is such a big deal, because you can’t do it by yourself. If you think you’re just going to drag your partner along, that’s a horrible idea. They need to know just as much what they’re doing as you know what you’re doing.
Tim: Balance of skills, different types of skills to balance each other.
Zach: Yeah, different types of skills, that’s great. But, if you guys don’t have your roles evenly defined, and don’t understand what’s going on, or aren’t both on the same page, you’re going to be confused. I really feel like that could potentially be a major downfall, because then you’re going to spend the first half of the first challenge trying to figure out what your roles are, when you could have already done it before and then just been there to build, which sounds obvious. But I don’t feel like a lot of people did that.
If you could have designed the perfect challenge going into this show, where you and Zach could have really shined, what would that challenge of look like?
Tim: There’s two things that we love to build. It’s architecture type things, specifically in the castle aspect, and then creating nature type rolling scenes. There’s a lot of great builders in there that were doing big type sculpture things. Those are a lot of fun, but our skill set is how do you tell a story that is a minifigure type scale, and roll through that. You’ll notice in the preview we had our boat scene with the lighthouse and there’s different people doing things. Same thing with our first model, we kind of created the running scene and that’s what I love to do.
Zach: Castles all the way! I’ll tell you what, man, I was just hoping maybe they’ll give us castles. But no. And that’s okay, that’s cool. I’m good with that. But castles all the way.
What surprised you about the competition?
Tim: The other contestants. I was pleasantly surprised by the other contestants. The reason for that is I’ve watched enough reality TV shows to think that it was going to be cutthroat. I thought it was going to be kind of, I don’t mean this in a negative way, underhanded and people are kind of fake. Walking in I was prepared for that. But when we got there, the reality is, the people that you see on TV are the same people that were behind the scenes. They didn’t change their personalities, they didn’t change who they were, they are genuine individuals, and that surprised me. Out of everything, that’s the number one thing that surprised me.
Tim, has your “cool dad” index increased because of being on LEGO® Masters?
Tim: Let’s just be clear, I’m not the cool dad. I’ll say this and everybody laughs at me: one of my nephews actually labeled me as the Funcle. So, I’m the fun uncle. I’m not necessarily the cool one because everybody – all the kids, nephews, nieces – they all look at me and they say: “Dude, that’s not cool.” So, I have no coolness and I will never attest to having coolness. I mean, look at my dab. The whole aspect of this is the fact that I want to make sure that I’m relatable. In connecting with my nieces, nephews, my kids, even other kids, I want to make sure that I can connect with them at where they’re at. So, just to correct the record, I’m not a cool dad. I’m just the dad, and I’m just playing as best I can with what I’ve got.
You mentioned that this time with your son was invaluable. Can you say a little bit more about that?
Tim: It’s nothing I would ever trade for any amount of money, ever. To me, the time with Zach is more valuable than winning, is more valuable than a trophy, or more valuable than anything. Now don’t get me wrong, is it fun to win? Of course, it’s fun to win, but my value is not tied up in winning. My value is tied up in being able to spend time with my kids. That’s my legacy. For me to consider myself a success and have any worth, it’s spending that time and connecting with my kids. That goes for all three of my kids.
What was your favorite part of being on LEGO® Masters, aside from being with Zach?
Tim: But it is Zach. Zach is everything. The thing that touched me the most, Zach had a little monologue when we ended our time. It was probably a good two or three minutes. Because of editing it wasn’t all shown. They picked the highlights, and they did a great job. But that monologue meant more to me than the entire show. Because Zach being able to confirm and say: “This is why we’re here and I appreciate what Dad has done in my life,” – that right there gave me more of a confirmation than anything else. That’s my favorite part of the entire experience.
If you were to go on a competition television series with your other kids what shows would you do?
Tim: I love that question. Number one, I would say, with Micah, it would be Alone. We’d have to be a duo. They did one season where it was a duo, and we could do it then. For my daughter, it would have to be something that has to do with either dance or drama, and it would put me so far out of my comfort zone. I felt like I was stretching out of my comfort zone with LEGO®. But Broadway and dance and shopping, that’s her thing. I know that’s what I’m going to do, but I’m also mentally like, “Dang it, I’m going to have to go shopping with my daughter. I’m going to have to go to all these Broadway shows. I’m going to have to do all this.” But it’s a way to connect and that’s where I put my feelings aside.
What would you say is the most important message viewers should take away from LEGO® Masters season two?
Tim: I love that you’re asking me what’s the most important lesson. My life is not in singular form; I always come up with two or three or four lessons. So, maybe I can summarize it in this way. The first thing is that you’ve got to be able to build your own personal growth. And you’ve got to take care of yourself in order to be able to give to others. So, when you step into a competition situation like this, yes it’s a competition. Yes, we’re dealing with other people. But my purpose in doing that and being on the show was how can I leave an impact. That doesn’t mean just narrowly, like an impact on Zack. But how do I leave an impact on the contestants? How do I leave an impact on the producers? How do I leave an impact on all of those PR people that are behind the scenes? I’m there, specifically to be able to help in any way that I can and leave an impact on them. I’ve had some of the producers come up and say “Hey, thanks for this.” That means a lot to me. Here’s the point: when you lead from service, you get your impact. That’s the lesson that you take away, whether you’re in a competition or in regular life. The lesson is how can you be of service and how can you help support another individual.
To follow Tim on social media, visit: https://www.flowcode.com/page/timcroll
To follow Zach on Instagram, visit: @_thatbrickguy_
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