Paras and Moto Interview (LEGO® Masters)
Following their elimination from LEGO® Masters USA, season two True North Bricks caught up with Paras and Moto for an interview about their time on the show. Along with fellow Recognized LEGO® Fan Media outlets Brickset, Brothers Brick, and BZ Power, we chatted about their experiences and reflections about everything that went down. The interview lasted almost 45 minutes over Zoom, so pull up a chair, a refreshing beverage, and enjoy!
Until next time,
What was the biggest problem that you had to work through during the construction of your hat?
Paras: The entire show is about bringing engineering or technical ability with creativity and storytelling, all together. Creating that hat was the most difficult build I’ve ever had to undertake, especially given the time pressure, the cameras, the lights, and seeing everybody else’s builds. Their extraordinary level of creativity is amazing. We tried our best. Moto and I talked about it quite a bit. We’re learners and we try to learn from experience. The snake with the head was definitely top heavy, and the brim of the hat was malleable. Putting the two together was a challenge, especially when you start walking down a runway, you start lifting it, you start imposing inertia from these different pieces. It’s a lot to expect for that thing to stay together the way we had done it.
Moto: Yeah, the Brickmasters talked about the integration. I think that’s exactly what you saw fail. So, its where the Technic components met the top of the hat, and the sides, and the brim. The physical part that’s on top of your head, integrating the post and then the mesh framework sitting on the brim. That was the difficult part, and that’s exactly where it split. You saw me pick it up and it dropped. So, that was obviously the difficult part and that’s where it failed.
Can you talk about the emotional highs and lows that you guys endured throughout this competition?
Moto: Every challenge presented is a gift. But it is a Pandora’s box of a gift. When you open it, you realize there’s all sorts of problems hiding in there that you’re going to have to work through. Some difficulties and successes go hand-in-hand. I think about the first episode, the gearbox was really rough to get together. Somehow, we pulled that off with some really good motion and some good styling of the robots.
The Hero Shot challenge was pretty incredible. Learning how to make an explosion and using a shapes charge to throw a rainbow up. I thought that was pretty fun, but it took a lot of work. There was a lot of great detail from Paras on the lower half of the tree and all the character design that went into that.
Then the shake challenge, I wish I could celebrate it by being in the top three. But it was such a cosmetic wreckage. It was hard to really count that as a win when it was that bad off. It was a mixed bag, I was very happy that the structure we built was really, really tough. Probably the most durable one there. But to shed off all the stuff we tacked on just to get it complete was not a great victory. It was rather hollow.
Leading into this one, I was really happy and celebrated the fact that our hat just looked incredible. It didn’t look like anything else. It had a fabric component. I think the character of the snake was really iconic, good stance, good pose. It looked amazing and had a lot of nice parts usage. Then, it ultimately catastrophically disintegrated. That was the bummer [laughs]. It’s all over the place; you take these challenges as you can and then make it work.
Paras: We were pretty confident of the structural integrity of the skyscraper. It was a challenge for us – I felt that we had to win that one, otherwise I would have wasted $200,000 on my engineering degree, frankly [laughs]. We definitely had that pressure. Aesthetically, it was not our best, it was awful. I think I said that on-air too. It is what it is. Moto and I reflected a lot on that experience, and we decided for the next challenge, we didn’t want to have to rush at the end. We wanted to be able to show our best given the time. So, with the hat, we had time to test it a bit, walk around with it a bit. We were pretty happy with how it looked at the end. Unfortunately, it unexpectedly broke when Moto picked it up and was ready to put it on the top of my head backstage. There were a lot of emotions going on at that time. I did not want to go out onto that runway.
Moto: No, but do you remember what I told you? I think the mic was covered. I pulled you close and I said “Look, you wanted to be the model to represent yourself and your community and your daughter. So, make your daughter proud, just get to the end. It’s okay if you let it go and it blows up, just get to the end of the runway.” And I let you go. We got it on you, and you went, and you did it.
Paras: Yeah, that’s right. The other castmates, they really rallied around me during that moment, I just felt a lot of the love and I felt like I had to finish. Come what may, c’est la vie, you know? I remember I put the remnants of the hat on and waited and paused before I stepped out. I took a deep breath, got my pose and went out there.
You two were relatively new to building together and went with a divide and conquer strategy. How did that work for you?
Paras: No question that I certainly wish we had a lot more time just to learn about each other, to get a comfort level like Maria and Philip. I mean they can finish each other’s sentences. Not that I’d get married to Moto, I’m just saying we would have benefited from more time. But that was not an option. We tried to move forward with what we had and the time we had. Our inclination was to do division of labor to try to bring it together.
Moto: I think it went beyond just the division of labor. First, it was always figuring out what skills match the challenge and trying to pair our strengths together. In some of the challenges, Paras took the lead on being a project manager, coordinating the overall story and approach, and thematically how it’s going to come together. Or even the components and how they’re designed to be assembled. In other cases, it was me trying to be the team lead and drive the outcome. So, there was always one clear leader amongst us, overseeing and making tough decisions just for the sake of time.
Afterwards, it got down into the assignment of who would do what and then how to integrate it. It’s tough because you can’t see inside of each other’s heads. You do see those moments of not understanding, or stumbling, or trying to figure out a pattern before we get rolling. It was not just a division of tasks and labor, but also a division of responsibilities. We kept trading off. You’ll even see the person who’s narrating the story at the end during the judging alternated between Paras and myself. Just like how Amy and Jamie alternate between who gives the bad news at the end of each episode. That was part of the team dynamic as well.
Paras: We did have a number of days in quarantine and Moto and I took advantage of that. We reflected on every single build that had been done to that point around the world in all the different LEGO® Masters. We at least had the opportunity to write down our ideas and figure out what we would have done in that situation. We had the idea of the honeycomb for the eventual engineering or structural kind of build, for example. We certainly had a lot that we could build on. I had done my research in Moto’s abilities, and I wanted to support him and elevate his artistry as much as I possibly could, but by interjecting my engineering skill set. That was my goal.
Moto, you said, “Goodbye, play well” when you left, which we all know as the LEGO motto. What does that phrase mean to you?
Moto: For me, this was the opportunity of a lifetime, and to do it is to do it. I didn’t do it for the award. It would have been nice, a nice trophy and all that. But I really did it because I wanted to see what the challenge was, and to try to build to it. For me, whenever I woke up, no matter how exhausted, no matter how every molecule of my legs or feet were completely, utterly destroyed at the end of every day, it was about knowing that there were thousands of AFOLs who would have traded the position for mine in an instant. So, with that responsibility, it was necessary for me to just keep grinding away every day with the maximum effort that I could put forward, because it wasn’t just about myself as a builder. It’s about something greater, it’s about trying to represent the entire community of builders who had gone through casting and hadn’t made it. For some reason I’m here, and I know that anyone would trade places in a moment. So, to do the best that I could do, and to put the maximum effort forward seemed about the right thing to do for anybody who’s going to be watching the show. Anybody who’s been an AFOL or anybody who will be an AFOL to get inspired and get out there and love this thing that we all love. And I don’t say “Goodbye, play well” just as a token. I do it all the time, because for me it’s a philosophy, it’s a way to live your life. I think you could see it from the cast that I’ve done everything to my greatest ability to really embody that. I think all the contestants do that – to be representatives not just in the LEGO community, but in this competition to bring forward the greatest parts of what we can be, as people and with the elements. So hopefully that made a difference and I’m glad you noticed.
Paras: I started a non-profit to provide STEAM education to kids and adults. So, I’m pretty well known in the education community in Connecticut. I’m all about the kids, ever since I had my daughter. My own accolades just don’t matter as much as much to me. I’m just about inspiring as many kids as I can to pursue STEAM education, to try new things, to love and learn new things. Well geez, how can you have a much bigger opportunity to impact people than this? It was just an incredible experience. I didn’t think I’d still get selected until the end. But I always knew that if I did, it was going to be an extraordinary time, and one that I would try to enjoy it to the absolute maximum I could. I think I did that. It was definitely a highlight of my life.
Thinking back on the strategies you used throughout your time on the show, what would change if you could go back to the start of the show? Would you give yourself different advice?
Paras: Good question.
Moto: I don’t think I would. I think that if I was in some infinite time loop, like Doctor Strange, and doing it over and over again, sure, I’d keep improving until I beat the snot out of this thing. But realistically, the fun of it is you only get one chance and there’s a surprise in there. So, I wouldn’t give that up.
Paras: I don’t know if strategically we would have changed anything. You don’t know what experiences you would need in the situations that you’re in until you’re in it. I certainly could have benefitted from different techniques and what not. I don’t know that I would have changed any other strategy, really. But, it’s an interesting question.
What are the challenges that you wish had happened while you were on the show?
Moto: I’m hoping for a theme build, and I believe I would know what that theme is. The preview for the next build, the hanging brick challenge, that is something that I really, really, really, really want to do to the point where I’m building my own MOCs to solve it. Even though I’m not on the show I’m going to take some of these challenges on. Some of them are just too creative for me to ignore. I’m sure as time goes on too, I’m going to see more of these challenges come up and do my own special take on it. Try it, solve it my own way. I just think they’re fascinating.
Paras: I do too. The amount of effort they go into thinking of the challenges is quite a lot. I have a mobile – Moto gave me the idea of creating a mobile during quarantine. I’ve been working on something like that. I don’t think I was able to really show what I’m capable of. But that’s okay. I think that the biggest regret is not having that ability to do that during the time that I was there. I’m definitely looking forward to the next few episodes, to see what everybody underwent, and I’ll be making my own version of those as well, for sure.
Were there any memorable moments that didn’t get captured by the camera?
Paras: Definitely in episode two. We didn’t really show up until the last few minutes of that episode. I would have loved to have had our story come out a lot more because there was a lot there. You know there was a lot of work that went into the dam.
Moto: In the first episode, the robot head falling off made airtime. You saw when one head fell on the table, but there was another one where it fell off the table and completely exploded. And then there was another one where the cameras weren’t on us, during transporting the model for the final display. Once again, the head fell off, we had to fix that. That was a harrowing experience, but it happened, and I think it was distinctly captured within the show narrative itself. But that was a lesson learned. Truly, build your heads more strongly to not fall off. My fondest memories of the show are when the clock winds down to zero. It’s hands off. There is a moment of time where there’s a reset occurring, and you’re able to walk around the gallery and see all the completed models from every team and really get in there and really see them as they are in person. As a builder you can see most of the techniques and a lot of the details that get missed in the editing, especially in the early episodes. Those are the moments I really memorized and savored, seeing everyone’s completed builds as a cast, in incredible detail and up close and personal. Sadly, that can’t be conveyed beyond that moment, but it’s truly a special time.
Paras: The single greatest thing I take with me – there’s the friendships and all that, but from my technical standpoint is learning from everybody else’s artistry. I still use that; I still remember all that and I try to implement them as much as I can. I learned so much from watching everybody else, seeing how they did things, seeing how they thought, and a lot of our discussions offline. The support, the love, we were helping each other.
Moto: One last one: Paras and I were lying on the floor of the studio with our backs up against a pillar. We were basically stargazing, only we were looking at the top of the set and all the rafters and the lighting kits and stuff. And I noticed something very unusual and pointed out to Paras and we won’t say what it was because it wasn’t captured on camera. But it’s one of those random things that’s kind of just fun and out of this world. It’s just one of those moments in time where you have these strange little things that you’re doing while you’re in between things and getting ready to go. It was kind of like stargazing on the floor of the LEGO® Masters studio. That’s probably one of the crazy fun memories I have with Paras just lying there talking about stuff up in the ceiling [laughs].
Tell us about the details in your builds that didn’t get captured on camera.
Moto: I think the serpent’s head was amazing. You have to pretty much freezeframe to see it really well. Paras put a lot of effort into the fabric component of the hat, but you have to look top down to see all that detail and unfortunately a lot of the shots were bottom up. So that was probably missed. In the second episode, a lot of the groundwork and the rainbow coloring was cut when we did our dam build. There was rainbow magic and there were actual-colored stripes weaving through the base plates up into the dam itself. But it’s not something that you would pick out with your eye. Having the brick come flying out and knock the sword out of the minifig’s hand… I think that was probably the closest call out of all the explosions.
How did building against the clock change how you built for the challenges?
Paras: Great question. I’ve said it multiple times and I’ll continue to say it, I hate that clock. As you know Moto is fantastic. His artistic ability is incredible, and he’s done builds that are just amazing. He has spent 200 to 300 hours on some of those builds. That is just not a luxury we have on LEGO® Masters. So, you need to have all of your capabilities and you have to have all your experiences with you. It’s not a learning opportunity in that timeframe. It’s more about execution, and bringing out whatever skills we have with us in that time. So, it’s not only the stress of the time, but it’s a new experience. All of a sudden, you’re in this extraordinary place. It’s like this beautiful blue arena of the LEGO® Olympics, if you will, and the camera, the lights, all of it, it’s just amazing. It’s an incredible experience, but it impacts you.
Moto: Competitive speed building is very different than artistic MOC building. Paras mentioned a lot of builds come in at 80 to 100 hours, maybe more. When you have a tenth or twentieth of that time, competitive speed building is very much going back to basics. Using basic brick, connections you know that are strong, and then layering in whatever additional details you want. There’s a lot of tactics and study that could go into it, but really competitive speed building is its own sub niche and specialty of building LEGO® creations. So, it’s really cool – I had to sit down and completely retune the way I built going into it. That takes some time. But it is a specialty, and all the teams you’re seeing are using those skills very well. It was a high bar across the entire season.
Tell us about the relationships with the other contestants. Have you kept in touch?
Moto: The answer is simply yes. We have a messaging app that we use every single day. There’s at least 30 – 40 comments that come through on any given day, about any random topic. We keep an eye out for any new content that’s been posted, videos about the show, but also just as we build along in our own lives. We celebrate all the wonderful things that are happening to all the cast members as they proceed on. Also, working through logistics of all the conventions that we’re going to attend. We haven’t said we’re not seeing each other again. There are a lot of great chances to see each other again in the future. We’re basically family at this point, it’s great to have a bunch of brothers and sisters from across the US.
Paras: I don’t think we use the word family lightly. All of us use it for this experience. It’s just amazing. I don’t know that I would have expected that to happen. It’s just such a rarefied and intense experience. I don’t know how to describe it, but Moto is absolutely correct. Moto is a brother of mine now, for better or worse for him [both laugh].
Moto: I’ll say it goes beyond season two. We also have the ability to talk to and communicate with all the season one cast members. There’s even a global group. Being able to fan zone out with all the Australian cast members that we’ve watched and enjoyed, or from Britain, or Belgium, or around the world. Having that entire LEGO masters family worldwide is pretty amazing.
Paras: We have this exclusive Facebook group that is just for alumni of LEGO® Masters. It’s just an immediate bond that I certainly feel. It’s fantastic.
Will we see you at LEGO conventions later this year?
Paras: I’ll be at Brickfair, Virginia for sure. And I’m definitely looking at a number of the other ones. I just don’t know which ones they are going to be.
Moto: I will be at Brick Rodeo in Texas coming up in July. I will also be at Brick Slopes a few weeks later in Utah. Then toward the end of the year, BrickFest Live in Denver. Next year, I’m looking forward to Chicago – the big convention – it’s probably going to be the biggest rallying point for the majority of the Season Two cast.
Paras: I’ll try to make it to Bricks Cascade.
Moto: Oh yeah, I should have said I’m going to Bricks Cascade next year too. That’s another event for next spring. We’ll be around.
What advice do you have for someone wanting to apply for the show?
Moto: Man, if I had the answer everybody would succeed to be on the show. You can be a very, very good builder. I do think you need to be a unique MOC builder. I think you need to have a vision and build in a distinct and different way. I think we see that there is a lot of commonalities when you look at MOCs. There’s common interests, things of that nature. But to stand out and be different, you do need to build differently. I’d also look at your life in your background, understand who you are, understand that you’re a valuable person. But try to describe it in a way that’s compelling to others. I also think that you have to have a good comfort with the camera. You have to have a good comfort and chemistry with a crew and also with your building partner, as well as a cast that you’ll eventually be a part of. Because it is national television, it’s not a time to all of a sudden shut down and freak out. You’ve got to be comfortable around cameras and learn when to avoid them. Whatever social media platform you want to start practicing on, that’s a great way to start. You just work your way through, and you work your way up with experience over time. But you know it’s kind of a combination of chemistry, building, as well as facing Clockzilla and staring it down. There’s a lot more that could be said about that, but that’s kind of the basics, I suppose.
Paras: Success is 50% perseverance and 50% luck. I’ve been working on this stuff for five years. I have a contract with LEGO®, we sell LEGO® products, we use LEGO® in everything we do because it’s the best product and best teaching tool. Then, lo and behold, I get a call from the casting crew of LEGO® Masters. That wouldn’t have happened if I already hadn’t had this history. You have to be in a position to take advantage of the opportunity when it comes and thankfully, I was able to do that.
I’m looking behind the two of you and seeing a lot of LEGO®. I can tell that you are big fans. Did you guys ever go through a dark age?
Paras: Unfortunately, I never had the opportunity to go through a dark age. I didn’t have LEGO® when I was little. We didn’t have any money, you know? Just a typical immigrant family. I really got introduced to LEGO® maybe a little bit more than five years ago. Actually, I guess when my daughter was born. She just turned nine. We just started playing. That’s really when I got introduced to it. I just fell in love with it. Since then, it’s just been like: “This is so cool!” It’s just such an accessible product for anyone, for everyone. It’s like a pen or a pencil and a piece of paper. It’s to that level. It’s just accessible and allows you to create and get whatever is in here [points to head] down. I can’t say enough good things about the product, I really can’t.
Moto: I did have a dark age. In fact, in episode one, I had to teach Will [Arnett] what a dark age meant, because I talked about it, and he didn’t know what it was. I had to explain it to him. So, it was a little bit of LEGO® lingo that I was able to give to Will Arnett, which is kind of fun. But I entered my dark age around 12 or 13, in the mid ‘80s. I still have my original MOC from my childhood. It’s still in one piece and its still here. But that dark age lasted until five and a half years ago. Once again, it’s through kids that introduced me to it. I fell head over heels into being an AFOL after I found my original memory of a childhood set at a thrift store, still in box complete. That just brought back all the feels and from there I just started collecting and collecting and collecting, and then eventually MOC building.
Any favourite memories of Will Arnett or the Brickmasters?
Moto: Will Arnett, yes. Can’t repeat any of it [laughs]. The guy’s funny and hysterical all the time. But also, he has a lot of heart and he’s actually a very generous and gracious host. He’s very supportive when things are not going well for you and he truly feels for you, and he truly understands the abilities everybody’s bringing. It’s almost like magic for him to see this stuff get built up over time.
Paras: Jamie impressed me a number of times as well. Certainly, his outfit during the fashion show was incredible. When he gives a review, you know from his descriptions like he knew exactly the experiences that I went through on creating certain things as far as techniques go. I learned really quickly I didn’t have to go into a lot of detail to explain how we did this or how we did that. He could look at it and see all the way through. That was impressive as well.
Moto: Yeah, there’s nothing that gets past these guys. The Brickmasters are truly spectacular. It’s what they do for a living, and you know if they’re overseeing LEGO® designers, who are we compared to that? I’m in awe of their majesty. If Amy gives you a compliment, like, “great color selection.” It’s like: “okay, now I can go home now. Amy said that my colors are good. That’s all I need.” Or she can give you a criticism of one sentence and you’re scrambling for the next three hours. They are powerful and incredibly astute and know what they’re doing. We have a high regard for them.
If you had to pick a favorite LEGO® set, what would it be?
Moto: Town Plan, the original Samsonite set that introduced LEGO® to the United States. That one is impossible to find, but I won’t stop looking for it ever because it was manufactured by Samsonite, and some of the Samsonite sets were manufactured in Loveland, Colorado, just north of myself. Can’t let it go.
Paras: Nor should you. The set that I want is a complete set of all of the cast members minifigs.
Moto: [Laughs] That’s not exactly production ready, but we’ll take it.
Paras: That’s the one I want. I don’t know if I will ever get it.
Moto: It’s like Pokemon, we’ve got to collect them all.
What was your biggest takeaway from this experience on LEGO® Masters?
Moto: Never surrender. Never give up. Keep on fighting, no matter what. Paras told me that. That lesson came through loud and clear on the tower shake challenge. You know, I thought we were completely cooked until I saw him holding a baseplate up to the side and tacking it in. I was like, “Okay, that’s going to work technically, so let’s go for it.” That saved the day. So, you know when all hope was lost, all hope was not lost. From that point on, it was just about fight for every inch.
Paras: Yeah. [Both laugh]
Moto: Yay! [claps]
Paras: I’m speechless, that was awesome.
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