September 22, 2023

Maria and Phillip Interview (LEGO® Masters)

Following the events of episode seven, Bricking Wind, True North Bricks caught up with Maria and Phillip for an interview about their experiences on the show. Along with fellow fan media channels Brickset, Brothers Brick, and BZ Power, we discussed tips and tricks for being successful on LEGO® Masters, their memorable moments, and what being on the show has meant to them. Read on for more!

Until next time,


Maria and Phillip
Photo used with permission. ©2021 FOX MEDIA LLC. CR: Tom Griscom/FOX

Were you surprised that you were the team to leave this week?

Maria: No, honestly.  There’s obviously downtime during various parts of the filming, and I think even before our propeller had gone off, we had looked at our build, and we looked at all the other builds. We were not looking really good.  We had some elements that we really liked and we’re quite proud of, but it wasn’t to our normal standard with technical elements and details. We knew it was lacking. So, when they called their names, we weren’t at all surprised. Based on the very sad performance of our propeller, we weren’t at all surprised that we were going home.  We were pretty well prepared for it, actually. We were really sad to be leaving the set, the people, the judges, Will, and the whole experience behind.  It was just amazing, like a fairy tale adventure.  We were really proud of how far we had gone. We met and exceeded our own personal expectations of how we would do, especially considering who else was in the competition. So, we were really proud of how we did, and we felt good about going home where we did.  It was great to see our kids again, and they were happy to see us, though they really enjoyed staying with their grandparents.  Just overall it was such a positive experience.

Philip: Yeah, and we’re realists. We realized that we had screwed up.  I think that you have to accept that, and it helps you kind of prepare for it as well too.  There are some fantastic builders on this show.  To have to go home before them, I feel no shame with that fact. Making it as far as we did was an accomplishment in and of itself for us.  We’re really excited to see what’s left in the next five episodes.  There are legit some very talented people on the show.

Photo used with permission. ©2021 FOX MEDIA LLC. CR: Tom Griscom/FOX

One of your propeller blades fell off when the fan hit 20 miles per hour. If you could go back, what changes would you make to the design?

Maria: Actually, it’s a pretty simple answer. One of the things that wasn’t specifically mentioned in the show was that the tower had to be a certain depth. When we built it, we built almost to that exact depth so our propeller blade couldn’t come out far from the tower.  The blades hit the tower, that’s why the propeller snapped off.  I think the easiest thing that we would do over is that the tower didn’t need to be nearly as big as it was.

Philip: We were focused on the tower itself being blown over versus the strength of the propeller.  We would shrink the size of the tower and strengthen the propeller blade, hands down.  By the time we realized our mistake it was too late.

Maria and Phillip episode 7 build.
Photo used with permission. ©2021 FOX MEDIA LLC. CR: Tom Griscom/FOX

What was your favorite challenge on the show?

Philip: I think for me, my favorite challenge was the Make and Shake challenge.  We went into that with no preconceived notion on how to properly build a tower that would be strong enough.  The joy that you see with us on the show making it to 10 is completely legitimate because we did not expect it to do that well. We had some ideas of where the break point would be, between the first two feet and the top two feet.  We thought if we threw ball joints in there, acting like sail rigging on a ship, maybe we could make it past some of the other teams.  It worked out fantastic. I love the build. I love the vines, I love the blue tower, and I love the fact that we made it to 10, which was completely unexpected, and just the sheer joy of making it that far.

Maria: My favorite build was the One Floating Brick challenge. Part of the reason I liked it so much is because it was strictly just building something beautiful with cool details. For that story we worked in the sea turtle and the lighthouse. There’s an island in Michigan, called Mackinac Island, in Lake Huron.  According to a legend, the island is a turtle. There’s also lighthouses on it.  It was a fun story and I loved everything about it.

Maria and Phillip episode 3 build.
Photo used with permission. ©2021 FOX MEDIA LLC. CR: Tom Griscom/FOX

You were at risk in episode one, and you had a string of fantastic builds in the following episodes. What happened to kick you into high gear?

Philip: One thing that really kicked us into gear was we realized really quickly on that you have to build for TV. If you’re not building for TV, then you’re going to go home.  We started focusing on how can we make things bigger? How can we make things brighter? How can we have requirements in a challenge work?  For example, we did not do a good job with the movement requirement on episode one.  We’ll admit that. So, the first thing we would do is say “Alright, how are we going to make sure that we meet these requirements?” Then from there, how do we make it look good?  I think that was definitely a lesson learned.  After that first episode, we really were like, “Look, we’re not going to let this get us down. If we go home, and we’re the first to go home, so be it.  But we’re really going to push our hardest and try to learn from our mistakes.”  I think we did okay with that, and it allowed us to continue on.

Maria and Phillip episode 5 build.
Photo used with permission. ©2021 FOX MEDIA LLC. CR: Tom Griscom/FOX

What are some of the details in your builds that didn’t make it on camera?

Philip:  We are MOC builders, and one thing we learned pretty early on, actually after the first episode, is that tiny details aren’t going to be seen on TV.  There were small little details that we would put in each one of our builds – super micro details. We realized that those were not going to necessarily show up well. There’s a lot of stuff that we probably could have skipped out on, and things we could have made an effort to emphasize. For example, in the hat challenge, we actually did an effect similar to if you look at the sun in the center. As the clouds go out from that hat, there’s actually an edge, like a silver lining, on the clouds themselves. It is both on the brick-built section and then actually on the spheres.  That was to imitate clouds that change colors from a bright yellow working its way out to purple on the edge.  That was something that you don’t really necessarily pick up on.  We did learn that at a distance you can see that’s there, but your brain doesn’t necessarily process it until you really get up close to look at it.

Maria: Another good example of that was the coral under the turtle.  It read as red, or orange. But when you look at it up close there was purple, green, orange, red, and pink.  We used a lot of silly things like legs, bananas, apples; just goofy pieces, cogs, and that sort of thing, to make the coral really fun and brightly colored.  But unfortunately, you couldn’t see it on camera.

Maria and Phillip episode 4 build.
Photo used with permission. ©2021 FOX MEDIA LLC. CR: Tom Griscom/FOX

What was the hardest part of building for the show?

Maria:  Philip would have to remind me to eat.  We got breaks for lunch and that sort of thing. Beyond that, if we needed to take a quick break to eat or something, that was on the clock. We would just have our heads down, building, building, building. I would get to the point where I was shaky and basically not functioning before I would go, “Oh, I should probably eat something.”  That for me was probably the hardest part, making sure to keep my brain functioning and staying present in the challenge.  I had to make sure to take care of myself and not just put the bricks together.

Philip: For me, it was always the looming clock.  I’m sure you get that answer from a lot of people, but you’ll be working on a task, and you kind of set aside in your mind roughly what needs to be done and when. And then you look at the clock and three hours are gone and you’re not even like a third of the way through your build.  You’re like, “Oh my gosh, where did the time go? How are we going to get things done in a faster way? We need to speed it up. Do we need to cut certain things that may or may not show on TV?”

Maria: You were really good at time management after episode one.

Philip: Episode one, we learned a lot about time management.  One thing they don’t show on TV is teams sitting down and figuring out a time schedule and trying to stick to that time schedule.  At the end we always work in a buffer.  Towards the last couple challenges, we did kind of run out of steam a little bit.  In one of the episodes, you can see the struggle a bit. We barely finished our car in time. Later, we obviously realized too late about the issue with the fan.  Some people are better at managing time, and the last couple episodes were really challenging.

Maria: One other hard part is coming up with a creative idea under pressure.  With a schedule you have limited time to come up with your idea and get all the pieces and put together a picture.  So having an idea in the back of your head of different things you can build, that you already know how to build, or that you would like to build that really translate well is really helpful.

Maria and Phillip episode one build.
Photo used with permission. ©2021 FOX MEDIA LLC. CR: Tom Griscom/FOX

Are there any moments on the show that weren’t captured on camera that you’ll always remember?

Maria: There was one point, I think it was episode three, because we were just rapidly throwing pieces together on that tower. I was like, ‘Oh, my back hurts.’ So, Philip comes around, he starts rubbing my back and this camera man comes running to try to catch it on camera. Afterwards he was like, “Yes!” Of course, it didn’t make it on the show.

Philip: The cameraman literally stopped, and he whispered, “Thank you.”

Maria: That was the kind of stuff that we would do to help each other out throughout the show, like he would make sure I was eating, and I would make sure he was stretching his back.

Philip: We would joke all the time too, and having all these inside jokes between the two of us was so much fun. One of the things that we shared is that we have a love for Arrested Development, which obviously Will Arnett was on. His character, Gob, was one of our favorites. Maria has this way with her personality where she’s able to get people to do and say stuff that’s unexpected. So, all the really famous or iconic lines that Will’s character had from Arrested Development, she would get him to repeat. It was really hilarious. Obviously, you can’t use it on TV because they’re lines from another show. But just having that; we’ll share that with the two of us. 

Will Arnett is so outside of the normal that we experience on a day-to-day basis. If we had not attempted to do that, we would have missed out on that opportunity and kicked ourselves forever. Being on the show is so surreal and such a fantastic opportunity that you just have to be crazy and fun and do all the things so that you will not have regrets. That was one of the major ones – those interactions with Will.

Photo used with permission. ©2021 FOX MEDIA LLC. CR: Tom Griscom/FOX

What was it like interacting with Brickmasters Amy and Jamie?

Philip:  It was interesting because the relationship between the Brickmasters and the contestants is definitely a unique one.  I don’t know if I’ll be able to express this or not, but they are judges on the show, and it’s their job to judge.  So, there’s actually interactions where you’re joking around and having conversations with them. But a lot of it is you telling them what you’re doing, and then they give you suggestions. There’s not necessarily a lot of banter that goes back and forth.

Maria:  It’s just different than when we’re interacting with Will.  We would talk about anything. Everything was ridiculous and hilarious.

Philip:  Will would come around to the teams and he’d be (said in Will Arnett voice) “Man! Amy and Jamie, they’re just so judgy, they’re always judgy.  I’m just here to have fun.” 

Maria:  The interactions with the judges were different. Also, at the time we were filming there was COVID. Outside of our interactions with them at the table, we literally did not see them at all.  It was amazing to interact with them, to get their insight, their compliments, and their feedback. So that was really cool.

Philip:  There’s one thing that was not shown on the show. Jamie came over on the turtle build.  He said to Maria, “You’ve been playful with the bricks.”  That made Maria’s day because that was one of his biggest compliments based on what we’d seen of the show before.  To get that from Jamie, who is a legendary builder as an AFOL, a set designer, and a team lead is just like…

Maria:  Yeah, that was the best moment.

Photo used with permission. ©2021 FOX MEDIA LLC. CR: Tom Griscom/FOX

What has being on LEGO® Masters meant for your family?

Philip: For us, being the only married couple on this season, it was a completely different experience versus siblings or friends or whatever. We talked about this after. If just one of us had gone through the experience, it would not be as enjoyable for the other individual. If it had been just Maria, for example, and she wouldn’t be able to share this whole thing after the fact; all the craziness surrounding the show and not being able to celebrate that together. That was one of the aspects that we’d looked at. We just had so much fun, the two of us. We’ve been married for 16 years now. To have this life experience is just a pleasure that’s very hard to explain. One thing that’s not covered on the show at all either is that Maria had just gone through thyroid cancer the previous June. Having gone through surgery and having gone through the radioactive treatment, it was one of these things that we decided that we’re just not going to say no to opportunities that come up because life is so extremely precious.

Maria:  There’s so much that you experience on the show that you can’t really explain to somebody in words. Then there’s the inside jokes and the friendships that you make. Being able to experience that together was really special, and it’s been really fun sharing it with our kids as well. They think it’s kind of funny that we’re on TV. They like to make fun of us when people recognize us.

Philip: Being part of the community together and having attended so many events together, it’s just much more fun now going forward knowing that we’re going to have these experiences and be able to talk about it. Again, not having the exclusion of one or the other. A couple of the teams might have partners that aren’t into LEGO®, they probably don’t care. But for us, this is a lifestyle.

©2021 FOX MEDIA LLC. CR: Tom Griscom/FOX

What advice do you have for future contestants on the show?

Phillip: When you’re building at home, building MOCs and stuff, you can take all the time in the world. We’re very accustomed to doing that at home. We will rework things multiple times. The number one skill to start with is you have to be able to build under pressure, as fast as possible. Build a repertoire of things ahead of time, like knowing how to work with the Powered-Up system, knowing how to work with Technic, and knowing how to build things in large scale. The last one, which I think is probably the most important, is building for TV. It is totally different from building for your home or a convention. Those are the biggest takeaways that I don’t think we necessarily did ahead of time.

Maria: Not all those things, some of them (laughs).

Phillip: Right, and we like building big things. I mean, we’ve built some big stuff in the past. It’s just not for these types of challenges.

Maria: Yeah, on the point about building for TV, it’s much different than when you take pictures at the exact angles you want and then share them with people to look at on their own time, without it just flashing really quick on TV. I’m going to call out a specific team that did this really well: Michelle and Natalie were excellent with that particular skill of making things look really good for TV. If you look at their paint cans, their cake. They had these big, colorful elements that may not have had the teeny, tiny details, but they had the big, instantly recognizable details, and they were just laid out really well. They are a really good example to follow in terms of building big and building for TV.

The one other thing I would say, and this is something I think Mark and Steven did really well, is just having this catalog of things you know how to build really well. Like in our fan build, I built a couple of trees I had built a dozen times before. So, it was something I could just really quickly put together and it looked really good. It was something I’ve done so many times before that it was really quick and easy to do.

Phillip: I think those are going to be your strongest teams always. The ones that have the pre-existing things they’ve built before that they can recall from memory and build instantly instead of having to experiment. You don’t have time to experiment. There are challenges where you’re going to do stuff that you have not done before. If you have that skill set of just knowing how to build things like characters, buildings, vehicles, and that kind of stuff ahead of time, then when you are presented with something like a fan, you can spend your time figuring out how to make that work instead of having to figure out the rest of the build.

©2021 FOX MEDIA LLC. CR: Tom Griscom/FOX

What is your LEGO® story?

Phillip: I built as a kid, as many AFOLs did. Then you hit that teen period where you’re like: “I find girls interesting”, or boys. So, I stopped for a bit. Then Maria was pregnant with our firstborn, who is now 11. My parents brought my LEGO® collection back to me. They didn’t sell it, they didn’t give it away, it was still all in its original bucket. I know it sounds really cheesy, but I opened up the bucket and I never closed it. I kept building and I found the Eurobricks forum. I was like: “Man, there’s other people like me out there who like building with LEGO® as an adult.” Then we discovered Brick World in our area. We’ve been attending every year since 2013. That was just a few years after I started getting back into it.

Maria: My first experience of actually trying to figure something out and build it was for our audition for season one. I was building a tree for the audition. So, at that time when we auditioned for season one, I wasn’t really building at all. Obviously, we didn’t get on season one, which is fine. In January, shortly after our audition, I started building on my own. I’ve really only been building as an individual for about two years. Last year, we built a few different things together. But now I build stuff on my own because I love it and its fun. I also still really like sets.

Phillip: One of the things that we love to do is build collaboratively. We mentioned Eurobricks earlier. Eurobricks is our third LEGO® family, after the show cast members. They’re a great group of individuals with some fantastic ideas. LEGO® building is typically a very individual hobby. You build something, you post photos or show them at a convention or something like that. But when you get the opportunity to build with other builders, you really push each other to build greater things. That to me has been the most enjoyable.

©2021 FOX MEDIA LLC. CR: Tom Griscom/FOX

What’s your biggest takeaway from LEGO® Masters?

Phillip: The one thing we really wanted to get out of this show was to get more involvement with the community. We’re pretty well set in our lives; we were one of the older couples on the TV show. Being a part of this amazing group of individuals has been fantastic. It has opened up opportunities to interact with everybody. It’s just been spectacular.

©2021 FOX MEDIA LLC. CR: Tom Griscom/FOX

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