True North Bricks caught up with Mark and Steven for an interview following their win on season two of LEGO® Masters. Along with fellow fan media (Brothers Brick, Bricks King Podcast, Brickset, BZ Power, and TalkBricks) we discussed they finale build, experiences, and where they plan to go from here. Hopefully you have enjoyed the full season two coverage of LEGO® Masters on FOX. This concludes the interview series, so thanks for following along. Let’s keep our fingers crossed for season three!
Until next time,
What was going through your mind in the last few minutes before they announced the winners?
Steven: I was nervous, waiting forever. I was like: “Just tell us”. It was just Jamie standing there with his glasses. But this eagle eye… [Referring to Mark]
Mark: I could see the minifigures on the trophy. Ours were in the front. Unless they wanted our heads on a platter or something, it was a little suggestive. I also felt very good about it. Obviously, you’re not going to be able to read us. We were almost zombies at that point, just trying to stand up straight and not fall over. We were so tired after a 24-hour build.
What are you going to do with the prize money?
Steven: We’re going to try to be responsible.
Mark: I was saving up for a house before we got involved in LEGO® Masters. That is going to contribute to me getting a place. I’ll be using that to get the ultimate LEGO® pad.
Steven: I wouldn’t mind that. I have a truck, but I don’t really like it. I’ll probably get something a little newer, and of course the house. Something like that would be fun.
Who gets the trophy? Do you split custody?
Steven: We haven’t thought of that. We still keep our collection together to this day, in a refurbished garage. It would probably stay in the collection with whoever is able to keep it at their place. Who knows what the future holds? We’re going to be flexible, but we plan on keeping it together as much as we possibly can.
Is the trophy glued together?
Steven: We have not received the trophy yet. We have not even been promised a physical trophy. We know that Tyler Clites got one in season one, so there’s a pretty good chance we’re going to get one. As far as we know it is not glued together. We did get to hold it for a minute. If we received it unglued, we would leave it that way. But we have no problem with it if it was glued. We will never take it apart either way.
How did you come up with the idea for your final build and budget your time for it?
Steven: How we came up with the warden was pretty simple. It was Sunday, the day before the finale, and Mark comes and knocks on my hotel room door. He says, “Hey Steven, you wanted to make a tree man a while ago, right?” I said, “Yeah, I want to make a tree man.” So, he said, “Then let’s make a tree man.” That was literally the conversation; we decided within five minutes. We had brainstormed a few ideas before, a couple episodes earlier, but nothing stuck. 24 hours is about double what we’re used to in the LEGO® Masters format. They’re usually around 8–12-hour builds. We were trying to think of something that’s really much bigger than we would normally do for these challenges, but also not too big, so we don’t run out of time. Thankfully ours landed quite nicely. We were done with most of the build at the 22-hour mark. We still had about two hours to really add some polishing details, little creatures all over, things like that. Timing wise, we thought we were pretty good. There’s always something near at the end, but we got all the essentials.
What are some of the details from your build that we did not see on TV?
Steven: The warden had a lot going on, a lot of fun things. First of all, we had a theme, night and day. We wanted fun stuff in the day, and fun stuff at night. On the warden’s left foot, there’s a frog with little glowing red eyes that’s hard to see. We have some bunny rabbits that are only visible in the day, and a woodpecker on his shoulder. At night we’ve got some fireflies that have these program lights. They’re blinking, and kind of rotating, sort of in a circle. There’s four of them in one element, and those made for perfect fireflies. We have moving water near his feet where the warden’s walking through the river, troubling the water around him. Those are some of the things that you couldn’t quite see.
Mark: On his back he has several medium sized branches in a halo like shape. These were all powered by a series of gears in the back. They all move very slowly. It’s like he’s out sauntering.
The lighting did not look like LEGO® elements. What were they?
Steven: We had a variety of lights to choose from. We tried to use as much as possible anywhere it made sense, while keeping it carefully concealed behind transparent bricks or embedded in the build.
Mark: No light elements you can visibly see.
Steven: We wanted it to seem like the LEGO® itself was lit up. Some of the main features were a lot of lighting underneath the flat-water surfaces, behind the waterfalls, in his legs, in his eyes. We used the Powered-Up lights for a headlight.
Mark: The Technic lights are the brightest lights by far.
Steven: We had three of those in each eye. We tried to really make it look like spotlights for his eyes. A lot of the light elements were typical $3 Fairy Lights. That’s a wire with LEDs glued to the elements. You can get them on Amazon for around five bucks for 25 feet. We had the 15-foot ones. Those are pretty useful for the water elements. There were a couple other, third-party elements. We don’t want to highlight those too much. They weren’t purely LEGO® obviously. We did have LEGO® lights, but it was a mixture of both.
How did you make the lights work in your build?
Steven: It started out as something pretty simple but ended up evolving into something a little more complex. The flat areas of water had these string-like tiny Christmas lights woven between the studs underneath to get the overall surfaces lit up. I was originally just going to put in a normal light, but I realized if those lights were moving, it would really set the scene well. We had four motors behind each waterfall. We put the light outwards, away from the gear or waterfall, and the wire was placed all the way back around, out of reach of the gear, so the gears could spin. You could not see that wire in front of it, you only saw the light diffuse through the bricks. When the light was spinning, it was only visible on its downward turn. It seemed like a repeating motion of light coming from the higher level of waterfall. Then on the next plateau up, you had smaller lights that were programmed in pattern to blink. That helped accentuate the warden starting to step into that pond.
Mark: To add to that, we have three Technic lights in each eyeball. They’re very bright. You see them across the hall. His legs had illuminated translucent green elements, like little veins going through his body. We took some green fairy lights that were very similar to the water work, but they were green instead of blue. We took those and just rammed them into his legs and body. The space was only about three studs wide at any spot in his body. It was basically a hollow character. We just shoveled lights in there. We also had a few lights on the back trees for the characters like the fireflies and the frogs. Fireflies behind him on the right, the frogs on the front left, and the moving branches. Everything came together so nicely. It was incredible.
How were the 24 hours for the final build broken down?
Steven: We can’t really remember if it was one way or the other. I think it was seven, eight, and nine hours spread over three days. Or was nine, eight, seven? It was one of those spread over three days. It was 24 hours for sure.
Mark: You get a 30- or 40-minute lunch break. Any bathroom breaks or other breaks of that nature happen on the build.
Steven: There was quite a lot of off camera building. Almost a day happened off camera.
How have your friends and family reacted to you being on the show?
Steven: It’s been awesome. Obviously, they didn’t know we won. We had a big watch party with our friends to see the final episode. They were all cheering so loud, and it was fantastic. We were getting all these messages on Facebook and Instagram. Just warm congratulations, including from people we haven’t talked to in a long time. It really is amazing.
Mark: It’s been wonderful.
What details from other builds didn’t get enough attention on TV?
Steven: Are you thinking what I’m thinking?
Steven: The haunted house from episode 10. That had a lot of motion on it. We were really proud of that build. We had seven different movements and we had a bunch of nice part usages for the cups, our challenge twist element.
Mark: There was very limited time to see the final builds and the judging in that episode. We really like to see the builds. We would have loved to see more of our building on air, as well as some of the other builds.
Steven: I do feel like that one was left out of the party just a hair, even though we won the challenge.
Mark: It was pretty good overall. Most of the highlights were there, but there’s always little touches here and there that get missed.
Early in the season, the challenges humbled you a little. What were your takeaways from those?
Mark: I think the things we had to learn through trial by fire were Powered-Up motors and Technic. Steven and I had done minimal builds featuring these parts, elements, and techniques. We are feeling pretty confident with our motion abilities after this whole season.
Steven: For me, it was color. Color was really fun for me because I had not done colorful stuff before. I use a lot of greys and aquas, not all the other crazy new colors. I’m a little old school. Amy and Jamie really pushed color and I’m glad they did. Now we’re doing a little more colourful stuff and it’s refreshing.
What were you thinking during the episode where you gave up the golden brick?
Steven: We weren’t sure where we would place in that challenge. It was a difficult challenge, and everyone did a very unique take on it.
Mark: We were stressed out at the beginning.
Steven: We had a rough start to that challenge. That said, it was the last opportunity for us to use it – it was a use it or lose it situation. We held on to it as long as we could and felt really good about that. We just wanted to make sure that our build wasn’t an absolute failure. That was the main stress of that challenge.
Mark: We were a lot more nervous on the Land and Sea challenge. That episode, we could use it, we could hold on to it, or lose it and go home. We were genuinely nervous at the last minute, it was a 50/50-coin toss decision. I’m glad we held on to it, but it was close.
What builds are you the proudest of?
Steven: Well, my favorite was Bernie, the burnt-out Dragon. The character was so much fun. We won the challenge, and it was just so charming. I also like the gnome forest, that’s one we’re really proud of. I like our car a lot as well.
Mark: Basically, all of them.
Steven: Basically, all of them. But Bernie and the gnome forest are very high on my list.
Mark: I still go back to the early ones, like the first episode parade float. It’s really good. I enjoyed that build. I would have liked to see more hours on that one. The hat challenge too. I really had fun building it. That episode was us getting back into the groove and actually producing builds we were happy with. We weren’t so thrilled about episode two and three. Those are some of my favorites.
Which of the builds was the most personal for you?
Mark: Episode four, the Hats Incredible challenge. I got to wear that gigantic pirate hat and really act sassy and ridiculous. It was so much fun. Honestly, all the teams had such a blast with that challenge, even if they had struggles with stability and whatnot. That was just one of the most fun challenges, especially for me. I got to be an absolute goofball.
Steven: I think you were a little nervous around the camera at first. He was really beginning to sound like an anchorman. But after that challenge, I remembered he’s got a goofy side. Then the yelling with Caleb and Jacob broke the ice. Another personal thing for me was the puppet challenge. Billy was voiced by Steve Whitmire, the voice of Kermit the Frog. That was pretty awesome. We got to hang out with him for most of the day. I got to do a little bit with my puppet and his puppet. It didn’t make it to air, but I have pictures. That was amazing. I loved that challenge, and it was amazing to meet a hero. I could have gone home right there.
If you could add two hours to one of the challenges, which would it be?
Steven: The Make and Shake challenge. Eight hours is nothing. 100 percent the shake challenge. That was a nightmare.
Mark: I have a better one, the Land and Sea challenge. We had five hours to build the creatures, and five hours to somehow combine them and build a very big landscape that was nine 32×32 base plates. Five hours to cover that surface is crazy. Five hours to cover it and mash up something is even crazier. Two extra hours would have meant a much nicer build for each team.
Steven: Not going to lie, that was very hard.
How long did it take you to get used to building on a TV set?
Steven: The first episode we weren’t terrific public speakers. We were freaking out and barely getting our story out for a build. By episode two and three, I felt like we had gotten a lot more comfortable, less starstruck in front of Jamie and Amy.
Mark: We still hadn’t gotten into the groove of building at that point. I think by episode three, especially four, we started coming into our own and feeling good about what we were doing. By episode five, we won the golden brick and we had a brilliant story. I think I was like: “Alright, now we’re here.” But it was the fourth episode that really brought us to that point. Episodes four and five were incredibly crucial for us. The first half is really interesting for everybody.
What do you miss the most about building on set?
Mark: We do have a pretty good LEGO® selection, but the brick pit is revered for a reason. There’s five million pieces. There’s more two by fours than you’ll ever see in one place ever again. It’s so nicely organized by 30 or 40 people every night. We will probably never see that building situation again. That’s something that I totally miss, even though the peripherals were stressful. There were a lot of colours, like magenta, that can be harder to get in LEGO® sometimes. Building and not have to sort anything. Everything was also so clean. Living a life like that was paradise.
What are you going to do to reclaim the title of Castle Bros?
Steven: Here’s the thing: that title is a little old fashioned for us. It’s an old title that goes back five, six, seven years.
Mark: Way back then, we really only built castles.
Steven: We build a lot of other stuff. I’m getting into Bionicle MOCs, doing more sci-fi. We’re doing all kinds of fun stuff. We’re also getting into all these cool sets that wouldn’t have been as interesting before LEGO® Masters. It’s kind of an outdated title, and we did replace it with something a little more exclusive.
Where do you draw your artistic inspiration for your builds?
Steven: Good question. A lot of it is experience. We’ll use the warden as an example. We grew up in Florida, and there’s not a lot of fall colours down here. On vacations, we went to Tennessee and the Adirondacks to see the mountains and autumn colours. You really want to capture those moments in your life. That’s why the Warden’s got the brighter colors. You have the pink leaves and stuff, but also the exaggerated features and atmosphere. Those moments that inspire you are really something you can tap into.
Who were you closest with on the show?
Steven: It’s really hard to say who we were closest with. It’s like saying which one of your children you love the most or something like that. Due to coincidence, we bonded really quickly with Philip and Maria. We were van buddies for a while, and we sat next to each other in our holding areas. Our couches were very close to each other. It helped to carry a conversation. They’re from Michigan and our mom is from Michigan. We could connect that way.
Mark: Later in the season it was Caleb and Jacob. We were really playing up the frenemies drama, but we were truly friends. We had a great time with it and were the big drama on the show for a while.
There’s a rumor that you beat Tyler Clites (season one winner) in a contest at a LEGO® convention. Can we expect a showdown at some point?
Mark: No showdown. We never want to face him in a showdown.
Steven: He’s our hero, our idol. It happened, but it was a very casual setting.
Mark: After this we’re not super eager to go toe-to-toe with all our best friends. We’re ready to chill out and build things at our own pace. Minimal competitive edge.
Is there a challenge from season one that you really wish you could have gotten a chance to do?
Mark: One for me would be the cut in half challenge. You saw really revolutionary designs spring from that very unique challenge. I think it’s a blank canvas that can be somewhat challenging. You have to mirror or contrast something that’s on the other half of your build. It seems really unique and fun. That’s one that I would like to be able to try.
Steven: I was thinking about the cinema challenge where you had to pick a theme and then got another theme. That was a twist and I think it would be really fun. I’m sure being there was probably worse, but in hindsight it looks like fun.
Any fun behind the scenes moments you’d like to share?
Mark: I have a very high metabolism and eat a lot. I get hungry on set. They have granola bars and Gatorades and stuff. But I was still craving hamburgers. We’re microphoned up, so I’d be saying: “I really like hamburgers, they’re awesome,” in my microphone.
Steven: Really important people can hear that mic.
Mark: I started to ask the other contestants when we had a microphone: “What’s your favorite type of hamburger?” After two or three days of this everyone was thinking about hamburgers non-stop, but I’m just not letting go. Eventually they bought out a McDonald’s of all their hamburgers. We came to the holding area and there was nothing but hamburgers of all different varieties and cheeseburgers. I think I had three or four of them and they were great. But a few days later, we started thinking about pizza. It took a little while, but one day there were a bunch of pizzas waiting at the hotel. Then a few days later our food connection was like, “Let me guess, pizza, right?” But no, donuts! Next day, we had donuts. Obviously, none of that ended up on TV, but it was fun. I was hungry, I can’t help it.
Do you have any favourite moments with Amy, Jamie, or Will?
Mark: That banter between the floating islands was hilarious because it was all conjured up by Will. He was looking for some fun. Will sparked it up by telling Caleb to yell at us. That went on for about 10 minutes. And during that time, Amy and Jamie are trying to do their interview with Philip and Maria. Poor Jamie could not get a word out before Will or one of us was yelling back and forth. They’re all cracking up because I’m calling them four eyes and they’re calling us overgrown kids. That was a really wonderful moment with Will. That started so much fun throughout the challenge.
Steven: Here’s one really cool story that you guys never got to see with Amy and Jamie. After the finale, they were still wearing suits and ball gowns. Amy and Jamie came into the holding area with all the finalists. They shared some really encouraging stuff. They told us: “You guys did such a good job. This is the best season of LEGO® Masters we’ve had. You guys are rock stars, now enjoy the fame while it’s here.” They said some really kind things.
Mark: They had never come down to the holding area before. They had their own area. They’re kept separate because of the judging. But at that point, it was done. They came in and it was super cool. It’s like royalty visiting the village. That was a really amazing moment. No one got to see it, but it was really cool.
What’s next for you?
Steven: Post LEGO® Masters, I wrote a book called The Inner Workings of a LEGO® Mind. It’s a gallery book of some of my builds from over the years, the ones I really like. I have commentary on all of them, talking about techniques and the things I learned along the way. It’s available on Amazon. Mark has a book planned, but he has more volume, so it’s going to take a little more time.
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