LEGO® Masters, season three featured an all Canadian finale. As a Canadian LEGO® blogger, I could not be more thrilled or proud. Last week, I shared my interview with Emily and David. This week, it’s time for Stephen Joo and Stephen Cassley (often referred to as Crash) to take center stage. These Calgary firefighters had an epic run on the show, ultimately ending up in second place. However, they arguably had the strongest run of the season. This team consistently brought their a-game, and they share some of the behind-the-scenes in our Stephen and Stephen interview below.
What are your LEGO® stories?
Stephen J: All the way back to 1979. My dad’s side of the family is from Europe. I had a family member come back from Europe, and LEGO® was quite a bit more popular in that part of the world back then. She brought back a set, and it was the Yellow Castle. It was like nothing I’d ever had before. I was five years old. I built it, took it apart, built it, took it apart. It just kept going on and on. Then I started creating my own things. That’s around the time when classic space was making its appearance. And then, that was all I ever wanted. It became known to all family members for birthdays and Christmases, the only thing Stephen wants or needs is LEGO® and more LEGO®. There’s pictures of me as a kid with boxes of LEGO® stacked on my lap. I would disappear to my room for the entire rest of Christmas break.
So, the love affair started early for me. It remained pretty much consistent throughout my life. I spent some time in the dark years that most of us have, but LEGO® was always in the peripheral. In 2004, I started my own family, and my kids showed early interest. That just gave me the license to go crazy. I kept buying more and more, telling my wife it’s for the kids. Now, I have this awesome LEGO® studio, and my kids are still involved in the hobby. That pleases me because it ends up being a multi-generational thing.
Stephen C: My story is a little bit different. Like every other person you’ll talk to from the show, it started as a kid. I remember being at my grandparents’ house and building their LEGO® from when my dad and his brother were kids. Then I’d come home and build more from my blue tub. I’d just build scenes and scenes and scenes. Then I started getting themed sets, like the M-Tron and Blacktron space stuff, which was awesome. It had magnets, it had lime green windows. It was super bright and colorful. I played off of that for ever and ever.
Just like Steve, I had my dark years. I got to be a teenager and girls and parties and all of that set in. LEGO® faded to the background, but I never got rid of it. Then, just after I became a firefighter in 2009, a buddy of mine knew I was a big comic book nerd. LEGO® had just released the new Batman sets. He bought me the Batwing with the Joker helicopter. I was like: “Dude, this is awesome!” That Boxing Day morning, I went to Toys R Us and bought them out of every Batman set that they had. I’m still only missing one, the Robin and Penguin submarine set from that initial run. It bothers me to this day. But that was what rekindled it.
I got the firehall modular one year. I scouted out the other three that I was missing online and got those too. Then, every year on January 1, I’d be in line to get the new modular. That’s actually how Steve and I met. Me waiting fourth in line on January 1 wearing a Calgary fire fighters t-shirt, and Steve walking up saying “You’re a fire fighter? I’m a fire fighter too! Cool, let’s stand in line together and go get LEGO®.” That’s what fired up 13 and a half years of friendship. Never actually worked a shift together, it’s weird.
What was your favourite build during the season?
Stephen C: There are different ways to answer this. I loved the Dalmatian. That was a great build because we got to do something really cool and different. We took a different approach to it than any other team, so that was awesome. Then there’s the troll bridge because I got to play with storytelling. None of that made it to TV because it was all inside jokes for the cast. One day, you’ll have to hunt me down and I’ll tell you what the actual story we presented was. It was awesome, the entire cast was howling laughing. It was great.
But my favourite build was the bull rider. That was the one where I got to take the lead a little bit. Steve turned to me and went, “I have no idea how to do this.” I’m like, “Dude, I got this.” Steve built an amazing Technic frame that’s probably still sitting on Jamie’s desk somewhere in Denmark because it was that strong. There’s no way they were taking that apart. We had an awesome story. I named the bull rider after a buddy of ours that used to ride bulls in high school and got to put all these little goofy bits and pieces into the story and into the way he was dressed. I built cowboy boots that had rhinestones in them that don’t show up on screen very much. That was also when our little friendly competition with the doctors started. I built a giant belt buckle with the same rodeo as the doctors’ squid. Ours was bigger, so we won it. That was a lot of fun to do, so that bull rider challenge is probably my favourite.
Stephen J: As for me, the Dalmatian was my second favourite. It was the first time that we had really stepped out there and went in a very different direction. I think you start looking around the room, and there’s this self-doubt that creeps in. You want to make sure you’re sticking to what everyone else is doing. Very early on, we picked a direction that was super different. We were rewarded for that. I think we did a lot of things that went very well for that challenge. Personally, I think it was just stepping away from the norm, and the Brickmasters really enjoyed that little leap of faith.
As far as my all-time favourite episode: the mini golf one. I was bummed we didn’t get top two, but clearly there was a lot of really good builds in the room that day. I can’t say that we were robbed or anything. There was just a lot of really, really amazing content. The teams were really picking their game up by that stage. But when we walked out, it was the first challenge where I had this instant reference in my head. And I just said to Steve, “Follow my lead. I got this, I know exactly what I want to do for this one.”
I tapped into that classic Yellow Castle. We played off of all the lore behind it. One of the things I’m most proud about of in that build never ever made it to show. Where you tap the ball at the start the course, there are these markers on either side. They are tiny Yellow Castle turrets. Within the middle of the castle turret is a brick-built horse, which is iconic to that year and model. They didn’t have the one-piece molded horses back then. You had to build it with slopes and plates and bricks. I did a macro version about four or five times bigger than the actual set version. It was just a very simple detail and almost nobody picked up on it, except for Jamie Berard. He took out his personal camera, took a photo of it, and smiled as he walked away. Those little victories were so near and dear to me, but I love that build.
What are some other details from your builds this season that were not featured on the show?
Stephen J: There are lots and lots to be perfectly honest. I pride myself as a details guy. Crash and I gave ourselves ample time at the end of every challenge to make sure we could put details in. I have read some online commentaries that some people didn’t like this season because the builders weren’t doing very detailed builds. I can assure you, absolutely, everybody put in these little details. It’s just by pure number of hours, you can’t capture it all for TV purposes. You know, builders like Greg and Brandon, and Nick and Stacey were notorious for having exceptional little content that was hidden all over.
As far as we go, I found myself doing all kinds of Easter eggs. That was something Crash and I had a lot of fun with this season as well, tucking in tiny little details that 95% of the population will never see. But I know it was there. One of my favourites is the treehouse challenge. If you’ve ever been to the LEGO® house in Denmark, there’s a big sculpture in the middle called the Tree of Creativity, and it was created by Stuart Harris. Stuart Harris is absolutely awesome. He’s an incredible designer and all-around nice person. One of the things that he did on the main trunk section of the Tree of Creativity is he sculpted in little builds that were reminiscent of some of the earliest builds of LEGO® lore, like the wooden toys.
So, in the treehouse build, in one of the little sections, I notched out a chunk of the sculpted box around the branches. I did a little duck that was built into the bark of the tree. After the challenge was done, Brickmaster Jamie actually picked up on it, took a photo and said, “I’ll send this to Stuart.” So, I love that that little detail.
|Guess what? True North Bricks has interviewed Stuart Harris before! He designed the Brick Moulding Machine set exclusive to LEGO® House, and he told us all about it. Find out more by clicking here.|
Stephen C: The Invisible Man on the camp build, that’s one of my favorite characters that no one picked up on. That was pretty interesting. For me, some of the little details were for us and for the cast and for the crew. Can’t really talk about them in mixed company, but there was some stuff on there that makes me giggle every time I think about it. Every time they popped up on the screen and I could see these little hints of things we did to goof around with the cast and crew, it made me smile.
Stephen J: Yeah, we had a lot of hidden content, a lot of hidden jokes. Those are the fun stories. Those are the ones we talk about at conventions when people come by and ask us for specific stories. Crash and I are definitely live in the moment kind of guys, so we both made a point of enjoying our builds, and our builds were enjoyable because we included our friends and family and extra stories too. It was good fun.
What was your process for landing on an idea and executing it in the challenges?
Stephen J: In the very early moments after a challenge was given, we had the luck of one of us having a good, solid concept right away. We both took turns as a creative lead. In the AFOL community and at conventions, people often ask if you’re a LDD, LEGO® digital designer, or are you a brick builder? I need to have bricks in my hands, almost to a fault. We would run back to our table and Crash would start to jot down some notes. I would just run over to the brick pit. It was infuriating for him because I would just walk away mid-conversation. But I need to have physical product on the table. I want to say that every challenge, we were the first to have bricks on the table.
Stephen C: Yeah, that’s a fact. We’re tactile people, that’s just the nature of our business. We need to have something in front of us in order to make proper decisions. There were times we wrote things out, or pulled the iPad out. But 90% of what we did was bricks in hand. I don’t think we spent any time on any build pre-planning anything. I can’t think of moment where we didn’t have a plan immediately after the rules read.
What is the biggest challenge when adjusting to building on the set of LEGO® Masters?
Stephen J: For me, it’s time management. On my tabletop in my studio, there are projects that have been sitting here for days, weeks, months. Underneath, there are projects that have been sitting there for years. When it comes to the designing aspect of it, I have to revisit models occasionally. Sometimes I have to put them away until I have the proper creative mindset for it. We simply did not have that as a luxury on the show. It would be pretty easy for me to put 30 hours into a project here at home. But most of our challenges were in that 10-to-11-hour range, plus or minus couple hours. So, you had to be purposeful, you had to be mindful of the time you put into things. After about episode two, I think we found a recipe that worked pretty good for us as far as time management. We budgeted and allotted times for specific components of each build, knowing that we had to continually move forward for something that told the story. Because that what we were going to be judged on, the overall story. Crash kept me honest on that. Sometimes I tried to revisit things too much, but we had to keep moving forward.
Stephen C: I don’t build MOCs at all, I’m a set builder. I build modulars. You can see in the first episode, Steve says, “This isn’t in my wheelhouse.” We were trying to build a Technic frame. I was like, “Alright, I’ll do it.” I had no idea what I was doing, and Jamie comes up and says, “That’s….interesting.” But it worked. Same with when we got to the camp build, and I was trying to build a brick-built figure for our giant on the side. They made a joke about it on the show where everyone’s frantically running around with no time left. Then they cut to me, and I’m like “How do I build a butt.” I legit had no idea how to build a brick-built figure. I had to go to Ethan, Dom, Nick and Justin to get tips on how to do it.
For me, the challenge was just new techniques. I’d never done curving LEGO® before the tree house build. That was new to me. We ended up using it again in our final build. It was kind of nice being virginal to some of these techniques. I remember when we were building the final build and putting some trees together, Nick came over and looked at one of my trees and went “That’s amazing. How did you figure that out?”. I replied, “I don’t know, bricks go together. It’s just what I did.” Time management is always a big thing. But if we keep each other honest, we’re fine. For me, the biggest thing was learning technique.
What advice do you have for adults who are either returning to LEGO® after a dark age, or just getting started?
Stephen C: This isn’t Pokémon, you don’t catch ‘em all.
Stephen J: Yeah, pace yourself. That’s super important. You can go through some financial hardships even just trying to stay within a theme. Really be mindful. I am scrutinizing all of my purchases. I’ve isolated myself to just a couple of themes where I feel like I’m a bit of a completionist and I feel like I need every aspect. I’m very picky, and that’s a promise to my wife. If left to my own devices, we’d be living in a cardboard box surrounded by LEGO®. You have to be really careful.
Stephen C: Star Wars alone will bankrupt you. It’s ridiculous. Harry Potter is turning into that, Marvel is turning into that. You have to pick and choose what lane you want to be in. In my case, sometimes I’ll go out and buy a Marvel set for the minifigs. But, I stick to mostly Architecture and the modulars because that’s what I know I get the most enjoyment out of. Try and find something that makes you happy, start there. Then, if you want to branch out more, branch out more. But you’re going to have some real troubled times if you decide you want it all right away.
There’s still more to come!
That’s it for our interview with Stephen and Stephen. Thanks so much to both for taking the time to chat with us and all the other fan media outlets present at the roundtable interview. If you want more from the team, check them out on Instagram. You can follow Stephen J using @yoyofirebricks, and Stephen C using @firehoseyyc. As for us, our LEGO® Masters, season three coverage is almost at a close. Just one interview to go with season three winners, Nick and Stacey!
Until next time,
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