Singer Nick Lachey watches his ball during The Super Skins Celebrity Golf Classic Jan. 31 at TPC Tampa Bay in Lutz, Fla.
By JOHN KIESEWETTER
The Cincinnati Enquirer
Last Modified: Monday, February 16, 2009 at 1:41 p.m.
Give them an A-plus. That’s what pop star/producer Nick Lachey says about Cincinnati School for Creative & Performing Arts students in his MTV reality show being shot at the school.
“I’ve been impressed how charismatic and talented these kids are,” says Lachey, 35, a 1992 SCPA graduate who persuaded MTV to shoot the Cincinnati series. It premieres in the spring.
“Our producers and directors on site feel very good about the quality of footage,” says Lachey about the “Fame”-like show. “It’s been great. That’s why MTV believes in my vision for the show.”
TV crews have filmed on and off at the old school in inner-city Cincinnati this school year, including preparation for student productions of “Cats” and “The Nutcracker.” They’re coming back later and planning to shoot the student performers periodically through May.
“We’ve found five or six key characters I consider the leads. Other students flow in and out of their lives. We’re building toward graduation for our kids and their future,” he says.
Viewers will see a ballerina, a hip-hop dancer and a musical theater student dreaming of Broadway, MTV says. Not another pop star?
“There are a lot of gifted and talented kids, but no one reminds me of myself,” says Lachey, who studied vocal music, musical theater and drama, and instrumental music (saxophone) from seventh through 12th grades at SCPA.
What’s very familiar to Lachey is the pressure to be perfect.
“This reminds me of my experience there, the high stakes and the drama,” he says.
“I always equate SCPA to a football team: You compete to make the team. You compete to make the starting lineup. And every time you line up, the pressure is on to win -just like every time you take the stage, the pressure is on to execute.
“Everything you had been working on for all those years all comes down to that moment,” he says.
Several crucial decisions haven’t been made yet. The show has no name. (The working title is “Center Stage.”) MTV and producers don’t know if episodes will be 30 or 60 minutes, says Lachey, who starred in MTV’s “Newlyweds” reality show with ex-wife Jessica Simpson.
The pilot, or prototype show, is an hour “because we thought we had too many strong stories for a half-hour. But I don’t want to see the integrity of the show be compromised in any way by having to fill out an hour,” he says.
Length of episodes could determine the number of shows, he says. He’s producing the series with his manager Colton Gramm, Marc Platt (“Legally Blonde”), Mark Ford and Kevin Lopez (both from “Laguna Beach: The Real Orange County”).
“What’s most important to us is telling a good story, if that takes eight, nine or 10 episodes. We will all collectively decide what’s best for the show,” he says.
It’s also uncertain how much Lachey will be seen or heard on the show. He does an off-camera introduction for the pilot, explaining that he, Sarah Jessica Parker and Carmen Electra attended SCPA.
“This is a great show because of the kids. I don’t want it to be about me,” he says.
Lachey has resisted the temptation to watch filming at his alma mater. “They’re in a great groove, and I didn’t want to be a disruption or a distraction. I don’t want one reality to affect another.”
If ratings are good, MTV could order a second season. The contract approved by Cincinnati Public Schools a year ago says MTV will pay $10,000 for the pilot, and $10,000 for each episode. MTV has options for five more seasons, the contract says.
MTV executives were “shocked ... we were able to get access. I give a lot of credit to Cincinnati Public Schools and SCPA to let us showcase the students,” Lachey says.
Lachey hopes viewers give an A-plus to the show.
“The school is unique. And I think America will like what they see,” he says. “This will be a great thing for Cincinnati Public Schools and SCPA. I’m really proud of it, and I think the people of Cincinnati will be proud of it, too.”