Sunday, March 15, 2009

Lachey gives kids the credit

By John Kiesewetter • • March 15, 2009

Ten hours on network prime-time television?


"That's an opportunity I would have killed for when I was at SCPA," says Nick Lachey, a 1992 School for Creative & Performing Arts graduate.

Thanks to Lachey, students at his alma mater have an extraordinary chance to showcase their talents in MTV's "Taking the Stage" musical reality series. The 10-week series debuts at 10 p.m. Thursday.

"I've been blessed. I've had an opportunity to make my mark. This is an opportunity for these kids to make their mark. I'm thrilled and excited for them," says Lachey, 35, a singer with Cincinnati's 98° boy band before his MTV reality show "Newlyweds," with then-wife Jessica Simpson. His new album, "Coming Up For Air," is due out in May.

The SCPA vocal and instrumental music (saxophone) major pitched the idea to MTV and Cincinnati Public Schools in 2007. The district approved a contract in December with MTV paying CPS $10,000 an episode.

A pilot shot a year ago persuaded MTV executives to come back in the fall to film.

"These kids are showcasing their talent to the country on national TV - and maybe the world," he says. "The exposure they're getting from this series for their talent will hopefully take them to a higher level, and make their dreams come true."

MTV's decision to commit 10 one-hour shows to "Taking the Stage" is "an extreme compliment" from the network, he says. MTV has options for five more seasons.

Despite being both a creator and executive producer, Lachey isn't involved with the day-to-day production and doesn't appear on the show.

He was in an early version of the pilot but was edited out because his presence confused a test audience which thought the show might be about Lachey.

Lachey says he's very pleased with the episodes crafted by producers Mark Ford and Kevin Lopez (from MTV's "Laguna Beach: The Real Orange County") and MTV executives.

"There is something about these kids that you can't take your eyes off of, which is what you want if you want to be a performer. When I watch Tyler (Nelson) and Jasmine (White-Killins) together on the show, I feel like I'm watching a movie," Lachey says.

He also credits the producers with making the 99-year-old school building and its Over-the-Rhine neighborhood look postcard pretty in the pilot.

"I'm very happy with the finished product, but I can't take any credit for it," he says.