I am a simple man of simple pleasures: "Lost," Kristen Bell, coffee and anything that involves watching people dance. I mean, it takes a real man to refer to "Center Stage" as one of his favorite movies ever.
So, hearing that Nick Lachey was developing a reality series that was like "Fame" channeled through "The Hills," I piddled.
After watching a preview of the premiere ep -- tonight at 10 pm on MTV -- I feel safe to say that "Taking the Stage" trumps MTV's amazing "Dancelife" in terms of sheer talent. The kids featured are remarkable, both in their dancing and their ability to avoid sounding like drones reading from a script. There is major drama, major talent and major upsets. And that's just week one.I chatted with Nick, who returned to his alma mater, the School for Creative and Performing Arts, to film the series that, in truth, is nothing like "The Hills." Not that
Nick would know...
PopWrap: How did you go about selecting these kids?
Nick Lachey: It was an extensive process of interviewing and auditioning, but these kids not only had a lot of talent, but a lot of charisma. It was an easy show to cast, honestly, because they all shine on camera.
PW: While there are some "Hills"-like moments, I must say that the show feels genuinely real.
Nick: I can honestly say I've never seen "The Hills," so I have no idea what that comparison means, but it's reality. We captured certain moments that are more relevant to the show, but these kids are going through their lives as they would if the cameras weren't there. But we're lucky they all turned out to have such engaging stories develop.
PW: How important was it to you to have this show set at your alma mater?
Nick: It was extremely important and one of the big things I wanted to present about this school was the diversity. I took it for granted when I went there, but I really wanted to communicate through the show that at the end of the day it doesn't matter if you're white or black, straight or gay, rich or poor -- all that matters is how talented you are, and I'm happy the cast represents that.
PW: The first episode ends with the fall talent show -- did you compete in that when you attended?
Nick: The school has changed a bit because we didn't have talent shows. But we did big musicals and it was funny because there would also be two casts. Like, if we were doing "Annie," we'd have one cast with a white Annie and one with a black Annie. It teaches you to work your tail off because you're competing against everybody.
PW: Do you think if they had all these reality TV competitions -- "American Idol" or "So You Think You Can Dance" -- in your day, you would have gone that route?
Nick: Oh, absolutely. I think when you're at the point of getting discovered, there are no wrong choices. Shows like "Idol" have done huge things for people all across the country. Had a show like that been available when I was at school, I would have been all over it. It's an opportunity to showcase your talent and at the end of the day, that's the most important thing.
Nick: I didn't really speak to them about that until after filming was over because I didn't want to affect what was happening. But at the beginning I told them, be who you are and let your personality shine through because that's what makes you unique. I think Jasmine and Tyler are amazing -- when you see them on camera, it's almost like you're watching stars on the big screen.
PW: What can we expect to see over the course of season one?
Nick: Well, certainly it's not all roses. In life it's not that way and in the performing world it's not either. There are always challenges to overcome as you try and move forward. It's the story of life. And this is a big year for a lot of them -- their senior year -- so there's a lot at stake as they're preparing to try and have careers in this business. The stakes are high!
"Taking the Stage" premieres tonight at 10 pm on MTV.
Photo: Olaf Heine; Eric Johnston/MTV