When "LEGO Masters" debuted in the U.S. in spring of 2020 (it had started as a British show in 2017), it was a breath of fresh air for American viewers. The series was fun, it was wildly creative, and as the pandemic began and lockdowns took hold, it was an hour of feel-good, creative kindness during one of the scariest times of our lives. It was also an instant hit — so when FOX announced a second season would be airing in 2021, fans were thrilled.
With a sophomore season now under way that might just be even bigger and bolder than the first, "Masters" seems to have uncovered a boundary-pushing formula that takes the fun to another level. Just like a good LEGO build, the Will Arnett-hosted show is constantly adapting and evolving, sometimes even as showrunners plan and shoot an episode. There are a lot of moving parts in a series like this (beyond those fueled by Technic motors), so while you may think you’re a super fan who knows everything about the FOX hit, here are a few behind-the-scenes secrets that may catch you by surprise.
Build challenges are rigorously tested
As with any reality show, when "LEGO Masters" teams get a challenge, they’re given certain parameters (length of time, stability, appearance) for success. These are not arbitrary — but occasionally they can be wildly inaccurate.
Season 1 winners Amy and Tyler Clites told GeekTyrant that it takes roughly three days to film an episode, between build times and all the extra elements like intros and outros. When it comes to the builds, timing is often the main concern, and here’s where things get tricky for the show. If contestants get too much time, the challenges won’t be dramatic enough; too little time, and nobody will be able to create anything very impressive. So, the show must test these parameters before dictating them to the brick-wielding teams.
"We did a lot of testing," executive producer Anthony Dominici told Deadline. "There were a few things that we tested that we were really excited about that [we realized], ‘Oh, it’s hard to do that in this amount of time, or build it in a certain way.’ So, we had a whole team of people who were just testing the challenges, making sure that we can deliver."
As "Masters" judge Amy Corbett told ComicBook.com, though, there’s no way to plan for everything. "No matter how much we test and try out," she said, "there’s just such a huge degree of unpredictability as to what the builders will actually come up with and how they will approach the challenge."
Which is how they ended up with an infamous moment during the Season 1 bridge challenge, where Christian and Aaron’s bridge was built so solidly that the production simply ran out of weights to further test it.
Contestants always have the bricks they need
As any 7+-year-old knows, when it comes to LEGOs, organization is key. Set pieces are split into numbered bags to help you build through the instructions, and a "Brick Separator" is typically included to take bricks apart and rebuild.
With "LEGO Masters," the showrunners know they have to take that organization and scale it … quite massively. At a behind-the-scenes tour, BrickSet learned that the "Brick Pit" that holds millions of LEGO pieces (5 million this season, to be exact) was just the beginning. The bricks are split into over 150 drawers, with each drawer holding up to 8 different brick elements. It’s a hyper-organized, seemingly endless amount of bricks, but those team builds can really drain the supply.
"After the teams make these epic builds, we have to replenish the bricks," executive producer Anthony Dominici told The Brothers Brick. "We have to take apart some things, we have to sort it back to where it goes — and that takes forever."
During the tour, supervising producer Brent Benedetti showed off the inconspicuous-but-essential locale where deconstruction takes place. It doesn’t look like much, but inside a tent on the studio lot are a dozen people taking apart the team builds and putting those pieces back into their proper Pit drawers. Those brave souls work up to 12 hours a day, six days a week, pulling LEGOs apart.
As any LEGO fan knows, taking a build apart is an exhaustive process — which is why fans may think the greatest perk of appearing on "Masters" isn’t the cash prize to the winners, but having a team of LEGO experts eager to deconstruct and clean up after you’re finished.
Non-contestant builds face even more constraints
Fun fact: Anything not built by contestants on the show is built by consulting producer Nathan Sawaya and his team. Sawaya isn’t just a LEGO Master Builder, however; he’s an artist whose builds have been featured in galleries and sold to collectors.
"When we get the idea for a challenge, we only have a few days, maybe a week to finish up what we need and get it on set," Sawaya recently told ComicBook.com. For Season 1, he constructed builds in his Los Angeles studio, then drove the pieces to the set in about 10 minutes (presumably making very soft stops at yellow lights). But then Season 2 of "LEGO Masters" moved across the country, kicking the difficulty level up another notch.
"We shot in Atlanta, the set was in Atlanta, but my studio stayed in Los Angeles," Sawaya explained. "So, we also had to think about packing and shipping, and that timeframe as well, so that really put a burden on us. Plus there was this little thing, the pandemic going on, so it was really just two of us in the shop building the entire season."
So, that massive LEGO Day Parade street in the first episode of Season 2? That was built by two people in a matter of days, then shipped across the country. And you thought your job was stressful.
The show has a psychiatrist to talk to after elimination
Speaking of stresses, it is well-chronicled how tough being on a reality show can be. Contest pressure can be intense, and having cameras on you all the time can take a huge toll on mental health. This is true even on a show as warm and friendly as "LEGO Masters." So, when contestants get eliminated, there’s a ton of emotions to deal with — which is why the show has an on-set psychiatrist to chat with teams after they get the axe.
"Right afterward, you have to go in and you talk to [the psychiatrist]," Season 1 contestant Kara (who along with teammate Jessie never got to blow up their build because it disintegrated prematurely in front of the judges) told Vulture after her elimination. "Here you are, dying inside, all the cameras come over to you, and I’m like, ‘Oh God, please don’t let me say a bad word. Please let me look like this is such a fun experience.’"
Season 1 winner Amy Clites kept her pregnancy a secret from her husband
One of the biggest surprises from Season 1 had nothing to do at all with LEGOs — it was the reveal that the season’s eventual winners (newlyweds Amy and Tyler Clites) were going to be parents. If you thought that moment packed a particularly effective emotional punch, that’s because Amy’s pregnancy was a complete surprise to everyone — even Tyler.
Amy found out the news a few weeks into production of the series. But rather than sharing the news with her husband, she first told the show’s producers.
In an interview with The Brothers Brick, Amy explained that the show’s gatekeepers took the news in stride, realizing they might have to soften some shocks they had planned for the contestants — because scaring pregnant women isn’t always a good idea.
One such surprise involved an appearance by the endearingly-manic Terry Crews. While the show’s producers were careful to not give Amy any special information her co-stars didn’t also receive, she was the only contestant warned before Crews quite-literally burst onto the set, pecs a-flexing.
"I was hoping maybe we could get [Tyler’s] reaction on film, and be able to share it with our baby one day," Amy explained after the season, justifying her decision to notify the show’s producers before her hubby. "They were all for that idea. I was able to surprise him in an interview. We had our little sig-figs plus a little baby minifigure, and it was a really special moment."
Tyler seems to be loving fatherhood, as he takes the occasional break from posting masterful builds on Instagram to give some shout-outs to adorable baby Timothy (nine months old as of April 2021), who seems to have skipped Duplo and gone straight to the same bricks as mom and dad. Here’s looking forward to seeing Timothy as a "LEGO Masters" contestant himself, sometime around Season 20.