Interview with judges Nick Lachey, Grimes, and will.i.am, host Rocsi Diaz, executive producer Matilda Zoltowski, and FOX’s President of Alternative Entertainment & Specials, Rob Wade of “Alter Ego” on FOX Suzanne 9/8/21
Alter Ego is the new FOX music competition show. It’s very unusual in that the singers create an avatar of themselves to perform through. The judges and audience see them not as themselves, but as their avatar.
2 NIGHT SEASON PREMIERE WEDNESDAY, SEPT. 22 & THURSDAY, SEPT. 23
I attended the FOX TCA panel for the show. Normally, they give us “screeners” – an episode or two of the show to watch ahead of time. Instead, we got one compilation episode. I’m not sure why. It was interesting, though. I don’t really watch non-fiction shows, but I might have to tune in to some of this to see what it’s really like.
On the panel, they told us “lost dreams and second chances are reignited when singers become the stars they’ve always wanted to be. However, these contestants won’t perform as themselves, rather, they’ll help create their dream avatar alter ego, reinventing and transforming themselves like never before. Talent and technology come together, creating a singing competition unlike anything the world has ever seen.” Then we saw a clip.
The panel consisted of judges Nick Lachey, Grimes, and will.i.am, host Rocsi Diaz, executive producer Matilda Zoltowski, and FOX’s President of Alternative Entertainment & Specials, Rob Wade. I’d only heard of Lachey and will.i.am, but that’s fine because I only was able to ask one question.
My question was admittedly a little lame. I should have asked about the technology behind the avatars because no one really asked that, and I’m curious. On the TV screen, we see the judges and audience looking at the avatar, which lookes like a real person on the stage. Is that how it looks in real life, or is it all special effects? I would love to know. Instead, I asked Nick Lachey a question about being a judge. I made an error because I thought he had been a judge on another reality show. My mistake because he was a contestant, not a judge. Whoops! I should have done more research. My bad. But he gave a great answer, anyway.
The first journalist asked the producers about the idea behind the show and what they hoped people would take out of having avatars perform. The answer was basically that they have this amazing technology that they can use now, and that they could get performers with amazing voices that we wouldn’t necessarily see on other competition shows. I guess he means, people who are not very attractive. What else would she mean? I mean, we’ve seen plenty of plus-sized people, and people of all different colors, races, genders, ages and orientations competing. The only thing left is unattractive people. From what the clips are showing, all of the contestants are choosing avatars much thinner than themselves, and some much more light-skinned than themselves. I wonder what criticisms people will have of the show. It’s, of course, also a way for those who are gender-fluid to have avatars to reflect who they feel like inside. I don’t know if that will be enough to counteract the other problems, though. We shall see!
The next press person asked about the design of the avatars and whether body diversity came into play. The producer answered that they have a real mix of different types of people and “huge diversity on every level.” She revealed that they have 20 different alter egos, which is something I didn’t know from watching the clips. It appears that the contestants are able to change what their avatars are wearing and other features. The producer maintained that they wanted to have alter egos that would appearl to a wide audience – people of all different types. She concluded, “I think there’s something there for everybody.”
Another writer asked why the alter egos look “fantastical” rather than just looking like regular humans. Hmm, here’s someone who probably hasn’t played a lot of video games or done online role-playing. That’s kind of the point – to look different than we are, dude. Producer Wade admitted that trying to make the avatars look like regular humans didn’t really look good. The avatars looked “creepy.” They thought that having them more colorful and fun would be better and people could connect to them. He also added, “why do a show called ALTER EGO with avatars if you’re just going to replicate human beings? They should be something a little bit more fantastical, a little bit superhero like, in a way.”
Judge Grimes interjected that she thought that since so many people are into video games, that they’re used to connecting with the “crazier type” of characters. will.i.am also added his input by comparing people dressing up in different colors, expressing themselves, or wearing costumes for Comic-Con, or various artists who look “fantastical” like these alter egos. He said, “This is beyond makeup. This is beyond, you know, a hat and glasses. It’s beyond freaking tailored suits that fit you perfectly. This is your spirit tailored, whooo. This is, like, your passion tailored. This is putting makeup on your spirit.” He got very excited, and everyone laughed. Nick Lachey advised us to tune in to the series because this is just a small taste of what will.i.am commentary is like.
The next interviewer ask about how genders will be changed, which was a variation on the body diversity question already asked. will.i.am put it well when he declared that “the imagination is genderless and it’s beautiful.” He went on to explained that when he writes songs, sometimes it’s from a female point of view (especially if he’s writing it for a female singer, such as Fergie. He’s “dialing into my inner femininity.” He once again indulged in hyperbole about the show and its performers in this regard. Lachey chimed in to talk about it from the POV of an entertaining – how it can be “truly liberating” to step into an alter ego. He says the way it came together in the show blew his mind. Grimes noted that the show makes “gender fluidity more casual”. Diaz pointed out that what will make viewers really invested in the stories of the performers is that they get to live out these experiences in such a liberating way and really be themselves for the first time. It was touching for them, and she believes it will be for the audience at home as well.
Then it was my turn to ask a question. Bear in mind that I was already a middle-aged adult by the time “98 Degrees” became a big hit, so that wasn’t my music. I had completely forgotten that Lachey was in that group. I had mostly seen him in “Charmed,” where he played Leslie St. Claire in 2004. He modestly replied, “To call me an actor is a liberal use of the word “acting.” After graciously correcting me that he’d never been a judge, he said that he had been a host before on music competition shows, so he was excited to step into the role of judge. He admitted that he was a bit of a skeptic at first (about the alter egos) because he doesn’t play video games and isn’t really into technology tha tmuch. He thought it was really cool to be asked to be part of it, though. In the end, “what I took away from it was, there’s such a humanity, despite all the mind blowing technology, and it’s incredible, and you’ll see it when it premieres on the 22nd. I mean, it’s incredible technology, but there’s still a humanity that comes through in these performances. These are real emotions. These are real people behind the alter egos, and that life experience, all the things that you channel as an artist, all those things you channel into your performance, those things come through in a very real way through the technology, which is a beautiful, beautiful thing to see. And again, I always use this word, but, you know, confluence of technology and artistry, and the way those things came together on this show is something unlike we’ve seen on TV ever. And so, I’m so excited. I mean, I got to watch it firsthand. I’m so excited for (my dog, Brandy, barked here) come together. And, apparently, that dog agrees with me. They’re excited.” Everyone laughed because it was very funny.
They joked around about how Lachey told a lot of “dad jokes.”
The next journalist asked Nick if there were logistical complications, since he lives in Hawaii and the show is in Los Angeles. Lachey confirmed that he does have a lot of frequent flyer miles. However, he was able to be back in L.A., bringing his son Charlie with him while he filmed the show and spent time there. He admitted, “I’ve done a lot of great things in my career, and I’m truly appreciative of each and every one of them, but this was one of the unique and special things I was able to be a part of. So, I’m glad it was able to be worked out, and I’m glad I was able do it.”
The same person asked him being a contestant on “The Masked Singer” and how that informed him for this show. He compared being in the “Piglet” costume to having an alter ego because it frees you to create a character and be whomever you want to be. He told us that the singers in “Alter Ego” are all incredible, but they all have struggled in some ways, but the show allowed them “truly feel liberated, and let their true talent shine through. And we all were lucky enough to be witnesses to that, and I think that’s a beautiful thing. That’s the real … humanity of this show. These are all humans with real emotions, and real struggles, and real experiences, and they bring all that to their performances, and they bring all that to their alter egos. And to watch all those things come together on this is a beautiful thing.”
Another journalist asked will.i.am about the current technology available (and being used on the show), and how he would have used that back when he was in the Black-Eyed Peas. Will gave a very long answer where he basically said that it would have freed them all to be different characters – and play different instruments- within their band.
That same man asked Graimes, who’s a producer as well as a performer, how she judges the show’s performers. Grimes didn’t really answer his questions. She did admit that she has “huge stage fright” and was already looking into this sort of technology to use in her own performances.
There many more questions, but these were the most interesting. Check out this unusual show!
Here is the audio version of it.
Interview Transcribed by Jamie of http://www.scifivision.com
ALTER EGO is the world’s first avatar singing competition series and the next iteration of the musical competition show. On ALTER EGO, lost dreams and second chances are reignited when singers from all walks of life become the stars they’ve always wanted to be. However, these contestants won’t perform as themselves. Rather, they’ll be given the chance to show how they’ve always wanted to be seen, creating their dream avatar ALTER EGO to reinvent themselves, while showcasing their unique performance style via motion capture technology. The judges table features some of the biggest names in music, including iconic singer/songwriter and seven-time Grammy Award winner Alanis Morissette; actor, singer and television personality Nick Lachey; acclaimed Canadian producer, songwriter, singer and visual artist Grimes; and multi-Grammy Award-winning singer/songwriter, producer, entrepreneur and actor will.i.am. Emmy Award-winning personality Rocsi Diaz will host the musical spectacle. In ALTER EGO, talent and technology come together to create a singing competition unlike anything the world has ever seen.
Claire Boucher is the producer of the alter ego Grimes and an award-winning music video director, as well as a music writer, artist, producer, engineer and singer-songwriter. The world got its first glimpse of this vision on her 2010 full-length debut, “Geidi Primes,” which drew its inspiration from the David Lynch adaptation of Frank Herbert’s “Dune.” Her sophomore outing, “Halfaxa,” followed the same year. Over the course of three weeks, 2012’s “Visions” came to life in her apartment and would be recorded solely on Garage Band. 2015 marked a commercial breakthrough on “Art Angels.” It appeared in the Top 5 of year-end lists by Pitchfork, Billboard, Consequence of Sound, The New York Times and Rolling Stone, in addition to being named Album of the Year by Stereogum, NME and Exclaim! In 2018, she made another conscious evolution, turning back to formative influences, such as Tool and Nine Inch Nails for inspiration — a style first hinted at on 2016’s “Suicide Squad” soundtrack contribution, “Medieval Warfare.” In 2020, she released “Miss Anthropocene,” a concept album about an anthropomorphic goddess of climate change, which received rave reviews. The album title stems from the words Misanthrope, “a person who dislikes humankind and avoids human society,” and Anthropocene, “the current geological age, viewed as the period during which human activity has been the dominant influence on climate and the environment.” In 2021, she set the NFT world on fire with the release of WarNymph Collection Vol 1 By Grimes x Mac. The collection contains 10 artworks, including a unique video work set to original music composed specifically for the project. Through the character of WarNymph, Grimes explores the fluidity of identity in the virtual age: the ability to create, augment and splinter ourselves into unlimited avatars.
Singer, actor and television personality Nick Lachey rose to fame as the lead singer of the multi-Platinum boy band 98 Degrees, selling more than 10 million records. He also has released four solo studio albums. Currently, Nick can be seen co-hosting “Love is Blind” with his wife Vanessa Lachey. In 2021, Lachey won the fifth season of THE MASKED SINGER as The Piglet. Lachey has had a long hosting career, serving as host on “The Sing Off” and “Big Morning Buzz Live.”
In addition to his work in music and television, Lachey remains a constant advocate for children’s and humanitarian causes through his work with organizations including Autism Speaks, Feeding America, Make-a-Wish Foundation, The Boys & Girls Club, Big Brothers Big Sisters, Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF), VH-1 Save The Music, The Cincinnati Children’s Hospital and The Cincinnati School for Performing Arts. He is also founder and President of The Nick Lachey Foundation, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization dedicated to helping children, families and communities in need throughout the United States.
Lachey was raised in Cincinnati, OH, and attended the School for Creative and Performing Arts (SCPA), Miami University and University of Southern California. Lachey currently resides in Los Angeles with his wife Vanessa and three children.
Seven-time Grammy Award winner will.i.am has been at the forefront of the contemporary American hip hop movement for more than 20 years. He is best known as a songwriter, producer, actor and entrepreneur, and globally recognized as a founding member of Black Eyed Peas, one of the best-selling groups of all time. He has released four solo albums and eight studio albums with Black Eyed Peas. The act was one of the first to recognize the mainstream potential of electronic dance music and held the No. 1 spot on the Hot 100 for a record 26 consecutive weeks after “I Gotta Feeling” replaced “Boom Boom Pow” atop the chart — more than any other act in the history of the Hot 100. The Emmy and CLIO Award-winning music video, “Yes We Can,” mobilized a generation during the 2008 U.S. Presidential election. He has worked with countless Grammy Award-winning artists as a producer and currently serves as a Coach on “The Voice UK” and “The Voice Kids.”
He has starred in several animated feature films, including “Rio,” “Rio 2” and “Madagascar 2: Escape to Africa,” as well as the live-action “X-Men Origins: Wolverine.” Founded in 2009, will.i.am’s i.am Angel Foundation supports in-class and after-school STEAM education programs for disadvantaged youth in grades K – 12. The Foundation also funds the Boyle Heights STEM Magnet High School in Los Angeles, and the i.am Scholarship program that provides gap funding to college-bound program students.
Since 1995, Alanis Morissette has been one of the most influential singer-songwriter-musicians in contemporary music. Her deeply expressive music and performances have earned vast critical praise and seven Grammy Awards. Morissette’s 1995 debut, “Jagged Little Pill,” was followed by nine more eclectic and acclaimed albums.
She has contributed musically to theatrical releases and has acted on the big and small screens. Outside of entertainment, she is an avid supporter of female empowerment, as well as spiritual, psychological and physical wellness. In 2016, Morissette launched “Conversation with Alanis Morissette,” a monthly podcast that features conversations with a variety of revered authors, doctors, educators and therapists, covering a wide range of psycho-social topics, extending from spirituality to developmentalism to art. On December 5, 2019, the Broadway musical “Jagged Little Pill” debuted at the Broadhurst Theatre in New York City, and was nominated for 15 Tony Awards. Most recently, Morissette released her ninth studio album, “Such Pretty Forks In The Road,” to rave reviews. For more information see www.alanis.com.
Emmy Award-winning television host Rocsi Diaz is best known as the former co-host of ultra-popular mega music show “106 & Park.” She has interviewed everyone from Lady Gaga to Barack Obama. As a co-host and daily correspondent on “Entertainment Tonight,” Diaz was known for setting the tone for what’s hot in music, movies and entertainment. She reached 85 million homes worldwide during her time with “106 & Park,” and has since gone to host “The Daily Share,” “Dating Naked,” “Behind The Movie,” “Chatter” and “Cannonball.” With a massive social media presence, Diaz reaches millions of followers across all platforms.
Matilda Zoltowski is a talented producer who has worked on some of the biggest and most successful properties in unscripted television. She began her career in the U.K., where she worked on “Big Brother” and “Strictly Come Dancing,” the inspiration for “Dancing With The Stars.” Her work on “Strictly Come Dancing” gave her the opportunity to develop and produce “Dancing With The Stars” in the U.S., on which she was a co-executive producer for eight seasons.
Zoltowski has developed and produced many different types of unscripted series that have attracted major talent, including cooking series “The Taste,” starring Anthony Bourdain; “Off Their Rockers,” with Betty White; “Bring The Funny,” with Kenan Thompson and Chrissy Teigen; and “I Can Do That,” with Marlon Wayans. Most recently, she served as executive producer for all four seasons of “World of Dance,” starring Jennifer Lopez.
Proofread and Edited by Brenda