LL COOL J & NICK CANNON At REALITY TV ROUNDTABLE For THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER!!!
Rappers/Actors/RealiTV Hosts LL COOL J and NICK CANNON are joined by fellow Hosts JANE LYNCH, GUY FIERI, MARK CUBAN, and MIKE DARNELL to tell the tale of the tape for unscripted television with THR Journalist/Correspondent LACEY ROSE forTHE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER: REALITY TV ROUNDTABLE!!!
Here are some interview interludes:
What makes somebody an ideal reality show contestant?
NICK CANNON A fearless mentality.
LL COOL J Yeah, people who don't take themselves too seriously.
GUY FIERI Or people who've had a lot of coffee — maybe even had some booze in their coffee. Those are my favorites because they let go.
JANE LYNCH We give them drinks on Hollywood Game Night. We've got celebrities and then we've got regular people, normies, and for them it helps if they're not starstruck. It loosens them up, but then sometimes … we've had to cut people off.
MIKE DARNELL I don't know if you guys know this, but almost all of the contestants on these shows go through a psych test, which goes from a one to a five. Five is the worst. They'll say to me, "Well, this guy is a four and a half," and I'm like, "Great!" (Laughter.) The closer you can get to a five, let's get them on the air. [Of course, it depends on] what show you're doing. If you're doing The Bachelor, you want them to be crazy. Even the talent contests, the more open and emotional, the better. And there's a breed that's meant to be on these shows anyway. It's very rare in my career that I've had someone show up and I go, "Too much."
What does the psych test entail?
DARNELL It's a written test and a verbal test. There might be some drawings on it, I'm not sure. We've had ones and twos, they're OK. Generally, you've got to have threes and fours. (Laughter.)
MARK CUBAN A psych lady is on-site all the time, literally sitting there [on Shark Tank] because some of the people who come off are just destroyed. There have been people who walk off screaming and crying.
FIERI Do you guys give counseling at the end of it?
DARNELL We always had a psychologist on set. All the Idols, everything. Just in case.
CUBAN Yeah, we're sitting there and we'll just hear them wailing.
CANNON And you don't have four X's on your show in front of thousands of people [the way America's Got Talent contestants do].
CUBAN Millions of people! But remember, these people come on [Shark Tank], this is their dream, they put their whole life into this. Every penny that they have is gone. And they may be out of business, they may lose their house.
DARNELL That first few hours right after, that's the hardest part. But usually a day, two days later, they're OK. They know they're going to be on TV.
CANNON There are people who are built for this. People who are fearless, who are like, "Hey, I'm here to be on TV, and I'm here to play on."
FIERI And get everything out of it.
CANNON Especially on America's Got Talent, there are some people who actually really believe that they are talented, but they're not ...
CUBAN Those are the best, though, because they're authentic.
CANNON Yeah, but those are the ones who psych has to be a little delicate with, and I have to be delicate with, because I'm not there to make fun of them. But it's like, clearly, you playing straws is not going to win you a million dollars, but that's all they know, and that's all they have. So it's a delicate balance of, all right, these people are almost at a five, but they're still human, and you want to handle them with respect.
Lifetime's UnREAL depicts reality TV producers as a heartless bunch, to put it mildly. How accurate is the portrayal?
CANNON I've been in those positions where it's like, "Man, they're trying to depict you this way or that." And it's on shows that I've produced. I'm like, "You work for me. You're trying to get some information out of me that I'm going to kill in the edit anyway." (Laughter.) But it's this mentality of, "We're creating a story," and they're not thinking about the person a lot of times.
LL COOL J I agree with that, but then once you sign the deal …(Laughs.) It's like, "You did sign that deal, right? You did agree to that salary right?"
CUBAN Yeah, and you were so excited when you signed it. As long as that check clears, right?
FIERI You sold your soul!
LYNCH That's the expectation people going into reality now have. They'll become instant celebrities and think that should be monetized. Like the Housewivesfranchise. They're not really doing anything.
LL COOL J Some people are gifted at capturing value.
FIERI I tell my contestants, "When you come on here, do not plan on winning because one of you will win and three of you will go home, and I don't want you to be caught up in this." And then I tell them, "I want you to remember this: Win or lose, you will watch this show, and I do not want you to be embarrassed by how you behaved. So be yourself." And we try to edit as real as possible, but you know there's always that thread that might get picked up by a producer who wants to make more out of it.
DARNELL You've got to make it dramatic, interesting …
CUBAN On Shark Tank, that's the part I hate the most because the reality is it's always crazier than what the producer is going to come up with. They try to manufacture some stuff, and I go nuts. "We're going to do this pickup, we're gonna do a follow-up, and I want you to walk in and look at this display of T-shirts like it's the best display of T-shirts." And I'm like, "I'm just going to walk in and ask how business is," because if I'm walking in going, "Ohhh my God," it's ridiculous.
CANNON With [MTV's] Wild 'n Out, we are there to humiliate them. But there's a line, and I'm like, "Oooh, I gotta control all these crazy young comedians." I remember one time Kanye [West] was on the show, and before he was like, "Yo, don't mention anything about this. (Points to his face.)" This is when he was young, so [he didn't want] anything about the car accident and his face.
LL COOL J And they went right there?
CANNON Literally, the first thing. A comedian grabbed the mic and was like, "Your face looks like a chipmunk, and I heard it's from being Jay Z's punk," and all this stuff. (Laughter.) But Kanye handled it all like a professional and then destroyed them right there. It's a classic episode. I didn't know if Kanye was still going to be my friend after that. If he would've lost, it prit probably would have been a different story, but he murdered everybody.