Nick Lachey: MTV’s ‘Taking the Stage’ is the anti-‘Laguna Beach’
When “Fame,” the iconic TV series set in a performing arts academy, premiered in 1982, Nick Lachey was just 10 years old, but the show’s theme song is one he’d be singing for years to come. The former boy band member (and ex-husband of Jessica Simpson) attended the School for Creative and Performing Arts in Cincinnati, Ohio, where his musical theater troupe ended all of its shows by belting “Remember My Name.”
He’s now executive producing a sort of real-life “Fame” for MTV. The 10-episode series, “Taking The Stage,” premiering tonight at 10 p.m., follows five teens attending his alma mater as they pursue their dreams, which range from ballet and singer-songwriting to hip-hop dancing. “As a fan of that kind of atmosphere, it’s certainly been a labor of love for me,” Lachey said. “I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing had it not been for my experiences at that school.”
How did this show wind up on MTV?
I’ve had a long history with MTV, they’ve been very good to me, and I’ve been in business with them for years and years now. I was looking at their programming, with "Laguna Beach" and "The Hills," and it just seemed like it was all very representative of this posh, Orange County lifestyle, which really isn’t reflective of most of the country. I thought there was an opportunity to showcase a high school setting, but one that was as opposite of "Laguna Beach" as you could possibly get.
Ha! Is that how you pitched it?
Yeah! I said, "I’m pitching the anti-‘Laguna Beach.’ " I think they appreciated the fact that they didn’t have anything like it on their schedule. I described what the school was like, and then we all went on a scouting trip there, did some initial interviews and when we came back everyone was really excited about the students and the atmosphere.
The kids on the show are pretty incredible. Tell me about the auditioning process.
Pretty much all the kids that you run into at a school like this are talented, obviously in different levels and degrees. So aside from the talent, we were looking for kids that had that extra something, that special spark, that charisma, and these particular kids just jumped out.
Did you give them any advice about being part of a reality show?
My advice to them before we started shooting was, "Just be yourself. Try not to let the cameras alter the way you act or edit yourself because the best show is going to come from being who you are." And I really give them a lot of credit for being able to do that.
Let’s talk about the lunchtime dance-off (video clip, above). It’s crazy! Does that kind of thing happen at the school regularly?
It does! I remember being in school there and people would battle, they’d freestyle, they’d rap. We’d have singing competitions. It really is a very, very competitive atmosphere there. And I think that’s why it’s such a great training ground for people who want to try to have a career in the arts, because when you get out there in the real world it’s the ultimate competition. It’s you and how many other people going out for the same part. I think the school does a great job at teaching that lesson of competition and how to be at your best, and you certainly see it reflected in those kids.
Did you ever participate in one of these impromptu battles?
Well, I knew better than getting into any dance-offs. Nah, my competition was playing ultimate Frisbee at lunch. I didn’t mess with the dance-offs. Drew might have done that.
What were your first impressions of Tyler, who’s new to the school?
We were really fortunate. Tyler was the new kid in school. We went in initially to interview kids, and his little brother went there, and he was friends with some kids there but he didn’t go there himself. It was a really lucky break for us that he decided to go to SCPA because he’s got star quality and he really jumps out at you on the screen, so yeah, it was a great thing to have him involved.
It’s interesting because both he and Malik do hip-hop, but have very different styles.
Tyler’s like the leading man, the little Denzel. I think Malik is more classically trained, not that he can’t do street dance or hip-hop, but I think Tyler comes at it from purely a street sensibility so you have those two contrasting styles. And not only with Tyler and Malik but with Tyler and Jasmine, who comes from a classic, ballet-trained place. I think that really makes for a cool Yin and Yang in the storylines to have those equally talented but different styles.
Tell me about Mia, who’s quite the ambitious singer-songwriter.
In everyone’s audition/interview, they performed. She’s an incredibly talented girl, driven, ambitious, which I admire, because in this day and age in the music business that’s what you have to be. She writes all her own stuff, plays guitar. She’s got a bright future.
How did the kids who didn’t get to be the show’s leads handle it?
As a rule, they’re all excited to have MTV there. Certainly the school is excited to have them there. The school is part of the public school system, which has really been beaten up pretty badly in the last 10 years in that city. They’re in dire need of funding and contributions, so they’re excited about the exposure they all recognize they’re going to get from this. In terms of the people who weren’t chosen as marquee leads, I haven’t heard about any problems with them. It’s really been smooth sailing.
Are you still filming?
We started shooting in September, at the beginning of the school year. We’re going to wrap shortly because once the shows starts to air, you have a kind of a weird situation where the kids are watching themselves and we didn’t want it to get to a place where people are starting to act. That would be the opposite of the kind of show we want to do.
-- Denise Martin