Nate Berkus On New Design Series And Wearing Multiple (And Fabulous) Hats

Nate Berkus (NBC)

Maybe it’s the hunky builders or the fabulous results that come from a home makeover but reality series constructed around making our homes more beautiful (while make his reach for the tissues) are thriving like never before and NBC’s new series “American Dream Builders” is adding a different spin.

Besides merely the makeover element, the series pits 12 contestants (designers and builders working together) against each other in a competition where one is sent home every week until the final showdown between whichever final two contestants are left standing.

The series, which premieres March 23rd on NBC, features Nate Berkus as host/judge/Executive Producer and fellow judges Eddie George (former Heisman trophy winner and now renowned landscape architect) and Monica Pedersen (Interior Design Expert).

Here are five things you’ll need to know about the new series before diving in.

Talent Is Supreme: While the ads for the show are hyping opinionated/aggressive contestant Elaine and how she’ll clash with the others, Berkus insisted, during a press call earlier this week, that a big personality is not what impressed during the audition process. “The designers and home builders that comprise the 12 contestants were absolutely, unequivocally booked on their design talent alone. The fact that we got very lucky and have some really varied, extremely competitive people competing on this show was really a by-product.”

Personal Lives: Berkus explained that we’ll get to know our contestants through the way they interact with each other but explained, “in terms of personal life, each hour of this show is so packed… you do definitely get to know the characters, and we certainly want people to know them and be rooting for them and connect with them if they have something in common or they just connect with their taste. But this show is really not about delving into their personal lives.” Safe to say, having screened the first episode early, there are a few LGBT contestants in the mix.

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Judge-y Judges: While Berkus, George and Pedersen try to be fair, they do have to shelve their personal feelings in order to be fair. Berkus stated, “I think it’s about our authentic opinion and wanting them to succeed, wanting all of them to succeed, because they were picked to be a part of this competition because they’re all fantastic designers…I wasn’t looking to be mean or to be demeaning or negative.”

Pedersen added, “We wanted everybody to do their best. And as designers, we know that they were working outside of their comfort zone. It’s not the way they normally work in the real world of design and they’re compromised.”

“And it wasn’t mean spirited,” George said of the judges critiques. “I think it was genuinely what moved us or what didn’t move us and was very constructive in that regard. So it wasn’t to the point where we were driving, demeaning their projects and their design work where they were crying every week.”

Eddie George, Berkus, Monica Pedersen (NBC)

Mr. Multi-tasker: Berkus is used to juggling a lot but with “American Dream Builders” he is hosting, judging as well as behind the scenes as an Executive Producer. How is he doing it all? “What you do is you make sure that you’re working with people you think are the best in the business because no one can possibly do all of those things.” He also gave credit to the ‘Neighborhood Council,’ which is a group from the respective neighborhoods that were able to pick the two homes they preferred in the competition.

Nate Berkus + Gay Pride Parade = Gold! Asked if he’d consider being in the pride parade of his hometown of Chicago, Berkus came up with one condition “Maybe if Monica agrees to be on my float…I get to pick your outfit.” Pedersen replied, “Please do. I look like a drag queen. I’d be good.”

“American Dream Builders” premieres March 23rd at 8pm on NBC.

The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.

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