Gabrielle Reece is the host of “Strong,” a reality TV series in which regular women are teamed up with trainers to compete in obstacle courses and build their mental and physical strength. Reece has been a volleyball star, model, and actress. Her previous credits include “Air Bud: Spikes Back” and “Gattaca.” She is also a mother of two.
Dave Broome is one of the Executive Producers of “Strong.” He is most well-known as the executive producer for the long-running series “The Biggest Loser.” His other credits include the CBS series “The Briefcase” and the ABC series “The Vineyard.”
Talk Nerdy With Us recently participated in a press conference call with Reece and Broome. To find out why this show is special to Reece and what sets “Strong” apart from other reality competition shows read the interview below.
Can you tell me what are some of the reasons you see the series as different from other health and fitness shows that we’ve been watching?
Gabrielle Reece: So I think some of the, just some of the differentiating qualities in the show is first of all the fact that you have all these incredibly knowledgeable and well-trained trainers but yet they’re all very different. So you’re getting exposed to various modalities of training. So I think it then creates a broader appeal for people who go well, you know what? I’m not connecting with that type of training. But that looks interesting and exciting and a way that I would like to move. I think you have that. I think you have the opportunity to see the real conversation around first of all these women come in with the decision of hey this is my time, I have to make the change. I’m at this place. But it’s not blown out in this way that seems so theatrical. It’s just very real and I think what a lot of people are feeling which is, you know, 10-15 years went by. And I looked up and I sort of thought whoa I need to try to get this back in check but for all their different reasons. And then the teamwork aspect, I love the fact that trainers are not just dictating to the trainees, hey this is what you’re supposed to do and this is what you’re supposed to eat. But there’s a collaborative feeling between them and the fact that they compete together adds another element of teamwork and the community that goes into it. So for me it’s just a little different than one person telling another this is what you’re doing, you’re going to go through it. So there’s so much information. There’s the teamwork. But then you have so much variety in the trainers and ways to get it.
Dave Broome: And if I could just add to it and I think those were all good from Gabby. You know, for me, you know, in creating the show and it was a mindset of I never looked at this as just a fitness show. I looked at this as a life transformation show. And it sounds corny in a lot of ways. But yes, of course, we are fitness based. Yes, of course, we have elite trainers and they are contestants as well with their counterpart, their female counterparts. But the truth is this is a show unlike anything that anyone has ever seen on television. It is very fast paced. You’re going to have to buckle yourself up and hold on. And we move. I mean we move out of the gate. And, you know, unlike, you know, my other show, the Biggest Loser, or some many other things you’ve seen there which move at a much, you know, slower pace. And you’re waiting, you know, almost snapping your fingers like come on let’s go, let’s go, let’s go. Well, this is going to be a bit different. This is going to be like ho-ho I mean it’s coming at you left and right. But the whole concept for the show was how do you get somebody to wake up in the morning and feel like they can take on the world? How can I kick ass? How can I be better in my job, better in my relationship, better with my husband, my wife, my children, whatever it is. And to me that was about overcoming obstacles. And it’s about getting physically and mentally fit and strong. And so the challenges in this show are they look like Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory minus the chocolate and all the sweets. So it is taking people and giving them the opportunity to push themselves into a place that they feel that they can where they never thought they can conquer something and they can. And that’s what this show does. And it’s really different than anything you’ve ever seen, anything.
Gabrielle Reece: Well and I’d like to add one more thing, Dave. I think something important that you built into the show that’s really also important is it’s sustainable. So these women can go home and put this into play in their real life. And you’ll see even if the conversation isn’t about losing weight, each and every one of them had unbelievable transformations. And so I think that’s another strong…
Dave Broome: Yes the transformations are critical.
Gabrielle Reece: This is still something realistic. Not everybody got put in, you know, on a planet somewhere and now they’re making all the changes.
I was wondering what was the reasoning behind the choice to only have female contestants and do you think the audience to this show will be mostly women? Or do you think it has a wider appeal?
Dave Broome: Yes, let me start with that. They’re not female contestants. The trainers are contestants as well. Both trainer and trainees, they’re both contestants. They are teamed up together. And that is a huge distinguishing point here. And the reason why we did that in this season is to have male trainers and female trainees both being contestants goes back to what I was just mentioning. The challenges in this show are – this is a challenge based show with fitness and lifestyle woven in. So in order to make it fair, you have to have really all of the same sex competing together. So all male trainers are partnered with their female trainees and they’re competing in these physical challenges together. So for fairness issues, taking a male trainer versus a female trainer, no matter how great that female trainer might be, it’s most likely not going to be able to be a fair issue in a lot of those challenges. So that’s the reason why we did it because everyone are contestants in this. It’s important to remember that the trainers are not – they’re not just training their partner. They’re training themselves and they’re competing together. So that’s why we did it like that.
And do you think that the audience is going to be a very wide audience?
Dave Broome: Oh that’s a great question. Yes, I’m going to tell you why this show, you know, has such a mass appeal. The women are going to look at our female trainees and they’re going to be inspired by them. They’re going to say oh my gosh, that’s my mom, that’s my sister, whatever. They’re then going to look at the male trainers and going to go, oh my gosh, that’s pretty hot. And they know what they’re doing and I want to learn from that. So you’re going to get that on that case. On the male side, you’re going to look at this and guys are going to watch a show and they’re going to see (A) they’re going to watch ten elite male trainers. And they themselves are going to get the takeaway and go wow that guy really knows his stuff. I want to know what he’s doing. And look how they’re training together. Because remember, the one thing here this is not like where you’ve seen on the Biggest Loser formula where (Bob) or (Dolvett) or (Jen) is training their team. These guys are training themselves on Strong. So they’re training themselves and they’re training their partner. So a male viewer is going to look at this and see first from the training standpoint, they’re going to be able to relate and what to learn from the guys. And second of all the challenges and the pacing of the show is so dramatically fast as I mentioned that it’s going to kind of hold that male attention as well. It’s got a little bit of everything. It’s got heart but not too soft. It’s got action but not so crazy that you’re not going to be able to have the female audience want to tune into it. And it’s got a crazy and I’m telling you a crazy transformation at the end of every single episode that is jaw dropping. And it’s going to be talked about every week. I know it because it’s blown me away and I’ve been doing it for a long time.
Gabrielle Reece: Well as for my point of view, I’m a different type of audience then let’s say someone who would normally watch this show. And like Dave said, the challenges are so big and sexy and the fact that these teams and these individual women are taking this on, I think it attracts you in a way because you’re sort of so curious to not only see the challenge but to watch these teams perform it is so amazing.
I was wondering how all the major players of the show came together as far as like Gabby, and Sylvester Stallone and other people from Creed and American Ninja Warrior? It’s just a really interesting group of people.
Dave Broome: Yes. You know, I’ll start with Sly. You know, Sly and I had a really good, close relationship. And when I was creating and developing the show, you know, I thought — we were talking — and I thought, wow, you know, the spirit of the show is really taking a bunch of underdogs, you know, all of our female trainees are underdogs themselves. You know, this is a show about wanting to be the best version of yourself you possibly can be. That’s really what the spirit is at the end of the day. When I was talking to Sly and it just came to me and I thought, you know, here is a man who created the most iconic underdog character maybe in pulp culture history in Rocky. And Rocky was an underdog. But it came from Sly, you know, he created it. It came from Sly being an underdog himself. You know, his story is pretty famous about how he wrote it and how he wanted to play that part and, you know, the rest is kind of history. And Sly is obviously so into fitness himself. And he said if he never pursued acting, he would have been a trainer. And, you know, you look at him today and, you know, he can kick my butt and just about anybody else’s I’ve seen. And so it just felt like it was a great message, messaging for us so it was a very easy partnership to have for those reasons. And just Gabby, you know, when I’m looking for a host for a show, it is really important to be, in my opinion, to be genuine and authentic. I did not want your typical host, you know, and I’ll use my air quotes for that. You know, somebody who is just, you know, (Hollywoodish) or, you know, great looking not that Gabby is not good looking, that’s not what I’m saying. But that’s the reason why that person, male or female, got the gig. For me it was like who connects to this? Who can relate to this? And I really like Gabby for that reason. She’s a world class athlete. So she understands what it is to actually be, you know, what it takes to get into that kind of mental and physical conditioning. But maybe more importantly that that, you know, she’s a mom. And a wife. And so somebody, you know, at her age, she’ll tell you who knows what it is to juggle things in life. And what it takes to continually wakeup and need to feel and get strong and deal with everything in her life both personally, her business as a professional woman, her family, all that stuff. And it just all came together. It was a natural fit. So, you know, I didn’t want to have somebody out there who just has no relatability to what either the contestants are going through or what the audience looks at it, what does she know? I mean look at her, look at him. So that’s how that all came together. And I’ll let Gabby kind of answer too on that.
Gabrielle Reece: Well for me I really appreciated the fact that Dave was looking for somebody who could, like he said earlier, you know, I teach a class three days a week when I live in Hawaii. And I dedicated my life to training. And so I understand what the trainers on some level are going through and what they’re trying to accomplish. But then really the bigger part of the pie is what Dave said. I have three daughters, work, husband and you’re going, okay today I have 12 minutes to workout. Let’s do it. And so, I think, you know, it’s sort of encouraging them and those women like it’s possible. You know, one of the trainees right at the beginning of the shoot said to me, she’s like, wait, you have children? And I was like, yes. It’s like I understand what it’s like to birth a baby and try to get back in shape and, you know, aging and all that. So it was a really great environment for me because it was dealing with both sides of the coin and really most importantly, it’s how many people and especially I believe women are doing that calibration every single day trying to, you know, keep all those plates spinning.
Okay, yes, that’s a good point as far as like the relatability to moms watching this on TV thinking how could I possibly get myself in the same sort of shape as these women are getting into.
Gabrielle Reece: You see it. That’s what so amazing. Is that there’s going to be somebody in the cast that somebody can connect and relate to. And so the beautiful thing you’ll be like she did it and I saw, in the beginning, it felt overwhelming. And she seemed nervous. But she pushed through and look at what happened. You know, consistency, you know, eating, making better choices on your eating and moving. And then it’s that reminder like, you know what? I could do that too.
Dave Broome: I also think, you know, one of the things that in this show that we did in casting the show is to find that everyday woman let’s call her. You know, where, if you look at obesity and what I deal with on the Biggest Loser which is morbid obesity, you know, from the medical definition of it. That’s not really, if you go into a restaurant today, you go walk around the streets, you’d be kind of hard pressed to actually find somebody who could really be a Biggest Loser contestant. And I guess that’s a good thing. But, you know, yet you walk into that restaurant and just about every single person there can come onto Strong, both male or female, you know, in this case, our women trainees. Yes, you know, sure it’s they had 25, 30, 35 pounds to lose whatever. But we didn’t care about the weight. We just cared about how do you transform your life? Weight was never a measurement for us. And we actually, you know, the end results, we had some of the women put on, you know, 12, 14 even more than 20 plus pounds of lean muscle. I don’t want to give away any of the secrets as to, you know, who that is yet. So what we wanted to do is just find everyday relatable women. And our guys too, by the way, our trainers are as inspired by their counterpart, you know, their partners. And they helped learn from each other. So it was not just these guys like we didn’t want to have these guys be perceived as, you know, like gladiators. They’re just, you know, they’re great trainers. But they also were family men or had their own issues, their own insecurities, their own ways that they needed to learn from and be inspired by their female partner. And the audience is going to see that in every one of these episodes. And I think that’s going to be just I think just a really great moment every week. And, you know, that’s where it is. You know, it’s about seeing that people can be, you know, powerful themselves and not give up. And push through. And I think that’s the main messaging that’s going to come from this series.
All these new shows seem to have more of like a partnership or show more of a teamwork between the trainers and their clients. And I was wondering if this is the next logical progression of the weight loss quality show?
Dave Broome: Well for me, again, I don’t look at Strong as a weight loss competition. And I don’t even look at it as a weight loss show. And it’s not. The great thing that happens from Strong is weight falls off these people. That’s because they’re exercising, right. That’s like the default factor. When I created the show I sat there and I go, of course they’re going to lose weight. But, you know, I want to actually put muscle on them. I want to change their life. I want to change their mentality. How do you change someone’s mindset? And so, yes, I feel like for — to your question about the dynamic with trainers and their counterparts whereas people are not barking out — I think you’re right. Look, I’ve already done that, you know, that’s Biggest Loser. You know, that was Jillian Michaels from Day one when we started the show. I didn’t sit there and say to her, hey listen, be a drill sergeant and just come full force on these people. That was who she was. So, you know, and that was, you know, back in 2004-2005. So we’re talking, you know, 11, what 12 years ago. So things have changed. And I think that’s also for me and Strong, you know, I created Strong because I saw this major shift in the world of fitness. A total mental shift in the way men and women were addressing health and fitness and getting into shape. Because, you know, we’ve seen that strong is the new skinny. Or you’re looking at Spartan races or tough mother events which look like commercials for the Marines where people are going under barbed wire fences and shocking their body parts. And then I’m looking at it and I’m seeing that the fastest growing piece of all that are not men. They are women who are signing up for these things in droves. And I’m looking and I’m going what’s going on here? What is happening? Where are people’s heads at? And what I learned a couple of years ago when I started to create the show was, you know what? Women, they don’t want to be model thin. That’s unrealistic. That’s unhealthy. Look at the covers of any single magazine. Look at some of the stuff you guys put out online whether you’re printing it or putting it in digital form. It’s always now fit, strong, healthy, sexy! You know, all of those words kind of come together. I mean I rarely have seen thin, size 0, you know.
David, for the casting, it seems like the trainers, there’s almost a guidance counselor aspect of it. How much of that was instrumental in your casting?
And just one clarification for you, the trainers are contestants along with their teammate. So the male trainers and the female trainees are a team competing together. So they are training themselves, they’re training their partners. Their partners are getting them mentally strong as well and inspiring them. But they go through these challenges together so just one clarification there. To answer your question, I would say a lot. Let me tell you what we set out to do. We wanted to find trainers that had different expertise in different modalities. So we have, you know, Bennie Wylie as an example. He’s the former strength and conditioning trainer of the Dallas Cowboys and the Texas Longhorns. We had Adam, who was a MMA, a former MMA expert and doesn’t even believe in using equipment. And he’s got his own modalities. We have Leon who’s a boxer. We have Dan Wells who’s cross fit. So the idea was like I didn’t want the audience to just sit there and go, oh this is how you get strong. Or this is how you workout. You know, I think many of you here would do, who have fitness blogs or put out, you know, these articles, I think we all know like I think it’s misinformation to say this is the only way of doing something. I just wanted one thing from all of these guys and from the way of what we’re going to do is I want to be genuine and authentic. I wanted it to have a level of expertise on the certain certifications for that. And I wanted to basically be able to communicate what their methods were and why they felt it was important for their partner. And I think one of the great things that come from the show is and it’s really cool, we show it in the first episode, is we setup. The audience is going to see that hey, you know, this is one guy’s way of doing it. This is another guy’s way of doing it and this is a third way. And their partners just they buy in. They’re there. And the greatest thing that comes from this I think is that I am telling — I’ll blow this reveal — every single woman, every single trainee, the audience is going to see a crazy transformation which proves to me that you know what; if you dedicate yourself to it, if you get into the right mindset, if you learn what really proper eating is, not diet, not crash diets. Not, you know, some of the junk that’s out there. There’s no magic pill. You know, and put all that away. If you just commit yourself to doing something and getting it in the right place, you will be able to transform your life. So that was an important ingredient in finding these guys because look there’s a lot of trainers out there, a lot. And I feel like I’ve met every one of them in seems like the 12 years of doing this kind of stuff. But these guys I feel like we have an amazing cast, a really amazing cast that’s again, relatable, both male and female relatability.
A quick question for Gabrielle. You are in great shape. You had a bunch of toys that everyone else got to play with. Was there anything you got to play with and did you find any of it intimidating yourself?
Gabrielle Reece: You know, I have to tell you that when I looked at some of these challenges, I sort of felt well that’s pretty tough. I had to keep a level of, you know, sort of neutrality. But inside I wanted to tell these girls, like go up to them before and go, you know, what you’re doing is pretty incredible. But the other side of that is because there’s, to Dave’s point earlier, there is a lot going on. It’s fast moving, there’s a lot of people. I had a, you know, sort of specific job to do. So, you know, my playtime was, you know, kind of redirected to work. But I will say this, watching them and even watching the trainers, you know, there’s always something to be learned. So that was sort of interesting for me for the way they were using the yard and the different types of training, that’s all something that I can borrow and put, you know, keep doing it in my own life. Because, you know, you get bored. And so I’m always working with other trainers and other people to learn and to keep getting inspired which definitely was something that was happening to me on a regular basis. You know, when I was done with the show, I didn’t realize I got tired because I got so invested in what these people were doing. And what these women especially were taking on. I was impressed on a daily basis.
What have you done in your show to not only inspire viewers but also be transparent so they really know that they can change their lives?
Dave Broome: Well look, here’s the thing. I think that we’ve been as transparent as you can possibly get in 42 minutes and 30 seconds on television. It’s really important for me to send a message. I think, you know, Biggest Loser and I’ll go to Loser for one second since I created the show and I still executive produce it. I’ve always had a problem with Loser in that we’ve taken these people and put them in a dome, right. We put them in this environment. And they’re so — remember Biggest Loser takes people on who have one foot in the grave. You know, they’re fighting for their lives. They’ve tried everything. And the idea was how can we jumpstart someone’s life. Because when you weigh 400 pounds and you’re at home and you get on a scale after you tried to get in a better, you know, into some kind of a program and you’ve lost a pound or two pounds in a week and great now you’re down to 398. Well it doesn’t get you really motivated. So we thought how can we, you know, if you put them in this environment and give them the proper training and give them the right nutrition and they start to see this weight come off that’s going to kick start their life and get them going. But at the end of the day, they’re so gone, the contestants on Loser, they’re so off the deep end of the scale, they’re on really one end of the extreme here that’s not relatable to the average person. They’re inspired. I think a lot of people who watch Loser have been inspired. Millions of people around the world have been inspired by the show because of the heart and determination for what the contestants on Loser do. But on Strong, by taking everyday people like I’ve been saying, an everyday woman, a mom, you know, she’s had a couple of kids. We don’t have to do anything that takes extreme activity. We don’t have to take anything and sit there and say, look you’ve got to workout hours, and hours, and hours, and hours a day. That’s not what this show is. This show is designed to take somebody who you just look at yourself in the mirror and go that’s me right there. That is me. Like when you look at a weight loss show whether it’s Biggest Loser or any of the other ones that have been mentioned, or you go and look at, you know, some of the even way extreme ones, you know, the 600 pound women, the 600 pound men, you look at it as a spectator in a lot of ways. You don’t look at it and say hey, this is a reflection of myself in the mirror. But Strong is in a lot of ways. You know, Strong is a reflection of, you know, you’re watching the show and you’re going hey, that is me. I let myself go a little bit. I’m juggling life. So we don’t have to do anything but just show what really takes place in the course of an episode.
Gabrielle Reece: Hey Dave, I think there’s another element of the show that has happened and I don’t even think you intended it to happen. But we do have a few little bit younger contestants; maybe they’re not fully in the throes of family living. And it sort of seems like that they sort of communicated I don’t know fully who I am yet or I want to be defined, these younger women. And I want to find my voice and I want to express, you know, a level of courage and go ahead and take the reins of my life. And there’s even that dimension in this show as well. Because you do have the women who have, you know, families, and children, and work. But then you have this other few women that really they’re not doing that yet. They’re doing something else where they’re into young adulthood and they’re saying hey, I, you know, I’ve got to be, you know, I’ve got to find out who I am. And I’ve got to take charge. And that was a very cool and unexpected part of the show for me as well.
Dave Broome: Yes, it’s a great point.
Strong airs Thursday’s at 8/7c on NBC.