Twenty-four hours, one creation, two Lego Masters. Tuesday was the second season finale of Fox’s Lego Masters, a rather unique building competition show. The final three teams — Zack and Wayne Macasaet, Caleb and Jacob Schilling, and Steven and Mark Erickson… yes, three sets of brothers — were given near-total freedom. Over 24 hours, they could create anything they wanted, as long as it had both night and day elements, and the best creation would win them the title of Lego Masters.
Gizmodo was able to get an early glimpse of the finale so that we could spend some interviewing the winners. We had lots of burning questions about the production of the show, behind-the-scenes secrets, and, of course, all of those incredible builds. For example, how long did it take to film the 24-hour challenge, were there any rivalries on set, and how did covid-19 change the production? We also found out what happens to all those incredible builds once they’re complete…
But considering we’re Gizmodo we, of course, got even nerdier. Are there any Lego bricks that aren’t available to the contestants? One winner told us, “they were missing some parts,” while the other added, “You can request pieces that weren’t there. But whether or not they can actually get them was up in the air.” That might seem trivial to most, but to Lego Masters building a 40,000 piece creation from scratch, it plays a big role. Below you’ll find our massive deep-dive with the winning siblings as well as an exclusive video showing just how personal the final build was.
And the winners were… Mark and Steven Erickson! Here’s our edited and condensed interview with the pair.
Germain Lussier, Gizmodo: Congratulations on the win. You guys were so confident throughout the season and I’m curious, did you go in that way or was there a moment when you realised you really had a shot to go win the whole thing?
Steven Erickson: We went in pretty confident. We were feeling really hyped, really good. We’d competed alongside a lot of season one people in a bunch of different stuff. And we had a good feeling, I’m not gonna lie.
Mark Erickson: Yeah, I would say in contrast to probably several other teams on season two, we kind of knew that if things went right, we should go really far. Our goal was to get to the finale. Winning it? That’s a whole other story. But we really wanted the finale.
Steven: We would have been a little disappointed with ourselves if we hadn’t gotten that far yet.
Gizmodo: Just because you wanted to do every build?
Steven: That especially. We wanted to do every challenge. But when you make it to the top three, it’s pretty special. Let’s just put it that way.
Gizmodo: OK, some other little incentive. I understand. Now, as I watched the show each week, I was always curious about the timeline. Are you shooting these in subsequent days? And how long did you shoot the entire season? Tell me a little bit about how it all works out.
Mark: Yeah, so it was a pretty tight schedule. There wasn’t a lot of time to just hang out. Every week we would try to do like two or three episodes and so you’d be breaking that down in different build chunks. The time that you see is real. We only get to build that amount of time and it might be broken up by a lunch break. So the whole building process was a month and a little bit more. Almost a month and a half. So it was an intense schedule. It was tough. It’s difficult. But, you know, it’s part of the Lego Masters challenge getting through all this.
Gizmodo: Tell me a little bit about the physical and mental toll of keeping that creative, competitive mindset all that time.
Steven: Oh, it’s no easy task. First of all, you have to be extra creative. You have to go above and beyond, right? You really have to bring everything to the table. Secondly, you have the judges. They’re giving you advice, you’re thinking what’s in their heads, what do they see that I don’t. Then you have about, at any moment, five cameras, but up to 30 cameras on you at any one time. So it’s a lot of pressure. You’re in a crazy environment. This amazing studio set with moving parts everywhere. It can be distracting. So you have to really stay focused. And it was not easy.
Gizmodo: How did you feel about the time limits? It can take me days to finish a Lego with instructions and you have eight to 12 hours total to completely create a new build. How did you go about dealing with and balancing the time?
Mark: Right. So we usually take multiple days, weeks, even months on a large creation. So the time frame, you know, eight hours is nothing.
Steven: It’s nothing!
Mark: You have to really, really hurry. Like even large Lego sets take more than eight hours, so being able to build the best that you can within that time frame takes a lot of planning and a lot of knowledge of how fast not only we can build, but also what can be built in that time. How much you can accomplish? You might have to have a stretch goal. Like if we have extra time, it could do this, but if we don’t, we have to cut that out and focus on the essentials. So, yeah, a lot of thinking that goes into that.
Gizmodo: Did you have any personal goals or regiments with that? Like if we’re not building in X minutes we’re in trouble?
Mark: So some of the goals were to plan very quickly, because planning time is on your build time and it is very quick, so we try to get our plan done within 10 to 15 minutes and we pretty much stuck to that to the detriment or benefit of our planning. But that was one of our goals. And mostly just to be able to accomplish the main essentials to each challenge as effectively as possible within the timeframe.
Gizmodo: This finale was a 24-hour challenge. Did you shoot in eight-hour blocks or how did that work?
Steven: It was nine, eight, and seven, is that correct?
Mark: Yes, there was three different days of building and a lot of that was on camera, some of that was off-camera because the crew doesn’t need to be there for the entire build process. So, yeah, it was three days of building pretty much most of the day.
Steven: And a couple of days worth of judging if I recall. It’s all getting a little bit fuzzy these days.
Mark: But it was a pretty big ordeal. And unlike what a lot of people think, we’re not building for 24 hours straight. Most people would not be able to handle that.
Steven: Or wouldn’t be able to do that much good-looking stuff in that amount of time.
Gizmodo: This might be a hack question but what was the most difficult challenge for you? What was the one that kind of gave you guys the biggest problems?
Steven: There were two. First was the tower. Eight hours to build something of that volume was just madness. And then one of the most difficult ones was the land and sea challenge, where we merged the two creations that were separate. We really built ourselves into a corner and that was a little frustrating because I liked my build and to make something that… you saw the episode, you understand.
Mark: It was hard, both building two very different things and matching them together without planning, because if we can plan for that, we’d do great. We don’t necessarily expect to combine things in a certain way. It makes it difficult, especially with only five hours.
Steven: Yes. holy cow. Short amount of time.
Gizmodo: So obviously, as you said, you feel pressure building in these time frames and being creative. But what about the competition overall? Do you feel pressure mounting as you get further on in the season?
Steven: Yeah. So the amount of stress or anxiety or pressure we’re feeling throughout the competition, it was actually pretty intense right after the beginning — the beginning was all adrenaline. We built a nice build and got second on the first challenge. Great. Doing good. Second and third challenges. We kind of faltered a little bit. We were kind of worried that, wow, maybe we aren’t as hot as we thought we were. We’re not doing as great. But we ended up rallying a bit on episodes four and five and once we got into that groove, we felt we did pretty strong all the way out. Except for like, episode nine and episode eleven. That was very difficult, but we still felt like we had a pretty strong performance kind of in the middle. Then towards the end, once we got the finale, it feel like the pressure was off. It really did. Right up to the finale, we were just like sweating bullets. But then once we got to the finale, it was like, this is our goal. We got here. Now we’re just going to build the best thing we can. And it really felt good. It’s like in the NFL. The playoffs are always more tense than Super Bowl for some reason.
Gizmodo: That’s true. So you think that was just because you had to find your legs, like, getting into this different mode of building from what you’ve done your entire lives?
Mark: Yeah, we had to adapt quickly and we figured that out pretty soon.
Steven: This season has been very technical. You see a lot of [Lego] Technic in a lot of challenges. And while we are competent at that, that is definitely not our forte or wheelhouse. So we were hoping for more artistic or story-based challenges which we kind of enjoy. We had to really adapt to this new style of the season and we survived to the finale and then got to really show our stuff.
Gizmodo: I talked to judges Amy and Jamie before the season and they were very, very proud that you guys were able to shoot during covid. How did that change everything this season?
Mark: So as far as I know, based on what I’ve heard of season one’s filming process, it changes the whole process for filming quite a bit. Everything had to be in zones. Everyone had to wear PPE protection for covid. You were tested every other day to make sure none of the contestants got it and all the crew were tested as well. It was a lot of extra steps that had to take place. Precautions. We had separate bathrooms for different departments. So it was everything they could possibly do to make sure there was nothing. And then amazingly, no one got it.
Steven: As far as we know not a single person on set of staff got it as far as we’re aware.
Mark: This was before the vaccine was widely available. It was just starting to roll out so no one had the opportunity to get it before so we’re all just being extra careful, and it paid off.
Gizmodo: How would you describe the availability of bricks on set? Was there ever something that you wanted they didn’t have? Tell me a little bit about that, because it looks like they have everything.
Steven: They don’t quite have everything. There were pros and cons. Stuff you love and stuff you didn’t quite. They had some parts that we absolutely couldn’t get enough of like dark blue, they had a ton of brown elements, a ton of parts that are not easy to come by in the normal market of Lego. However, they were missing some parts. They’re missing, for example, one by one round plates in translucent clear. It’s a very signature water brick.
Mark: They didn’t have a lot of sloped bricks.
Steven: Oh, they didn’t have any orange tiles, smoother orange elements, so they’re missing some parts. But honestly, I’d say it was a really good selection, generally speaking.
Mark: My thoughts on that would be there are a lot of basic bricks and in such quantities that you rarely see in one room. So, you can build some really spectacular stuff and then decorate it with the more detailed pieces — stuff you can’t do at home, you could do on Lego Masters.
Gizmodo: If you wanted some of those orange pieces, for example, could you ask for them?
Mark: They had a bunch of staff members always on hand, always refilling. At any point we could pull one aside and say “Can you grab some more of these red slopes, please?” So they’d go back ten minutes later, they’ll be back, you’d be ready to go.
Steven: You can request pieces that weren’t there. But whether or not they can actually get them was up in the air. They would have to be at a later challenge. You couldn’t get them right away.
Gizmodo: Which of your builds were you most proud of?
Steven: Ooh, tough one. Obviously, the finale was just one of the best things, if not the best thing, I’ve built for my whole career, you just couldn’t ask for anything better. But off the finale, it was probably Bernie the Burnt-Out Dragon. He was just… I wouldn’t change anything and he surpassed my expectations. He was just too much fun to use. I really loved it.
Mark: For me, some of my favourite builds were the first one we made, which was the big world serpent. I really enjoyed that one, it had a great look to it. And then I also like the pirate hat from episode five. We had a bunch of great builds throughout the season, but a couple of them really stand out.
Gizmodo: I know the winning build goes to Legoland in Florida, but what happens to the rest of the builds on the show.
Steven: They get sorted out and put back in the brick bin.
Gizmodo: No way.
Mark: Yeah. Even after, like, episode three, we would have used up almost all the pieces from the brick bin if they hadn’t taken them apart each episode.
Gizmodo: Yeah I guess that makes sense. But I’m curious just how big those builds are. I built the massive Lego Millennium Falcon which was almost 8,000 bricks and it toOK me almost 40 hours. So using that or other Lego sets can you put into context just how big the builds on the show are?
Mark: So I build big stuff as part of my job as a Lego designer. I don’t work for Lego, but I design Lego stuff. And so we’re working with bigger pieces on Lego Masters. Mostly a two by four size pieces versus the smaller plates and Technic pins on like a Millennium Falcon.
Steven: Generally speaking.
Mark: So some of the builds were actually probably not too far off that 8,000 to 10,000 piece mark, especially on a shorter challenge. But then on some challenges, for example, the tower challenge or the finale, we had more time for bigger builds to make. You could see things probably in the 20, 30, even 40,000 range, and it’s just because we were building so fast and we had a little more time to add tons of pieces in detail. So a lot more than pretty much any Lego set that’s come out, although some of the new ones are in that huge thousands range, it’s not too far off. Although those are generally smaller pieces that can fit inside a box versus table size creations.
Gizmodo: Do you guys still buy off-the-shelf Lego? And if so, what are your favourite sets of all time?
Steven: Oh, yeah. We still buy Lego all the time. We buy separate pieces, Lego sets, but I don’t usually buy Lego sets unless it’s something I really want. Like, it’s been a while, but one of my favourite builds is the Wall-E from Lego Ideas. I love that one. Favourite set? I’ve always wanted Cafe Corner. It’s a really good modular set. It set up a new renaissance for Lego. Mark, do you have a favourite?
Mark: Yeah, I like buying sets all the time. I actually bought some new Star Wars Mandalorian-themed sets. I love The Mandalorian TV show and those figures are great. And then I also buy sets for pieces. Like I bought the flower bouquet because that has all those amazing plant pieces in there.
Gizmodo: So when you buy these sets do you build them? Do you strip them for pieces for your own builds? How does that work for you both?
Mark: I say most of our sets, we usually build them initially, but then we’ll take them apart for pieces. You know, we want to enjoy the build experience. We also want to use the pieces in our operation pretty soon after. But some of them, for sure, we like to keep together permanently, like behind us we have a lot of the classic castles sets. Steven has his Wall-E and a couple of these other favourite Mechs and robots and stuff. So we save our favourites, but we generally take them mostly apart and use the pieces on our own creations
Gizmodo: Right now in the world of Lego, what’s the hardest challenge you can take on?
Mark: So there are lots of different challenges and contests in Lego that are very difficult. I’d say the two that stand out to me are going to a convention and winning an award.
Steven: Oh yeah.
Mark: Because you’re competing against hundreds of other very experienced adult fans of Lego. To win something means that you have to impress not only the people running the show but the people attending the show and the people exhibiting. So you have to be really good. Secondly, online, there’s a contest called the Iron Builder, and it’s when they pit two very skilled or sometimes pairs of really skilled builders against each other — you have to compete for a month with a seed part, which is kind of like what they did for the episode 10 house challenge. So that is really difficult. We actually competed in one a long time ago in 2013 and we lost, so we are used to losing. It was a great challenge. We had a lot of fun. But, you know, it’s like that challenge is so hard that even really skilled builders like us, you get totally toasted.
Gizmodo: What about technically? Is there something that’s very difficult to do?
Steven: There’s one. It’s actually Lego flight. Lego flight is near impossible because as an element it’s too heavy. You can make hot air balloons and other stuff and a few aeroplanes here and there, but Lego flight under its own weight is borderline impossible. So that’s one thing that’s I don’t know if anyone will ever do it.
Gizmodo: Was there a technical problem you’re most proud to have solved on the show this season?
Mark: I have one. For the haunted house challenge in episode 10 — well, we called it the haunted house challenge — one of our motions was a kind of moving tentacle and I’ve never built anything that complex with Technic. But with a little bit of extra time devoted to it, I think it was an hour or two of our time, it ended up working great and that kind of motion really helped put us over the top and win that challenge.
Steven: When it comes to techniques for me, I’m going to go back to Bernie the Burnt-Out Dragon and his face. I got the eyebrows and the mouth to be independent from each other with sliding rods and elements and rubber bands and everything and everything just came together so well for that. And that’s where I was really proud. I got those facial features just right.
Gizmodo: What was the most memorable on-set moment? For me personally, when Caleb and Jacob crashed their radio-controlled car, I couldn’t get enough. We must have rewound it 20 times. Was it that or something else?
Steven: OK, so that actually beats the one I was going to say because that episode, all our cars were getting stuck and we were worried it was going to be kind of a dud. This Gladiator Match, but it was totally unscripted, totally unplanned. They literally fell off. It was hilarious. But one of my favourite parts was actually arguing with the Caleb and Jacob over who copied who, going back and forth over the floating island. That was actually really fun. That was the way for us almost to destress a little bit and just yell at each other for fun.
Gizmodo: That goes to my next question, actually, which is what is the camaraderie like on and offset? Did people hang out, did you make friends, how did things work with the other teams?
Mark: So I’ve got to give props to the casting department of the season because everybody was so great, so awesome, so nice. They were all really fans of Lego, right? We really amazingly got along with everybody on set. Everybody really enjoyed each other’s company. We still have a huge group chat that we chat with on a daily basis. So we are just buddies. We even say extended family levels of friendship.
Steven: That’s what we call each other, yeah.
Mark: And also probably the fact that we were in a covid situation. We were basically in a bubble. It really, I think, actually contributed to our being so close. We were all together and we weren’t really allowed to talk to anyone else. So when you’re trapped in a room with somebody, you either hate each other or you’re best friends. And we all became best friends.
Gizmodo: That’s awesome. What was it like working with Will Arnett, Jamie Berard, and Amy Corbett?
Steven: So Amy and Jamie were awesome. They get some flack online, but they really know their stuff, they’re really good at what they do. We knew from the start, from any experience we’ve had in a challenge or a contest, you listen to the judges. You really pay attention to what they say. And that’s what we wanted to do. They had a lot of great advice, which was really nice to have.
Mark: They spoke with each contestant multiple times during each challenge. You don’t always get to see that in the final edit, but they were always giving us feedback on what they were looking for and what they were hoping to see in this challenge. So, yeah, if you could listen and find a way to implement their advice, you immediately were going to do better.
Gizmodo: And Will?
Steven: Ahhh, Will was awesome. He’s a big celebrity, a big comedian. It’s a professional job. He’s larger than life but very professional on set. You’d be surprised. You think he’d be a goofball all the time, but he really knew his stuff. [It] was a lot of fun to interact with him. I will say it was, especially at first, it was a little harder for us to talk and kind of identify almost with Will because he was just so off the wall. It’s actually easier with Amy and Jamie because you could almost talk shop with them about Lego techniques and colours and story.
Mark: Eventually though we got more comfortable with the celebrity guy we know as Lego Batman.
Steven: Yeah, we all started to warm up each other and a little easier as we went along.
Gizmodo: And they’re obviously not there the whole time right?
Mark: Most of the interactions you see are on camera, some of them obviously don’t make the cut, but they also would only be on the set for a while. They’d look at stuff, talk to people, then they’d head off for a while. They had a separate back area where they were able to access the live camera footage and then watch everybody. So they were paying attention 100% of the time to what we were doing. But they weren’t always in the same room. They were often off by themselves.
Steven: Because they were a bit of a distraction, honestly. You’re paying attention to where they’re looking. So they understood that and exited when they thought it was appropriate.
Gizmodo: So ultimately, what does winning Lego Masters win to you guys?
Mark: OK, so my big takeaway is we’ve been building Lego for 20 plus years, both of us. Before everyone was interested in what it was I building I’d go to a convention and people would say “Nice build!” I’m like, “Thanks, bro” and they’d keep walking. No big deal. Now they don’t care about the build as much, they’re like “Oh, you’re on Lego Masters!” It’s a completely different situation. So it’s been really exciting, really interesting, and really wild to have that kind of huge switch in how people interact.
Steven: Yeah, the artist has outrun the artwork essentially for us, which is really weird, but I’m sure we’ll get used to it pretty soon. But for me, as cliche as it sounds, it really was a dream come true because I always kind of pondered, like, way back, 10-15 years ago, “I wonder if Lego will ever really take off? Will it be seen for what it is? Will it be in the public eye as something really interesting and exciting?” For a long time, it was a niche thing. It was just for kids until Lego decided to expand. To be a part of that expansion…holy cow, who would have thought, you know? It’s fun to look back and go back into your memory and just to see where it’s all come. Yeah, it’s amazing.
Gizmodo: Yeah, Fox has a TV show in primetime about Lego, right?
Steven: Exactly [Laughs]
Gizmodo: And what’s next for you both?
Steven: Well, not just all the fun stuff that comes with winning a TV show but I wrote a book. It’s called The Inner Workings of a Lego Mind. It’s a gallery book of some of my bigger builds. It’s on Amazon. And also my website, BrotherStevenBuilds.com and I hope to do more technique books. And it’s fun to bring the community to kids and stuff. They really enjoy it and see it because that’s what happened to us. We saw the Masters do their thing 15 years ago and felt like we’re going to do this, too. So I want to be that for the next generation of kids as much as I can. But, Mark, you got some stuff too.
Mark: I work at a store that sells Lego. I design stuff related to Lego every day. So I’m just keep on keeping on and keep it up. [Note: Mark also has an incredible website.]
Gizmodo: All right. Last thing. Online you’ve been known as “The Castle Bros” but you lost the title on the show to Caleb and Jacob. Are you officially giving up the title of Castle Bros as per your agreement?
Steven: We really are. But, you know, it’s funny, I have a little backstory — you’re the first person to hear about it. So on set, especially near the end, right after that whole Castle Bros thing, there was a couple of days before it was all over. During that time, Jacob specifically, he has a very dry hilarious sense of humour. He’s great. He’s a really funny guy. But he said, you know, “We got that Castle Bros title.” He was starting to rub it in our face a little bit. So I said, “Well, maybe we’ll trade it in for Lego Masters.” I totally got him with that and guess what? It happened.