LEGO Masters: An interview with finalists Mark and Boone [Feature]

LEGO Masters aired its ninth episode last week where contestants competed in the Star Wars challenge. We won’t reveal the outcome, but The Brothers Brick had the opportunity to sit down with all three teams to talk about their experiences on the whole show. We’ll publish our interviews with the other finalists in the coming days ahead of the finale on Wednesday.

In our interview, we talk to “The Bearded Builders” Mark and Boone about how they build so fast, where good ideas come from, and how it feels to be put on the spot and sing!

You two seem to build creations very quickly. How much of the speed-building is your own style versus being under a time crunch for a challenge?

Mark: I like building fast, and I do that at home too. That’s why I end up with these giant MOCs. But I think that was something on the show that we figured out. I didn’t know I was building fast until I got on the show and then had people point that out to me several times. If we were doing landscapes or a building or something, I could build really quickly. Before I didn’t consider myself a fast builder, I just considered myself a builder.

Boone: I’ve never had a great deal of patience for long LEGO projects. Most of my builds from the last five years are things that can fit on a couple of baseplates that I’ve built in just one or two sittings. If I have an idea and start building but then take some time off from it, the chances that I’m going to come back to it are very slim because I’m going to lose the energy of the idea. Sometimes I’ll go to Bricks & Minifigs, well before the pandemic, and they had these big tables where you can dig through old LEGO pieces and pick out whatever you want. I built a couple of my MOCs just standing at those tables for hours and building. Then I’d walk up to the cash registers and say, “Hey, how much do you want to charge me for this?”

There are other builds that I start at 9:00 pm and finished by 2:00 am just because of work and family obligations. Building fast is just kind of how I like to build, otherwise I’m going to lose interest in the idea and the project altogether. But on LEGO Masters I had to make the creations bigger, work with Mark, and spend less time deciding what the next piece is going to be and more time thinking “How do we accomplish this and that in a fairly short amount of time?”

What was the most difficult aspect of the challenges aside from the time limits?

Boone: The time crunch was definitely the most difficult, but the next hardest aspect was that the goal of each challenge was always a little difficult to interpret and visualize. LEGO building is incredibly subjective as is any type of artwork. We knew that the Brick Masters were looking for like three main things each time including technical ability, creativity and storytelling. But each challenge had additional, specific requirements beyond those. Like for the Star Wars challenge, we had to think about how we make those three criteria shine within the Star Wars universe. Then you have to prioritize what is the most important to spend time building. Over and over throughout the competition, some teams were able to set their priorities well and execute them in the time allotted, while some teams struggled to set those priorities. And then after all that, some teams who believed very deeply in their priorities and ideas came to the end of a challenge to discover that their priorities did not necessarily align with the judges’ priorities. Beyond the ticking clock, it was a constant dance of trying to determine where to focus our energies.

Mark: I would agree with that. We learned a couple of weeks into the show that listening to the Brick Masters and figuring out their vision was key. We had to interpret how we build, what our skills are, and what we like to build into something that they were looking for. That was challenging. There were some moments when we wanted them to come around and check-in because we had questions! Trying to find that fine balance of what we wanted to build, what we’re good at building, and what the judges are looking for was challenging for me. It took us a few challenges to learn that, but I think we got there. But the clock was number one.

You were featured singing quite often on the show. How did it feel to be put on the spot to come up with new songs?

Boone: I’ve never really had much of an opportunity to try improvising songs on the spot before. I’ve done some songwriting in the past but never making up songs on the fly. The most experience I had with that is probably with my kids at home where my wife and I and our two daughters will just make up a song about what we’re doing. It can be really helpful to sing a song about what they’re supposed to be doing!

I honestly had no clue that there would be any emphasis placed on my singing on the show. I mean I love to sing, it’s another major hobby of mine. I think it was in the third episode when Mark said something to Will about me singing, and from then on it just became this thing where Will would put me on the spot for a song! It was cool. It felt nice to actually be able to do it every single time since I could have totally blanked.

Mark: There were a lot of times when people would be singing because we didn’t have music while we were filming. Boone and I would actually sing a lot more than what they show, just these nonsense little songs as we would build. I would sing to him and he’d sing to me, but he’s got a better voice!

What would you have done differently in any of the challenges?

Boone: I think that on some of the challenges we felt good about what we were doing in the midst of it, but in the end we didn’t perform as well as we would have liked. I’ll use the Storybook challenge as an example where we weren’t in the bottom two, thankfully, but we were not in the top two either. We were in right in the middle. Honestly, we felt like we were closer to the bottom two even though we were the only team in the middle. But we were coming off four wins in a row, so it felt disappointing. That’s a lot of prefacing, but the answer to your question of what we would do differently is to ask ourselves how can we look at what we have to do, and how can we push ourselves to do it in a way that is outside of what we might typically do—and in a way that might distinguish us from the rest of the builders in the room.

Mark: I’d have to go with Boone and go back to the Storybook challenge. We just came off a streak of winning. And you get that sense of “Okay, we’re in this, we’re doing really well, let’s keep it up.” That was one of the only times that I felt comfortable when we were building because I thought “Oh, we’re doing so good, we know exactly what to do, and we literally built what Cash, our kid, wanted.” We made robots rain from the sky, we made the crab jump out of the ground. We built a very literal sense of the story but we forgot the challenge wasn’t just to build these crazy looking characters for the kids. When we were done and stepped back from it, I remember having this feeling of “Oh, this isn’t our best work.” Then to have landed right in the middle after that long streak of being in the top–we needed to keep focusing and just move on. We need to figure out what our priorities are and how to work together as a team and get back on track.

In the Good vs. Evil challenge, you had to partner with another team. What was it like to partner with a team you were also competing with?

Mark: A little backstory–for everybody that was on the show, we’re all good friends. We all get along and everything is great. Boone and I approached that challenge as “this is just Sam and Jessica.” Yes, we have the golden brick, we could phone it in and just build whatever, but we chose to build like we didn’t have the golden brick. Because we were coming off that Storybook challenge, we had to refocus and push really hard. That’s what we did to the point where I feel like we were able to help them out. Sam and Jessica generally don’t build structures or buildings. They’re really good character builders and really good builders overall but different than what we build. So we had to blend our build styles. We pushed our tables together way early in that episode just so that we could have that unified build.

I really enjoyed that one because I wasn’t looking at it like it was just Boone and I going up against everyone else, it was Boone and I and Sam and Jessica going up against these other teams, Tyler and Amy and Aaron and Christian. This is our objective. Our priority now is to work together as a team. So, if we do good, they do good. If they do good, we do good. We wanted to help them out as much as possible and I know they wanted to help us out as much as possible. We all wanted to work together so that we could have that unified build at the end. So, that was actually a really fun challenge, and I’m glad that we got that opportunity to build with another team as one big team.

Boone: We were wiping our brows coming off of the Storybook challenge. Thankfully we didn’t go home then. I was glad that we hadn’t played our golden brick, even though I sort of felt like we should have. In the end we didn’t have to, and we got to keep it. There were some rules about the golden brick that weren’t explicitly shown on television that they told us at the beginning of the competition. Everyone knew that no one would be allowed to play the golden brick after the eighth episode. We knew we had to use it in Good vs. Evil challenge, especially knowing someone was going home. So we either had the choice of trying to send home the team that we were trying to collaborate with or trying to send home one of the other teams.

In the end, we felt it was important for us to be good collaborators. We had the opportunity to do the best we could and help them do the best they could. We wanted our collaboration to be good and legitimate. Thankfully, that’s how it shook out. Maybe to some degree we didn’t win that challenge because we didn’t have ourselves 100% in mind. At the same time, it felt good for us to have our entire collaboration be safe together.

Mark: Part of the challenge that we heard in the beginning was to work together as a team, and the whole “play well” concept that LEGO supports. We took that into account too. We need to work together as a team because that’s part of the challenge, and so we kept that in mind when we were all collaborating on one big build.

Boone: That gets back to what we were talking about earlier, about listening to the judges and interpreting the challenges. If they were just looking for the best build or just looking for the best collaborators, it wouldn’t be as big of a challenge. But the challenge was that they’re looking for both. So that’s when the judges came to us and said, “You’re collaborating but you also need to focus on your own build. We’re going to be looking at independent builds.” On the flip side, they told the other teams they needed to collaborate more on and not focus on their individual builds so much. The challenge is always finding some best balance of all the things the judges are looking for.

What were your favorite builds of the season from both your team and your competitors?

Mark: One of my favorite builds of the season would have to but Richard and Flynn’s cuckoo clock from the Cut in Half challenge. I remember seeing it when we were all done before judging and thinking, “Man, that is awesome!” Then we heard them talk about it and saw the eyes making ticking noises–they had it programmed so right that the sound was working perfectly with the movement. That was amazing and probably one of my favorite builds that anyone else did on LEGO Masters.

In terms of our builds, I loved all of them but my favorite was probably either the Mega City or our bridge. I do construction for a job so I was thinking the whole time I’m doing the challenge that we had to win this one! Yes, it had to look good but it also had to hold a lot of weight. The function was just as important as the appearance. That’s why we went with a very minimalist-looking and streamlined bridge with really clean lines. I really liked that challenge.

Boone: I really loved Mel and Jermaine’s Dream Park build. It’s difficult seeing some of the really incredible details that the teams included in the final edit of each episode. But their Egyptian-themed Pharaoh Sands park was a great example of that. Their Mega City build also had some really awesome details that we didn’t necessarily see in the episodes. Sam and Jessica’s fire hydrant mermaid for the Cut in Half challenge was also really cool.

As far as our own builds go, until the Star Wars challenge, I would have said our Pop’s Food Cart Tower from the Mega City challenge was my favorite. It probably still is my favorite build overall, but I really loved our droid. I’m really proud of what we came up with, and I really feel like we nailed the story of this Imperial droid being reprogrammed by the Rebellion. That one was very exciting for me.

What building techniques did you learn from other teams?

Boone: I’m not going to be able to answers with names or exactly what I did with what pieces. I found Tyler’s character builds very clean and compelling and often humorous and cute. I have never really dabbled in character building before. But watching him and some of the techniques and the aesthetic that he uses inspired me and encouraged me to try some things that I had never tried before.

Mark: Going into this competition, I typically would just use a lot of grays and earth tones and have very realistic looking builds–very post-apocalyptic type of cities and whatever. I think Amie and Krystle, and Brick Master Amy motivated me to start using more color. It doesn’t mean it has to be a giant rainbow, it could just be some color. The whole thing that Brick Master Amy taught me was if you have a gray main character you can’t have a gray background behind it–it has to be able to stand out. That’s something I’ve taken into account in what I’ve been building after the show. I always remember that, to use color, and to not just have it all gray and monotone.

Were there any fun moments that happened off-camera that you recall?

Boone: One weekend we weren’t shooting we went to Disneyland with Mel. It was Mel’s very first time! I love Disneyland and have been there over and over again. So watching him experience all of these incredible attractions for the first time was both hilarious and lovely. It was an experience I’ll never forget.

Mark: I loved that here was this grown man and a police officer screaming his guts on the Indiana Jones ride. He was just loving life and taking in Disneyland for the first time. To see that was pretty awesome.

Did your beards ever get in the way of building?

Boone: [laughs] No, I don’t think we put our faces quite that close to our builds, but that would have been funny though! I can imagine us being so focused on building that we don’t notice a beard hair stuck between two bricks, but no, it didn’t happen.

Mark: When you see us stroking our beards, I typically do that like when I’m deep in thought… or nervous. I noticed it a few times watching ourselves in the Star Wars challenge because we were in the top three and someone is going home and there is just so much anxiety. It’s kind of like a security blanket.

How did it feel being compared to a Wookiee by C3PO in the Star Wars episode?

Mark: That was amazing. I kind of forgot that all happened. When he walked in, I was like, “Oh my God, that’s awesome.” I mean, C3PO is saying we’re like Wookiees–my childhood is complete! That was so cool.

Boone: I’ve been to a lot of conventions. I’ve seen a lot of the guys that build astromech droids and drive them around with remote controls. They’re really cool. I have a high level of respect for the guys that build those things. And people who dress up as whatever kind of cosplay you might imagine–an incredible amount of detail goes into that. However, on the set of LEGO Masters, this is *the* R2D2, this is *the* C3PO, and the fact that we got to have conversations with them felt a little surreal, a little out of this world. The Wookiee comment was funny. I thought, “Oh, because of our beards,” but the whole experience was just incredible. If I knew as a kid that would happen in my life I wouldn’t have believed you.

Why did you select the Ewok scene in the Star Wars episode? Were there any scenes that you would have liked to build but weren’t available to choose from?

Boone: I can speculate why those specific scenes were up there. I think they wanted something big and dramatic, and they wanted a lot of action. For example, if the Luke and Vader “I am your father” scene was up there, it is a great scene but it is mainly focused on just two characters. In the very brief moment that we had to think about our choice, we did consider the Podracing scene from Episode I because we both had experience building Podracers before, and we just love the idea of the race and the speed and the movement in that scene. I think we ultimately decided against that because it’s just so much tan desert. We really felt like we weren’t going to be able to deliver the kind of colors we might like to deliver if we chose that scene.

Mark: We just came off doing the droid portion of the challenge, and Tyler and Amy won that because they had this *adorable* droid. Our Imperial welder droid was all black and it had a really good story, but it seemed like it just wasn’t cute enough. I think some of why we picked the Imperial bunker on Endor was because we had access to Ewoks and we thought, “There’s nothing cuter than Ewoks!” We could have them in dynamic positions right when they start attacking and have the Ewok on the hang glider or the speeder–so much good stuff from Return of the Jedi in one scene. Plus, it seemed like the other scenes had very monotone bland colors. The Ewoks stood out to me as far as the texture and green and gray–it had a lot more going on.

You mentioned the Ewok minifigures. Were there other Star Wars parts that they added for this challenge that hadn’t been available in previous challenges?

Boone: There were parts like the panels and windscreens that have Star Wars-type prints on them. We brick-built an imperial logo on the chest of our droid, but when the front exploded, there’s a bunch of white and blue inside and some of those elements were printed with the Rebellion insignia. The extra parts were basically what you can imagine, with a lot of wedge plates in more colors because they would help in building certain Star Wars ships and stuff like that.

If you could have designed your ideal challenge for the show, what would that have been?

Mark: Oh, man! I’ve never been asked that question before! [laughs]

Boone: That is a good question–I wish you’d sent it to me last night because I could think about it and come up with something really cool! I don’t know that I’ll be able to come up with something really cool off the top of my head. We did a lot of speculation about what challenges we might face. We had a number of cosplayers in the group so it would have been really exciting to build wearable creations. But that didn’t end up being one of the challenges. That would have been entertaining.

Mark: I would have to second that. For some reason we always thought there might be a cosplay or a wearable challenge, but then it never panned out. That would have been really interesting to see how Boone and Mark would’ve interpreted that challenge. [laughs]

Boone: Or maybe imagining droids in another universe? Or I’ve always thought it would be really cool to build a one-to-one scale proton pack from Ghostbusters out of LEGO. Anything would be fun that is big and awesome with lots of lights and motors!

You talked a little bit about having R2-D2 and C-3PO on set and singing with Will Arnett, but can you talk a bit about your interactions with the other guest stars?

Boone: I think probably the most significant guest interactions to us were Terry Crews and Chris Miller and Phil Lord, the directors of The LEGO Movie. When the directors came by, we felt very seen by them during the Movie Genres challenge. The guest stars were great, but when Phil and Chris came by our table, I felt like they really had thoughtfully considered what we were in the process of building, what the story was that we were trying to tell and then they gave us very thoughtful feedback. And that meant a lot to me because it’s almost a trope, right? That if you’re in LA and you run into a director, you would ask them to look at your story, right? The fact that we had this story that we were trying to tell and there were two directors standing there listening to our story and giving us thoughtful feedback, it really meant a lot and felt important.

And then Terry Crews was just hilarious. He came by, and I can’t explain to you what occurred while he was there–you saw it. It was more ridiculous in the moment than it even is trying to watch it on TV. But we had a lot of fun with him around. Terry really seemed genuinely thankful to be there with us. He loves LEGO, but he doesn’t build his own creations. So he almost seemed as excited to meet us and to be participating in the project as we were to see him. He was very kind and very humble and yet larger than life and just hilarious.

Mark: I would say Terry Crews was probably my favorite guest star. Not just because I’m a big fan of Terry Crews but, as Boone was saying, he’s a super genuine guy and when he came in, he made sure he spent time with all of us builders. They only showed a couple seconds but he hung out with us for a while, and he was the only guest who made sure to go around to all of us before they left. He shook our hands and said how much fun he was having and how wonderful it was to see us create stuff out of our brains. I thought that was a real moment of, “Man, that guy is cool.” He’s super loud and awesome, so that was cool too. The whole energy in the room went up when he came bursting through the wall.

What was your relationship like with the Brick Masters on the set?

Boone: We knew of Jamie Berard before coming on LEGO Masters. I have a tremendous amount of respect for what he does, what he knows, and the feedback he gives to his LEGO product design team. He’s been doing it for years, and so getting some direct feedback from him felt special to me. I was not aware of who Amy was before LEGO Masters, but I was fairly easily able to extend my respect for Jamie to Amy because I know they have a very similar role at The LEGO Group. When they came by and gave constructive criticism, like the things they weren’t seeing that they wanted to see or things that they saw that they hoped we might consider changing, we respected that feedback and we tried to listen. We cared because of the respect we had for them. We cared about trying to accomplish what they were urging us to accomplish. On the flip side, if they came by for a check-in or even in the final presentations and judging and gave us a compliment–or if they recognized something specifically that I had done that was hard to do or saw some parts use that we had thought of that he recognized and thought was worth mentioning–that felt *so* good.

Mark: I agree with that. We really made a point to pay attention every time they came around because we know who they are. We know that they create the sets that everyone buys, and they’re a big part of LEGO. So if they’re giving you constructive feedback or compliments, it’s a big deal. There were moments when we wished the Brick Masters would come by because we didn’t know if we were going in the right direction. Brick Masters Jamie and Amy know what they’re talking about. We’re just amateur builders so any feedback they had, whether it was positive or negative, we really tried to take it into account.

What advice would you give to future contestants of LEGO Masters?

Mark: Wear comfortable shoes! You’re on your feet for a long time and you do a lot more running than you’re probably used to. But for preparing for the show, just build. Build a lot and get feedback from friends and family. Enjoy what you’re building, and try to push yourself to build stuff out of your comfort zone.

Boone: Exactly! Look at other builders’ stuff and ask yourself, “What don’t I have experience building?” and then try it. Look at past episodes of this competition. Definitely put on a timer. Put on a clock for yourself and try to build the best possible thing you can build in whatever amount of time, and then step back and ask a friend, “How’d I do?”

What has the experience been like watching yourselves on TV with your friends and family?

Mark: When the show first aired, we were doing big watch parties which were a lot of fun. Boone was there and a bunch of other friends. You tell people about it before and they don’t care as much, but then all of a sudden it comes up on TV and then it becomes real. My favorite thing was watching my friends and family watch the show and react to me being on TV. I had to go re-watch the first couple episodes of the show because people were cheering so much when our faces would come on the TV that I couldn’t hear what we were saying! That feels like so long ago because now with the Coronavirus everyone’s watching it at their homes. We still get lots of feedback from families on social media–they say this is the only show they can watch as a family.

Boone: I absolutely loved having big watch parties. For the first week, Mark and I did our own things. For my watch party, people told me there were 150 people there that night! I think it was probably more like 80, but it was just incredible to feel everyone’s energy as we’re experiencing watching the show for the first time. For week two, I went and joined Mark’s watch party. It was awesome.

Our local LEGO convention Bricks Cascade began the day after the fourth episode aired. So for the watch party, we had all these people there like Mel and Samuel from the show, Dave from The Brothers Brick, and Jake Sadovich who designed the LEGO Ideas Ship in a Bottle. Plus a ton of Portland LEGO Users Group members were there along with other LEGO builders from all over the country. People just kept walking in through the door and we were all so excited. It was awesome, but now it’s just different. The good thing is, now I get to enjoy watching the show alone with my wife and kids and not feeling like I need to entertain anyone. Now it’s a different and good experience in its own way. I think mainly though, I’m just sad that we won’t get to have a big party for the finale.

You mentioned both Bricks Cascade and our current situation with COVID-19. Assuming the situation clears up, are there any future conventions you’re planning on going to?

Boone: We are onboard for Brickworld Chicago. The governor of Oregon just announced that school is going to remain closed through the end of the school year in June, so I guess we’ll see if the organizers of Brickworld feel like that is an event they can have safely. We’ll be there if it is. Beyond that, we’ll see. There is always BrickCon in Seattle in October, and I know some of the other conventions have been rescheduled. But to be honest, I don’t know how long people are going to care enough about a show that we were on once. [laughs]

Are you both life-long builders and did either of you go through a Dark Age?

Mark: I did have a dark age from junior high to probably my late twenties. I remember building a lot as a kid and having a lot of fun with that. Then you just kind of move on a little bit, get other hobbies and whatever. But then getting back into it, you re-feel that excitement of “Oh, I just built this. This is awesome.” That’s something that I missed. I’m glad I’m out of the dark ages and doing this again.

Boone: I had two “grey ages.” The reason I don’t call them “dark ages” is because it is hard for me to define where the line is between something you’ve left and something that is sort of lying dormant. I remember the last LEGO set I bought because I wanted it as a child in 1997. Then, I remember the first set I bought because when I was a little older in 1999 when the Star Wars stuff came out. That was a gap between 12 and 14. Did I get rid of all my LEGO in those two years? No. Did I stop building and putting pieces together completely for those two years? No, I didn’t. I still had all my stuff and I would dabble with a few bricks for fun but I just wasn’t as active. So it is hard to say. The last set I bought before college was Jango Fett’s Slave I in 2002. I didn’t do a lot of buying or building of LEGO in college, but that kit along with my X-Wing from 1999 hung from the ceiling in my dorm room. At some point in time I had a resurgence of “I want to do this much more often.” But it is hard to say, did I ever leave it behind? I don’t think so. I don’t know, I probably got much more philosophical with that than was necessary! [laughs]

What’s your biggest takeaway from being on LEGO Masters?

Mark: My biggest takeaway is just the experience that I was able to go and build. When we were down in California filming, that was our job! Just to be given a challenge and to be standing next to one of my best friends strategizing “Okay, how are we going to build this?” And then, we would just build LEGO. Just the experience alone was amazing. I think it was actually last night’s episode [the Star Wars challenge] where it really made me think back to being down there. All we had to do was wake up, put a flannel shirt on, and go build. It was so simple and amazing and fun. [laughs] That’s all we had to do, but at the same time it was stressful because we didn’t want to get sent home. It was like, “We’d better build this cool stuff, or we have to go home back to reality!” So we always strived to build awesome stuff and work together as a team. The experience of the whole competition and meeting new people–now lifelong friends–everything that went into making the show happen was something I’d take away. I don’t take it for granted, it was just amazing.

Boone: I think my takeaway would be the feedback we’ve received from the fans of LEGO Masters that are discovering for themselves or with their families a resurgence of love for LEGO. It makes me happy that those of us in the LEGO fan community can affect a broad community of people around the country and potentially around the world with our spirit of creativity. My greatest takeaway is a greater confidence in all of our abilities to inspire other people creatively.

Where can we follow your future LEGO endeavors online?

Mark: You can find my LEGO creations on my Instagram @mecruickshank.

Boone: You can find me on Instagram @BooneBuilds, or as BooneBuilds on YouTube.

Images courtesy of FOX, Mark and Boone, and The Brothers Brick.

LEGO Masters airs in the US on Wednesdays after The Masked Singer on FOX. Stay tuned to The Brothers Brick for more interviews from the set, and check out these other LEGO Masters articles:

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