Leaving LEGO Masters S2: We sit down with the second place team [Feature]

The final episode of LEGO Masters Season 2 has aired. Three teams remain going in to the finale and they were given 24 hours to create any thing they desired. However, each model has to incorporate lights for a “day” look and a “night” look. The winning team will take home the $100,000 prize and rights to the title LEGO Master.

Today, our own Norm Harper sat down for a talk with the second place team along with our friends from Brickset, BZPower and True North Bricks.

If you haven’t seen the finale, you may want to turn back now! Our second place team for LEGO Masters US Season 2 is Zack & Wayne.

Were there particular details of your finale build that we didn’t get to see on the show?

Zack: Well, I can explain a little bit of what the build was supposed to be. It was a whole lot of ideas just being smashed together. It’s a pagoda with a waterfall scene in the back, and then you have these two dragons that are coming around. We had this whole idea of having fish coming up the waterfall. There’s this Asian myth: if a fish can jump over this waterfall, they become a dragon. That’s supposed to represent that you’ve accomplished your journey. You’re a master and all that kind of stuff. Then in each level of the building, we were telling little small stories about our lives. I’m talking about my family. I have my sushi shop in there. We have my brother’s archery range in there. One of these days, I’m going to have to remake this build on my coffee table or something.

Along with Mark and Steven, you finished in the top two more than any other team, but only won twice. What was it like to be in the top two and consistently finish second?

Wayne: I have, obviously, a lot of feelings about it. Long story short, I can say without a doubt that whenever we put up anything, we always felt like we were trying to go for the number one build. Obviously there’s other people saying things that they will say, but I can say that we had our pride, in that regard. If I had to be honest about this finale build, I can accept the fact that we weren’t able to really accomplish all the things we wanted to do. Had it had been judged differently; I would have been okay with third place because the build that Caleb and Jacob made was really outstanding. I’m an archery coach and I always tell everyone I genuinely don’t like second place because it means you’re the first place loser. In the end, with those challenges, as long as we did something worth remembering, I hope people enjoyed it and really thought it was something amazing. For me, I always felt like, let’s say the puppet, the pig, the whale…I know what we put out, and I know people are going to like it. We’ll just leave it at that. Now it’s for the audience to decide which one they really like.

Zack: You win some, you lose some. Sometimes it hits, sometimes it doesn’t. And I just said, “As long as we make it to the final we have an opportunity of winning this thing.” We got up to second place, and I’m trying to keep it in that level of positivity. Because you can get tunnel vision, trying to win the whole thing, but then you miss all the other objectives. You’ve got to put on a good show; you’ve got to show what you’re all about. You’ve got to win the crowd, too.

Wayne: I felt like everything we built was pretty close to finale level grade, I mean, everyone keeps telling me they really liked the hat, until I said, “You know, that was actually a pretty good build.” At the time, I wasn’t feeling so great because, on top of the fact that we had just lost the golden brick, I was also suffering from a little bit of a cold. My low energy was compounded. But it seems like everyone really liked the hat. So, you know, what can I say?

Wayne, you wore the Kelsey bracelet, which has made appearances through the season, during the finale. That belonged to the first team eliminated, Jack and Dawn, in tribute to their niece. Tell us a little bit about how that happened.

Wayne: Basically what happened was Jack and Dawn had been eliminated in the first one. And Jen, one of the other contestants, was able to get a chance to see Dawn on the way out. And they said, “Wouldn’t it be great if we took the Kelsey bracelet and passed it around?” That’s just the big thing. This production schedule is quite tedious, and really heated things up to the point where it just made us closer together as a group. We really were sad to see anyone go. So that was our sign of solidarity, saying that no matter what, we’re always going to be LEGO Masters. We’re always going to be friends and family first. It’s thicker than blood, the bond that we share. No one will ever really see all the things that we saw. But those who know, know that we’re family first and foremost. I will happily say that, everyone here, I would fight tooth and nail on their behalf. No one can say anything bad about them and get away with it.

Zack: And I feel like this season, it (cancer) was always in the background. Because Kelsey, she passed away from cancer. And a lot of our friends were passing away from cancer just right at this one moment. And everybody knows somebody… Jack was a cancer survivor. Maria was a cancer survivor. Jen’s son was a cancer survivor. So it’s like, let’s be good together. Let’s be happy together. Let’s bring some happiness into this world.

Where do you draw artistic inspiration for your builds?

Zack: There’s definitely culture involved. Chinese and Asian mythology. Those are the stories that we can identify with, so we take a lot of interest in them. That’s definitely one. Moby Dick is kind of what inspired the whale, right? It’s a bit of a stretch, but I used to do crew rowing. And so, when I was in crew rowing, I would ask myself, “Why is it that people row in a boat?” It actually stems all the way back to when people would be whaling. They’d be hunting whales and then dragging the whale back to shore. So, I can kind of identify with that. We have the Punisher build that’s supposed to be like a lowrider. There’s a lot of lowriders in Stockton. The hat was from archery.

Wayne: Robin Hood.

Zack: The alien was because we liked building spaceships when we were younger. Just all kind sof relatively fun ideas. Just remembering what we liked growing up and trying to put it into LEGO Masters. Even the flying pig, right? That was just one wacky idea.

Wayne: We were kind of going, ‘Willy Wonka meets Howl’s Moving Castle,’ so it’s like, “What is this absurd concoction?”

Zack: I think just the wings, though, were like ‘Howl’s Moving Castle.’ The pig idea is something you’d see in some kind of weird cartoon.

Wayne: Like a surreal movie.

Zack: We really drew on a breadth of ideas. But then I feel when we were really feeling a meaningful build it would definitely be in the Asian context.

Wayne: Yeah, I guess that’s just one of the things where we had an advantage because just as much as we are Chinese, we’re just as much Americans, so we do value all those things. Long story short, we read a lot of books, and it seems like we watch a lot of movies, too. So anything that we liked, we tried to bring that into our builds.

Zack: For me, when it comes to the technical, I build a lot of tanks and military vehicles. And so whenever I can just say, “Oh, I’ve seen this kind of mechanism before,” then I’d like to try and incorporate it into our builds. So that’s another aspect, another dimension, that you can add.

Are there changes to your creative process that you picked up during the competition that have influenced what you’ve built since you got back?

Wayne: So, the way we build on the show, is like you notice we kind of had a tendency to…

Zack: It’s almost like brainstorming. Just put down something. Whatever pops into your head, put it together. And try to put it in the right spot. We even have this thing we talked about when we were trying to prepare for getting into LEGO Masters: the Ugly Fish Principle. So, if you pull a fish out of water, it might seem a little bit ugly. But, if you put it in the right context it’s well suited for its environment. So sometimes my brother puts together something that’s kind of weird. But it’s not that bad if you put it in the right spot. That’s kind of what happens. You put this weird shape in somewhere and it’s like, “This looks like a rock,” You put another one, “It’s starting to look like a waterfall. What did you put into this waterfall scene? Maybe some trees, some birds…”

Wayne: As you can tell, he talks a lot.

Zack: But usually, it ends up being a dragon. Who doesn’t like dragons?

Wayne: So, with this last one, we already were aware that we build kind of fast. That seemed to be the overarching theme for Wayne and Zack, is that we build on the fast side. But it became one of those things where, after episode three, with the shake table challenge, we had actually spent half of the four hours just thinking about it. That was something that had to be compensated for. So, when you saw the builds go on there, down the line, this competition was like us running a marathon at a sprint’s pace. You really had to fall back on things that you knew. You need strength, technique, and aesthetics. The way a lot of these challenges want to be, there was a lot of strength and technical involved.

Zack: So, the builds that have to do with technical and strength, those set minor challenge requirements. So I really got to explore more of the aesthetics. Being more creative with whatever parts we had at hand. Anything is a good idea. It’s mind opening. And then you get to see everyone else’s build and it’s like, “Oh, man, I’d love to get into castles.”

Wayne: It adds more dimensions. Something you previously didn’t touch on before, you’d like to add that to your book, too, and see if I can put my own twist on it.

Out of all your builds throughout the season, which one was the most personal to you?

Zack: It would definitely have to be that final one. The one which is, I guess, our coolest build – just the general consensus – it’s been the whale. If not the whale, the flying pig. I want to say the dragon, whale, and pig are on the same line. General consensus, I feel like those are all pretty popular builds.

Wayne: They’re all our children. You’re not supposed to have favorites, right? First born is the dragons. That sets the tone. Every build we made, we were trying to outdo ourselves. We’ve never tried to just settle for, “Okay, this is good enough.” The mentality was we have to treat every single build like it’s the finale build. And, it’s one of those things, you just never know. Like, is it enough? The judges have seen everything that you’ve been capable of doing so far. So, it becomes one of those things where you say “What more can I do from there?” We think we’re going 100%, but now they’re asking for that extra 1%. It’s like something you’ve never seen before. So that just becomes the challenge. You’ve got to dig deep; you’ve got to find something you’ve never found before. It’s unfortunate because, for me personally, that finale build…to be honest with you, it’s a build. I’m glad that we were able to put out something, but my own personal feeling on the matter is that we know what we are capable of. We knew if we’d been able to execute what we were trying to do, it would have been something more. But, you know, there’s a lot of stuff that happens behind the scenes that we don’t want to share. We’ll just leave it at that.

Zack: With the final build, I wanted to do some pretty ambitious stuff. I wanted to have my dragons moving. I wanted it to be lit a specific way. I wanted it to turn. I wanted it to tell a story. I felt like I was trying to accomplish a lot. I was happy that I was able to accomplish the things that I was able to accomplish. One of these days I’m going to have to revisit the idea and really do exactly what I was thinking at the moment.

Wayne: In the end, all I know is I enjoyed building with this guy (pointing at Zack). We went in saying, “Hey, let’s see, what kind of an impression we can make.” And it seems like we left saying, “Okay, I guess we could do all the crazy things we wanted to.”

Zack: That final build was where you could get to play around with figure building, building little figures and little characters. Building with scale, too. That was fun. Five million bricks, you gotta build something big.

The thing that your team was known for were all the technical builds. How do you come up with these ingenious structural components?

Zack: I build a lot of technical stuff: LEGO robots with functions and mechanisms, tanks, military vehicles, trucks. That’s solid in my background of LEGO building. Usually, I figure out the mechanism but never get around to dressing it up or making it look pretty. That’s definitely what was happening with LEGO Masters. I can get the mechanism down and then, at the end of it, it’s just dressing it up. Usually it goes in that order, right, we come up with the structure, we’ve come up with the general mass that you want to put in there, then we add the final detail. We usually ended up with three or four creative elements. You get a landscape, you get a character, then you have an environment. And then on top of that you have a mechanism that amplifies either your environment or it amplifies your character.

Another big theme for you both is your heritage. How did it play a role in your journey on LEGO Masters?

Zack: It’s just kind of this stuff that pops out. It’s like that old joke that your dad would always say. I guess we have family stories… So when my brother tells a story, I’ve heard this story like a million times. But then when you’re on LEGO Masters, this is the first time anybody gets to hear it outside of us. The stuff we put in LEGO Masters are stories that we’ve heard a million times.

Wayne: I guess that’s the thing. You are the summation of your experiences and your preferences. Right. To be fair, we were the only Chinese people on the TV show. I thought we would flesh it out, because we had Moby Dick…funny story with that. I actually happen to be quite a history buff on the history of whaling. You know that’s one of the big reasons why the Revolutionary War was won. Because the Americans had to pay for a lot of stuff for the whale oil. And then when it came to Panacio the Fencer, Zack read a book…

Zack: Cyrano de Bergerac.

Wayne: Yeah. He’s this guy who is extremely talented, but he’s very sensitive about his nose, and it’s basically a tale about a guy who has what he considers a deformity, but it doesn’t stop him from being excellent.

Zack: And there are words that are said that stick in your mind when you’re in the competition, and one of them was definitely “panache.” That’s one of the words that got stuck in my head. Some of the other words were, “extreme,” and, “large.”

Wayne: “Never seen before.”

Zack: “Never seen before,” right. And as you’re there and you’re picking up what it is that people are saying, that’s going to influence your thinking or the way you’re building.

Wayne: I guess I can sum it up as, basically, you’re digging really deep every single time. The worst thing you can do is try and close [your mind] up. It’s like iterations, right? This is how you build it the first time and that makes you think, “Okay, what could we do to make this even next level from here?” A lot of stuff we build is trial and error.

Which of your builds would you say you’re most proud of, or was your favorite?

Zack: If I think about it, the dragons and then the castle. Because I feel like the dragons brought us into LEGO Masters, and then the castle pushed us over to the finish line. Right, it’s like we stretched out really far and we got over to the finale.

Wayne: I agree. I have to really thank my brother for that. Literally, the morning of that episode, my friend had just passed away. Minutes before we started filming. So, I had very conflicting feelings for me right at that point. I actually had to ask myself, “Do I still want to be here?” I had to say, “I can’t let Zack down. I have to do my part.” It’s bittersweet. It makes you appreciate what you have more and you go on from there.

LEGO MASTERS: Contestants in the “Master Build – Day & Night” season finale episode of LEGO MASTERS airing Tuesday, Sept 14 (8:00-9:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX. ©2021 FOX MEDIA LLC. CR: Tom Griscom/FOX

Who did you banter back and forth with that we may not have seen, since we didn’t see that on the show?

Wayne: Oh, you know, this is the funniest thing ever. This was the honest consensus: we may have accidentally scared everyone after the first episode. But the first people I really opened up to were Jack and Dawn. There were a lot of things that they experienced which I relate with a lot. And then, going on from there, I really bonded a lot with Jen & Susan. Jen is a really hardcore person, she’s fierce, and, you know she’s a nurse, right? She can save your life. You know, she was my personal favorite. [points to Zack] I don’t even like this guy as much as I like her.

Zack: I guess for me, it’s that when we are competing, I am 100% dialed in. I’m not able to talk with anyone and anything can just trigger me. You don’t want to be cursing on the camera.

Wayne: You know who was the most fun to interact with? Caleb and Jacob. Those guys right there, I almost felt like, “Oh, my young son. You’re developing into such a fine young man.” The ups, the downs. It’s like Luke Skywalker. When he lost, when he ran off that ramp thing, it’s like when Luke lost his hand. But he came back even stronger and better. We could tell you endless stories about how much we loved chatting with everyone back in holding. It was this very special bunch of people, that’s all I can say. Also, you don’t realize it, but the main reason why we seem so reserved, I had been talking for at least the equivalent of three hours each episode. I was not reserved.

Zack: Wayne was not reserved at all.

Wayne: I think I should have learned my lesson: you have to talk in quotable comments. I have a tendency to talk with one big sentence.

Do you have any fun memories from interacting with Will and Brickmasters Jamie and Amy to share?

Wayne: I love Will. Will is fun. There’s two laughs that you’ll see on the show. There’s the normal laugh. But when Will said to us that he had an excellent name for our build for the floating brick episode: “Moby Brick,” that made me laugh a lot. It’s like, ‘Thank you, Will, you gave me a few knee-slappers right there.’ That was my favorite moment, and then the one where I appreciated him the most is when he was bringing us back together for the land and sea challenge. I was just like, ‘Oh thank you, Will, I love you so much more than Evil Will.’

Zack: It’s just the looks on their [Brickmasters Amy and Jamie’s] faces when they’re trying to talk to you about your builds – I like to let the build do the talking, I’m that type of person – when they give you a look about your builds. You say something but that’s not what your face is telling me, you’re basically telling me something else like, ‘yeah, kudos.’

Wayne: At some point we realized something. We’re a little hard to put a finger on. I mean very early on, we even learned we can’t describe ourselves half the time. Our original team name was supposed to be the Sushi Bros but it’s just because Zack and me were working at a sushi restaurant for a while before we got on the show. But before that we built buildings; we used to play airsoft and video games. And at the end of the day, we’re just Zack and Wayne.

Zack: Yeah, they tried going by team names but they just ended up with Zack and Wayne. Then Will is actually pretty empathetic, right? There were times when I was thinking, ‘am I really sure I want to show off my build this way to the judges?’ and then Will walks up and tells you, ‘It’s how you sell it.’

Wayne: Will’s a big personality but he has a good soul. At some point we understood – you know when someone has nothing but good intent for you and we felt that with Will.

If you could have added two extra hours to any of the challenges, which one would it be?

Wayne: I want to say the shake table challenge, because that was probably the only time where we didn’t use our time well. We had spent half the time thinking about what we were going to do. So that was the only time that we didn’t use the time wisely to our advantage. So I think with an extra two hours our tower would have gone all the way to ten; if we had just had like 30 minutes I’m sure we could have broken the machine..

Were there any challenges from season one that you would have liked to have this season?

Wayne: The bridge, the bridge!

Zack: I would definitely have loved the bridge.

Wayne: This guy is a bridge guy. The castle challenge was just as much of a bridge challenge, I feel, because you got to extend the thing out. But if we were going to make a bridge I said, ‘Oh man, that would have been pretty darn epic.’

Zack: I think another cool challenge would be that half and half challenge. That’s the one where they get half of an item and then mesh it with something else. Because that’s just pure creativity that you need for that type of challenge and you just throw out any ideas.

In the Land & Sea challenge, teams had two separate builds and you combined the two. How did that process go for you?

Wayne: Well, first, it was a look of pure horror. “Oh my gosh, me and Zack have to build separately.” I was telling myself this could be a real issue. Because I can build things fast, but in terms of creativity, I know anything I do pales in comparison to what this guy’s going to do. Zack was going to make a lionfish. I knew he was going to make a lionfish, no matter what. My first intention was to make a tiger. I very early on realized, I’m probably not going to be able to build a tiger. Then I remember Zack saying a long time ago, “Why don’t you try building a peacock? It’s not that hard, it should be something straightforward you can do.” So, okay, I’m going to try and build a peacock. But then, “Wasn’t this one of the builds for the finale in the last season? There’s no way this is going to be easy.” And somehow I wound up on [a croc]. That’s the first time I’d worn the Kelsey bracelet. It’s like, “Oh, thank you, Kelsey, I think you just saved us.” Because Zack here, without me, doesn’t know how to time-manage. And, obviously, what happens is he waits until the last second and his (lionfish) tail falls off. We clearly build better together than separately. It was just funny, it turns out we built the exact same scale. It’s like, “Whoa, that’s spooky.” So it looks like I did get something out of this experience.

Images courtesy of FOX