If you’ve watched much on Hulu over the last several weeks, chances are you’ve seen an ad for If I Can Dream, a new kind of reality show that premieres on Hulu today. Created by Simon Fuller, the mastermind behind American Idol and So You Think You Can Dance, If I Can Dream follows the lives of five aspiring artists on their quest for success in Hollywood. In the two-part premiere special, we meet Kara, Amanda, Giglianne, Ben and Justin as they embark on a worldwide press tour. We’ll be treated to their adventures as they make TV and radio appearances in such far-flung cities as Berlin, Taipei, Tokyo, Rio and Sydney, getting a taste of the limelight along the way.
Here in the U.S., cameras will follow them to auditions and even at home, too, so you can keep up with the group 24/7 via a live stream at IfICanDream.com, and with full episodes right here on Hulu each Tuesday. (We’ll also post new clips each day.) You can keep up with your favorite members of the house on their dedicated artist pages and see what they’re up to on Twitter, Facebook and MySpace — and even find out what they’re listening to on iheart radio.
To kick off the premiere of If I Can Dream, Hulu spoke to series’ executive producer Michael Herwick for an insider’s look at the project. And don’t be surprised if you get a glimpse of Herwick throughout the show: he’ll appear on camera as he helps the handpicked aspiring artists along on their journey to Hollywood success. — Rebecca Harper (), Editor
Tell us about If I Can Dream.
Michael Herwick: If I Can Dream is a huge new idea from Simon Fuller, one that is hopefully going to be groundbreaking in the sense that we are embracing the power of the internet and the web, what kids are doing these days, and how people are entertained. It’s taking the world of entertainment into a much bigger and different direction. At the end of the day, in my mind, it’s about creating sort of a 21st century platform for legitimate, up-and-coming talent. It’s such a broader form of entertainment, where you have the 24-hour live streams, you have the weekly episodes on Hulu, and you have all this video-on-demand content. It’s very interactive and it’s very much in tune with what young people are doing these days. They digest the internet, they’re socially interactive, and they’re shooting their own videos on YouTube and getting discovered. We’re just saying that’s where it’s at right now, and we’re creating a project around that. It’s not a scripted show, but it’s also not a traditional reality show.
How did you find Kara, Amanda, Giglianne, Ben and Justin?
Basically, we had a very long and lengthy casting process that took over a year for two reasons: finding young, legitimate, good-looking talent is not easy to do, and we also wanted to go outside of Los Angeles so that they were very fresh and hadn’t had any exposure here, aside from Justin [Gaston], whom we made an exception for. The show’s all about dreams, but his dream hasn’t been fulfilled yet. He’s been in the public spotlight because of [his relationship with ex-girlfriend] Miley [Cyrus], but he hasn’t fulfilled his dream.
We had castings all over the country and basically said that Simon Fuller and 19 Entertainment were looking for undiscovered, up-and-coming talent in the fields of singing-songwriting, acting, modeling, dancing, everything. We ended up finding two actresses, an actor, a singer-songwriter and a model. But it was a really challenging process because no one knew what the project was, and it’s hard to find talent.
You mentioned Justin’s background. Has this proven to helpful?
To be honest, the fact that he’s been in the public eye a little hasn’t hurt anything. He has a couple hundred thousand Twitter followers, so in that regard it’s great because he’s going to attract some fans. But what’s so great about this for Justin is that people don’t really know the real Justin right now. They don’t know that he’s this super-talented young musician. All they know is he’s the ex-boyfriend of Miley Cyrus and he used to be an underwear model, but he’s so much more than that. Obviously Simon Fuller believes he’s going to be a huge hit in the music business, hopefully. Justin has a lot to gain from all this, but again, he does have a lot of fans because he’s a good guy — charming and really likable.
Who is the most likely to stir up some drama?
I think they’re all going to stir up their fair share of drama. They’re going to be like their own family, and families are all dramatic in their own ways. Giglianne is a lot more soft-spoken and a little bit more mysterious; Kara is very spunky, but she is a good girl. Amanda is extremely vivacious, very playful and very energetic. Justin is also really good guy. Ben is just sort of young and has stars in his eyes; he’s such a good guy, so likable, so relatable. I don’t see any of them as overly dramatic problem starters. I think the focus on this project is really going to be about the drama of this life in Hollywood. Of course they’ll get into fights and things like that, but we didn’t go out looking for these people for that reason, which is what some reality shows do. We went looking for talent first and personality second.
What’s the idea behind the cameras at the house, filming everything that happens behind the scenes?
I think Simon’s vision was to give people complete access into what it really takes to try to make it in Hollywood. He said that nobody’s ever shown that world in a legitimate sort of way, and he wanted to give complete access to it. I also think that he really loved the idea of video communication and that the whole world is so interconnected, everyone’s video chatting. It just felt like a natural fit for modern technology.
How long did it take for everyone to get used to all the cameras?
They were all pretty comfortable with it, I think. They knew what they were getting into. Like any human being, it’s an adjustment. I think doing this promotional tour, both around the world and in the States, it got them used to the camera and used to the idea of being in the public spotlight. Obviously, they’re going to be in the public spotlight in a major way, a 24/7 way, which no one really does. I think they’re prepared for it, but it’s very unpredictable still. You never know how they’re going to react. The good thing about the house, though, is they won’t have cameras in their faces. They won’t have cameramen following them around, which I think will lend itself to a much more realistic and authentic portrayal of their lives. It’s just a different vibe.
You just got back from a worldwide tour, which we’ll see in the first two specials. What was the idea behind the international tour?
The first two specials are sort of about their journey to Hollywood. It’s really about the promotional tour they did. The first episode is basically an introduction to all five of them. It shows them the first time that they met, and it talks about the concept and why they’re doing it. It explains why they’re flying around the world and talking about the idea. Simon really has this vision for If I Can Dream to be not only a global property that people can not only watch outside the United States, but they could also become a part of it one day. We might discover the next beautiful actress from India someday because she could audition on MySpace. He thinks big like that. He has this global vision for talent, and there are talented people all over the world, not just in Hollywood — which is what I love about this project.
What sort of tour highlights will we see?
It will be very entertaining. You’re going to see these newcomers thrust into this international tour, doing different press [events]. We went from New York to Berlin to Tokyo to Taipei to Australia to Rio to Toronto, then back to the U.S. Not only do you get a sort of insight into what they were going through, but some of the things they went through in Taipei, for instance, were hilarious. You’ve got the language barrier, they’re on this strange TV show and, to me, it was a great training ground for them. It was sort of a microcosm of their potential futures of being in the spotlight. They learned a little bit, got a little taste of the limelight. I think it was a really good thing for them, and they bonded. They’re like family now.
What’s your role with the show?
I’m the executive producer under Simon Fuller. I’m basically here to keep the ship running. I’m going to be doing everything, from making sure we have an entertaining weekly episode to looking after them and helping them facilitate their careers and opportunities. I’m going to [be] on camera, as well, because we’re all about transparency with this project. I’m going to be myself. When they need to be at a meeting, I’m going to tell them about it. If they, for whatever reason, aren’t as energetic about the project as I think they should be, I’ll go out there and tell them that. If one of them wants to leave, I’ll sit down with them and ask them why. It’s going to be a very open and honest role. It’s a little bit of everything: brother, father, that whole deal. It’s funny because I would never assume the responsibility of pretending I’m their manager because I’m not a manager, not a producer. My job is to make Simon’s vision happen, but when it comes to their careers, I’m going to turn to the experts at 19, the people that Simon knows, and connect them to help guide the artists.
How will Simon Fuller be involved with the day-to-day aspects of the show?
Simon has had this vision for a long time, probably over 10 years. He’s obviously a very, very busy guy. He has a lot of amazing projects going on, but I know that he’s going to be extremely involved. I know that he’s going to take a great concern with what’s happening with them and where their careers are going. This is his baby, and I think that he’s had this dream for a long time. Simon’s all about talent and working with talent — he’s very passionate about this project.
Given Simon’s client list [which includes Adam Lambert, Carrie Underwood, Daughtry, Kris Allen, and David and Victoria Beckham], I have to ask: Are we going to see any of his clients work with the artists?
As far as I know now, he’s very committed to helping their careers out in a major way, and that means hooking them up with some people that can make that happen in the music business, the movie and film business, and the modeling world. There’s going to be a lot of interesting guests and mentors. Obviously 19 has a huge array of talent, but I don’t want to make any promises yet. They’re going to be very well looked after, with a lot of really interesting people coming through, for sure.