Hit reality TV show producer Nigel Lythgoe back with ‘Opening Act’

Gail Chai
Singapore Showbiz

Most know him as the producer and former judge of "American Idol" as well as the current judge/producer of "So You Think You Can Dance". But the charismatic, smooth-talking Nigel Lythgoe has not stopped there. The talented director and producer has come up with his own series called "Opening Act", an E! Entertainment reality series.

In the show, Lythgoe heads up the star-studded panel of pop stars, songwriters and producers who set out to discover and develop raw talent from the Internet. Undiscovered YouTube stars will get the chance to open for music's biggest names such as Nicki MinaJ, LMFAO, Gym Class Heroes and Jason Mraz in actual concerts.

Yahoo! Singapore caught up with Lythgoe over email to find out what are the secret ingredients that go into making a hit reality TV show.

Q: You started dancing at an early age and began with tap. Did you ever imagine you would go on to produce and star in shows like American Idol and So You Think You Can Dance? What has it been like?
Nigel Lythgoe: I don't think anyone could have imagined that their passion for dancing would lead to producing shows such as American Idol, So You Think You Can Dance and now Opening Act.  It's terrific. It's been hard work, but I'm passionate about what I do so most of the time it doesn't even feel like a job.

Q: You left American Idol in 2008 and moved on to 'So You Think You Can Dance'. Why the move and what was it like transitioning from a singing competition to a dance competition?
NL: Dance is and always will be my first passion so it felt like a natural transition.

Q: There are so many talent reality shows on TV now and ratings for top shows like 'Idol' and 'The Voice' are falling. Is there enough room for them all?
NL: There's not a reality show like this, nearly all the reality shows are reality competition shows.  So you get told pack your suitcase you're going home next week or your chair swivels or whatever, but it's a competition.  It's a different concept and a different format. This is just an hour show, an out-and-out show. It really is a show about opportunity.

Q: How did you get started on "Opening Act"? what inspired the Big Idea?
The minute the web is out there and kids are posting themselves, they don't need producers anymore, and you don't need broadcasters anymore. They record themselves, they put themselves up and the world either buys it or doesn't, they either get hits or they don't.

I was constantly thinking how can we use this, how can we use this as a device. And a guy called Steve Schnurr came into my office and said 'I've got this idea about searching the web and coming up with opening acts for stars' and I was like sit down, what a great idea!

And it was that simple and we went into E! and we developed it. We went into E! they were the first people we went to because everyone else have got big shows and everything. We thought this really travels everywhere, you know?

It's not a competition, nobody auditions, nobody gets sent home it isn't pack your suitcase you're going home this week where America voted and you got knocked out, none of that. So it's totally different to anything else and E! bought it straight away.

Q: How do you decide on the performing acts that appear on "Opening Act"? Do you decide on who performs based on their YouTube videos?
Anybody who has got the guts to sit and post themselves singing on the internet pretty much wants to do bigger things.  You're not quite sure when they posted these, you don't know how tall they are, how wide they are, how little they are, all you have got is a mid-shot of them singing looking directly to a pretty poor camera and that's it and we are off and running.

A good candidate is someone with passion.  Obviously they have to be talented, but some people just have that sparkle that sets them apart from the rest and that's what we're looking for.  Obviously there's no point matching a rap star with Rod Stewart, that's not what his audience wants to see.

We have got a team including Martina McBride, Pete Wenz, Jason Derulo, me, Nick Cooper (who is a vocal coach), Antonina Armato (who is in Rock Mafia) and we trawl the web and find an artist on the web that is great in their bedroom playing the guitar, or whatever they do, and we go and knock on their door and say "You're terrific in your front room! But in 5 days' time you're going to be opening for Lady Gaga."

Q: With "Opening Act" on your hands, are you still going to continue judging/producing So You Think You Can Dance?
NL: I will continue to do as much as I can.  Like I said, it doesn't feel like a job.

Q. Which gives you a better kick — dancing or judging?
NL: They're different but dancing will always be my first passion.  But judging allows you to give someone else an opportunity and to learn and get better and better.

Q: Dance and performing arts is slowly but surely taking off in Singapore. Being a dancer yourself and now a judge, what advice do you have for talented youths?
NL: To keep trying and never give up. You never know what opportunity is round the corner, find it and grab it.

"Opening Act" premiered on E! Entertainment on Starhub (Channel 441) on 23 September.