The drive on the freeways in Los Angeles can be pretty grueling - go at the wrong time, or catch a freak accident, and your trip goes from 30 minutes to over 2 hours. So you can never know. I happen to get lucky this morning.
In less than an hour, I was at the gates of Sony Studios, where the security guard promptly told me to park on the 4th level of the parking structure. Yes, no problems at all! There were about 20 writers outside the gates with their picket signs, which reminded us of the ongoing battles between the studios and the writers, but since this show really doesn't need writers, nothing was stopping this show from its national television debut of Sunday, January 6th.
It was only the day before on Wednesday, when the final competitions competed in the Eliminator for the $100,000 prize, and the final shots of Season One. I think 12 episodes have been shot, and if all goes well, another Season might begin as early as April of 2008. Thursday was Press Day, and Friday was the cast party and farewell day.
From the 4th story level parking, I went down to the lot entrance security guard, where you give your ID, and get a visitor badge. I had already been to the 31,152 square foot stage on the first day of shooting, so I was a pro at this, and knew exactly where to go.
Click To Enlarge.
Siren, Valerie Waugaman,
On The Set Of The New American Gladiators.
But first let's go and talk about the events that are in Season One. Here on press day, we were invited to go and compete against some of the Gladiators on two events, the Pyramid and the Joust. As much as I wanted to get up there, I knew I would get my @ss whooped by some of these guys. Perhaps even the girls. Besides, I was there to shoot and have fun! There are two new events for this series, Earthquake and Hit & Run.
Backstage With The New American Gladiators.
Event #1 - Joust:
This event is a head to head competition that features a gladiator on one elevated platform versus a competitor on the same platform. The difference is that this time, if you go down, you head straight into a huge pool of water.
Yes, you get a helmet and gloves, but this game can be brutal, especially if you get hit in the end, or are not expecting a swing around back hit. In the series, the Gladiators will usually let the competitor get the first hit, so they always have an advantage... or do they?
Event #2 - Pyramid:
I get a kick out of this event. It reminds me of a giant Qbert, an old video game I used to play. Basically, you need to go up to the top of the pyramid. That is it. Simple. Well... not when you have a Gladiator around ready to pounce on you and throw you down. And judging by what I have seen, I saw one guy fall down 6 of these pyramid stories. I was laughing out loud. He wasn't.
In the series, two competitors go up at the same time trying to reach the top against two Gladiators. May the best person win. From top to bottom, the Pyramid is 35 feet.
Event #3 - The Wall:
Ah. I think this is the easiest event of the series. All you had to do is go to the top, only 40 feet high, and you have a seven second head start before a Gladiator comes after you. Since some of these Gladiators are heavier and bigger than the competitors, your agility and quickness is quite important here. Because if you do get caught... down you go.
Event #4 - The Gauntlet:
Quite easily the most beautiful of the events, in terms of the look of the event, with it's hundreds of lights and its circular feel. It is also the very first event I saw when I came in on the first day of shooting.
The course is 90 feet long, which during the final 10 feet, you go under a bridge and through a foam wall. Sounds easy. Well, technically yes, except that every competitor that goes through it faces four very tough Gladiators who will knock you down or push you up on the side walls. I sure hope that some of the competitors didn't try to be too cocky before they came into this event.
Event #5 - Hang Tough:
Another water based landing if you lose in this event. Prepare to get wet! You are 20 feet above the water, as you try to cross from one side to the other by swinging from one gymnastic ring to the other. Go too slow, and your favorite Gladiator will be right behind you and then on top of you.
Event #6 - Earthquake:
Hand-to-Hand combat on a 12 foot diameter platform as it gyrates above the arena floor. The loser is the first person thrown off.
Event #7 - Assault:
One of the popular events from the first American Gladiators, a Gladiator is on top of the course shooting tennis balls 100mph at you, and if one hits you, you are out. The competitor goes through the course, and shoots a crossbow and air cannons to the target above the Gladiator. If they hit the target, there is a great payoff. The Gladiator gets launched off where they stand and into the water below.
The Assault Teaser.
Event #8 - Power Ball:
Two competitors. Three Gladiators. Five scoring baskets. A timer consisting of precious seconds to score as many times as they can to win the event. Only one problem - the Gladiators get to knock you around, tackle you to the floor, and push you out of bounds to make sure you don't score. Ah... the poor competitors.
Event #9 - Hit & Run:
Competitors run from side-to-side across of 50 foot suspension bridge, getting points each time they cross. Sound simple. Only problem is that you have four Gladiators on platforms along the side of the bridge swinging 100 pound demolition balls at you.
Event #10 - The Eliminator:
The ultimate obstacle course, and usually the final event. This time there is fire and water involved. The competitor dives off a 10 foot platform, swim under the fire laced surface, climbs a cargo net, then pedal cranks high above the ground. Then they need to cross a small beam, jump off, run to the Pyramid where they go up 35 feet to the top, then take a zip line that drops you at the reverse escalator. Then at the top of the escalator, you grab a rope and swing across crashing into the finish line. Whew.
On The Set
I arrived quite early, before 8:30am, and the first of the interviews were not supposed to begin until 9:30am - 10am. Never the less, I wanted to go around, take some pictures, say hello to a few people, and get some of those free donuts that they had there. Ok, maybe some donuts, cereal, juice and lots of other things to make sure that the cast and crew were happy each morning.
And who else was getting some breakfast that morning. None other than Stealth herself, as I knew by her shiny sleek hair, and athletic figure. What was different were the crutches with her, as she explained that these events are not just play, but they are really serious events that you can get hurt at.
With competitors vying for $100,000, they go all out to win. And the Gladiators go all out to stop them. Stealth, aka Tanji Johnson, had hurt her leg, but she said she would be fine by the end of the year, and maybe, if all went well, would be competing in the Fitness competition at the Arnold Classic Weekend in Columbus, Ohio in the first week of March.
Stealth, no matter what the situation, has always been a class act, and I have seen and photographed her throughout the years at various shows and competitions.
"Hey, do you want to come back with me to the Hair & Makeup Trailer?" she asked. Whoa... going back to where the Gladiators dress-up, seeing them in the raw, athletic talent before they get dressed into their outfits.
Ok, my mind wandered, but of course, I said yes, and off we went, through a maze of equipment outside the stage, into the trailer right in front of the building. Inside the trailer, were two rooms, the first one with couches in it, and the second one with 3-4 chairs, a full makeup and styling shop, with three people getting the Gladiators ready.
It is here that I met the Gladiators for the first time that day, a few at a time, since only 3-4 of them can be in the makeup part of the trailer at the same time. Twelve Gladiators in all were here today, the final 12, and although we have heard of the two alternate Gladiators in rumors, Blast (Jennifer Berry) and Hammer (Michael Briehler), they were neither seen, acknowledged nor mentioned here at the press day today.
Talking With Laila Ali.
Around 10am, I went back to the stage, and waited for the interviews to begin. Because of the magnitude of the cast, 14 people (12 gladiators, and 2 hosts), the Gladiators were to be interviewed in groups of 3. Take a total time of 15 minutes for each group, and you had over 1 1/2 hours of raw interview questions to ask. It was cool. Because of the various types of press, we were also split into groups, six of them: Online press, Print Press, and 4 television crews (ESPN, E Entertainment, TV Guide, and a few others). Each of us would have our turn in rotating groups.
After the interviews, we all got to play some games. You could either Joust with a Gladiator, or try to make it up to the top of the Pyramid against one. Either way, the Gladiators were not playing, and it was funny to watch some of these tough guys go down real quick, either with one hit or a shove.
These events were not made to be easy, and definitely quite real in your chance of getting hurt. To participate, you had to sign a waiver saying that you won't hold anyone liable if you get hurt.
It was also during this time, that I got to speak more to each of the Gladiators, to learn more about the show, the competitors, themselves, and whatever else I wanted to.
Talking With Hulk Hogan.
From a person who has covered the bodybuilding, figure and fitness industry for a while, this show is a great chance at showcasing a number of the NPC and IFBB competitors in national television roles. And during the interviews, they didn't hesitate to tell the press that they are an IFBB and NPC figure or fitness competitor. It was cool.
One more thing to mention is that so far, all of the 12 gladiators were very cool; not one of them was arrogant or obnoxious. They were all quite nice, and friendly, and it was a pleasure to talk to each one of them. With their poise, friendliness and all around good nature, it made me wish that some of the pro bodybuilders would learn from good publicity, and not shy away from that.
I left that day, with a good feeling, with one that this show might just do quite well in the ratings come January 6th. We shall see.
There are no spoilers here, no telling about the competitors until they come on the show, and no telling who made it to the finals or won. It isn't fair to the show. The whole purpose is to watch the show, and have a good time. I intend to watch each episode!
There were 12 male and 12 female competitors competing for the $100,000 prize. Each contender has a unique story and a reason why they need to win. The first six episodes of the season are called the "Preliminaries," which will bring the competitors down to 12 (6 men and 6 women). Then, they will all participate in the Eliminator event. Only the fastest times of the top 8 (4 men and 4 women) will go on to the semi-finals.
There will be two semi-final episodes, and the winner of each one of these will go on to compete in the final episodes of which the one who wins there will receive $100,000. Now here it gets more interesting. According to various sources, these two winners will become Gladiators next season.
Here is a little more about each of the Gladiators, as I learned while talking and listening to each one of them. For more information, just Google their name, or check out the videos that I took with them answering questions.
Well, first let's talk about the name. Originally, the character's name was Helga, not Hellga, and even in the latest press releases, it varies between the two spellings.
However, when we got down to talking about it, we were right in saying that the first name was Helga, but then Hulk Hogan talked to the producers about adding the extra "l" in there, to make the name more ferocious, which they did.
Thus, Robin Coleman now is Hellga, the Viking warrior. Robin is married also, thus some of us know her as Robin Regenburgh. Robin is strong, close to 200 pounds, and was once in the world's strongest woman's event in South Africa. Don't mess with Hellga, she can kick some serious butt. Rumors spread that Hellga hurt her knee, but even if she did, she looked fine and was walking with no help at all.
Jamie Reed or Jamie Kovacs? Up until press day, we knew her only as Jamie Reed, as she competed and was known by that name in her NPC figure competitions. However, someone decided that Jamie Kovacs was the name they will be using on the press materials, which surprised a number of people.
Jamie has had three last names in her life, while Reed being her maiden name and Kovacs being her married name (she is married). Jamie is wonderful on the set, and we talked a lot, about her days as a pole vaulter (she pole vaulted over ten feet).
She continued to speak about her trials and tribulations on becoming a Gladiator (a thief stole her audition videotape and video camera the night before she was to turn it in, but she ran after him screaming, yellow and being "Furious" until he dropped the purse), and the desire to know what her future may be with everything going on. Fury looked to me like the tallest and leanest of the competitors, and with her ponytail, I actually asked her to cross her arms, as she reminded me of a genie.
Talking With Fury - Jamie Reed.
Tanji Johnson is great. Tanji made me feel at home on the set, and my main concern for her was seeing her on crutches. Still, she assured me that she will be all fixed up by the debut of the American Gladiators on January 6th, and if all goes well, will compete in the Fitness International.
As Stealth, Tanji is the smaller of the gladiators on stage, but her ability for speed and being quite strong from her awesome dance and fitness routines will surprise you. I am looking forward to seeing how Stealth attacks her competitors. Tanji is an IFBB pro competitor and a great dancer too; as we filmed her doing her routine at the NPC Flex Wheeler competition in Fresno earlier in the year.
Valerie Waugaman. I can honestly say that Valerie intrigues me. She always has an interesting outlook and a great attitude that makes people take an interest in her. And she is one of the sexiest Gladiators on the set.
Valerie is an IFBB pro, and her strange routine on stage a while back brought her fame on the figure circuit. Seeing Siren in her American Gladiators outfit was really cool, and she was kind enough to also put on a Bodybuilding.com t-shirt for her fans.
Siren said that these competitions were much harder than you think, and she had the cuts and bruises to prove it. On her left leg, she had a huge black and blue bruise that was covered up via some makeup. In talking about what events she excelled on, she said that some events were harder than others, and of course, she did lose some, but you will have to check out the episodes.
Talking With Siren - Valerie Waugaman.
Beth Horn just looked dazzling on the set. Blond, sexy and strong. What more can you want. And she has a beautiful smile.
Beth is another Gladiator that I had known on the fitness and figure shows, as she is also an IFBB pro, and she also wrote her own book. Venom is one of the stronger Gladiators on the show, and the upcoming episodes will showcase what she can do!
Gina Carano. Ah, Gina was the one Gladiator which we didn't know a lot about, for on the first day on the set, she wasn't there. It was Gladiator Blast (Jennifer Berry) who had one of the coveted six lockers in the women's changing room, and not Crush.
Gina didn't have to audition for this role, as she is well known as an MMA cage fighter. From what we know, and more will be coming out later on this, it was touch and go on whether Gina wanted to be an American Gladiator or not, but thankfully for all of us, she agreed to be.
For me, Gina was the quietest of the female Gladiators, but very nice, and, as some of the photos will show, she is quite stunning. There is something about a Gladiator that can look like her, and then get you in an MMA cage, and kick your butt. Don't mess with Crush!
I have known Mike for a long time now as he is involved in the bodybuilding industry. Mike is easily the most polished of the Gladiators, quite relaxed in answering any question you want, and immensely enjoying the flair of being a Gladiator again.
Yes, again, because Mike was on the original Gladiators as an alternate (his name was Thor back then, and didn't appear on the TV show). Mike is the captain of the Gladiators, and is quite popular, his image being on hundreds of various covers of magazines over the last 20 years.
Mike was also in the television show Battle Dome, playing another type of gladiator character. Mike is "The Natural," the one Gladiator that looks tall, blond and handsome, and will make the girls quite happy.
Talking With Titan - Mike O'Hearn.
Don Yates. Well, nobody calls him Don. He prefers to be called Hollywood Yates, as that is what people have been calling him for years. Don works at the rodeo and is quite adept at handling a 2,000 pound bull.
Hollywood was at the 2007 Mr. Olympia expo walking around when the casting guy came up to him, and told him that he was the right look for the show. Well, he decided to take it, and boom, Gladiator Wolf was created. Now I have seen this guy in action on the Joust, and this guy is mean & tough. He had this look on him that can stare you down, intimidate you. He also has his slogan, the Wolf call, that can send shivers down your spine, especially if you have to go through him in an event.
Now, I have met Hollywood Yates before, quite a number of times; at various NPC shows. His wife, Shari Yates, is an NPC figure competitor, and has competed a number of times in 2006 and 2007, including the NPC Iron Man, NPC USA's, and the NPC Sacramento, as recently as November 2007, winning her class in the Figure 35+.
Early reports labeled him Jesse Smith, but the official press release has him as Justice Smith. So what gives? Well, his real name is Jesse Smith, but his middle name is Justice, so everyone calls him Justice.
And no one is going to mess with the 6'8", 300 pound man who is quite nice, and has a mean face and streak when he needs to. Justice is pure intimidation to the competitors, with his mohawk style hair, and huge arms.
Tanoia Reed. The man is full of tattoos, and his character does a Hawaiian dance that will intimidate the competitors.
Tao is no stranger to stunts, as he is "The Rocks" stunt double on many of the films that he has done (as well as his cousin), plus movies such as Waterworld, Daredevil, and television episodes including Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and Angel. And Toa has won a Taurus Award for Best Overall Stunt from the movie "The Rundown."
Talking With Toa - Tanoai Reed.
Romeo Williams. The first thing you notice on Mayhem is his hair. Long braided hair, Mayhem is a towering figure, another Gladiator whose look and stare will intimidate long before he hits you.
Alex Castro. First thing I noticed is that Militia checks out all of the women. He loves women.
With his foreign sounding accent, and his specialized style, Alex may just be one of the more controversial Gladiators for the season, judging by some of his past videos. Still, Alex seemed like a very nice person, and is the only bald Gladiator of the season.
Promos / Commercials / Final Notes
There are a ton of new commercials, promos and advertisements for the January 6th debut, but here is the latest one, complete with all of the Gladiators and a preview of a myriad of events.
American Gladiators 2008.
Other commercials and promos are featured in this link.
I can see a lot of exciting times for the new American Gladiators if the national television audience enjoys Season One. Season Two will be right around the corner, and lot of promotional stuff - trading cards, figure dolls, lunch boxes, outfits for Halloween, and of course, the American Gladiators live tour around the country for its fans! Who knows, if this show is a big hit, amazing things can happen.
1/7/08 UPDATE: Congratulations go out to Bodybuilding.com Writer ShaNay Norvell and National-Level NPC Fitness Competitor & BodySpace Member Dr. Venus Ramos for winning last night as contenders on the premiere 2-hour episode of American Gladiators 2008! Tune in tonight for even more AG!
Contenders ShaNay Norvell & Venus Ramos.
To View Venus's Interview, Click Here.
American Gladiators Is Coming
To A City Near You!
The No-Holds-Barred Hit Competition Series Returns For A Second Season On NBC!
NBC is currently looking for Contendors & Gladiators to compete in our upcoming season.
If you're big, bad and think you can hold your own in Gladiator Arena, we want to see you! The winner of American Gladiators receives a $100,000!
Please Email GLADSEASON2@GMAIL.COM With Your Name, Height, Weight And A Recent Photo Of Yourself.
A member of the Gladiator Casting Team will get back to you shortly!
Check out these pictures of the athletes taking part of in the American Gladiators T.V. Show. Photos courtesy of Ron Avidan.
[ Athlete Pics! ]
Backstage & Set Pics.
Check out these various backstage pics from around the set at the American Gladiators T.V. Show. Photos courtesy of Ron Avidan.
[ Backstage Pics! ]
Check out these miscellaneous pics from around the set of the born again American Gladiators T.V. Show. Photos courtesy of Ron Avidan.