NBC’s new reality fitness competition series Strong is not about how much weight the contestants can lose. Created by Dave Broome (The Biggest Loser) and hosted by volleyball player/fitness expert Gabrielle Reece, Strong pairs up 10 women with 10 elite trainers who, over the course of 10 episodes, will transform their bodies while competing in physical challenges that will test their strength, endurance and mental stamina. The series premiered on April 14, 2016 and each episode will find one team getting eliminated on the road to crowning the season one champion.
Broome and Reece teamed up for a conference call in support of the new NBC series. Discussing what sets Strong apart from other shows Broome said that while the contestants do lose weight, this series is set apart because the focus is on getting strong.
Gabrielle Reece and Dave Broome Interview:
What makes Strong different from other health and fitness shows?
Gabrielle Reece: “I think some of the differentiating qualities in the show is first of all the fact that you have all these incredibly knowledgeable and well trained trainers but yet they’re all very different. So you’re getting exposed to various modalities of training. I think it then creates a broader appeal for people who go, ‘Well, you know what? I’m not connecting with that type of training, but that looks interesting and exciting and a way that I would like to move.’ I think you have that.
I think you have the opportunity to see the real conversation around, first of all these women come in with the decision of, ‘Hey, this is my time. I have to make the change. I’m at this place.’ But it’s not blown out in this way that seems so theatrical. It’s just very real and I think what a lot of people are feeling which is, ’10-15 years went by and I looked up and I sort of thought whoa I need to try to get this back in check,’ but for all their different reasons.
And then the teamwork aspect, I love the fact that trainers are not just dictating to the trainees, ‘Hey, this is what you’re supposed to do and this is what you’re supposed to eat.’ There’s a collaborative feeling between them and the fact that they compete together adds another element of teamwork and the community that goes into it. For me it’s just a little different than one person telling another, ‘This is what you’re doing. You’re going to go through it.’ So there’s so much information, there’s the teamwork but then you have so much variety in the trainers and ways to get it done.”
Dave Broome: “You know, for me, in creating the show and it was a mindset of I never looked at this as just a fitness show. I looked at this as a life transformation show, and it sounds corny in a lot of ways. But, yes, of course, we are fitness-based. Yes, of course, we have elite trainers and they are contestants as well with their counterpart, their female counterparts. But the truth is this is a show unlike anything that anyone has ever seen on television. It is very fast-paced. You’re going to have to buckle yourself up and hold on. And we move…I mean we move out of the gate.
And unlike my other show, The Biggest Loser, or so many other things you’ve seen there which move at a much slower pace. You’re waiting almost snapping your fingers like, ‘Come on, let’s go, let’s go, let’s go.’ Well, this is going to be a bit different. This is going to be like […]it’s coming at you left and right. But the whole concept for the show was how do you get somebody to wake up in the morning and feel like they can take on the world? How can I kick ass? How can I be better in my job, better in my relationship, better with my husband, my wife, my children, whatever it is. And to me that was about overcoming obstacles. It’s about getting physically and mentally fit and strong.
The challenges in this show are they look like Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory minus the chocolate and all the sweets. So it is taking people and giving them the opportunity to push themselves into a place that they feel that they can where they never thought they can conquer something and they can. That’s what this show does. And it’s really different than anything you’ve ever seen, anything.”
Gabrielle Reece: “I’d like to add one more thing, Dave. I think something important that you built into the show that’s really also important is it’s sustainable. These women can go home and put this into play in their real life. And you’ll see even if the conversation isn’t about losing weight, each and every one of them had unbelievable transformations.”
Dave Broome: “Yes, the transformations are critical.”
What was the reasoning behind the choice to only have female contestants?
Dave Broome: “They’re not female contestants; the trainers are contestants as well. Both trainer and trainees, they’re both contestants. They are teamed up together and that is a huge distinguishing point here. And the reason why we did that in this season, to have male trainers and female trainees both being contestants, goes back to what I was just mentioning. This is a challenge-based show with fitness and lifestyle woven in. In order to make it fair, you have to have really all of the same sex competing together. So all male trainers are partnered with their female trainees and they’re competing in these physical challenges together. For fairness issues, taking a male trainer versus a female trainer, no matter how great that female trainer might be, it’s most likely not going to be able to be a fair issue in a lot of those challenges. So that’s the reason why we did it because everyone are contestants in this.
It’s important to remember that the trainers are not just training their partner. They’re training themselves and they’re competing together. So that’s why we did it like that.”
Do you think the audience of this show will be mostly women or do you think it has a wider appeal?
Dave Broome: “That’s a great question. I’m going to tell you why this show has such a mass appeal. The women are going to look at our female trainees and they’re going to be inspired by them. They’re going to say, ‘Oh my gosh, that’s my mom, that’s my sister,’ whatever. They’re then going to look at the male trainers and going to go, ‘Oh my gosh, that’s pretty hot. They know what they’re doing and I want to learn from that.’ So you’re going to get that on that case.
On the male side, you’re going to look at this and guys are going to watch a show and they’re going to see (A) they’re going to watch 10 elite male trainers. And they themselves are going to get the takeaway and go, ‘Wow, that guy really knows his stuff. I want to know what he’s doing. Look how they’re training together.’
Remember, the one thing here this is not like where you’ve seen on The Biggest Loser formula where (Bob) or (Dolvett) or (Jen) is training their team. These guys are training themselves on Strong. They’re training themselves and they’re training their partner. A male viewer is going to look at this and see first from the training standpoint, they’re going to be able to relate and what to learn from the guys. And second of all the challenges and the pacing of the show is so dramatically fast, as I mentioned, that it’s going to kind of hold that male attention as well.
It’s got a little bit of everything. It’s got heart but not too soft. It’s got action but not so crazy that you’re not going to be able to have the female audience want to tune into it. It’s got a crazy and I’m telling you a crazy transformation at the end of every single episode that is jaw dropping. It’s going to be talked about every week. I know it because it’s blown me away and I’ve been doing it for a long time.”
Gabrielle Reece: “Well, as for my point of view, I’m a different type of audience then let’s say someone who would normally watch this show. And like Dave said, the challenges are so big and sexy and the fact that these teams and these individual women are taking this on, I think it attracts you in a way because you’re sort of so curious to not only see the challenge but to watch these teams perform it is so amazing.”
How did all the major players of the show came together, like Sylvester Stallone?
Dave Broome: “Sly and I had a really good, close relationship and when I was creating and developing the show we were talking and I thought […]the spirit of the show is really taking a bunch of underdogs – all of our female trainees are underdogs themselves – and this is a show about wanting to be the best version of yourself you possibly can be. That’s really what the spirit is at the end of the day. When I was talking to Sly it just came to me and I thought, ‘Here is a man who created the most iconic underdog character maybe in pulp culture history in Rocky.’ Rocky was an underdog but it came from Sly; he created it. It came from Sly being an underdog himself. You know, his story is pretty famous about how he wrote it and how he wanted to play that part and the rest is kind of history.
Sly is obviously so into fitness himself and he said if he never pursued acting, he would have been a trainer. You look at him today and he can kick my butt and just about anybody else’s I’ve seen. So it just felt like it was a great message for us so it was a very easy partnership to have for those reasons.”
The new breed of fitness shows has more of a partnership going on between the trainers and their clients. Is that the next logical progression of the weight loss show?
Dave Broome: “Well for me I don’t look at Strong as a weight loss competition and I don’t even look at it as a weight loss show. It’s not. The great thing that happens from Strong is weight falls off these people. That’s because they’re exercising right. That’s like the default factor. When I created the show I sat there and I go, ‘Of course they’re going to lose weight, but I want to actually put muscle on them. I want to change their life. I want to change their mentality. How do you change someone’s mindset?’ And so, yes, I feel like to your question about the dynamic with trainers and their counterparts whereas people are not barking out, I think you’re right. Look, I’ve already done that. That’s Biggest Loser. That was Jillian Michaels from day one when we started the show. I didn’t sit there and say to her, ‘Hey listen, be a drill sergeant and just come full force on these people.’ That was who she was. That was back in 2004-2005. We’re talking 11, 12 years ago so things have changed.
I think that’s also for me and Strong, you know, I created Strong because I saw this major shift in the world of fitness. A total mental shift in the way men and women were addressing health and fitness and getting into shape. Because, you know, we’ve seen that strong is the new skinny. Or you’re looking at Spartan races or tough mother events which look like commercials for the Marines where people are going under barbed wire fences and shocking their body parts. And then I’m looking at it and I’m seeing that the fastest growing piece of all that are not men. They are women who are signing up for these things in droves. I’m looking and I’m going, ‘what’s going on here? What is happening? Where are people’s heads at?’
What I learned a couple of years ago when I started to create the show was, you know what? Women, they don’t want to be model thin. That’s unrealistic. That’s unhealthy. Look at the covers of any single magazine. Look at some of the stuff you guys put out online whether you’re printing it or putting it in digital form. It’s always now fit, strong, healthy, sexy! You know, all of those words kind of come together. I mean I rarely have seen thin, size 0, you know? So all of this shift in…and a lot of times we’re talking about it just in the physical sense but the truth is that it’s so mental. It’s so much more about where you head space is.
I think that you show me a person who is out of shape and confident, I think that they’re either fooling themselves or fooling others. Because your physical condition so much affects your mental state that they just go hand-in-hand. That’s what this show is doing.”