Emmys: Kurt Warner on Leading a Different Kind of Reality Show
"The Moment" host -- and former NFL quarterback -- talks to THR about navigating a reality series that gives people second chances.
For Kurt Warner, taking the hosting job on USA's The Moment was a welcome challenge.
After all, the reality series -- which focuses on second chances -- was exactly what he had gone through years prior. The former NFL quarterback had gone from bagging groceries to being named Super Bowl MVP. The Moment, complete with a USA spin, offers nine individuals the opportunity to relive their passions and the chance to fulfill their dream careers.
With The Moment serving as USA's entry into the reality space (the network is also expanding into comedy), the pressure was on to perform. The one-hour unscripted effort would debuted to 1.1 million viewers in April. But Warner is well aware of the challenges of gathering viewers for a reality show that doesn't rely on chaos and unruly antics. "One of the hardest things is to get an audience to watch a reality show [that has] a positive premise," he tells The Hollywood Reporter.
Warner, who snagged a nomination for best reality host at the Critics' Choice Television Awards, discusses hosting a different kind of reality series and challenges navigating unexpected waters.
The Hollywood Reporter: How has it been serving as a host for The Moment?
Kurt Warner: We have a story based off of “give me a second chance,” and being able to experience living my dream of being able to do a show that correlates to that is extremely satisfying and rewarding from that standpoint. From a professional standpoint, it’s definitely different and a challenge from what I’m used to, whether it be on a football field or even the stuff that I do on television -- but a welcome challenge. On a reality show, you’re not really sure where it’s going to go or where it's going to take you, and they have to be able to react and communicate certain things through that. We’ve really enjoyed the process, from the premise of the show and being a host, and the growing pains there. But I feel like I got better and better each episode.
THR: What was the most challenging thing about hosting an inspirational show like this?
Warner: I think the biggest challenge is to hold a television screen by yourself. Engaging with, building relationships, doing sit-down interviews and just talking to them was much easier than the stand-ups where you have to really engage the audience. You have to control the screen all by yourself. I think that’s the biggest difference. In the past, what I was talking about or what I did on the football field kind of did that for me. So as an actor, or a person in that role, you’ve got to have the presence to be able to fill up the whole screen and engage the people watching at home. The biggest challenge is feeling comfortable enough with the situation.
THR: So how did you navigate that? How did you make sure to successfully fill that role?
Warner: I think the biggest thing is confidence and believing that you can do it. That’s the hardest thing, to have the confidence and to have that project through the screen. That was the hardest thing for me, having never done it before -- being unscripted where you’re never sure all the time that you’ve got it right and you’re just going off what you felt or what direction you thought it should go. To see some of the scenes and see where you’re at, people gain that confidence and I think that confidence really translates across the camera.
THR: Were there any surprising moments when you were filming the show? Because The Moment lends itself to being unexpected.
Warner: You just never know when someone’s going to break down, how they’re going to react to specific situations, whether they get the job or don’t get the job. I think that was probably the biggest surprise ... trying to anticipate all the different outcomes, and then being ready to react to that. You try to keep it as organic as possible, but as a host, you kind of have to think through, “OK, what if this doesn’t go well?” or, “What if this does?” How are you going to respond? You were never quite sure how what was going to play out in the middle of a challenge -- and it could’ve gone either way.
THR: Were there any memorable moments or episodes for you that stuck out for one reason or another?
Warner: There was one moment where we found out that one of our hopeful's mother-in-law had passed away while she was away from her family. The dynamic of that situation, and whether to pull that into the episode -- did that have bearing on the big picture? Was that something that should be left for the family? -- that was one moment that I remember [being] really challenged with: “Where do we go with this?” I was told the information by the family, but just trying to think of the situation, and make sure that I handled it right. That was one was very memorable and difficult.
THR: Did your experience as a pro football player help you in terms of hosting?
Warner: I think the biggest thing is again, the ability to react. To be more impromptu. Any time you’re in front of the camera doing anything, especially when it comes to live TV, you have to have the ability to roll with the punches. Things don’t always go just like in real life. Things don’t always go the way you expect them to go.
THR: You were nominated for reality host at the Critics' Choice TV Awards. What has it been like to know that what you're doing is being recognized?
Warner: It's awesome. I feel like I have room to grow.
THR: Would you want to continue being a part of The Moment if it continued past season one?
Warner: Without question. It really lined up with who I am and what I want to do moving forward. If we were to continue the show and move forward, there's no question I would want to.