Kurt Warner on 'The Moment': 'We're Not Just Handing Out Free Passes' (Video)

Kurt Warner Headshot - P 2013
Courtesy of USA/Scott McDermott

Kurt Warner Headshot - P 2013

USA Network officially enters the reality business on Thursday with The Moment, a Kurt Warner-hosted series that gives people a second chance at their dream jobs.

The nine-episode show, which marks the first original reality series to debut on the cable channel, was given the green light last year by co-presidents Jeff Wachtel and Chris McCumber in a departure from their predecessor Bonnie Hammer's largely "blue-sky" drama formula.

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The Moment features hopefuls, nominated by the family members or friends, who were at one time on track for their dream career but got sidelined for various reasons (illness or money, for example). Among the sought-after professions are sports photographer, NASCAR driver and professional chef. Over two weeks, each person is mentored and trained by an expert in the various fields and then gets the opportunity to audition/interview for a real job at a respected company.

The show has special significance for NFL quarterback-turned-NFL Network commentator Warner, who famously went from bagging groceries to being named Super Bowl MVP (in 1999 with the St. Louis Rams) over the course of just 18 months. Several year -- and injuries -- later, he again defied skeptics when he took the Arizona Cardinals to their first-ever Super Bowl berth in 2008.

Ahead of The Moment's official premiere at 10 p.m. Thursday (USA aired a special preview Feb. 20), Warner talks to The Hollywood Reporter about how he got involved, what viewers can expect to see this season and what he hopes they take away from the series.

The Hollywood Reporter: What appealed to you about The Moment?

Kurt Warner: Being someone that actually basically lived the show, my life is really what the show is about -- chasing your dream and having some things come in and affect you and take you in a different direction. It's about never losing sight of your dream, and then getting another opportunity to do the thing you want to do. It changed me as a person. When I was presented with the opportunity, it was a natural fit. To be in a position to be able to do that for someone else, I can't think of anything I'd rather do in life or in retirement. And what I love about the show, we're not giving away dreams, we're not just handing out free passes. We're going to give people the opportunity -- just like I got the opportunity when I signed with the Rams -- to show us what they got, show us they can make it, that they belong here. We're opening the door, but it all comes down to the individual, what they are willing to sacrifice, whether they will allow certain osbtacles to stop them.

THR: How did you actually get involved in the show?

Warner: I was approached by the producers [The Moment is executive produced by Charlie Ebersol and Justin Hochberg of THE Company]. I had an obvious tie-in with the premise, and they reached out to me to have a meeting to see what I thought. We talked about what the vision of the show would be, whether I would want to do it and if I did, I wanted it to have a bigger reach than just nine individuals on the first season. I felt like the premise could truly have an impact on millions of people if we developed it right. We sat down and had that meeting, and when we were done, it felt like the perfect fit. We were aligned in what we wanted to accomplish with the show.

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THR: What are you hoping the viewers take away from The Moment?

Warner: We're doing other initiatives at USANetwork.com where people can nominate someone to be on the show [the deadline is April 19]. Another thing is that the [website] is designed for individuals who are sitting at home and want to chase their dream, that they can get connected with mentors and with possible job opportunities in that field. So the people at home can be inspired to take another step. We're also doing an endeavor through churches connecting individuals with people who can be mentors and are established in a particular field. This is designed to inspire and encourage people to take a look at their lives and help them take the first step at chasing after their passion.

THR: Who is the ideal person to take part in the show?

Warner: Obviously, this is a show designed to give people a shot at their dream job, so they have to be skilled. All of the people on the show were chasing a dream that it kind of felt like they were on the fast track to be able to accomplish. It can't just be someone who's never played football wanting to be a pro football player. Obviously, they have to have a story. A big part of the premise is people chasing their dreams until life forced them away from that, whether a child got sick or something happened with their parents or financial problems or they moved away. Personality also plays a big part in it.

THR: Are the companies under any obligation to offer the participants a job? And what kind of offers are on the table?

Warner: They are under no obligation to offer a position at all. It's definitely a real job. If you think about Kyle [Shields], who wants to be the driver of a NASCAR team, that is much more different than Tracie [Marcum], who wants to be a photographer for Sports Illustrated. All of them are legitimate jobs, but what they look like are different based on what the profession is. What makes the show intriguing is that somebody can be really good and talented yet still not get the job because it takes even more than what they have. If your dream is to be an NFL quarterback, there are only 32 teams out there, so you gotta be at a high level. There's a minute difference between being successful and very successful.

THR: Will you check in on the participants during the season?

Warner: Possibly later. Not this season because it's already shot and put together, but it's definitely something we've talked about -- how to do that moving forward and what is the best way, if we get to a second season, to check in with different individuals to see where they are.

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THR: Were there any moments that surprised you or really touched you?

Warner: I don't want to give away the key moments, but I would say the most touching moments for me were the breakthrough moments. Every episode has a breakthrough moment, where one of the hopefuls is faced with something and they think they are never going to be able to get over it. They have doubts and frustration and they don't let themselves go to where they need to. But in every episode, regardless of what happens at the end of the show -- if they get a job offer or not -- you know this is a different person and that showed that they were able to accomplish something they didn't expect to accomplish. It's those moments that I love the most because I know if they get their passion back and face the tasks and overcome them, they're going to be different once their back to their live after the show. It's a life-changing experience. What I hope everyone at home understands is that this isn't just us handing out dreams. The individuals are chasing it and giving everything they have to make this happen for themselves. And everybody at home can do it too, just like these nine people.

Watch the episode that aired in February -- about a man who wants to become an America's Cup sailor -- below.