Everyone’s fallen in love with Netflix‘s Emmy Award-nominated reality show Nailed It! But what goes into the recipe for this incredibly addictive baking show? To find out, and to discuss how the show produced by Magical Elves has expanded into a whole franchise, I spoke with series producer Patrick J. Doody.
Here’s what he had to tell me about how Nailed It! gets made and why people can’t get enough of it. Fans who need even more baked goodness can also check out the newly released Nailed It! cookbook, entitled Nailed It!: Baking Challenges for the Rest of Us, which is now available on Amazon.
Brittany Frederick: Nailed It! has this incredibly passionate fan base. What does that mean for you as a producer to see such a strong response to the show?
Patrick J. Doody: It’s kind of astounding. I wasn’t with the show in the first two runs of it…I mostly come from comedy, variety, live event and awards shows, so it was an opportunity to do something that felt very different in the space. You never know what’s going to make a hit or not, and then it just kind of kept going and every single year they’d call us back and say we’re doing it again. I’d be like “Oh my gosh, people really love the show.” The big reason, I think, is people love Nicole [Byer] and they love Jacques [Torres], because they feel so different from what you see in your typical competitions today. She’s kind of the anti-host. She does things in her own fashion.
From top to bottom the show, is so unique in all facets. People are drawn to it for that reason. It’s great because we love working on the show. We have a lot of fun making the show…I can walk in anywhere and someone will say “What do you do?” And [I] go, I work on a show called Nailed It! and they go “Oh, my gosh.” Usually the first response is “My kid loves that show.” Then it’s usually “I watch it with them,” and the next question is “Are the bakers really like that?” It’s a great conversation starter and I love the fact we have so many rabid fans. Who doesn’t want to work on a show that is beloved? It’s a really great gift and it’s a lot of fun.
BF: What conversations do you have in terms of tone, given that the show is about people being out of their element, but you’re very careful to be laughing with them and not at them?
PJD: They probably agonized [over] that a bit in the beginning. They seemed to discover Nicole’s strengths, in that she loves things that are wilder, crazier, more inventive and insane-looking. So the more that the bakers go down the rabbit hole of what people consider failure, and the more they rise out of that by being inventive with what they pull from our pantry to finish their challenge in time, is what we really cherish. That’s what we love. We would never, ever take the approach that we’re making fun of anybody…It should be fun and inviting and it should be something that everybody can relate to.
The way we put that together is through our casting. We have an incredible casting team led by Samantha Hanks at Magical Elves, and that allows us to make sure the people we pull into the show are ones we know have some baking experience. They don’t come in with none. Also, we want to know they’re here to have a good time. Yes, everyone wants to win $10,000, but hopefully they just love being in the kitchen. They love being there with Nicole. They love it when Nicole picks apart what they’ve done; they just embrace all of it. It’s a mix of what we throw at them and the space Nicole creates for them, and the bakers that we cast. It’s a formula that makes it work, so it’s thought through very carefully.
BF: Have there been ideas that are too crazy or just logistically don’t work out? How do you develop concepts that are challenging but at least somewhat achievable?
PJD: There’s an extremely specific process to how we get to what you see on the show. We certainly want that reaction [where] the doors open up and you see that and you go “Come on, no way, give me a break!” We have incredible cake artists, Monica and Viki, who make spectacular, beautiful looking cakes that are behind those doors. The bakers in that room, that’s the very first time they’re seeing those challenges…so we have to know a few things.
We want the cakes [or] whatever we’re going to make be funny and challenging. We also want it to be obtainable, and when I say obtainable, I don’t mean get it exactly right—although we’ve had a couple bakers get pretty close! We want them to be able to create something so that there is not just a pile of mush sitting under the cloche or behind the screen. That takes a lot of time and we endlessly test. We sketch, put things together, we do all kinds of stuff and then figure out what’s going to make the sweet spot. It takes a long time for us to get there.
By the time it gets to Netflix our culinary team, run by an incredible producer named Kim Seeley, they have really put it through the wringer as far as what’s possible, what’s going to make it work, what can we do in time, what kind of recipe’s going to make sense. The show is meant to look like it’s always falling off the rails—that’s by design—but believe me if we didn’t think it through then it really would run off the rails, which we would not want. (laughs)
BF: Now you have a Nailed It! cookbook for the home version. Is it rewarding to see the show expand in that way?
PJD: The cookbook is further proof that our team at Magical Elves has created something really special with Nailed It! and have turned it into a growing franchise. It’s full of fun surprises and we look forward to the fans getting a hold of it. We’re excited to have it out there.
BF: The show has a lot of celebrity fans, too, so talk to me about the process of finding the celebrity guest judges. Has that gotten easier or harder now that Nailed It! is so popular?
PJD: We have a lot of people that want to come on the show. We’ve had people actually in public ask to be on the show. (laughs) Celebrities are very difficult to book, so we have a very small window that we shoot in; we try to get it as quick as we can so we aren’t beholden to somebody’s schedule. That being said, we really do find a way to find people that we feel fit right for the show. If we can find someone that fits perfect for the episode theme, even better, but typically the scenes are so broad and fun. For example, Adam Scott having been on the western episode—obviously he’s not been in westerns but he just made it his own. He made it work. He even put on the sheriff badge.
I think the thing that’s really important about the guests that we have, the first question they ask is, how does this go? I would say you’re going to come out there, Nicole will be there, you’ll meet and then they say a couple lines that give the setup of the show and that’s it. Then they go, then what? And I go, you sit there and you have a good time. You make any joke you want, you get up and down, you talk to anybody. It’s pretty open-ended and that’s when they really love the show, because they’re they’re not handcuffed to specific rules. We give them a big sandbox and once Nicole sets the rules of the sandbox then it’s open season, and I think that’s why we get the talent that wants to come on the show.
BF: What’s one thing you want Nailed It! fans to know about how the cake is made, so to speak?
PJD: People have asked me behind the scenes, are you having as much fun as when they’re taping on set? And the truth is if anybody ever put a camera in the control room where myself and the director and all the other people that help make the show are, it really is pretty much constant laughter through the day of shooting. Nicole is just so goofy on the show and she’s no holds barred and her energy is up the entire time. When you’re seeing the 33-minute show that’s down to the best moments. She’s there the whole day throwing out insane stuff the entire time. We’re seeing bakers do insane things the entire time. We are laughing as we’re trying to find shots. It’s a pretty joyous moment as we’re doing it all together. We’ll never show that, but it’s fun to know we’re all back there having equally as much fun as on set.
Nailed It! is currently streaming on Netflix. Nailed It!: Baking Challenges for the Rest of Us is now available on Amazon.
Article content is (c)2020-2021 Brittany Frederick and may not be excerpted or reproduced without express written permission by the author. Follow me on Twitter at @BFTVTwtr, on Instagram at @BFTVGram.