I have a confession to make. I may be one of the oldest “Toddlers” out there, but I don’t even care because my new favorite show (just as Fall TV is about to take over our lives) is on MTV.
“Todrick” is a reality show with one of the biggest feel-good messages out there. Everything YouTube star Todrick Hall—who has built a huge following of Toddlers ever since he started producing videos that may often lampoon a star or bit of pop culture—does (effortless or not) is polished and entertaining as hell.
Todrick Hall and his show are infectious.
Don't believe me? Watch "Todrick" starting this Monday on MTV, and you'll find yourself laughing, cheering and singing along as Hall and his pack of friends put together music videos to celebrate their friend Nicole's birthday. Or as he heads off to Texas to shoot a video in his former high school (and shares a touching moment with his younger brother), or decides to do a video in the middle of Hollywood even though security might break things up.
Shortly after his panel for the show at the Television Critics Association’s Summer Press Tour, I sat down with Hall (with his entourage of friends close by) to talk about the good intentions behind the show, what he hopes people take from it and if he thinks he’d be in the same place he is today had his experience on “American Idol” been different.
When I watched the first episodes of "Todrick," all I saw was goodness. There's this family feeling about it that makes it really great to watch. Was that always your intention going into things, or is that just a natural thing about who you are?
Todrick Hall: Being raised in Texas and being around the family that I’ve been around, that’s like me to a fault. I love trying to help the underdog. Even if the underdog doesn’t necessarily need to be helped, yet because the underdog doesn’t understand the hard work that the top dog has to do.
I'm still always trying to help everyone out, and I always want everyone to get to see that every time I do something I almost can't appreciate it when we're at the MTV Movie Awards. I just want everyone to be here because they have to see this. I've just always been that type of person. I'm not selfish. I always want to put people on. I get in trouble for doing too many shout-outs on Instagram because I recognize hard work and I want everyone's projects to be successful, and so that's definitely me defined to a T.
What do you attribute that quality to? Is that just the Texas thing, is it your mom, is it what you're brought up with…?
TH: I think that it’s just that my mom is the type of person that would pick up a homeless person off the side of the street and let them come live with us for 2 days, and that’s how I was raised with that kind of energy, so I think that’s what it is for me. But I just also want everybody to accomplish their dreams. Whenever I started realizing that my dreams are coming true, it’s like every single artist, not matter how successful or unsuccessful you are, everyone has had that moment where they’ve doubted themselves or didn’t believe that it could happen for them.
Because I've gone through that phase and chose to keep pushing through, now I want to let everybody else know if you just keep pushing through it [and] if you work this hard you could get to this point as well, and hopefully much further. I have huge goals and dreams and aspirations to do huge things, and I'm probably going to need those people to pull me along and tell me that I can do it as well.
Normally I might ask somebody what’s on their bucket list, but I feel like you’ve probably already gone through, like, three or four bucket lists.
TH: No, not at all. I think that’s part of the reason why I’m always trying to help everyone, because my goal when I was a young kid was to be a costume character at Disneyland. That was to me the epitome of success at a certain point in my life, and once I realized that I could do that I was like, “I want to do a cruise ship,” and, “I want to do a tour.”
I never was the type of person that was like, "I just want to be a superstar." I didn't think that it was necessarily a reachable goal for me. But then once I got to a certain point, I [kept] making it to the next chapter. So I think that I should just believe that I can make this happen, and when "American Idol" didn't work out it ended up being the best thing that ever happened to me because it is what pushed me and gave me the fire to work 10 times harder than I had been working before. So, I'm just grateful for every opportunity, but I have a huge bucket list and it's not even almost halfway full, so…
With the "American Idol" thing, do you think if that had gone differently, this may not have happened? Or is this all inevitable what you're doing now?
TH: I think absolutely what you just said. If I had been more successful on that show, I don’t think this would have all happened. I think if I had made it further and gotten a record deal, if something would have been handed to me, then I think I wouldn’t have understood how hard it was to get there and how much you have to fight to get back there. I apply that to everything I do.
When I have a viral video, a lot of people sit there and relish in their moment, and I definitely like when something goes viral the next day or that same day. Anybody will tell you, I'm like, "What are we going to do next?" I never sit around and think that I've made it because something has been remotely successful. I'm always like, it could be better, it could be bigger. I push myself and my team to try to accomplish bigger and better things.
What do you do when you’re just chilling out? [Todrick’s team who are sitting nearby all shake their head at the question.] They’re all shaking their heads no.
TH: [Points to his BF, Jesse] This is my boyfriend and we’ve maybe gone on two or three dates and we are together every single day, and he is the most amazing person. But, yeah, it was for my birthday and even that day it ended up getting full of meetings and stuff and so everybody that’s on my team knows.
I just got back from Paris yesterday and I was like, "I'm going to take the day off." I did 9,000 things [and] I was completely busy from the moment I woke up at 8:30 am until 2 in the morning. I mean, we never take breaks. But this is what I love to do so I don't feel like I'm working. I love singing and dancing and acting and making videos. I'm always so excited. I'll see things coming together…we'll edit a video and I'm like, "Oh my gosh, this is going to look so cool. What if we did this, what if we did this?" It's to me what I love to do so there is nothing else I would rather be doing with my free time. If I had free time I would probably make a video during that as well.
What is your goal with the show?
TH: I want every single avenue that we have like radio, TV and the internet to be working in this huge successful triangle, and I want every single side of this triangle to be equally as strong. I don’t want it to be that this MTV show is so much stronger than the YouTube channel or the radio. I would love in a perfect world for all three of those to be the same.
But, most importantly, I want to inspire people to want to do this. There was a time in this world where you couldn't be successful without the old vaudeville days or when you think of Judy Garland coming to Hollywood and some guy with a cigar gives her her ruby slippers and she blows up. Those days are over and anybody can upload a video with just a webcam in Idaho and be hugely successful. I'm hoping that this show will inspire people, not just people who want to be performers but if someone is like, "I want to be the best Walgreen's clerk that there has ever been." I think that this show will inspire that person to go on and do everything that they have to do to achieve their goals. I think it's going to do that.
I think people will be motivated from watching this show, and they will realize how not far removed they are from accomplishing their dreams and hopefully go out and chase those because they will watch us every single week. The feeling that I have when I watch the show is the same feeling I get when I watch Justin Bieber’s “Never Say Never” or when I watch the Katy Perry’s “Part of Me” documentary. I want people to get up after they watch and be like, “I’m not going to sleep. I’m going to make a video. What kind of video can I make or how can I become the president of the United States?” Whatever it is that you want to do, because all of those people had to have a dream and start from somewhere.
You’re doing a lot of stuff for celebrities, like I saw the Joseph Gordon-Levitt video, which was just so cute. Do you still get excited when you meet some of these people? Or has it gotten common?
TH: No, it’s not common at all. I’m so excited and I don’t even try to be that Hollywood person that doesn’t go up and ask for a picture and we talk about this all the time. If I ever meet Nicole Richie it is o-ver dot com. I love her so much. But there are a lot of people that I’m just really inspired by. I met Mariah Carey and she is the person that made me want to sing. The reason why I sing is because of her and Lauryn Hill and “Sister Act.” If I meet Whoopee Goldberg, that’s a huge thing. I grew up watching “The Color Purple” and watching “Sister Act.” So, I get more excited about people whose work I respect than just people who are celebrities, but I’m definitely still star-struck on a weekly basis, every time I meet someone.
Maybe you’ll go on “The View.”
TH: Oh my God, that would be amazing. That would be awesome. And I love Raven [Simone] and she’s there now. But it’s just crazy. This whole thing has been completely surreal, every single day I wake up in our house and my house is decorated like I’m the modern day Pee Wee Herman. There’s just cupcakes and candies everywhere and I look at Jesse sometimes and I say, “Can you believe that this is our life? I can’t believe that this is actually happening. There is a show called ‘Todrick’ out there.” It’s just crazy.
“Todrick” premieres Monday at 10:30pm. To check out Todrick Hall’s videos, see his YouTube page.
The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.