It’s being billed as the biggest and most extreme talent competition of all time — and two Canby residents are about to be right in the thick of it.
Aiming to be the biggest show of 2021, the Go-Big Show on TBS brings together an astonishing variety of jaw-dropping acts — from giant ramp jumpers, horse trick riders and incredible feats of strength to alligator and rattlesnake wrestlers, stunt archers and world-record holders.
Comedian Bert Kreischer hosts with celebrity judges Snoop Dogg, Rosario Dawson, Jennifer Nettles and Cody Rhodes, who ultimately decide who will be sent home — or stay to compete for the $100,000 grand prize.
On the big stage to show their best stuff in hopes of claiming that prize will be Canby businessman and world-class illusionist Scott Anderson and his 10-year-old daughter, Hailey. The duo will perform in the show’s premiere episode on Jan. 7.
Anderson is a 22-year veteran Army pilot and medic who served multiple tours in Iraq and Afghanistan and learned magic to connect with wounded children in military hospitals who didn’t understand his language.
In addition to his own large-scale magic shows that he has performed on the Vegas strip, as well as in Canby (for charitable purposes), Anderson has previously appeared on America’s Got Talent and Wizard Wars with Penn & Teller, and it was through these that he landed on the radar of a casting director for TBS.
The network called in August, he said, to ask if he would like to be on the show. Though he had appeared on big-budget reality shows before, he knew this production would be different — for a variety of reasons.
For Anderson, the biggest considerations were that he would be able to film the show while still keeping his regular job (at least 90% of which had become virtual consultations and remote work during the pandemic) and that he could bring Hailey, who was also participating in distance learning.
“As a small business owner, it was imperative that I could continue to take care of my clients while participating in this show,” he said. “Normally, when I have performed for a television show, I would just fly out on the days I was needed to film, but we were all there for the duration due to Covid quarantine protocols.”
As Anderson would quickly learn, the show “went big” not just with its entertainment and production values, but also with the pandemic protocols. The network took the coronavirus very seriously, and all efforts were made to keep the cast and crew safe and healthy.
“While this was definitely the most fun production I have been a part of, it was also the most invasive,” Anderson told The Canby Current. “We had to take a Covid test to get out there, then quarantine in our rooms. Then, once we started shooting, we had to take three brain-tickling Covid tests a week!”
The studio rented out a Georgia hotel for all those involved in the show, who were expected to stay inside the “quarantine bubble” anytime they weren’t needed for filming at the Macon Coliseum — a premier athletic and entertainment venue that can normally seat as many as 10,000 — but in this case, would hold just a few.
“Having no audience was a first for me,” said Anderson. “You definitely lose that vibe you get when you can feel the pulse of a live audience. Our audience was the four judges and hundreds of cars watching via drive-thru theaters outside the stadium.”
While he may have learned the craft and honed his skills doing “close-up” magic in front of children on the other side of the world, his specialty is now large-scale, Vegas-style illusions meant to be enjoyed by a packed house.
“A lot of my performance is tied to getting the audience involved,” Anderson explained. “Since that would not be viable, I had to change the entire act completely. It was fun and challenging at the same time.”
While the Covid protocols the production operated under were an obvious “sign of the times,” the pandemic and other challenges associated with 2020 also impacted the show in more subtle ways, Anderson believes.
“This show was really all about us contestants having fun and showcasing each person’s talent during a pretty bad time for the performance arts,” he said. “Yes, it was a competition, but unlike other shows that I have been on, we were all sequestered together and all became very good friends. Everyone was rooting for everyone else.”
Whether or not that always comes through in the final cut is anybody’s guess, though, as Anderson admits a little friendly trash-talking was “encouraged” when the cameras were on. But backstage, the camaraderie was in full view, and this made an impact on both Anderson and his daughter.
“She told me I lost the title of world’s greatest hugger to Cody Rhodes, so that was quite devastating,” he said with a laugh. “She was star struck, and it was fun to watch. The celebrity judges were so kind to her. Plus, as the youngest one participating she kind of became everyone else’s mascot and was the ‘it’ person to be around.”
The experience really helped her self-confidence, he said of Hailey, who has been interested in performing for some time. She has appeared in Anderson’s show before — including levitating in front of her entire school in the Eccles gymnasium.
And she, with the help of her dad, had even been planning a solo act she could market to birthday parties and other local events — before the coronavirus pushed back the launch date.
She still talks regularly with some of the other performers she met on the show, Anderson said.
He, too, had some fun experiences with the celebs, including a “trash-talking fight” with Kreisher over who has the best “dad bod” — which may or may not make it into the final cut when the episode airs — and a touching moment with the rapper Snoop Dogg that took him by surprise.
“I didn’t know this, but Snoop Dogg’s dad is a Vietnam War veteran,” Anderson said. “He even recorded a video for me to send to a friend of mine who is a super-fan of his and has severe PTSD.”
With the show about to debut, Anderson jokes that he is most excited for his friends and family in Canby to see that he’s “still got it.”
“It is also a testament to keep doing things that you love no matter where you are at in life,” he said. “All too often, I hear of passions that were put aside due to new responsibilities and expectations. No way!”
He’s also psyched for Hailey to make her big debut, which he believes will give her another boost of confidence and show the world she — and her enormous talent — “will be a force to be reckoned with.”
Winning wasn’t really the goal, he says.
“I didn’t care if I won or lost,” he said. “Advancing on shows like this is really a coin toss. You just do them because it is fun, and getting to hang out with the celebrities is actually pretty cool, most of the time.
“It opened a door to this fun and entirely different world of celebrity and entertainment that I get to play in every once in a while. And now, I get to share that with my daughter.”