Jennifer Nettles is a country superstar and accomplished entertainer who has been on many stages throughout her award-winning career. However, the Sugarland singer will be the first to tell you she has never been a part of anything like Go-Big Show. Nettles joins Rosario Dawson,Snoop Dogg and Cody Rhodes in the new TBS extreme talent competition.
The series, hosted by comedian Bert Kreischer, was filmed inside an empty Macon Coliseum in Georgia under strict COVID-19 safety protocols. Audiences were part of the tapings in what the network is calling TV’s first-ever, interactive drive-in setting.
Each of the 10 hour-long episodes features performers from all walks of life showcasing their abilities on the grandest scale. These acts go head-to-head in sudden death rounds to impress the judges for the opportunity to advance toward the finale’s $100,000 prize. The four decision-makers vote using levers connected to a 23-foot Power Tower equipped with 4,000 LED lights and scales 1 to 100.
Here, Nettles tells us how she judged who went big enough not to go home.
What were your initial thoughts of the show when it was pitched to you?
Jennifer Nettles: I immediately loved it because it felt different compared to the other competition shows out there. It’s everything to the extreme. It’s if you took Americana carnival side-show culture and mixed it with extreme sports. It’s extreme motorsports, body manipulation, animals, trick shots. All of that.
As judges you aren’t just sitting in a chair. You are often participating in the acts as well.
It was thrilling. The whole show is as I like to say “adrenalized.” Going from the pleasure of having a front row seat to then actually joining in on sometimes was thrilling. We had EMS to the side for the dangerous elements for the different acts. I like to think it was really for all the times I felt my heart stop watching this and participating.
How do you feel this eclectic judging panel meshed?
I love this group of people. What a blessing to get to know them. It is such a diverse group. The way I describe it is if you know the movie The Breakfast Club. You see a group of completely different personalities. You think, “Yeah, I’d go to Saturday detention with these people. We would have a blast.”
Is there any hidden talent you’d bring to the show as a participant?
I grew up twirling a baton in high school as a majorette. I twirled fire batons. There is a lot of fire literally in this show, so that would probably be as close to a hidden talent as I would be on this show. Maybe they can incorporate that next season. You never know.
Tell me about the experience working on a show this big under the safety protocols put in place.
Everything about the show was extreme. So, I think shooting during COVID for the first season was totally appropriate. We were literally in a bubble. Where we shot it, there was a hotel architecturally connected to the arena. We would sleep in the hotel and walk to the set. We were tested three times a week. It was pretty wild, but you have to be vigilant. I’m so appreciative of the lengths TBS took to make sure we were all safe during the whole shoot.
How much pressure do you really have to put on your lever to get that Power Tower score going?
You really don’t have to put that much in to make it work, but in terms of the excitement and energy, there were times where you will see us working that throttle. I think the piece that makes the Power Tower so exciting is the anticipation as you wait for the scores as it continues to raise or not.
For many of the performers this is the platform they’ve waited for so long to be on. How did it feel to provide that moment for them?
This show is big on excitement, adrenaline, talent. It’s also big in terms of heart. To get to know the backstory and what brought them to this place in their life. Some of these acts I thought to myself, “How did you know this was a thing?” What was the point they thought, “Yes, I would like to set myself on fire.”
It’s a testimony to the human spirit and how we can come up with so many crazy things to explore and become experts at. Even for the ones that had found some success, none of them have been able to perform live because nobody can safely gather. On all those levels it makes us feel good to get to be part of something that would get to offer a performer to do what he or she loves.
Was there a general judging criteria you followed?
With this being the first season as judges, we really had to discover that together. How do you judge monster trucks against foot archery? It’s apples to oranges. Because the show is the Go-Big Show we really had to set up an internal criteria. How did this make you feel? How big do you think these people went? Many of them broke world records on the show.
You got to work with Snoop Dogg. Any talk of a musical collaboration?
Are you kidding? There may or may not be a theme song we got to collaborate on. I won’t be a spoiler. But yes, definitely in the future. I’m such a fan. He is an international superstar, so to get to collaborate with him was and would be so much fun.
On top of hosting and music, we’ve seen you flex your acting muscle further through The Righteous Gemstones on HBO. What can you say about future projects?
I’m hopeful HBO will be able to figure it out in terms of keeping everyone safe and being able to move forward with the second season and get in production for that show. I’ve heard rumblings that would be in the spring.
I’m excited for that because The Righteous Gemstones was such a treat to be a part of. So many fans love Danny McBride and what he does. There is an independent movie I’m excited to produce and star in that hopefully in 2021 we’ll be able to move forward with. There is an album of theater music, Spanish-English collaboration album. Of course, Sugarland. Lots of stuff coming up hopefully in 2021.
Go-Big Show premieres January 7, 9/8c, TBS