Tonight, FOX premiered its new reality singing competition, Alter Ego
. On the series, the contestants are not seen by the judges, but rather choose an avatar to perform, motion captured by their movements. This will enable them to perform in front of people in a completely new way and reinvent themselves, without being judged on their looks. Talent and techology come together in something you've never seen before.
The competition is hosted by Rocsi Diaz and features Alanis Morissette, Nick Lachey, Grimes, and will.i.am as judges.
Diaz talked to Jamie Ruby earlier today in an exclusive interview about hosting the series and what viewers can expect.
***Note that part of the video is missing, but the transcript is complete***
SCIFI VISION: So, the first thing I want to ask, because obviously a lot of times, as a viewer, you see different than what the people there do, and it's not outright said. Are these avatars actually rendered live on the stage in front of you, or are you all looking at a screen? ROCSI DIAZ:
Without giving too much away of Hollywood magic, for me, it's live performances mixed in with rendering as well, mixed in with screen work. So, we actually do have our alter egos, our avatars, on stage with other live performers. So, they have live backup dancers or a live band. We always have a live band with us every single show. So, it's really interesting how you put the technology and the humans to work together. It's mind blowing, to be honest. …but it's not actually like a hologram there in front of you or something?
No, there's no hologram. Okay, that's what I thought. So, we're seeing a little bit different version maybe than you guys are, which is kind of what I wondered.
A smidgen. A lot of it is definitely the use of our imagination, especially for me up there, but it's just a smidgen. I mean, what you're seeing on TV is a very much what was happening in real life on the set. But they are live performing live.
Oh yeah, for sure. So, whether they're there next to you or not, is it hard interacting with an avatar as opposed to a person when you're talking to them?
The only logistics is like [to not] stand in front of them, or you might walk right through them, those kinds of things. But no, because at the end of the day, that avatar is being controlled and given life by a human. So, you really start to fall in love with the story of the person behind the avatar, but like I've been telling everybody, our alter egos don't have life if the person controlling them isn't alive. So, you feel exactly what our competitors are going through. Right. Did they let you all mess with the computers? Did they give you an alter ego?
That's like asking a rookie to go into Apple and mess with their software. Not happening. We stay completely away from the AI domain, because you don't want to be that person that like unplugged something accidentally, right? Right, but I meant I thought maybe they'd make you one. They didn't let you create one then for yourself?
The contestants have been 1,000% hands on with the AI team. They were very hands on in the creations of their alter egos. I can't say what happens on the show as far as the myself as the host and the judges of getting alter egos, but I can tell you that the alter egos and the contestants definitely worked hand in hand. I was going to ask you if you had one. Can you tell me if you did have one, sort of what you would want it to look like? Or you can’t tell me?” [laughs]
I'll say this. The beautiful thing about having an alter ego [is to] be able to choose what you want. You get to choose whether you want it to be binary or non color, non sex, non whatever. So, my alter ego would definitely represent that. Okay, all right, fair enough. So, can you explain a little bit about how the rounds go? Are there are only twenty contestants in the first round? I was unclear about that. Are there four episodes [for the first round]?
We have two audition rounds that are happening, and in each round, we're eliminating one. Somebody is going to be eliminated after every show. Guaranteed. That's how the process starts to dwindle down to our finalists and, ultimately, our new digital superstar with alter ego. So, each week you're going to see eliminations, and each week there're different ways of people getting eliminated. So, I can't really give too much about that out, but, yeah, you will see the eliminations process, and with the elimination comes a reveal, and for the first time, the judges will meet the contestant, because our judges have no clue who the who they are, or the stories behind them, either. Okay, but there's a second round, then, where the ones who get through will compete.
Yeah. There're different levels. It's going to keep going for sure. Now, just out of my own curiosity, are they like set in stone? Or do they change like their clothes? [laughs]
Oh, no, actually you can see it a little bit on the promos and what we've been showing on social media. Like these guys do amazing things. That's the fun thing about the technology, is that they can do things that we can't do. So, yeah, my alter ego could probably fly, or my alter ego will have laser eyes, you know, or heart beats coming out of his chest, things like that. But the one thing that the alter egos do that I think was the coolest, was that if our contestant backstage is emotional and crying, the alter ego cries. You see avatar tears coming down the face. It's like, “What?!” That's crazy. I'm not sure I asked what I meant correctly. What I meant was, I was just curious, like, does each avatar change? Are there different versions? Like will they change clothes? Or is it going to be the same avatars throughout the whole competition?
Which is why I was saying like, yeah, you see on promo they change clothes. They change their style. You won't have a whole different avatar representing [someone]. Yeah, they have a vast wardrobe selection. Okay, that's cool. So, I'm assuming then that maybe we just didn't see all of the first round, because you're saying there're twenty people in the first round, because -
We can't give it all to you, now. We need you guys to tune in and watch.
I guess what I was asking is there was a clip that we saw for TCA that was not in the pilot, and I just was hoping that it wasn't cut. We just haven't seen it yet then, okay.
Yeah, we can't give it all to you. We need you to tune in tonight to see it. [laughs] Okay. So, obviously, you can't tell me specifics, but can you sort of, in a roundabout way, talk about maybe, like somebody that you were surprised the most about when you saw the reveal?
Well, it's not a surprise to me, because I actually get to meet the contestants. For me, it's more so the reaction to the judges, because they're the ones that are really surprised. It's always funny to see their reactions, because it's never something that they [expect]. In your mind, you have this voice, and you try to picture who you think is behind that voice, and they usually get it wrong. A lot, they get it wrong. Yeah, I kind of almost wish that they kept the audience in the dark too in a way, because that it changes your reaction.
Actually the live audience in the dark. That's true. That's true.
But you at home know. But it's actually a fun for me as the host, in experiencing it the same way that our audience and our viewers at home will experience it. It was kind of fun to know something that the judges didn't know. You kind of become enamored with some of the stories and you start rooting for those. So, you get mad when the judges go against what you were thinking, and you get emotionally invested at it. There were times that I really wanted to fight the judges. I was like, “Really, guys? Come on Now! What are you talking about?”
Maybe they should let you be the tie-breaker. [laughs]
I'm glad I didn't have the judging part, because that was really tough. Yeah, that's probably hard. I was going to say, what was the most difficult part for you in particular?
Seeing people eliminated and going, I guess, because you get invested with the stories, and a lot of the talent that was there is talent that deserves to be center stage and [have] multiple platforms and streaming their music. So, that's always the sucky part is having to say goodbye to great talent, but, yeah that would be the hardest thing, because you kind of want everybody to win. And I don't know if you can tell me anyway, but I'm going to ask, is there going to be any like guest singers or anything, well besides the judges? I mean, that are actually going to perform? Like on American Idol or whatever, you know, usually at the end they sing with them or at least they have somebody perform. Do you know if there's going to be anyone - and can you tell me if there is? [laughs]
I can't give away any surprises at all. I just have to tell you to tune in and watch for that one, but there're a lot of surprises. Not being surprised then by the people behind them, but what was the thing that surprised you the most just overall that that happened or that you found out?
I think what really surprised all of us, was the way that these avatars, the alter egos, really came to life, and you began to see the humanity behind them. You get so invested, you're like, “Wait, this is an avatar?...” Again, what is seeping through is this humanity of the person that's actually behind it. Then, you get really emotionally invested like that. There was a lot of tears shed not just by me, but the judges and the audience. You just are like, “Wow! I'm crying to an alter [ego].” There were even crushes! Like, the judges were hitting on alter egos. It was like, “Wow, your alter ego is hot!” It's hilarious. Is there a part that's going to be live, like, like voting as well? Or is it only the audience and the judges?
It's only the audience and the judges.
Okay, that's what I wondered.
Do you know how this idea came about? I mean, it's possible it could have been because of COVID, but I'm guessing that it wasn't, but do you know kind of how it started?
Oh, I don't know the inception of it of like how the FOX producers came across this technology. First of all, it's the first of its kind. So, I really don't know, but I know they've been playing around with the technology for a long time. Then, when you think about it, and that's the great thing about Fox, they've always raised the stakes when it came to a competition show. So, [it’s] a way to make it different, and this idea, it totally does. But no, I wasn't a fly in the wall in the room when they were starting to create it and stuff like that. I think that in a sense, it was like, “Does the technology exist for something to this magnitude to happen? And if it doesn't exist, how do we make it happen?” So, I think we have James Cameron to thank for that. [laughs] And this is just kind of about you, but I'm curious, because I know you obviously worked on Entertainment Tonight. Had you interviewed any of the judges before or had known them before you started this show?
Oh, yeah. Will, and I have been friends for a very long time throughout my entire career in television. I've always been friends with him, so we were already familiar. Same with Nick. Nick and his wife, of course. I know his wife because of the hosting scene, so we were cool. It was however the first time I got to meet Grimes and the first time I got to meet Alanis, but I was in Alanis Morissette fan since I was a kid. I would never say that to her, because I hate when people are like, “Oh, I watched you growing up,” because I know how that kind of stings a little bit, but yeah, she's an icon. I mean, who's not a fan of Alanis Morissette? And Grimes, it was literally a pleasure getting into her brain. I felt like the dumbest person in the world sometimes when I would have conversations with her. I'm like, “I can't keep up. I really can't keep up.” She seems to really be into the tech a lot. I mean they all [are] but...
Yeah, this is really Grimes's world, AI and this kind of level of technology, and if we get into the robot talking. Grimes really does believe robots will take over the world one day, like we're going to all live vicariously through our robots. So, this is right up Grimes's alley. Well, the only other question I had, and this is, again, kind of more about you, but I was just curious, with me doing this too, you know, talking to people, do you have a favorite - not necessarily like a [famous] person you talked to, but just maybe your favorite interview because of the way it went? Or, you know, just the way somebody acted, like the nicest person or something? One memory that kind of stands out, just if you think about it?
You know, as a journalist, it's always an honor when you get requested, but when I was requested by the White House from the Obama staff to actually come to the White House and interview him and the First Lady, and it was for his second term in office, the second inauguration, and that's the highest honor as a journalist to me. I'm like, “Wow, I get to sit down with a president, but not only that, they invited me here. Like, are you kidding me?” Later, I come to find out the girls were fans. So, shout out to them.