Josh Dela Cruz found himself stepping into some pretty big shoes when, in 2018, Nickelodeon announced the Broadway actor would become host of new series “Blue’s Clues & You!” For Dela Cruz, being cast in the reboot of iconic children’s educational show “Blue’s Clues” was no walk in the proverbial park; as the actor told BUILD series, he was among 3,000 who auditioned for the life-changing role.
As Nickelodeon exec Shelly Sumpter Gillyard explained, the search for a new host was daunting, “but we knew as soon as we met Josh that he was the perfect choice,” citing “his genuineness” and “his comedic timing and range.” But at the forefront of the casting process was original “Blue’s Clues” host Steve Burns, who had nothing but praise for Dela Cruz. “I had the great honor of being a part of the search for the new host, and I give Josh two thumbs up!” said Burns in Nickelodeon’s announcement. “He can definitely fill my shoes, and the rugby shirt.” In an exclusive interview with Nicki Swift, Dela Cruz opens up about how Burns personally helped him prepare for his new role and the important advice he received.
Josh Dela Cruz didn't know Steve Burns was at his screen test
Long before Josh Dela Cruz was tapped to host “Blue’s Clues & You!” he was a viewer of the original “Blue’s Clues,” watching OG host Steve Burns and his successor Donovan Patton (who played Joe). “Watching them really, really helped inform me on how to approach this,” he told Nicki Swift. “When I went into my audition, I remember that Steve Burns surprised me while I was there for my screen test. The director came up and gave me notes. I knew there were people sitting out of view. I just didn’t think it would be Steve.”
Dela Cruz continued, “And he walked away and [the director] was like, ‘Oh, Steve, do you have any notes for Josh?'” That’s when it all clicked. “When I put two and two together, I got so nervous, because the guy that created the role and that created the thing that I’m trying to do is watching me,” he said.
“As soon as he opened his mouth, I felt important,” he explained. “I realized, ‘Oh, you know how to do this.’ You talk to the kid at home the way you would want to be talked to by anyone — with respect, with kindness, with understanding. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, because that’s essentially my job. My job is to ask for help, which has been a really, really wonderful practice, because you can’t do everything on your own. … You need the help of other people and who better than the kid at home who is the expert at everything, from counting to colors to feelings?”
Nickelodeon recognized the importance of passing the torch to Josh Dela Cruz
When introducing Josh Dela Cruz to viewers, Nickelodeon brought in original host Steve Burns and his successor, Donovan Patton. That passing of the torch was something that producers felt was crucial in order to maintain the continuity between the old show and the new revival. Burns and Patton appeared in the first episode of “Blue’s Clues & You!” to introduce the new host.
“In doing that, they were able to use their amazing creative skills to bridge that gap between me and Steve and Joe,” Dela Cruz shared, “and honestly, based on how much time we’ve actually been on set together and in a room, it doesn’t make sense how well we get along. We get along like we are cousins or brothers.” Dela Cruz went on to joke, “I’m so, so thankful because I would have been so crushed if I met them in real life and I’m like, ‘Ooh, I don’t like you.'”
The key piece of advice the original hosts gave Josh Dela Cruz
Of the myriad tips and suggestions made by original “Blue’s Clues” hosts Steve Burns and Dominic Patton, there was one key piece of advice that set Josh Dela Cruz on the right path when he first began hosting “Blue’s Clues & You!”
“Steve Burns and Donovan Patton… pulled me aside and they said, ‘Hey, we love everything that you’re doing and the reason you’re here is because of the things that you did,'” Dela Cruz recalled. “‘Don’t ever feel like you have to replicate or do anything that we’ve done in the past. Just keep celebrating you and then doing what you do and always remember that you can’t move on until the kid on the other side of the screen has helped you. They are the expert.'”
For Dela Cruz and his theatre background, that advice was huge. “Really personalizing the character in the lens is something that is immensely helpful because, again, it’s so different,” he explained. “You don’t have an auditorium of 500, a thousand people to amp up your energy or put your focus out to.”
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