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India Hicks and Todd Oldham dish on 'Top Design's second season


By Christopher Rocchio, 08/20/2008 

Model and designer India Hicks said she's only a small part of Top Design's new second-season look when it premieres Wednesday, September 3 at 10PM ET/PT on Bravo.

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"It is fantastic. It's intriguing as well," Hicks told reporters during a Monday conference call.

"The main difference is going to be that we are really designing outside of the box. I mean, quite literally this time. On Season 1 they were designing inside these white boxes and this time we've taken our kids out into real places and real settings.  So you have real professionals designing in real places, and I think that's going to make it much more exciting."

Hicks will serve as Top Design's second-season host, replacing Todd Oldham -- who will remain with the show and serve as a Tim Gunn-like mentor to the Project Runway-like reality competition series' new cast.

"I'm so thrilled that Todd's still on board because you have to see the way he is with the contestants," Hicks told reporters.

Oldham -- who came under criticism by viewers for being too wooden as a host -- said he was "excited" at the opportunity to serve as mentor to the 13 second-season cast members.

"I was able to flip-flop the hats pretty easily, but this was the no homework job," he told Reality TV World during the conference call.

"It was really fun just to get to show up and be very present. I wasn't learning lines on this season.  It was really fun and organic. I love being in the moment and reacting, and sort of responding to the energy from the contestants because -- I wouldn't say they're in panic mode -- but they're about as revved up as they can get.  And it's a very exciting time to watch creativity bloom like that."

Oldham said he thoroughly enjoyed serving as mentor for the contestants, who will live together in a loft and compete in various design-themed challenges, with the winner receiving a grand prize package of $100,000 and a four-page editorial showcase in Elle Decor magazine.

Hicks described Oldham as "very, very compassionate" and added she thinks he fills the mentor role "incredibly well" because the contestants "really relate to him."

"I would hear the kids saying Todd's just come in and the reverence in their voices is overwhelming," she told reporters.  "And obviously, it made such a difference to them.  It is testing them and obviously it's a competitive TV show.  But it really is grueling and testing for these contestants. And I think to have Todd there giving them the pat on the back from a true, true professional who is so highly recognized in America, it made the world of difference."

Hicks said she got involved with Top Design when a friend at London company she's involved with called about possibly helming the show's second season.

"He suddenly came through with the call, 'Are you interested in doing a TV show?'  And I took rather a deep breath and thought, 'Gosh, that is a new departure for me.' I've been on shows but I've never hosted a show," she told Reality TV World.

"They said, 'Well you'll have to go to L.A. for a screen test,' and it sounded incredibly romantic going to L.A. for a screen test. But it wasn't romantic at all.  I did an hour live as a guest of Larry King and I think if you can survive an hour live with Larry King, you could probably survive hosting Top Design. And I have to say I've had a brilliant year thanks to that.  I've made a lot of friends and it was really something that I felt very natural doing and I enjoyed immensely."

In addition to Hicks joining the show and Oldham's new role, Magical Elves' Dan Cutforth and Jane Lipsitz -- Project Runway's soon-to-be-former executive producers -- will serve in that capacity for Top Design's second season, replacing first-season producers Stone & Company Entertainment.

"I think one of the reasons the shows work is because Magical Elves are really lovely people. They're really something," said Oldham.  "I think the effort always shows on the outside so I think that may be one of the reasons that people like watching them. They're good people doing good stuff."

Oldham described Top Design as a "remarkable show, the only show on TV I know that's actually harder than it looks on TV," which Hicks added was a credit to the crop of interior designers cast for the second season.

"I'll tell you what's interesting about the contestants that we have on this show is that there's such a wide variation and background. We have some very, very highly trained professionals which obviously brings a very different edge to the show," she explained to reporters.  "I think that it's interesting to see that the collaboration really stimulates the imagination in this instance and that you've got the 20-year-old who's just come out of school, really fresh new look at the world, and then you've got the very experienced set designer who's been on the game for some time.

The contestants will continue to be judged by interior designer Jonathan Adler, Elle Decor magazine editor-in-chief Margaret Russell and interior designer Kelly Wearstler -- which Oldham called the "dream team of judging."

"I think it's a very good balance that they have there," said Hicks.

"Margaret is extremely authoritative with reason. She has a great deal of knowledge.  Jonathan is out there in the field, as is Kelly, and so they know and they have both worked their way up to the position they're in now, so they know what it takes, so that they are in a position to be able to sit there and criticize may be too strong a word, but certainly give their point of view.  So I think it makes for very good watching. These are real professionals judging and I think that makes a big difference."

While Top Design's first season averaged 1,152,000 total viewers throughout its broadcast run last year, Hicks said she thinks the country's slow economy could help those numbers improve this fall.

"I think with the economic downturn that we're going to be seeing, people are going to be spending much more time in their homes," she told reporters.

"They're going to be cutting back on the restaurants, holidays and nights out, and I think we want those places to be stylish, warm and inviting. And they've got to be a reflection of who we are as an individual.  And I think Top Design is going to be very pertinent right now because of that economic down trend. We are going to be at home watching TV and this is a show that's going to be showing you how to make your home that stylish, warm and inviting place."

(Photo credit Bravo)


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