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Assembly Required exclusive interview: Expert April Wilkerson on new History series, and shop talk with Tim and Richard

Assembly Required
April Wilkerson talks shop with Tim Allen for History’s new Assembly Required. Pic credit: History

The Television Critics Association (TCA) panel for History today featured Home Improvement co-stars Tim Allen and Richard Karn with a new addition to their mix, April Wilkerson.

The History Channel’s nonfiction series, Assembly Required is executive produced (and hosted) by Golden Globe winner Tim Allen and host Richard Karn. And 30 years after their huge hit, the men have enlisted the building and woodworking do-it-yourself YouTube and Instagram star, April Wilkerson, a Texan who will serve as the show’s resident expert.

As fans of Tim Allen’s mourn the end of Last Man Standing and his character Mike Baxter, the actor is hardly ending his TV time.

Now, History is the new home for Allen with his pal Karn for the unscripted competition series Assembly Required. It is a test and competition of DIY builders who are assigned builds and tasks each taking on the assignment for review by Allen and Karn, with Wilkerson behind the scenes as an expert. This hourly, 10-episode competition series begins February 23rd on History.

Assembly Required star April Wilkerson is not filling the helper shoes of former Tool Time women like Lisa (Pamela Anderson) or Heidi (Debbe Dunning). During the panel today, Wilkerson mentioned that it was Randy Taylor (Jonathan Taylor Thomas) who kept her interest. She noted her involvement in Assembly Required will be utilizing her knowledge and helping the makers get the builds just right.

Fans of Wilkerson appreciate her step-by-step tutorials on common projects that people want to tackle and she boasts over 1 million followers on her YouTube channel.

Monsters & Critics spoke to Wilkerson by phone today after the panel to get the specifics of her new TV series.

Monsters & Critics: Assembly Required is kind of flipping the Tool Time script a little bit. Heidi, some say, was decoration, but your know-how and your expertise is really an anchor within the show. Talk about how Tim found you or how the producers folded you into this reality TV trio?

April Wilkerson: I think the real anchor is by far not me, but the makers coming onto the show. We [Tim, Richard, and I] are all, I think, providing mainly entertainment value in transition and communication between what is actually happening and to the viewers.

But the makers doing the projects and this restricted timeline that’s in a very stressful scenario are I, I believe the anchor. But our trio is I think a really good meshing. Everybody knows the chemistry that Tim and Richard have together and they excel even 30 years later at that chemistry. That they included me, I’m actually… I guess they found me from my online presence already.

I haven’t heard the backstory on that. I don’t know if it was Tim or Richard or one of the producers, I can only imagine it’s from me being online and then folding me into [the show premise]. I think that they were just looking for someone, male or female, and we did a chemistry test between the three of us.

The second that I showed up, I was in my shop. They started asking me about the background and what tools I have. Then we started talking about three-phase versus single-phase power and they weren’t familiar with it.

So I explained why it was different. And instead of like an interview, it turned into just a conversation, right off the bat. Then after about 20 minutes of chatting, they were like, okay, well, we have enough. So thank you for your time.

I don’t think they got to any of the lists of the questions that they intended to ask me, because we just rolled with conversation right from the get go. It was all very organic, very natural.

M&C: You didn’t come to the party with a TV career under your tool belt. You literally built your audience from the ground up. Talk about how you built your fame through Instagram and YouTube, and which was first and what was your strategy, and how did you do it?

April Wilkerson: I think the unique thing about my story, especially considering that most people are trying to replicate… [was] whenever I was starting, I didn’t even know that it was possible for this to happen.

I didn’t know that it could be a full-time job. I didn’t realize that it could lead to other bigger, better things. I didn’t realize that the goal was to build up an audience.

My motivation came from me just wanting to share information with other people who were in the same boat as me, who were wanting, had the most motivation to do things themselves, but just simply didn’t know how to.

So since I was going through the learning curve of figuring out through trial and error—and a lot of time—I decided to just take what I learned from each and every project and put that on the Internet and pass it along to the next person who was looking for it.

I’ve proven—as well as other people—that you can actually turn this into something a little bit bigger than that. Now people are trying to replicate it, but my strategy was very naïve.

It was authentic, what it was. And whenever I started on Instagram, my website, YouTube, it all just came from how would I want information delivered to me. And I’m delivering information to other people with the real goal of trying to make it easier for them, in case if they want to replicate this project.

It has worked for me, so I’ve never changed the formula, which is the best case scenario.

If you get to start off doing something that you’re passionate about and having fun with, and then it turns into something great that turns into a full-time job, then why ever change it up?

M&C: Can you describe some of the contestants and their challenges and what really impressed you that we can look forward to?

April Wilkerson: In some regards, they are all makers. Some have a little bit of experience. Some have a tremendous amount of experience. The first challenge is of course unknown. They only have 90 minutes in order to complete the project that they’re given.

They’re all given the same materials and then they just have to be completely resourceful and use the knowledge that they do have, whether it’s in that specific field or not to complete it.

It looks incredibly challenging, but it was very inspiring and fun to see because you just take people who are creative and have that ability to overcome obstacles. And maybe they don’t know about wiring, but they go in there and they try to put together, let’s say a headlight, or they don’t understand about pressure, but they go in there and figure out how to make a fire extinguisher work.

I didn’t personally get to watch all of the challenges front and center because that was what Tim and Richard were getting to do. But behind the scenes, I was able to see their final products a lot of the time, which was really fun, especially getting to watch Tim and Richard then test them out.

M&C: Now, logistically with COVID and everything. How close were you able to get to these contestants and their builds?

April Wilkerson: It was 100% remote. I went to LA and we were all COVID tested every other day. Everybody on set was wearing masks other than Tim, me, and Richard, and then all of the contestants were working out of their home shops. I think originally they were supposed to be coming to Tim’s workshop and doing all of the builds there in person.

However, with COVID they ended up in my opinion, becoming very resourceful and sending out a very limited and remote camera crew in order to film these contestants in their home shops. And then relaying that back to Tim and Richard’s room monitors to where we could see them the entire time.

And then they would ship back the builds after the five-day build, which is the second challenge. If you make it past round one, you go into round two and have five days to complete a massive build.

All of those builds were then shipped to LA where Tim and Richard would test them out.

But all the contestants were 100% remote, but hopefully, it comes out, because I think it would be really cool because, I mean, in my opinion, one of the coolest things about getting around other makers is getting to experience their shops, especially because the build and making realm is made up of so many different niches.

So every single shop, even welders and or woodworkers, it is a 180 difference. Then if you get somebody who has a combination of interests… I think the viewers should enjoy getting a peek into so many different shops.

M&C: You’ve mentioned welders and electricians… when you started out, you didn’t know everything, but as you’ve gone along in your journey and tackling problems and taking on builds yourself, what intimidated you the most and what mountain did you climb to to beat that intimidation?

April Wilkerson: Oh, everything is intimidating whenever you don’t know anything, the simplest thing, woodworking power tools, construction, electricity, obviously, using a chainsaw or welding.

I’ve taught myself everything just through trial and error, but you start off with the small things, learning how use power tools, for example. Then I got into woodworking and then everything new that I tackled let me know I could do this same formula with everything, regardless of what the next thing is that I want to learn.

So whenever it came time to let’s say, build my 4,000 square foot shop, I had been making things for four years at that point. But I’ve never built a building before, but I was confident that if you take the giant problem or end goal and then break it into individual steps and then just start chomping away at it, then you eventually get to where you’re going.

And so then whenever it came time to learn welding and plumbing, I mean just no matter what it is, I just used that same mentality and take it one step at a time until I get over it.

But I mean that to accumulate so much skill and knowledge and the short duration that I have been putting effort into this that is all-encompassing the biggest accomplishment.

M&C: How would you sell the show to someone who has no idea what they’re getting into?

April Wilkerson: It’s very much my realm. So to me, it’s, it’s, I just say, if you want to show up, or if you want to watch people show up and be put into the same parameters and then get after it with their creativity and skills and resources and come out at the end with all unique things. The thing about building is that you can get there, there are 1,000,001 things to build.

So if you assign the same challenge to three different individuals from three different backgrounds and skillsets, it’s just amazing to see how they all derive the same solution, all going about it in different ways.

I find it very inspiring and entertaining to get to work, coming up against obstacles, coming up against, adding flare. And then just also then making sure that it’s functional.

Assembly Required airs Tuesday, beginning February 23, at 10/9c on History.
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