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Exclusive TV Goodness Q&A: TV Producer Josh Ackerman [INTERVIEW] 

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If you grew up in the ’90s, the name Josh Ackerman is probably familiar to you.  You see, Josh was a cast member of The New Mickey Mouse Club for all seven seasons. You may have heard of some of his costars: Justin Timberlake, Ryan Gosling, Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, Keri Russell and so on. The actor has since made a move behind the camera. He and his college buddies formed a production company called Bodega Pictures. Bodega now has projects on the air and in development. TV Goodness recently got the chance to speak with Josh about his Food Network series, On the Rocks, as well as making the transition from actor to producer and more.

TV GOODNESS:  Tell me a little bit about On the Rocks.

JOSH ACKERMAN: Absolutely. On the Rocks stars John Green who is a bar consultant/expert who’s done bars around the world. And what he does is, he goes in and helps out struggling bars, in America. Bars who are on the verge of losing everything. It could be financial problems, it could be problems with their staff… It’s definitely in the rescue kind of business vein/world of those type of reality shows. But it has a lot of heart and a lot of raw emotion.  You know, there is a makeover component to it to the bar. But it also has a lot of raw emotion as far as seeing people that are in pretty dire straits, and how we hopefully transform them over 45 days.

TV GOODNESS: Wow that’s cool.

JOSH:  It reinvigorates the owners of the bars. Gives them a new drink menu, new cocktails. We bring in chefs from the cities they are in — well-known chefs — and bring them in to revamp their menu. A lot of places use frozen foods, so we try to bring in fresh produce.

TV GOODNESS:  I’ve noticed that when I’ve gone to restaurants…it’s interesting…frozen vs. fresh.

JOSH:  One of the things that our host John notices, he embeds himself in the restaurant and watches. That’s how he really makes his plan of attack to see what he is going to do. What the best way he thinks to help with the time that he has there. And one of the things he does, is he tries the drinks and he tries the food. In several times in the episodes we’ve shot and that will be airing soon, we obviously noticed, he’s obviously noticed from tasting that a lot of stuff is frozen. Even like the calamari that they bread and then they’ll say is fresh. It’s the little things he believes can go a long way in overhauling a menu.

TV GOODNESS:  One of the things I wanted to talk to you about was how do you go from being on The New Mickey Mouse Club working with some of the biggest stars and then you go into producing. Just want to hear about that transformation.

JOSH: For me, what I loved doing [is] what I did as a kid. I loved performing and being in front of the camera. However what I really gravitated towards was being in the edit bay after something was shot. Like I consider that a huge component of the education I received when I was young. It was kind of like a school for the arts in a way. We had to have a certain number of hours, just general studies like normal kids would have but when I was wasn’t rehearsing for a song or a dance or learning lines, I loved being in the edit bays. I loved spending time with the camera guys. I loved being in the writers’ room. For me, that was more…..I just loved it. I loved the energy and the creative freedom you have behind the lens. More so when you are in front because when you are in front of the camera or you’re on a stage, you kind of have people telling you what to do all the time.  And now I still have to answer to networks and various other people when we are delivering a television show, but there is just a lot more creative freedom in doing what I do.

TV GOODNESS:  It’s like creating your own “baby,” I get it.

JOSH:  Yeah, and that’s what we do. We find as a company, we find things that interest us, be it characters, or stories, or a concept, an idea, anything, we find things that we gravitate towards, we respond to. And we hope that other people will in watching it or a network buying it. That from the inception of an idea to be able to kind of come up with something that turns into, On the Rocks. We were introduced to John Green, the host of our show, who brought us a different idea. And when my partner, Zach [Werner] sat with him and talked with him, he saw in him a television show. Then we make a little tape and we say here’s our idea what the show could potentially be. Then we go out with that. And we hope that someone bites the apple. And we were fortunate enough that Food Network did.

TV GOODNESS: At this point you have a bunch of stuff in production. Tell me a little bit about that and where do you want to go in the future with your company, Bodega Pictures?

JOSH:  I would love to be able to tell you because I think it is fascinating and cool. Things that I’m really, really excited about. Things that are new and characters that you have never really seen before. So we are really, really excited about that, about those projects that we have going on and hopefully that will be on TV soon. There’s various stages where you have to work with the networks to mold the idea and hopefully get it to a series. So we have a bunch of that going on right now. I think future wise, we just as a company we love characters, we love story. Obviously, we want to continue to do what we are doing. We love what we do. You know, grow and evolve our company. We would like to get into more serious documentaries, I would say. We love the docs space. And hopefully, in a few years, once we build ourselves a little bit more, we definitely would like to get into the scripted space, for TV and Film. That’s a goal of all of ours. It’s just that we are so invested right now in the alternative television space. That’s what we really have to focus on. Because if we start to focus on three different areas of what we do we feel like we would be spread too thin. We just want to keep right now to alternative.

TV GOODNESS:  Do you still want to do any acting or performing? Or is it I’m a producer, I’m a director, that’s what I want to do…

JOSH:  To be honest with you about eight or nine years ago I had been doing a ton of commercials and various things like that. I had been doing it since I was 10 and a half years old. And then I came out here to L.A. I was doing it. It was a struggle to get my name back out there after The Mickey Mouse Club. It was hard in a lot of ways, because like you said, a lot of the people I was working with became huge celebrities. And I battled with, ‘do I want to do that or do I want to go full force into producing?’ And when I came out to L.A. I worked at the Sky Bar it is, it was the place several years ago. I worked there as a bar back. It was great for me. It was really humbling and I worked there for about a year. And I slowly built myself up as an actor again in commercials and this and that. And I was able to act full time. But I always felt like a void. When am I going to transition to do what I learned to do in college and kind of what I loved to do when I was younger? And I was at this audition for a commercial one day. At the audition, I was in the room. The director was there, the casting agent was in there, I kind of wanted to be there but I kind of didn’t want to be there. And literally in the room they started talking about the group that was in before me and they were going to give the role to this guy that was in there.  And something in me was just like, you know what, I’m done. I’m done. And I knew it that minute, it took like three hours out of my day, when you are an actor you have to be so invested in it, you have to want it. I just got to a point where I really didn’t want it anymore. It was kind of like a chapter in my book that was closing. And I walked out of that audition. I didn’t even finish it. I said, ‘thank you guys kindly, I really appreciate you taking an interest in me but I’m done.’ They didn’t know what I meant by done. They were just kind of like whoa what’s this guy doing. I walked out and I called my manager and I called my agent. I said guys, I love you, I thank you for everything you’ve done for me but I’m changing paths. And that was the end of it for me. I love like entertaining my kid. I don’t think I will ever really have a desire to be in front of the camera again. I love what I’m doing too much. I just feel like that it’s a chapter that’s closed.

TV GOODNESS: At TV Goodness, we talk about what we love about television and the different shows we cover. I just wanted to know besides your stuff, what do you have to watch on TV?

JOSH:  Right now I am, probably like a lot of people, very addicted to Homeland.  I wouldn’t say I watch too much reality but maybe it’s because I make it and I’m so in it all the time. I like watching scripted television that’s really, really great.  Be it Homeland or a Mad Men or Game of Thrones. Those are pretty much “my can’t miss” shows. And what I say that I like to do, and people ask why don’t you watch more reality? I say because I love the cinematic quality of those shows. And if we bring some of that to reality and not have it be so stagnant. It’s that life it’s given to the stories of those type of shows, but you can tell it in like a doc/reality space. I think it would make viewers more interested to watch.

Start looking out for Bodega Pictures in the credits, because we have a feeling you are going to see them a lot.

Josh also has a show over at truTV. It’s called South Beach Tow and it airs Wednesdays at 10/9c.

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