Home demolition & renovation is not known to be the most captivating television, but that was before television & event producer Brad Hurtado and actor/dancer Sean Hingston decided to demo and renovate their 3-story Brooklyn home. With a background in entertainment and an eye for what captivates people, they reimagined their demo into a journey that viewers could take with them, starting off with simple TikTok videos; Back To The Studs was born! Boasting over 300,000 followers and a new deal with the streaming platform SHG Living, there is no telling where their newly born brand could take them. I sat down with Brad Hurtado, who along with husband Sean Hingston have taken on this massive project. He gave me some details on how in between pandemic and parenting their gorgeous twenty-year old daughter Grace, they have crafted a brand new project for themselves that they are watching come to life.
Michael Cook: Tell me about how Back To The Studs was born…
Brad Hurtado: Our 3-story house was built in 1881. Sean and I bought it in 2010 with the intent of converting the three floor-through apartments into a ground floor rental and a large owners unit above as soon as possible, but when we bid out our lovely and expensive architectural plans, we realized we weren’t going to be able to afford what we’d had drawn. Something got lost in translation, so, we put the plans open hold for a few years while we saved up, and after 11 years our GC began demolition a few weeks before COVID shut the country and our work site down for six months. During COVID, I’d begun watching other people’s TikTok videos and quickly realized that I could sure as hell tell stories of our renovation in 1-minute, so back in December when our crew was back and demolition began again I started shooting.
MC: When did cameras first go up on Back To The Studs & how did you know you had something pretty special?
BH: Two months ago, on Valentines Day I posted our first “Hello, gay couple / renovation / Brooklyn / follow us” kinda video with some shots of the house demo, shots of Sean and me over an Amy Winehouse soundtrack. Normal stuff, but I snuck in a shot of my husband, Sean, doing a Broadway quality triple pirouette in the worksite at the very end. I think that surprise was what actually made a lot of people subscribe, because within 48 hours we had 150,000 subscribers and the video had nearly a million views. It was thrilling and pretty astounding. People from all over the world were incredibly supportive and encouraging of us as a couple and loved finding us at the very beginning of our renovation.
MC: You have taken a pretty substantial renovation and found extremely creative ways to tell the story also…
BH: It’s a blast creating the 1-minute TikTok videos, but that minute goes buy fast and we’ve got a lot of house, so I began posting longer stories on a new Back To The Studs YouTube channel from a “Before Walk Thru” to a “Demolition Porn” video, How I installed an under-sidewalk snow melting system in 4-hours, an epic 80-year NOW / THEN time travel on our street using the city’s 1940’s tax photos, and at the moment, I’m working on how our work crew takes a crooked old house and makes everything level. Our floors were sagging 4” in the middle and the only thing straight in the house was our crew!
MC: How did you make the shift from TikTok to the SHG streaming platform?
BH: A couple weeks later, a guy named Chris Mohs, who’d seen us on TikTok, invited us to tell our stories on his new streaming platform, Smart Healthy Green Living (SHG Living), the leading home, garden, and DIY streaming service. He’s the founder of this company and has this amazing collection of YouTube creators in the DIY, Home Reno, Garden, Smart Home categories. We’re delighted that they’re including us on their platform where we’ll spend the next year creating our home, posting videos about it, with my Broadway triple threat doing some sexy moves in the sawdust once in a while.
MC: What has it been like getting so much attention for your renovation suddenly?
BH: This has been a lot of wonderful attention to our renovation in eight weeks from as near as “Hey, I don’t wanna be creepy but, Hi, I’m your neighbor across street!” To as far away as Norway, Germany and of course Australia, where Sean’s from. I do confess that I’ve accepted an invitation from an English lad who’s offered to give us a tour of where he works: Westminster Palace. If that happens I’m so gonna queen out…Don’t judge me!
MC: Renovations are somewhat part of the fabric of your relationship together right?
BH: We’ve survived two big renovations before this – our West 72nd Street apartment in 1998 and our Asbury Park beach house in 2002, but neither was as large or intimidating or costly as our Brooklyn house. Happily, we’re in bed with an amazing General Contractor and his Polish crew of craftsmen, so we’re confident that our house is going to be tight and right!
MC: Back To The Studs is a gay man’s dream come true in terms of a name for a project like this. How did it come up?
BH: We came up with the name Back To The Studs about 18-years ago as a dance party name. Sean and I were in the middle of renovating our Asbury Park house and I was producing our gay beach circuit party called Sand Blast Weekend. So many of our gay friends were renovating their homes at the same time and we wanted to do a construction themed go-go boy late night party called Back To The Studs. We never did that party, but when I asked Sean for a good name for our TikTok account he had it immediately. Recycle, Mary! So green.
MC: Before any renovations, how did you and Sean start your own story?
BH: Sean and I were married in Hawaii on our 20th anniversary. We’ve been married 6-years. We met while walking down Broadway on a Sunday afternoon in opposite directions. We cruised each other, stopped to talk and went on a date 4 days later; that was 1994. In 2000, we were present for the birth of our daughter, Grace Hingston-Hurtado, in San Antonio, Texas and were able to bring her home the next day. Raising up that baby into a a smart, sassy and funny young woman with Sean has been a blast and we’re glad she’s 20! She has a part time job as a sales stylist at a clothing store and is loving her gap year and a half.
MC: Your episode of Sex and the City is now legendary, where you and Sean played a gay couple who had an almost-threesome with Kim Cattrall. What is it like looking back?
BH: We filmed our episode of Sex And The City the year before our daughter was born and she’s never seen it. Refuses! Seems one too many of her grade school teachers asked her about the episode and she’s scarred for life. Oh, and I’m Team Kim all the way. If ya don’t like who your working with and don’t need the money, then skip it!
MC: Can you believe that after over two decades together, your dream is about to come to fruition, along with a whole new legion of fans?
BH: Sean and I have had 26-years together and we’ve always been able to have shared dreams that we are both working towards. Eleven years ago we found this house and knew that we could make it a home for our family. It’s taken a lot of patience and hard work, but finally it’s happening and it looks like we’ll be able to move in this October and have our first big house party to celebrate. Oh, and the Garden Apartment in the house and the Carriage House out back will both be AirBnB rentals so come stay here the next time you visit New York City and say hello!
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