Reality competition shows are known to be riddled with alliance building and high stakes challenges, but sometimes there are personalities that just stand out from the crowd. Samuel Hatmaker has emerged from the cast of the reality competition LEGO Masters as both a spectacular builder and an unexpected advocate. I sat down to talk with Hatmaker who gave me some insight into how a lifelong Wonder Woman fan dove into Legos, what upcoming designs he has coming up, and what it’s been like being a voice for some of the most creative young builders around.
Michael Cook: How does it feel like the LEGO Masters experience is now in the rearview mirror?
Samuel Hatmaker The world right now is a little sad, so not only is it sad that it is over, but I was hoping to get to watch it with some of the other contestants, we would have a big party or something. The last five episodes I have watched by myself in my living room, so I was not able to share the experience with anyone. I am healthy and safe though, so I am good. It added to the whole weirdness for sure. When the first episode added, I was at Target and a kid saw me and said “LEGO Masters” and he pointed at me and I was like “oh wow, that is crazy”. It was definitely weird.
MC: You have always been an aficionado for toys, with designing and developing. Has this always been something you were interested in since childhood?
SH: Oh yes. I collected tons of action figures and I would customize them. There were characters that I wanted a toy of, but they would not be popular enough for an actual toy to be made. I would take my characters and resculpt them and repaint them into the toys that I wanted. When I moved to New York City and there was an opening at Marvel comics in the toy division. I applied without any experience. I sent in my resume and they contacted me. I impressed them with my toy expertise and I got the job. As a kid, I grew up loving actions figures and comics and toys, and it was really just a dream come true.
MC: I hear Wonder Woman is your icon of choice correct?
SH: I was always a DC Comics fan growing up, but I got the job at Marvel. I liked them both, but I was always a Super Friends fan and Wonder Woman was always my favorite character. I actually have twelve stitches across my chin from when I was four and I heard the theme song for Wonder Woman and fell. My mother said I was more upset about missing the show than getting stitches that night. (Laughs). Wonder Woman has been my character forever.
MC: Your Instagram is filled with some of the most amazing designs and mosaics made of Legos that have really taken on a life of their own. When did you really see your works take on a life of its own?
SH: The Golden Girls house that I created really was something that went beyond! I built something that I really wanted, something that someone like me would want. I think all artists should build what you want, build what you love, make what you want. Any art I have ever done I have done things for myself and not for an audience, I was making them for me. When I posted The Golden Girls project online, it went viral! It made thirty thousand likes in one night, Ellen DeGeneres liked it, it was amazing! My best friend from college, it was his birthday and I made a small mosaic for him. It was the drag queen Divine, who we both absolutely adore. We were at his birthday party and everyone wanted one! I decided I would make some more and I really enjoyed doing it; it was magic, it just happened. Everything in my life just happened; a job at Marvel, making Legos, it all just magically happens. I put the right energy out there and I work for it. I practice, I refine my skills, I build stuff, I painted and I draw these things for a long time. It still feels like magic when it happens though.
MC: Is there anyone you’ve showcased in your designs that you have not gotten to showcase that you have not released or that you have not gotten around to doing yet?
SH: Oh so many! I am ordering pieces currently for a piece I am working on of Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman. I have a list of pieces I still want to do. I still build 33-D as well, I did a Divine that was about 14 feet tall from Pink Flamingos. In the film, her mother Edith Massey lives in a crib and loves eggs; I have her face and her body and the crib, I am just finishing making her mom in the crib right now.
MC: What has it been like taking your skills and your unique perspective and putting them on a national television show like LEGO Masters?
SH: I went on there to just be me and show the world that I am a good builder. I feel very honored that I have gotten such special feedback from the people, the children. A ten year old drag queen contacted me and said that seeing me was the first time she had ever seen themselves represented on television; it’s been amazing. Growing up, I had very few role models on television. Ellen coming out felt amazing to me and she is not even that much like me. When someone is telling me that they feel like they are seeing a representation of themselves, I feel honored and blessed to be able to be that for someone else. It is not something that I set out trying to do. I was very grateful that they let me wear my own clothes and be my own person on the show. There were some I almost wore, some really cute dresses with heels, but you’re not going to build Legos for twelve hours in heels (laughs)! I’ve gotten some hate, but I got amazing kindness. Like in life, I always hope they outweigh the negative ones; they always mean so much more. It’s worth it.
MC: With your unique talents and engaging personality, where do you see the trajectory of career going?
SH: I don’t need to be rich or famous, I would love to be making a career building Legos. I would love to do more gallery shows. I have a bunch of pieces lined up, maybe somewhere like Palm Springs, Provincetown or Fire Island, where I think it’s the right market for my stuff. I would love to be in galleries showing my stuff.
Follow Samuel Hatmaker at his website