To hear Mark Cruickshank and Boone Langston recount the story of how they met, you'd think it was a blend of love at first sight and pure existential awe, the kind that hits when you finally spot your doppelgänger in person.
"I see this guy, and he's got this big, long beard," says Langston, who has a similar mane, minus the mustache. "Just two grown men in the Lego aisle."
"I just remember thinking," Cruickshank adds, "'Do I look like that in the Lego aisle?'"
That was about five years ago. Now, the Portland-area duo—Langston lives in Troutdale and Cruickshank in Oregon City—are two episodes away from winning the inaugural season of Lego Masters in the U.S., a new Fox reality competition built around the popular building blocks. Over the past eight episodes of the show, which was filmed last fall and debuted in February, Cruickshank and Langston have consistently demonstrated their prowess as Lego architects, molding thousands of pieces into everything from a multistory food cart to a streamlined bridge capable of holding 1,000 pounds of weight. They are among the final three teams vying for the grand prize: $100,000, an oversized brick trophy and the coveted title of "Lego Masters."
Sporting plaid button-down shirts and red-tinged facial hair that nearly grazes their collar bones, Langston and Cruickshank look like how the rest of America envisions most Portlanders. The concept of their initial build fortified their Pacific Northwest lumberjack brand: a timber-themed amusement park complete with ax throwing, log rides and a roller coaster meant to zip around a towering tree. That last idea didn't quite work out, introducing the first of many hitches that come with constructing complex cities and make-believe lands entirely out of tiny plastic bricks.
Before the final installments air the next two Wednesdays, WW caught up with the pair to ask them about the technical and creative hardships they faced, what it's like to power through a 14-hour competition, and their advice for novice Lego enthusiasts looking to take their skills to the next level.
WW: Boone, you learned Lego Masters was accepting online applicants while attending Comic-Con in San Diego last year and immediately called Mark. How did you know he'd be a great partner?
Boone Langston: Mark can build really fast and really big, amazing stuff, and we just get along really well. I've got other collaborators that would do really well with one of those things, but Mark had the all-around package. And we're super-close friends. I knew that it was going to be a long road to get to the end of the show, if that was our goal. I wanted someone who could just be in it with me. Mark is an easygoing guy and I knew he'd be able to do it—ride the bus and have fun for as long as we could ride the bus.
Mark, what was your reaction when you got the call from Boone?
Mark Cruickshank: When he asked me, I thought, "This will be awesome," because when we build together he always has these crazy ideas, and I love his crazy ideas. I'm typically really quiet and easygoing and he's kind of…intense, as you've probably seen on the show. He sings, he's kind of loud, and everyone knows he's in the room. As far as a partnership goes, that makes perfect sense.
The challenges are eight hours, 10 hours, sometimes even longer. Did you get to rest?
Langston: If it wasn't a designated time for everyone to eat, we were taking time off the clock. So if we had to go use the bathroom while the clock was running, then we were just losing time. Some people almost never did.
How do you build stamina for that?
Cruickshank: I think of that old expression, "Time flies when you're having fun." It says 10 hours on the clock, but then all of a sudden you work and the next time you look at the clock it says four hours. You don't even know what happened to the rest of that time. You don't think about having to stop, because no one else is stopping and the clock's not stopping. You just keep going because it is a competition.
Langston: If I'm home and I'm building a Lego project that's coming out of my imagination and I'm really on a roll, I might build for four or five hours without really realizing how much time has passed, and then all of a sudden I'm like, "Oh man, it's 2 in the morning. I should probably get some sleep." It's not that different from the kind of experience a person might have when they're fully engrossed in some sort of creative activity.
What was the most challenging project out of all the episodes that have aired so far?
Langston: For me, the Cut in Half challenge was hard. We had this laptop that was cut in half [and we needed to finish the other half], and some other builders in the room had really beautiful things, like the cuckoo clock or an antique brass diver's helmet, and we ended up with this black laptop that was really uninspiring. There was no color involved. It's such a simple shape—a black rectangle attached to another black rectangle. And the shape of a laptop cut in half isn't really all that different from the shape of a laptop that isn't cut in half.
Was there a build you were most proud of?
Cruickshank: The bridge. We got a lot of feedback online about how ours was very boring and we shouldn't have won, but that's a different story. It was one of those things where in person, all the angles were beautiful. We wanted a very minimal bridge that didn't look like a giant mass of bricks that could hold a lot of weight. Stepping away from that one was probably the most proud I've been, and then to have it hold 1,000 pounds was just amazing.
What advice would you give to somebody who wants to up their Lego game and they've got all of this time now in quarantine?
Cruickshank: Start with a small base plate and pick a minifig, then build that minifig's world around it. If you like what you built, then keep on building and make it bigger. It's one thing being a set builder, but if you can take the sets apart and build them into something else, that's, like, next-level Lego building.
The contestant lineup is incredibly diverse. Is that reflected in Portland's Lego community?
Cruickshank: The show actually gives a good representation. Anyone can build Lego. It can be kids, it can be teenagers, it can be adults. You can be any race. You can believe in whatever you want. Everyone has creativity, and they show it in their own way.
SEE IT: The final episodes of Lego Masters Season 1 air on Fox at 9 pm Wednesday, April 8 and 15.